Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Lest you listen to the news and start to think America’s position on the Kyoto Treaty borders on the satanic, I urge you to read this CalTech lecture by Michael Crichton, wherein he details the fallacy of “consensus” science and the absurdity of long range climate change modeling.

Some choice quotes:
Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we're asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?…Look: If I was selling stock in a company that I told you would be profitable in 2100, would you buy it? Or would you think the idea was so crazy that it must be a scam?

Let's think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?


At 2/25/2005 12:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is the global warming problem in a nutshell:

How many Americans would eat more donuts if there was just a chance it would make their grandchildren fat?

We are bad enough at managing our own short-term self-destructive behavior. Add in a longer timespan, and a little carefully placed contention, and ... let's have another donut.

At 2/25/2005 2:02 PM, Blogger Ace said...

That's a pretty flimsy nutshell you've concocted there.

You're making a rather bold assumption that anthropogenic activity eventually leads to global warming, like eating donuts would lead to fat grandchildren. Based on the inconclusive nature of global warming studies, I'd say that's a specious argument, to say the least.

At 2/25/2005 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm educated as a scientist. I realize that makes me untrustworthy in this strange post-modern world.

At 2/25/2005 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surfing the web further, I found a page that might interest you. It is called "Abuses of Skepticism" and reads in part:

"If it's unwise to take a knee jerk skeptical position about something many smart scientists think will happen (life extension), it's even crazier to deny something that the overwhelming majority of scientists think is already happening. Granted, I fully understand that a small minority of scientists, like Richard Lindzen, still deny that humans are causing climate change through the burning of fossil fuels. These scientists should certainly carry on being skeptical, at least so long as they believe in their own conclusions. But the rest of us ought to recognize that climate science has become increasingly robust over the past decade, and that the scientific community has increasingly spoken with one voice on this issue, even if some uncertainty remains about the extent of the problem.

Let's go over a few facts in order to show that this is so. In early 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body comprised of over 2,500 scientists that's the world's leading authority on global warming, released its third major assessment of the issue. The IPCC concluded that humans are responsible for global warming and that this poses serious future risks. Now, for obvious reasons, this report posed a problem for the Bush administration, which quickly sought a review of the IPCC's findings by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Given the IPCC's lengthy and thorough process, this seemed a rather redundant effort to many. Sure enough, the NAS panel quickly confirmed the IPCC findings, adding still more force to the weight of scientific consensus.

Given this, anyone wishing to challenge the heavily reviewed conclusions of the IPCC and NAS has to overcome a rather staggering burden of proof. That's not to say it can't be done. But for the moment, it hasn't, which means that adopting a skeptical stance towards climate change in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus can hardly be considered the most defensible position. Instead, I would hazard, it amounts to an abuse of skepticism."

At 2/28/2005 8:36 AM, Blogger Ace said...

The author of "Abuses of Skepticism" might want to actually read the NAS report if he's going to use it to bolster the IPCC findings as incontrovertible proof. An analysis:

After the initial media and political frenzy, however, the true nature of the NAS findings began to be circulated. Richard Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at MIT and one of the authors of the study, took special exception to a CNN portrayal of the study as "a unanimous decision that global warming is real, is getting worse, and is due to man. There is no wiggle room."

Responded Lindzen, "As one of 11 scientists who prepared the report, I can state that this is simply untrue. For starters, the NAS never asked that all participants agree to all elements of a report, but rather that the report represent the span of views. This the full report did, making clear that there is no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends and what causes them."

Lindzen chastised the press for paying too much attention to "the hastily prepared summary rather than to the body of the report" that placed necessary qualifications on the issued-in-advance summary. "Our primary conclusion," asserted Lindzen, "was that despite some knowledge and agreement, the science is by no means settled."

Lindzen noted that global surface temperatures are slightly warmer today than they were a century ago. "But--and I cannot stress this enough--we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future."

Continued Lindzen, "Science, in the public arena, is commonly used as a source of authority with which to bludgeon political opponents and propagandize uninformed citizens. This is what has been done with both the reports of the IPCC and the NAS. It is a reprehensible practice that corrodes our ability to make rational decisions. A fairer view of the science will show that there is still a vast amount of uncertainty . . . and that the NAS report has hardly ended the debate. Nor was it meant to."

"The report," added Kenneth Green, director of the environmental program at the Reason Public Policy Institute, "confirms important points that many analysts critical of mainstream portrayals of climate change science and policy have argued for years." For example, "When it comes to the all-important questions of causality, the NAS report contains cautionary statements far stronger than those seen from other august scientific panels."

Steve Milloy, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and publisher of, further noted that even the slight surface warming measured this century is suspect. The measured warming occurred just after the end of the "Little Ice Age," he explained, a period of cooling unequaled since the last major Ice Age. Moreover, surface temperature readings are often taken at weather stations near ever-growing cities, which serve as artificial heat islands.

"The recent temperature record compiled from balloon and satellite measurements inexplicably don't show any warming," observed Milloy.

"It's unfortunate the report was written in such a way that it could be misinterpreted and misused by global warming alarmists. A careful reading of the report will lead to a far clearer picture of the true state of global warming science," agreed Myron Ebell, director of global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

CEI policy analyst Paul Georgia noted further that a recent study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society found that clouds act as a self-regulating mechanism relative to greenhouse gases. Increasing temperatures lead to more cumulus clouds as the result of increasing surface water evaporation. The cumulus clouds then deflect incoming sunlight back into space, with a resulting cooling. As a result of the mitigating effects of cumulus clouds, NAS panelist Richard Lindzen doesn't expect "much more than a degree warming and probably a lot less by 2100."

Georgia also observed that even if warming were to occur, mean surface temperatures were much higher during the Medieval Warm Period (roughly 800 to 1200 AD) than they are today. The warmer temperatures during that period allowed the Vikings to settle presently inhospitable Greenland.

Moreover, "The period of highest temperatures since the last Ice Age, from about 5000-3000 BC, is known as the 'climatic optimum,' a time when mankind began to build its first civilizations," observed James Plummer and Frances B. Smith in a study for Consumer Alert. "There is good reason to believe that a warmer climate would have a similar effect on the health and welfare of our own far more advanced and adaptable civilization today."

"The small amount of warming that occurred during the past century consisted primarily of increased minimum temperatures at night and during winters," observed Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute. "Warmer winters would mean longer growing seasons and less stress on most plants and wildlife, producing a substantial benefit for the global ecosystem."

At 3/01/2005 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pfft. So you quote a small hanfull of contrarians as if they disprove the National Academy of Sciences.

That is what "Abuses of Skepticism" is all about.

It is exactly like quoting a few UFO abductees to disprove NASA.

Deal with it.

At 3/01/2005 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a little cranky when I woke up and wrote the above post.

I apoligize for being impolite, but at the same time I've got to admit it captures the way I really feel.

I have (as I may have mentioned) a degree in chemistry. I think I learned in that how to scan papers, and run my "BS detector".

I'm sorry but based on my background at least, the BS detector lights up for the sort of hit-and-run attacks made by the side of "denial".

On the otherhand, the pro-GW side seems to show the sort of steady progress I respect.


At 3/01/2005 8:09 AM, Blogger Ace said...

No, I didn't quote a small handful of contrarians to disprove the NAS. I merely quoted an analysis that contends the NAS report is hardly a resounding endorsement of the IPCC findings, as many seem to believe.

Obviously, our BS detectors have different calibrations. But, I will submit that if the pro-GW side's "steady progress" eventually yields studies that aren't so equivocal, then it might be wise to use them as the basis of public policy initiatives like the Kyoto Protocol. Until then, such treaties are likely to be futile ventures with little chance for success.

By the way, what's with the "Anonymous" posts? If you don't wish to identify yourself, at least come up with a creative pseudonym.

At 3/01/2005 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a great history of anonymous text.

Benjamin Franklin did it, though as you say, he also though up creative pseudonyms.

I guess in a case like this, I want it to be about the "idea" alone. The comment should stand or fall based on what it contains, and not any claim of who I am or my wider expertise.

When I mention my chem degree, that is really a parting explanation of why I feel the way I do ... before I leave it at YMMV.

Think it over, I think time will prove me correct on this one ;-), but without giving you my history I'll admit I've occaisionally been wrong.

At 3/01/2005 11:39 AM, Blogger Ace said...

Thanks for stopping by the blog and posting. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'll savour the mystery of your identity.


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