2017-11-29

Study discovers why global warming will accelerate as CO2 levels rise?

Or, ZOMG! We're all doomed, part N. Via fb (but not so far Twitter), phys.org tells me "Global warming is likely to speed up as the Earth becomes increasingly more sensitive to atmospheric CO₂ concentrations, scientists from the University of Reading have warned. In a new study, published this week in the prestigious journal PNAS, the scientists explain that the influence of increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 on global warming will become more severe over time because the patterns of warming of the Earth's surface will lead to reduced cloud cover in some sensitive regions and less heat being able to escape into space." And so on. However, if you read the article you'll notice one thing missing: any form of quantification. Also, if you miss the "why" in the headline, the article will give you the impression that the paper is reporting the idea of warming speeding up. But it isn't; the paper in PNAS (Relationship of tropospheric stability to climate sensitivity and Earth’s observed radiation budget by Paulo Ceppia and Jonathan M. Gregory) whilst undoubtedly perfectly sensible (or so I assume; I haven't sullied myself by reading it, of course) is actually about explaining the pre-existing observation from modelling studies.

Which rings a bell; and indeed the answer is Beyond equilibrium climate sensitivity by JA, whose picture I have shamelessly stolen; after all, he did too. C+G's abstract reads in part:

The change in climate feedback is mainly associated with a decrease in marine tropical low cloud... and with a less negative lapse-rate feedback, as expected from a decrease in stability... Relationships qualitatively similar to those in the models among sea-surface temperature pattern, stability, and radiative budget are also found in observations...

That gets written up by phys.org as "The findings are supported by observations, suggesting that forecasts made by climate models evaluated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are realistic." I think that is literally true, but very easy to misinterpret as "observations say that warming will speed up", which is not what I think they are saying.

Notice also that while the "speed up" is rather noticeable if you start from year 1, if you compare years 50-100 to 1000-3000, you get a rather small ~10% difference, which is well within the margin of error ECS is "known" to (although that's sort-of not relevant; what this is saying is that whatever the "real" value is, it is a bit bigger than you think. On yet another hand, I'm dubious about worrying about more than a century into the future anyway).

I think my conclusion is that the original "speed-up" idea is interesting but relatively minor; the new paper is scientifically interesting but not of any great interest to the general public (because it simply provides a plausible explanation for an existing observation) and so the PR for it is hype.

I mentioned this came from fb so I'll quote what I saw there, while sparing the blushes of the quotee: "A paper published in the prestigious "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" this week reports that, climate sensitivity, the amount of near-surface planetary mean temperature rise per increase of greenhouse gas concentrations, is increasing. Our planet sees more warming for less CO2. This is a precursor to a "Runaway Greenhouse" condition." This is wrong, obviously; but not too hard to read into the phys.org article.

Refs

* There once was a polar bear – science vs the blogosphere - Bart Verheggen

2017-11-28

UK emissions

Via Twatter comes this interesting graph. We're back to pre-1900. At first I was deeply suspicious, but I think it holds up. The claimed source is "BEIS and World Resources Institute" via Carbon Brief. And that leads me to UK Carbon Emissions Fall to 19th Century Levels as Government Phases Out Coal (from March, so I'm hardly up to the moment). Which is I think wrong; the UK govt doesn't burn coal, it leaves that up to the electricity generating companies, as you'd expect. If we're attributing most of the drop to the loss of coal, then we can expect progress to plateau soon, because as the detail shows, we're almost out of coal to stop burning.

They say (apropos of this discussion) "Carbon Brief also attributes the precipitous drop in emissions from coal to the country's carbon tax, which doubled in 2015 to £18 ($22) per metric ton of CO2" (so perhaps we can credit the government to some extent :-). Of course, $22 per ton (per C? Per CO2? I can never remember) isn't large by ~$50 type standards which are what I tend to think of as "about the right value". But if that's big enough to have the "desired" effect, then fair enough.

Refs


WATTS  SIDEKICK COPS A PLEA  ON THE 2nd  LAW OF  THERMODYNAMICS - RS

2017-11-22

Politics over science

There's a report on a survey in the NYT just recently ("The More Education Republicans Have, the Less They Tend to Believe in Climate Change"), though the survey itself ("College-Educated Republicans Most Skeptical of Global Warming") is reported in 2015. h/t PH.

The NYT chooses to highlight the answer to Percent saying they worry about climate change “a great deal” but that wouldn't be the question I'd choose: what if Republicans are generally happy-go-lucky people, whereas Democrats are worry-warts? The NYT avers that This relationship persists even when pollsters pose different kinds of questions about climate change, and that's sorta true, though just-by-chance they happen to have picked the question with most divergence. The divergence, as you'll see from the pix, is that more educated Repubs tend to believe in GW less than their less educated fellows, whereas the reverse is true for Dems. That's not what you expect if you think that the problem with GW "skeptics" is lack of knowledge; sadly, experience teaches us that isn't actually the problem.

Before you get too carried away, notice that they diverge on other issues too; for example, "Trust and confidence in mass media": Dems agree more with this the more educated they are, with about 80% agreeing; Repubs go the other way, and end with about 10% agreeing. And on this one, the Repubs are clearly correct, as you'd be mad to trust the mass media.

Anyway, let's look at a somewhat better question also in the survey, "GW is mainly caused by natural changes". Demoplebs go for that 35%, Collocrats 13%. Whereas Replebs are 54%, and Collegicans are 66%. Which indeed has the same pattern. Which is explained by, errm, what? I'm not sure the NYT's explanation - people get their ideas on GW from elites - is particularly explanatory.

There's another article, which may or may not include the same poll, I can't quite tell (but is probably this one instead), When Don’t the Highly Educated Believe in Evolution? The Bible Believers Effect (Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.2, March/April 2015). That includes another explanation that I quite like, which oddly enough is from Chris Mooney and they've translated it from GW to Bible and I'll translate it back: "Compared to less well educated,  more highly educated better understand arguments used to deny and are, therefore, better able to justify their beliefs in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary". I quite like that, at least in part because it fits in with my prejudices. It isn't too difficult, with a little education and or reading, to learn enough about GW to upset the easy explanations you'll find on popular websites or in the meeja. Indeed, I suspect, it is easy enough to come up with arguments that people who "believe" in GW will find hard to refute, or even understand. None of them stand up to proper scrutiny, of course, but I suspect that it's enough to (a) give a feeling of intellectual superiority; (b) make it plain that the "believers" are often just believing: they don't actually know (as discussed before, this is inevitable; you are going to rely on scientific authority; perhaps disingenuously people have a tendency to under-emphasise this). Being surrounded by idiots who believe something strongly but who obviously don't understand the reasons why is quite likely a force towards believing the reverse.

Pic: early viewers of this post will have got a disturbing image from 2015 Christmas Head. But then I remembered I wanted to put this lovely B+W pic somewhere, and this is a good post for it.

Refs

What Are ‘Theoretical Reasons’? - CH on protectionism

2017-11-18

Nuclear winter?

23593387_10212802514451021_6937348403898754147_o One for RS (via a tweet that Mann liked). The Smithsonian tells us about When Carl Sagan Warned the World About Nuclear Winter. And the Smithsonian links it to the treatment of global warming today. I feel uncomfortable with that: the science of GW is good; the science of NW has not aged well.

I've always felt NW was a bit weird. The effects of the bombs themselves would be catastrophic; I really couldn't understand why people would want to make it "worse". Yes, I know that people were talking about "survivable" nuclear wars but these are the same sorts of people who deny GW nowadays; you don't win arguments with such people by telling them that GW or nuclear war will be worse than they think, because... they aren't thinking anyway.

Looking back, I find I've said very little about NW. Probably because while I felt vaguely sympathetic to the idea, I wasn't comfortable with the science so kept quiet. In 2010 I'm snarky about the Economist, and could be read as defending NW along with some other stuff. But the main point at issue there is the Economist evading GW; they wouldn't do that any more. A quick search on sci.env didn't throw up anything there either. I've edited the wiki article; unfortunately it doesn't seem to be possible to get a good link to this, but if you go to the history and put "William M. Connolley" into the rightmost box and press "Isolate history" you see all my edits. I've definitely removed some material critical of it - e.g. this in 2006 - but that was unsourced and OTT. In 2009 I removed the assertion that NW ended the arms race and the Cold War, because that was bollox. This talk page archive is interesting; in 2008 I say I[']m not happy with the Seitz section "A 1986 article by Russell Seitz ...". Basically, Seitz fabricated various quotes. We shouldn't be giving them countenance. Oh dear, I hope he'll forgive me. That links to Nuclear winter: science and politics (Science and Public Policy, Vol. 15, No. 5, October 1988, pp. 321-334) by Brian Martin which I think is worth reading.

The wiki article is ambivalent. The opening para reads:
Nuclear winter is the severe and prolonged global climatic cooling effect hypothesized[1][2] to occur after widespread firestorms following a nuclear war.[3] The hypothesis is based on the fact that such fires can inject soot into the stratosphere, where it can block some direct sunlight from reaching the surface of the Earth. Historically, firestorms have occurred in a number of forests and cities. In developing computer models of nuclear-winter scenarios, researchers use both Hamburg and the Hiroshima firestorms as example cases where soot might have been injected into the stratosphere,[4] as well as modern observations of natural, large-area wildfires.[3][5][6]
and from that you can't tell much about whether it is considered plausible or not. Lower down there's a long "Criticism and debate" section and in the end, my reaction is just to back away from the whole thing as being something like Cold fusion.

Robert Jastrow


One weird bit in the Smithsonian is
In the case of nuclear winter, the consequences of this backlash would be profound. In 1984, a small group of hawkish physicists and astronomers formed the George C. Marshall Institute, a conservative think-tank that supported SDI. Their leader was Robert Jastrow, a bestselling author and occasional TV personality whose politics were nearly opposite Sagan’s.
That is, I assume this Robert Jastrow. But wiki describes him as Robert Jastrow (September 7, 1925 – February 8, 2008) was an American astronomer and planetary physicist. He was a NASA scientist, populist author and futurist. Why would you describe him as a "bestselling author and occasional TV personality" - unless you were trying to diss him? That rather makes me doubt the article.

Whither NW?


The article concludes with "Thus, nuclear winter is still an important area of research, forming much of TTAPS author Brian Toon’s subsequent research". It might well form a large part of BT's work; I don't know. But it clearly isn't an important area of research in general. Hardly anyone bothers.

And as for "Both nuclear winter and global climate change are fairly abstract phenomena that occur on a scale beyond our immediate sensory experience" - WTF? GW is a long slow process, yes. NW isn't; it would be - if it's real - quick. It would also follow a major nuclear exchange, and calling that "fairly abstract" is just off with the fairies.

Rowing


It was the Cantabs Winter Head today. Sadly the Powers that Be failed to enter the "Four of Whi(ne)" so I ran alongside div 3, and cycled alongside div 4. Div 3 was absolutely appalling; some terrible quality rowing by the first few (college) crews. Division 4 was much better, the highlight being the guests from Heidelberg RuderKlub who were powerful, controlled and relaxed at 33. Perhaps slightly too relaxed; they were 5 seconds behind Downing. And yes, they had an on-Cam cox so they did make it round the corners. But I'm delighted to say that our IV of Steve (with guest star Conor) won the S1 category.

Refs


Some links from RS:
 * history-of-climate-science-lessons
 * nuclear-winter-wages-of-hype

Recently tweeted: Let’s End the Peril of a Nuclear Winter By ALAN ROBOCK and OWEN BRIAN TOONFEB. 11, 2016

2017-11-17

Noises off

dick Not much going on is there? ATTP is talking about Mertonian Norms but really, I cannot raise the energy to care so he's welcome to it, and to Warren Peace. Some minor comments on wiki reminded me of my Cogito ergo Stoat, which shows how seriously people take bollox if it comes from famous people. Speaking of which, James Annan is being cwuel to Pat Frank, but someone has to do it.

RS reminds me that reports of my death have been somewhat exaggerated; but it is nice to be noticed. He also notes a bizarre plan to put advertising on an iceberg.

In my own little world I've now written up the first two days of my trip to the Ecrins last summer; more of that anon.

On the politics front, there seems to be some faint hope that Zimbabwe has a chance for sanity. That depends on a lot of things going right, but it seems faintly promising so far. Unlike Brexit, which remains unpromising.

A friend of mine makes the Economist - well, he works for Cambridge Medical Robotics.

And lastly, a US Navy pilot drew a giant cock in the sky. If I was a pilot, it's the sort of thing I'd do, which is one of the many reasons I'm not a pilot. It's not a bad effort but needs some hairs as well as something extra at the other end.

2017-11-11

Hexapodia?

23333947_10155828187957350_1525222338592911454_o Via ATTP on Twatter comes Conservatives probably can’t be persuaded on climate change. So now what? (arch). Since it's by David Roberts, you won't be surprised to find that I disagree with it. Or rather, I disagree with some of it and will therefore violently object to it's very right to exist. His tagline of "One more round of “messaging” won’t do it" is true, though hardly rises to the rank of a Key Insight. Anyway, DR writes:
Dixon’s team found that, in surveys, conservative opinion on climate solutions could not be moved by scientific or religious messages, but it could be nudged in a positive direction by messages that stressed “free market solutions.” Core values, not science, are what drive conservative opposition, Dixon tells Grossman, and “free markets” are a core value for conservatives. They view climate policy as a threat to free markets, which is the real reason they reject climate science, so messaging should assuage those fears. This is wrong. First, the idea that free markets are a core value of today’s US conservatives should provoke only laughter...
and so on. Notice DR is being offered the truth but is blinded to it by his prejudices; we're back at Rejecting Climate Change: Not Science Denial, but Regulation Phobia? Or alternatively, we're back at the New Yorker: what Democrats have learned [sic] in the year since they lost to Donald Trump. And if you judge by that article the answer is nothing: they are still pissing around trying to magic demographics instead of finding sane policies, candidates and messages. DR continues:
Most importantly of all, we must note that it’s not true that climate solutions necessarily involve violence to free market principles.
And that is correct; see for example Carbon Tax Now! But DR then asks if it’s not true that climate solutions necessarily violate the allegedly core conservative principle of free markets ... who told them that? (which is slightly oddly phrased; he is of course asking who told the Cons that Clim Sols do violate FMs). To which the answer is: most of the people pushing GW solutions via regulation are saying that very thing.

Well, I wrote the above yesterday and then re-read it and though meh; I've said much the same before. And then today I find that ATTP has posted on the same DR post, so I decided maybe it was thrilling enough to throw out the door. Per all my previous, I think DR is wrong to be giving up on persuasion; he just needs to trying thinking, instead of trying to ram the same wrong-shaped "facts" down unwilling throats. ATTP is of course correct to conclude that there is some core of people who will never be convinced and trying to find clever messaging strategies that might do so, is... a waste of time. I assert that the core is smaller than you think.

But does accepting what ATTP thinks imply those who want to actively promote change will probably have to – at times – approach this more as a fight than as some kind of polite debate? This I find somewhat dubious. If those who wanted meaningful action on GW in the USA had a majority - or the strength in other ways - to act, they would have done so. If the facts and the science are on your side but you're not strong enough to win a brawl then it is foolish to start one.

Refs


Victory for Journalist as Accuracy Complaint by ‘Contrarian’ Climate Scientist Thrown Out (Professor Ray Bates and the Village Magazine)
* Today's contribution to the tariffs debate from CH
'I'm not a bigot' Meet the U of T prof who refuses to use genderless pronouns

2017-11-08

No nation should be allowed to exit

DSC_6220 Anyone who has read my previous comments on Hansen will know that I find him somewhat over-excitable, and this one - Global Climate Justice: Making the Carbon Majors Pay for Climate Action - is no exception. It is I think a speech at COP-23. My title quote - that I find rather hard to parse - comes from
I have come to note that greenhouse gas climate forcings are accelerating, not decelerating, and sea level rise and ocean acidification are accelerating. We confront a mortal threat, now endangering, only at first, the very existence of island and low-lying nations in the Pacific and around the planet. Accordingly, ambition must be increased and enforced. No nation should be allowed to exit. Moreover, the unrequited provisions of the SUVA Declaration, Article 19, must be revived. Effective action must be undertaken not only to keep temperature rise below 1.5° C but, in my view, to return it to below 1° C to preserve island nations and global shorelines.
All fine sentiments, but what does "No nation should be allowed to exit" mean? It might mean that no nation should be allowed to exit the Paris agreement. Which would be a splendid sentiment until you came to think of how a recalcitrant state - perhaps a powerful one, like the USA - might be "persuaded" against it's well. Never mind; that's the dull interpretation. The more interesting interpretation is "No nation should be allowed to [cease to] exi[s]t". That's interesting, and I'll talk around it lower down; but first I need to fly off the handle about various crapness from Hansen.

The main of which is "Funding is required. As a matter of justice it should be extracted from those who benefitted most from fossil fuel burning -- the so-called Carbon Majors". This isn't true, as previously discussed. We had some debate about whether consumers deserved all or just most of the blame; but I don't think anyone believed that oil companies deserved all of the blame. But Hansen does. Why? Is he... totally economically illiterate? Or just propagandising? It's hard to know. He also appears to believe that the Carbon Majors have somehow extracted all this profit and piled it up in a big heap somewhere untouched, all ready for Hansen to expropriate. But of course it isn't sitting around. The carbon companies have paid it out to their shareholders. Sue all the carbon companies to death if you like and you can; you still won't get the money; it isn't there.

But Hansen wants Moah Litigation - how very Libertarian of him :-):  more effective legal action is needed... Legislators around the world could clarify the law related to liability for climate change, but courts are able now to assert jurisdiction to require fossil fuel polluters to pay their fair share. Legal scholars have outlined the path forward, and one of them is with me here today. And links to Atmospheric recovery litigation: making the fossil fuel industry pay to restore a viable climate system; Wood and Galpern. That feels somehow familiar but I find no references in my past. However, that purportedly scholarly article says "the primary responsible parties are the major fossil fuel corporations", which is clearly just more of the same drivel (and, incidentally, name-checks Hansen, so this is all going round in circles).

Hansen ends with The period of consequence requires honesty and courage. Nothing less will do. These are stirring words! But is (self-assessed) honesty and courage enough? No. It also necessary to be correct, and to have a clue what you're talking about.

No nation should be allowed to [cease to] exi[s]t


A fine sentiment: but is it true? I'm sure we'd all be happy to agree that no individual person should be killed (absent suitable exclusions for those who like the death penalty, and wars, and whatever else you need to find exclusions for). But should nations have similar rights to life? Obviously it is no defence to say that this or that nation has been killed in the past; that wouldn't establish it was all right to kill them. And nor would saying that the international order has decided it would be politically expedient to not extinguish nations make it not-right now. Somewhat belatedly bothering to look for prior art I find Right to Exist on wiki. As that says, that tends to get wrapped up in Palestine-Israel wars, so (invoking an analogue of Godwin's law) I'm not going to talk about it in that context and any comments that do so will get deleted. Meh, but apart from that there is little there, so I'll go back to making things up.

My point is that - in moral terms - we don't apply cost-benefit to individual lives; it is considered reasonable to regard them as infinitely precious. Obviously in the real world governments don't actually do that, they use value-of-life in cost-benefit all the time; but that's not morality.

Should we regard nations as also, individually, infinitely precious? I don't see why we should. One island nation (we're talking about nation-death-risk from SLR, so it's an obvious example) is much like the next island nation. Many of them are smaller than English counties, and English counties are not regarded as worthy of special protection against individual extinction.

Hansen kinda sources himself to "the SUVA Declaration, Article 19". Article one notes "existential threats to our very survival". It isn't clear what "our" means. It might mean "the nation"; that would be consistent with Hansen. Or it might mean the individual people; in which case it is somewhat dubious - they could move.

I'm expecting a certain measure of disagreement to my view from readers. If you comment, it would be nice if you could distinguish moral outrage from facts or logic or theory.

2017-11-06

The sun in your eyes made some of the lies worth believing

TheAlanParsonsProject-EyeintheSky I am the eye in the sky, Looking at you-o-oooh I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules, Dealing with foo-o-oools, I can cheat you blind.

At least, that's what Alan Parsons thought. But today we have Donald Trump accused of obstructing satellite research into climate change by the Graun (via, for example, See No Evil: Trump/GOP Trashing our Eyes in the Sky, which is my excuse for invoking the sainted Alan); well, it's on their website but it's actually the Observer, specifically Robin McKie and I'm a bit dubious about him.

The article sayeth President Trump has been accused of deliberately obstructing research on global warming after it emerged that a critically important technique for investigating sea-ice cover at the poles faces being blocked, but articles often say that kind of thing, and in this case it undermines itself by quoting no source for these accusations. It's possible that the fling at Trump is mere ritual, because the substance, as far as I can determine it, is Republican-controlled Congress ordered destruction of vital sea-ice probe.

That does appear to be true, though exact details are murky. What is not-being-launched is DMSP-20, a replacement for DMSP-19. The wiki page on DMSP is useful, if you don't even know what they are, but of DMSP-20 it says "The failure [of DMSP-19] only left F16, F17 and F18 – all significantly past their expected 3–5 year lifespan – operational. F19's planned replacement was not carried out because in 2017 the Republican-controlled Congress ordered the destruction of the already constructed F20 probe to save money by not having to pay its storage costs." Spacenews (from March 2016) tells me "...the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said... that while the Defense Department still expects to complete the termination of the DMSP program by Dec. 20, DMSP-20 remains properly stored in Sunnyvale... study, completed in September 2014, recommended against launching the satellite. But the Air Force said in April 2015 that it intended to launch the satellite in 2018... opted not to fund the program in a massive spending bill in December, kicking off plans to dispose of the satellite."

Inside Defence tells me that the "tear down" of DMSP-20 started in November 2016, "Based on the deputy secretary of defense and Air Force decisions and in accordance with congressional direction". So blaming that on Trump seems hard to justify (and Trump isn't responsible for all the world's evil  just because we all agree he's a bozo). https://directory.eoportal.org/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/d/dmsp-block-5d looks like it ought to be definitive but clearly isn't, since it hasn't noticed the sad deaths of either DMSP-19 or 20.

So does anyone have the real story? Or is there no real story, other than someone having kicked McKie?

rmg says "...Comparable (better) instruments are on the JAXA-NASA AMSR-2. But it, too, is past its design life".

Update: RC now has a post which substantially says what I said above, but with more detail. Gavin is more politic, of course, writing that the "headline is not really correct", but I think it is now clear that the headline is the usual drivel you expect from headlines. RC also points at a Nature article, Ageing satellites put crucial sea-ice climate record at risk (arch), which I inexplicably missed.

Meanwhile...


Experts Ponder Why Administration Released Tough Climate Report, says EOS. Quite possibly because it would be too much trouble to censor. But that's just another way of saying they couldn't be bothered to censor it. So another spin is because the report just says what all the other reports have said - after all, it would be rather odd if it differed substantially. Obviously the Trump administration is trusted by no-one other than fools, so pretty well everything it does will meet with this kind of response: if you hate it, you'll whinge; if you like it, you'll wonder what the hidden reasons were.

Trump is the current La-Di-Di?


What is it with all this Trump-is-the-cause-of-everything stuff? Now we have the New Yorker saying With the tacit support of President Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his powerful son launched an unprecedented purge of their own family over the weekend. C'mon, bullshit. The Saudi dictatorship continued to act like a dictatorship and they're quite capable of doing that all by themselves. You're wondering what "la-di-di" is, aren't you, but somewhat afraid to ask. Come on... person who sells lots of newspapers... sadly deceased... try pronouncing it as though French... that's right, it's a frog trying to say "Lady Di(ana)".

For NPR's take, you get With Saudi Arrests, Crown Prince Shows He Can Force Change. But It's Not Democracy. Um, yes. The clue is in the words "Crown" and "Prince".

Refs

Trump Wrongly Blamed for Destroying Sea Ice Satellite: November 6th, 2017 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

2017-11-04

Anti-fb drivel

23157071_768966359966353_3134902088891222076_o I finally got sick of all the anti-fb drivel coming out. But perhaps your experience isn't like mine. Here's what I see (PF(S|B)F = post-from-(scientific|blogging-)friend:

* PFF
* "Publication suggérée" (IBM flash storage)
* PFSF (in foreign)
* PFBF (about Ian McKellen)
* PFSF (about a concent)
* PFF (about dance)
* New Yorker (about some silly Sean Hannity film)
* New Yorker (Things to secretly love about NYC)
* God about Jesus Memes
* World Rowing about Teaser Aegon European Rowing Indoor Championships 2018
* "Publication suggérée" about some cycling thing
* New Yorker (again!) about Gordon Ramsay
* God: a fun cartoon about cycling in America
* Friend suggestions
* Unfunny New Yorker cartoon
* Rowing: Cantabs advert for the Winter Head
* Discarding images: Ants
* Rowing: Concept2: inspirational picture
* Running: Parkrun pic
* Teddy Hall: upcoming events
* Artfinder advert (I must stop seeing that stuff... I can't recall why I decided to follow them. Unfollowed)
* "Publication suggérée": BFI player

That's a little atypical; normally I have more posts from friends, mostly about rowing. At this point I got bored, so let's skip everything non-political.

* SR: about his http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2017/11/el-nino-and-the-record-years-1998-and-2016/
* NY Times: Did the World Get Aung San Suu Kyi Wrong?
* New Yorker: Mueller's indictements, Ryan's tax plans.
* SR: Das CO2-Budget ist fast verbraucht
* MM: Humans 'dominant cause' of climate change, government report says
* "Publication suggérée" by Jacobin Magazine

22424347_1608398379230566_5482377878423454436_o And now I've scrolled deep into my feed, where it is generally admitted people just don't go. It's probably fitting to end with this tasteful tee-shirt.

So my conclusion is that if people are trying to feed my stuff, they aren't doing a good job. Maybe I'm not their target demographic. But anyway: that's what I see. Now let's consider two other views:

An opinion piece, Beware: this Russian cyber warfare threatens every democracy by Natalie Nougayrède in the Graun (aside: increasingly I've grown dubious about the virtue of "columnists" in the papers. Just like financial advisers (if you were any good, why aren't you too rich to bother advising me?), if a columnist was any good, why wouldn't they be in policy?) Notably, it has no solutions, other than that scary-faced women should tell fb what to do, in the name of course of Democracy. The closest she comes is
Interestingly, the Facebook representative was then asked whether the platform would suppress specific content in a geographical area to abide by local laws including, for example, taking down a Chinese dissident’s postings. He partly deflected the question by answering that Facebook did so already in Germany, where legislation bans Holocaust denial. That moment, if anything, brought a small glimpse into the many complex aspects of a debate that will define much about whether democratic principles can be upheld in a technologically interconnected world.
Which is kinda cute, and rather analogous (I know, this is well over the top) to Jesus's answer to the Pharisees. Early on she admits
We don’t yet know the full picture. In particular, we don’t know if Russian-promoted bots, trolls and online ads had an impact that in any way altered the outcome of the US election.
but only immeadiately after quoting with approval the scary-faced woman:
says sternly to the Facebook, Twitter and Google representatives (whose evasive answers have exasperated her): “You don’t get it! This is a very big deal. What we’re talking about is cataclysmic. It is cyber warfare. A major foreign power with sophistication and ability got involved in our presidential election.”
So there you have it: we don't know these ads had any impact, but nonetheless it is cataclysmic. Can you say America is facing an epistemic crisis, children? These people are clearly not capable of thinking; not capable of forming logical connections between related sentences. Because their aim is propaganda for their favoured solution which is (you knew this was coming, didn't you?) moah regulation. That's also The Economist's solution (arch); their reasoning is better although their tagline (Facebook, Google and Twitter were supposed to save politics as good information drove out prejudice and falsehood. Something has gone very wrong) is drivel.

Refs


Two Basic Foundations - Science of Doom
* Timmy finds another example
A World of Ingratitude - Bryan Caplan, EconLib

2017-11-03

An epistemic crisis

America is facing an epistemic crisis says David Roberts at Vox. I'm used to disagreeing with DR, though everyone else seems to lurve him, so it's no surprise that I disagree this time, too.

The first thing wrong with it is that it's yet more stuff about Trump and Mueller, and the world already has far too much of that. In a sense it isn't really about Trump though - he's just the peg to hang off "thoughts" about the Evil Right Wing (DR's Left Wing is much nicer) and then a tiny bit of climate at the end.

I imagine that you (well, except for RS) like me can never remember what all the wanky Philosophy words like Ontological and Epistemology actually mean. DR thoughtfully explains that Epistemology is the branch of philosophy having to do with how we know things and what it means for something to be true or false, accurate or inaccurate. And further notes that The US is experiencing a deep epistemic breach, a split not just in what we value or want, but in who we trust, how we come to know things, and what we believe we know — what we believe exists, is true, has happened and is happening. And that I think is reasonably fair, though I think if you probed it more deeply you'd find extensive areas of shared agreement. I'm pretty dubious about The primary source of this breach, to make a long story short, is the US conservative movement’s rejection of the mainstream institutions devoted to gathering and disseminating knowledge though. DR's free pass for the left wing doesn't seem terribly plausible to me.

But anyway, what this all ends up meaning is that you can't win arguments on the internet. Which those of us who've been arguing on the internet for a while have already noticed. It isn't particularly new; that there are partisans for causes who cannot meaningfully be reasoned with is familiar to anyone who has commented at WUWT and elsewhere. There are many many problems but one of them is that any given issue can (and must be, if you want to nail down anything) be hair split into so many parts and chased down into so much detail that if you've wasted vast time finally nailing down the most carefully hair-split detail, then (a) all the audience has got bored and left, and (b) you've only settled the tiniest fingernail of uninteresting detail. And of course "winning" on that one point of detail does you no good, because no-one has any honour; "losing" a point means nothing; it establishes no precedent for trustworthiness or otherwise.

Mind you, I also think he is wrong about his case: US institutions are stronger than he gives them credit for. But I'm not at all sure this kind of hand-wringing is useful; helping strengthen those institutions would be better. Perhaps that's what he thinks he is doing?

Of course, if you don't like disliking DR, you can always dislike the American Enterprise Institute instead; the post and comments there provide a nice example of the problem. You'll wonder (I hope) how I got there; the answer is via Cafe Hayek who, whilst a nice economist, is rather naive about GW and the truthiness of Patrick Michaels.

Refs


Mark Jacobson Abandons Science, Takes Up Barratry - mt
A  Mind Böggling Development In Energy Storage & Zeppelin Parking - RS
* ATTP joins the epistemic bandwagon: Jordan Peterson speaks the truth.