Sunday, February 12, 2012

Skeptic brains 'emit fear signals that can disrupt attempts at rational thought'

Another Leftist attempt to declare their opponents psychologically unfit. Such attacks go back a long way. There was a big burst of it among academic psychologists from 1950 onwards and the Soviets even locked up their critics in psychiatric hospitals. So the ghoulish intellectual ancestry of the writer below is clear.

But projection is a regular feature of Leftist thought so it is a good rule that whatever they say about others is really true of themselves -- JR

Yup. That's how a Canadian alarmist explains PM Stephen Harper's lack of interest in global warming. Charlie Smith writes at
. Recently, I came across a neurological and psychological explanation why seemingly intelligent people like the prime minister don't want to wrap their minds around climate change.

Keep in mind that Harper is the son of an accountant who worked for Imperial Oil. He probably grew up in a home with a high regard for the fossil-fuel industry.

Author William Marsden explains in his recent book Fools Rule: Inside the failed politics of climate change (Alfred A. Knopf Canada) that the when the brain is confronted with tiny changes to familiar patterns, it "quickly emits fear signals that can disrupt attempts at rational thought".

Quoting McGill University neurologist Lesley Fellows, Marsden notes that there are parts of the brain that enjoy learning new things, but other areas summon anxiety when familiar habits are disrupted.

"Climate change poses a complexity of stressful challenges with which few people know how to deal," Marsden writes.

Fellows explained to Marsden that "nebulous" threats, such as climate change, are not handled nearly as well by the brain as are immediate threats.


An Unsettling Week For Global Warming's 'Settled Science'

People who claim that "the science is settled" on global warming have to be pretty unsettled by the science news in the last week.

"Setttled science", of course, means that we are inevitably headed toward a disastrous warming of surface temperatures as forecast by some computer models, and we therefore need an international carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, pronto.

Settled science would know all of the important "forcings" and "feedbacks" in the climate system, such as the sensitivity of surface temperature to changes in carbon dioxide (a forcing) and the behavior of clouds, which could either enhance or counter warming (a feedback).

Now it appears that cloud tops are lowering, a totally unforeseen cooling feedback on carbon dioxide-induced warming. Writing in Geophysical Research Letters, University of Auckland's Roger Davies and Matthew Molloy conclude this could be a "significant measure of a negative cloud feedback to global warming".

The average global cloud height is linked to the average global temperature-generally, the higher the average cloud height, the higher the average surface temperature, and vice versa. The tie-in is related to the height in the atmosphere from which clouds radiate infrared radiation to space. The higher up they are, the cooler they are, and they dissipate less radiation, which means the surface stays warmer.

Problem is that there's only ten years of data, and there was a pretty decent La Nina (that's the cold side of El Nino) in the Pacific Ocean in 2008, which was clearly correlated with a decline in cloud top height. Davies and Molloy are therefore properly cautious with their conclusions, but nonetheless note that a comparison of the beginning and endpoints for their study, which minimizes the La Nina contribution, still showed a decline in cloud height.

Who'd a thunk this one? Based upon data from the paper, the cooling climate impact from the decrease in the average global cloud height more than offset the positive forcing from an increase in greenhouse gases from human activities in the last decade.

This is-yet another-explanation in the refereed literature to apologize for recent climate misbehavior. Others include changes in the sun, cruddy air from China, and a change in stratospheric water vapor.

The last one is especially interesting because that, too, is a previously unknown forcing on climate, i.e. another bullet shot at "settled science".

Then there's the new icing on the global warming cake. Data from 2003 through 2010 from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite show virtually zero net melting from the massive Himalayan ice cap, the world's "third pole". The UN, using an unrefereed publication from the World Wildlife Federation, erroneously forecast in its last climate compendium that it would be gone by 2035. In reality, it will last hundreds of years, and even longer if the current trends reflect how the ice cap reacts to warming.

How could prominent glaciologists like Ohio State's Lonnie Thompson, who isn't shy about predicting glacial armageddon (and, who along with his wife, advises Al Gore on matters climatic), have missed this one? Simple-who wants to climb to the top of a Himalayan glacier? That can be close to the oxygen-starved "dead zone" where humans cannot linger. So most measurements have been made from the bottom. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the top of these behemoths will expand in a warmer world, as the ocean evaporates more moisture which will surely precipitate as snow at higher elevations.

In addition, the GRACE satellite found that total ice loss outside of Greenland and Antarctica was previously estimated 30% too high, another reinforcement of the "lukewarm" synthesis of climate change. After adding in the GRACE measurements for Greenland and Antarctica and median estimates for the "thermal expansion" of water, the current rate of sea-level rise is 8 inches per century. While that surely will rise before 2100, it's only one inch more than what was observed last century.

What with the finding of yet another cooling feedback, no net melting (within the range of measurement error) in the Himalayan ice cap, and confirmation of a low rate of sea level rise, it's been a bad week for climate hotheads.


A skeptical "Occupier"


America's Green Enemies

By Alan Caruba

It was good news that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the nation's first nuclear power plants on February 9th, clearing the way for the construction of two reactors by Southern Company at its Plant Vogtle site near Atlanta, Georgia. The bad news is that these are the first new nuclear plants since 1978!

In a nation with a growing population and increasing need for electricity to power homes and businesses, it is nothing less than insane to not include nuclear energy in the mix of providers. Environmentalists immediately attacked the announcement using the usual scare campaigns.

Equally insane is the failure to provide the means to safely store the radioactive materials that result. Highly contested by environmentalists, the Nevada-based Yucca Mountain deep geological repository storage facility for spent reactor fuel was cancelled in 2009. Nevada's Senator Harry Reid, Majority Leader in the Senate, played a major role in this disgraceful decision. The Obama administration terminated funding for the development of the site in 2011, leaving the nation with no long-term storage site.

In a similar fashion, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has waged a long war on the provision of energy; most recently with the imposition of its Utility MACT rule on plant carbon dioxide (CO2) and mercury emissions, neither of which pose any threat. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, decried the rule as one "intended to undermine the viability of coal, one of our country's most abundant and reliable energy sources."

Despite having spent billions to meet the demand for upgrades of the technology to trap such emissions, coal-fired plants all over the nation are in the process of being closed as a result of the MACT rule. These "greenhouse gas" rules are baseless insofar as CO2 is not a pollutant and is vital to the growth of all vegetation on the planet. There is no proof that minor mercury emissions represent any threat to public health.

The EPA use of bogus "computer models" to support wild health claims argues for an end to this agency and the return of its responsibilities to state environmental agencies.

In January, the American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the leading authority, warned that "environmental regulations are shown to be the number one risk to reliability over the next one to five years."

The Institute for Energy Research has stated that "Beyond the 38 gigawatts of electricity capacity that has already been announced to retire, NERC estimates that another 36 to 59 gigawatts of capacity will come off-line by 2018, depending on the `scope and timing' of EPA regulations. Together, nearly a quarter of our coal-fired capacity could be off-line by 2018, marking the first time in energy history that installed coal-fired capacity has declined."

This is a threat to the viability and security of a nation that sits atop the largest deposits of coal in the world! It is a nation in which coal provides 50% of its electricity.

In a similar fashion, environmentalists, after a long propaganda war against coal, have launched an equally massive campaign against natural gas, attacking the use of "fracking", a technology that has been safely used for the last fifty years or more to access equally vast reserves of natural gas.

Likewise the cost of automobiles has been systematically driven up by the wholly false EPA assertion that their CO2 emissions represent a threat to clean air. The imposition of a mandate to mix gasoline with ethanol has resulted in greater CO2 emissions while, at the same time, reducing the mileage of cars. In addition, the use of food crops like corn for the production of ethanol, have driven up food prices.

Anyone who has lost electricity due to a blizzard or a hurricane knows how totally dependent the nation is on reliable and affordable electricity, and knows how totally dependent they are on is provision.

The simple fact is that the present and prior administration's EPA, the Department of Transportation, and others have been lying to Congress and the American public for years regarding their claims about air pollution and energy provision. The Interior Department just put uranium-rich acres of land off-limits to mining.

Environmental organizations and special interest groups like the American lung Association are a fifth column of enemies within the nation.

The global warming hoax-now called climate change-is on its last legs. Nations around the world that have wasted billions on the claims made for "renewable" energy, solar and wind, are pulling back from further support. The "science" behind these claims has been totally and utterly refuted.

Even the United Nations, the source of the global warming hoax, is now switching its debased claims to a new hoax based on so-called endangered species.

The loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the energy and transportation sectors, as well as energy-intensive industries, is incalculable. EPA demands and mandates are deliberately undermining the nation's economy.

The lives and safety of Americans are under attack by environmental organizations and, if they are successful, the only outcome would be the deaths of millions here and around the world from hunger and the lack of power to turn on the lights, heat and cool homes, and power industries.

The planet is not running out of oil, coal, or natural gas. It can use more nuclear power, not less.

We are witnessing an environmental attack on American energy and, ultimately, on America.


VOA: Debate Over Global Warming Heats Up

Even the U.S. Government's propaganda outfit is rethinking global warmism. The Voice of America reports:

"Hardly a week goes by that we aren't reporting a story on concerns about global warming. But, a growing number of people in the scientific community are coming forward to express doubts about the prevailing scientific opinions concerning global warming."

No doubt the warmists will kick the crap out of the VOA for that sentence of honesty.


Why Geo-Engineering Is Like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

Climate Science Goes Megalomaniacal

A February 6 report in the Guardian describes budding efforts to displace decarbonizing with geo-engineering as the goal for reducing the predicted catastrophic effects of global warming. At present, these efforts are being funded by mega-wealthy private citizens like Bill Gates, but some traditional environmentalists as well as some decarbonizers are becoming worried that climate theory is setting off in a new direction. Perhaps that is why the story appeared in the Guardian of all places. Instead of its usual uncritical climate gushiness, the Guardian delves into the smarmier side of climate science - its dependence on money.

Their dependence on money is a subject proponents of anthropogenic global warming avoid like the plague, even though they are wont to accuse anyone who disagrees with them as being in the pay of the fossil fuel companies. The Guardian report is important, because it inadvertently shines a light on how the intersection of money and groupthink among insular cohesive groups sharing a common interest is discrediting climate science in particular, but also science in general. (I am not introducing groupthink as a casual buzz word but in the context the distinguished psychologist Irving Janis used in his classic book Groupthink. Anyone who believes groupthink is not a problem in the insular self-righteous climate science community, should read the Hockey Stick Illusion or wade through just a few of the infamous emails hacked from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.)

Obviously, geo-engineering the earth's climate would be a big deal, culturally as well as scientifically. It would make the pyramids, the Manhattan Project or the Apollo Program look puny and intellectually trivial in comparison. By necessity, indeed by definition, geo-engineering would be forever dependent on analyses of the outputs of computerized global climate models (GCMs), because we can not put anything as complex as the world's atmosphere on a lab bench or in a wind tunnel for testing. Computer models, like all scientific theories, are mental constructs of reality - really analogies - to represent and cope with that reality. The first point to note is that no model can be perfect or exact in its representation of reality. All models are imperfect and therefore mutable, as the historian Thomas Kuhn, among others, explained in his classic, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. All scientific models must be continually tested to ensure their predictions match up to external conditions, and as the precision of observations increases, sooner of later, all scientific models become creaky and eventually need to be replaced with a newer construction to better explain a reality that is always receding as one seems to get closer to it by making more precise observations.

The second point to note is that GCMs are complex mathematical constructs made by like-minded or group-thinking minds. They are not the products of individuals. This requires a consensus-based mentality and the intense communal effort required to build these models reinforces that mentality. The need to raise money to pay for these models further intensifies the communal outlook. Consensus building, and especially the invocation of consensual authority, shapes the mentality of contemporary climate scientists in a very different way from the conceptions of physics that shaped the individual mental outlooks during the experiments that produced the models of the atom that competed for acceptance during the first half of the twentieth century. The great physicist who invented the first model of the atom, Niels Bohr, for example, used to introduce his lectures by saying everything he was about to say was wrong. By that he meant no theory is eternal.

You will not hear Bohr's kind of humility, tolerance, or encouragement of dissent and debate from dogmatic proponents of global warming like Michael Mann or James Hansen, ironically, both physicists, even though the GCMs they are basing their sense of authority on have not been validated with empirical data (or in the case of Mann's infamous Hockey Stick, have been shown to be statistically flawed). The dogmatic sense of certainty exhibited by goupthinking climate scientists exists despite the fact that the comprehensive data needed to test the GCM models for matchups to the environment simply do not exist. Yet, this uncertainty is not at all unlike that which created the far more open-minded debate among the advocates of different atomic models, like Bohr, Schr”dinger, or Heisenberg in the early Twentieth Century. So, the authority of the GCMs needed to justify geo-engineering must be based on unvalidated assumptions about reality - really conjectures which are now stated as dogma, like, for example, the crucial quantification of the sensitivity of the warming response to changes in CO2 levels.

But there is more to the speculative analytical pathway leading climate science into the geo-engineering cul de sac, which brings me to my third point. To justify the huge public expenditures and diversion of resources needed to geo-engineer the world, it will be necessary to perform cost-effectiveness analyses of the predicted benefits in a political context to convince policy makers of the need to undertake such a drastic and costly course of action. Although the Guardian does not mention it, I have met some global warming alarmists (all card-carrying decarbonizers) who are already advocating that we combine the output of the GCMs with econometric models of the global economy to predict the global relationship between the monetary inputs to the economic benefits of global temperature reduction via solutions like carbon sequestration, etc. If you want to know how accurate econometric models are, just ask Alan Greenspan. This kind of operation, clearly, would be like piling a house of cards on top of a house of cards.

Yet, the econometric-GCM mansion of cards is probably inevitable. It is a tiny logical step for advocates of geo-engineering to link their theoretical GCMs to econometric models, and given the money needed (and the sacrifices that would be made elsewhere), cost-benefit analyses will eventually become necessary. A policy decision to launch a "Manhattan Plus" project to geo-engineer the earth's climate based on analyses of the output of such poorly understood computer models (GCMs and econometric) would go beyond madness and descend into megalomania. The Guardian report inadvertently makes the madness quite clear: some climate scientists are calling for a political consensus to geo-engineer the globe, because the world cannot reach a political agreement on the vastly simpler problem of simply reducing carbon emissions. Such an argument is at once illogical and bizarre. Perhaps this yawning disconnect is why this report appeared in the Guardian, usually the most rabid pro global-warming mainstream newspaper in the world.

But of course, the megalomania implicit in geo-engineering has nothing to do with madness; it is about a group of like-minded intelligent people trying to feather their nest by creating a cash cow to do what they think is right and good. This is something I saw every day in the Pentagon.

Indeed, creating cash cows in the name of the greater good is the essence of the Pentagon's game. My 28 years experience in the Pentagon made me quite familiar with the steps needed to create the financial equivalent of a self-licking ice cream cone: (1) Inflate a threat to scare the bejeezus out of the people and induce politicians to unleash a torrent of publicly-funded money; (2) then, front-load a solution to neutralize that threat by overstating its benefits, understating its costs, and downplaying the uncertainties surrounding what is at best a poorly understood course of action; and then, (3) politically engineer a social safety net by spreading the money (grants and contracts) around the polity to lock in the constituent dependencies needed to keep the money flowing after the inevitable problems begin to surface.

Incidentally, the geo-engineering game, if publicly funded, will be manna from heaven for the US hi-tech weapons industry, which cannot compete commercially, but is in need of diversification, because of marginal cutbacks in the rate of future growth in the Pentagon's budget. You can bet what little is left of your IRA that defense mega-giants like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman will be attracted to the cash flow potential of geo-engineering like flies to honey, should a serious geo-engineering effort begin to materialize.

Speaking of the similarities between the advocates of geo-engineering to the inhabitants of the Pentagon and the defense industry - consider, as an example, the resemblance of using computer simulations to cope with the uncertainties of geo-engineering to the use of computer simulations in the now deeply troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Bear in mind, the Pentagon wrote the script for basing high-cost decisions with long term consequences on highly complex, poorly-understood computer driven simulations, while short-shrifting testing. It has more experience in modeling than just about any organization in the world. It began cost-effectiveness modeling on computers in the mid 1960s and has continued with increasing intensity ever since. Nevertheless, the unfolding debacle of the F-35 has taken these kinds of simulations to a new level of disaster: No less an authority that Frank Kendall, the acting Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition said recently that the F-35 program was started with the idea of putting it into production before it was fully tested under "the optimistic prediction that we were good enough at modeling and simulation that we would not find problems in flight test." . He characterized this decision as "acquisition malpractice" . that . "was wrong, and now we are paying for that." Of course, Kendall's use of "we" is a wee bit disingenuous, because it is the taxpayer not the Pentagon who is footing the malpractice bill.

It goes without saying that the uncertainties limiting our understanding of our ability to model the future consequences of a decision to design and produce the F-35 are trivial compared to those of geo-engineering the entire climate system. But humility is not in order, because geo-engineers, like milcrats and defense contractors, will be spending other people's money.


Good intentions but clean energy price too high

Comment from Australia

There are few things more dangerous than a bad policy built on good intentions. Communism springs to mind ("commune" is such a lovely word). The vast public housing estates built across the English speaking world in the 1960s and 1970s are another. The first famine in the Soviet Union, and the social dystopia in "the projects", should have quickly revealed that the policies were misconceived. Yet because the values behind the policies were ostensibly noble, they continued to operate on the original intention rather than the results. So it is with the government's Solar Flagships program.

"Renew" is also a gorgeous English word that carries with it a cache of that precious and elusive substance - hope. I don't want to disparage the search for diversified and sustainable energy security. I am concerned, as a taxpayer, that we get value for the $10 billion largesse we are pouring into renewables, as the price of Bob Brown's support for a minority government.

The policy was this week mugged by reality when both its Solar Flagship projects crashed. A $300 million grant to photovoltaic Moree Solar Farm must now be re-tendered because the proponents failed to attract matching private investment, in part because BP Solar, which was providing the technology, announced it was getting out of solar globally. (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the Czech Republic have all slashed solar subsidies and four of the biggest solar systems suppliers have filed for bankruptcy in the past 10 months). A solar thermal project at Chinchilla in Queensland (which has suffered a $300 million cost blowout since July 2011) has had to be granted a six-month stay of execution because it is yet to secure a customer.

The former Labor Leader Mark Latham now looks prophetic in his December 2011 statement: "The Government has put aside $10 billion for so-called 'industry development' . this is the biggest industry slush fund in the history of the nation. The technologies aren't ready, the businesses aren't established to absorb this money in any productive way."

Latham is an echo of growing unrest among the more hard-headed inside the ALP, including those committed to "urgent action on climate change". Kevin Rudd's former economics adviser, Dr Andrew Charlton, referred in his Quarterly Essay 44, to "the wide gap between rhetoric and reality when it comes to clean energy . Neither wind nor solar power can currently provide continuous base-load power . these sources deliver nothing to the grid when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining". Charlton's thesis supports public investment over time but warns: "Trying to roll out large-scale renewable energy with current technology would be a terrible waste of money. We would spend billions of dollars installing expensive and inefficient renewable power with technology that will soon be outdated".

The British Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, this week faced a revolt of 101 MPs demanding a dramatic cut to a £400 million subsidy to the "inefficient" onshore wind turbine industry. They were not without a factual basis for their concerns after Verso Economics' March 2011 evaluation of The Economic Impact of Renewable Energy Policy found that: "Policy to promote the renewable electricity sector . is economically damaging. Government should not see this as an economic opportunity, therefore, but should focus debate instead on whether these costs, and the damage done to the environment, are worth the climate change mitigation".

That finding is supported by Bjorn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Centre, which commissioned five economists to review renewables policy. Their advice? "Cutting carbon is extremely expensive, especially in the short term, because the alternatives to fossil fuels are few and costly."

The only source of large-scale, storable, renewable energy is recharge-pumping hydro-electricity. But the Greens believe climate change has permanently reduced rainfall and were founded in Tasmania on a commitment to stop the construction of dams. In a Brown/Gillard government, the taxpayer can look forward to massive, well-intentioned but poorly targeted spending on immature technologies that will deliver little enduring benefit.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


1 comment:

John A said...

"qually insane is the failure to provide the means to safely store the radioactive materials that result."

Which (storage) is fairly silly anyway. It was in the SALT[s] as an agreement to not recover Plutonium for weapons. Well, since then a lot of countries have joined the nuclear club, and more are probably about to: heck, just toss the "spent" fuel rods in the crushers with the raw Uranium ores and at least get the "unspent" Uranium, if not the Plutonium. Though it would have to be separated out - hmm, store it or use it in a reactor? Decisions, decisions...