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« Motivated system 2 reasoning--experimental evidence & its significance for explaining political polarization | Main | Weekend update: The distracting, counterproductive "97% consensus" debate grinds on »
Sunday
Jul282013

Weekend update 2: Money talks, bullshit on scientific consensus (including lack thereof) walks

The comment thread following yesterday's "update" on the persistent, and persistently unenlightening, debate over the most recent "97% consensus" study has only renewed my conviction that anyone genuinely interested in helping confused and curious members of the public to assess the significance of the best available evidence on climate change would not be bothering with surveys of scientists but would instead be creating a market index in securities the value of which depends on global warming actually occurring.

I've explained previously how such an index would operate as a beacon of collective wisdom, beaming a signal of considered judgment through a filter of economic self-interest that removes the distorting influence of cultural cognition & like forms of bias.

I just instructed my broker to place an order for $153,252 worth of stocks in firms engaged in arctic shipping. I wonder how many of the people arguing against the validity of the Cook et al. study are shorting those same securities?

 

 

 

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You might also be interested in looking at Shell's Environmental Assessment for exploration in the Chukchi Sea, pages 24-26. They don't have any problem at all with the IPCC reports, which they quote approvingly. In fact, their business model, as for the Arctic shippers, seems to be predicated on an "alarmist" view of future sea-ice decline.

The Arctic sea ice is undergoing rapid changes. There are reported changes in sea-ice extent, thickness, distribution, age, and melt duration. In general the sea-ice extent is becoming much less in the Arctic summer and slightly less in winter; overall, the decline in sea-ice extent is increasing (NSIDC, 2011 a, b). The thickness of Arctic ice is decreasing (Hass et al. 2010), the distribution of ice is changing, and its age is decreasing (Comiso, 2011). Melt duration is increasing. These factors lead to a decreasing perennial Arctic ice pack.

As you implied above, stubborn cultural barriers to accepting climate change can crumble away quite quickly once real money is on the table...

July 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Skuce

"but would instead be creating a market index in securities the value of which depends on global warming actually occurring."

Good idea. But the success of the Northern sea route depends more on whether Russia grants permission than it does on the weather. It was doing a steady trade back in the 1930s.

"I wonder how many of the people arguing against the validity of the Cook et al. study are shorting those same securities?"

The invalidity of the Cook study has nothing to do with whether global warming is happening. It's invalid because it uses invalid methods, like asking the wrong question, assessing abstracts instead of surveying scientists, misclassifying those abstracts, and assuming that none of those scientists who took no position did so because they were genuinely neutral, holding a midpoint position in the debate.

The von Storch paper similarly assesses a majority (83%) believing AGW is or will be responsible for most of the warming, and 93% saying "global warming is happening" and I'm not making any criticisms of that. The method is not perfect, but it's much, much better. And I think the results look reasonable, and not unlikely to be true.

Of course, whether there's a consensus is a different question to whether the consensus is right, but that wasn't what either paper was about. Everyone on *both* sides of the debate think the majority of climate scientists are believers. Sceptics would say "So what?"

As for whether we would short those securities, if their price was being inflated by expectations of an Arctic melt, then that probably wouldn't be a bad idea. It depends how long it takes for investors to realise that their value depends more on politics than the weather. But I'd probably steer clear personally, given the levels of Russian government corruption, and the fact that their value depends primarily on that same government bureaucracy granting the permits. I imagine they'll be doing a bit of 'speculating' of their own, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere near it when they do.

July 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV:

If Russia is going to "block" the opportunity to exploit the opening of these shippig lanes, then all the *more* reason to short the stocks!


As for validity of Cook et al-- true that the validity of the study is logically unconnected to whether global warming is happening. But the preoccupation w/ its validity is very highly correlated w/ not "believeing" in consensus. You are wrong to say "everyone" believes there's consensus -- just look how many people in the comment thread deny that.

About what % of the people, would you say, who are posting dozens & dozens of comments & tweets crticizing Cook et al. dispute that the best available scientific evidence supports the conclusion that AGW will cause global warming to increase over the next decade, and then even more in the after that, and then even more in the one after that?

If they are right, there are *lots* of opportuniteis for them to bet against firms into which capital is flowing in anticipation of warming.

What % of them are actually putting $ down on their skepticism toward that? They sure are willing to invest time. Someone who spends hrs & hrs arguing about something he or she won't bet on is usually full of shit in my experience.

July 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

Sceptics would say "So what?"

Well, except when they are arguing that there is no such "consensus" of viewpoint, that there only is a high prevalence of viewpoint because Eco-Nazis share a desire to destroy capitalism or because academics want to ride the AGW gravy train, or that assessing whether there is a consensus is only evidence of a broken and corrupted concept of science among those who foolishly or invalidly think that the prevalence of view among "experts" is somehow meaningful. All of which together adds up to a significant % of reactions to claims of consensus. I read "skeptic" blogs a lot - and I don't think I've ever seen a "skeptic" respond to assessments of "consensus" with "so what."

But yeah, other than that, they join together in unison to say "so what."

I do love how "skeptics" as a group alternately argue how important it is that claims of "consensus" are inaccurate, bogus, or based in a fundamentally damaging view of science, and then arguing that whether there is a consensus is irrelevant.

But it would be refreshing to see "skeptics" saying "so what" - because it would be a display of consistency. Indeed, it seems to me that if "skeptics" really felt that whether there is a "consensus" is unimportant, as they often say, they wouldn't spend so much time arguing about whether there is a "consensus" or how pervasive it is. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

July 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Well, Dan, you have my admiration for possibly the shortest duration on record of the sort of Dr. Doolittle act you attempted in the last thread. It's frustrating when the animals refuse to talk back in any meaningful way, isn't it?

Returning to my clearly evidenceless views of prospective Republican fortunes with regard to the climate change issue, I see that the eminently reasonable and incisive Coral Davenport... agrees with me! Go figure.

Now, back to that heavy oil.

July 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Bloom

"You are wrong to say "everyone" believes there's consensus -- just look how many people in the comment thread deny that."

Consensus about what?

For example, I heard a rumour that 'The right to bear arms' was controversial in the US. So I conducted a survey of 10,000 newspaper articles and found 97% spelt 'bear' with the 'e' in the middle rather than at the end. This proves that the States are United on the right to bear arms. We have a consensus!

And when people justify retaining the right to bear arms without debate on the basis that the surveys say 97% of Americans agree on it, you can sort of understand the people who don't being irritated by that. It's not necessarily the case that you think there *isn't* a majority in favour of it, but the survey doesn't tell you what that majority might be, and it doesn't mean they're right, It's just a way to generate an artificially strong statistic to beat down opposition and prevent discussion.

You have persistently ignored and avoided commenting on the survey I showed you that gives a different answer. Von Storch got an 83% 'consensus'. As I recall, Doran initially got around 85% until he whittled down the sample until it gave the answer he wanted. Anderegg got only 66% of his list of scientists being for the consensus, albeit with a sample method that didn't even pretend to be unbiased. So why are you so determined in your defence of 97%? Have you really looked?

"... believe that the best available scientific evidence supports the conclusion that AGW will cause global warming to increase over the next decade, and then even more in the after that, and then even more in the one after that?"

If you had asked that question 15 years ago, how many would have thought that AGW would cause global warming to increase over the next decade, and the one following it?

Turns out it didn't! And although they didn't mention this before, it turns out that the best scientific evidence does *not* support the conclusion that AGW will cause global warming to increase in each and every decade. It turns out that the up-and-down of natural variation is big enough to cancel it out for a decade or two.

It's like climate astrology. You predict the future with an air of confidence, and no matter what subsequently happens, you can twist what you said to match events and call it confirmation. When sceptics say you don't know what you're talking about, you invite them to bet their money in the opposite direction, if they're so confident you're wrong. But the astrology sceptics won't bet, because they say the future is random and unknowable. Do you think therefore that the astrology sceptics are full of it?!

Natural variation is strong, and nobody should be betting on events in the 10-20 year timescale. Even if temperatures started going down that wouldn't necessarily means anything. I can't tell you that they couldn't go up some more. On a 50-100 year timescale, then I think I could be confident about the predictions diverging. A 3+ C warming occurring in the next 100 years would be unmistakable. And yes, I'd bet money against it if there was any way for me to collect!
(I did suggest a way it could be done in an earlier thread, but nobody seemed much interested in discussing it.)

Regarding the Arctic ice, not even the best available science predicted that global warming would cause that! The calculation of the contribution global warming makes is shown in figure 10.13 of AR4 and shows both Arctic and Antarctic declining slowly at about the same rate, with the potential for loss of Arctic summer ice around 2070 (fig 10.13b). That's what the best scientific evidence says global warming should do. If anything else happens, it's probably just weather.

The best science is currently dropping the estimates of how much warming CO2 rises result in. There's even some speculation as to how the IPCC is going to deal with it, since all their projections (like that polar ice graph) are all based on 3 C/2xCO2, but the latest estimates are coming in around 1.5-2 C/2xCO2. (And warming is expected to be beneficial up to 2 C according to economic models, before the cost starts rising.) It will be difficult for them to reconcile.

Science is like that. It's a learning process. But it's going to be difficult to explain that to everyone who invested in Solyndra on their word. Do you really want to be in the position of handing out investment advice on this? :-)

July 29, 2013 |