Sunday, November 05, 2017

How can so many people be so wrong?

There are quite a lot of authors who produce scientific articles in support of global warming. Yet they must know of the many holes in the theory. In particular, they must know how vanishingly small are the effects and changes that they document. They spend their lives studying and writing about minutiae. Some, such as the litigious Stefan Rahmstorf, even plumb the depths of absurdity by writing about temperature changes in thousandths of one degree Celsius. Why do they do it? What makes them think that the energies they put into their calculations are well deployed? Do they ever think that they are wasting their precious time?

I think I know the answers to that. For a start, it is not a conspiracy. It is however something nearly as powerful. It is an intellectual fashion. It is a testimony to the power of a bandwagon effect. People want to be "in" with the crowd. So their writing is largely a game. They want to show that they are doing significant and important work and joining in with what is currently accepted as wise is by far the easiest way to do that.

But that is only part of the story. Participation in a folly has to satisfy deeper psychological needs. And my background in psychological research exposed me to a quite extraordinary example of that. Let me tell the story of it:

Most psychologists are Leftists. And in the immediate aftermath of WWII that posed a big problem: In the context of his day, Hitler was a Leftist too. The name of his political party gave the first hint of that -- it was (translated) "The National Socialist German Worker's party" (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei). Hitler's antisemitism was normal among the prewar Left and even his nationalism had a long history on the Left. None other than Joseph Stalin referred in his propaganda to his war with Germany as "The Great Patriotic war" (Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́). And Theodore Roosevelt, founder of America's "Progressive" party, did a pretty good line in conquering other countries -- with his involvement in taking over Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.

And nationalism even lingered on for a while in the post-war American Left. JFK's "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" was essentially what Hitler also preached to Germans.

Just to show that Hitler actually won his elections by socialist appeals, note one of his election posters below:

It translates as: The Marshall and the corporal fight alongside us for peace and equal rights", which is very much what the American Left preached during the Cold War. Here's another one:

It translates as "With Hitler against the armaments madness of the world". Again that could have been a slogan of the American Left during the Cold War. The Left to this day criticizes military spending.

So there you have the very great and embarrassing problem that faced the American Left after 1945. They somehow had to dissociate themselves from the reviled Hitler. He had actually put their ideas into practice. Ideally, they had to blame Hitler on conservatives, as unlikely as that was -- considering that the most relentless foe of Hitler had been the arch-Conservative Winston Churchill. But they accomplished their task. To most people today, Hitler is known as "right wing".

So you can see where I am going here. The big lie that Hitler was a "Rightist" shows the way for the big lie of global warming.

How did the Left do it? With the complicity of the whole American Left, including the media. With so many people preaching the lie, it became accepted as fact. In truth, Hitler was to the right of Russia only, in that he was less destructive of the existing society. But that shred of truth was focused on. The American Left as a whole adopted the Soviet "line".

But psychologists helped too. They were overwhelmingly Leftist so had a vested interest in the lie too. They became the equivalent of today's global warming scientific establishment. They in fact went to work straight after the war to work on the lie. The fruit of their labours emerged in 1950, in the form of a book under the lead authorship of Marxist theoretician Theodor Adorno: A book called "The authoritarian personality". The book claimed that American conservatives were authoritarian, just like Hitler and that authoritarianism was not a political system but rather a form of personality maladjustment. They might not be politically the same but Hitler and American conservatives were psychologically the same.

They made those claims while the greatest authoritarian regime of C20 loomed over the world of politics: The Soviet Union. The Soviets were unmistakably Leftists but they were allegedly not authoritarians at the personality level. They were just noble idealists who accepted that "To make an omelette, you have got to crack eggs".

It was all immensely implausible but the story was greeted with glad cries by virtually all psychologists. The individual liberty orientation of conservatives was held to flow from a love of authority. Black might as well have been white.

There were of course many attacks on such an absurd theory and every aspect of it eventually wound up on the wrong side of the research evidence. The first half of Altemeyer's 1986 book gives a good run-down of all the critiques concerned.

But the critiques and refutations were like water off a duck's back. They were ignored just as critiques of global warming are now mostly ignored.

And although it must hold the records for the most refuted theory in psychology, it still seems to be accepted by most psychologists today. Uncritical mentions of it continue to emerge.

So you can see that if a theory SUITS people's needs it will be accepted regardless of the evidence. People believe what they want to believe. And that is what is happening with global warming. It gives people a feeling of significance and even heroism. What achievement can beat "Saving the planet"? Intellectual fads and fashions are one thing but nothing beats saving the planet. So the theory has to be saved too. And that is what the climate scientists are doing when they write in support of global warming. They are desperately trying to save a wonderful theory -- a theory which gives all sorts of psychological rewards. So the tiniest scrap of apparently supportive evidence is seized upon and publicized.

That is what we read in mainstream climate science today.


Adorno T. W., Frenkel-Brunswik E., Levinson D. J. and Sanford R. N. (1950) The Authoritarian Personality. Harper, New York.

Altemeyer R. A. (1981) Right-wing Authoritarianism. University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg.

Switching over to an all-electric car fleet would create a huge demand for rare resources and require a huge expansion of mining

But the Green/Left HATE mining

The global embrace of electric cars is being hailed by myriad enthusiasts as yet another kind of digital disruption coming out of Silicon Valley. But if that transformation comes to pass, what it would actually signal is a new era of mega mineral mining and chemical processing — and rising American import dependencies.

Batteries are, after all, not digital but chemical machines. Given the scale of global transportation, using electricity as the primary fuel for personal mobility would mean fabricating gigatons of batteries. And that, in turn, would require mining astounding quantities of minerals and processing a virtual sea of chemicals.

But when it comes to betting on the future of anything, whether you're a stock picker or policy planner, which are you more bullish on: the future of chemicals and mining, or computing and machine learning? The question answers itself, except apparently for electric-car boosters. You could call that the real Tesla effect.

This is no knock on Tesla, which has gone in just five years from zero to selling more cars in America in the $100,000+ category than Mercedes-Benz. That unprecedented achievement, aided by the aura of CEO Elon Musk, has made Tesla the icon of the electric-car future, animating enthusiasm in ways no government program or lobbying could ever have achieved.

There are now more than 100 different models of EVs in the pipelines of the world's automakers, not counting China.

This flood of potential EVs has not only generated a lot of competition for money-burning Tesla stock, it has so emboldened bureaucratic aspirations that outright bans on the sale of internal combustion engines are now on the table, notably in Germany, France, England, China and, predictably, the state of California.

Green lobbyists are advising investors to get ahead of the inevitable and sell stocks in oil companies before the collapse in demand.

And policymakers are similarly being warned that the end of the petroleum age is in sight and they should assume a future of declining tax and royalty revenues from the oil sector.

Here's the problem: While electricity is invisible and weightless compared with gasoline, batteries and the materials required to build them are not.

Holding the energy value of 300 pounds of oil (that's one barrel) requires about 20,000 pounds of batteries and far more weight — often 10- to even 100-fold more — in minerals dug out of the earth in order to produce materials to fabricate them, commodities such as lithium, copper, nickel, manganese, rare earths and cobalt.

In an all-EV future, global mining would have to expand by more than 200% for copper and by at least 500% for minerals like lithium, graphite, and rare earths, and far more than that for cobalt.

An EV requires at least 2,000 times more weight in cobalt than a smartphone. Even the modestly aspirational goals for EVs will require cobalt production to rise far more than even the most optimistic forecasts for expansion of that mining sector. To paraphrase, there will be digging.

Fortunes stand to be made by companies and countries able and willing to dig up and process so much of the earth. Analysts, including those at the Motley Fool, have been assiduously charting the little-known mining and chemical stocks that would benefit.

Most are foreign, and many are Chinese. Given the reflexive regulatory and environmentalist hostility to mining, this means the EV path also promises greater import dependencies for America than we've ever seen with petroleum.

At the center of the EV supply chain are countries such as Chile, Argentina, Australia, Russia, Congo … and China. Notably, China refines 40% of all cobalt today.  In a sign of the times, China Molybdenum recently bought, for $2.7 billion, a major Congolese cobalt mine.  It's China Sinochem that's rumored to be bidding $4 billion to buy a big stake in Chile's SQM, one of the world's biggest lithium mines.

Meanwhile, China already dominates global battery manufacturing, and is on track to supply nearly two-thirds of all production by 2020.

There is indisputably "gold in them thar hills" for commodities traders, brave investors and Chinese exporters, should the subsidies for EVs expand. But it won't actually make much difference to global oil dependency. Do the math.

The International Energy Agency's most optimistic forecast puts the world EV fleet rising from today's 2 million to 200 million by 2030, which translates into about 15% of all cars by that date. That share, in turn, means displacing about 7% of world oil demand because light vehicles use about half of all oil. (The rest is for trucks, aircraft, chemicals, etc.)

That 7%, as they say, is not nothing. But it's hardly an existential threat to oil producers in a world where petroleum demand has been rising for thirty years, and has actually accelerated over the past five.

Battery chemistry isn't upending energy markets in any time frame that's meaningful. But it would certainly upend global mining and ignite geopolitical tensions.

Meanwhile, the real energy disruption on the horizon is happening in the oilfields with the rise of all things digital: the industrial Internet of Things, machine learning, analytics and automation.  It's a classic example of a revolution hidden in plain sight.

A conga line of consultancies and banks have published reports about the emerging digital oilfield revolution: Citi, BCG, Accenture, McKinsey, Deloitte, KPMG and Goldman Sachs.

The potential to more broadly employ software is also clearly on the radar of both legacy oil majors as well as the hundreds of smaller shale companies. The latter were responsible for the shale revolution coming out of left field to double America's oil production in a half-dozen years. Imagine what happens when digital fuel is added to that fire.

It's unclear who will come to dominate the real digital energy revolution. A decade or two ago it was also unclear which companies would eventually sit atop the digital landscape in media, mail, advertising and entertainment.

In hindsight, we know that Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon each acquired about 100 companies along the way to dominance. Odds are the same pattern emerges in digital-industrial domains.

Even the green-leaning World Economic Forum sees "digitalization" bringing over $1 trillion of value to global oil and gas companies and, at the same time, nearly that much value again for consumers.

Meanwhile, the EV future will require trillions of dollars in value-destroying subsidies, never mind how many backhoes are put to work digging up the earth. Which future would you bet on — or prefer — given such stark economic asymmetry


Ending the War on American Energy

The Trump administration just proposed the largest oil and gas lease sale in U.S. history

For decades, many American leaders have talked about energy independence. The Trump administration actually takes this commitment seriously. Last week, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced his department’s proposal for the largest oil and gas lease sale in U.S. history. Known as the Proposed Lease Sale 250, the Department of the Interior will be offering leases totaling 76.9 million acres. The lease locations span the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the unleased areas of the Gulf of Mexico’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), as well as offshore locations in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The sale will be held and livestreamed from New Orleans in March of 2018.

Proposed Lease Sale 250 will not only create jobs for Gulf Coast states, but it also enhances our national security position. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2016, the U.S. net imports on petroleum accounted for about 25% of all petroleum consumption (about 10.1 million barrels per day (MMb/d)). Roughly 70 countries supply our imports, with Canada, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia being the top five.

Petroleum and petroleum products include crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, asphalt, biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) and others. Our importing not only means that the U.S. economy supports off-shore jobs rather than American jobs, but it presents a significant strategic hurdle in our foreign policy. The U.S. dependence on foreign oil places us in a strategically vulnerable position where we must rely on another country (often those who do not share our interests) to fuel our cars, boats, planes and military equipment. Energy independence means that we gain self-sufficiency, and do not have to play political games with oil-supplying countries who use their energy supply as a way to manipulate our geopolitical position and our loyalties.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates that the development of the lease sites could be between .21 and 1.12 billion barrels of oil and breaks through barriers that have prevented job growth and expansion in the energy industry. A recent report by the Department of the Interior outlines the many burdens and barriers to energy growth in the U.S. including slow permitting processes and redundant regulations. Vincent De Vito, counselor to the secretary for energy policy, stated, “The federal government can and must be a better business partner. … The recent actions outlined in this energy report show how interior is rolling back some of these burdensome regulations that add little or no value, while promoting responsible energy development.”

The sale excludes whole and partial blocks of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and other blocks due to congressional moratoriums and other statutes. According to the statement from the Department of the Interior, “In addition to the high bids and rental payments, the Department will receive royalty payments on any future production from these leases. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease revenues are directed to the U.S. Treasury, Gulf Coast states, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Historic Preservation Fund.” This means a great increase in funding for the federal government, Gulf Coast state governments and funds committed to preservation and conservation.

Proposed Lease Sale 250 also creates a stability and certainty regarding the future of the energy sector. Congressman Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, observes, “If we are serious about energy dominance and long-term energy affordability, we must create certainty about future access in the Outer Continental Shelf.”

Under Barack Obama, 94% of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) was prohibited from leasing. In May, Secretary Zinke issued Secretarial Order 3350, which began a five-year program to help develop the OCS. Uncertainty regarding lease availability, permitting and regulations has adversely affected the American energy industry. Companies don’t want to risk their business if the government decides to fine them for “new rules” or close their drilling area. With an administration that has their back, American energy producers can face the future with certainty and optimism.

Optimism, in fact, has been a huge factor in the revitalization of the economy since Trump’s inauguration, and, according to Investor’s Business Daily, stronger optimism and factory output has greatly increased.


Business is based on the principle of optimistic risk in which business owners risk their money and resources hoping for a reward. Take, for example, the lemonade stand. You invest money to buy the lemons and sugar. You invest money in marketing (signs made from posters and markers). You invest time to sit outside and advertise your product, hoping that the combination of a good location (corner lot), supply (you were the first one out there) and the hot weather (demand) will mean that you will have customers. You price each cup so that you can make a profit. In total, you risk the investment in the lemonade stand for the reward of people purchasing your lemonade. This is basic business.

Now imagine that you invested all this money into your lemonade stand with the projected profit of a certain amount. Then the government comes in unannounced and says, “You need a permit. That will cost $50. You can only sell lemonade on this block, in the middle and not the corner lot. You can only sell three cups per hour. You can’t use real sugar, you need to use alternative sugar (that has a bad aftertaste).” Then they create additional rules without warning and fine you for non-compliance. Now that the government has reshuffled your deck, you must deal with multiple variables and things just became uncertain. This is called business uncertainty.

Under the previous administration, energy and other industries endured multiple aspects of uncertainty including unpredictable rules and regulations, which stifled productivity, optimism and business confidence. Now, with Proposed Lease Sale 250, and an administration committed to removing burdens and regulations, the business landscape for American energy has begun to change.

As Senator Bill Cassidy notes, “President Trump and his administration are following through on their promise to end the war on American energy,” which ultimately means a big win for American industry, the American worker and the American geopolitical position.


If Industry-Funded Scientists Can Be Conflicted, Surely Government-Funded Scientists Can Be Too

Scott Pruitt blocks EPA-funded researchers from serving on the agency's advisory boards

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt has
declared that researchers who receive funding from his agency cannot serve on its scientific advisory committees. "It is very, very important to ensure independence, to ensure that we're getting advice and counsel independent of the EPA," Pruitt told reporters Tuesday, according to The Washington Post.

Nearly 10 years ago, I researched the issue of research conflicts of interest for the American Council on Science and Health. My report concluded that

there is very little evidence that alleged conflicts of interests are significantly distorting scientific research, harming consumers and patients or misleading public policy. Most conflicts of interest activists clearly have prior strong ideological commitments against markets and corporations. They view the conflicts of interest campaign as another tool to attack an enterprise which they already despise on other grounds.

Interestingly, in my review of the voluminous conflicts-of-interest literature 10 years ago, I could find no published studies that even attempted to see whether government funding might skew research results in the direction favored by the agency that supported such research.

If there are any such studies out there, please direct my attention toward them now. The topic is certainly worth addressing. As the economists William N. Butos and Thomas J. McQuade argued in 2005,

Scientists' success in securing funding testifies to their submission of proposals that receive a favorable hearing by the funding agencies. Thus, scientists have an incentive to develop and nurture professional relationships with agency members, advisors, and consultants. Finally, government funding of science, including that associated with military R&D, unavoidably establishes linkages between the funding agencies' preferences (or legislative charge) and the scientific activity that university and industry researchers perform. These linkages relate to the purposes for which funds are made available, thereby affecting the direction and regulation of scientific research as well as specific protocols for military R&D.

In a column published just when the anti-fracking hysteria was peaking, I asked, "Is Regulatory Science an Oxymoron?" At the conclusion I posed a couple of questions:

Why is it that environmentalists and environmental agency bureaucrats can always gin up studies that show that any activity they oppose and/or want to regulate is dangerous to the environment? On the other hand, why is it that energy producers and energy agency bureaucrats can gin up studies that suggest that the benefits of any activity they favor outweigh the costs?

My tentative answer: Regulatory science is an oxymoron.

In any case, the foregoing is not meant endorse any of the candidates nominated by Pruitt to serve on the EPA's scientific advisory board. Each will need a case-by-case evaluation; avoiding both government shills and industry shills is a good idea. But Pruitt's ruling that researchers dependent on agency funding should not serve on EPA advisory committees is not self-evidently wrong.


Avalanche of global warming propaganda about to hit

With the United Nations Climate Change Conference starting on Monday in Bonn, Germany, we need to brace ourselves for an avalanche of global warming propaganda. We’ll be told that extreme weather, sea level rise, and shrinking sea ice are all about to get much worse if we do not quickly phase out our use of fossil fuels.

What will make this session especially intense is that this year’s meeting is being presided over by Fiji, a government that has taken the climate change alarm to extremes.

Conference president Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama calls for “an absolute dedication to meet the 1.5-degree target,” the most stringent goal suggested by the Paris Agreement. In support of Bainimarama’s position, the COP23/Fiji Website repeatedly cites the frightening forecasts of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), stating, for example, “The IPCC recently reported that temperatures will significantly increase in the Sahel and Southern African regions, rainfall will significantly decrease, and tropical storms will become more frequent and intense, with a projected 20 per cent increase in cyclone activity.”

To make such dire forecasts, the IPCC relies on computerized models built on data and formulae to represent atmospheric conditions. Besides the fact that we lack a comprehensive ‘theory of climate,’ and so do not have valid formulae to properly represent how the atmosphere functions, we also lack the data to properly understand what weather was like over most of the planet even in the recent past. And, without a good understanding of past weather conditions, we have no way to know the history of its average condition—the climate. Meaningful forecasts of future climate change are therefore impossible.

An important data set used by the computer models cited by the IPCC is the ‘HadCRUT4’ global average temperature history for the past 167 years produced by the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, and the Hadley Centre, both based in the United Kingdom.

Until the 1960s, HadCRUT4 temperature data was collected using mercury thermometers located at weather stations situated mostly in the United States, Japan, the UK, and eastern Australia. Most of the rest of the planet had very few temperature sensing stations. And none of the Earth’s oceans, which cover 70% of the planet, had more than the occasional station separated from its neighbor by thousands of kilometers.

The data collected at weather stations in this sparse grid had, at best, an accuracy of +/-0.5 degrees Celsius, often times no better than +/-1 degree. Averaging such poor data in an attempt to determine global conditions cannot yield anything meaningful.

Modern weather station surface temperature data is now collected using precision thermocouples. But, starting in the 1970s, less and less ground surface temperature data was used for plots such as HadCRUT4. This was done initially because governments believed that satellite monitoring could take over from most of the ground surface data collection. But the satellites did not show the warming forecast by computer models. So, bureaucrats closed most of the colder rural surface temperature sensing stations, thereby yielding the warming desired for political purposes.

Today, there is virtually no data for approximately 85% of the Earth’s surface. Indeed, there are fewer weather stations in operation now than there were in 1960.

So, the HadCRUT4 and other surface temperature computations after about 1980 are meaningless. Combining this with the problems with the early data, and the fact that we have almost no long-term data above the surface, the conclusion is unavoidable: it is not possible to know how the Earth’s climate has varied over the past century and a half. The data is therefore useless for input to the computer models that form the basis of the IPCC’s conclusions.

In fact, there is insufficient data of any kind—temperature, land and sea ice, glaciers, sea level, extreme weather, ocean pH, etc.—to be able to determine how today’s climate differs from the past. So, the IPCC’s climate forecasts have no connection with the real world.

This will not stop Bainimarama and other conference leaders from citing the IPCC in support of their warnings of future climate catastrophe. No one should take them seriously.



Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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