8.12.2007

They don’t know how the world works…

“yet tell us how it ought to work”. A quote from Mort Zuckerman, owner and contributor to U.S. News & World Report, The Atlantic and the New York Daily News, about journalists in the July 27 issue of the New Yorker.

It’s this combination of ignorance and arrogance that so irritates me about journalists. There has been no issue that better illustrates this than climate change; an unfathomably complex problem trivialized into good vs. evil by self-righteous idiots. This was in plain view in Newsweek’s last issue which Robert J. Samuelson, a Newsweek contributor, took them to task for.

NEWSWEEK's "denial machine" is a peripheral and highly contrived story. NEWSWEEK implied, for example, that ExxonMobil used a think tank to pay academics to criticize global-warming science. Actually, this accusation was long ago discredited, and NEWSWEEK shouldn't have lent it respectability. (The company says it knew nothing of the global-warming grant, which involved issues of climate modeling. And its 2006 contribution to the think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, was small: $240,000 out of a $28 million budget.)

Exacerbating the problem is that the typical journalist, steeped in obsolete Marxist orthodoxy in college, becomes calcified in this manner of thought when surrounded by those nearly all think the same way. This causes a maddening blinders effect to data that doesn’t support the original narrative.

Take for example this new study from the journal Science:

Abstract

Previous climate model projections of climate change accounted for external forcing from natural and anthropogenic sources but did not attempt to predict internally generated natural variability. We present a new modeling system that predicts both internal variability and externally forced changes and hence forecasts surface temperature with substantially improved skill throughout a decade, both globally and in many regions. Our system predicts that internal variability will partially offset the anthropogenic global warming signal for the next few years. However, climate will continue to warm, with at least half of the years after 2009 predicted to exceed the warmest year currently on record.

Anyone with an open-minded, fully functioning brain can see that the conclusions of this study are somewhat ambiguous. The study acknowledges that previous models excluded such non-trivial factors such as the Ocean (oops) but produced new better models that suggest that AGW will kick in for real in 2009 – never mind that such claims of better model accuracy get made on a regular basis. Every researcher thinks they’ve figured it out until the model doesn’t fit.


Reuter’s predictable take on the subject.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global warming is forecast to set in with a vengeance after 2009, with at least half of the five following years expected to be hotter than 1998, the warmest year on record, scientists reported on Thursday.

Except that new data that Reuters should have been aware of was available before this article was written that shows that 1998 was not “hottest year on record”. Sloppy work from NASA was discovered which skewed recent temperature data and has been officially corrected.

We’ll never see it reported though. Our self-anointed, under educated fixers of the world have predictable, simplistic narratives to write elsewhere.

It's so sad that things like this have to exist.

13 comments:

little dan said...

http://www.atmos.washington.edu/2005Q2/211/index.html

Here is a link for the text the class largely covers:
http://www.amazon.com/Earth-System-Second-Lee-Kump/dp/0131420593/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-1626724-0632750?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1187197759&sr=1-1

It's only a little over $100. I agree, journalism probably isn't the field best suited for this topic so lets let the Earth System Scientists help us form some opinions.

Andrew said...

Not sure I could ever believe in the Gaia hypothesis. I'm too engineering oriented.

I also think James Lovelock is considered to be a bit of a nutter, even within the green friendly fraternity of climatologists.

little dan said...

The very little I know of James Lovelock was what the speaker at Affordable Comfort told us (that he didn't necessarily buy into everything Lovelock proposed and that Ll was out on the fringe). That being said, I think the folks at Exxon should be held with the same 'nutter' creditbility.

I'm curious, what are your reservations on the topic of climate change? Human's impact, mis-stating information, unreporting biases?

p.s. we live close to each other, when I'm finished with that book, would you be interested in giving it a read?

Andrew said...

I’m open to the possibility that human carbon output has a measurable impact on the world’s climate. We’re certainly emitting more than what would be otherwise and carbon dioxide is fairly good at absorbing infrared radiation. We just really can’t be sure of much beyond this. Scientists with an agenda state otherwise and the media repeat their claims without examination. Such overstatements have been getting steadily rolled back in the last year or so tarnishing the reputations of once credible institutions.

Even if these alarmist scientist’s claims are completely true there are no feasible economic solutions available to change the situation. Kyoto would sink millions into poverty and spare us less than 1 degree Celsius by 2100.

In short, it’s a problem we’re not really sure to what degree exists that has no solution. That’s my problem with the current tone of the climate change debate.

And as for whether Exxon is credible or not I’m not sure really matters. They sell oil and oil products and do a very good job at it. Scientists should produce good science and Journalists should produce good journalism. They’re not.

Andrew said...

Here's a very recent study that concludes that the IPCC AGW estimates are 63% higher than they should be and that a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere would only result in a 1C increase in global temperature. At current emissions growth rates this is forecast to occur in 2070.

http://www.ecd.bnl.gov/steve/pubs/HeatCapacity.pdf

little dan said...

I think I got something different from that publication. My impression was that the earth is pretty much in equilibrium (water and surface temps balancing). So when there is a forcing the earth responds.

So when we burn stored energy in the form of very old trees and animals faster than they were created that results in more heat being expended now. We are burning more btus.

I don't know how that application of thermodynamics actually impacts the globe, as its definition of a closed system varies, but that notion always sticks out to me.

Even if the author's assumptions are correct that we'll pick up another 1 degree C by 2070, that is about 30 years quicker than it took to raise the previous 1 degree C.

What frustrates me is that when I hear the tandem of "don't know for sure if it is a problem" along with "don't have any solutions".

The "non-existent" solutions to the un-certain problem of global climate change just so happen to solve many of society's problems. By living closer to work you don't drive as much (conserving energy) which also means there can be more time spent at home with loved ones & friends.
Improving energy efficiency at home saves money along with reducing CO2. At this point I really don't like bringing up global warming, it is easier to talk about improving energy efficiency and conservation, knowing in the back of my mind, less CO2 is being produced, just in case there is a problem with too much in the atmosphere.

There has also been a recent trend of people in coal mines not leaving. I don't think renewables are as fatal (as far as a few quick google searches go). Yes they may be more expensive, but that is if you limit the cost to just the dollars involved.

Those are just a few (not new) ideas that happen to improve our way of living and reduce the amount of energy consumed (read: reducing CO2 emissions).

Andrew said...

I think the most salient points of the paper cited above is that the models used by the IPCC are not thermodynamically sound and attribute forcing capabilities to C02 that it does not have. Alarmist Scientists keep changing their arguments to fit short term whether patterns stating most recently that “global warming will hit with a vengeance in 2009’ when this paper states that the total effect of C02 forcing takes place in less that 5 years. Meaning that claims of arbitrary “tipping point” when all hell will break loose due to the sins of our fathers is scientifically baseless. That 1 degree Celsius change in the last 30 years is due to bad math, has been discredited and while the “hockey stick” was used in Gore’s film you won’t see it in the most recent IPCC. Everything points to AGW happening slowly and steadily allowing mankind to adapt to whatever changes occur.

I’ve never advocated just doing what we’re doing now until we finally run out of fossil fuels 100 years from now. My problem is with severe government mandated restrictions on energy usage rather than investing heavily in clean energy technology and letting the market work. Even a policy as climatologically ineffective as Kyoto would slow member nations GDP by 7% and even among those who signed the treaty there isn’t a single nation with a growing economy that is even close to meeting its targets.

To put it another way, lets say that 3 of your uncles died of prostate cancer in their 70’s. Would it make medical sense to have yours removed in your 20’s? Because this is really what we’re talking about with these draconian political solutions to AGW; forging decades of economic growth that could finally lift the developing world out of it’s current Malthusian catastrophe in favor of shaving off a fraction of 1 degree C.

The cost benefit analysis does not make sense.

Andrew said...

Link to "hocky stick" paper

http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/13830/

Andrew said...

Link to Kyoto signatories carbon performance relative to the US.

http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2007_08_19-2007_08_25.shtml#1187709679

little dan said...

The
http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2007_08_19-2007_ link didn't work.. Can you repost?

little dan said...

There is one thing I think that is being overlooked at with all the talk of "only 1 degree" change over X years. That is a little misleading looking only at the midpoint. What concerns me most is the other two ends of that temperature curve. That is where all the damage takes place. You can be concerned with reducing GDP by X% because we impose regulations and whatnot. Look at homeowners insurance, my guess is that it isn't getting any cheaper. Look at entire coast being wiped out. Storms are more severe. Temps are more extreme. Yes, the midpoint is moving a little, but if you had to work outside last winter, it was damn cold. Colder than it has been. There are more and more floods and storms that are wiping out large swaths of land, forest fires and droughts. Yes they happen naturally, but they are happening naturally more often. Looking at only the midpoint is misleading in the actual effects of the climate changing. Those are real and we have to deal with them.

Maybe this is an argument for smart planning (that we should put our homes in smarter places) or reinvesting in old infrastructure (so levies don't fail), and yet, there is consensus that this extreme weather is another symptom of the globe getting a little hotter.

little dan said...

"I’ve never advocated just doing what we’re doing now until we finally run out of fossil fuels 100 years from now. My problem is with severe government mandated restrictions on energy usage rather than investing heavily in clean energy technology and letting the market work."

So just so we're clear: gov't mandated NRG efficiency is bad, but gov't mandated investments in clean NRG is good?

To use your health analogy, rather than eating healthy and small portions, you'd rather continue eating massive meals at Texas Roadhouse (downright huge portions) and fast food as long as you exercise enough to burn the extra calories you've consumed?

How about smaller portions in the first place with less exercise leaving more time to do something other than eat, sleep, and run to burn calories.

"Even a policy as climatologically ineffective as Kyoto would slow member nations GDP by 7% and even among those who signed the treaty there isn’t a single nation with a growing economy that is even close to meeting its targets."

To put it another way, lets say that 3 of your uncles died of prostate cancer in their 70’s. Would it make medical sense to have yours removed in your 20’s?"

I'm not getting this analogy, what is being removed in society?

"Because this is really what we’re talking about with these draconian political solutions to AGW; forging decades of economic growth that could finally lift the developing world out of it’s current Malthusian catastrophe in favor of shaving off a fraction of 1 degree C."

I don't get how our conserving energy negatively impacts developing nations. Please explain.

"The cost benefit analysis does not make sense."

I think my confusion about this last few paragraphs comes from C02 discussions not addressing the sources. Things like Kyoto talk about reducing C02 without addressing what to do to implement it.

So to reduce CO2 here in the U.S., driving less and having increased fuel efficiency would have a large impact. Using less electricity would also have a huge impact.

But you are correct, let the market work. Remove our gasoline subsidies so the price of gas reflects the actual cost and energy conservation will take place. Plug in cars using renewables at residences will become cost effective. A $3000 increase in cost for a hybrid becomes much more cost effective. A $500 decrease in cost for switching from an automatic to a manual transmission is a smart move. Come on you free market people, make it happen! I want $5 gas! How would that impact our GDP?

Andrew said...

“So just so we're clear: gov't mandated NRG efficiency is bad, but gov't mandated investments in clean NRG is good?”

Absolutely not. I’ve never advocated any “government mandates”.

When I say “let the market work”, I mean just that. There are lots of technologies that are rapidly maturing that will eventually allow the wholesale transition away from fossil fuels. For example the photovoltaic industry is currently growing at a 45% annual rate and will be competitive with coal by 2014. That date would only move out if the economy slowed.

The prostate analogy was intended to highlight the absurdity of climate change initiatives like Kyoto; a policy that would result in far more misery what it could possibly alleviate in much the same way being potentially incontinent for 50 years would be idiotic simply to avert the possibility of getting a highly treatable cancer.

This is a global economy. Everyone’s fortunes are inextricably linked and the US economy is the economic engine that keeps that has kept the world fortunes improving for the last 60 years. When the US falters, foreign direct investment plunges. Americans may be forced reduce their Starbuck’s habit but South American coffee farmers will starve.

The gains in productivity that are necessary to increase the standard of living for everyone can only come through massive investment which can ONLY be financed through continued economic growth. Economic growth is measured in an increase supply of goods and services which will inevitably result in increased energy use. This is not a bad thing.

The reason homeowners insurance is getting more expensive is because:

1.) People are building more expensive homes
2.) Homes are being built increasingly in dangerous areas.

I agree that federal oil subsidies need to end but they only account for $6 billion dollars total. In 1997 federal fuel tax revenues exceeded $9 billion. I’d say the two offset. The price of gas is free of government distortion. Five dollar gas will come but hopefully investments in new technology made by then will bring market alternatives online. In any event vehicle traffic only accounts for 6% of all greenhouse emissions so driving less would have a negligible impact.

I’m not sure there is any scientific evidence to support your assertion that there is a relationship between increased temperature variability and global warming. The only thing attributable to global warming that could possibly result in localized colder weather would be the disruption of ocean currents that keep countries at high latitudes warm – like the English Isles. Any possibility of this happening in the next 100 years was dismissed however in the last IPCC report.