Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Re: Technology Redux


First, my comment against the "we gotta do something" folks was a simple rant which was NOT directed at you or your comment on Lomborg. I apologize for not making this clear.

Yes, Lomborg raises points: both good and bad. That is the essence of the nature of commentary - it is rare that *only* the Good Points are made. This is true regardless of one’s position on any specific issue and AGW in general. If anything, it points out that Lomborg is human. It also points out the absurdity of a scientist, at one time most well-respected and revered, suddenly being demonized and outcast for failing to march in lockstep with “the consensus” (which happens all too frequently, on both sides).

Second - kudos for recognizing the folly in trying to define an IDEAL temperature. (Not that I expected *you* to fall for it.) My point was (again) directed against the "gotta do something" crowd, who demand a specific action(s) without bothering to define the parameters of what would constitute success. Again, YOU recognize this, but those theoretical "others" in the blogosphere who may read these posts may not.

Consider the proposition that "human activity might contribute to climate change". Sounds good in print - but the key word is MIGHT; not CONTRIBUTE. Far too many proponents are so focused on "doing something" they do not consider whether or not actions are legitimately warranted.

You (correctly) acknowledge a key point of the denier side for the entire AGW argument with "Humans have little control over the natural cycles of climate change." YES! There are WAY too many that fail to acknowledge this simple truth; instead, they focus on the arrogance of "assigning blame" upon the actions of mankind and further extend that arrogance with the assumption that "since we caused it, we can fix it." Hogwash. Not proven.

Then, let me state I 100% agree with your following statement, "But it is only practical to calculate the effect of the human contribution and estimate the value of reducing it." Again, BINGO! Calculate and estimate the value. I maintain that until you understand at least the majority of the entire cycle, you cannot accurately calculate the effect of human activity as a definable percentage of the issue at hand. (We just don't know enough about WHAT affects Climate Change.) Without a clear understanding of the scope of how something occurs, you cannot assign a value to changing one (suspected) agent of change. Let me make the (obvious) statement...

Cutting human-activity CO2 emissions in half will directly reduce the affect of the CO2 portion of Climate Change which is directly tied to CO2 as a GHG by the percentage of CO2 directly created by humans.

This is blindingly obvious - and I am 100% confident that every single climate scientist on either side would agree with the statement taken on its own merits, because it defines an obvious mathematical aspect. It does not, however, prove that making ANY change is warranted or will even have a discernable effect.

As for your point, I would submit that science has accumulated sufficient evidence on the human contribution to climate change that the debate should now shift from whether or not it is happening to what sorts of actions make the most sense.” I would agree if you will include “IF ANY” after the word “actions”. Do we need to know *everything* about the problem before taking action? Of course not. But we certainly cannot restrict of focus to ONE aspect and leap to the conclusion that changes in THAT area will “solve the problem” and are therefore mandatory. Yes, by all means, lets talk about WHAT should be done, by first defining the SCOPE of the problem.

OK.. OK… I’ve been beating my gums about EVIDENCE. Let me attempt to define it: Evidence is/are observations, made by people at some time and place. (Observations by remote sensing equipment must be reasonably verified by people.) Things you can see, hold, hear and record. Evidence is not just any observations, only the relevant ones matter. And the Real World trumps theory every time.

Now, by definition, Computer models are NOT evidence. Models are wonderfully sophisticated, put together by experts, and getting better all the time… But even if they could predict the climate correctly (they can’t, not with reasonable precision, say a 2% error rate), and even if they were based on solid proven theories (they aren’t), they still wouldn’t count as evidence. Models of complex systems are based on scores of assumptions and estimates piled on dozens of theories. Example: None – repeat *NONE* - of the current models forecast that temperatures would stop rising from 2001 to 2008. So there is at least one other factor that is more important than CO2 and the models don’t know what it is…

And I do so agree with Lomborg’s assertion of a TRUE market-based approach, which cap-and-trade most definitely is NOT. I don’t know how I implied market-based ideas are bad. Sorry.

Government funding of scientific research is a questionable issue, which I struggle with. On the one hand, there are historical instances where such government funding has worked relatively well, and others where it failed miserably. On the other hand, I generally disapprove of direct payments using taxpayer funds for research – I much prefer tax breaks to encourage private investment by those willing to take the risk for the potential reward. Gripping hand is, whenever government tries to manipulate human activity, no matter worthy or potentially beneficial the purpose or desirable the goal, it almost inevitably FAILS. (I have no problem with PRIVATE funding.)

I’ll close this rant with the observation that all this blather about “but there is a consensus” is less than worthless. Demanding action because everyone agrees with one position or another is bogus and has NOTHING to do with science. At one point, everyone (the consensus) agreed that the Sun rotated about the Earth. That did not make it Right or objectively relevant.

My point here is that “Science” is not a democracy, nor is it a Game “won” by scoring debating points in the absence of demonstrable facts. Natural laws and provable scientific facts do not rise into existence because a UN committee decrees it.

You are correct – and WE AGREE – that far too much time is being spent in the pursuit of “I’m Right and You Are Wrong” instead of pursuing actual research without regard for where the collected data will take us. Too many have a vested interest in massaging the data to produce a specifically desired result (either way), and THAT is the Real Problem.

I will now put down my pitchfork and take a breath, giving the baton back to you.

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