Friday, October 23, 2009

Annals of climate science: The crying wolf problem 

The climate scientists, some number of whom have become political activists, are in a difficult spot. Virtually the entire case for destructive anthropogenic global warming remains in the future. Warmer winters are saving lives heretofore lost to cold and extending the growing season. There are very few people in the American north who wish to go back to the harsh winters of the 1970s. Virtually all the bad stuff lies in the future, the land of prediction.

The problem, of course, is that if predictions do not come true people begin to doubt the entire premise. In 1972, we all believed The Population Bomb and the Club of Rome report, and today we do not. No demographic or resource disaster happened on the predicted schedule, or even close to it.

The same thing is beginning to happen to the activist scientists who have propelled the debate over anthropogenic global warming. The most evocative predictions of James Hansen, the NASA scientist who has made his career in predicting climate disaster, have not come true (ouch). The result of these failures and others is that Americans are less willing to believe the predictions of disaster.

Most curiously, the declining belief in disastrous anthropogenic global warming has come during the first year of the first American president who has openly and aggressively argued that we face disaster if we do not take immediate and dramatic steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions. So, are Americans less willing to believe in AGW in spite of Barack Obama's call for action, or because of it?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Oct 23, 09:08:00 AM:

Obama has nothing to do with it. Public skepticism is rooted in a rational assessment of the economic destruction America is going to absorb. We will see higher taxes, fewer jobs and reduced living standards.

Another underlying cause of skepticism is that no one believes in the integrity of the data upon which climate modeling is based, or the models themselves. Large and complex systems as big as the Earth's climate can not yet be modeled with precision, so even if the root data were complete and beyond reproach, which it obviously is not, the models themselves are faulty.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Oct 23, 09:10:00 AM:

Americans are less willing to believe in AGW due to the poor economy and employment worries. They are closely scrutinizing any program that is bound to induce even more economic pain.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Oct 23, 09:22:00 AM:

Anon2 ... I agree. If we have to spend our money in the form of taxes or hidden fees/increased cost for goods/services, then screw AGW if it's not going to kill us all in this lifetime. That's how I take the global thinking on this. Without India and China, the tail doesn't wag the dog anyway.

Anon1 ... I read this as TH saying it's one more place where the One's cred is brought into question, and his will shall be tested. Fewer believe something he harped on. Does he have the maturity to drop it, or will he keep pushing until he's lost all his capital?

I like how my Bro characterizes this. AGW is John Edward's 28600 foot home. AGW is the vision of bird's falling from the sky (dead) in the wake of Gore's private jet flying him to pick up his Nobel.

It's hard to take anything seriously when the cheerleader doesn't walk the walk.

Just sayin.


By Blogger TOF, at Fri Oct 23, 09:47:00 AM:

AGW was a loser with me long before Obama became a household word. Hansen, of all people, should know that humanity is not yet capable of altering climate. If we were we would have by now.

If you believe in AGW you haven't seen the raw power of nature close up.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Oct 23, 10:20:00 AM:

People would believe more if there wasn't so much doomsaying BS. I've been hearing we have 5 years left for 20 years. When we actually ARE in danger well.... as the story goes eventually the wolf came and no one believed.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Oct 23, 10:28:00 AM:

Global warming/cap and trade has always been a false issue. Man will probably effect the temperature of that atmosphere and the health of the globe. But, the issue isn't CO2 or industrial activity, it is population growth. We'll go from a world population of 6 billion today to 9 billion by 2050, most of the growth in the 3rd world.
You can't ask blacks and browns to limit the number of children they have while we live in houses with three bathrooms and own two or three gas powered vehicles, or at least, the communists can't.
The Gores of the world saw a great revenue opportunity for themselves and invented "global warming," which would, in effective, strip wealth from those who have it and give most of that wealth to those who don't. This, rather than address the population issue. Dropping us all to the 3rd world level might make Al wealthier but it doesn't solve any real problem.  

By Blogger Don Cox, at Fri Oct 23, 11:05:00 AM:

I agree thatr the big problem is not global warming but over-population, especially in countries such as Britain or Japan. I have no sympathy for "green" campaigners who have kids.

But the evidence for global warming by greenhouse gases is IMO very strong, and sufficient to make it reasonable to invest in nuclear, wind, etc. I wouldn't now buy a house less than 100 ft above sea level, or start a farm in a dry country such as much of southern Africa.

This doesn't mean mankind will be wiped out, but there may be considerable inconvenience, as there was in the man-made dustbowls of 1930 USA.  

By Anonymous Mr. Ed, at Fri Oct 23, 11:08:00 AM:

My guess is a bit of both. For my conservative family members, their initial mild skepticism is pushed over the line by the fact that the One gets in such a lather about it. They are at the point where anything he supports can't be good for us. (But then they are mostly Republicans so they just do what they're told...).

For my friends, good dear friends who live on the left side, they are still in the AGW camp but they are starting to look around more, starting to wonder whether there might in fact be problems with the science and the legislation. They seem a bit restrained from the urge to call someone a Denier these days. Some are even starting to watch a bit of Fox news. (But then they're Democrats and independent thinkers).

None of them stand close to the levers of power. They have an ability to change their minds and adapt. It is so different with the President and Congress who almost universally have a deep fear of changing their mind, unless their former position now has a price they were hoping they would not have to pay---see Afghanistan, Iran, pledges for no tax increase, honesty in government, transparency and bipartisanship. (But then they're elected officials and they are wise).


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Oct 23, 11:26:00 AM:

You make a good point. Tt should have been obvious to anyone who has taken a highschool level science class.

The validity of a scientific theory is DEFINED by its reliability in PREDICTING outcomes.

Any theory with zero predictive value is PROVEN FALSE.

Given that exactly NONE of the predictions by Global Warmists of all stripes have proven true, to even suggest that it is "Science" shows utter ignorance of what science is.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Fri Oct 23, 11:39:00 AM:

Sorry TH, but your vision lacks scope. Nobody ever sold a book by standing on the street corner screaming “The sky is slightly unstable and might have a few small pieces fall off, slightly injuring dozens!” The unhappy fact is, to get the best response when you flack a meme, you have to predict the end of civilization as we know it, rivers of fire, dogs and cats living together, etc…

For the full course of human history, we have had easily frightened uneducated members of society who have fallen prey to irrational hysteria (and those who prey on them). From the selling of indulgences, to the War of the Worlds broadcast, to Nuclear Winter, George Hull was right.

Now we have Howard J. Ruff re-writing one of the first global panic books I every read “How to prosper in the coming bad times”, in a new version for today. Of course I read the book in the middle of the Reagan boom, which made him look like a loon. But then again, we have a socialist running the country instead of a capitalist, so he may be right this time. Maybe.

Panic is nowadays sold wholesale. Yellowstone caldera sits on brink of explosion. Giant killer asteroids headed to Earth. Killer Bees. Mass frog die-offs. Mutated pandemic flu. And, of course, Global Warming. And as all fads sold wholesale, when the hype blows away they eventually wind up in the discount bin. I have Hope this is where AGW is winding up. I’m just a little worried about what the hucksters will use to panic us all next.  

By Anonymous in_awe, at Fri Oct 23, 12:35:00 PM:

Who you gonna believe Hanson or your own lying eyes?

Although it isn't being covered in the MSM, the web is widely documenting the amazing deceit and manipulation surrounding the raw data used for the IPCC report. If you start with corrupted, biased data as a foundation then nothing you do in modeling can overcome the fraudulent core data.  

By Blogger DEC, at Fri Oct 23, 02:00:00 PM:

Author Michael Crichton, "State of Fear" (2004): "Before making expensive policy decisions on the basis of climate models, I think it is reasonable to require that those models predict future temperatures accurately for a period of ten years. Twenty would be better."  

By Blogger MainStreet, at Fri Oct 23, 02:02:00 PM:

Global warming BS is just another power grab for the Left of Center. Billions in tax revenue are at stake, which through redistribution to its base, will insure election success in the future.

If Cap & Trade does not go through, the EPA will do their thing to collect any revenues they can and help destroy our economy.

I think it is about time to start worrying about the new Ice Age.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Oct 23, 04:40:00 PM:

Are the icecaps and glacial fields shrinking or not? Is there any evidence in the historical record or similar experiences?  

By Anonymous Robinsolana, at Fri Oct 23, 05:00:00 PM:

Al Gore runs to the front of the parade.
Obama loves it because it is a crisis and crisis always has a socialist solution.
The media loves it because it is dramatic like a Hollywood disaster movie; it makes good headlines. Besides, reporters are so scientifically ignorant that they will accept anything no matter how wild.

But the adults; who have seen fads come and go are not so easy to stampede.
And the taxpayers who will see their tax money squandered wholesale, are not so sure this is a good thing.
And India and China who would have to cripple their continuing economic development are begging off.

Global Warning is the biggest scam of the new 21st Century. There is lots to learn about community and other activists from this. Especially how willing they are to damage the economy of the world in their grab for power.  

By Anonymous JC, at Fri Oct 23, 05:03:00 PM:

Down here the firewood merchants are loving Global Warming. Sales are up most years on 1998 by up to 40%.

At the end of the day your bones tell you whats going down, and it ain't getting warmer in the winter. Whether thats because it actually is colder.. or we think it *should* be warmer I'm not sure, but the difference between AGW rhetoric and reality is widening.

Then there's those annoying facts of history.. every time someone bursts into print about a "record" temperature, someone else points to the same or higher temp recording from 100 years ago. In the Australian bush fires of last summer the doomsayers pointed to record temps.. but there are also weather records of similar conditions from 150 years ago.


By Anonymous tyree, at Fri Oct 23, 06:14:00 PM:

Anon, the earth has warmed and cooled many times during it's history. We our continuing our long climb out of an ice age. Man didn't put us in the ice age, and was not responsible for the earth warming that ended the ice age. Man might be causing the earth to warm faster that is "normal", but the science is not settled.  

By Blogger Brian, at Fri Oct 23, 07:05:00 PM:

Ahh, so much chest-pounding here. Anyone willing to put money behind that?

Once again, I'll put real money that the next decade will not only continue to warm, but that it will warm at twice the per-decade rate of the 20th Century.

Tell me that trend isn't a dangerous one. Alternatively, you can disbelieve it, which then suggests you should bet me.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Oct 23, 09:34:00 PM:

I would respect any model that can take climate data from one part of the 20th century and then predict the weather forward to the present.

If the modeling and mathematics is valid, it should be able to reasonably model a known outcome.

The future is a dark, unknown place. No one has been there, yet. But the silly melodrama surrounding "climate change" and atmosphere geophysics is not science, by any stretch of the imagination.
In the long run, the selective studies and interpretation of data by both the Warmers and Deniers will not be to the credit of science.
I would have more respect for people (scientists) that said "I just am not sure, but here's something we should study to try and find out."

That kind of intellectual honesty is sorely lacking.

Einstein was supposed to be the great theoretical physicist of the 20th century, but General Relativity still does not accurately predict the precession of the orbit of Mercury, one of the puzzles that broke Newtonian Mechanics. There is still no such thing as "settled science".


By Blogger Kinuachdrach, at Fri Oct 23, 10:02:00 PM:

There is still no such thing as "settled science".

Wash your mouth out with soap & water, David!

Anthropogenic Global Warming is totally settled science. No-one in the whole world doubts a word of it. It is so self-evidently true that mere data is unnecessary. Anthropogenic Global warming was true, is true, and will always be true -- now and forever.

May Gaia bless this reading from the words of Al Gore -- inventor of the internet and the greatest climate scientist who has ever blessed the world with his presence.

Would you all please stand.  

By Blogger Miss Ladybug, at Fri Oct 23, 11:52:00 PM:

When I was a kid back in the 70s, it was Global Cooling and the coming Ice Age. Now, it's Global Warming and the Rise of the Oceans. All kinds of things - which can't really be predicted - can affect it. There's more correlation between solar activity and the earth's temperatures AND the temperatures of the other planets in the solar system than "greenhouse gases". Oh, and other natural phenomena - like the eruption of Krakatoa way back when - which man cannot control have an impact on climate. Krakatoa resulted in "The Little Ice Age" because of all the crap it spewed into the atmosphere. And here all the crap AGW believers say we're spewing is going to make the planet hotter?  

By Anonymous tyree, at Sat Oct 24, 10:38:00 AM:

Brian- The trend may be a dangerous one, but we need to take care of the debate scientifically. As I have mentioned before, I attended a "green" conference at a west coast University where one of the presenters said we were going to fight global warming with racial diversity.

Seriously, they said that.

In addition, as many others have pointed out. If global warming is happening our best defense is a strong and vibrant economy that will provide us the tools to deal with it. Driving socialist change and fascist government control of business with unproven scientific theories is wrong, and could easily do more harm than good.  

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