Summary: There is a hidden dynamic at work in the debates among climate sciences (not chatter among laypeople). The reigning paradigm in a field of science services to “provide model problems and solutions for a community of practitioners” (from Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). It directs research, defines careers, controls access to journals, focuses effort, and provides a common basis for easy communication. The IPCC’s primary view reflects, as it should, the dominate paradigm — but also reflects minority views. But these conflicts are fought on a thousand fronts. Today we look at one of these. Read these in full to understand the debate; it’s a microcosm of larger issues.
Adapted from the chapter “Beating Dead Frogs with CO2″
from Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism
by Jim Steele (2013)
To insure the public does not become complacent as the 16-year hiatus in rising global temperatures continues, the media is spammed with untested models claiming rising CO2 is and will spread death and destruction via food shortages and disease.
As MIT’s world-renowned oceanographer Carl Wunsch warned “Convenient assumptions should not be turned prematurely into “facts,” nor uncertainties and ambiguities suppressed … Anyone can write a model: the challenge is to demonstrate its accuracy and precision … Otherwise, the scientific debate is controlled by the most articulate, colorful, or adamant players. (emphasis added)”1As presented here before, the extinction of the Golden Toad illustrates the great abyss that separates the rigor of good medical science from the opportunistic models trumpeted by a few articulate and adamant climate scientists. The lack of substance in climate propaganda is revealed when we compare the details that led epidemiologists to blame a fungus and modern transportation for the Golden Toad’s extinction.
It’s nothing I have any expertise in, He makes a good case, amply documented. It’s a common story in the history of science, scientists championing clashing paradigms — with access to leading general science journals and specialty fields in different hands. These things work themselves out over time. Unfortunately climate science today has urgent public policy issues. Allowing these turf wars, with inadequate external review, might have unusually large consequences.
Steele gives another example: “How the American Meteorological Society Justified Publishing Half-Truths” — Excerpt:
Summary: One of the major projects on the FM website is acting as a mirror in which we can see ourselves, hoping that clearer understanding of our perilous situation will impel some into action. So the posts since 2007 are markers showing our devolution But the comments show this even more clearly. Here are some of the more horrific examples, along with some eerily forecasts and blindingly brilliant analysis. And trolls, lots of them.
There are 33,085 comments on the FM website since 2007. These are some of the most interesting threads. They show the war in America’s mind between tribal dogma and reality (e.g., science, history, even reality). Unfortunately, I cannot tell from these which way we’ll choose to go. (Note: only 60% of the FM website’s hits come from America)
- Terror: the most terrifying thread, ever
- Peak oil: fact & alarmism do battle
- Climate change: alarmism wins
- Economics: faux theory & history wins
- American politics: crazy takes center stage
- American culture and society
- The best threads from last year
- The top threads of 2014
- For More Information
(1) Torture finds a home in our souls
The most terrifying thread on the FM website, with so many people auditioning for jobs with an American Gestapo. Five years ago these comments foreshadowed the support for Obama’s assassination programs, the NSA’s illegal surveilance, and the brutal crushing of the Occupy protests. I didn’t see that, blinded by my deluded optimism about America.
(2) Peak Oil — a debate mixing good sense and alarmism to get futility
Peak oil will come. Our plan is to hope for the best.
- 97 comments: A look at forecasts for peak oil – and the end of civilization
- 77 comments: Peak Oil Doomsters debunked, end of civilization called off
(3) Climate change
The threads about climate change are among the most fascinating. Watch the Leftist’s scream in horror when confronted with science (they listen only to their alarmist amateurs. Such howls are intermixed with hard sense, some optimistic — some despairing.
- 68 comments: A note on the green religion, one of the growth industries in America
- 53 comments: The ice caps are melting! Only massive government action can save us!
- 52 comments: Watch our world warm! How warm was June? What’s the trend?
- 38 comments: Nate Silver goes from hero to goat, convicted by the Left of apostasy — Watch the crazy flow!
- 36 comments: Lessons the Left can learn from the Right when writing about climate change
- 35 comments: Should we listen to amateurs’ analysis of climate science?
- 35 comments: Global Cooling returns to the news, another instructive lesson about America
(4) About economics
See how faux economics has taken a hold on America’s imagination:
Summary: Here are three stories about the decline of America. They’re too complex and too good to abstract. Please read them. The Republic is happening on our watch. It need not be so. That is the vital thing we must realize. Everything flows from that.
I use Twitter (@FabiusMaximus01) to flag interesting and valuable articles, replacing the weekly posts. But here are three powerful stories about the decline of America, each examining a different facet, that deserve special attention.
(I) “Losing Sparta: The Bitter Truth Behind the Gospel of Productivity“, Esther Kaplan, VQR, Summer 2014 — The best reporting I’ve seen in a long time. It’s told in long form, capturing not just the deep dynamics of this event but also its emotional impact on the people involved. It’s about the deindustrialization of America, about the myths we’re told about it, about its madness, about the evil complicity of our political leaders, and the devastation left in its wake.
(II) “Oligarchy Blues“, Michael Ventura, The Austin Chronicle, 27 June 2014 — “Without fair elections and a viable legislative process at federal and state levels, the republic no longer exists.” Yes. But couch potatoes are ruled by oligarchs. As we learned as children from Disney films, it’s the great circle of life.
(III) “ISIS and Iraq: The T-Shirts, the Cats, the App, the Hasbara“, Lambert Strether, Naked Capitalism, 11 July 2014 — A brilliant forensic analysis of the “news” about ISIS. In addition to useful guide to stories about the latest we must wet our pants in fear threat, it provides powerful evidence about two themes of the FM website.
- Yes, we’re among the most gullible people that have ever walked the Earth. We fall for the same propaganda again and again, from the same people.
- No, our shiny new tech — instantaneous access to all the world’s knowledge — has not given us the superpowers we need. It has made us neither smarter nor better informed.
Summary: We cannot reliably see the future. Every decade begins with confident forecasts, usually proven wrong. Too many variables, too many complex dynamics interacting. But we can examine individual trends, the usual work of the FM website. Here we pull together the threads, a mixture of challenges and opportunities that loom over the next ten years. In the comments list the trends you see at work!
- Climate change
- Demographics: the age wave
- The Debt Supercycle
- The new world of work
- The great monetary experiment
- The results of a low-investment nation
- Will growth continue to slow?
- Oil prices and new technology
- The next industrial revolution
- Implications of a technological singularity
- There will be war
(1) Climate change
To see what is coming, I recommend relying on the IPCC’s probability ranges instead of alarmists’ certainties. Remember the uncertainties: the uncertainties in climate science, in the models that make the predictions, in technology (see below), and in the unknowable future public policy responses to climate scientists’ warnings.
The pause in surface temperature warming of the past decade has astonished climate scientists. Now they analyze its causes and forecast its duration. The public policy response might depend on answers to these questions, as the activists’ current strategy of attributing every form of normal weather to increased CO2 — despite the pause in the atmosphere’s warming — might not work if continued through the next decade. And who can say if the next decade will hold equal surprises?
(2) Demographics: the age wave
The coming crash of US consumer spending as Boomers retire with high levels of debt, low savings, and small pension incomes. Experts have warned about this for decades, yet it will catch us by surprise.
(3) The Debt Supercycle
Summary: Growth slows in the developed nations due to several factors, as debt levels rise. Have we entered the “coffin corner” where we cannot growth sufficiently fast to service our debt? This is the follow-up to The dilemma of the US economy: can’t take off & too close to the brink.
In the absence of effective and comprehensible economic theory, economists often rely on analogies. Such as comparisons with aerodynamics. Flying complex vehicles at high speed under variable conditions, often with inadequate or old information — the role of pilot has similarities with that of central banker.
A common mistake of bankers is raising rates to curb inflation while the economy is in fact on the brink of recession. That’s similar to a “graveyard spiral“, in the past a frequent cause of crashes. From Wikipedia, slightly edited:
Graveyard spirals occur in nighttime or poor weather conditions with no horizon visible to provide visual correction for misleading inner-ear cues. … The pilot mistakenly believes the wings to be level, but with a descent indicated on the instruments, so the pilot attempts to climb. In a banking turn, however, the plane is at an angle and flying in a large circle. This tightens that circle, causing the plane to fall at an increasing rate.
This flying by “the seat of the pants” and failing to recognize instrument readings is the most common source of “controlled flight into terrain”.
Today the US economy might have flown into conditions similar to another perilous aerodynamic situation — the coffin corner. From the Sky-brary (slightly edited):
The coffin corner (aka Q Corner) is the altitude near which a fast aircraft’s stall speed equals its critical Mach number. As an aircraft climbs towards the altitude that defines its coffin corner, the margin between stall speed and critical Mach number becomes smaller and smaller until the Flight Envelope boundaries intersect. At this point any change in speed creates serious problems. Turning the aircraft could result in exceeding both limits simultaneously, as the inside wing slows down and the outside wing increases speed. Encountering turbulence can push the aircraft outside its flight envelope.
Is the US economy at the “coffin corner”?
From “In a debt ‘coffin corner”“, Andrea Cicione, Lombard Street Research, May 2014 — LSR is a top-quality macroeconomic forecasting consultancy.
Summary: The US economy has repeatedly failed to resume normal growth after the crash. But potentially worse is the decline in long-term growth estimates. This is part one; see part two: Has America’s economy entered the “coffin corner”?
My guess: these two posts will be another set with non-consensus views that proves prescient. If so I’ll cite them frequently, forever.
- Our plight: max growth slowing to stall speed
- New hot research about slowing growth in the US
- The Economic Cycle Research Institute also sees the problem
- About The Economic Cycle Research Institute
- New hot research about slowing growth in the US
- For More Information
(1) Our plight: our maximum growth rate slowing to our stall speed
In January 2011 the Federal Research estimated the long-term growth rate of the US economy at 2.5 – 2.8%. By June this year their estimate had fallen to 2.1 – 2.3%. Years of low investment by the private and public sector (see links below), a decaying education system, rising debt levels, and demographic headwinds (an aging society) — all these things are slowing America’s growth.
The potential boost from technology so far remains speculation about the future.
For tangible evidence see the economy’s inability to “take off” since the crash (GDP has limped along at an average of 2.2%). On January 3 JP Morgan forecast 2014 GDP to be 2.8%, the fastest since 2005. Now they expect half that, 1.4% — the slowest since the 2008 crash.
That’s far too close to the economy’s stall speed of 2%, below which it’s at risk of falling into recession — much like an airplane going too slow, generating insufficient lift to stay aloft (this is a controversial theory; now we’re testing it). Perhaps the US economy cannot accelerate by much from current growth rates (without undesirable rates of inflation), and it cannot slow without falling into recession (ruinous under current conditions, with monetary policy tapped out (ZIRP), fiscal deficits and unemployment still too high (but falling).
This will make economic management quite difficult for the foreseeable future. Persistent slow speed will create pressure for stimulus (perhaps with long-term ill consequences). Failure to quickly stimulate to even small mistakes might easily trip the economy into recession.
(2) The Economic Cycle Research Institute also sees the problem
Excerpt from “Cognitive Dissonance at the Fed?“, ECRI, 30 May 2014:
Summary: Are we ready for the future? Not if we don’t learn from the past. This is a follow-up to Techno-utopians keep us ignorant of the past so we cannot see the future, another look at the dreams and evasions they spin to cloud our vision so that we don’t grab a fair share of the gains.
“In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if, in tempestous seasons, they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.”
— John Maynard Keynes in A Tract on Monetary Reform (1923)
We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. … Today our concern must be with that future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.”
— John F. Kennedy’s Acceptance Speech, 15 July 1960
Dreams of a Third Industrial Revolution
Although its effects remain uncertain, by now any who look can see that the Third Industrial Revolution has begun. Like the others, it will reshape society. Power and wealth go to those who manage these changes.
We’re at the stage when pundits work to actively hide the obvious implications, to forestall public policy action to mitigate the damage to vulnerable — and prevent the 1% from grabbing all the gains. A tweetstorms tweets by Silicon Valley’s Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) shows how it’s done. He ignores what we’ve learned from the past, shifts the focus from obvious dangers to strawmen, and looks to the smooth waters at the end (ignoring the rapids and falls of the passage ahead).
1/One of the most interesting topics in modern times is the “robots eat all the jobs” thesis; best book on topic: The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies
2/The thesis is that computers can more and more substitute for human labor, thus displacing jobs and creating unemployment.
3/At core, this is Luddism — “lump of labor” fallacy, that there is a fixed amount of work to be done.
4/The counterargument is Milton Friedman: Human wants and needs are infinite; there is always more to do. 200 years of history confirms.
Summary: We have little confidence in journalists, although they have warned us well of past perils. Now a new challenge arrives, the 3rd industrial revolution. We refuse to prepare for its dangers. Here we review some of the many news articles about what’s happening, so we cannot say we weren’t warned.
- Journalists report, but we don’t listen
- Journalists report: long-form analysis
- The daily news tells the story, in chapters
- For More Information
- The Robot bedmate is coming
(1) Journalists report, but we don’t listen
We have low confidence in the news media (see Gallup’s Confidence in Institutions Poll), but perhaps the fault lies in the audience as much as the journalists. Nothing demonstrates our broken OODA loop (observation-orientation-decision-action process) as vividly as our inability to see what journalists tell us.
Our invasion and occupation of Iraq began with lies; it ended with our ignominious eviction — having accomplished nothing of value to the US. Journalists reported each step of our folly (amidst much chaff from the hawks). Yet three years later many American remain unaware of these — often belligerently holding to their lies and myths.
So it also goes with climate change. The pause in warming of the atmosphere since roughly 2000 has been reported by journalists (fitfully, amidst much chaff from alarmists), telling us about its recognition by climate scientists (followed by their research into its causes and likely duration).
In both cases journalists reported both the key information, and the chaff by activists seeking to conceal this information. As citizens, consumers of news, we have a responsibility to sort the news to see the facts, not just whine that we were misled. Now this information cycle begins again with the start of a third industrial, widespread automation of white-collar jobs.
(2) Journalists report: long-form analysis
Here are articles about the great changes about to come, reshaping America. Everybody will be affected, even professionals who smirk at job losses in the lower class. Astonishing changes. But not so amazing as our blindness to them, even as the clock already runs.
Summary: Films must resonate with our hopes, fears, and visions to gain an audience . “Transformers: Age of Extinction” does this effectively, and terrifyingly. Film reviewers hated it with good reason, since it’s schlock. A ramshackle plot moved by stilted dialog. But the big opening box office proves that it mirrors things in our minds. Some things too disturbing to discuss, but can be seen in fiction. SPOILERS.
“What is too dangerous to say in words can be sung in music.”
— attributed to Pierre Beaumarchais, French playwright (1732 – 1799)
“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is a horror film. I refer not to the endless jumbled scenes of giant robots boxing and shooting one another, but to overall context of the film’s events. It shows us a world in some ways like our own, exaggerating aspects of America we prefer not to see. Michael Bay plays America’s court jester, saying for entertainment what serious people dare not mention.
The the battles in Chicago and Hong Kong created thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of civilian casualties. Dead and injured unremarked by the characters (who reacted afterwards as they would have to a great roller-coaster ride). No ambulances, no rows of corpses.
This mirrors our awareness that our lives mean nothing to our leaders. As we see in the daily news, from GM’s long history of massive recalls for safety defects — to Obama’s extending the Afghanistan War for 8 more years on the flimsiest of reasons (probably his real reason being to look tough and strong).
Also, there was no mention (or even hint) of investigations, arrests, or justice for the powerful billionaire and CIA agents responsible for the carnage. Especially by the Chinese government, who would want to know why these American-made robots fought against the Autobots — wrecking their city. Michael Bay understands the American worldview. Our actions lead to destruction overseas; we assume that we will not be held accountable for the death and destruction. We meant well!
Update: For a deeper analysis of this see Bluestocking’s comment here.
The US government’s treachery
Summary: On 4 July 2006 I posted Forecast: Death of the American Constitution. Shocking then, but these past 8 years have made the Republic’s peril obvious to all who care. So we can skip through to the last section, reposted below. What does the future hold for America?
“There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.”
— Marcus Aurelius, in the movie “Gladiator” (2000)
The predominate reaction of the Romans to the death of the Republic was resignation, as seen in the popular philosophies of the Empire: Stoicism, Epicureanism, Hedonism, and Christianity. How will Americans react when they realize that the Constitution has died? Reform, rebellion, or resignation?
The coming years might test America more than anything in our past, including the Revolutionary and Civil wars. America might lose both what defines it and what we hold most dear: our Constitution, our vast wealth, and our role as global hegemon. This transition will be like a singularity in astrophysics, a point where the rules break – beyond which we cannot see.
Such trials appear throughout history. Consider Russia in 1942. Ruled by a madman. Their government had betrayed the hopes of the revolution, killed tens of millions of their own people, and reduced the nation to poverty. Most of their generals were dead, their armies were in full retreat, and vast areas were controlled by a ruthless invader. The mark of a great people is the ability to carry on when all is lost, including hope. We can learn much from the Russian people’s behavior in WWII.
I doubt we will fall into such peril. But no matter what happens, we need not despair.