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Don't Say I Didn't Warn You -- The Environmentalist Case for Fascism

Our (mostly free) society has survived many challenges.  But will it be able to withstand gentlemen like this waving around immensely flawed climate science:

Liberal democracy is sweet and addictive and indeed in the most extreme case, the USA, unbridled individual liberty overwhelms many of the collective needs of the citizens. The subject is almost sacrosanct and those who indulge in criticism are labeled as Marxists, socialists, fundamentalists and worse. These labels are used because alternatives to democracy cannot be perceived! Support for Western democracy is messianic as proselytised by a President leading a flawed democracy

There must be open minds to look critically at liberal democracy. Reform must involve the adoption of structures to act quickly regardless of some perceived liberties. ...

We are going to have to look how authoritarian decisions based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse emissions. It is not that we do not tolerate such decisions in the very heart of our society, in wide range of enterprises from corporate empires to emergency and intensive care units. If we do not act urgently we may find we have chosen total liberty rather than life.

He has great admiration for how China does things

The [plastic shopping bag] ban in China will save importation and use of five million tons of oil used in plastic bag manufacture, only a drop in the ocean of the world oil well. But the importance in the decision lies in the fact that China can do it by edict and close the factories. They don’t have to worry about loss of political donations or temporarily unemployed workers. They have made a judgment that their action favours the needs of Chinese society as a whole.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

By the way, here is a little "tip."  The author says this:

Unfortunately it seems increasingly likely that the IPCC underestimated the speed of climate change and failed to recognise the likely effect of a range of tipping points which may now be acting in concert.

I believe that man is having a warming effect on the earth, but that effect is small and non-catastrophic.  There are reasons I may be wrong.  BUT, you should immediately laugh out of the room anyone who talk about "a range of tipping points" in a system like the earth's climate that has been reasonably stable for tens of millions of years.  When used by climate catastrophists, the word "tipping point" means:  Yeah, we are kind of upset the world is not warming nearly as fast as our computer models say it should, so we will build an inflection point about 10 years out into the forecast where the slope of change really ramps up and we will call it a "tipping point" because, um, that is kindof a cool hip phrase right now and make us sound sophisticated and stuff.

Postscript:  Anyone who makes this statement is WELL grounded in reality:

All this suggests that the savvy Chinese rulers may be first out of the blocks to assuage greenhouse emissions

LOLOLOL.  They are building a new coal plant, what, every three days or so in China?

Postscript #2: Quiz for older folks out there:  How long ago was it that environmentalists were encouraging us to use plastic bags over paper because it saved a tree?

HT:  Tom Nelson

Posted on January 16, 2008 at 07:15 PM | Permalink

Comments

I've been waiting for the time when someone would just come right out and say it.

Posted by: Some guy | Jan 16, 2008 7:57:07 PM

I'd like to think that I'm not one of the "older" folks, I'm 27. I remember from when I worked at a grocery store when I was 14 years old. Some people brought in their own personal canvas bags, so they didn't use paper or plastic...

Posted by: David Z | Jan 16, 2008 9:27:32 PM

Hand wave did you say? Any muppet claiming a ban on plastic bags will save 5 million tons of oil, or indeed any oil at all, doesn't know WTF they're talking about. The naptha used to make plastic bags is a waste product of the oil industry, which would be flared off if it wasn't used to make plastic bags.

Posted by: Colin Suttie | Jan 16, 2008 10:04:09 PM

I think that trusting scientists on their views in their fields of expertise is generally a good idea, and if the IPCC says that global warming is starting to accelerate, I'm inclined to accept it; it's really the only intelligent thing to do. Policy and normative notions, one can debate, even if you aren't an expert, but for facts and other positive notions, I'll stick to the experts, and they seem to say that global warming is real.

If everyone trusted the experts more, the world would be a better place. None of the pseudo-science homeopathy/complementary medicine nonsense, none of the liberalized ignorance of basic economic facts, and none of the nonsense of evolution denial.

Posted by: such.ire | Jan 16, 2008 11:44:15 PM

such.ire,

Your response would make sense if you didn't take into account the idea that scientists get way more money to do research about catastrophic global warming versus natural equilibrium.

In addition, I don't agree with the "trusting experts" argument because I have yet to see an approach to global warming based on the emerging field of complex adaptive systems. As one who studies this field, am I not an "expert", shouldn't you trust me? Because I've found that complex systems move towards different equilibriums, not tipping points. By classifying the global climate as a complex adaptive system, I have to disagree with the current so-called "experts" who claim there is a tipping point.

Personally, I think this whole argument of "trusting experts" is flawed because one is only an expert until somebody with a new theory comes along that is better. Let's not forget the "experts" told us that the Earth was at the center of the universe, and they had the majority consensus. It used to be mind boggling to think otherwise.

"Trusting experts" is probably one of those things which will lead to the loss of individual liberty and further reinforces the point of this blog article

-Rob


Posted by: Rob | Jan 17, 2008 7:02:39 AM

But which experts do you trust? The ones with the complex, kludged and very dubious models who are predicting rapid warming, or the ones with the satellites who can't find it?

Posted by: pogo | Jan 17, 2008 8:49:45 AM

A failure to trust experts in the field of their expertise is as preposterous as being uncertain as to whether seven is a prime number.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger | Jan 17, 2008 8:54:53 AM

Well, notice that I used the plural here. The views of an individual scientist are, for better or worse, his/her own views. The scientific consensus, on the other hand, represents the views of a large swath of scientists, and the competition between scientists for funding and publication generally means that, on the whole, the "most correct" interpretation tends to win. I don't know how much I can trust an individual scientist's views, but if a vast majority of scientists support a view, then I'll stick with that one. I'm not addressing here the whole "tipping point" phrasing or alarmism that the particular journalist used in the above blog post. I'm talking about general skepticism about global warming. Unless I have specific, methodological problems with the general field's reasoning, and have experience in in that field, I'd say that I will always accept the field's scientific consensus on a subject.

There's a word for people who, with absolutely no expertise, think that they have the answers in the face of tons of experts: crackpot. Lay people (i.e. non-scientists) who go against scientific consensus are the same as people who think that they can prove Einstein's Theory of Relativity wrong, or who think they've proved Fermat's Last Theorem in two short sentences. They're not brilliant critics; they're raving madmen. Just because Rob is an expert in complex adaptive systems doesn't mean he's an expert in climate science. That's like saying a mathematician is an expert in cryptography; yes, cryptography uses mathematics, but unless that mathematician has a focus on cryptography, they won't know all the algorithms, all the details, all the issues involved. If a mathematician were to persist in making sweeping non-consensus claims about cryptography without reading about cryptography, he or she'd be a crackpot, regardless of how smart they are.

So if Rob is going to make some claim about climate science because he's in a field he thinks is related, he'd better have much better reasons than "adaptive systems converge upon fixed points", cause climate phase trajectories lie in a large-dimensional manifold, and in such situations, fixed points often abound; in addition, we don't know the rate of convergence to the various fixed points, and presumably the ever-changing flux of the sun, geothermal activity, and rotation of the earth would prevent such steady-state convergence. Perhaps anthropogenic climate change is driven by the evolution of fixed points in certain directions; perhaps our introduction of greenhouse gases has led to some sort of bifurcation, and that's leading to the increase in temperatures. Hey look, I can make vague generalities about climate science as a complex system, too! Do you believe me? I would hope you go to the experts instead.

Sure, some "experts" in the past have claimed that the Earth was in the center of the universe, perhaps, but they were not scientists; they didn't follow the scientific method, they used state-mandated religious views to arrive at their conclusions; religion obviously is not a source of facts, and isn't a way to find scientific truths.

The IPCC (a coalition of most climate scientists) thinks that currently, mankind's contribute to the environment has caused a significant change in the climate, leading to a significant change in the world's temperature compared to the past. The main objections to this that I've seen come from 1) people with no expertise, and 2) a few (very few) climate scientists. The people with no expertise include members of the press, politicians, random scientists from other fields, and so on. I don't think they have valid points to make unless they really read the literature first. That the vast majority of climate scientists agree with the IPCCs statements nullifies my second concern.

And an expert in climate science is still an expert in climate science once new theories come about. Did physicists stop becoming physicists with the quantum mechanics revolution? No, they instead all became expert quantum physicists. Did they leave the theory up to the public to decide? No, they evaluated it themselves, because people intimately familiar with the experimental details and the underlying facts and methodologies are the best ones to evaluate new theories and evidence. Let the scientists in the field determine what theory is sound and what isn't; I don't think the uninformed public should.

Posted by: such.ire | Jan 17, 2008 10:09:56 AM

Note, though, that I'm not necessarily agreeing with the IPCC's policy recommendations, since that's a whole 'nother thing. Trust the experts on the facts, but just the facts. Policy includes moral, political, economic, and legal issues into the mix as well, and climate scientists aren't experts on those.

My personal belief is that governments have two roles: 1) protecting rights, 2) fixing market externalities. I'd say that anthropogenic climate change is a significant market externality that the government should intervene in, but I wouldn't know the proper mechanism to implement in this situation.

Posted by: such.ire | Jan 17, 2008 10:44:43 AM

How long ago were they arguing that plastic saved a tree? About the same time that the panic about The Looming Ice Age, the Nuclear Winter, The Gloom Of Darkness from St. Helens, and such.

Oh, and we had to get rid of CFC's to save the Ozone. Or Ozone Layer. Or something.

And we had to get rid of the back yard incinerators that produced the "activated charcoal" that saved us from the smog.

Posted by: Larry Sheldon | Jan 17, 2008 12:51:40 PM

"The naptha used to make plastic bags is a waste product of the oil industry, which would be flared off if it wasn't used to make plastic bags." I'll grant that it's quite a few years since I worked on a plant turning Straight Run Naphtha into alkenes, for the eventual manufacture of plastic bags, but I'm pretty confident that we could have found something more remunerative to do with it than flare it.

Posted by: dearieme | Jan 17, 2008 12:58:03 PM

The IPCC is not a coalition of scientists.

It is a coalition of non-scientific government bureaucrats, some scientists, and hangers-on.

I’m phenomenally uninterested in any “information” peddled by bureaucrats, particularly charlatans posing as experts.

Posted by: Mesa Econoguy | Jan 17, 2008 1:41:33 PM

"The scientific consensus, on the other hand, represents the views of a large swath of scientists, and the competition between scientists for funding and publication generally means that, on the whole, the "most correct" interpretation tends to win."

1. Consensus also means that there are people with alternative theories. The majority are not always correct, that is why people are skeptical. Remember the consensus used to believe in the universe revolving around the Earth.

2. Part of the skepticism also lies in that there is so much money to be had for doing pro-man-made warming. So, you don't have to be "most correct", just fit the story that is trying to be sold.

Those two underlying themes appear in over at www.climate-skeptic.com quite often.

On a personal note, I'd probably trust the scientific evidence too if I didn't have knowledge to the contrary. One doesn't have to be an expert in a field to show underlying flaws in the proof or models. F=ma, if a theory relies on that not being true, then I would be skeptical. The same goes for catastrophic man made global warming, I see a conflict and I'm going to remain skeptical until someone proves me wrong.

On a lighter and ironic note, it's funny you mention cryptography because I'm neither an expert in Cryptography nor Mathematics, but I'm able to use both to prove the strength of a cryptography system I had based upon complex adaptive systems ... go figure ... amateurs becoming experts !!! :)


Posted by: Rob | Jan 17, 2008 2:19:29 PM

Note that you can use something without becoming an expert in it. I use lasers and optics often, but I'm neither a laser nor an optical physicist. Passing familiarity with a related field does not an expert make.

Perhaps you are an informal expert of sorts; certainly, one doesn't need to be a card carrying "scientist of the field" in order to make such judgments. But informed, one must me. The fact that you have made an effort to investigate the issue makes you different from most people who knee-jerk oppose "global warming" or evolution because it sounds like a "liberal theory," or because their favorite pastor or politician spins it that way. Consider the Florida local state boards, one of whom opposes evolution without even understanding the meaning of the words they're using! Perhaps you actually have a good reason to criticize the consensus. People who have neither the time nor the inclination to actually learn about the science should just leave it to the experts.

But if I have to set up the priors for my Bayesian likelihoods of theories, I'm going to give the weight to someone who spends their life studying climate theory and atmospheric chemistry rather than a "complex adaptive systems" person who dabbles in climate theory reading in his spare time. And to speak frankly, I don't think programming a few adaptive systems gives that much insight into climate science; not any more than, say, programming the stochastic systems biological models that I've made. You can flash your "complex adaptive systems" badge all you want, but a climate scientist it does not make you.

Posted by: such.ire | Jan 17, 2008 10:17:16 PM

When it comes to climate science my first impulse was to trust the scientists. Unfortunately, the fiasco over the Mann's hockey stick, the misrepresentations in Gore's movie that go uncorrected by pro-AGW scientists and the vilification of alternate views have all undermined that trust.

I generally trust my doctor but I would never trust anything he says again if I found out he participated in a effort to cover up a medical mistake. I suspect most people feel the same way.

I don't understand why anyone thinks the scientists that run the IPCC deserve to be trusted given their past behavoir.

Posted by: Raven | Jan 18, 2008 4:45:38 PM

SUPPORT FOR CALL FOR REVIEW OF UN IPCC

Posted by: Mesa Econoguy | Jan 18, 2008 11:24:52 PM

Frankly, I don’t put any trust in some pseudo-scientific jerkoff who throws “Bayesian systems” terminology around like they were Niels Bohr.

Posted by: Mesa Econoguy | Jan 18, 2008 11:31:10 PM

Are you angling for a job on the WSJ's editorial board? You seem to have their formula down:

1. Quote an environmentalist and who supports a fascist approach to environmental policy.

2. Based on that single example, insinuate that people who care about the environment (which I would have thought would be just about everyone) are a) a monolithic group who hold similar views about how to best protect the environment and b) that these views are inherently fascist.

3. Throw in a false claim: ".. in a system like the earth's climate that has been reasonably stable for tens of millions of years." Twenty thousand years ago Madison Wisconsin was buried under a mile of ice. That's reasonably stable? (By contrast, the Holocene, the last 10,000 years, during which civilization arose, has been unusually stable - until now).

4. Cap it off with with a plastic bag comment (isn't it funny how environmentalists are wrong about everything).

Of course, the tens of thousands of scientists around the world who
actually study the climate and are warning that human activity is changing the climate and that the effects of this change will likely be serious (enormous loss of biodiversity; rising sea levels; more tropical disease in previously temperate areas; etc.) only believe these things - every last one of them - because that's how they get the most funding.

Posted by: JDM | Jan 19, 2008 8:29:29 AM

A) Please, do forward my WSJ check (they owe me),

B) Madison WI regularly records stupid windchills (I lived there for 2 years, and my car locks froze……IN MY GARAGE), and that is not what Coyote is saying, but rather the point you made, which refutes itself,

C) Please, do introduce me to these “tens of thousands of scientists.” I would very much like to meet them.

Posted by: Mesa Econoguy | Jan 19, 2008 10:29:43 AM

> A) Please, do forward my WSJ check (they owe me)

The remark was intended for the author of the blog, which
I assume is not you.

> B) ... but rather the point you made, which refutes itself,

What?

> C) Please, do introduce me to these “tens of thousands of scientists.” I would very much like to meet them.

Stop by any reasonably large university (you know, places like
Princeton or Caltech or the University of Chicago or NCAR - places where people not as smart as you are maybe, but still pretty smart study the climate) and introduce yourself.

Posted by: JDM | Jan 20, 2008 8:04:04 AM

Alas, arguments are wasted on "mesa econguy", who I don't imagine is actually an economist of any meaningful sort, else he'd understand that Bayesian likelihood is a common and well-accepted mathematical tool for assessing the viability of competing scientific models.

Posted by: such.ire | Jan 22, 2008 11:55:23 AM

What I find interesting is how many writers, regardless of (or because of?) their lack of training in the area, fancy themselves to be authorities when it comes to climate change. Every yahoo with a blog seems to know more about climate dynamics than the scientists who spend their lives studying it.

Posted by: JDM | Jan 22, 2008 6:19:47 PM

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