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Friday, July 5, 2013

The Climate Science "Napkin Presentation"

Dr. J discusses climate science over cocktails:
Regarding global warming, Dr. J. pointed out that they were not integrating all of the data into their model, and given that the jury is still out with regard to causation (as correlation does not equate with causation) and given the fragile nature of our economy, unilateral energy-policy disarmament would equate with economic suicide with dire consequences for the middle class, who already struggle to heat and cool their homes and fill their tanks with gas.


At that point Dr. J.'s colleague brought up the Patriots prospects for the remainder of the football season.
And the Czar of Muscovy brings his cold, gimlet eye (do doubt fortified with a Gimlet or two) to the subject.

So what do you do when you find yourself - as Dr. J did - congregating with intelligent, educated people who spout the usual ignorant climate party line?  Having a "Napkin Presentation" that you can draw out on a cocktail napkin as you lead them (logically) through your climate science position would certainly be a plus, no?

As a, err, public service, I humbly offer said climate science Napkin Presentation.  It also lets me toss up a boffo post in a trice as I head out the door to get my Motorcycle Operator's Permit.  Offered for your consideration (and hopefully future use in Saloons all over the Globe), the Climate Science Napkin Presentation.

(Originally posted 14 May 2010)

So Joe Lieberman and John Kerry have introduced a Cap-and-Trade bill in the Senate, despite the fact that it's been coughing up blood for months, despite the massive fraud in the European Carbon trading markets, despite its unpopularity among environmental groups, and despite the developing world's refusal to participate.

The press, as usual, is nowhere to be found with the hard questions. We'll come to why in a bit, but the lack of fear of the electorate that Congress is displaying demands that we cut through the fog to expose the real motivations at work. The best exposition on this was last November by the Pedant-General at The Devil's Kitchen. It is, alas, lost to the world. I'm recreating it here from memory and from scraps I had saved (the graphics are mostly from his original post).

It's important to understand that this is the Pedant-General's thinking, not mine. I think it's likely the smartest thing written on the politics of climate change, but what follows is my reconstruction, seen through the Glass darkly. My thoughts are on the dodgy science of global warming, not the politics, although I'll go into this a bit at the end.

The discussion of global warming really doesn't end with scientists in white lab coats solemnly pronouncing The Truth; it begins at that point. We would then need discussions of possible solutions, which means engineering analysis. Then we need Economists to perform cost/benefit calculations. Only then should politicians enter the discussion, assuming that it gets that far. The analysis tree looks like this (click to enbiggen):

Rather a lot, really, but let's take it step by step from the upper left to the lower right. It starts with a simple, basic question: Have we ever seen anything like this in the past? If we have, then what's happening now can't be unprecedented, duh; nothing to see here, move along. Of course, the Medieval Warm Period certainly makes this look, err, precedented, which may be while we see so much handwaving trying to make it go away. But even if we grant for the purposes of argument that the current situation may be unprecedented, we're still very much at the beginning of our analysis. It's terribly important at this point to understand why - scientifically understand, mind. We absolutely have to understand whether any change is being caused by man. If we don't know, the guys in the white lab coats need to keep working until we do. Otherwise, we can't know what to do.

For example, if the hypothetical change is being caused by changes in solar radiation, it would be very likely that our only option is to adapt to the changing climate. I mean, short of getting Chuck Norris to turn the Sun down, it's hard to see that there's very much that we could do to address the root cause.

This is our first exit point from the decision tree. Adapting to the situation may be a perfectly valid strategy, assuming that we ever get to this point in the analysis. Notice that this isn't a scientific question at all, but rather has morphed into an engineering one. If unprecedented warming is being caused by man (a big if, right there), what are the options? What would it take to change things, and what might we do to adapt instead?

Suppose - for the purpose of argument, again - that we really are causing global warming, or that maybe we aren't causing it but it's happening and there's something that we could do about it. What do we do? So far, we're hearing some pretty hair-brained schemes, but given enough time and enough engineers it's certain that we can come up with a set of non-hair-brained mitigations. Should we do anything?

This isn't the realm of scientists or engineers any more, this is a question for Economists. It may be that a warmer climate is overall beneficial. Sure, there would be localized costs - higher sea levels and droughts - but these would be localized in scope. Other areas may benefit - for example, new croplands which were previously marginal might be brought into production. Overall, mankind might be better off than before, in which case we have no business taking any mitigation efforts at all. Rather, we would be best off if we adapted to the warmer climate.

It may be that overall a warmer climate is a net bad thing, but also that all mitigation strategies are so hideously expensive as to make us worse off than if we did nothing. If it costs less to live with the problem than it does to do something about it, then we should live with it - duh. This is in fact the position taken by Bjorn Lomborg who is widely - and unfairly, more on this in a bit - accused of being a nutter. He isn't, he's just asking a reasonable question that some people don't want to deal with.Notice that there are a lot of exit points here - ways to end in that bottom left "Adapt" box. As a matter of fact, you have to pass a lot of exit points before you get to the final, political, question: assuming that the current climate change is unprecedented, and that it's man-made, and that there's something that we can do about it, and we're better off doing something than doing nothing, should we do something about it?It depends. You don't have to think - as some people have suggested - that the entire purpose of the Copenhagen Accords was to create a World Government. It's enough to suspect that the schemes are motivated by governments (and trans-governments like the UN) to provide large opportunities to enrich themselves and their apparatchiks via graft, and to seize tighter control of their populations via environmental legislation. Offered as Exhibit A is Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN's IPCC, and who has a big financial stake in just this question. Exhibit B is Lord Oxburgh, paid director of multiple renewable energy concerns, who headed the official UK investigation into ClimateGate. You'll no doubt be shocked to hear that his committee found nothing wrong.

You have a lot of boxes on the checklist that need to be ticked "yes" before you get to Cap-and-Trade. One misstep and you find yourself in that box labeled "Adapt", for very good reasons. You'll notice that nobody in the press is talking about this, or any of the other questions discussed here. Instead, what we (like Lomborg) get from the press and the scientific establishment is this:And you Baby-Eating Capitalists should all be in jail. Replace the box labeled "Copenhagen" with "Senator Lieberman's and Kerry's Cap-and-Trade" and it makes not one whit of difference. And here's the key point, and the key to understanding the poisoned nature of the climate science debate today:
Since we're skipping straight to politics, the science is absolutely essential. The situation is being treated as a First Aid triage: it's all about the CO2, it's only about the CO2, and we'd damned well better do something about the CO2 RIGHT NOW. Since the conclusion is foregone, no dissent is tolerated.
In other words, Hey you Deniers, get off my lawn!

And this is why the ClimateGate revelations are so important, and why the press is working so hard to sweep them under the rug:
The input data is garbage. The models are garbage, too, but it doesn't matter how well you understand physics because they'll produce garbage from the deplorable data. That's some impressive "settled science", right there.

So why is the press quiet on what is clearly the science story of the century? The Pedant-General offered what I suspect is exactly the right analysis, which I have verbatim (since I quoted it last November):
Slice your average environment correspondent through the middle and you're going to find a left-leaning liberal arts graduate who is utterly out of his/her depth. Their world view is being swept from underneath them and they are being shown—in ways that they do not really and have never had to understand—that the guys they thought were the goodies are in fact "at it" and that those they have spent a decade disparaging as deniers were in fact spot on.

Remember that this is from the Pedant-General's post; I've just jotted it down more or less from memory, with a few embellishments and links. Pedant-General, a grateful world humbly offers its thanks.And so to my thoughts on Cap-and-Trade. We know that the government is drunk on power, and never saw a tax it didn't like. We know that the scientific establishment is happy to go along to get along if there are hundreds of billions of dollars in research grants dangled in front of them. And we know that the press is made of up a bunch of not-very-smart leftie tools who are happy to spend the last of their vanishing credibility for the furtherance of what they see as the Greater Good.

And so the real Cap-and-Trade discussion has to take place outside the traditional media, as indeed the entire ClimateGate discussion as been. And the Body Politick needs to realize that environmentalism has now become a vastly regressive tax, and the only way to deal with this is to break Congress to the People's will.

Congress, their lackeys in the press, and the Environmental Lobby/Industry will hate this. Let them hate, so long as they fear.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

Concur! REAL Climatologists will tell you all day there are 'excursions' and we don't have enough 'exact' data to actually figure out what is going on...