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Monday
Dec122016

Gore's sequel -- good idea or bad?  

I'll leave it to the 14 billion regular readers of this blog: you tell me, useful, helpful, etc. or not 

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Reader Comments (20)

I suspect Dan already knows where I stand on it. A solutions-oriented film, at long last? Thanks a lot, Al Gore, you're years overdue. You missed most of the window of opportunity in the form of the Obama administration and let the likes of Michael Pollan steal your environmentalist thunder.

No srsly thanks a lot. Just when the Trump Administration is starting to kick off, too. It feels like the last inning. I'm not sure I'm right to feel that way, mind you, but it sure does feel that way.

I wonder if he's going to put more emphasis on mitigation or on adaptation.

December 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdypoon

Maybe presenting this as a great business opportunity will have some traction with powerful elites in the current regime?

What we are missing is an overriding identity of for the United States of Of the People, By the People, For the People.

Meanwhile we have an election in which money ruled,, and in one where Goldman Sachs seems to be coming out with a win in both the popular and electoral votes. Additionally, we now have global corporations that are as powerful as nation states, and so may have to deal with the impacts to the US of being run as an adjunct to the Exxon/Russia business alliance. While other agencies are run by those that want to dismantle them. And scientists are scurrying to preserve data while they still can: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/scientists-are-frantically-copying-u-s-climate-data-fearing-it-might-vanish-under-trump/

I believe that this article nails part of our current problems: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/13/donald-trump-silicon-valley-leaders-neoliberalism-administration.

"neoliberalism is the idea that everything should be run as a business – that market metaphors, metrics, and practices should permeate all fields of human life. "

"If Silicon Valley is turning our personal lives into a business, then Trump hopes to turn our government into one"

And then there is this message from Bill Gates: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/13/after-talking-with-trump-bill-gates-likens-president-elect-to-jfk.html

I doubt that Gore's message will have much traction beyond people who already admire him, especially since it seems to be all about Gore: "In the sequel, Gore "travels the world and delivers an inspirational story of change in the making,"" from the article above. I think that we need something that provides a symbolic rallying point and demonstrates how real people form new identities and create a path forward. For themselves, and for others. In my opinion, that needs a more bottoms up approach.

I don't think it is good or bad. Followers might find it inspirational. But I doubt that it will have much outreach impact on attitudes overall.

December 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

In my opinion, the biggest issue currently is that we seem to have lost our common narrative as to what it means to be an American.

Meanwhile in the science of science communication a mad scramble to create lifeboats: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/scientists-are-frantically-copying-u-s-climate-data-fearing-it-might-vanish-under-trump/

December 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Gaythia, I agree about what all of us need to do. It is something "we the people means."

Personally, worrying about the data misses what Trump is likely to do. Since most of the evidence on harm and the social cost of carbon is based on opinion about a number with large uncertainty, it pays for him to keep the data and choose a fiscally conservative approach to the damage function by ECS and the social cost of carbon by discount rate. It will already be in the literature, and the very persons likely to attack, have already used it to attack the mitigation advocates. He can use the same science to support his position.

December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F Pittman

Gaythia,

Thanks! That's the funniest thing I've read in weeks!

There are - and have been for many decades - international public archives for climate data, where it is supposed to be archived for all to check and use. Climate sceptics have been waging a 15 year campaign trying to get climate scientists to archive their data, though, with little success.

“The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”

This is the sort of thing that led to the IPCC review conclusion:

"Data are the bedrock on which the progress of science rests. The extraordinary development of new measuring techniques and new digital technologies has enabled climate scientists to assemble vast quantities of data. However, the large size and complex nature of these databases can make them difficult to access and use. Moreover, for various reasons many of these scientific databases as well as significant unpublished and non-peer-reviewed literature are not in the public domain. An unwillingness to share data with critics and enquirers and poor procedures to respond to freedom-of-information requests were the main problems uncovered in some of the controversies surrounding the IPCC (Muir Russell et al., 2010; PBL, 2010). Poor access to data inhibits users’ ability to check the quality of the data used and to verify the conclusions drawn. Consequently, it is important for the IPCC to aspire toward ensuring that the main conclusions in its assessment reports are underpinned by appropriately referenced peer-reviewed sources or, to the greatest extent practical, by openly accessible databases."

But as the climate scientists say:
"We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it"?

Why indeed?

But they ought to be careful about how they do it. Climate scientists once accidentally left some of their data on a public server, and the climate sceptics found it, downloaded it before climate scientists could delete/modify it, and published it (unmodified) for posterity!

“Yes, we’ve learned out lesson about FTP. We’re going to be very careful in the future what gets put there. Scott really screwed up big time when he established that directory so that Tim could access the data.”

Wouldn't want to do that again, eh?
:-)

December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV,

Data, and how to assemble it and to disseminate it in manners that lead to greater truths, might actually be the central issue of our time. Our new tweeter in Chief seems to have mastered one aspect of this, while another isHillary Clinton's inability to come up with a coherent explanation as to how public records, private e-mails and security concerns ought to be handled by our government leaders in the modern era.

Scientists generate reams of data in the course of heading towards material that can be assembled for peer review and publication. Much of this work involves the 999 or so things not to do on the way to the right idea. Scientists are generally driving their greatest efforts towards the goal of honing in on the correct solutions, as they should be. There is quite a difference between not destroying past records, whether they be data files or laboratory notebooks, and spending the time necessary to fully document them and the errors the researcher now believes them to contain so as to be completely defensible from those who may wish to cherry pick through them later. A fully public library would have to be annotated, and perhaps somehow tagged, so that origins and links to further improved work was maintained. When these issues are coupled with highly politicized topics for which others are quite willing to spend time finding such inflammatory bits of data, and spread it far and wide, the problems become much more difficult and in return, too much defensiveness on the part of researchers may be the result.

The advent of "the cloud" ought to help with some of this, as data collection methods can be devised that allow transparency while also not requiring huge efforts in archiving the information.

This same change in access is also behind much of the problems with e-mails. The libraries of previous Presidents contain lots of material that was locked up for some period of time after the death of the President concerned. In fact, the papers of Thomas Jefferson are still in the process of publication. This is a far cry from the modern era in which e-mails can be scanned for specific phrases. Which might be informative, or which might be used completely out of context.

We need standards and processes for information handling and communications that meet the needs of the modern era. Sadly, Dan Kahan had not gotten the solution to the problems of information communication and truth seeking to us in time before the election. Or, maybe the problems is that some were assimilating and applying lessons on cultural cognition too well, and using those in nefarious ways.

December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"There is quite a difference between not destroying past records, whether they be data files or laboratory notebooks, and spending the time necessary to fully document them and the errors the researcher now believes them to contain so as to be completely defensible from those who may wish to cherry pick through them later."

That is, in its way, an excellent description of how the scientific process is supposed to work.

You record the raw data, as it is. You record all the errors and issues you've found with it. You record what corrections you've applied. You record precisely how you came to the conclusions you did. You make it bulletproof - defensible against any hostile, well-informed, and determined opponent who wants to pick through the data and try to find fault with it.

And only when you have got your argument and evidence in a position where they must necessarily fail to do so does the scientific method accept your conclusions. Scientific confidence arises solely from the failure of all attempts to attack it, to tear it down, in circumstances where you would reasonably expect any faults in the argument or evidence to have been detected. That's why science works, and how it has made the achievements it has, and delivered the justifiable confidence in its conclusions it does.

Making your data and arguments bulletproof is a lot of work - science is hard! But this is what it is all about. It's why scientists are paid so much - it takes a lot of training and experience and incredible attention to detail to do.

Climate scientist had for many years a "friendly audience". Their papers were reviewed solely by colleagues of much the same opinion. As a result they relaxed, and got sloppy. For many years climatology was an academic backwater, where it didn't much matter, and aging professors in sinecure jobs published sloppy papers that they knew would be published without detailed checks and so keep all their personal gravy trains running. They would, of course, return the favour for their colleagues.

But then they got catapulted into the political spotlight, and their sloppy conclusions were being used to steer multi-trillion dollar decisions at the highest political level. They enjoyed the rockstar status the spotlight brought them, but they were trapped by their comfortable but sloppy old methods. And when industrial scientists accustomed to the level of scrutiny that arises when multi-million dollar commercial decisions are made decided to take a look at climate science using the methods standard in industry, the result was embarrassing. As soon as the climate scientists realised the sceptics proposed to actually check their results, they clamped down.

What they did is understandable on a human level, and not at all uncommon, but it is a tragedy for the scientific process. I have always considered their behaviour, if not excusable, at least understandable and even to be expected. Anyone caught in such a situation would require the most strict adherence to principle over self interest to scupper their career and reputation in the full glare of the global spotlight like that. That level of integrity is uncommon - I'm not at all sure I could do it myself.

What I always have a problem with is the reaction of the rest of the scientific community, who rushed to cover for them, and pretend that nothing was wrong. In so doing, they corrupted the heart and soul of the scientific process - the very thing that gave it value, and justified our trust and belief in it. Those who knew better said nothing (mostly being in the same boat themselves), and many other scientists who didn't know the state of climate science "prostituted themselves" (as one climate scientist put it about a similar act) to support it without checking the results for themselves. They put their faith in other scientists having followed the scientific process. They took their word for it.

It is for very good reason that the motto the founders of the Royal Society picked was 'Nullius in Verba' - take nobody's word for it. It's why science is better than all the alternative ways of knowing things. Forget that, and you forget science.

http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/51/2/CargoCult.htm

December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV,

Fossil fuel companies have been quite aware for decades that anthropogenic climate change is real. This is obvious not only from the corporate records that are now coming to light, but also in their corporate planning. Gearing up for deep Arctic drilling depends on access to the Arctic, after all. They are no more inclined to address the issue now at the expense of short term profits than the robber barons of old were willing to address the social costs of their pollution until forced to do so.

Denial, and public fostering of denialism enables lax regulation. These fossil fuel industrialists are frequently operating in the same manner as Big Tobacco did in the face of cancer research. This is why, as Dan has done, when people are presented with data on geo-engineering, acceptance of anthropogenic climate change increases. Saying that you are part of the tribe that denies climate change is a way of saying you favor business as usual. The proof is not absolute, and therefore you plan to keep right on smoking.

Impacts of climate change come not only from climate modeling but also real world data, the changes in glacial melt, agricultural tables for average first and last freeze, ocean acidification, tree rings and a large number of other very distinct research areas.

Climate models are always a work in progress. That doesn't mean that the models can't be used to make the best possible decisions available at the present time. Mathematical models are like that. It's a problem not reserved for the public research sector. Hedge funders can make millions, until a "black swan" comes along. Tesla's "self driving" car can be blindsided and cause an accident. An unexpected change in feedstock or reaction conditions can thwart a chemical industrial process and even cause an explosion.

Changes in computational processes, with much more computational prowess much more readily available, are making large scale climate models more accessible to replication. Cloud based data can enable widespread collaboration. This is bringing together researchers from many different disciplines to combine databases and achieving very synergistic results. This involves a lot of work to get data recorded in many different ways to work together. And much honing and refining. Its a legitimate part of the science based discovery process, not one to be cherry picked and attacked. It is very analogous to issues faced by evolution scientists attacked by creationists. Creationists may point to gaps in the fossil record. Paleontologists and others can go to great efforts to find places where fossils from that time period can be found. But then what have they accomplished? Two gaps now exist instead of one, one on either side of the new fossil find. And the nit picking continues. Researchers are not generally PR jousting experts. Nor do they want to spend their valuable time that way.

On the specific issue of making scientific databases public, the current issue (Dec 9) of Science magazine has an article on that entitled: " Enhancing reproducibility for computational methods." Data, code and workflows should be available and cited. Scientists are strongly in favor of this. This is not a straightforward simple issue, and not because there is some conspiracy to hide things. As outlined in the article, there are serious barriers to implementation of the recommendations that they give. Some tools, such as MATLAB for example, are proprietary. Time for careful fact checking and full peer review and replication of materials prior to publication does not currently exist. But improving computational access and centralized database storage should work to make replication easier. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/354/6317/1240.

As this article concludes: "We believe that as these efforts become commonplace, practices and tools will continue to emerge that reduce the amount of time and resource investment necessary to facilitate reproducibility and support increasingly ambitious computational research.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the real world, Facebook is (belatedly) working to thwart fake news: http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-will-fact-check-label-fake-news-in-news-feed-2016-12. This is important to science also as often, seeds of doubt regarding scientists and science can be sowed with a few items taken out of context. At the present time, the ability of our media to spread rumors and falsehoods seems to have outstripped our society's abilities at communicating the more complicated details that lead to an understanding of the truth, or best available science.

December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

JFP -

==> Personally, worrying about the data misses what Trump is likely to do. ==>

Why can't someone do both?

==> Since most of the evidence on harm and the social cost of carbon is based on opinion about a number with large uncertainty, it pays for him to keep the data and choose a fiscally conservative approach to the damage function by ECS and the social cost of carbon by discount rate. It will already be in the literature, and the very persons likely to attack, have already used it to attack the mitigation advocates. He can use the same science to support his position. ==>

There seems little doubt this is what will take place.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-15/how-climate-rules-might-fade-away

The discount rate is certainly a key component to assessing risk posed by continued ACO2 emissions - and it is a metric that is inherently linked to subjective evaluation. It will be interesting to watch a focus on using a different number coming from "skeptic' who will now substitute their own "objective" number for what they considered a subjective evaluation by those who don't share their political ideology.

That seems (to me to be) a close relative to the tendency among "skeptics" to say that they know that mitigation will be "expensive" even as they say that we can't possibly calculate how the ratio of negative to positive externalities affects their assessment of "cost.'

December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

My main point being, of course, that the bottom line remains going forward as it has been for quite a while, that cultural cognition/motivated reasoning will reign supreme in the "debate" over climate change. Nothing will change going forward until such time when the day-to-day climate leaves no chance of ambiguity as to the effect of ACO2 emissions. Our friends will continue to dismiss the influence of their own biases even as they confirm for themselves and their ideological brethren that society is being held hostage by scientists on the "other side" who have corrupted the science in service to their political agenda. You certainly won't have to go far to see evidence of such behavior. :-)

December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

JFP -

BTW:

==> it pays for him to keep the data and choose a fiscally conservative approach ... ==>

Interesting, the certainty with which you determine what is and isn't fiscally conservative.

From the article:

--snip--

Greenstone, who left the White House in 2010 and now teaches economics at the University of Chicago, insists that his team operated under a self-imposed “veil of ignorance” and made decisions without trying to make the final cost of carbon higher or lower. He concedes there is a broad range of values to ascribe to carbon but says that, if anything, they were too conservative in their cost estimates, and that it should be higher than it is.

[...]

Frances Moore, an assistant professor at the University of California at Davis, has co-authored a paper that suggests the cost of carbon should be much higher, closer to $200 a ton, or about five times higher than current estimates. “It comes down to whether or not you value the future,” she says. “Arguing for a lower number means you inherently don’t.”

--snip--

Others have a very different view as to what would be "fiscally conservative."

Personally, I don't know...but I tend to think that dismissing uncertainty is not particularly conservative. And II certainly think it is questionable as to whether empowering industry insiders to head regulatory agencies and our institutions of State policy development is an approach that likely prioritizes fiscal conservatism as compared to corporate profits.

December 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Fossil fuel companies have been quite aware for decades that anthropogenic climate change is real."

About 90% of climate sceptics also accept that anthropogenic climate change is real, too. The most detailed school of thought on this is exemplified by Nic Lewis's work, who has used the IPCC's best methods and newest data to demonstrate that equilibrium climate sensitivity (the long-term multi-millenial change) is about 1.6 C per doubling of CO2, and the transient climate sensitivity (the short-term rise expected if CO2 rises at 1%/year) is about 1.3 C per doubling. Neither is of particluar concern.

We all agree that basic physics means some warming is to be expected - what we're arguing about is how much. We - and the empirical evidence from observed climate change - says its small. Climate scientists and their climate models say it might be big. Basically, the models are unvalidated and the uncertainty is very wide, which means that the top end of the uncertainty band is alarming. But what it really means is that climate scientists don't know.

"Gearing up for deep Arctic drilling depends on access to the Arctic, after all."

We already have access to the Arctic. It's a case of technology improving, not climate change.

Even the IPCC's own forecasts for Arctic ice don't predict any significant change due to global warming until around 2080 (and that's with their high-end predictions). The more recent changes over the past few years are just background variability due to the weather - it's actually because the wind and ocean currents in the Arctic recently changed direction, blowing the floating ice south out of the Arctic basin and into warmer waters. It's short term weather noise. There are records of the same thing happening back in the 1940s, before they had satellites providing more detailed data.

When things get colder, climate scientists say you have to look over a long 30+ years timescale to measure "climate". When things get warmer, three or four years of warmth is sufficient to declare a climate emergency.

It's logically inconsistent, and people have noticed.

"These fossil fuel industrialists are frequently operating in the same manner as Big Tobacco did in the face of cancer research."

Big tobacco demanded *evidence* before wrecking their industry and putting their employees out of work. It took a lot of work, but when that evidence had been found and the holes in it filled in, the tobacco firms accepted the result. That's how science is *supposed* to work.

But the campaigners now use the Big Tobacco argument for every case, to try to bypass the need for solid evidence.

"This is why, as Dan has done, when people are presented with data on geo-engineering, acceptance of anthropogenic climate change increases."

Dan doesn't know, or claim to know, why presenting evidence on geo-engineering increases acceptance. I'd suggest it's because it improves the credibility of the information, by giving the impression it's the result of an open-minded weighing of evidence from both sides of the argument, rather than a one-sided propaganda piece. But none of us know, because researchers don't ask.

"Impacts of climate change come not only from climate modeling but also real world data, the changes in glacial melt, agricultural tables for average first and last freeze, ocean acidification, tree rings and a large number of other very distinct research areas."

Glacial "melt" started around 1850, before CO2 had risen significantly, and probably has more to do with precipitation changes higher up than it does with rising temperatures. Glaciers are basically frozen rivers - and the water level for most rivers is primarily precipitation-driven.

First and last freeze data is only available over a relatively short term, and gives no context for longer term natural variability. Where there are long term records, long-term changes in freeze times were observed long before anthropogenic CO2.

Here's Thomas Jefferson, on exactly that subject:

A change in our climate however is taking place very sensibly. Both heats and colds are become much more moderate within the memory even of the middle-aged. Snows are less frequent and less deep. They do not often lie, below the mountains, more than one, two, or three days, and very rarely a week. They are remembered to have been formerly frequent, deep, and of long continuance. The elderly inform me the earth used to be covered with snow about three months in every year. The rivers, which then seldom failed to freeze over in the course of the winter, scarcely ever do so now. This change has produced an unfortunate fluctuation between heat and cold, in the spring of the year, which is very fatal to fruits. From the year 1741 to 1769, an interval of twenty-eight years, there was no instance of fruit killed by the frost in the neighbourhood of Monticello. An intense cold, produced by constant snows, kept the buds locked up till the sun could obtain, in the spring of the year, so fixed an ascendancy as to dissolve those snows, and protect the buds, during their development, from every danger of returning cold. The accumulated snows of the winter remaining to be dissolved all together in the spring, produced those over flowings of our rivers, so frequent then, and so rare now.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

The British can tell you similar stories of the "Little Ice Age" and the Frost Fairs on the Thames. Climate changes all the time, naturally. The problem is telling natural climate change from anthropogenic, and nobody has managed to present any rigorous way of doing so, accounting for the statistical uncertainties.

Ocean acidification is still significantly smaller than the natural variation of acidity from one part of the ocean to another. And molluscs evolved when CO2 levels were considerably higher than they are today, while freshwater molluscs cope with lower and more variable pH than anything predicted from CO2 increases in the oceans - there's no evidence that they would have any long-term problems with acidification. The organisms would simply adapt to changing conditions, as they always have.

And tree rings are a joke! Most of the tree ring record is polluted by a small number of noisy outliers. For example, a small group of strip-bark pines in the US were originally sampled to tes CO2 fertilisation - it was already known that they had no correlation with local temperatures. But when they were incorporated into the climate reconstructions, they would up overwhelming all the rest of the world's data.

There is plenty of evidence that climate changes - and always has. There is *no* solid evidence that any of the observed changes are anthropogenic. That would required validated statistical models of the natural variability of climate, which we don't have.

"Climate models are always a work in progress. That doesn't mean that the models can't be used to make the best possible decisions available at the present time. Mathematical models are like that."

I don't disagree. But just because it's the best you've got doesn't mean it's good enough.

"Changes in computational processes, with much more computational prowess much more readily available, are making large scale climate models more accessible to replication."

Fluid dynamics is based on the Navier-Stokes equations, which the aerodynamicists tell us requires a grid-resolution of about 0.1 mm to solve numerically with any reliability - and even then, will break down in especially chaotic conditions. You have to supplement them with cloud microphysics, dust and aerosol physics, changes in surface albedo, humidity, biological effects like cloud seeding, and a million others, 99.999% of which are currently unknown.

The climate models operate with a grid resolution of about 100 km, and the crudest approximations to the microphysics. They're therefore a factor of about 10^27 away from where they would need to be to model the atmosphere as we know it would need to be modeled! That's going to take more than a few generations of computer speed improvements...

"And the nit picking continues. Researchers are not generally PR jousting experts."

"Nit-picking" is exactly what science is about. The problem is that they're using bad arguments, with holes and gaps in them (the fossil record has never been particularly strong evidence for evolution, and scientists have never relied on it). Researchers often get complacent because nobody really challenges their evidence, and they can get away with shoddy arguments. It's only when someone has a reason to try to disagree with them that they're forced to fill in the gaps - and yes, it's a lot of hard work!

Researchers *should* be jousting experts, because they should be routinely jousting with experts in the field trying to pull their arguments and evidence apart. After fighting that lot off, ignorant members of the public should be no problem. The fact that they are tells us that there's something very wrong with the scientists' standards of evidence.

"Data, code and workflows should be available and cited. Scientists are strongly in favor of this."

Scientists,/i> are - but climate "scientists" say things like:

“It would be odious requirement to have scientists document every line of code so outsiders could then just apply them instantly.”

“One of the problems is that I’m caught in a real Catch-22 situation. At present, I’m damned and publicly vilified because I refused to provide McIntyre with the data he requested.”

“In my considered opinion, a very dangerous precedent is set if any derived quantity that we have calculated from primary data is subject to FOIA requests.”

I agree with the sentiment. Scientists should be open about data and methods. Most of them are. But one of the biggest warning signs I see that there is a serious problem with climate science is the clearly observable fact that they're not. They tried to hide data, and refused to give up methods or working because: "Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it"?

A "scientist" saying something so outrageous should sound warning klaxons in everybody's minds! So what I want to know is how and why you can be told that a climate scientist said it, and you not care? Why do you instead try to excuse it?


"This is not a straightforward simple issue, and not because there is some conspiracy to hide things."

Really?


"The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone."

If that's not a conspiracy to hide things, what is it?

"Some tools, such as MATLAB for example, are proprietary."

It's not an issue. A lot of sceptics have access to MatLab anyway. We can read and translate MatLab code easily. And if it's seen as a problem, there are non-proprietary alternatives like R available that climate scientists could use, that are actually better for statistical analysis.

They're making excuses. Some sceptics might mutter about MatLab being less convenient, but nobody's going to complain that the science is not accessible.

Climate scientists have been very clear - they're not withholding data because it's in a proprietary format - they're withholding it because they don't want the sceptics checking it: - “p.s. I know I probably don’t need to mention this, but just to insure absolutely clarify on this, I’m providing these for your own personal use, since you’re a trusted colleague. So please don’t pass this along to others without checking w/ me first. This is the sort of “dirty laundry” one doesn’t want to fall into the hands of those who might potentially try to distort things...”

" Time for careful fact checking and full peer review and replication of materials prior to publication does not currently exist."

That's more a matter of understanding the status and reliability of the peer-reviewed literature.

The purpose of journal peer review is *not* to check the scientific validity of results published, and anything so published should be regarded as a tentatively proposed work in progress - not the gold standard of scientific certainty, as some have tried to claim! Journal peer review is a quick filter to select papers worth a researcher's time to look at. A reviewer has to ask whether the claims are new, interesting, relevant, and described in enough detail for someone else to check. It shouldn't be obvious nonsense, or ignore obvious questions. If they're very surprising or unexpected, going against prior results, is the weight of evidence presented sufficient to take it seriously? Journals provide a filter service to their research customers, drawing relevant items to their attention for them to check in more detail.

It is the research community's attempts to replicate, disprove, extend, or explain away the results that constitute the true "peer review", and this may take many years. Only if a paper survives that examination does it acquire the reliable confidence that is the hallmark of science. If the scientific community chooses not to so examine it, no confidence can be placed in it. And if a researcher makes it difficult to check by not also publishing the data and methods, and so evade that scrutiny, that's telling too.

All we have to do is stop selling peer-reviewed journals as some sort of scientific stamp of approval. Because they're not, and were never intended to be.

"Meanwhile, elsewhere in the real world, Facebook is (belatedly) working to thwart fake news"

The mainstream media have been selling fake news for years. The only difference is that now they no longer have a monopoly on it.

"At the present time, the ability of our media to spread rumors and falsehoods seems to have outstripped our society's abilities at communicating the more complicated details that lead to an understanding of the truth, or best available science."

The problem, as I've said here very often, is that society has replaced the scientific method with Argument from Authority. The general public are not trained in scepticsm, or how to check claims. They are instead trained to "trust the experts". Up to now, the media have been the gatekeepers presenting their selected experts for the population to blindly follow. But having now trained the public to trust whatever they read in a newspaper-like typographical format, the competition has got in on the act. Predictable.

This may be good news for society, because ultimately they'll be forced to teach people scepticism. Unfortunately, their approaches at the moment are all along the lines of more tightly regulated gatekeeping, to retain control of the channel. If they taught people scepticism, a lot more of their own fake news would get caught out, too!

December 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Joshua if you wish to worry about data go ahead. My contention is that the smart move is to use what is there. Destroying data would hinder, not help in pursuit of changing ECS and discount rate, IMO. For the reason it gives ammunition to the other side. It is more effective to use ammo provided by the other side and that is what I stated was what to worry Trump would do.

Your quote: ""that they know that mitigation will be "expensive" even as they say that we can't possibly calculate how the ratio of negative to positive externalities affects their assessment of "cost.' "" underlines how Trump avoids pitfalls such as providing something for others to shoot down of his own obvious POV by destroying data he doesn't like. And using his opponents own science tends to invalidate the reasoning that some are using about how it won't be easy.

You state: ""Interesting, the certainty with which you determine what is and isn't fiscally conservative."" Well yes, been doing that professionally for 3 decades now. Typically in posts I point out the ranges of different approaches, different assumptions. That is part of what I do professionally. As an example, say the best estimate of cost is $0.30 +/-0.03 for the unit cost. For the budget, I might use $0.33 to ensure that the monies are available, and hope that it costs $0.27. In this case the goal is to make sure that I have enough to do the job, so I don't waste 90% of the effort because I was short. On the other hand, let's say it is something that has a large safety factor, I would use the $0.27, as the most likely cost since I know that the large safety factor will tend to increase waste of money. The certainty is not the number. Both sides tend to get this wrong on the climate change arguments. The certainty comes from the approach and the assumptions, the actual real number with its uncertainty ($0.30 +/- 0.03 in the example) does not change.

From the article ""He concedes there is a broad range of values to ascribe to carbon but says that, if anything, they were too conservative in their cost estimates, and that it should be higher than it is."" What he is conserving is not stated in the article, but was discussed in the writeup of the government's approach. It was the minimization of risk for harm. Thus future potential damage loss, not present monetary loss. No one knows, it has not happened yet. An opposite but valid approach is to minimize present and near future economic loss using a more a favorable discount rate, assuming the future will be richer and more technologically adept. The guiding assumption is that present trends indicate the ECS is smaller than the average that the models indicate, and the chosen discount rate can only reach high SCoC costs with a contraindicated extremely high damage function. Thus a lower ECS and a typical discount rate, which has been done and indicates CO2 use should be encouraged for about 35 years, and that it will be cheaper and if advances take place easier to mitigate in the future. This uses the scientific and economic results already in use but with different assumptions of the future.

The statement "“It comes down to whether or not you value the future,” she says. “Arguing for a lower number means you inherently don’t”" is incorrect. Whether you use what they outlined, or what I outlined, it comes down to your assumptions about what is going to occur in the future, and the risk one is willing to take. It has not happened yet. The uncertainty in ECS, and the damage function, cover from encouraging fossil fuel use, to stopping CO2. The discount rate used has been attacked since does not match what past economic studies show for worth and cost of capital wrt time. The reason, IMO, for using the discount rate used was doubling the safety factor. Unless it was for making sure that mitigation could be justified as some claim.

You state "".but I tend to think that dismissing uncertainty is not particularly conservative."" No one on either side is dismissing uncertainty. They are using it to justify their approaches. Which is correct, that is why it is there, It tells a range that is most likely. Taking what the persons you quoted said in this respect is that they are using uncertainty at one end and think it should be higher. That is what a safety factor is used for. It also defines what is being conserved. The Future in one case. Remember this is not about making the future necessarily better, it is about not risking the Future. Not every one agrees. In fact, day to day life and polls indicate that most persons do not agree with such an unconditional approach to the future. CC still ranks at or near the bottom.

""as to whether empowering industry (environmental, democratic, republican, military, etc) insiders to head regulatory agencies and our institutions of State policy development"" This arguing over bias has gone on as long as I have watched politics by both sides, and I don't expect agreement nor it stopping.

December 16, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjohn f pittman

As seems to be true of my own US House Representative, Ken Buck, climate change skeptics seem more and more willing to acknowledge that anthropogenic climate change exists. The question remains of the need to do anything about it. It seems to me to be a slow slide, like they are laboriously working through the stages of grieving.

Risk is both probabilistic and situational. Science can inform decision making but doesn't dictate policy decisions which need to take place in a framework of culture and values. Many people died of cigarette related cancers in the long interval within which the scientific evidence of causation kept piling up but the political will to take action dragged along. And tobacco education and regulation is still a work in progress. But, in a contrary scenario, it could be established using science that shortening human lifespans was a potentially good idea. Driving those who smoked and succumbed to cancer and those whose "weaker" lungs were susceptible to second hand smoke might be seen as "Darwin in action" improvements in the human gene pool. Perhaps it would lead to a greater tolerance for industrial pollution and spur industrial output. Additionally, a lower human population on the planet might have positive ecological benefits. Science can inform what the potential outcomes of various may be. But it doesn't dictate the details of regulations.

Similarly, our current data for global anthropogenic climate change is at a state where a fairly broad range of possible outcomes is predicted. But by a variety of metrics, significant global warming is occurring, see for example the global dashboard here: https://www.climate.gov/#understandingClimate. It is also possible that even if the most severe warming occurs and at least some humans thrive and even benefit. If Russia could hold on to Siberia and other northern territories past the disruptions such as forest fires and permafrost melting, perhaps this area would become great farmlands. Greenland could be green. Given human history, which does have many examples of outright genocide, and the historic record of environmental pollution and safety related deaths at the hands of corporations focused on short term economic gains, it is perhaps unreasonable to think that people elsewhere would be overly concerned by reports of the demise of communities elsewhere. Why be more worried about some South Sea island facing sea level rise than we are now regarding Aleppo? Perhaps, rather than consider the general social good, it might seem "better" to grab the big bucks, so as to leave oneself well positioned.

In a perverse way, this is an expression of a great faith in unregulated economic development and "Scientific Progress"; the idea that we can keep our economy spurred forward towards the goal of short term profits and yet, just before hitting a dead end some new solution will arise.

December 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"As seems to be true of my own US House Representative, Ken Buck, climate change skeptics seem more and more willing to acknowledge that anthropogenic climate change exists."

I think Republican legislators signed up to concern about global warming back in 1996, with the Byrd-Hagel resolution.

Even Senator Inhofe has said anthropogenic climate change exists. But that's not what the argument is about, is it?

"Science can inform decision making but doesn't dictate policy decisions which need to take place in a framework of culture and values. Many people died of cigarette related cancers in the long interval within which the scientific evidence of causation kept piling up"

That's how science-based decisionmaking works. You pile up the evidence. *Then* you make the decision.

Would you really want to propose doing things the other way round?

"Driving those who smoked and succumbed to cancer and those whose "weaker" lungs were susceptible to second hand smoke might be seen as "Darwin in action" improvements in the human gene pool."

I think that sort of Darwinian "advantage" is seen as morally repugnant by *all* sides.

The advantage to allowing smoking is that it is pleasurable. Individuals weigh the pleasure against the extra risk, and decide for themselves which is more important to them.

This is the basis of liberalism, as described in J S Mill's famous essay "On Liberty".

The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

Under liberalism, people get to decide for themselves what to do with their own lives, even if it's dangerous or harmful. People can go parachuting or water skiing or cave diving for fun. People can take part in motor racing. They can get a job as a miner or lumberjack, or join the army. They can volunteer for experimental medical techniques, or go work as a voluntary nurse in an Ebola epidemic. So long as it hurts nobody else, it's their own affair.

The main requirement liberals place on it is "informed consent". People should be *told* what the risks of smoking are, and it's reasonable to check they truly understand. But if they know, and decide to carry on anyway, liberalism requires the rest of society to butt out. It's their life, their decision.

Historically, illiberalism has itself proved to be a danger to others - I think the death toll in the 20th century alone was more than a hundred million? Should it therefore be regulated?

"It is also possible that even if the most severe warming occurs and at least some humans thrive and even benefit."

They ought to do an experiment - grow food crops inside a glass building with elevated temperature and CO2 to see what the effect on growth rates is. As it's simulating the impact of the greenhouse effect, they could call it a "greenhouse" or something...

The US continent varies about 30 C in average temperature from it's northern to southern border, about 1500 miles. So a 3C rise means traveling south about 150 miles. You can find out what the climate future is like by taking a day trip in your car. Don't forget to take sensible survivalist precautions against the post-apocalyptic breakdown of civilisation there when you do!

Generally, the Earth is more fertile, and species more diverse and plentiful, in the tropics compared to the poles, in summer rather than winter. Warmth is generally considered beneficial, in any other context.

"Why be more worried about some South Sea island facing sea level rise than we are now regarding Aleppo?"

I think it was Charles Darwin who first worked out how South Sea islands work. He realised that they're so precisely at sea level because that's how the grow. Coral grows quickly up to the ocean surface, and stops. Any excess height gets eroded quickly. So coral islands follow sea level up and down. They're not endangered by sea level rise.

Likewise, river deltas work by river sediment dropping out when the water flow slows down, which happens when it reaches sea level. They've done satellite surveys, and quite a few are actually expanding in area. Again, the land level follows the sea level up and down. This stuff is 'Geography 101' in schools.

And after the last ice age, the oceans rose 120 metres, the rise during some of the meltwater pulses was on the order of 3-6 cm per year. That was only 14,000 years ago - and every single South Sea island today survived it.

I've heard some island communities have chosen to use their climate change funds to build new airports at sea level to bring in more tourists. How's that for confidence?

"Perhaps, rather than consider the general social good, it might seem "better" to grab the big bucks, so as to leave oneself well positioned."

Grabbing the big bucks is what achieves the general social good. People are given big bucks for delivering the goods and services that other people most desperately want, like washing machines, mobile phones, clean water, hospitals, and so on - i.e. social good as judged by ordinary people, rather than political elites. It's how we've achieved the biggest reduction in absolute human poverty in all human history, and how we're going to eliminate it entirely - again for the first time ever - within the next two or three decades.

But yes, prosperity is what leaves people "well-positioned" to survive disaster. When you're on the edge, every little knock pushes you over the line into catastrophe. When you're rich, you can buy survival. That's why we want everyone in the world to be rich, and that's what industrial society and cheap energy delivers. Wealth lets us adapt to any coming disasters with equal facility - shutting down fossil fuel use may mitigate one disaster, at the expense of greater risk from all the others. And the other disasters are certain - we have lived with them for millennia, and are only just now able to afford the means to engineer them away.

"In a perverse way, this is an expression of a great faith in unregulated economic development and "Scientific Progress"; the idea that we can keep our economy spurred forward towards the goal of short term profits and yet, just before hitting a dead end some new solution will arise."

That's the story of the past 400 years. In a way, it's the story of human history.

I remember the 'Population Bomb' scare, when we were told that the world would starve and civilisation collapse before the end of the 20th century. It wasn't just a possibility - it was a mathematical certainty, as finite resources ran out in the face of ever-accelerating use. (Like In the Henry George 'jayhawk' analogy - more people meant the chickens were about to run out.) But we're still here, and still accelerating.

They were wrong then. They're wrong now. And the consequences of stopping and going back to how we were 400 years ago are unthinkable.

December 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Especially in this election year, we should all be cognizant that backwards is a real possibility. Civilizations have collapsed. Solutions do not have to appear in the nick of time. Ones that do appear may involve migration, and, as did the European settlement of the New World, considerable amounts of ethnic cleansing. Additionally, at this point, we are running out of available planet.

It is a bright, sunny -5F here in Colorado. With south facing windows (with overhangs for summer), appropriate insulation and a small array of solar collectors, there is no reason my community needs fossil fuel input today or on many days at all. It is true that there are positive ways forward, that do not involve 400 year setbacks.

Warmer climates do not always link to wetter weather. At least not with the consistency that humans require to sustain key activities like farming. The Southwestern US, from where I am on the eastern side of the Continental Divide, all the way to Los Angeles, CA, with diversions that take in places like Phoenix, Arizona, are all largely dependent on the watershed of the upper Colorado River, the bulk of which is a fairly small patch of the Rocky Mountains in northwestern Colorado and south central Wyoming. To function properly this system needs snow pack as a reservoir. Adding more dams would simply raise surface area and thus evaporation rates to the point that they would be counterproductive. http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/change-the-course/colorado-river-map/ The same sorts of mid continent situations exist in places like the Middle East.

Wetter places getting wetter, coupled with sea level rise causes great harm to the large numbers of human settlements in what is often the ecologically richest locations, sea level estuaries. Places like Bangladesh, at the mouth of the Ganges, the Mississippi Delta, the Lower Fraser River Valley of the Pacific Northwest US and Canada, the Thames, the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta of The Netherlands, are all locations that would be further threatened.

NiV, your point regarding Ehrlich's predictions in The Population Bomb are not well taken. Actually, considerable effort was expended in changing that predicted trajectory. Efforts at figuring out what methodologies did work to reduce birth rates, (social and economic empowerment of women, not just birth control devices), and to increase crop production (the "Green Revolution") arose as scientifically informed efforts at changes in directions and mitigation of possible effects were made.

Sure, it could be that we get hit by events beyond human control, such as an asteroid or have a series of volcanic eruptions, that knocks us into the next ice age, and make our puny efforts at CO2 reduction look silly in retrospect, (if there is any retrospect left to consider).

But within the limits over which humans have impact, changes in activities, do affect global climate (which you seem to be acknowledging). All the more reason to think that once the potential harms of anthropogenic climate change are acknowledged, efforts ought to be made to make the changes necessary to avert or at least mitigate the worst of the potential negative effects.

December 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"Especially in this election year, we should all be cognizant that backwards is a real possibility. Civilizations have collapsed. Solutions do not have to appear in the nick of time."

True. That's what I'm worried about.

While the US and Western Europe were moving forwards with free markets, Eastern Europe and Asia moved backwards with socialism and the regulation of markets and capitalism. We won. But millions of Russians and Chinese starved in the process, and we might not have done. And we might still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet.

"Ones that do appear may involve migration, and, as did the European settlement of the New World, considerable amounts of ethnic cleansing."

Settlement of the new world was never a solution to anything, it was an economic opportunity. And yes, pretty much every culture until very recently tended to conquer the peoples of the lands they invaded. In fact, that's one of the major advances our wealth and market/trader culture have made possible - that we can see the advantages in integrating with other cultures instead.

"Additionally, at this point, we are running out of available planet."

Nope. There's still plenty left. Not that we really need it - if anything, we're contracting and using *less* land.

"With south facing windows (with overhangs for summer), appropriate insulation and a small array of solar collectors, there is no reason my community needs fossil fuel input today or on many days at all."

The manufacture and distribution of glass for windows, insulation, and solar collectors uses fossil fuel. So do the clothes you wear, the food you eat, the cars and trucks you drive, the water you drink, and pretty much everything else you have or use. You could do it all with solar power instead, true, but it would be more expensive.

But sure, you may be lucky enough and rich enough to live somewhere you don't need much energy. A lot of other people are not so lucky.

"Warmer climates do not always link to wetter weather. At least not with the consistency that humans require to sustain key activities like farming."

It's true warmer climates are not always wetter, but I disagree that there is any problem with a warmer climate that would threaten farming. There would be enough places where it would be wetter for things to work. In any case, a wetter climate is one of the things the IPCC predicts - while I'm not convinced they know what they're talking about, for consistency's sake you ought to be.

"To function properly this system needs snow pack as a reservoir. Adding more dams would simply raise surface area and thus evaporation rates to the point that they would be counterproductive."

How do you work that out? Do you think snow pack doesn't evaporate?

"NiV, your point regarding Ehrlich's predictions in The Population Bomb are not well taken. Actually, considerable effort was expended in changing that predicted trajectory."

Yes. The environmentalists campaigned for compulsory sterilisation programmes in developing nations and China's one child policy. The industrialists just carried on inventing solutions, as they had been doing for the past 400 years.

Economists said at the time that the population bomb predictions were nonsense - a continuation of the same things the same people had been saying since Thomas Malthus. "Both the jayhawk and the man eat chickens; but the more jayhawks, the fewer chickens, while the more men, the more chickens." Malthusians have been panicking about the imminent exhaustion of chickens continuously since 1798 - but the more men there are, the more chickens there seem to be. It's strange. And the strangest thing is that no matter how long it keeps happening, the more convinced the Malthusians get.

Yes, we expended a lot of effort making more chickens to feed the growing population, and so the Malthusian predictions of doom didn't happen. But the Malthusians say that making more chickens only put the "chicken apocalypse" off for a few extra years, and that we're still all doomed. They just don't get it.

"Sure, it could be that we get hit by events beyond human control, such as an asteroid or have a series of volcanic eruptions, that knocks us into the next ice age"

I was thinking of all the run-of-the-mill disasters humanities has faced for millennia - floods, fires, famines, droughts, storms, earthquakes, plagues, wars, and so on. They kill far fewer people today than they used to because of our wealth, but they still happen.

"But within the limits over which humans have impact, changes in activities, do affect global climate (which you seem to be acknowledging)."

As most climate sceptics have acknowledged for at least the last 15 years, humans likely have some impact on the climate, but the true state of the science at the moment is that nobody knows how much. We strongly suspect the impact will be smaller than predicted and insignificant compared to all the other problems and dangers we face, and have always faced.

It would be like some political faction deciding that the major threat to the Earth is asteroid strike, and insisting that we must divert all our wealth and resources into a space program to build space-borne radars and rockets to detect and divert incoming space rocks.

The sceptics would, of course, acknowledge that asteroids can and do strike Earth with devastating global consequences; in fact, the scientific arguments for there being a danger from asteroids are a lot stronger than for global warming. But sceptics would argue that the probability is tiny, and we have better things to be spending our resources on at the moment - like ending poverty. Nobody denies that asteroids exist. Nobody denies that one could be on its way right now. But we assert that there's no good evidence for the threat being imminent, and we have no intention of spending trillions of dollars of other people's money concentrating on it just because you lot have got a 'bee in your bonnet' about it.

If you want to do something about it with your *own* money - you are of course welcome to. markets deliver what people want - so if you want it to happen you have the power. That's what free markets are about.

December 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

The Malthusians, or even Neo Malthusians keep forgetting of the propensity of geometric expansion of biota. Man has used the tendency of a species, or a group, to expand in numbers past the ability of a biome to support them due to the exponential power of reproduction. It is arguably one of the necessities for organized human development. The other propensity of not just adapting, but that humans are both good at finding different ways to adapt, and also findings ways to do things more effectively and efficiently.

And even though past performance is not guarantee future performance, it is still the best guide. I find it worse than misleading to point to advances in solar and wind, while discounting that we can and are doing the same for almost any human economic activity one can name.

It is not that there is no risk to humans causing a large irreparable damage to the environment. It is that the risk is so small. The nature of diffusion and concentration in the biogeophaphical earth reduces this risk substantially, The nature of improvements and assignment of causes such as environmental findings of damage reduce the risk even further. Most damages are on the order of 1 to 10 years, a few on the order of 100 to 1000 years. Geologic time is not indicated. Even the Bern cycle if one assumes that the loss of carbon to deep sequestering is either random or not, indicates that increases by humans in carbon will cause exponential increases in loss of carbon, at the present indicated response of the earth's biomes to increased CO2.

This does not mean humans don't have an effect. It just means humans are simply part of our changing world. Without humans, it will still change.

IMO, the static system Malthusians use just is not real.The dynamics of capitalism address the scarcity problem. As a paradigm, capitalism has more explanatory power than the statics that the Malthusians have to use. I worry more that interference with the market is more likely to promote failure, and that would include failure to meet the challenges of putting CO2 into the atmosphere, than allowing the market to work as best as possible. The best as possible IMO does include determining harm, which is why I find the way CC is being proposed by governments as premature.

December 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F Pittman

"The Malthusians, or even Neo Malthusians keep forgetting of the propensity of geometric expansion of biota."

I'm not sure if that's a typo or something. Malthus based his initial theory on the belief that humans (if unrestrained by starvation) reproduced exponentially, but resources only increased linearly. The truth is that humans generally don't reproduce exponentially.

See Julian Simon's book for more discussion of neo-Malthusianism and why it's wrong. Chapters 22-24 covers population growth.
http://www.juliansimon.com/writings/Ultimate_Resource/

December 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Yes, both are wrong. Resources do not grow linearly, except linearly with population that can grow exponentially. Our food sources can grow exponentially.

Not a typo, just a reformulation of what population dynamics can be. The linearity was more of a model error than an actuality.

December 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjohn f pittman

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