Free Markets, Free People
While what David Rose of the Mail calls “another giant, 15,000 delegate UN climate jamboree” is underway in Cancun Mexico, the British press is hard at it again, pointing out that in the world of AGW there’s just no “there there”. As an example, Rose and others point to the Met Office and its claims:
A year ago tomorrow, just before the opening of the UN Copenhagen world climate summit, the British Meteorological Office issued a confident prediction. The mean world temperature for 2010, it announced, ‘is expected to be 14.58C, the warmest on record’ – a deeply worrying 0.58C above the 1961-1990 average.
World temperatures, it went on, were locked inexorably into an ever-rising trend: ‘Our experimental decadal forecast confirms previous indications that about half the years 2010-2019 will be warmer than the warmest year observed so far – 1998.’
Met Office officials openly boasted that they hoped by their statements to persuade the Copenhagen gathering to impose new and stringent carbon emission limits – an ambition that was not to be met.
Never mind that Britain, just as it was last winter and the winter before, was deep in the grip of a cold snap, which has seen some temperatures plummet to minus 20C, and that here 2010 has been the coolest year since 1996.
Globally, it insisted, 2010 was still on course to be the warmest or second warmest year since current records began.
But buried amid the details of those two Met Office statements 12 months apart lies a remarkable climbdown that has huge implications – not just for the Met Office, but for debate over climate change as a whole.
Read carefully with other official data, they conceal a truth that for some, to paraphrase former US VicePresident Al Gore, is really inconvenient: for the past 15 years, global warming has stopped.
Of course, that won’t stop the “jamboree” from recommending the looting of the “richer” nations to help the “poorer” nations with “global warming”. After all, that’s what the meeting is really all about. Just as Democrats are all about income redistribution and “taxing the rich” in this country, their counterparts in the world body are obsessed with the same. AGW is the perfect pseudo-scientific cause on which to pin the extortion.
In fact, say the Brits, 2010 was an “unexceptional El Nino” year.
As for that infamous “scientific consensus?” Not so much any more:
But little by little, the supposedly settled scientific ‘ consensus’ that the temperature rise is unprecedented, that it is set to continue to disastrous levels, and that it is all the fault of human beings, is starting to fray.
Earlier this year, a paper by Michael Mann – for years a leading light in the IPCC, and the author of the infamous ‘hockey stick graph’ showing flat temperatures for 2,000 years until the recent dizzying increase – made an extraordinary admission: that, as his critics had always claimed, there had indeed been a ‘ medieval warm period’ around 1000 AD, when the world may well have been hotter than it is now.
Other research is beginning to show that cyclical changes in water vapour – a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – may account for much of the 20th Century warming.
Even Phil Jones, the CRU director at the centre of last year’s ‘Climategate’ leaked email scandal, was forced to admit in a littlenoticed BBC online interview that there has been ‘no statistically significant warming’ since 1995.
That’s not to say the true believers (or deceivers, take your pick) aren’t going to continue to try – especially with the “jamboree” going on. Christopher Booker of the Telegraph reports:
Between their tequilas and lavish meals paid for by the world’s taxpayers, they heard how, by 2060, global temperatures will have risen by 4 degrees Celsius; how the Maldives and Tuvalu are sinking below the waves faster than ever; how the survival of salmon is threatened by CO2-induced acidification of the oceans; how the UN must ban incandescent light bulbs throughout the world.
“Scientists”, we were told, are calling for everyone to be issued with a “carbon ration card”, to halt all Western economic growth for 20 years.
Meanwhile, Dr Rajendra Pachauri was telling us that we must spend hundreds of billions on covering the world’s oceans with iron filings, on building giant mirrors out in space and on painting all the world’s roofs white to keep out the heat from the sun.
The most obvious thing about all this ritualised scaremongering was how stale it all was. Not one of these points hasn’t been a cliche for years.The only scientist who believes we should all be issued with carbon ration cards is a Prof Kevin Anderson, who has been saying it since 2004. It is only those same old computer models that predict that Tuvalu and the Maldives are about to drown, when real measurements show the sea around them not to be rising at all. Far from the oceans acidifying, their pH currently ranges between 7.9 and 8.3, putting them very firmly on the alkaline side of the threshold, at 7.0.
The prediction that global temperatures will rise by four degrees in 50 years comes from that same UK Met Office computer which five weeks ago was telling us we were about to enjoy a “milder than average” winter, after three years when it has consistently got every one of its winter and summer forecasts hopelessly wrong. (And the reason why our local authorities are already fast running out of salt is that they were silly enough to believe them.)
Wonderful stuff, eh? Oh, and speaking of the Met Office’s ‘mild winter prediction’ even when wrong “scientists” see an opportunity to push the AGW argument:
RESEARCHERS have warned the last three winters’ cold spells could be a taste of things to come for Wales – with even a chance glaciers could return to Snowdon within 40 years.
According to one theory, global warming could paradoxically trigger a collapse in temperatures in Western Europe.
There’s always that “one theory” which will, even paradoxically, doggedly try to pin even bitterly cold temperatures on “global warming”. It’s a religion, I tell you, not science.
Some truths most of us have learned while following this is 1) the real science is far from settled, 2) the climate is far more complex and still barely understood, and consequently the present day computer models and their predictions are less than useless, 3) the fact that temperatures have remained flat over the past 15 years with a slight trend toward cooling has blown the predictive models out of the water, 4) until there is much better science (and if based in models, models that can at least replicate past climate results) no major public policy initiatives – initiatives that would most likely spend money we don’t have and have a crippling effect on the economy – should be undertaken. And finally 5) alternative renewable and clean energy sources should be pursued with vigor, but until they’re viable and cheap, traditional fuel sources should be exploited to the maximum (with government getting the heck out of the way).
Of course the Third World Debating Society, aka the UN, won’t leave this scam alone until they manage to rope the richer nations into it and bleed them of a few hundred billion or so. If ever there was a time to adapt the Nancy Reagan drug slogan to other duty it is now.
“Just say ‘no’.”
In case you missed it, this weekend all those who’ve made an industry of global warming climate change will be gathering in Cancun, Mexico to again try and find a way to tax the world into submission based on dubious science and and obvious political agenda.
Apparently, faced with the fact that the Goreish climatic apocalypse warnings have mostly been refuted and in the wake of Climate-gate, it appears the reaction of warmists is to again ratchet up the scare factor.
In a series of papers published by the Royal Society, physicists and chemists from some of world’s most respected scientific institutions, including Oxford University and the Met Office, agreed that current plans to tackle global warming are not enough.
Unless emissions are reduced dramatically in the next ten years the world is set to see temperatures rise by more than 4C (7.2F) by as early as the 2060s, causing floods, droughts and mass migration.
Of course readers here are familiar with the arguments (and the fact that the Met office admitted to serious problems with its temperature data used as a base for previous projections) and the fact that skeptics seem to be winning the day. As mentioned in a previous post, the public’s belief in the science supporting the warmist cause has dropped to an all time low, with a vast majority now seeing no reason to engage in cap-and-trade to tax emissions of CO2.
So the answer, of course, is to make the consequences of ignoring the warmists seem worse. We’re now likely to see 7.2F increases as soon as 2060 if we don’t do what they want now!
Oh, and by the way, rich nations, here’s more that you should do:
In one paper Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said the only way to reduce global emissions enough, while allowing the poor nations to continue to grow, is to halt economic growth in the rich world over the next twenty years.
This would mean a drastic change in lifestyles for many people in countries like Britain as everyone will have to buy less ‘carbon intensive’ goods and services such as long haul flights and fuel hungry cars.
Prof Anderson admitted it “would not be easy” to persuade people to reduce their consumption of goods.
He said politicians should consider a rationing system similar to the one introduced during the last “time of crisis” in the 1930s and 40s.
This could mean a limit on electricity so people are forced to turn the heating down, turn off the lights and replace old electrical goods like huge fridges with more efficient models. Food that has travelled from abroad may be limited and goods that require a lot of energy to manufacture.
“The Second World War and the concept of rationing is something we need to seriously consider if we are to address the scale of the problem we face,” he said.
Or said another way “let’s do a wartime command economy” among the rich nations, because command economies works so well history tells us. Meanwhile China and India? Keep on keeping on. And don’t worry, our eminent scientist tells us it won’t be so bad:
Prof Anderson insisted that halting growth in the rich world does not necessarily mean a recession or a worse lifestyle, it just means making adjustments in everyday life such as using public transport and wearing a sweater rather than turning on the heating.
“I am not saying we have to go back to living in caves,” he said. “Our emissions were a lot less ten years ago and we got by ok then.”
You know, I’ve always thought scientists should stick to science and let the politicians concentrate on political agendas. Someone – anyone – tell me this isn’t “science” wrapped in politics? And surprise – the agenda will cost you money, freedom and the ability to live the lifestyle you now live.
All for a trace amount of a trace gas that until recently has always been found by science to be a lagging indicator of warming.
You may remember this line from President Obama’s inaugural speech: " We will restore science to its rightful place … "?
The implication, of course, is that science had been held hostage to politics and that was no longer going to be tolerated.
Well, until it was necessary to skew it to support Obama’s political agenda, that is:
The White House rewrote crucial sections of an Interior Department report to suggest an independent group of scientists and engineers supported a six-month ban on offshore oil drilling, the Interior inspector general says in a new report. In the wee hours of the morning of May 27, a staff member to White House energy adviser Carol Browner sent two edited versions of the department report’s executive summary back to Interior. The language had been changed to insinuate the seven-member panel of outside experts – who reviewed a draft of various safety recommendations – endorsed the moratorium, according to the IG report obtained by POLITICO.
Of course the usual suspects claim no intention of mislead exists. That it was just part of the "normal editing process".
“At 2:13 a.m. on May 27, 2010, Browner’s staff member sent an e-mail back to Black that contained two versions of the executive summary,” the IG report states. “Both versions sent by the staff member contained significant edits to DOI’s draft executive summary but were very similar to each other.
“Both versions, however, revised and re-ordered the executive summary, placing the peer review language immediately following the moratorium recommendation causing the distinction between the secretary’s moratorium recommendation – which had not been peer-reviewed – and the recommendations contained in the 30-Day Report – which had been peer-reviewed – to become effectively lost.” [emphasis mine]
Unless you’re a totally inept editor and not able to read for comprehension, this should have been obvious to everyone involved. The IG figured it out. Why didn’t Browner and Salazar?
Because, most likely, it said what they wanted said (implications included) exactly as they wanted it said so they could support the position they had already decided was necessary.
But the denial, as absurd as it is, continues:
Black said he didn’t have any issues with the White House edit; he and his staffer both told the IG it never occurred to them that an objective reader would conclude that peer reviewers had supported the six-month moratorium.
Really? Seriously? Well what about the "objective" readers on the panel:
Nevertheless, Interior apologized to the peer reviewers in early June after some of them complained they were used to support the controversial ban. Salazar also held a conference call with the peer reviewers and met personally with some of them.
Obviously their "objective" reading of the executive summary caused them to conclude otherwise, didn’t it?
Glad to see science is back in the position the president promised it would be under his administration.
Change – a wonderful thing to behold, huh?
The New York Times editorializes today on the fact that many of the Republicans running for Senate who have a good chance to win reject the notion of man-made global warming. The canard used is a familiar one:
The candidates are not simply rejecting solutions, like putting a price on carbon, though these, too, are demonized. They are re-running the strategy of denial perfected by Mr. Cheney a decade ago, repudiating years of peer-reviewed findings about global warming and creating an alternative reality in which climate change is a hoax or conspiracy.
Really? Or are they instead, like Carly Fiorina, “not sure”. I’m certainly not sure. And neither is science if you actually take the time to look into it. There’s more and more coming out daily about the uncertainty within the scientific community that anything that has been theorized before is correct. There is no “consensus” except in the propaganda cobbled together in the politically driven and discredited IPCC report.
So do I think it is a purposeful hoax? Not in the beginning, but now you have to wonder as those who’ve been shown their “science” is deficient appear to want to double-down. Is it a conspiracy? Not as one is generally thought of but again, as this continues and more comes out about this subject, the less credible those who claim previous findings are settled science appear.
For instance, speaking of peer reviewed work, this study recently came to light (check out the excellent graphic at the link):
In “Short-lived uncertainty?” Joyce E. Penner et al. note that several short-lived atmospheric pollutants—such as methane, tropospheric ozone precursors and black-carbon aerosols—contribute to atmospheric warming while others, particularly scattering aerosols, cool the climate. Figuring out exactly how great the impacts of these other forcings are can radically change the way historical climate change is interpreted. So great is the uncertainty that the IPCC’s future climate predictions, which are all based on biased assumptions about climate sensitivity, are most certainly untrustworthy. As stated in the article:
It is at present impossible to accurately determine climate sensitivity (defined as the equilibrium warming in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations) from past records, partly because carbon dioxide and short-lived species have increased together over the industrial era. Warming over the past 100 years is consistent with high climate sensitivity to atmospheric carbon dioxide combined with a large cooling effect from short-lived aerosol pollutants, but it could equally be attributed to a low climate sensitivity coupled with a small effect from aerosols. These two possibilities lead to very different projections for future climate change.
Again we see science noting that as we get more and more into the details of climate, we find we know much less than we thought. Hardly "settled science" then. Dr. Penner goes on to point out the complexity of climate science and what they’re just now learning and what is still unknown:
Of the short-lived species, methane, tropospheric ozone and black carbon are key contributors to global warming, augmenting the radiative forcing of carbon dioxide by 65%. Others—such as sulphate, nitrate and organic aerosols—cause a negative radiative forcing, offsetting a fraction of the warming owing to carbon dioxide. Yet other short-lived species, such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds, can modify the abundance of both the climate-warming and climate-cooling compounds, and thereby affect climate change.
Quantifying the combined impact of short-lived species on Earth’s radiative forcing is complex. Short-lived pollutants—particularly those with an atmospheric lifetime of less than two months—tend to be poorly mixed, and concentrate close to their sources. This uneven distribution, combined with physical and chemical heterogeneities in the atmosphere, means that the impact of short-lived species on radiative forcing can vary by more than a factor of ten with location or time of emission. The situation is further complicated by nonlinear chemical reactions between short-lived species in polluted areas, as well as by the interactions of clouds with aerosols and ozone. These processes add further uncertainty to the estimates of radiative forcing.
What she’s basically saying is they’re just now actually beginning to identify and get into all the complexities that are the climate. They’re discovering variables that can either intensify or mitigate. They can also heat or cool. And sometimes the same variable can do both. If anyone thinks the models that have been cited as the basis of the "settled science" used all these variables and used them correctly, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in buying.
Which brings us back to point one – the NYT claiming that the GOP are deniers and implying they’re anti-science. No, they’re just not as gullible as the NYT and many on the left who want believe that man is ruining the planet and see it as a justification for even more government control of our lives. They’re skeptics – thank goodness – as are most respectable and reputable scientists. Climate science, as Dr. Penner’s work points out, is in its infancy. Making policy decisions based on questionable science is a fool’s work. Thankfully the GOP has realized this and taken a stand against rushing into horribly expensive solutions which will hurt the economy and further extend the government’s already extensive intrusion into our lives.
I’ll say this now – if and when science – and not the climate hustlers of today – is able to prove to my satisfaction that a) man has a significant role in climate change and b) changing behavior would be beneficial and something that could actually be accomplished without impoverishing the world, I’ll listen. Until then, I remain a skeptic – and the more new science I see, the more I think I’m right to be a skeptic.
Bill McKibben wonders why the right is so down on man-made global warming. He’s convinced it’s the hottest thing to come along politically since woman’s suffrage. What is it we folks on the right don’t get? Or is it we have a vested interest in other things that run contrary to wanting to see this problem solved.
Hmmm. First, I’ve always believed that climate change occurs. It seems to me that the left has suddenly awakened in a world in which the climate is changing for the first time. Obviously that’s not the case and, as someone said, the only thing consistent about the climate is change. So to address an implied question of the McKibben piece, the right certainly understands and accepts climate change as a reality of life.
However, that brings us to the second question – how significant is man’s part? That’s where we differ. Most of those who are skeptics question the science that claims man’s part is significant – more significant than the natural forces out there such as the sun and clouds and, well, just about everything else. Add into that the fact that the present “science” claims that a trace gas of which we add a trace amount is the one primary reason for the rise in global temperature.
Uh, yeah, still not buying. Factor in that until science decided otherwise, that gas was a trailing indicator of warming – not a cause. There in a nutshell is the objection to the thesis that says any warming (or cooling apparently) is caused by man. And we further object to the notion that if we would just stop emitting carbon (something that is and has been an integral part of our lives since our species emerged) all this would be fine.
McKibben is sure, at least on the political side, that it’s all about the right and oil:
One crude answer is money. The fossil fuel industry has deep wells of it—no business in history has been as profitable as finding, refining, and combusting coal, oil, and gas. Six of the ten largest companies on earth are in the fossil-fuel business. Those companies have spent some small part of their wealth in recent years to underwrite climate change denialism …
But as most know who keep up with this, their contributions pale into significance with the government grant money that has flowed unceasingly to the other side for years. And, many claim, that’s had a significant part in corrupting the science. The most recent to say this is Professor Harold Lewis:
A TOP American professor has quit a prestigious academic body after claiming that global warming has become a “scam” driven by “trillions of dollars” which has “corrupted” scientists.
Professor Harold Lewis, 87, described his “revulsion” at last year’s leaked “Climategate” emails which appeared to show scientists at East Anglia’s world-leading Climate Research Unit rigging evidence in favour of man-made climate change.
He branded man-made climate change “the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud” he has ever seen.
The scientists involved have been cleared of wrongdoing by a series of investigations. But Prof Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has formally resigned from the American Physical Society after nearly 70 years as a member.
He claims that the APS, the society for America’s top physicists, has refused to engage in proper scientific debate about climate change and ignored climate sceptics.
McKibben offers a second reason.
Conservatives possess some new information about climate science. That would sure be nice—but sadly, it’s wrong. It’s the same tiny bunch of skeptics being quoted by right-wing blogs. None are doing new research that casts the slightest doubt on the scientific consensus that’s been forming for two decades, a set of conclusions that grows more robust with every issue of Science and Nature and each new temperature record.
After telling us it is a massive conspiracy funded by the oil companies, we’re told that it’s just a tiny bunch of contrarians doing no research. And note how he swings the phrase “scientific consensus” around. Really, how 20th century is that? I thought by now even the most ardent of warmists had figured out that real science has nothing to to with “consensus”.
Finally – note that he simply ignores those recent findings that destroy his hypothesis that no new research supports the skeptical side. Except of course that which has talked about sun spots, the fact that there’s been no real warming over the last ten years and the trend is toward a colder climate, not a warmer one. Skip all that and he may have a point.
But mischaracterization by McKibben isn’t confined to just global warming. He even mischaracterizes the right’s role in the civil rights movement – a common and easily rectified mistake if one would only do some research. Speaking here about a recent poll of conservatives who found Jimmy Carter to be one of the worst presidents ever, he says:
If Jimmy Carter was the worst guy the country ever produced, we’re doing pretty well—but surely it was his nagging reminders that there were limits to our national power that account for his ranking. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote an embarrassed piece earlier this fall about the failure of conservatives to take climate change seriously—it was the ’70s, “a great decade for apocalyptic enthusiasms,” that turned many of them off, he concluded. That’s not much of an argument—it’s like saying “conservatives mostly got it wrong on civil rights, so let’s never listen to them again about liberty and freedom.”
But, of course, conservatives didn’t get it mostly wrong about civil rights – their vote was the critical part of passing the legislation that Democrats tried to filibuster and block. Yes, they were “Southern Democrats”, but they certainly weren’t “conservatives”, i.e. “the right”.
Anyway, this all boils down to McKibben wanting a carbon tax and assuring us that if we’d do that and do it quickly we’d probably be 90% of the way to solving the problem. Of course, no word from the sun as to whether it would cooperate if we’d just take a bit more money into government for our emissions. After McKibben chastises his lefty friends for their desire to do away with the internal combustion engine, he gives us this simplistic “solution” in its place. And then wonders about the right’s skepticism?
Finally McKibben appeals to the tradition of right intellectualism hoping that it will reassert itself and go along with the Chicken Little faction. I wonder – given his obvious unfamiliarity with the real arguments of the right and the science that supports it if perhaps that intellectualism has already “asserted” itself and is calling on the left to do the same.
Don’t hold your breath.
Lots to comment on, little time in which to do it (it is a holiday weekend after all). But here are some stories that caught my eye that I may do a more extensive commentary on at a future date.
Thomas Friedman pens a column in which he explores what it will mean if America is no longer the superpower of the world. Quoting Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert, he makes the case that our debt and the subsequent frugality it will require is essentially going to make us retrench and probably withdraw much of our foreign aid (not just money, but troops and fleets, etc., which have helped keep the peace over the years). He notes that when Great Britain gave up its “global governance role”, the US stepped in. The question is, when the US pulls back and creates the expected power vacuum, what country will try to fill the role?
After all, Europe is rich but wimpy. China is rich nationally but still dirt poor on a per capita basis and, therefore, will be compelled to remain focused inwardly and regionally. Russia, drunk on oil, can cause trouble but not project power. “Therefore, the world will be a more disorderly and dangerous place,” Mandelbaum predicts.
Cast your eyes toward a the Middle East. While Turkey and Iran don’t have what it takes to step into the shoes the US has filled, each certainly feel that the withdrawal of us influence presages a much greater leadership role for them in their respective region. China may feel the same thing about the Far East. Friedman concludes:
An America in hock will have no hawks — or at least none that anyone will take seriously.
That’s true, I believe – at least while a Democrat is in the White House or Democrats control Congress – not because they’re suddenly frugal, but because they’d prefer to spend the money on other things.
But this is my favorite paragraph:
America is about to learn a very hard lesson: You can borrow your way to prosperity over the short run but not to geopolitical power over the long run. That requires a real and growing economic engine. And, for us, the short run is now over. There was a time when thinking seriously about American foreign policy did not require thinking seriously about economic policy. That time is also over.
Some of us Americans have know this was a probable result for years. Welcome on board, Mr. Friedman. It’s about freakin’ time.
If you read no other column today, read George Will’s about the global warming industry.
The collapsing crusade for legislation to combat climate change raises a question: Has ever a political movement made so little of so many advantages? Its implosion has continued since "the Cluster of Copenhagen, when world leaders assembled for the single most unproductive and chaotic global gathering ever held." So says Walter Russell Mead, who has an explanation: Bambi became Godzilla.
In essence, it’s analogous to something else we discussed not to long ago, the UAW is now "management". Will’s point is the former "skeptics" – environmentalists – are now the establishment. Funny how that works.
According to the New York Times, Democratic leaders are in the middle of doing what can only be characterized as “political triage” concerning the upcoming House mid-term elections. Reality, as they say, has finally penetrated the happy talk and leaders are taking a brutal look at the chances of all their House members:
In the next two weeks, Democratic leaders will review new polls and other data that show whether vulnerable incumbents have a path to victory. If not, the party is poised to redirect money to concentrate on trying to protect up to two dozen lawmakers who appear to be in the strongest position to fend off their challengers.
My guess is the Blue Dog contingent is about to be cut loose. The leadership probably figures that losing those seat isn’t as big a problem as losing seats in which automatic votes for whatever the leadership puts forward are assured. That would be members of the Progressive caucus and the Congressional Black caucus for instance. The good news for Democrats is most of them are found in what are considered “safe” districts. So they’ll go in the “will live with minimal treatment” category.
The Blue Dogs will most likely go into the “mortal” category and receive little money or backing. They’ll simply let them die, politically It is those in the big middle, in perhaps marginal districts that could go either way or those who’ve survived tight races previously in districts that may lean slightly to the Democratic side which will get the money. These “critical but can be saved” members will get the lion’s share of the money and support allocated for the mid-terms.
Whether they can save enough of them to avoid the magic 39 seats the GOP needs, however, remains to be seen. My guess is it would require a miracle – and possibly that would require some of the Blue Dogs to squeak out a victory. But if those patients are left to pass quietly away when some might have been saved, the Dems may rue the day they decided to pitch them outside the tent and leave them to be brutalized by the political elements. Or said another way – the Dems may outsmart themselves, this strategy could easily blow up badly in their faces and it may be they that assure the 39th seat by not fighting for all of them.
That’s the basic message our friend Warren Meyers (of Coyote Blog and now Forbes) makes in an article. His points are not only good, but valid. And if one thinks about how inaccurate the models we’ve seen drive debate and spending are, we’d insist on better data before those decisions are made.
Meyer points out that there are few, if any CEOs in non-financial firms who would invest a penny based solely on computer models. Yet we have this propensity to place much more confidence in models that have done nothing to earn that confidence than they deserve.
Last week the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) released its congressionally commissioned study on the effects of the 2009 stimulus. The panel concluded that the stimulus had created as many as 3.6 million jobs, an odd result given the economy as a whole actually lost something like 1.5 million jobs in the same period. To reach its conclusions, the panel ran a series of complex macroeconomic models to estimate economic growth assuming the stimulus had not been passed. Their results showed employment falling by over 5 million jobs in this hypothetical scenario, an eyebrow-raising result that is impossible to verify with actual observations.
Not only is it impossible to verify, it was issued as a defacto “truth” and the “stimulus” was declared a “success”. And don’t forget the inclusion, now, of one of the world’s best weasle words to pad the results – jobs “saved”. However the administration goes to great lengths to ignore its previous claim that if the “stimulus” was passed, unemployment wouldn’t rise above 8%. One has to guess, given the results, that the computer model was wrong about that.
Meyer goes on to point out how the modeling which can’t predict the complex world of economics, is somehow considered the “gold-standard” of predictability when it comes to the exponentially more complex climate. So much so that governments everywhere are basing trillions of dollars of taxes (cap-and-trade) on the results of such models in an supposed effort to “save the planet”.
While we have been bombarded with hockey sticks and forlorn polar bears, our focus in climate should really be on the computer models. The primary scientific case for man-made CO2 as the main driver of global temperatures is made in exactly the same way that the stimulus was determined to have created 3.6 million jobs: computer modeling. No one yet has been clever enough to structure a controlled experiment to isolate the effect of rising CO2 levels from other changing variables in the complex global climate. So, just like the CEA did in scoring the stimulus, climate scientists use computer models to run virtual experiments, running the models backward over the last century with varying assumptions for CO2 levels.
This modeling approach yields amazingly circular logic. Like macroeconomic models built by devoted Keynesians, climate models are constructed by academics who passionately believe that a single variable, CO2 concentration, is the dominant driver of the whole complex climate system. When run retrospectively, the models they create unsurprisingly give the result that past temperature increases are mainly attributable to CO2. The problem with these models is that when run forward, as in the case of the Washington Redskins election model, they do a terrible job of predicting the future. None of them, for example, predicted the flattening of global temperatures over the last decade.
Yet policy has been proposed and written based on results that are nonverifiable and questionable at best. That’s insanity. But the purported case for using the results is if we wait for real data it may be too late. But when the real data appears (such as the flattening of global temps for this past decade) the modelers and proponents of the government action want to ignore it and deny its importance.
This all goes back to two themes I’ve been hammering for quite some time – common sense and scientific skepticism. Both are necessary tools of a rational person. And Meyers nails the point:
Our common sense about government stimulus tells us that the government is highly unlikely to invest money more productively than the private entities from whom the government took the money. Unfortunately, we have allowed this common sense to be trumped by computer models. Once our imperfect understanding the economy was laundered through computer models and presented with two-decimal precision, smart people somehow lost their skepticism.
We are now facing what is potentially an even more expensive decision: to regulate CO2 based mainly on computer models that claim to be able to separate the effects of trace concentrations of CO2 from a hundred other major climate variables. If your common sense is whispering to you that this seems crazy, listen to it. Otherwise all we get is garbage in, money out.
The “garbage in” should be obvious. Unfortunately, the “money out” is money coming out of your wallet to pay for unproven science and unfounded economic models.
It’s a fairly obvious reason that Kenneth P. Green and Hiwa Alaghebandian, writing in the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute, point to as the problem – in some areas, science and scientists have gone from being neutral observers of facts and purveyors of information developed through the scientific method to attempting to assume an authoritarian and activist role in our lives. Not all of science, obviously, but certainly a visible and loud minority. And that causes problems for all of science:
In the past, scientists were generally neutral on questions of what to do. Instead, they just told people what they found, such as “we have discovered that smoking vastly increases your risk of lung cancer” or “we have discovered that some people will have adverse health effects from consuming high levels of salt.” Or “we have found that obesity increases your risk of coronary heart disease.” Those were simply neutral observations that people could find empowering, useful, interesting, etc., but did not place demands on them. In fact, this kind of objectivity was the entire basis for trusting scientific claims.
But along the way, an assortment of publicity-seeking, and often socially activist, scientists stopped saying, “Here are our findings. Read it and believe.” Instead, activist scientists such as NASA’s James Hansen, heads of quasi-scientific governmental organizations such as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, editors of major scientific journals, and heads of the various national scientific academies are more inclined to say, “Here are our findings, and those findings say that you must change your life in this way, that way, or the other way.”
The two authors took a look at phrases scientists have been quoted as using over the years in statements they’ve released or how the media has interpreted them. And make no mistake – in many cases the media aided and abetted these activist scientists.
So here’s what they found:
[A]round the end of the 1980s, science (at least science reporting) took on a distinctly authoritarian tone. Whether because of funding availability or a desire by some senior academics for greater relevance, or just the spread of activism through the university, scientists stopped speaking objectively and started telling people what to do. And people don’t take well to that, particularly when they’re unable to evaluate the information that supposedly requires them to give up their SUV, their celebratory cigar, or their chicken nuggets.
In essence we had the confluence of “save the world” journalism meeting activist “save the world” scientists and the result was more agenda driven partisanship (and partnership) than objectivity. Some scientists felt compelled to save us from ourselves and many journalists shared that desire. The most obvious result of that has been the sham science of “global warming”.
The authors conclude by pointing out how science has, in some cases, become the “regulatory state’s” lap dog and what it has to do to redeem itself:
If science wants to redeem itself and regain its place with the public’s affection, scientists need to come out every time some politician says, “The science says we must…” and reply, “Science only tells us what is. It does not, and can never tell us what we should or must do.” If they say that often enough, and loudly enough, they might be able to reclaim the mantle of objectivity that they’ve given up over the last 40 years by letting themselves become the regulatory state’s ultimate appeal to authority.
They’re absolutely right – and, every time we see an activist scientist getting into the “what we must or should do” nonsense, we need to call him or her on it. And we need to continue to be highly skeptical of the state’s appeal to science as the final authority when doing so is decidedly in the state’s favor.
Or as you know them, soda’s, energy and sports drinks and fruit juices.
• A tax-induced 20-percent increase in the price of caloric sweetened beverages could reduce net calorie intake from all beverages by 37 calories per day for the average adult. The effects for children were estimated to be larger—an average reduction of 43 calories per day.
• By assuming that 1 pound of body fat has about 3,500 calories, and assuming all else remains equal, the daily calorie reductions would translate into an average reduction of 3.8 pounds over a year for adults and 4.5 pounds over a year for children.
• The weight loss induced by the tax could reduce the overweight prevalence among adults from 66.9 to 62.4 percent and the prevalence of obesity from 33.4 to 30.4 percent. For children, the at-risk-of-overweight prevalence would decline from 32.2 to 27.0 percent and the overweight prevalence would decline from 16.6 to 13.7 percent.
Let me summarize – a 20% tax would reduce consumption of these beverages enough to take “37 calories a day” out of your diet. That resulting net loss of 37 calories would average 3.8 pounds for year and take the overweight population from 66.9% to 62.7%.
Really? 37 calories a day – the amount of calories you burn getting off your fat behind and walking to the fridge for another soda? Overweight people normally ingest more calories a day than they burn. And that caloric intake is usually well over 2,000 calories a day. 37 calories? That’s a third of a granola bar, for heaven sake.
This is science?
Oh, wait – a couple of qualifiers:
1. A large group of individuals are overweight or obese by only a few pounds, and a small reduction in calorie intake could change their weight classification; and
2. Many overweight and obese Americans consume large amounts of caloric sweetened beverages. For example, 10.6 percent of overweight adults consumed more than 450 calories per day from caloric sweetened beverages— nearly three times the average amount of 152 calories consumed by adults.
And, of course, it is the job of government to help tax these people into a new weight classification? Well of course it is – Congress just gave themselves the power to make it their business.
Of course this 37 calorie drop a day assumes that a) overweight people won’t change a thing other than dropping the consumption of “caloric sweetened beverages”, b) won’t attempt to fulfill their desire for sugary food with something else or c) won’t grudgingly pay the tax and continue their consumption habits . The further assumption, of course, is they’ll lose the weight as a result of the negative incentive provided by a 20% tax.
Not only are these people marginal scientists, they seem to know very little about human nature. On top of that, they certainly don’t seem to understand the political blowback something like this is likely to have.
But, just the fact that the USDA is dabbling in studies about taxing sugary drinks should tell you all you need to know about the continued intrusive depths to which government now plans to go to regulate everything in your life.
Freedom means the freedom to succeed and to fail. It means as long as you aren’t violating or intruding on someone else’s rights, you can pretty much do whatever you want – to include get fat on sugary drinks. What it doesn’t mean is some outside agency deciding what is or isn’t good or healthy for you and deciding to tax you into the behavior it deems proper.
But that’s precisely what this “study” is all about.
Freedom is becoming a rare commodity in this land, and we need to understand that and fight against any and all attempted intrusions no matter how trivial or seemingly well intentioned. Allowing the incremental encroachment of government in all areas of our lives is the sure way to kill freedom and put us well on the road to serfdom.