I’m not a climate scientist, and I don’t know much about the weather. But I do make my way in the world by quantifying mathematically complex systems using large amounts of data, and empirically determining cause and effect. As far as it goes that’s essentially the same thing, so I feel qualified within specific limits to comment on the issue of global warming. I’ve looked carefully at the data and the reasoned conclusions offered by both sides, and I think it’s pretty clear.
I think the global warming fad has finally jumped the shark.
Oh I looked at all the available data, and to be fair there is definitely some climatology background required if you wanted to develop a full contextual understanding of everything involved. But the problem with even talking about it is that it’s so complicated that you are stuck with either speaking in generalities so broad that you seem evasive, or speaking so specifically that you bore everyone to tears. And even though it’s been tried by better minds than me, I’m going to try to split the difference.
For someone who doesn’t work with data like this it often seems that it can’t tell us much of anything. It seems that the things people are saying are all driven by political motives and pre-assumed conclusions. But the fact is, the problem is not that the data is too vague, but that it’s too specific. The things that you can say as a matter of empirical evidence are extremely limited and the gaps must usually be made up through reasoned hypothesis. For example, there is a logical difference between saying “I am not a duck”, and saying “I am a person.” While it’s entirely possible that both of those things can be true, the truth of the first does not necessarily lead to the truth of the second.
The data in the global warming debate says some very specific things about what’s going on in the climate, but the place where the argument breaks down is in the conclusions drawn from those very specific statements. Advocate claim that “I am not a duck” therefore, according to my expertise, I must be a person”, and critics say, “You assume too much…you have only proven that you are not a duck.”
Or to cite an actual example, one of the things that the data says is that the amount of CO2 has increased dramatically in recent years. And when I say dramatically, I mean D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.A.L.L.Y!!!!!!! According to ice core samples the level now is 5 standard deviations above normal. This is very large number. In fact, if all we wanted to say was that it’s higher than 99 out of 100 measurements, then we’d be saying that it’s just 3 standard deviations above normal. To give some additional perspective, on October 13, 1987, the day of the market crash, the stock market dropped just a little less than 5 standard deviations. This is huge … and I mean, really, really, really huge. It’s a number so big, that we almost never see a change like that, in natural dynamic systems.
So what could cause a mammoth change in CO2 like that? Is it we terrible and greedy Americans? Well there is no doubt about it, according to the data we humans add to it. According to the statistics published by the global warming advocates, human industrial development accounts for roughly 6% of all atmospheric CO2. “But wait a minute…” I can hear you say “you said it was a really huge number and 6% doesn’t sound that huge.” That’s right, and that’s because it isn’t. The 6% that humans contribute is only a tiny portion of the total increase of atmospheric CO2. The rest is a product of the “natural” oscillation of the system.
See the point is that there has never really been any debate about whether temperatures have increased, they have. But temperatures go up every summer and down every winter. In fact they go up and down on a longer cyclical trend as well, even the most devout global warming believer recognizes that. So by itself an increase isn’t necessarily great cause for concern, even a very big increase. But the reason that global warming advocates cite as the cause for all the hub bub is that the most recent increase coincides fairly closely with human industrial development and since that development is only going to continue, so also, they say, is the warming trend.
Well if human industrial development is the cause of the rise in temperature, then they would be right and we’d all be in for some kind of trouble eventually. We wouldn’t have to flee from the beaches to escape the rushing water, or abandon our homes and relocate in refugee camps on the Mexican border or anything, but there would be eventual concerns that we’d have to deal with. But the economic numbers discussed by the global warming faithful are completely ridiculous, and the human consequences and their proposed solutions are even more so. And what Al Gore and the media do to that already hyperbolic conclusion set can only be described as comically shameless. Times Square will not flood, no polar bears will drown, and the wholesale famine, death, and misery will only occur if politicians cause it.
But here is the real rub. The data doesn’t actually say that human development is the cause of the warming. The data says that temperatures are rising. The data says that humans contribute to CO2. But the data does not say that CO2 causes the warming trend, in fact quite the contrary, the data itself provides us with lots of reason to believe that CO2 increases are actually caused by the warming rather than the other way around.
I could go into the specifics but this BBC documentary
raises them much better than I, and since it involves online video, it’s automatically more interesting than anything I can say on the subject. But I wanted to raise one more issue that I don’t hear on the press very often.
We’ve all heard the term “tipping point” where a trend reaches a point of self sustainability. That sort of thing is useful in describing how fashion trends spread through cities, and global warming advocates claim that the climate has either already reached one, or will reach one soon. Well that’s simply untrue, and this IS an area where I consider myself a fully qualified expert. “Tipping points” don’t apply to dynamic systems like climate. In technical terms, our climate is a non-linear dynamic system which is self correcting, and isn’t subject to the “tipping point” logic. In that way, it’s just like the stock market where I make my living.
To cite the earlier example, on October 13, 1987 we had a stock market crash, and do you know what happened on the 14th? The market bounced back aggressively. A month later, the entire loss had been made back. You see that’s how dynamic systems work. When they see a big change one way they automatically snap back, and go much further back the other way. The literal process is called “mean reversion”, and there are literally millions of examples available in nature of this phenomenon, in fact it’s hard to find a statistic in nature that isn’t subject to this kind of cyclical oscillation.
If you look at penguin populations or wildebeest migration, or algae blooms, or tree growth patterns, or seasonal weather change or literally anything, they are all subject to the yin and yang that’s present in the mathematics of dynamic systems… all of them, every single one. It is how nature works, and there is no escaping it. There are no tipping points in nature, only in the minds of man. Like the “earth in crisis”, it’s all in our heads.
So why do I think that means the issue has jumped the shark? Well actually that isn’t the reason. The reason I think it’s jumped the shark is because I believe that the tipping point logic is valid in some cases. And I think that in order to keep people believing in global warming as a political movement, it’s necessary for its advocates to keep people from thinking about it too carefully. Like Marxism, it only looks good if you never compare it to the facts. So you need to indoctrinate new people into the core beliefs faster than you lose them to critical thinking, and to do that you focus your energies on them when they have only limited critical thinking skills.
When people reach a certain age they are too certain of their fallibility, and they become too cynical to embrace another “turn the world upside down” style of belief system. So as a product of that, it becomes necessary to indoctrinate younger and more innocent people. Global warming started as a topic of conversation in the universities, but when Al Gore embraced it, they began discussing it in the high schools and in Hollywood. (Those two areas are of roughly equal sophistication and maturity if you ask me.)
But that was last year. This year the person I see who is being most actively bombarded with the desperate panicked global warming message, is my seven year old daughter. She’s being pounded at every turn, on every form of media. The heroes in the TV shows she watches all call it important while the villains ignore it. In the books she reads, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen talk about how “cool” it is. Everywhere she goes someone else she otherwise admires tells her she needs to think about it. Except of course my wife and I… we calmly explain to her just because these people think its important doesn’t mean she has to. She believes us of course, and seems genuinely unworried. And since we think we counter it well enough, we’re not all that concerned either. But there is no doubt that it’s a constant drone in her life right now.
And that’s why I think it’s jumped the shark. The true believers in global warming are still a minority, and they have been reduced to the political equivalent of conscripting the child soldier. And no political movement can survive for long when they’ve been reduced to that.