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CLIMATE DISCUSSION, SYSTEMS AND FALLACIES February 16, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Global Warming Politics.
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Some general thoughts and speculations without any claim to expertise:

Christopher Monckton is putting in another appearance among the Antipodeans, apparently representing himself this time, not Myanmar, as he did at Doha. His arrival in on the back of triumph in New York, where allegedly he trounced an unnamed professorial proponent of Climate Change.

He arrives with a manifesto of “Ten killer questions for climate Extremists”.

It is not my role to address, Mr Monckton’s questions, nor should it be. He needs to address his questions to those best able to answer them. He is kidding himself these are “killer questions”. In respect to satellite temperature algorithms, he has not been paying attention to those who know about such matters. I cannot comment on populations of polar bears or their habits, except to observe expected reaction would be to organize a mass slaughter, or else to suggest some disturbance in the ecosystem, which usually means human activities. Great, now Aristotle is a player in Climate Change, but let’s not confuse evidence and expert opinion about future risk. I haven’t noticed any reduction in cloud cover recently, and would be surprised if true globally given an increase in water vapour in the atmosphere. I thought only climate science used proxy estimations for weather data, and that was scandalous. So how was the strange estimation of rainfall in Britain, excluding Scotland, for 247, not 250, years derived? As for the Carbon Tax, give it time, and whether it works will be depend on its particular design and the practicality of replacing existing fossil fuel-based power sources.

Given his standing in these matters, including representations to the US Congress, and numerous public and media presentations, and his referencing of scientific papers which have variously attracted expert feedback, he should be an extremely well versed, if not expert, in matters of climate. My killer question to him: Why is this not the case? I suspect it is the case he is engaged in a popular dialectic, hence the Aristotle reference, rather than a scientific inquiry.

None of this helps the non-expert come to terms with the implications of climate change. What I suggest is that we connect with our experience of medicine. There, as in climate science, we are dealing complicated system. My untested definition of a system is a set of inter-relationships and interactions that operate as a whole. Systems, I believe, undergo fundamental change from a change in inter-relations, which can release new interactions. I suggest this can be observed in human growth, such as the learning and understanding of language. Growth and development represents a change of the state of the system. A change of state in the climate system by contrast is more likely to be negative rather than positive. Those who confidently talk of infinite adaptation, apparently have not heard of frogs and boiling water.

“This cannot be happening”, is a recognizable initial human response to a crisis. In order to deal effectively with the global crisis, unlike for example a fatal medical crisis, we will need to understand what behavior led to it. I suspect that the same behavioral paradigm with respect to the ecological system has been implicit in the organization and operation of both capitalist and socialist economic systems.

Climate science, like medicine, can describe the crisis and the best bets on future outcomes. I think it useful to remember, a lot more than a single farm is in play this time. It seems to me, the fallacy that might be more relevant to the remarkable assessment of climate scientists, is not Monckton’s reference to Aristotle and the appeal to authority, but that the scientific consensus might be too cautious.

Good Lord, does Chris Monckton ever get anything right? Apparently not:

The supreme irony, with reference to Aristotle demonstration of the fallacy of authority, is that Chris wants to argue that he is authoritative, when the evidence suggests he is not. So what is the point, of these killer questions?

Let’s not disparage Chris Monckton he is a champion of civilization and its values, when such a person is most needed. The Baron is a contrarian, but of that sort that never listens and never learns. He is not without triumphs. There was the declaration before a Congressional committee that Carbon Dioxide was “plant food”. Recently, Justin Pullman recounts a sombre experience of student disillusionment:

The professor said he was emotional about the damage caused by global warming because in Peru and Ecuador he had seen the collapse in the water supply caused by the melting glaciers. Lord Monckton said that in nearly all parts of the world it was not the glaciers but the snow-melt that provided the water supply. Data from the Rutgers University Snow and Ice Lab showed no trend in northern-hemisphere snow cover in 40 years. He added that in the tropical Andes, according to Polissar et al. (2006), the normal state of all but the very highest peaks had been ice-free; therefore, it could not be said for certain that our influence on climate was causing any change that might not have occurred naturally anyway.

Why had Lord Monckton bothered to deal with the science at all, if the economic case against taking any action to address global warming was so overwhelming? Lord Monckton replied that it was necessary to understand that there was no scientific case for action either, and that it was necessary for policymakers and governments to realize that key elements in the IPCC’s scientific case – such as the supposedly “accelerating” warming that had been arrived at by the bogus statistical technique he had demonstrated with a sine-wave – were downright false.

The professor then asked the students in to raise their hands if they agreed with him that the IPCC’s use of the statistical technique questioned by Lord Monckton was correct. Dutifully, fearfully, about two-thirds of the hands in the room went up. Lord Monckton turned to the professor and told him he should not have done that. He then turned to the students who had raised their hands and asked them how many of them were statisticians. Just one student began to raise his hand and then – apparently realizing that admitting he was a statistician was to admit he had knowingly raised his hand to endorse a manifest statistical falsehood – slowly lowered it again, blushing furiously.

Another student asked, in that shrill tone beloved of environmental extremists everywhere, whether Lord Monckton was a statistician. No, he said, and that was why he had taken care to anonymize the data and send them to a statistician, who had confirmed the obvious: since the same technique, applied to the same data, could produce precisely opposite results depending upon a careful choice of the endpoints for the multiple trend-lines that the IPCC’s bureaucrats had superimposed on the perfectly correct graph of 150 years of temperature changes that the scientists had submitted, the technique must be defective and any results obtained by its use must be meaningless.

Lord Monckton, sternly but sadly, told those who had raised their hands: “You know, from the plain and clear demonstration that I gave during my lecture, that the IPCC’s statistical abuse was just that – an abuse. Yet, perhaps out of misplaced loyalty to your professor, you raised your hands in denial of the truth. Never do that again, even for the sake of appeasing authority. In science, whatever you may personally believe or wish to be so, it is the truth and only the truth that matters.”

That pin, if you had dropped it, could have been heard again. Many young heads were hung in shame. Even their professor looked just a little less arrogant than he had done throughout the proceedings. Quietly they shuffled out into the darkness.
That night, the Gore Effect worked overtime. Temperatures plummeted to 14° F. The following morning, as we drove through the snowy landscape of upstate New York towards the next venue the following morning, I asked Lord Monckton what he had thought of the strange conduct of the professor, particularly when he had abused his authority by asking his students to assent to the correctness of a statistical technique that he and they had known to be plainly false.

Lord Monckton’s reply was moving. Gently, and sadly, he said, “We shall lose the West unless we can restore the use of reason to pre-eminence in our institutions of what was once learning. It was the age of reason that built the West and made it prosperous and free. The age of reason gave you your great Constitution of liberty. It is the power of reason, the second of the three great powers of the soul in Christian theology, that marks our species out from the rest of the visible creation, and makes us closest to the image and likeness of our Creator. I cannot stand by and let the forces of darkness drive us unprotesting into a new Dark Age.”

The Baron sees no problem with melting glaciers, but as far as I can tell he has not consulted any glaciologists.

Chris is a lordly defender of enlightenment, except they keep saying he gets all the time things wrong. How can that be?
Then there is the awesome vision statement of the Lord Monckton Foundation:

The Lord Monckton Foundation stands as the wall of the West, the redoubt of reason, the sentinel of science, the fortress of freedom, and the defender of democracy. By this Charter, the Governing Council is directed to obtain and to deploy whatever resources may be necessary for the energetic furtherance of the ambitions and activities of the Foundation, which shall conduct research, publish papers, educate students and the public and take every measure that may be necessary to restore the primacy and use of reason in science and public policy worldwide, especially insofar as they may bear upon the rights of the people fairly and fully to be informed, openly and freely to debate, and secretly by ballot to decide who shall govern them, what laws they shall live by and what imposts they shall endure.

It was neither accident nor coincidence that the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment and Reason was also the dawn of the West. The Scientific Method, first adumbrated in the early Middle Ages as a moral as well as a rational discipline by the Iraqi mathematician Abu Ali Ibn Al-Haytham, who had beautifully spoken of scientists as Seekers after Truth, attained its apotheosis in the minds of Newton, who acknowledged that he stood upon the shoulders of giants; of Huxley, who held that scepticism is the highest duty of the improver of natural knowledge; and of Popper, who said that good tests kill flawed theories. The politicization and perversion of objective science, and especially of climate science, are a menace to the West and to the world.

With the British Empire, governance became truly global for the first time. The world, said the philosopher Santayana, never had sweeter masters. Today, notwithstanding the sunset of that first global Empire, the tendency towards global governance is gathering both momentum and permanence through entities such as the United Nations, the Organization on Economic Cooperation and Development and the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the latest and crudest pretext for necessary tyranny.

Not one of the multiplying and expanding institutions of supranational and now global governance is truly a democracy. Only at the level of the nation-state – and even then by no means universally – is government of the people, by the people and for the people the happy custom. Therefore, however necessary it be that nations should collaborate and cooperate in matters of common concern, every cession of sovereignty from a nation to a supranational or global entity at present entails a real transfer of legislative and increasingly of fiscal power from elected to unelected hands – both legislation and taxation without representation.

Is science dead? Must reason fail? Shall objectivity be slaughtered again on the pagan altar of mere ideology? Is life now objectionable, liberty deplorable, the pursuit of happiness a crime? Has the nation had its day? Is the globalization of governance really a public good? Can democracy survive it? Should not the use of the ballot-box be extended? Should not every supranational and global institution of governance be elected? The Foundation exists to illuminate questions such as these, and to inspire devotion to the cause of Western civilization, true reason, sound science, universal liberty and worldwide democracy in the hearts of all men of goodwill. Let freedom ring!

I am trying to see some good in Mr Monckton. The Baron can’t possibly be wrong about everything. I agree that he is right about the non-democratic nature of international governance, otherwise the exercise of realpolitik in the Bismarck sense, but he since he is so laudatory of the sweet nature of the British Imperial rule, I am not sure democracy is what he is aiming for.

The Baron has multiple questions. I appreciate some of the problems of government, not least in its current and potential and necessary global application. Fully understood, in my opinion, the internalization of values, is a  primary form of  government. In this process existing structures and processes often prefigure behavior, as they do on the macro and micro-scales. So I am arguing, without appreciating it, that a change in consciousness creates change in government. having said that, I am not sure how they has worked out, or is working out, or indeed whether I have description of what consciousness is.  Democratic forms of government, for example the Quaker meeting, is at once a psychological expression, but more importantly an expression of consciousness. ( I suggest that consciousness is essentially an expression of  inter-relationship. Just how self-acting a system has to be for it it to be conscious, I am not sure.) The problem with government is that it does not always allow the full expression of truth, but it is the best opportunity for the chance to achieve justice, and by implication a tolerable peace, which can be seen to much needed in the world at large, given the threats of climate change, nuclear warfare, and the general carnage justified by various noble causes.

John Quiggin adopts a less elevated view about the visit of this personage among we benighted Antipodeans with our democratic manners and forms of address. We could be post-Feudal, but that is contested, especially in Queensland and New Zealand.

John Cook says there is no such thing as climate change denial. Baron Monckton will speak Greek confronted with scientific consensus. It is important to note this the agreed position of those people actively engaged in climate research and publication. The people  with relevant expertise who look on from the sidelines, such as  John Abraham, do not take issue with the findings, typically do not raise red flags.

Putting the Baron to one side, the most influential paper on Climate Change ever written, according to Inside Climate News claims:

(The paper, “Greenhouse-Gas Emission Targets for Limiting Global Warming to 2C,” was published in April 2009 in Nature, the prestigious science journal. It was the work of researchers from Germany, the UK and Switzerland, led by Malte Meinshausen, a climatologist at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact.)

The study filled a factual void in a simmering debate over climate change. By 2006, the year the scientists began their research, many world governments had endorsed the scientific consensus that global temperature rise should be kept below 2 degrees Celsius in this century. But governments didn’t know how far down the path of global warming they had already gone—and how much further they could safely go.

Meinshausen and his team, which included his brother Nicolai, a statistician at the University of Oxford, took up the puzzle. “It seemed the obvious thing to do with so many governments asking the question,” Meinshausen said.

The scientists created what is called a global “carbon budget,” which details how much carbon countries have emitted in the atmosphere from burning coal, oil and natural gas—and how much more they can “spend” before crossing 2 degrees. They didn’t invent the concept—many others had crunched carbon budgets. But none were as rigorous.

The paper’s methodology was groundbreaking. It was the first to incorporate hundreds of uncertainties in the climate system into a single climate model—factors that had never been modeled together or that hadn’t been given proper weight in previous studies, such as radiative forcing or unknowns in the carbon cycle like how much carbon is stored in the deep ocean. In total, 400 environmental parameters were run under 1,000 different emissions scenarios.

What they found was stark: To have a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees, humans would have to stick to a carbon budget that allowed the release of no more than 1,437 gigatons of carbon dioxide from 2000 to 2050.

To have an 80 percent chance of avoiding that threshold, they would have to follow a stricter budget and emit just 886 gigatons.

The paper found that by 2006, nations had already spent a quarter of that amount, or 234 gigatons. Meaning, the planet’s carbon budget would be exhausted by 2024—11 years from now— if emissions levels stayed the same, or even earlier if they continue their upward trend

POSTSCRIPT:

This whole post was a mistake . . . so I let it be.

ELSEWHERE:

Tom Yulsamn, Snow is Melting in Greenland – in Winter (Discover)

Since I foolishly mentioned clouds, a subject I know nothing about, I thought I had better give this reference:
Dana, Reconciling Two New Cloud Feedback Papers (Skeptical Science)

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Comments»

1. KILLING PEOPLE FOR THEIR WATER : Dr. Pinna - February 17, 2013

[...] Climate Discussion, Systems and Fallacies [...]

wmmbb - February 17, 2013

Thanks for the references. We are conscious here of the potential dangers of fracking to our water sources, but I was not aware of what was happening in South America. I will make further inquiries.


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