Unsettled Science

Sixteen prominent scientists give a little bit of perspective to the “we must hand our future over to faceless bureaucrats because the earth is burning up” global warming religion.

The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere’s life cycle. Plants do so much better with more CO2 that greenhouse operators often increase the CO2 concentrations by factors of three or four to get better growth. This is no surprise since plants and animals evolved when CO2 concentrations were about 10 times larger than they are today [emphasis added]. Better plant varieties, chemical fertilizers and agricultural management contributed to the great increase in agricultural yields of the past century, but part of the increase almost certainly came from additional CO2 in the atmosphere.

A recent study of a wide variety of policy options by Yale economist William Nordhaus showed that nearly the highest benefit-to-cost ratio is achieved for a policy that allows 50 more years of economic growth unimpeded by greenhouse gas controls. This would be especially beneficial to the less-developed parts of the world that would like to share some of the same advantages of material well-being, health and life expectancy that the fully developed parts of the world enjoy now. Many other policy responses would have a negative return on investment. And it is likely that more CO2 and the modest warming that may come with it will be an overall benefit to the planet.

Let’s Try for some Reading Comprehension, Folks

Elon Musk recently commented on the global warming debate with comments along the eminently reasonable lines of:

If you ask a scientist if they’re sure that human activity is causing climate change, they should say no, because we can’t be sure. But if you ask them if we should continue pumping trillions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, they should also say no, because we’re essentially running an experiment whose end result we don’t know. So we should lean towards sustainable energy production and consumption. We don’t need to cause people immediate suffering in their economic lives, but we’ll need sustainable energy in the future, so why not start in that direction now?

Note the refreshing lack of alarmism.

Dude on Google+ commented with a list of links to why current models that predict global warming are deficient in several areas. This is actually orthogonal to the entire point Elon’s statement and my reaction to it.

Herewith my response (it’s been a slow morning and I had a little snark to burn off):

Dude, lighten up. If you had bothered to do a little googling instead of mindless knee-jerking, you’d realize that you are in fact preaching to the choir. I have read through the CRU source code, you know.

A few problems with your comment:

First, you have wilfully ignored the actual, you know, CONTENT of my post, viz: the perspicacious reader reader must infer that Svensmark et al. are just as Kuhnian-ly challenged as Briffa, Mann, et al. And most crucially, my statement that there is no pressing reason for immediate economic hardship does seem to have a TINY BIT OF RELEVANCE to the concept of “opportunity costs”. LEARN TO READ before you waste your own time and mine in mindlessly regurgitating talking points that don’t actually address what I wrote.

Second, burning hydrocarbons for power is STUPID, STUPID, STUPID even if there is no effect from atmospheric CO2, because they are far better employed as feedstock for plastics.

Third, burning hydrocarbons SMELL BAD and are a HEALTH HAZARD. Or have you never met anyone in your obviously sheltered existence with asthma?

Fourth, hydrocarbons are going to run out sometime in geological time anyway, so why not get in on the market early? If we as a civilization are ever going to level up on the Kardashev scale, hydrocarbons are just not going to cut it.

Fifth, you seem to have misapprehended a just slightly important bit of context: Elon Musk wants to LIVE ON MARS. Last I heard, there’s not a whole lot of oil on Mars. If you want to freeze on Titan just so you can have your precious hydrocarbons, go right ahead.

Sixth, living in a stinky blue cloud of 19th-century tech is JUST NOT VERY GEEKY. I’ll be exploring the solar system in my polywell runabout — fuelled by a bottle of water and a cup of Borax — while you’re dying choking on the vomitous excrescences of your Victorian explodey-machine.

Seventh, I am by political inclination a minarchist, and hydrocarbon power tends to incentivize natural monopoly and hierarchical control, whether by cartels, multinational corporations or increasingly overreaching governments. I am in favour of the devolution of all kinds of power, whether political or physical.

So to sum up, in the future, please try to hold yourself back with the small-minded knee-jerk reactions to people and topics you obviously have never actually bothered to actually, you know, INVESTIGATE. Instead, please try to decide on the actual MERITS of the PARTICULAR SITUATION, viz. a particular post by a particular person, as opposed to lapping up and regurgitating the context-less self-serving propaganda of your favoured political team.

Even if everyone you link to is actually correct — and as I note above, I am in fact inclined to think that they are — their conclusions ARE NOT THE SUM TOTAL OF ALL FACTORS. There’s a bigger picture, dude. Try to keep that in mind in the future.

Imagine a Snow Boot Stamping on a Human Face — Forever

It seems that there has been an eleventh-hour deal in Copenhagen.

If you don’t think giving hundreds of millions of dollars to an unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy with absolute power over the majority of the world’s economies is an inevitable recipe for corruption and tyranny, consider this:

Lord Monckton, an official delegate from the UK to Copenhagen, was barred from the conference hall, thrown to the ground and knocked unconscious by the police today.

His crime? Pointing out that the “evidence” for global warming “climate change” is suspect at best and completely fraudulent at worst.

I’m sure there are some who regard this as just a good start.

For some perspective on the mild uptick in temperature at the end of the twentieth century, watch this video:

Update: James Randi, the world’s foremost debunker of pseudoscience of all kinds, weighs in:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — a group of thousands of scientists in 194 countries around the world, and recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize — has issued several comprehensive reports in which they indicate that they have become convinced that “global warming” is and will be seriously destructive to life as we know it, and that Man is the chief cause of it. They say that there is a consensus of scientists who believe we are headed for disaster if we do not stop burning fossil fuels, but a growing number of prominent scientists disagree. Meanwhile, some 32,000 scientists, 9,000 of them PhDs, have signed The Petition Project statement proclaiming that Man is not necessarily the chief cause of warming, that the phenomenon may not exist at all, and that, in any case, warming would not be disastrous.

Happily, science does not depend on consensus. Conclusions are either reached or not, but only after an analysis of evidence as found in nature. It’s often been said that once a conclusion is reached, proper scientists set about trying to prove themselves wrong.

It’s easy enough to believe that drought, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes are signs of a coming catastrophe from global warming, but these are normal variations of any climate that we — and other forms of life — have survived. Earth has undergone many serious changes in climate, from the Ice Ages to periods of heavily increased plant growth from their high levels of CO2, yet the biosphere has survived.