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Global Warming: Credible or Incredible?

 
 
Hazlitt
 
Reply Fri 17 Jan, 2003 09:56 pm
LW, thanks for your invitation to respond to Carothers essay. Sorry to take so long. To tell the truth, I've lately been trying to cool my ardor for political argument.

I would like to make one short comment on the global warming issue, which does impact on foreign affairs. It is telling that it is the industrial interests who profit, short term, from polluting the environment, and their Republican allies, who are funded in large part by those corporate polluters, who line up so solidly behind those few scientists who say there is no global warming. The issue seems to be totally politicised with those who profit from pollution on one side, and those who are motivated by a desire to preserve the environment on the other side. Personally, I'm more inclined to trust the motivation of those who simply want to keep the world as a decent place to live.

On issues more germane to the essay, I think our presidents approach to the problems of the day will not serve us well, and that the ill effects will last a long time and do great mischief. The idea that he can conquer Arab countries that are headed by autocrats and impose democracy seems ludicrous to me. It is in fact beyond ludicrous. In so doing, our country would itself be acting autocratically and thereby undermining its own position.

Rather than promoting democracy, the Bush policy will strengthen the hand of the Islamist religious leaders; and rather than make the world safe from terror, he is laying the groundwork for generations of new terrorists.
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trespassers will
 
  1  
Reply Sat 18 Jan, 2003 12:10 am
Hazlitt wrote:
The issue seems to be totally politicised with those who profit from pollution on one side, and those who are motivated by a desire to preserve the environment on the other side. Personally, I'm more inclined to trust the motivation of those who simply want to keep the world as a decent place to live.

One might also see it as breaking down along the lines of those for whom global warming theory has become a religion--something only a heretic would question, and those who listen to BOTH SIDES and find scientists on BOTH SIDES who agree that global warming is a question for which no one has yet provided an answer.
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 07:41 pm
Tres

That is a completely undiscerning statement.

If you are suggesting that among the relevant science communities (climate sciences, bio sciences, geo sciences) there is a balance of nay and yeah, then you are deeply in error and you are just not reading enough. The President's own Science Council about one year ago stated that:
1) global warming is real
2) that its effects will be serious
3) that human activity is the most likely cause

When Bjorn Lomborg published his book discounting the thesis, the three major science journals in the English language; Science, Nature, and Scientific American each put out special editions (unprecedented) detailing the failing in Lomborg's data and conclusions.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 08:10 pm
if you care to read Bjorn carefully what he actually says is that "if we manage our resources better then we will not have a problem, he does not say there is no problem".
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trespassers will
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 08:54 pm
blatham wrote:
That is a completely undiscerning statement.

If so, I think I can live with it.

blatham wrote:
If you are suggesting that among the relevant science communities (climate sciences, bio sciences, geo sciences) there is a balance of nay and yeah, then you are deeply in error and you are just not reading enough.

It couldn't simply be that I have read things you have not, could it?

blatham wrote:
The President's own Science Council about one year ago stated that:
1) global warming is real
2) that its effects will be serious
3) that human activity is the most likely cause

Forgive me if I'm not moved by a political body making a political decision.

blatham wrote:
When Bjorn Lomborg published his book discounting the thesis, the three major science journals in the English language; Science, Nature, and Scientific American each put out special editions (unprecedented) detailing the failing in Lomborg's data and conclusions.

Interesting how quickly they circled their wagons, isn't it. In fact, when Lomborg offered a point-by-point response to Nature's hatchet job on him, they tried to take him to court for citing their points on his Web site as part of his effort to refute those points. Ever hear of such a thing? I hadn't until then. Can you say "censorship"?

But I have no interest in playing the heretic to anyone's global warming religion. For reasons I can't fathom, people want to believe the sky is falling, no matter what evidence may exist to call that theory into question. I know too well that I'm not going to unring that bell.
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georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 10:45 pm
Blatham,

I believe you will find that your last post should be modified a bit in order to be scientifically accurate.

A correct version would be as follows;
1.) The current carbon cycle model and current data show that the accumulation of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is real and continuing.
2.) This model predicts a rate of global warming that, if realized, will eventually pose serious challenges for some aspects of life. Long-term effects depend on as yet unknown parameters in the carbon cycle, chiefly oceanic uptake and the response of plantlife.
3.) Human activity is the likely cause
4.) The rate of warming predicted by this model is small compared to the known rates of warming and cooling that have occurred repeatedly over geologic time and whose causes are not understood.
5.) Available data cannot yet confirm whether or not any net warming is occurring as a result of all these factors.


This issue has become heavily politicicized and a there is a large often emotionally motivated orthodoxy involving people who do not know or understand the science involved, as well as serious amateurs and real scientists. Generally the most intense aqrguments come from thew least qualified commentators.
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trespassers will
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 11:32 pm
georgeob1 - Thanks for a thoughtful, informative post on the topic of global warming.
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 12:12 am
george

By 'scientifically accurate', I gather you mean that you are quoting the president's science council verbatim whereas I paraphrased. If so, do you see an error of significance in my paraphrase?

Or, by 'scientifically accurate' do you mean that this council alone represents the voice for science accuracy? It's not clear which you might mean with that term.

Also, it is understood that the question is politicized (but that's not so unusual) and emotional (also not unusual) and that some people have unyeilding (orthodox) positions. But does this entail that no one other than a scientist working in one of these fields can have a valid opinion? And if that is so, can he have a valid opinion regarding data from other disciplines he's not trained in? That's also not clear.

Could we assume that a reasonably intelligent person who keeps somewhat abreast of the scientific findings might be considered to have a reasoned opinion on the subject such that he could validly say that something is probable?

tres

How is it that you consider a council of scientists a political body and their findings political? Ought the Surgeon General's statements to be regarded in the same manner? Please try a little harder to think carefully and not just play a silly game of one upsmanship. I said your post was undiscerning because it was...you just took the easy way out suggesting that the weight of scientific opinion falls nowhere (true ten years ago, not now), and that folks who disagree with that are holding a faith stance. Of course, if the balance was as you suggest, the faith stance derogation would apply to either side, but the balance isn't as you suggest.

You then do a too common logical irrelevancy - court action therefore that means censorship therefore their argument isn't valid - none follows from the last.

And you toss in 'they circled their wagons' as if this actually means something important or tells us anything at all about the matters in question, when it is just a metaphor you use to derogate...it's another ad hominem.

And then, you send off a "thoughtful and informative" note to george for ??? giving the precise quote for what I paraphrased?

You're not an unsmart guy, but your posts lately display these sorts of logical fallacies and uncautious statements too commonly. Stop trying to win points...no one is watching and it's a juvenile game. If you want to share information on the questions which are as objective as we can find them, and if you want to approach those questions with an open mind (I promise to), then we can do something maybe worthwhile here.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 12:44 am
This really got side-tracked into a debate on global warming and I could have it split off as it doesn't have much to do with terrorism and promoting democracy (other than being a barrier in promoting our form of capitalistic democracy as it's another nail-in-the-coffin).
We've managed all down the line to make the rest of the world very suspicious of us and we retort in a kind of arrogance that has no precedence. If we want to be the example for the rest of the world, we should act like it. The papers I've read trying to debunk global warming are about as convincing as the nitwits who debunk the fact that we went to the moon.
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 01:14 am
Let me take this even further afield...I was thinking today about the term 'anti-Americanism'. One sees this term a fair bit.

That's fairly remarkable in that one seldom sees 'anti-Canadianism' or 'anti-Switzerlandism'. And what the heck would these mean, if we saw them? What would I be guilty of if someone said I was committing anti-Candianism? Slagging toques? Being rude about the Prime Minister or his wife's derriere? Would I be guilty of it if I said the Canadian governments' policies on softwood lumber were typical of its self-interest in the world community? Or if I suggested that we shouldn't sell Candu technology to India?

What of a Swiss guy who hikes the two miles uphill to a pub on the glacier, goes in and publically announces that he thinks the classic yodelling tunes contain contain elements which suggest Teutonic superiority over other cultures? Is he guilty of anti-Switzerlandism? If so, what ought the others to do about it?
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 01:33 am
No man is an island and neither is a country, although we benefited from over 150 years of being virtually an isolated island (the War of 1812 was also an attack on our shores -- I'm sure the burning of the Capitol building was just as horrifying at the time as 9/11). This adminstration is now on the spot -- let's see if they can sell themselves to the rest of the world without the hard close which is usually dependent on manipulation and subterfuge. I think they'd like to be able to get the leaders of the nations that are vacillating on this year's war (who are in complete cooperation on anti-terrorism) into a closing room. Then comes the ultimate sales pitch, or at least they will think it is. I think they should keep the door tightly shut as there's liable to be more hyperbole than substance and they really would prefer nobody hears. Trouble is, those that have to listen to the sales pitch are going to come out and eventually reveal the technique and the substance of the close. Whether they are sold or not is another story. Ethical persuasion would work wonders but I'm not convinced this administration is capable of it.
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georgeob1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 06:41 am
Blatham,

I have not studied the findings of the President's Council to which you referred, but I am quite closely aware of the US EPA's research on the matter over the last 15 years - much of it was done or supported by a Consulting firm I managed. Many scientific disciplines are involved in various aspects of this problem, mine involved various transport models in the atmosphere. I can assure you from personal experience that the subject is thoroughly politicized and that ordinary scientific disagreement over the correct interpretation of data and predictions, based on various numerical models and admittedly inadequate hard data, quickly becomes intractible dispute after it passes through the various institutions involved, government bureaucracy, political, and academic. I am reminded that Galileo's Aristotelian inquisitors regarded themselves as scientists, and indeed they met the standards of the day. They, like you, liberally employed the argument by authority.

In this era of endless reporting on every subject one can find a reference, indeed a link, for almost any idea. Anyone can have an opinion on any subject - some I know have two or three. Not all of them can be valid.

What I stated is a conservative statement of what is known. We know that greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere. We know that these gases should contribute to the warming of the earth. We can estimate fairly accurately the initial rate of warming current concentrations should induce, but we don't know enough about the long-term quantitative aspects of dissipative mechanisms in the global ecology to accurately estimate the the new equilibrium that will result. We can identify large cycles of prevailing temperatures on earth from ample geological and tree ring data - we do not know the cause of these cycles. We don't have an accurate global thermometer and we can only roughly estimate changes that might occur over a period of decades. The available data do not support the proposition that the earth is warming at anywhere near the rate predicted by even the best carbon cycle & atmospheric models - or at all according to some. We cannot separate the effects of this phenomenon from other larger ones that have been operating throughout geologic time.

This is decidedly different from the "immutable truths" you offered.

The only convincing argument I know of to support action now is that if the greenhouse gas effect does indeed dominate climate change and if initial rates are sustained undiminished, then it will take a long time to correct it and we may be wise to, in effect, act as though it is happening now as a precaution.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 07:10 am
georgeob1 wrote:
The only convincing argument I know of to support action now is that if the greenhouse gas effect does indeed dominate climate change and if initial rates are sustained undiminished, then it will take a long time to correct it and we may be wise to, in effect, act as though it is happening now as a precaution.


I offered essentially the same argument to BLatham in another thread, in which i had pointed out that there is insufficient data for accurate, reliable modelling of global temperature patterns. I don't believe it convinced BLatham then, and i doubt that it will now. However, nice try.
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 08:18 am
It is, in fact, a very nice try. George, what sort of consulting service are you talking of here...computer modelling? Was the EPA itself the client or someone else who then submitted to them?

It is a politicized issue, that's acknowledged. But to say that doesn't help us as regards how we might view the value of hypotheses. Politicized subject or not, science procedes as 'tentative knowledge', yes? Best possible guesses given present data.

But george...you are being naughty again...I offered no 'immutable truths' nor anything remotely close. I paraphrased the presidents' science council. You followed with a series of claims so similar I thought you were quoting that council's report. Nor did I earlier talking with Setanta. In both cases I did say that the preponderance of the related science communities now share the opinion stated by that science council. That is the singular claim (other than noting the response of the three journals to Lomborg's book).

As to an 'appeal from authority' as logical fallacy, this does apply where opinion (of valid authorities) is divided and if I suggest that's not so, but I haven't. I've pointed to a preponderance of opinion, and an increasing preponderance over time, that conclusions such as the science council's are more probably true than their converse...no global warming going on and/or man's activities aren't contributory (or significantly so). This is partly what led me to describe Tres's post as 'undiscerning'. It's also what led me to argue with Setanta earlier, who claimed that the issue was politicized and that there were big dollars to be made by scientists studying the issue, thus providing a non-science motive to find a certain result (of course, that applies in either direction, and one need only go to the Cato site to verify this).

Thus, to clarify, if that is needed...the opinion I hold is that of the science council (you have to fork out $36 bucks for report, but here's a tidbit... http://www.mindfully.org/Air/2002/Global-Warming-EPAJun02.htm ). I don't hold this opinion because the EPA says so, but because I share the notion that the growing majority of opinion is more likely to be correct.

Your last paragraph, George, has the thought I consider most important...to act as if global warming is quite probable, that it might be damned difficult to reverse, and to therefore act to reduce burning fossil fuels quickly.
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trespassers will
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 09:01 am
blatham - Thanks for the thoughtful and informative reply. :wink:
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 09:44 am
Tres.... very funny!
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trespassers will
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 10:05 am
georgeob1 wrote:
We can estimate fairly accurately the initial rate of warming current concentrations should induce, but we don't know enough about the long-term quantitative aspects of dissipative mechanisms in the global ecology to accurately estimate the the new equilibrium that will result.

Speaking of dissipative mechanisms, here's a snippet from and link to an interesting item I ran across a year or two back:

Quote:
Motivated by the observed relation between cloudiness (above the trade wind boundary layer) and high humidity, cloud data for the eastern part of the western Pacific from the Japanese Geostationary Meteorological Satellite-5 (which provides high spatial and temporal resolution) have been analyzed, and it has been found that the area of cirrus cloud coverage normalized by a measure of the area of cumulus coverage decreases about 22% per degree Celsius increase in the surface temperature of the cloudy region. A number of possible interpretations of this result are ex-amined and a plausible one is found to be that cirrus detrainment from cumulus convection diminishes with increasing temperature. The implications of such an effect for climate are examined using a simple two-dimensional radiative-convective model. The calculations show that such a change in the Tropics could lead to a negative feedback in the global climate, with a feedback factor of about -1.1, which if correct, would more than cancel all the positive feedbacks in the more sensitive current climate models.
Does the Earth Have an Adaptive Infrared Iris?

In simple terms (the only ones I can understand) the authors seem to have measured a thinning of the upper atmosphere that occurs as the temperature increases. This thinning vents heat into space. If ththeyre right, this might mean that the Earth has a self-regulating mechanism for dealing with temperature fluctuations.
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trespassers will
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 10:09 am
We should probably move the global warming discussion to its own... um, discussion. :wink:
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 10:49 am
There's more than one of those going on here, Boss, take yer pick.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Jan, 2003 12:00 pm
I'm having the global warming issue split off into a new topic and it may move some commentary that is a bridge from this topic. Anyone having more remarks to make concerning terrorism and the selling of democracy, please continue to post here.
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