Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Who is the Real ‘Science Denier’?

Another New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial (This man hopes you'd vote for a candidate who believes climate change is fake), plus an article by Andrew Bernstein published in Capitalism Magazine (The Truth About Climate Change) got me thinking in a new direction.


In a section of his excellent article, Bernstein addresses “The Necessity to Affirm, Not Deny Climate Change.” Bernstein documents the dynamic history of Earth’s climate, including several episodes of catastrophic climate change, and contrasts this history with the current warming period, which is mild and much less disruptive than past episodes. After documenting Earth’s climate history, Bernstein writes:


It is precisely this context, an appropriate timescale, that many (if not all) AGW [anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming) theorists ignore. A stockbroker, who tried to convince investors to buy a stock based on its performance in the last sixty seconds, while blanking out decades of data, would be ignoring vastly less relevant information than do the majority of today’s supporters of man-made global warming.


The accusation of “climate change denier” is, consequently, egregiously inaccurate when hurled at persons who examine this context and recognize the reality of natural, cyclical, and likely incessant climate change.


The accusation is accurate, however, when leveled against some leading supporters of the AGW hypothesis. Dr. Michael Mann, for example,  a respected climate scientist and lead author for the IPCC, developed the infamous “hockey stick” graph, purporting to show that, for roughly 1,000 years prior to the 20th century, Northern Hemisphere temperatures had been relatively stable, perhaps even declining slightly, then sharply rising after 1900 (hence the hockey stick shape of the graph). In effect, Mann’s methodology “air-brushed” out of existence the Medieval Warm Period; if accurate, Mann’s findings would show a strong and unique correlation between human emissions of carbon dioxide and rising temperatures. However, Mann’s methodology was seriously flawed and exposed as such by Dr. Edward Wegman, a leading statistician. The hockey stick graph, a featured aspect of the IPCC’s 2001 report, was subsequently dropped by the IPCC. The Medieval Warm Period had to be acknowledged as real.[37]


But Mann, some of his IPCC colleagues, and the environmentalist movement more broadly continue to support the hockey stick hypothesis.


According to Mann and his supporters, Northern Hemisphere temperatures were relatively flat for roughly 1,000 years, and the natural climate cycles from the Dark Age Cold Period to the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age were non-existent (or, at most, greatly over-exaggerated).


Who, then, is actually guilty of denying climate change?[38] [my emphasis]


Keeping Bernstein’s perspective in mind, the Star-Ledger Editorial Board opens its editorial hit piece on a NJ Republican politician:


Hurricane Harvey is another wake-up call, a reminder that we can no longer ignore man's contribution to the warming of the planet and how it increases our vulnerability to devastating weather events. To deny that only that invites more catastrophes like the one that has ravaged our nation's fourth largest city.


It is also a reminder that we need leaders who tell the truth, not people whose careers were advanced on fossil fuel money and climate denialism - yet right on cue, here comes Steve Lonegan, pursuing another office that should make New Jersey's collective gut seize.


The former Bogota mayor is running for the 5th District congressional seat currently held by Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Lonegan has the intellect, geniality and name recognition he'll need to compete, not to mention the money: For six years, he was the New Jersey director for Americans for Prosperity, which means his depraved indifference toward climate change echoes that of fossil fuel barons Charles and David Koch, who have given $100 million to 84 groups that deny climate science since 1997.


And in the wake of Harvey, it needs to be asked:


Would New Jerseyans vote for a candidate who believes that "the science stating that humans are responsible for climate change is highly questionable - there's also a massive amount of science that refutes that," and that this will all be followed by a cooling trend?


I left these comments:


The Star-Ledger states that Lonegan is in with “84 groups that deny climate science.” There's that simple-minded smear again; “science denier”. But in the very next paragraph, the S-L quotes Lonegan as stating that “there’s also a massive amount of science that refutes” anthropogenic climate change. What are these 84 groups saying? What science is Lonegan citing? A lot of important work regarding climate change history by a lot of knowledgable people has been done by people outside the alleged “consensus.” This well-documented work considers natural causes like the overlapping long-term, medium-term, and short-term climate trends, and multiple interlocking causes. The weight of the evidence indicates mild and manageable climate change. Much of this work tackles head-on the case for climate catastrophe. Do the climate catastrophists meet the dissenters head-on? No. The Star-Ledger brushes this science off. Who is the real science denier? Who is the real climate denier?


The Star-Ledger accuses Lonegan of “depraved indifference toward climate change.” But the “practical” solutions proposed to “combat climate change” could have devastating consequences for human well-being in the U.S. and globally. Reliable energy drives industrial and agricultural progress, and effects the cost of everything. Drastically raising the cost of energy, not to mention making energy unreliable through “renewables,” would drastically lower our standard of living, especially for the lower income folks. Given the vital importance of reliable energy to human well-being and survival, the vital importance of economic freedom, and the depraved indifference to human well-being of climate catastrophists’, shouldn’t we at least give a hearing to the other side of the climate debate?


In truth, there’s a lot more to climate change than is simplistically indicated here, or that can be addressed in a comment. There are pros and cons over federal flood insurance, sea level rise, storm intensity, the effects of climate change, economics, energy science, the actual greenhouse effect of co2, and political science, to name a few. But let me say this: It does not follow that, because humans may be contributing to climate change, drastic life-altering political (i.e., coercive) steps, like outlawing fossil fuels, must be immediately implemented to curb it. In truth, the climate catastrophists like the Star-Ledger are objectivity deniers. Their views and conclusions are biased and one-sided in favor of the Left’s agenda to increase government control of private life and industry in the name of fighting climate change. But the alternative view calls for adaptation to climate change coupled with continued freedom and human progress, a much less disruptive “solution” and fundamentally better for human flourishing.


I think Lonegan deserves to be respected and taken seriously, not smeared and dismissed out-of-hand by fear-mongering statists. He has something important to contribute to the debate. In any event, I wish he were running in my district. He’d have my vote.


-----------------------------------------------------


Maybe the Star-Ledger is an energy denier, freedom denier, and industrial progress denier.


What about the federal flood insurance program? The S-L states that “there is little evidence that the private market has the capacity to underwrite the growing risk[.]” That’s the point! No private insurer would be stupid enough to provide broad flood insurance coverage for areas that are certain to flood. Federal underwriting with tax dollars overrode the private market, leading to decades of massive development that wouldn’t have taken place, massively inflating damage from readily predictable storms like Sandy and Harvey. Maybe we should label the Star-Ledger and “basic economics denier”.


The Star-Ledger labels Harvey “another wake-up call.” To what? To the fact that devastating storms have always occurred? To climate change, which has always occurred on our meteorologically dynamic planet? It’s pretty certain that humans are contributing also. Climate catastrophists argue that consequences for humans of not eliminating those contributions will be devastating. But what are the costs to human well-being of eliminating the human contributions, such as by outlawing fossil fuels? Where’s the cost-benefit analysis of the “practical solutions” advocated by the political Left. Should we trade human well-being for marginally less severe Harveys and Sandys (both of which had more to do with unusual weather patterns than slightly warmer oceans)? Maybe we should label the Star-Ledger a “consequence denier”.


The Star-Ledger cites a prediction by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “which states that sea level rise over the next two decades will bring ‘chronic disruptive inundation to Seaside Park and 14 more towns along the Jersey Shore that today rarely feel the effects of tidal flooding’." Well, what about the long line of failed environmentalist catastrophe predictions going back decades? Shouldn’t the UCS prediction be at least taken with a grain of salt, given the uniformly exaggerated historical record of such predictions. And what about the fact that sea level rise has been going on all throughout the current interglacial period of about 15,000 or so years, to the tune of about 400 feet? Why panic over the two inches hypothesized to have been caused by AGW? Maybe the Star-Ledger should be labeled a “history denier”.

Denier, denier, denier. I’ve been ridiculing that childish, false smear for years. Maybe, though, there’s some validity to the charge—but the opposite of how the climate catastrophists mean it.

12 comments:

TheGreekDollmaker said...
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TheGreekDollmaker said...
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Michael A. LaFerrara said...

TheGreekDollmaker,

“No one promotes climate policies which would ‘diminish human living standards.’"

In fact, the most committed environmentalists propose exactly that, because they see human-caused climate change (and human impact on “Mother Nature” generally) as bad in and of itself. Granted, they may not win. But they can do, and are doing, a lot of harm because they are the ones framing the debate.

“The whole point of tackling climate change is to accomplish the exact opposite.”

If that were the case, then the first question would be, “Should we tackle climate change?” “Carbon-neutral emissions policies” are a huge grant of power to governments to direct the energy industry. Barring actual evidence that climate change is truly disastrous to human welfare, such central controls and taxes is both immoral and uneconomic, because they reduce freedom and thus innovation and progress in energy and everything down the line, and forcibly redistribute wealth to favored energy producers based on political connections rather than merit.

We hear talk of “the enormous costs of climate change.” But what if the costs of “Carbon-neutral emissions policies” are much greater than the costs of climate change? If so, it suggests that we should be doing nothing governmentally about climate change. The NBER, citing many studies including from the IPCC, recently found that expected global warming will reduce GWP by an equivalent of $2000 per capita income by the end of this century—income that is projected to be 9 times higher in 2100. Ronald Bailey thus poses the question, “How much should people living today making an average of $10,000 apiece spend in order to prevent the future incomes from falling from $97,000 to $95,000 per capita?” [http://reason.com/blog/2017/09/19/climate-change-will-reduce-incomes-in-22?utm_medium=email]

I couldn’t disagree more that “You should always be skeptical when people fail to separate causality and science from value-based judgments which require a connective to some system of ethics or morals.” The minute you say “human welfare,” your saying ethics. You mentioned human welfare in relation to climate change science—that the science indicates what we ought to do, which implies precisely a reference to a system of ethics. When you’re dealing with what’s good or bad for human welfare, I don’t see how it’s possible to disconnect causality and science from value-based judgments.

And your right that human welfare should be the moral standard. If so, balance is essential. (Of course, defining “human welfare” is critical. Some equate human welfare with drastically reducing the human population, and blasting the rest back to the Stone Age. See Rousseau and his disciples. I assume you equate human welfare to a higher standard of living as it is conventionally meant—that is, healthier, longer, happier, safer lives based on technological and industrial progress.) Unfortunately, there is a heavy bias in your comments. So what if “We've been seeing [average global] temperatures go up?” So what if carbon fuels are contributing to that rise. Your side focusses only on the negatives of climate change and fossil fuels, never the positives (from a human welfare perspective) of climate change and fossil fuels. It’s possible that “a warming climate could produce costly side effects.” As of now, despite decades of failed predictions of catastrophe, there is little evidence of that, only much speculation. But even if true, you can’t assume as the given that fossil fuels must be severely curbed and carbon-neutral policies are the only way to go.

TheGreekDollmaker said...
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TheGreekDollmaker said...
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TheGreekDollmaker said...
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Michael A. LaFerrara said...

TheGreekDollmaker, PART I

When I hear the term “market failure” I think, “I don’t like the choices others are making, so I’m going to force my choices on everyone else, with the government as my hired gun.” Markets don’t “fail”. They simply reflect the cumulative voluntary choices of all individual market participants. “Market failure” is the prelude to some form of government interference into the market. It is not a reason. It is a rationalization.

Now, you have a point that “not all carbon neutral emissions policies constitute centralization,” if by “centralization” we mean an all-powerful Czar. In that narrow sense, it is not. That “ideal” of central planning died with the Soviet communist collapse. But that is too narrow a concept of central planning. Statists have gotten smarter, adopting a new, more insidious form of central planning—coercive market interference, which you call “market correction.”

A “market correction” is a temporary, short-term reversal of a trend, such as a stock market decline or economic slowdown or contraction in some industry, and is a natural by-product of free markets. Your use of the term lends a superficial air of legitimacy to “carbon neutral emissions policies.” But it is not a market correction you speak of. It is coercive government interference in people’s economic judgement. Market corrections and market manipulation are not the same. Market manipulation is central planning, in that it seeks to distort market incentives and behaviors to achieve a centrally planned goal. An example of this form of central planning is the decade leading up to the 2008-09 financial crisis and Great Recession. Under the goal of “affordable housing”—which was based on the premise of a “market failure” to provide homeownership financing to low income people—the politicians incentivized, manipulated, and coerced banks to drastically lower lending standards until the market was flooded with sub-prime mortgages that couldn’t be repaid. “Carbon neutral emissions policies” (not to be confused with laws to mitigate actual pollution, a genuine side-effect of fossil fuels) is a form of the same type of central planning relating to energy, and will likely have disastrous consequences. (We’ve already seen a taste of this in Germany, where electricity prices have skyrocketed.)

As to pollution, no one is questioning “the positive health impacts from cleaner air quality.” Absolutely, cleaner air is a good goal. But what does that have to do with climate change? They are apples and oranges. “Carbon pollution”—aka carbon dioxide—is not a pollutant, like mercury, arsenic, and the like. CO2 is not only harmless to humans but absolutely vital to human and all other life on Earth. Air pollution can, should be, and in fact is being mitigated by technology and reasonable laws (https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/cK23BTgMWLMtUzUTrj5Whdh8wZHGqAopvHYn_5DnDN7824uNKfnwH8-qvh7pr73ctxBa6PbQtl3RCDpdgWQj5WNSiwEn5Ob2vHEIdavXG6Qj3AQ2etwasqQyIgd-_FY4yiT4W6_7).

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

TheGreekDollmaker, PART II

True, there are not “sides” to facts. But there are definitely sides to how we interpret the facts, how we judge them, how we integrate them into the wider context, what we do with them, and what standard of value we apply in the doing.

You asked for “numbers.” I gave you one source, Bernstein's article, and you brushed it off as “bunk” and “laughable.” Nonetheless, I’ll give you more. There is no evidence of climate change-related catastrophe. For example, the current active hurricane season has brought out, predictably, screams of “I told you so.” But in August, a new NOAA study concluded that there has been no discernible increase in tropical cyclone number or intensity as of yet. “It is premature to conclude that human activities–and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming–have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity,” it says (https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes/), although it predicts “likely” impacts later on in the century. Furthermore, the IPCC reports “Current data sets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century and it remains uncertain whether any reported long-term increases in tropical cyclone frequency are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities” (http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_Chapter02_FINAL.pdf, page 216).

I also recommend 2 books, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein and The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the 21st Century by Ronald Bailey.

Climate danger has always been a problem for humans, and a lot of that danger has been mitigated. Climate change may—may—present new challenges for humans at some point. But facts—all the facts, not mere speculation—should guide us. Of course, whatever the future of climate brings, human flourishing—and by “human” I mean the social and political requirements of real, living, breathing, thinking, valuing individual human beings as opposed to the abstraction “humanity”—must always be the standard for any mitigative action.

Finally, in regard to “Please identify a specific environmentalist claiming that this is his/her motivation for wanting to address.”

I provide quotes from leading Environmentalist intellectuals in http://principledperspectives.blogspot.com/2017/04/earth-day-anti-industrial-revolution.html. Probably too extreme for rank-and-file Environmentalists. But I would say that the campaign against CO2 emissions implies reducing living standards. Suggestions like carbon taxes, steadfast opposition to nat-gas and oil pipelines coupled with continuing opposition to non-CO2 emitting nuclear power, implies favoring lower living standards over industrial development. In fact, the very term “Environmentalism” implies a movement based on an ideological view; to prioritize unaltered nature—the very state that requires humans to work away from—over development.

Thanks for taking the time. Mine, too, is limited. Feel free to have the last word.

Mike Kevitt said...

TheGreekDollmaker doesn't like being identifiable when challenged, so he removes and vaporizes out of existence, into a supernatural realm, until he decides to come back in a new guise. He's even afraid to take an unchallenged last word. (He assumes you might change your mind.)

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

Mike,

Huh. Those deletions are a surprise. I thought his comments were thoughtful, though to me unconvincing. Too bad you couldn't get to read them.

TheGreekDollmaker said...

Greetings

Unfortunately, I have a few personal issues that have come up, most important psych results of a OC disorder I may have, as well a very tense correspondence with other people that has gone down a very stressful road. These sorts of comment battles, which I have had many, have not been healthy to me, as a result I'll have to cease them for my own good, they haven't been as civil or as unnerveful as this has been. Long story short my brain is fried and needs rest, and I'm not taking any chances.

I'll post my parting comments. I didn't get too deep in the Pat n Chip study, but their first figure is a bit deceptive since it's not a very careful comparison of models and observations. You can find more careful comparisons at this webpage. The models compare much better to observations than some would have you believe.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/climate-model-projections-compared-to-observations/

Also relevant in regards to your post: http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/2008BAMS2370.1

Beyond that, I'm shocked at what happened in Las Vegas recently. On my part of the world, this sort of event would be soul shattering. Hope you all overcome this.

With Regards

Mike Kevitt said...

I'm sorry, but my computer told be 5 of his comments were deleted because they were removed by the author, him, I assume.

But I apologize the The Greek Dollmaker for my comment about him. I don't want to make light of him if he's having real problems which he himself has described. I'm glad to have learned of the situation, thus also of my slip. M.K.