PDA

View Full Version : Science Saturday: Pre-Apocalyptic Edition


Bloggingheads
05-17-2008, 10:28 AM

InJapan
05-17-2008, 11:30 AM
Oooh, doom and gloom with my Wheaties on a Saturday morning - what more could a science geek hope for?

Seriously though, kudos to John for undertaking this issue. While it wasn't so much a dialogue as a lecture, Thomas is interesting enough to make it worth the effort.

"Somehow we're going to have to address these challenges..." Well, that is certainly a.... statement. I enjoyed the discussion at the end where perhaps there is hope that our collective decision making process can take a next step in development.

Still though, there is no answer to the dilemma (if indeed it is a real dilemma) of increasing complexity requiring ever more greatly increasing amounts of energy. On first blush it appears as if an "open source democracy" will not be a solution to this dilemma.

thprop
05-17-2008, 11:33 AM
One thing not mentioned in the diavlog is that violence is largely a male thing. In many species, young males need the socializing influence of females to moderate their inherent violent behavior. Or at least tone it down to a level that can allow reproduction. A neurologist told me once that human males produce twice as much serotonin as females. Men need it to cut their testosterone levels. Otherwise, you could not have two adult men in the same room - they would kill each other. In gorilla troops, there is only one silverback.

There is something called "male bonded coalitionary violence." Guys are just inherently scary and violent. At the American Atheists convention in 2007, psychiatrist Andy Thomson gave a talk titled "We Few, We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers (http://richarddawkins.net/article,1710,We-Few-We-Happy-Few-We-Band-of-Brothers,Andy-Thomson-Richard-Dawkins-Foundation)". It is about the roots of suicide bombers in male violence. He gives a good evolutionary overview of violent male behavior.

bjkeefe
05-17-2008, 11:58 AM
InJapan:

On first blush it appears as if an "open source democracy" will not be a solution to this dilemma.

As a card-carrying pessimist, I disagree. I am cautiously optimistic about the possibilities here. I don't think it will be a panacea, but I think it's a good way to think about things. Ultimately, I think there is going to be a struggle between those who favor open source democracy and those who control the choke points that can shut it down. I'm speaking not just of the Internet, but of things like media consolidation, the unitary executive and fetish for secrecy in the American government (and doubtless others), and the growth of political power of fundamentalist religions.

Okay, I better stop here before my conspiracy theory attempts to embrace every aspect of the entire world.

bjkeefe
05-17-2008, 12:04 PM
Great diavlog!

I know the real reason why Thomas Homer-Dixon started studying one problem in particular: It's so he would have an excuse to go back to grad school, so he could call himself T.H.D., Ph.D.

But in all seriousness, here are a few questions I wish John had asked:

Is it possible to (forcibly) simplify a society; i.e., to escape from the trap of ever-increasing complexity causing ever-increasing energy (Thomas's large sense) demands? Go blue sky and assume you had absolute dictatorial powers, could you do it then? What would be the costs? What would have to happen?

I guess the latter part of the diavlog suggests that his answer would be no; the only answer is: innovate or die. Given the attitude of the American government (and society) toward R&D and education over the past few decades, I therefore think we're in deep trouble. But maybe it's not too late to change.

thprop
05-17-2008, 12:19 PM
I guess the latter part of the diavlog suggests that his answer would be no; the only answer is: innovate or die. Given the attitude of the American government (and society) toward R&D and education over the past few decades, I therefore think we're in deep trouble. But maybe it's not too late to change.

Do you think that the US government does not care about science????? Why just look what they have recently done for our national laboratories. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/science/05spac.html) So the budget of Fermilab was cut and they have to lay off ten percent of the workforce. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/22/science/22fermi.html) Its budget was supposed to increase to $372 million from $342 million but was instead cut to $320 million. Some congressman really, really needed a new bridge in his district.

In the next budget, spending for the National Science Foundation and the Office of Science at the Energy Department is supposed to go up by 20% - to over $10 billion (on all things - not just new energy sources), about a third of the $30 billion that Homer-Dixon says is not enough. And chances are that there will be no 20% increase - but a last second cut.

I am beginning work on my survival bunker.

InJapan
05-17-2008, 12:33 PM
Is it possible to (forcibly) simplify a society; i.e., to escape from the trap of ever-increasing complexity causing ever-increasing energy (Thomas's large sense) demands? Go blue sky and assume you had absolute dictatorial powers, could you do it then? What would be the costs? What would have to happen?


If I understand his Rome historical survey correctly, that approach will fail. The emperor of Rome certainly had dictatorial powers, and yet the example given of maximizing all land in the Med region for forced agriculture could not stave off the inevitable.

And if I understood his Open Source Democracy concept correctly, the goal would be to maximize each person's (and each family's, and each village's) own ingenuity, in order to bring maximum ingenuity to bear on the problem. That is, the Open Source Democracy is a bottoms up effort with reasoned lateral coordination.

According to the latest USDA estimates:
http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/wasde/wasde-05-09-2008.pdfhttp://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/wasde/wasde-05-09-2008.pdf
world grain production is expected to hit a record this year, but so is consumption, with consumption slightly higher than production (with end of year stores ending a bit smaller than even last years' very low total.) One wonders if the margins of error for production are so tight that the system is highly susceptible to the type of collapse forseen by T.H.D. and others.

bjkeefe
05-17-2008, 12:47 PM
InJapan:

If I understand his Rome historical survey correctly, that approach will fail.

As I understood it, this was not an attempt to simplify society. It was instead a more vigorous effort to sustain the unified empire under central command. What might have happened had the emperor pushed instead for loosely connected, semi-autonomous regions? What might happen if the US went that route?

bjkeefe
05-17-2008, 12:48 PM
thprop:

I am beginning work on my survival bunker.

Seems like a better strategy would be to work on a skill that would be in demand after the apocalypse. How long can you stay in the bunker?

osmium
05-17-2008, 01:38 PM
i really enjoyed this diavlog, especially the discussion of energy. as a suppliment, i would like to recommend the work of Nathan Lewis, who is a professor of chemistry at CalTech. he has a highly effective power point presentation, which is available at his website here (http://nsl.caltech.edu/energy.html), and you can watch him give it by clicking the video link.

it's occurred to me in the past to recommend him as a bloggingheads science saturday guest, but it wasn't till i saw today's excellent diavlog that i remembered to actually do it. i think he'd be good. there are too many physicists and sociologists per capita on bloggingheads. how about a chemist?

Happy Hominid
05-17-2008, 04:23 PM
Scary without being particularly pessimistic. I certainly agree with Tad's reasoning about not being a survivalist. I know a lot of others would disagree though. Also agree that $300 billion over 10 sounds way low in these times. Glad to hear (and not surprised) that Obama is interested in it. But let's talk some more about Reverend Wright and lapel pins, shall we?

Happy Hominid
05-17-2008, 04:29 PM
Brendan, when the people speak in November, we'll get a good idea whether it's too late to change.

For a while I've been looking at this election as a real defining moment in the culture wars here in America (and, in a sense, for democratic society). But this diavlog adds a whole new sense of urgency to it.

We are a deeply divided people. There are folks who would listen to this diavlog even now (forget in the roaring 90s) and think this is wacky liberal talk and nothing we need concern ourselves with.

Jyminee
05-17-2008, 05:50 PM
This was really fascinating, thanks John and Tad.

I would definitely recommend the New Yorker piece by Jared Diamond that John mentions. It's one of the best magazine pieces I've ever read.

Wonderment
05-17-2008, 09:27 PM
Wonderful interview by John! I'm off to the bookstore (virtual) to read Tad's work.

dankingbooks
05-17-2008, 10:19 PM
This is just silly. Here are some questions for Tad:

1. If we are currently in the midst of an energy crisis, then why is GDP/cost of energy ratio increasing?
2. I do not think that we are in the middle of an energy supply crisis. There are numerous political problems with oil, but I don't think there are any physical resource limitations of any consequence. Food is a good example: with modern transport, famine in any corner of the world is unnecessary. Tad's counterexample with pests is not at all convincing.
3. This guy believes the whole "carbon-based-global-warming" crock. There really is no evidence for that theory. Where is the evidence that a small increase in a trace atmospheric gas is going to dramatically change the earth's climate in historical time?

This whole theory is just nonsense. All coming from what Pat Buchanan once termed "Soviet Canuckistan." This whole gist of his argument is to sacrifice the well-being of billions of people all for the sake of some totalitarian ideal - his ideal of Goldilocks connectivity, whatever that means.

http://www.dankingbooks.com

dankingbooks
05-17-2008, 10:35 PM
I did enjoy John Horgan's facetiousness, or at least it seemed that way to me. He was suitably skeptical without being in any way argumentative or impolite. Kudos.

However, Tad is an extremist. His views need to be studiously ignored by intelligent people everywhere.

AemJeff
05-17-2008, 10:41 PM
This is just silly. Here are some questions for Tad:

1. If we are currently in the midst of an energy crisis, then why is GDP/cost of energy ratio increasing?
2. I do not think that we are in the middle of an energy supply crisis. There are numerous political problems with oil, but I don't think there are any physical resource limitations of any consequence. Food is a good example: with modern transport, famine in any corner of the world is unnecessary. Tad's counterexample with pests is not at all convincing.
3. This guy believes the whole "carbon-based-global-warming" crock. There really is no evidence for that theory. Where is the evidence that a small increase in a trace atmospheric gas is going to dramatically change the earth's climate in historical time?

This whole theory is just nonsense. All coming from what Pat Buchanan once termed "Soviet Canuckistan." This whole gist of his argument is to sacrifice the well-being of billions of people all for the sake of some totalitarian ideal - his ideal of Goldilocks connectivity, whatever that means.

1 - Would you care to document that assertion? How about explaining why your metric is a better measure than Tad's?
2 - Is just assertive nonsense. "I don't think there are any physical resource limitations of any consequence." Okay... explain.
3 - How is that whenever science clashes with someone's political beliefs, the political arguments jump immediately to conspiracies? It doesn't matter if the topic is climate change, evolutionary biology, or whether the damned LHC is going to destroy the universe - the tin-foil hats pop out, non-experts casting baseless aspersions on the work of entire classes of professionals. There's no evidence for the theory? Really? What is it you know that the people who actually work in the field don't? What a tiresome trope.

And lastly, the capping argument - THE GUY'S CANADIAN! MUST BE A COMMIE! Do you actually expect to be taken seriously? Or is it just about the link?

bjkeefe
05-17-2008, 10:42 PM
However, Tad is an extremist. His views need to be studiously ignored by intelligent people everywhere.

Which, I imagine, means you will be paying close attention to them.

bjkeefe
05-17-2008, 10:45 PM
AemJeff:

... or whether the damned LHC is going to destroy the universe ...

Shhhh. Not so loud (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2008/05/another-theory-bites-dust.html).

AemJeff
05-17-2008, 10:52 PM
Scientists, Freemasons, same thing!

Thanks, Brendan. I saw the blog item at BA, but I never got around to watching until I clicked through your link. I love this guy!

graz
05-17-2008, 10:53 PM
And lastly, the capping argument - THE GUY'S CANADIAN! MUST BE A COMMIE!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44P8C4VJkN4&feature=related

graz
05-17-2008, 11:03 PM
Shhhh. Not so loud (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2008/05/another-theory-bites-dust.html).

You are a Freemason and Moon landing believer.

bjkeefe
05-17-2008, 11:20 PM
You are a Freemason and Moon landing believer.

As long as you don't call me a faked-moon-landing denier.

Wonderment
05-17-2008, 11:39 PM
This guy believes the whole "carbon-based-global-warming" crock. There really is no evidence for that theory.

Darn it! Why didn't I think of that first? I'll have to read your book, Dan. It must be brilliant.

dankingbooks
05-18-2008, 01:35 AM
Friends,

I'm willing to change my mind on global warming if somebody has some real evidence for it. Here are some specific questions:
1) CO2 is about 350 ppm in the atmosphere, compared to water, which is roughly 10000 ppm. Water is by far the largest "greenhouse gas" in the atmosphere. Explain why the small increase in CO2 concentration should make such a big difference in the climate?
2) Almost all of the the heat stored by the earth is stored in the ocean. The second largest storage reservoir would be land. The atmosphere is a) very small, and b) not very dense. The notion that a small (very small) increase in CO2 concentration is somehow going to alter the temperature of the ocean in some historical time is, frankly, not serious. Please explain how this is supposed to happen?
3) A greenhouse works by glass walls (at least a 1000 times denser than the atmosphere) reflecting infrared light AND by preventing convection currents from dissipating the heat. There is no comparable effect in the atmosphere - indeed, the entire analogy of "greenhouse" is completely inappropriate. Please tell me how I'm wrong?
4) In order for the supposedly "greenhouse" atmosphere to trap heat, it does have to store it someplace. In the popular mind, this is done by carbon dioxide, which "traps" heat. Now this is a mystery to me. Can somebody please tell me how it is that CO2 traps heat for longer than a few milliseconds? The theory that heat will be stuck on CO2 for a hundred years when it will all suddenly be released to melt Antarctica is, surely, ridiculous.
5) The heat capacity of the atmosphere is determined a) by its mass, and b) by its composition. The composition dependence is primarily one of the number of atoms in each molecule. For example, water has three atoms, and CO2 has three atoms. From physical chemistry it is known that the heat capacities of these two molecules must be roughly the same. Since water is nearly 2 orders of magnitude more abundant than CO2, please explain why the small (very small) increase in CO2 should make a big difference in the climate?
6) The common prediction is that there will be more storms in a globally-warmed environment. It is also predicted that the temperature at the poles will warm faster than at the equator. But these predictions are mutually contradictory, since storms are caused by the difference in temperature between the poles & the equator. Which of these supposed global-warming predictions is false (at least one of them must be)?

Again, I will change my mind if somebody can answer these questions. These are straight physical chemistry questions - they require no detailed explanation or modeling of the weather. But at bottom, any model of the weather surely has to be consistent with basic science. The global warming theory - at least as it has been explained to me - is not.

That's my tin-foil hat.

As for my book, it is nowhere near as intellectual as that proposed by Tad, But Tad is silly. My book is merely entertaining. You can find it at http://www.dankingbooks.com

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 01:57 AM
Actually, I didn't argue whether GW or the Greenhouse effect were true or false. What I said is that there's a population of people specifically trained, and employed in the endeavor to understand this stuff. Their opinions carry more weight on these topics than those of other people. I'm not one of them. It's evident that you're not either, since your list of questions seems based on a lot of assumptions about what you apparently guess the actual physics involved might be.

From Wikipedia:

The greenhouse effect is the process in which the emission of infrared radiation by the atmosphere warms a planet's surface. The name comes from an incorrect analogy with the warming of air inside a greenhouse compared to the air outside the greenhouse.

The full article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect) actually has lots of pretty charts and does a swell job of explaining the various mechanisms involved. But those two quoted sentences either answer or invalidate the premises of many of your questions.

Added: One of the cool features of Wikipedia is the discussion page associated with each article. The GW debate in microcosm is nicely encapsulated there, along with justification for what's been included in the article and what hasn't.

dankingbooks
05-18-2008, 03:29 AM
Jeff,

It is no fault of Wikipedia that they give a good account of the status of global warming. But they do so from a POV sympathetic to the theory. However, I do believe that the theory is wrong, and the Wikipedia article does not change my mind.

(Your argument, as opposed to Wikipedia, is simply one of appealing to authority. This is not the same as an argument. You say I know not what I talk about. In this case, I do a little bit, what being a professor of physical chemistry. Now that is not the same as being an expert in climate change, but it does give me some "authority" to be skeptical on the issue. But back to Wikipedia...)

Wikipedia does admit that the greenhouse analogy is completely wrong. That's good.

They then argue that the earth is heated by reflected IR light from additional greenhouse gases (for lack of a better word), and that this heating will somehow occur over a very long period of time. This argument is more sophisticated than the so-called greenhouse effect, but nearly as fallacious.

The additional, human caused concentration of GGs is so small as to be negligible. We've increased CO2 concentration from 313ppm to 375ppm since 1960. A good analogy is pH: if one increased the hydrogen ion concentration in the blood by that factor, it would increase the pH by 0.078, or something well below biological significance. The fact is that chemical reactivity (which is what this is) varies as the logarithm of the concentration. Thus if we were increasing CO2 concentrations by a factor of 10, one might want to worry, but we're not anywhere close to that. And if we include water as a GG, we have increased them from 10313 to 10375, which is a truly negligible ratio. The log of that ratio is 0.0026. This has to result in an unmeasurable effect. Even the GW folks admit that the effect is very small - important only because they argue it is cumulative.

And indeed, the global warming people are not able to measure their effect, at least not consistently. Whatever it is they are looking for is completely swamped out in random climate variations. And modeling won't help much here either. It is very difficult to model a chaotic or nearly chaotic system with any accuracy, but when one is looking for an effect smaller than background noise, I think one has to not take the models very seriously.

Maybe they're right and I'm wrong. Could be. But what people like Tad are suggesting is that we should now spend billions or trillions of dollars remedying an effect that may not even be occurring, and in any event, seems to be not very significant. Personally, I'm not willing to spend that much money on a crap shoot. In the short & medium term, all this talk of a carbon tax, however devised, is just going to impoverish hundreds of millions of people, with probably no real benefit to anybody in the long run. I'm willing to listen to the GW people, but frankly, I think they should be held to a much higher standard of proof before we invest large amounts of money on some theory.

travis68
05-18-2008, 04:48 AM
Excellent points, dankingbooks.

I would also like to know what computer model of extremely complex phenomenon has ever proved correct over time. It is trivially easy to tune parameters to any sufficiently complex model to match historical data. Insufficient skepticism about these models worries me. It's certainly possible that the scientists are right, but I wouldn't bet on it.

It's very easy for scientists to fool themselves if they can't check their theories against experiments. There have been literally *hundreds* of theories that the most respected scientists in the world believed that then turned out to be false. When the experiments were good enough to test a prediction, then things changed. Unfortunately with climate change, no one has come up with a way to do experiments.

travis68
05-18-2008, 05:24 AM
As to dankingbooks point about energy consumption as a percent of gdp, look to this page:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/txt/ptb0105.html

It's the 6th column. Unfortunately, the data ends at 2004. Oil prices have tripled since then and gas prices have doubled. I doubt very much though that we've reached a higher percentage of GDP than in the early 80's. If we had, we'd already be in a deep recession.

The larger point is that people adapt to higher energy costs. There will be more teleconferencing and fewer flights. People will drive less. People will build smaller houses. Once energy costs get high enough, alternative forms of energy will become competitive. So long as people are flexible and we have a free market, society will easily hold together. Human ingenuity will win out in the end.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 08:15 AM
Dan:

I think you're putting up a smoke screen by comparing water vapor and carbon dioxide the way you do. It doesn't matter that, in raw numbers, the concentration of water vapor is a lot more than the concentration of carbon dioxide. Considering the pre-industrial Earth, that mixing is what gave the climate that we had -- one that we call "temperate."

What matters is the change in proportions, not the proportions themselves, and how sensitive the climate is to such changes. It is the consensus of the IPCC and most climate scientists in general that the increase in C02 (and other gases) has an effect, that the increase is largely due to human industrial activity, and that the climate is sensitive to these changes. There is further concern that increases themselves, both in CO2 concentration and temperature, themselves cause further increases in these two quantites by disrupting natural regulating mechanisms.

Also, you're hiding some of the increase by comparing the change in CO2 levels to a 1960 baseline. It makes more sense to look at the change from the beginning of industrialization:

The global atmospheric concentration of CO2 increased from a pre-industrial value of about 280ppm to 379ppm in 2005.

And over even longer time scales:

Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4 and N2O have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years (Figure 2.3). The atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and CH4 in 2005 exceed by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years.

Also, the rate of increase appears to be increasing as well:

The annual CO2 concentration growth rate was larger during the last 10 years (1995-2005 average: 1.9ppm per year) than it has been since the beginning of continuous direct atmospheric measurements (1960-2005 average: 1.4ppm per year), although there is year-to-year variability in growth rates.

Similar results obtain for other greenhouse gases: methane, nitrous oxide, and halocarbons: increasing over time, and directly attributable to human activity.

Finally, as you yourself point out, the change in water vapor concentration has been negligible.

So, to repeat, what matters is the change in proportions of the gases that make up our atmosphere, and the way to assess the change is to compare the amount of a given gas from what it used to be to what it is now. To be a little hyperbolic, would you accept an argument from me that says there's no need to worry about the safety of drinking water if its concentration of dioxin (http://www.epa.gov/OGWDW/contaminants/dw_contamfs/dioxin.html) went up by just a few parts per billion, since surely, the amount of dissolved salts in drinking water is orders of magnitude higher than this?

The quoted material above comes from section 2.2 of the IPCC report "Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report" [PDF (http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr.pdf)]. You might have a look at it.

I grant that there is some uncertainty in the long-range effects of increasing the concentration of these gases, and there is certainly plenty of room to debate the best ways to address the problems. But I think the first step is to admit that problems exist, and to be aware of the potential consequences of doing nothing.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 08:38 AM
Dan:

Also, if you really want technical details of the chemistry involved, have a look at this page (http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm). This is a collection of links to the separate chapters of the "Working Group I Report 'The Physical Science Basis.' " Chapter 7 might be of particular interest to you.

Also, to reemphasize my main point from the previous comment, consider this passage from the Technical Summary (link on the same page):

Several of the major greenhouse gases occur naturally but increases in their atmospheric concentrations over the last 250 years are due largely to human activities. Other greenhouse gases are entirely the result of human activities. The contribution of each greenhouse gas to radiative forcing over a particular period of time is determined by the change in its concentration in the atmosphere over that period and the effectiveness of the gas in perturbing the radiative balance. Current atmospheric concentrations of the different greenhouse gases considered in this report vary by more than eight orders of magnitude (factor of 10^8), and their radiative efficiencies vary by more than four orders of magnitude (factor of 10^4), reflecting the enormous diversity in their properties and origins.

On that same page, note also the sidebar, which offers links to a number of other IPCC reports.

piscivorous
05-18-2008, 08:58 AM
There is considerable debate going on right now about the validity of the IPCC model predictions. Here is an article that discusses this issue in some detail Comparing Distrubutions of Observations and Predictions (http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/prediction_and_forecasting/001428comparing_distrubuti.html). If your understanding of statistical terms is week you may need to bone up on them to understand it. The question is is 8 years a long enough time span to invalidate the models. Most modelers and proponents argue that due to the noise, of the variances in weather, dictate that you use a longer time span (15-30 years) but there is little doubt that the current observations do not confirm to the model projections.

As far as your IPCC based argument is that the pdf you point to is a political document written by policy makers and bureaucrats, not the scientists that did the work. The very existence of the jobs of these policy makers and bureaucrats is dependent upon the existence of anthropogenic global warming so it is not really an unbiased source.

dankingbooks
05-18-2008, 09:35 AM
BJ,

Your dioxin example is a good one - shouldn't we panic if dioxin levels increase by only a few parts billion. And the answer is yes we should, if they originally had been in the parts per trillion range.

This is an increase by 3 orders of magnitude! That is chemically significant.

As a rule of thumb, illustrated nicely by the pH measure, chemical change is proportional to the orders of magnitude change in concentration. No matter how you slice it or dice it, the change is so-called greenhouse gases have increased by much less than an order of magnitude. This change is not significant.

Further, I will grant you that CO2 and water behave differently in the atmosphere. And thus one would have to weight their influence on things such as RF forcing by some factor - the Wikipedia article tries to estimate what that factor might be. I certainly have no idea what the factor is, but I'm reasonably confident that the factor is significantly less then a factor of 10. At the end of the day, if "greenhouse heating" is to be measured, one would have to add together the weighted effects of all the relevant gases, which certainly includes water. So my ratio of 10375/10313 may understate the case, and the true ratio may be twice as large or even three times as large, the ratio of after/before is still a number very close to one, and it's logarithm is thus very close to zero.

Even without assuming some hidden political bias at the IPCC, it is surely true that they are out to market global warming, for much the same reason that I'm out to market my own, excellent book (http://www.dankingbooks.com), namely it is an ego boost. Thus while I think it behooves us to take them seriously, I also think we need to be much more skeptical of their conclusions.

The fact is that people have let themselves be persuaded of global warming on the flimsiest of evidence - the IPCC really is an excellent marketing organization (much better than I am). So while I'm in favor of continuing to study climate change (please send more money to us academics!), and while it would be a mistake to reject their arguments out of hand, I think we need to be very skeptical before we invest hugely in solving this probably unimportant problem.

By the way, have I ever told you about my book? It's taking the literary world by storm. Indeed, English departments across the land are suggesting we impose a tax on it, because it is all students are reading today - not. But you can read it too. Get your copy at http://www.dankingbooks.com

piscivorous
05-18-2008, 10:06 AM
Friends,

I'm willing to change my mind on global warming if somebody has some real evidence for it. Here are some specific questions:
1) CO2 is about 350 ppm in the atmosphere, compared to water, which is roughly 10000 ppm. Water is by far the largest "greenhouse gas" in the atmosphere. Explain why the small increase in CO2 concentration should make such a big difference in the climate?
If you are going to try and present an argument you should least make it through. You could go into the fact that the absorption spectrum of water is much different than CO2. There is no frequency of light that water doesn't absorb to later be released as infra red heat; where as CO2 absorbs light frequencies mostly in the higher range. Along with the differences in the range of frequencies there is also a difference in the intensity of absorption over their ranges. CO2 has a very narrow range of frequencies where the intensity of absorption is high. Water on the other hand has medium to high intensity levels throughout most of it's absorption range. Where the ranges overlap water intensity of absorption is very similar to CO2. So the next time make your argument completely please

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 10:20 AM
There is considerable debate going on right now about the validity of the IPCC model predictions.

I have already acknowledged the uncertainties in the models. My previous comments referred to the data.

As far as your IPCC based argument is that the pdf you point to is a political document written by policy makers and bureaucrats, not the scientists that did the work.

It is my understanding that the published reports are summaries of the work that the scientists did, and that there was considerable review before the reports were released, and that the release of the report amounts to the scientists having signed off on the way their results were summarized. Note that in the reports, pretty much every claim is qualified as to the level of certainty derived from the consensus. The reports begin by defining the various levels of certainty. You can evaluate each section in light of this. You frequently imply some level of expertise in the relevant areas, so all I can say is that you should read the IPCC's reports themselves, instead of relying on others' reactions to the reports.

I am not going to debate this with you, pisc. You've already established yourself as a borderline denier. You have a history on this board of giving links that point to work that is paid for by groups who have a significant interest in adding FUD to the debate. Every time we get into this discussion, you point to the most uncertain aspects (some of the long-range models) or cherry-picked some set of data, and imply that these reflect the uncertainty of the overall understanding. Healthy skepticism is one thing, but you've gone well past that. By the time we get to the level of certainty you demand, it'll be too late to do anything about it.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 10:27 AM
Dan:

If you want the details on things like RF forcing factors, you should read the IPCC reports, and not just the Wikipedia article. If you really are a professor of physical chemistry, you ought to be able to evaluate the worthiness of the results. I think you're being inconsistent here -- claiming a level of expertise, throwing around a bunch of sciencey-sounding talk, but refusing to read the primary sources.

As I just told Pisc, I am not interested in debating at length whether or not anthropogenic climate change is a real phenomenon. I consider that well enough established that it's a waste of time to keep going over and over it, just to bring you Flat-Earthers to the table.

As to your own book, I've read the excerpt on Amazon. Thanks, but no thanks.

piscivorous
05-18-2008, 10:42 AM
Yes life is easy when you only debate the ones that you agree with. You can ignore the arguments they present and label them with the derogatory term to denier, and yes it is used to try and discredit those that haven't bought into the pr, so that you may feel secure in your belief.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 10:51 AM
Yes life is easy when you only debate the ones that you agree with. You can ignore the arguments they present and label them with the derogatory term to denier, and yes it is used to try and discredit those that haven't bought into the pr, so that you may feel secure in your belief.

Your sweeping generalizations are incorrect. First, I have little interest in debating people I agree with. Second, I am happy to debate you, and others who disagree with me, on a wide range of topics, but there has to be a reasonable basis to start from. An analogy would be us trying to debate the worthiness of sending people into space if one of us insisted that the Moon landings were faked.

Yes, I am secure in my belief that anthropogenic climate change is real. Yes, I am secure in my belief that it's a big problem and that we have to address it now. You, on the other hand, are secure in your belief that the entire thing is a hoax perpetrated by liberals, and all you are interested in is finding references to bolster this belief. Sorry, but I have no respect for such an attitude.

piscivorous
05-18-2008, 11:07 AM
Your sweeping generalizations are incorrect. First, I have little interest in debating people I agree with. Second, I am happy to debate you, and others who disagree with me, on a wide range of topics, but there has to be a reasonable basis to start from. An analogy would be us trying to debate the worthiness of sending people into space if one of us insisted that the Moon landings were faked.

Yes, I am secure in my belief that anthropogenic climate change is real. Yes, I am secure in my belief that it's a big problem and that we have to address it now. You, on the other hand, are secure in your belief that the entire thing is a hoax perpetrated by liberals, and all you are interested in is finding references to bolster this belief. Sorry, but I have no respect for such an attitude.Sometimes I think you take yourself too seriously.

osmium
05-18-2008, 11:27 AM
The additional, human caused concentration of GGs is so small as to be negligible. We've increased CO2 concentration from 313ppm to 375ppm since 1960. A good analogy is pH: if one increased the hydrogen ion concentration in the blood by that factor, it would increase the pH by 0.078, or something well below biological significance. The fact is that chemical reactivity (which is what this is) varies as the logarithm of the concentration. Thus if we were increasing CO2 concentrations by a factor of 10, one might want to worry, but we're not anywhere close to that. And if we include water as a GG, we have increased them from 10313 to 10375, which is a truly negligible ratio. The log of that ratio is 0.0026. This has to result in an unmeasurable effect. Even the GW folks admit that the effect is very small - important only because they argue it is cumulative.

well, the analogy with pH is actually circular, because pH is by definition the negative of the logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration. pH is essentially a measure of concentration, and the reason you do it that way is to easily discuss massive changes in concentration, across 14 orders of magnitude: pH 0 being highly acidic and pH 14 being highly basic. so, the only real analogy with pH would be if CO2 (or anything) concentration were varying that much, we'd give the number in p[CO2] or something like that.

but chemical reactivity does not vary with the logarithm. in fact, reactivity can vary linearly, or with the square, or zeroth-order (whathaveyou) with concentration. the response to a perturbation in concentration is always empirical. you have to observe it.

but the action of a "greenhouse gas" isn't really chemical reactivity either. rather, it's how it absorbs radiation based on its atoms and their bonds. i'm not an expert on this, but they absorb EM radiation and then i assume they transfer that by kinetic energy to something else. however, i would have to read up to understand that part.

up above, you commented on water and CO2, with water being a much larger part of the atmosphere, and so then why isn't it a concern. water is in fact the major contributor to keeping the planet warm, and also clouds, by virtue of being dark, also block sunlight on its way in (i.e. the effect of water is nonlinear and complicated, but that is neither here nor there). the concentration of water in the atmosphere is regulated by temperature and pressure--if it gets cold, it rains, etc. the temperature of the earth isn't changing much in regards to the phase diagram of water (where it evaporates and condenses).

the reason CO2 is a concern is that its regulation mechanism, which is a cycle just like water's, occurs on long time scales, and is chemical instead of physical. (raining is a physical phase change, etc.) CO2 is breathed by plants, who incorporate the carbon in their stems and leaves. we then eat the plants, and that's how we get carbon (carbohydrates, proteins, molecules containign carbon). we also breathe off a little CO2. hydrocarbons (oil, coal) end up in the ground from organic matter, and there it sits. when you burn them, CO2 is released and returns to its gaseous form. you get it back by growing plants, eating them, etc.

this is a simplistic account of the carbon cycle, but it catches the drift. the concern is a large perturbation in CO2 going into the gas phase, at a rate that cannot be balanced by a similar increase in rate returning to the condensed phase.

it is entirely true that you can't prove anything about what increasing CO2 gas concentration will do. the question is at its core unscientific, because the scientific method involves doing experiments. however, there is only one atmosphere and only one biosphere. ergo, we are doing the experiment so to speak.

however, it is entirely possible to draw a closed chemical cycle and recognize that it has been perturbed, possibly in a large way. this is the part that's troubling.

sorry for the longness. although i turned into a lecture there at the end, i hope the part about pH and reactivity answers some questions.

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 11:47 AM
I haven't read all of this thread, yet. I do want to make a comment about "argument from authority." If I wanted to derive the mass of a nucleon from its constituents, I wouldn't start from first principles. If I wanted to question the horrendously complex models used by the particle guys to solve that particular problem, I'd have a steep hill to climb. Before any of my arguments held any weight, whatsoever, I would need to become an authority. Otherwise I'd just be spinning cotton candy.

In other words, "argument from authority" is not the argument I'm making. That would sound more like "the scientists said global warming is so, therefore, it's so." You'll have a hard time finding an instance in which I've made that argument.

My argument is closer to "you sound like a crank."

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 11:52 AM
As to dankingbooks point about energy consumption as a percent of gdp, look to this page:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/txt/ptb0105.html

It's the 6th column. Unfortunately, the data ends at 2004. Oil prices have tripled since then and gas prices have doubled. I doubt very much though that we've reached a higher percentage of GDP than in the early 80's. If we had, we'd already be in a deep recession.

The larger point is that people adapt to higher energy costs. There will be more teleconferencing and fewer flights. People will drive less. People will build smaller houses. Once energy costs get high enough, alternative forms of energy will become competitive. So long as people are flexible and we have a free market, society will easily hold together. Human ingenuity will win out in the end.

You're both missing the point of Tad's argument. For each useful unit of energy produced, there's an energy cost. That ratio isn't a simple reflection of price. When that ratio approaches unity a society has a problem. There's another name for this: thermodynamics.

osmium
05-18-2008, 11:55 AM
As a rule of thumb, illustrated nicely by the pH measure, chemical change is proportional to the orders of magnitude change in concentration. No matter how you slice it or dice it, the change is so-called greenhouse gases have increased by much less than an order of magnitude. This change is not significant.

see my other post, as the pH comparison contains an error.

i do agree that arguments about uncertainty of climate predictions are valid. however, i side with the general scientific community that the climate change problem is important and real. scientists live to prove each other wrong, so the appearance of general consensus is significant.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 11:59 AM
I do want to make a comment about "argument from authority."

One thing to add to your comments: This has become a tiresome cliché in forums such as this. If you don't provide reference links, you get, "Can you cite anything to back that up?" If you attempt to forestall that, you get "You're just arguing from authority."

Invoking the latter accusation, far more often than not, has become about as meaningful as, "I know you are, but what am I?"

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 12:04 PM
I agree. If you can't score enough points on the merits, resort to rhetorical games.

piscivorous
05-18-2008, 12:39 PM
I guess it's all merit basedd argument in comments that use phrases like "borderline denier (sneer sneer), or bought and paid sources, "cherry-picked some set of data", "the appearance of general consensus is significant", "you sound like a crank". Yep no rhetoric here!

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 01:11 PM
I guess it's all merit basedd argument in comments that use phrases like "borderline denier (sneer sneer), or bought and paid sources, "cherry-picked some set of data", "the appearance of general consensus is significant", "you sound like a crank". Yep no rhetoric here!

Pisc, I don't doubt your sincerity on this. You and I have gone round and round on AEI/CEI sourced information. You can't accept cash for a particular conclusion with one hand and offer "impartial" arguments with the other. That well is poisoned. And nobody said there was no rhetoric on this side.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 01:50 PM
Pisc, I don't doubt your sincerity on this. You and I have gone round and round on AEI/CEI sourced information. You can't accept cash for a particular conclusion with one hand and offer "impartial" arguments with the other. That well is poisoned. And nobody said there was no rhetoric on this side.

Exactly. I'll augment your last point: There's a world of difference between adding some rhetorical flourishes to your argument, and just using a rhetorical device as the sum and substance of your argument.

piscivorous
05-18-2008, 01:55 PM
So an organization that very life depends on confirming the existence of global warming, and if it does it is likely to grow, get lots more money, gain power and prestige is an unbiased source. That part what drives me nuts on this issue, the purity that is accorded to the IPCC when in fact it is one of the largest special interest group concerning this matter. It is sort of like the bible and god argument. The bible is true. How do you know it's true? Because God write it. How do you know God wrote it? Because it says so in the Bible.

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 02:09 PM
So an organization that very life depends on confirming the existence of global warming, and if it does it is likely to grow, get lots more money, gain power and prestige is an unbiased source. That part what drives me nuts on this issue, the purity that is accorded to the IPCC when in fact it is one of the largest special interest group concerning this matter. It is sort of like the bible and god argument. The bible is true. How do you know it's true? Because God write it. How do you know God wrote it? Because it says so in the Bible.

You're understating the distinction. Is IPCC "pure?" I'm not sure what that means. Is every commission empaneled to examine particular issues corrupted because of its (the panel's) existential dependence on the underlying issue? That seems like an impossible standard. Should the output of every commission be examined critically and skeptically? Is there more than one possible answer to that last question?

On the other hand AEI/CEI have been caught, hand in cookie jar, more than once. All of their output supports one point of view, coincidentally consistent with that espoused by their backers. They've been caught offering cash for papers that support a particular point of view. This is unambiguously corrupt.

There's a real difference here.

osmium
05-18-2008, 02:13 PM
since you quoted me, i will respond only for myself. i said the appearance on general consensus is significant.

since there is rhetoric in pretty much everything, i won't cop to giving a completely neutral statement. however, what i said is more or less a statement of fact, given as an entreaty for people to stop the "scientists are in the bag, paid whores, etc" argument.

please note, however, that i am in no way accusing you of this argument, pisc. i know you don't say that.

if anyone wants to argue with me about science, not policy, please do go for it.

osmium
05-18-2008, 02:19 PM
all policy organizations are horseshit, hands down, no argument here. how does that invalidate science exactly? because self interest exists in this cold hard world, it follows from that that scientific understanding of the carbon cycle is wrong? you are using rhetoric, by conflating two groups on the same side of an arguement, calling one into question, and using the association of the two to invalidate the other. i'm sure this has a greek name, this strategy.

piscivorous
05-18-2008, 02:35 PM
And scientist never suffer from the human frailty of the "heard mentality"; epically if you know that it will be easier to get funds for you research if your research supports the currently flavored consensus as being opposed to it. No I don't believe the IPCC is particularly corrupt just a special interest and that this factor needs to be weighed and considered; which is not when it is presented as the final arbiter and dispenser of the truth. Is it a creditable organization? Yes. Do the do important work? Yes Is it a political organization with an interest in it's own preservation? Clearly the answer is yes. Does this in itself delegitimize it's work? No but it does not canonize it either.

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 02:48 PM
And scientist never suffer from the human frailty of the "heard mentality"; epically if you know that it will be easier to get funds for you research if your research supports the currently flavored consensus as being opposed to it. No I don't believe the IPCC is particularly corrupt just a special interest and that this factor needs to be weighed and considered; which is not when it is presented as the final arbiter and dispenser of the truth. Is it a creditable organization? Yes. Do the do important work? Yes Is it a political organization with an interest in it's own preservation? Clearly the answer is yes. Does this in itself delegitimize it's work? No but it does not canonize it either.

Who's making any of these claims? I've never heard anybody from IPCC claim to represent "the final arbiter and dispenser of the truth." They present scientific papers - papers which aren't consistent examples of a single point of view. I think, to a certain extent, you confuse "doesn't agree with me" with "must all agree with each other." I know that you know that scientific findings are contingent, and subject to change. I think you can be pretty sure that the people working in this field realize this, as well.

Should policy decisions be based on scientific understanding, even when we know that that understanding is imperfect? What other choice is there? You take your best guess based on the current state of knowledge - there's undeniable risk involved in that. I don't know what other course of action we could reasonably ponder. Certainly it's better than making public policy based on the commercial needs of large energy corporations, which is what AEI/CEI would would have us do.

osmium
05-18-2008, 02:49 PM
And scientist never suffer from the human frailty of the "heard mentality"; epically if you know that it will be easier to get funds for you research if your research supports the currently flavored consensus as being opposed to it.

of course. everyone does herd mentality, and your doctor does too, but that doesn't mean you rail against antibiotics. it means you use your brain instead of blindly believing anything. but, at some point, you might say, "these people may have a point."

yeah, you gotta get funding, but provided the economy is good and capital is flowing, it will always be there. science chases the money that makes itself available. and you gotta remember, there are plenty of people who study something else, genetic engineering for example, who would be quite happy to see "climate change" money become "genetic engineering" money. i bet they whisper in plenty of ears.

please remember, science is a market just like everything else. if climate change were ridiculous, scientific market wouldn't stand for it.

osmium
05-18-2008, 02:57 PM
and i don't know the numbers, even though i should look them up, but i bet atmospheric modeling has far less funding potential than it might seem. the people that do this are computer people who specialize in complex systems. i would be willing to bet their real pay day is from modeling something with a commercial application for a corporate funder. for example. this is how you do it. you use corporate money to keep yourself going, and then your hobbyhorse, something like global warming, is a sideline.

like i said, i have no proof. but i do know how the funding system works. i am willing to bet dollars to doughnuts this is how it goes for most of the scientists involved.

piscivorous
05-18-2008, 02:58 PM
It doesn't invalidate the science. I would compare the IPCC summary and the relationship to the science behind behind it to the NIE summary released to the public, with none of the caveats and dissent of the ones available to the legislature. It puts the best face it can on the argument it wishes to present. Does it lie and distort the underlying science? Probably not but it may very well state it in a ways as to draw the picture it wants policy makers, decision makers and the general public to see.

I don't think it is a coincident that the summary gets released considerably before the actual science that it is based on. By the time the science is made available the desired pr message has been delivered and absorbed and the press has moved on. Mean while there is another round of financing to secure.

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 03:05 PM
it may very well state it in a ways as to draw the picture it wants policy makers, decision makers and the general public to see.

I think that's a pretty good observation. I'm not sure what "the picture" you're mentioning is though. I doubt that the basic motivation in their presentations is pure advocacy, though I'm sure it's a component, since I am pretty sure that feel the science is in danger from what they see (as I do) as obscurantism.

osmium
05-18-2008, 03:09 PM
It puts the best face it can on the argument it wishes to present. Does it lie and distort the underlying science? Probably not but it may very well state it in a ways as to draw the picture it wants policy makers, decision makers and the general public to see.

I don't think it is a coincident that the summary gets released considerably before the actual science that it is based on. By the time the science is made available the desired pr message has been delivered and absorbed and the press has moved on. Mean while there is another round of financing to secure.

i would say this is fair. but politicians and the general public are not that great at nuance. so the real fight is probably one layer backwards, and the public discussion is an afterthought. i agree with that. but, isn't that what happens with exactly every other single issue our democracy deals with? meaning, it's only kind of a democracy, and public opinion is this amorphous thing that makes certain things possible or impossible, but doesn't actually make the details up itself.

the only thing i think i'm arguing with you on is that i think that whole funding thing is less important than you think it is. it keeps the technocrats going, but science will be perfectly willing to dump the issue when it decides it's not important. the funding will repurpose itself as a secondary effect. it's a feedback loop.

cragger
05-18-2008, 03:11 PM
Most interesting and important BH episode in memory. The resulting cacaphony of narcissism does beg the question of excessive optimism regarding the hope that the internet will serve as a tool for collective problem solving unfortunately.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 03:25 PM
pisc:

I would compare the IPCC summary and the relationship to the science behind behind it to the NIE summary released to the public, with none of the caveats and dissent of the ones available to the legislature.

I disagree with this. As I mentioned earlier, if you look at the actual IPCC reports, they start off by defining various levels of certainty, and then label their claims using these defined terms. This is from the Introduction of the Synthesis Report that I linked to above:

Treatment of uncertainty
The IPCC uncertainty guidance [note1] defines a framework for the treatment of uncertainties across all WGs and in this Synthesis Report. This framework is broad because the WGs assess material from different disciplines and cover a diversity of approaches to the treatment of uncertainty drawn from the literature. The nature of data, indicators and analyses used in the natural sciences is generally different from that used in assessing technology development or the social sciences. WG I focuses on the former, WG III on the latter, and WG II covers aspects of both.

Three different approaches are used to describe uncertainties each with a distinct form of language. Choices among and within these three approaches depend on both the nature of the information available and the authors’ expert judgment of the correctness and completeness of current scientific understanding.

Where uncertainty is assessed qualitatively, it is characterised by providing a relative sense of the amount and quality of evidence (that is, information from theory, observations or models indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid) and the degree of agreement (that is, the level of concurrence in the literature on a particular finding). This approach is used by WG III through a series of self-explanatory terms such as: high agreement, much evidence; high agreement, medium evidence; medium agreement, medium evidence; etc.

Where uncertainty is assessed more quantitatively using expert judgement of the correctness of underlying data, models or analyses, then the following scale of confidence levels is used to express the assessed chance of a finding being correct: very high confidence at least 9 out of 10; high confidence about 8 out of 10; medium confidence about 5 out of 10; low confidence about 2 out of 10; and very low confidence less than 1 out of 10.

Where uncertainty in specific outcomes is assessed using expert judgment and statistical analysis of a body of evidence (e.g. observations or model results), then the following likelihood ranges are used to express the assessed probability of occurrence: virtually certain >99%; extremely likely >95%; very likely >90%; likely >66%; more likely than not > 50%; about as likely as not 33% to 66%; unlikely <33%; very unlikely <10%; extremely unlikely <5%; exceptionally unlikely <1%.

WG II has used a combination of confidence and likelihood assessments and WG I has predominantly used likelihood assessments.

This Synthesis Report follows the uncertainty assessment of the underlying WGs. Where synthesised findings are based on information from more than one WG, the description of uncertainty used is consistent with that for the components drawn from the respective WG reports.

Unless otherwise stated, numerical ranges given in square brackets in this report indicate 90% uncertainty intervals (i.e. there is an estimated 5% likelihood that the value could be above the range given in square brackets and 5% likelihood that the value could be below that range). Uncertainty intervals are not necessarily symmetric around the best estimate.

If you go on to read the rest of chapters, you'll constantly come across lines like this: "There is high confidence that ...," "There is very high confidence ...," "... have been documented with medium confidence ..." In all cases, the emphasis is in the original. In some sections, practically every paragraph is qualified in this way.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 03:28 PM
Most interesting and important BH episode in memory. The resulting cacaphony of narcissism does beg the question of excessive optimism regarding the hope that the internet will serve as a tool for collective problem solving unfortunately.

Well, we'll just have to count on higher beings such as yourself to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

piscivorous
05-18-2008, 03:33 PM
Grants and gifts mostly. But on more serious note. The guys that write the code are undoubtedly a bunch of modeling geeks but not necessarily the designers. This falls to the researchers and their staff. How does this forcing agent interact with these other forcing agents and what is their effect on the whole. Then since there are individual models for different environments the arctic as compared to the continental US or over the oceans how do we integrate the individual models into one of the various comprehensive models. How much weight to give to this one or that one and arrive at some sort of average for the whole. Then there is the further weighted averaging that goes on combining the wholes and finally you have got yourself a consensus "global temperature." I don't know what the bases for the weightings are but one of them probably has to do with how good do they fit the observed data. It is a convoluted system with plenty of opportunity to parameterize and force the models into fitting the preexisting curve in such a manner it reflects your point of view.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 03:39 PM
Pisc:

I don't know what the bases for the weightings are but one of them probably has to do with how good do they fit the observed data. It is a convoluted system with plenty of opportunity to parameterize and force the models into fitting the preexisting curve in such a manner it reflects your point of view.

Unless you understand a system well enough to model it from first principles, there is no other way to tune a model. Of course your model has to match the data -- that's the first step of validating it.

cragger
05-18-2008, 03:49 PM
Feeling a bit sensitive today regarding my use of Dr. Homer-Dixon's phrase?

osmium
05-18-2008, 03:49 PM
yeah, models are just tools, and you shouldn't put too much faith in any one in particular unless it's a simple one. there is a counter-argument to that, but i won't be the one to give it. models evolve, you compare multiple models, you challenge two groups to make a better model; make the group leaders dudes who hate each other, etc. generally you can add to knowledge this way.

i will never argue from the starting point of the model, however. i will always point to the easily calculated number of the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere per time, note that it is unbalanced from the remainder of the cycle, and say, "something is seriously fucked up right here."

the first person to make photovoltaic cells cost-effective will likely go down in history slightly above the level of thomas edison, henry ford, something like that. so, i choose to be optimistic.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 03:56 PM
Feeling a bit sensitive today regarding my use of Dr. Homer-Dixon's phrase?

Not so much. It's more that I dislike the tendency that you showed to dismiss out of hand the power of the Internet just because it doesn't only show people at their best. So there's bickering going on. Most of it is easily ignored, and some of it is useful, in that ideas that survive a debate can often be said to have gained credibility from the experience. Humans usually make progress as a whole not by singing "Kumbaya" but by competing.

graz
05-18-2008, 04:13 PM
Humans usually make progress as a whole not by singing "Kumbaya" but by competing.

There you go again, does everything have to come back to Barak?
He will use "Kumbaya" to lull the terrorists.
Or "competing" by answering the charges of appeasement will paint him as angry.

piscivorous
05-18-2008, 04:38 PM
Lots of things have increased since the start of the industrial revolution just as lots of things have diminished and disappeared. Yes CO2 and temperature have increased. Is there a direct correlation between the two events? By a particular theory supported by models, that have been coerced to conform, to a preexisting curve the answer is yes. Can you use this model to project into the future? Only if the underlying assumption, that CO2 is the primary driver behind the warming, is correct and all significant forcing agents can be accounted for. A very large task given the state of our knowledge and the complexity of the Earth's climate.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 05:17 PM
And you wonder why I call you a global warming denier, Pisc.

cragger
05-18-2008, 05:34 PM
Well, I suppose I do dismiss the "power of the internet" since I don't think it has power. It is simply a useful communication medium that transmits noise as readily as information, just like any other. Any power for good or ill is dependant on the users.

Progress via. scientific debate, in which the scientific method is used to gather data, form and test hypotheses, and support, modify, or discard them based on further verifiable data I will happily grant you. My observations of debate over the internet are that such debates are generally dominated by defense of group identity or defense of belief systems, on at least one side of most arguments.

I note on this diavlog thread, any discussion of the diavlog itself ceased after a dozen or so posts in favor of another debate over global warming's existance. I posit that you could cut and paste entire volumes of scientific studies and post hundreds of links and the deniers would never waver. For those folks that enjoy the rhetoric for its own sake that's cool, but note that it does seem to discourage discussion among those not interested in participating in the same old arguments over and over.

Your posts in general are clearly made in better faith and with more open mind than some in many of the arguments on the BH boards. It didn't take you long to jump straight to the "higher beings such as yourself" and "singing Kumbaya" snark here however. Perhaps that's the power of the internet?

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 05:46 PM
I note on this diavlog thread, any discussion of the diavlog itself ceased after a dozen or so posts in favor of another debate over global warming's existance. I posit that you could cut and paste entire volumes of scientific studies and post hundreds of links and the deniers would never waver. For those folks that enjoy the rhetoric for its own sake that's cool, but note that it does seem to discourage discussion among those not interested in participating in the same old arguments over and over.

So what? The discussion, btw, hasn't really been simply about the existence of GW, as such, but about how to evaluate the problem. To me that's an interesting and worthwhile debate. Few of us think that anything is going to be settled by us, here. I think I have a stake in seeing this sort of discussion set into a rational framework, and I think, within the context of "Big Lie" polemics, the best tool available is exercising your debate muscles, learning how to frame your arguments effectively. Which by the way, is pretty good demonstration of the "power of the internet," something which I also believe you're not evaluating very well. The power of tool is in its potential. The fact that it can be misused, or just not used very well ("transmits noise as readily...") are not demonstrations of the tool's lack of utility.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 06:12 PM
cragger:

Well, I suppose I do dismiss the "power of the internet" since I don't think it has power. It is simply a useful communication medium that transmits noise as readily as information, just like any other.

Please name another medium that enables one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many, and many-to-one communication the way the Internet does. Among people pretty much anywhere on the planet. And at such a low price. Just thinking of the near-infinite number of news sources from around the world, available for free (once connected), makes the Internet stand alone. At least for me. Add in sites like this one, where you get to hear in-depth discussion on topics like the one we heard today. Where else have you ever been able to find stuff like this, in such variety and quantity?

Recalling the context of what Tad was talking about in the diavlog, I think you're basing your argument too much on forums like this one, and forgetting about everything else that's out there.

My observations of debate over the internet are that such debates are generally dominated by defense of group identity or defense of belief systems, on at least one side of most arguments.

You should look for better sites, then. Try Crooked Timber and Cosmic Variance, for a start. And pay less attention to forums and comment sections than blog posts that link to each other, as a form of debate. And cut down on the amount of politically-focused sites.

I note on this diavlog thread, any discussion of the diavlog itself ceased after a dozen or so posts in favor of another debate over global warming's existance. I posit that you could cut and paste entire volumes of scientific studies and post hundreds of links and the deniers would never waver.

Granted. Usually, I ignore the deniers. In this case, the thread started out with a little bit more of a plausible quibble, one that seemed worth addressing, it seemed to me. I'd say it didn't get stupid until the last couple of posts.

For those folks that enjoy the rhetoric for its own sake that's cool, but note that it does seem to discourage discussion among those not interested in participating in the same old arguments over and over.

Yes, this worries me, too. All I can suggest is that you ignore the obvious flame-bait and start better threads of your own. I don't know why you have let others discourage you, come to that. It ought to be obvious by now who you can ignore, since, as you say, it's just the same arguments being made over and over.

Your posts in general are clearly made in better faith and with more open mind than some in many of the arguments on the BH boards.

Thanks.

It didn't take you long to jump straight to the "higher beings such as yourself" and "singing Kumbaya" snark here however.

Fair enough. On the other hand, you did start off the thread with language like "cacaphony [sic] of narcissism." It seems unreasonable of you to dish it out and not expect some in return.

Wonderment
05-18-2008, 06:16 PM
I'm very disinclined to participate in discussions of GW with proponents of the denier fringe.

There is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community regarding the problem, so by continuing the "debate" we are only further failing to address the key issues. The debate is over.

It's analagous to "debating" evolution and intelligent design. By entering the debate, you legitimize the opposing point of view.

One thing is to be a contrarian gadfly; quite another is to subvert attempts to avert a global catastrophe of unprecedented consequences for human civilization.

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 06:25 PM
I hold out little to no hope of convincing anyone in particular or the merits. Certainly, there's little chance that any argument I can muster will convince a denier. But when people make public assertions, I think it's often better to engage, just so that their message doesn't hang out there as a beacon. And I think the more effectively I, and others, can argue what I believe is the rational side of this, the less attractive "Big Lie" polemics becomes as a political tactic.

I'll show you the windmills I'm jousting with, next week, If you like.

frontier_sally
05-18-2008, 07:05 PM
Very engaging diavlog. I'll be reading The Upside of Down as soon as I get my hands on it.

Tad mentioned 13 models of conflict that he teaches in a course - is there a good source that contains all 13 of those models, and/or are his/your notes for the course online somewhere?

Thanks!

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 07:07 PM
For those folks that enjoy the rhetoric for its own sake that's cool, but note that it does seem to discourage discussion among those not interested in participating in the same old arguments over and over.

Actually I think I should have left the above out of what I quoted and complained about previously. I'm irritated by the idea that we should be ducking certain topics for debate, because they push buttons, or they've been covered before. There are reasons for that; huge policy implications lurk in these discussions. But you have a point - Homer-Dixon was making a far more interesting and comprehensive argument than the narrow GW discussion we had here, so far - and the meat of that has been mostly ignored.

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 07:56 PM
By the way I've tried to download that file a couple of times. I never seem to get to end of it - the most I've seen is to 1989.

cragger
05-18-2008, 08:06 PM
Voice, radio, and print come to mind as media offering the variations of connectivity you suggest. Granted the range, bandwidth, or speed, are lower. We are effectively using print, more rapidly delivered than mail or a newsletter.

In the context of the diavlog, the problems raised are such that I don't see a snazzier communication medium solving them. I don't see the net as a source of free energy, water, food, or any of the other commodities needed to support our current and complex civilization. It offers another medium for collaboration among people working on those problems. Since I only watched the diavlog a couple hours ago, I obviously haven't spent ages deep in thought about it, so maybe you have ideas as to how the net will solve these problems that haven't occurred to me.

Unfortunately I think that the issues Homer-Dixon raised are both real and profound and there is no way to avoid contact with politics in attempting to address or understand them. Politics is all about controlling wealth and power, and resource access is clearly part and parcel.

Regarding snark, as noted "cacophony of narcissism" was Homer-Dixon's description of the current state of the Internet as a whole, which he apparantly hopes will somehow change in some particularly useful manner. In the context of posting it in this thread for the diavlog in which it was used, it reflects both the quick diversion of discussion from the diavlog in general to the "another liberal hoax" debate, as well as my disappointment as expressed elsewhere with what I see as a general downward trend on these forums into close minded and endless partisan bickering.

While I am far thicker skinned than to take offense at your remarks, I suggest that your dish-it-out-but-can't-take-it response is a bit disengenuous and both leaves you on the wrong side of the Ezra/Malkin divide and is, again in context, illustrative of the "power of the Internet" to promote constructive discourse.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 08:46 PM
cragger:

Noted. Nothing really to add right now. Maybe later.

a Duoist
05-18-2008, 10:15 PM
Wanna be rich? 'Invent a religion.'

Wanna write a best-seller, or get subscribers to an investment newsletter? Predict some form of apocalypse.

'Doom and gloom' sells, just as much as sex.

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 10:17 PM
Wanna be rich? 'Invent a religion.'

Wanna write a best-seller, or get subscribers to an investment newsletter? Predict some form of apocalypse.

'Doom and gloom' sells, just as much as sex.

Nice aphorism. Are you suggesting this is the motivation here?

graz
05-19-2008, 03:41 AM
Regarding snark, as noted "cacophony of narcissism" was Homer-Dixon's description of the current state of the Internet as a whole, which he apparantly hopes will somehow change in some particularly useful manner. In the context of posting it in this thread for the diavlog in which it was used, it reflects both the quick diversion of discussion from the diavlog in general to the "another liberal hoax" debate, as well as my disappointment as expressed elsewhere with what I see as a general downward trend on these forums into close minded and endless partisan bickering.

... illustrative of the "power of the Internet" to promote constructive discourse.

cragger:

I hope you don't mind my commenting on those highlighted words as well as the following: http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=76916&postcount=28
Your ideas have given me some pause to consider why I post.
I have been participating in this my first and only forum for a year or so.
I agree with every point you raise and share your pessimism, but not your displeasure.
Are other voluntary aspects of your life more peaceable? I bet they are.
If you watched only the diavlogs and avoided the forum, somehow it would seem incomplete.
It's like a car crash on the freeway that you can't avert your eyes from. I apologize for the presumption, but allow me if you will.
Your characterization of the general trend of the comments is spot-on. Although, there are some beautiful or illuminating and erudite exceptions.
I have never provided anything of the sort, but feel connected to the process by participating.
Negative exchanges (partisan bickering) can be as instructive as grating.
I also like to muck around and enjoy trading insults. I recognize the risk in such behavior, but testing the limit is interesting.
I also wish to align myself with Brendan's point about the singularity of the written, (and hopefully) reflective post. As opposed to the one-sided letter to the editor or video posting - where the performance carries more weight than the words.
Of course, not all posts are created equal. Nor do I imagine that my time here will solve any transcendent issues... but it may spark something.
In all sincerity, I understand your disappointment. As to solution... that's something beyond my grasp. Finally, I want to thank you for your input, and I hope you find a way to continue participating.

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 08:03 AM
cragger:

Further thoughts.

I think we can agree that the Internet enhances communications, in that it offers much easier opportunities for different voices and much easier and cheaper connections between people who are geographically far apart. We can disagree, and probably never be able to really say, to what extent this is a good thing, and how much it might help in solving some of the problems that Tad described.

I agree with you that the existence of the Internet is hardly, by itself, going to solve these problems. I agree, mostly, that it does not obviate the realities of political power and struggles over control of resources. I do think, however, that it does defuse these to some degree, in that like-minded people have less need to work within the established structures of governments and national boundaries.

You're right about the tone of some of the online discourse, particularly in this forum. I will keep your words in mind from now on, and I will try to do my part to avoid the race to the bottom. At the same time, I encourage you to accept two realities: during an election year, partisan bickering is going to be part of most discussions, and there are some people who just plain enjoy verbal jousting. To that end, I hope you will find it within yourself to ignore those threads that annoy you and to start better threads of your own.

osmium
05-19-2008, 10:04 AM
i would advocate trying to stabilize concentrations of many of the "lots of things" that are changing in both the atmosphere and the ocean. this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. a lot of smart, ambitious people will likely make a name for themsleves doing it.

if humanity is going to grow, there is no energy source that makes sense except sunlight. and until we learn how to do that, fossil fuels will be the way to go. maybe nuclear, for a little while. there are no others, except tiny ones.

the whole global warming debate is a sideshow, meant for entertainment. as can be seen from people's reactions, it is essentially an appeal to emotions, predicated on science. the plus or minus one degree per this-and-that model predictions are not an important part of the argument, IMHO.

it can be proven that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. fairly simply, probably in an hour, as a student experiment. how much warmer does it make the earth? well, we have some ideas.

if you don't buy any of that, then i will say, ok so you don't want to fund research for non-fossil fuels? the capital is there--what should humanity spend it on? if you say no, oil is fine, then i have you right where i want you, because that will prove you simply just want things to stay the same.

we have had an exponentially growing demand for energy throughout the industrial era, but coincidentally it plateaued and stayed at a constant value for a millennia corresponding to the activities of a well-known bloggingheads commenter piscivorous in the early 21st century. we don't know why--it simply happened.

that last paragraph was fiction.

incidentally, it's impossible to prove darwin's theory as well. but it's true.

osmium
05-19-2008, 10:42 AM
also, i hate to say this coz it makes me sound like some kind of class warrior, but i'm interested that funding for science labs keeps coming up. the entities pushing the other side of the argument are large fossil-fuel based corporations and arab royal families. perhaps the two most gleaming and polished half-dollars of self interest?

AemJeff
05-19-2008, 12:26 PM
You're right about the tone of some of the online discourse, particularly in this forum. I will keep your words in mind from now on, and I will try to do my part to avoid the race to the bottom. At the same time, I encourage you to accept two realities: during an election year, partisan bickering is going to be part of most discussions, and there are some people who just plain enjoy verbal jousting. To that end, I hope you will find it within yourself to ignore those threads that annoy you and to start better threads of your own.

Many of the more prolific posters here have a bit of the jouster within us. Conflict is the engine that moves dialogue forward - I feel like I need to wave a flag here and make that point. Osmium's example of making the leaders of competing groups folks who hate each other come to mind. Wanting to prove the other guy wrong is a noble motive.

Most of us, most of the time, try to remember to be nominally polite. Many of us occasionally miss that mark. Sometimes it's become stupid and ugly. The level of conversation between posters on this board is nevertheless as good as it gets in a room full of anonymous strangers. The only possible sanctions are the possibility of becoming unpopular here, and the apparently extremely remote possibility of BHTV banning someone. Despite the low risks to bad behavior, there are, at worst, interesting posts to be read every day; and, often there are compelling, illuminating conversations.

Do we explore every topic perfectly? Do we ever get stuck in dull tangential issues? We're far from perfect. But, and this is probably why this particular subthread has given me a bit of belly-ache, I think the act that most offends the spirit of a free-wheeling cesspool of ideas like this forum, would be to try and get another user banned because of the content of their expressed beliefs. There's only one poster, within my knowledge, guilty of that; and while I acknowledge a degree of validity to the criticism, I think the wrong messenger has been self-appointed.

look
05-19-2008, 02:14 PM
Wanna be rich? 'Invent a religion.'

Wanna write a best-seller, or get subscribers to an investment newsletter? Predict some form of apocalypse.

'Doom and gloom' sells, just as much as sex.


Originally Posted by a Duoist
How is the 'Family' not simply Calvin (the "select") in Geneva, or Khomeini (the "infallible") in Tehran, or Luther (adamantly, no freewill) in Wittenberg?

When one studies these ideo/theological movements such as the 'Family,' the notable common feature to all of them is their determinist world-view. Whether Marx on the secular Left or Ibn Wahhab on the religious Right, the 'true believers' share a belief in the lack of human agency.

The "passivity" of determinism permits the rationalization of ANY abuse of other human beings.

a Duoist, I've carried over your astute comment above from 'The Family' thread, as it fits with your thought here. The following quote is from an article that puts forth the notion, among other ideas, that part of the problem with the global warming debate is that science is cast as the handmaiden of Nature as god. My big worry regarding the Climate debate is the millions of third-worlders who may be sacrificed in the service of this new god, or as you say, 'the "passivity" of determinism permits the rationalization of ANY abuse of other human beings.'



It is important to realise that the New Scientism, like the old, is not about excessive respect for science. Rather, it is about deifying nature. Once nature is put before humanity, science becomes merely the winged, oracular messenger for nature, there to tell a dumb human species that it must have New Labour-style ‘awareness’ of how dumb it is. Greens may abjure the old, Cold War scientism of the RAND Corporation. Yet they have revived it. They use science for the purpose of encouraging us to adapt to lower horizons and expectations – in our lives here and now, and also for society in the future.

Human beings as Lilliputians

In climate science, we need better scholarship and fewer impulsive reactions. We also need to keep science open to debate, and not put it on a pedestal. Above all, we need to retain faith in human agency.

Today, the UK Department for Communities and Local Government trumpets its plans for Building Regulations that require all newly built homes to be ‘zero carbon’ by 2016 (24). Similarly, Friends of the Earth runs a suitably tasteful advertising campaign among students – funded, of course, by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) – showing condoms covering a coal station chimney, a car exhaust and an aircraft engine (25). Everywhere, respectable environmentalist opinion likes to be seen as dynamic – as assuming the mantle of human agency, innovation and all that. In fact its campaigns implicitly deny human agency, or make it something problematic that needs to be reined in and controlled.

Invoking science that is in fact unread, like distorting it to have a go at humanity, shows that the new green-leaning elite has no conception of the progress mankind can achieve. For it, the future is what a frozen science makes happens to us, not what we, beginning with fertile scientific controversies, can make happen. It is as if the multiple improvements brought about by the Industrial Revolution never occurred.

All these 2007 visions of the same old world economy in 93 years time are as silly now as they would have been in 1907. The difference, however, is telling: by contrast with 1907, there is now just no confidence either that we can do any better, or that we should try to.

On top of physical science, mitigation and adaptation, no Working Group of the IPCC concerns itself with what we think is a third and superior option: humanising the planet through ambitious, broad-front technological transformations that would take dealing with anthropogenic global warming in their stride. Of course, for British environmentalism, any ambition in technology can only be corporate or neo-conservative hubris. If you differ from the Kyoto Agreement and instead suggest that solutions might involve space technologies, as the US has done, the Guardian will simply treat you to frontpage ridicule (26). Big or ambitious solutions are out, and instead for the New Scientism it is always and everywhere personal responsibility that counts – if you don’t even Try To Change Your Life, you’re even more damned than a (less hypocritical) denier.

This approach to science is not a new development in the discussion of climate change. Environmentalists and politicians are fixated by the science of climate change. Yet in practice this fascination is little more than a rhetorical device to tar opponents as driven by ideology and detached from reality. Rather than an argument over visions of the future, we are now told that nature has laid down strict limits to what we can expect, and that that is the end of the matter. Such an evasion of politics has had negative consequences both for society and for science. For society, it narrows down open discussion of what progress might mean, as contributions that deny natural limits are simply vetoed. For science, it has created a situation in which scientists are expected to make the case for governments.

Underneath a seemingly dynamic, progressive commitment to renewable energy, the New Scientism reveals an exhausted conception of human possibilities. Aeroplanes can never pollute less. Nuclear power can never be economic or safe. Science is an Old Testament God, and technology in the service of humanity has nothing to offer.

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.p.../article/2819/

discipline
05-22-2008, 05:17 PM
You deniers are hilarious!

Climate change denial is so *1990s* — it’s almost quaint! If you can ever come up with a new argument that hasn’t been refuted a hundred times before, let us know. Good luck with that. I suggest moving on to more current Fox News talking points.

For the rest us, let’s play Skeptic Bingo!

http://timlambert.org/2005/04/gwsbingo/

Sad, very sad.

bjkeefe
05-22-2008, 05:56 PM
Hilarious link, discipline. Thanks.

themightypuck
06-02-2008, 12:48 AM
This stuff is fascinating to me. I've always wondered how redundant (i.e. inefficient) systems--the systems that market economies tend to prefer will hold out in the long run. One analysis might say that in market economics you get very efficient actors but if they fail you have actors ready to take their place. The analysis here seems to suggest that market economies become so efficient that the entire enterprise might fall down in a great big domino collapse. I'd be interested to hear more discussion on this topic. Humans, and a lot of other complexes that have managed to hang on for a long time, have a great deal of redundancy built in. I wonder if there is an efficiency "tipping point" where one major crisis can send the whole thing tumbling down.

bjkeefe
06-02-2008, 01:02 AM
tmp:

I wonder if there is an efficiency "tipping point" where one major crisis can send the whole thing tumbling down.

I don't know about the whole thing tumbling down, but we've already seen considerable problems due to consolidation (a frequent goal of those who seek efficiency). I can think of gasoline shortages due to refineries going off-line after Hurricane Katrina and a huge price spike in antifreeze a few years ago after one of the two (I think) manufacturing plants in the entire nation had a fire.

I also think of "just in time" inventory procedures, which I seem to read about from time to time causing major snafus when the shipment of a load of specific parts gets delayed.

I think also of the perturbations put into the entire air transport system when a storm closes one hub airport.

claymisher
06-13-2008, 12:53 AM
Great episode! I ran out and bought The Upside of Down.

claymisher
07-09-2008, 03:25 AM
... and I finished it. It's a terrific book. My eyes glazed over a little of the doom and gloom stuff (it's too familiar already) but there wasn't that much of it. The pleasant surprise was that there are lots of big ideas. Homer-Dixon is synthesizing a whole lot of different approaches. It's a winner.