Monday, April 21, 2014

Global Warming Consensus

You can kick and scream, call him a denier, and make faux appeals to authority--but where is this guy wrong?
But these are my personal opinions and I preside over an organization that takes no official position on climate change. The National Association of Scholars isn't a body that can weigh the substantive merits of competing scientific models. We are referees, concerned that all sides play by the rules, not goalkeepers, much less goalmakers. And we have members who have diverse opinions about whether, how much, and where from climate change happens.

That diversity, of course, is nearly unheard of in the academy itself, where a hardened orthodoxy is enforced with increasing determination. The enforcement itself tells a story. No one has to enforce an orthodoxy on plate tectonics, quantum theory, or Andrew Wile's proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. All of these were once controversial. Wile's original proof was shown to be defective. He fixed it. The theories advanced by the accumulation of hard evidence and the rigor of the analysis.

In my own field, anthropology, I have lived through the replacement of "consensus" on the idea that the makers of the so-called Clovis spear points, which go back 13,500 years, were the first Native Americans. The "Clovis First" theory always had doubters but it dominated from the 1930s until 1999, when archaeologists in large numbers accepted the evidence of older populations. Likewise, there was a long-established consensus that Neanderthal and modern Homo Sapiens did not successfully interbreed--though here too there were always some dissenters. We now know for a certainty (based on the successful sequencing of the Neanderthal genome) that our species did indeed mix, and modern Europeans carry a percent or two of Neanderthal genes.

In time, scientific controversies get resolved, often by the emergence of new kinds of evidence that no one originally imagined. Views that are maintained, to some degree, by a wall of artificial "consensus" die hard. That, of course, was one of the lessons of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), which inaugurated the long vogue for the word "paradigm" to describe a broadly accepted theory. Kuhn's work has often served as a warrant for those who see science as a social project amenable to political manipulation rather than an intellectual endeavor with strict standards of evidence and built-in mechanisms for correcting mistakes.

Thus when the "anthropogenic global warming" (AGW) folks insist that they command a "consensus" of climate scientists, they fully understand that they are engaged in a political act. They intend to summon the social and political dynamics that will create a "consensus," by defining the skeptics as a disreputable minority that need not even be counted. It is a big gamble since a substantial number of the skeptics are themselves well-established and highly respected scientists, such as MIT's Richard Lindzen, Princeton's Will Happer, and Institute of Advanced Studies' Freeman Dyson. But conjuring a new "paradigm" out of highly ambiguous data run through simulation computer models is tricky business and isn't likely to produce a "consensus" all on its own.

What's needed is the stamp of authority. And if that doesn't work, just keep stamping. Or stomping.
The author is president of the National Association of Scholars.


Reality said...

NAS: a thoroughgoing group of right-wing hacks. And the pres rejects climate change? Knock me over with a feather!

Darren said...

Scholars? Right-wing hacks? I wish!

Let me reiterate the opening of this post: You can kick and scream, call him a denier, and make faux appeals to authority--but where is this guy wrong?

I guess I left out ad hominem :-)

Reality said...

Your armchair scientist is truly impressive, with his recollection of the "Clovis Point" Wars. Who could forget those heady days? It pitted brother against brother, that academic bloodbath!

By his logic, anything that has built a consensus in the scientific community is suspicious due to said consensus. Gravity, heliocentrism, evolution, climate change. Cosmologists' laughter at geocentrists is clearly evidence that the geocentrists are correct and the heliocentrists stifle debate out of fear of inevitable exposure as the frauds they are.

For better or worse, science goes on being true no matter how many ivory tower academics bloviate on the topics. Our generation deserves the harsh judgment that will be cast on it by those in the future. They will wonder how we failed to take action in the face of incontrovertible evidence.

Darren said...

What is it you drive, again? :-)

Mike Thiac said...

Reality, you really bite! :<)

You seem to need an education on the difference between a Hypothesis, a Theory and a Law:


A hypothesis is an educated guess, based on observation. Usually, a hypothesis can be supported or refuted through experimentation or more observation. A hypothesis can be disproven, but not proven to be true.


A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. A theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it. Therefore, theories can be disproven. Basically, if evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, then the hypothesis can become accepted as a good explanation of a phenomenon. One definition of a theory is to say it's an accepted hypothesis.


A law generalizes a body of observations. At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law. Scientific laws explain things, but they do not describe them. One way to tell a law and a theory apart is to ask if the description gives you a means to explain 'why'.


Now, some examples of Laws of Science

Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion
Newton’s three laws of motion
Euler's laws of rigid body motion
Newton’s law of universal gravitation
Heat, energy, and temperature

Newton’s law of cooling
Boyle’s law
Law of conservation of energy
Joule’s first and second law
The four laws of thermodynamics


I don't see Global Cooling, err Global Warming, oh Climate Change, wait, I got it, last memo, Man Made Climate Change on the list of laws. I wonder why? Could it be whatever you call it this (we'll go with global warming) it is at best a hypothesis. And we shouldn't make major changes to our economic model and society on that. Especially when the people pushing this the most have a lot to gain, such as money (Michael Mann, The ALGORE, "green energy" companies that don't produce energy at a marketable rate) or power (government at multiple levels, the bureaucracy, the UN, The ALGORE)

BTY, you are comparing apples and oranges. Gravity is a law of physics, heliocentrism and evolution are theories and "man-made climate change" is a convenient lie.

Reality said...

Bite on this, Mike:

It's always so easy to spot the armchair scientists who know nothing of the nature of science but are quick to cite Webster's or some such for a stale, meaningless definition.

You reveal your ignorance of science when you cite "Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation" as a law of science. When NASA sends probes to explore the solar system, they don't use Newtonian Gravity to make their calculations.

They use its replacement: Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Goodness gracious: how can a Theory supersede a Law? What is this madness?

Your weblink scholarship is textbook failure. You really should have heeded the author's "DO NOT CITE" admonition in all caps, red lettering squarely atop the page you cited.

Where in your tidy classification scheme does the Theory of Evolution lie? Atomic Theory? Should we dismiss the notion of atoms because there's no such thing as The Law of Atoms to be found on your linked list? I tend to side with Atomic Theory believers, the ones who were able to use that lowly theory to, among other things, engineer nuclear weapons. It turns out things can be true without making it on to your flawed "Rules of the Universe" list.

What do I drive, Darren? I drive to and from work for two weeks on a single gallon of gas. Let me know when you can beat that.

In the meantime, check your familiarity with the concept of plurals before describing a solitary commenter as "lefties" in the future. Or do you claim poetic license in this regard? Usual rantings? Yes: calling out cherry-picking from wildly biased sources is usual since cherry picking wildly biased sources is the primary modus operandi of deniers.

Darren said...

Your proximity to school is wonderful. What kind of vehicle do you drive?

Mike Thiac said...

Reality, get a clue. But that is probably not going to happen.

You are pushing Man Made Global Warming as the latest thing that is settled science. It is no such thing. On of the cardinal of the Church of Global Warming is Michael Mann, former NASA idiot. He was pushing “global cooling” in the mid 70s. Now he’s on the warming and he developed a Hockey Sick graph that is pure fiction. Also the East Anglia emails showing “scientist” (they are properly called snake oil salesmen) trying to coordinate faked information. So forgive me if I take this as the BS it is. BTY, could it be the sun has come effect on the planet’s temperature.

As far as gas mileage goes, I got your ass beat down. I require more than three gallons round trip each day in my F-150 with 351 engine. But again, you want to drive around in a go-cart or lawnmower, be my guest.

PS: The sources define scientific Law and Theory. You can’t get over that fact, sorry. Maybe you should change your name to Nonreality

Reality said...

I drive a vehicle that burns hydrocarbons at a moderate rate. Oh noes! I've fallen into your logic trap. Let me guess: unless I disconnect from the grid, abandon modern transportation, and subsist on homegrown rice and beans, I am not allowed to accept the science of climate change, right?


I am allowed to support legislation and legislators who understand science. Changes need to made on the national policy level so that we're all pulling in the same direction. Short of that, it doesn't matter what any one person drives.

In any case, you're the bigger daily polluter between the two of us. So what's your point?

maxutils said...

Hypothetically speaking ... were I to be fortunate enough to live 8 or so blocks from my workplace, I would likely walk or bike ... as often as possible, anyway. And, everyone makes their own choices. Personally, when I drive I want small and efficient ... and don't understand why you would do anything else. Having an SUV or a truck is just an invitation for your friends to ask you to help them move. But, most people don't have favorable commutes. Not using a lot of gas isn't the winning prize. If you need a vehicle that is less efficient, then you buy it. If not, a responsible environmentalist would buy the most efficient vehicle possible. Regardless of amount of use.

Mike Thiac ... Why can't we just try to pollute less and be more efficient? I think it's fair to argue that global warming is still a theory, and may be right, or wrong ... and even if it's right, unless China and India don't get on board, we're not going to change anything. But, I would not question 'Reality' 's science accumen.

Darren said...

So you believe in the theory, believe man is polluting, but you don't put your money where your mouth is? You don't even pretend to take it seriously, except as an academic exercise?

Perhaps I'll start to take it seriously when the people who say they take it seriously start acting like they take it seriously.

I conclude that there's a reason you're not telling us what you drive. Next question: do you get "frequent flier" miles? Do you use them? Do you jet off to exotic places for hobbies, perhaps?

What's my point? It's OK that I *might* be the bigger polluter than you are. I'm not trying to legislate everyone's life with global warming hysteria. Those who do, and who have large carbon footprints (a la Al Gore, James Cameron, et. al.), are hypocrites.

Mike Thiac said...

Max, I agree, less pollution is good. However, the EPA is going wild right now. They want to issue regulations under the Clean Water Act basically saying if you have a temporary water source on your land, such as a seasonal creek, it is a "wetland" and can be regulated by them. A few years ago they wanted to regulate dust on farms and ranches. How does that have anything with "clean air and water" It's taking a man's property by not allowing them to use it as they will. And they are taking it without compensation, which is required by the Constitution.

Hey, you want to have a solar panel, fine, be my guest. I just have a problem with them getting a fortune in government subsidies. Oh, on the subject of clean energy, why is it the government of California, wanting clean energy, is shutting down dams. They provide a massive amount of electricity with no pollution.

Or another one. A few years ago I was reading a piece on an underwater electrical generator. To put it simply, it's a "windmill" for 300 feet under the water. They can generate a massive amount of electricity because of the torque at that depth, there is always water moving, their is not the issue of seeing it (only time it would come up is for maintenance) and putting a line of them on the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coasts could power the United States. The first thing I though was "The environmentalist will never go for it." Well, last year I spent a weekend with an old Army buddy who is a senior energy supervisor for Aranco Energy and and when I brought this up, he mentioned "Yea Mike, we have the design we just can't test it...the EPA will not give us a permit...but your right, it could power the entire US or a good hunk of it..."

Hopefully after B Hussein Obama leaves office we can get this approved.

Mike Thiac said...

(Un) Reality

The point is I don't push my choices on you, don't push yours on mine. You want to drive in an overglorified go-cart, be my guest. I'll stay in my truck and 2400 square foot house.

You can have the last word...I'm done. I gotta get to work.

maxutils said...

Mike, fair points ... although we're not shutting down dams, we're just not building more ... Sacramento gets a large amount of its power from hydroelectric. I understand the argument against subsidies for solar, but if it works? In our area people who are advantageously positioned actually wind up generating more energy than they use, putting it back in to the grid. Unlike the subsidies for hybrid cars, it seems to me like it might be a good thing. I haven't heard about the underwater generator ... that sounds like a great idea. No idea why anyone would be against at least testing it.

Darren said...

Interesting reversal--I used to argue *for* govt subsidies of solar, and you would tell me why I was wrong. You were right--then. How many watts fall on the earth per square meter? Answer: not enough. I apparently use so little electricity that a several different solar company calculators tell me that after 20 years, at best I'd break even on a solar system (that has a life of 20 years). And that's *after* subsidies.

So I'd essentially be pre-paying for 20 years of electricity. Not worth it.

Want less pollution from power plants? Then you *have* to support relatively plentiful, clean, and inexpensive nuclear energy.

maxutils said...

You missed the caveat: IF it works. And if you're properly positioned. I haven't reversed my stand ... if it's not efficient, don't do it. But the subsidy is not so much based on what you can do for yourself, it's what you can do for everyone else. But if it's not efficient, it's not efficient.

allen (in Michigan) said...

The problem is max that it doesn't work.

That's why solar and wind power were tossed aside when fossil fuels showed up - both are diffuse, unreliable and require an unreasonable degree of accommodation to their shortcomings. That's why a couple of decades of substantial to massive subsidies have resulted in nothing worthwhile. Both wind and solar still require large subsidies before anyone will build a generating installation because they don't pay for themselves.

You want an example? Here ya go.

The Astroenergy model CHSM 6612P-306 solar array produces 14.57 watts per square foot. The Monroe, Michigan coal-fired power plant is rated at 3,300 megawatts.

In order to generate 3,300 megawatts from those Astroenergy solar cells you'd need 5,198 acres of them. Wall to wall and seamless.

But that only equals, between about 10:30AM to 1:30PM, the output of the Monroe plant. The capacity factor, difference between rated and produced power, of solar cells is 20% which means that most of the day they're doing nothing to not very much. Using the capacity factor the area required jumps to 25,989 acres.

But that's just gets you to, in the few hours with maximum sunshine, the amount of power the Monroe plant generates in a twenty four hour period. If you want to equal the Monroe plant, rain or shine, summer or winter, the area required is anyone's guess and we get a lot of cloudy, snowy, crappy days in Michigan.

Of course the electricity generated by all those solar cells, if it's to be used once peak generating hours are passed, has to be stored. That's kind of a problem because there's no technology to store electricity at those volumes. At least not economically and I, along with a growing number of my fellow Americans, are getting damned good and tired of funding "Reality's" pipe dreams.

maxutils said...

allen, you may be correct where you live. But in Sacramento, people who install solar panels ... depending on their location ... generate not just their own energy, but enough to pour back on to the grid. That seems to me to be a reasonable proposition for subsidy. I won't argue with you about efficiency ... but given that electricity is mostly presented by a monopoly in CA that is granted virtual carte blanche ... or at least in Sacto, a publicly held firm ... I don't think subsidies that encourage use of solar are a bad idea. Unlike subsidies for hybrid cars that are just as fuel efficient as comparable non hybrids...