Global Cooling returns to the news, another instructive lesson about America

Summary:  FM website seeks to explain events, and successful predictions are among the best ways to do so. Last September you read Start of another swing of the media narrative – to global cooling. The current cold winter in most of North America brings a harvest of global cooling stories, yet another illustration of our sad preference for pleasing stories over reality. We can do better.

Global Cooling


  1. Global cooling returns (to the news)
  2. Scientists reply
  3. It’s extreme climate!
  4. Conclusions
  5. Scientific American rewrites the past
  6. For More Information

(1)  Global cooling returns (to the news)

Some things never change. Much like “if it bleeds, it leads”, the news media take current weather extremes and exaggerate them into a trend. Makes good headlines, and there are always climate scientists willing to provide good quotes — and some research providing a foundation (albeit weak) for the story.

Climate change is a partisan food fight, so the exaggerated cooling stories come from the Right:

(2)  Scientists reply

Of course, individual events tell us nothing about the longer-term trend.  For analysis of this cold winter in North America see


Fake 1977 TIME Cover
Fake 1977 TIME Cover
  • Does the Cold Wave Imply Anything About Global Warming? The Answer is Clearly No.“, Cliff Mass (Professor of Atmospheric Science, U of Washington), 6 January 2014 — Mass is the principle investigator of the UW Mesoscale Analysis and Forecasting Group.
  • Cold, hard facts“, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR, funded by the National Science Foundation), 8 January 2014 — “Six things to know about the Arctic invasion.”
  • Cold but brief“, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR, funded by the National Science Foundation), 15 January 2014 — “Cold as it was, temperatures during last week’s Arctic outbreak moderated far more quickly than was the case during some of the most intense cold waves of the last 40 years. Bob Henson puts the recent chill in perspective …”


(3)  It’s extreme weather!

On the other hand, anything but the most typical weather is extreme weather — evidence of climate change — to activists and their followers. Here is a revealing exchange, showing a common reaction of people indoctrinated by activists when presented with words from IPCC or other major climate agencies. Ritholtz is a smart guy, whom I respect — making this even more telling.

Barry Ritholtz on cooling

Barry Ritholtz on cooling

Ritholtz on climate

Barry Ritholt on cooling

Barry Ritholtz on climate

No reply. I would thank someone who corrected me with a reference to an NCAR article, but followers of climate activists have other standards. I am certain that, like others to whom I have shown the conclusions of the IPCC and other climate agencies, Ritholz’s belief that current weather is “abnormal” remains unaltered.

Left and Right in America are equally contemptuous of science.

(4)  Conclusions

Some of this change in narrative results from boredom with the long narrative of global warming, and journalists looking for fresh stories. Some of this is over-reaction to activists’ predictions of severe warming, now coming due — and proving false. Some of this is the right-wing propaganda machine doing what it does best.

None of that matters. The truth about the current state of climate knowledge is out there, if we want to know it. As it is with so many of the great challenges facing America in this new century. Somehow, I don’t know how, we must become better at distinguishing fact from propaganda.

We were a skeptical people. Our current complaisance of thought and action has shallow roots in our history and character. We can do better.

(5)  Sidenote: Scientific American rewrites the past

Scientific American continues to sacrifice its reputation to the cause of global warming alarmism:  “How the “Global Cooling” Story Came to Be“, 10 January 2014 — “Nine paragraphs written for Newsweek in 1975 continue to trump 40 years of climate science. It is a record that has its author amazed.”

Concern during the 1970s about global cooling was much more than one Newsweek story (although there was nothing close to a consensus among climate scientists).  The record shows articles expressing concern by climate scientists, government agencies, and the general media. NOAA’s official history attributes creation in 1979 of its Climate Analysis Center (CAC) to the concern about global cooling.

There were many news stories like this: “Another Ice Age?“, TIME, 24 June 1974:

Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds — the so-called circumpolar vortex — that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world.

For more about the 1970’s global cooling scare see Articles from the 1970′s about global cooling/warming.

(6)  For More Information

Posts about global cooling:

  1. Articles from the 1970′s about global cooling/warming
  2. An important letter sent to the President about the danger of climate change, 21 October 2009 — About global cooling
  3. About the headlines from the 1970s about global cooling, 2 November 2009 — Not what they seem
  4. A look at global warming written in a cooler and more skeptical time, giving us a better understanding of climate science, 23 November 2009
  5. The facts about the 1970’s Global Cooling scare, 7 December 2009
  6. Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses, 17 October 2010
  7. The slow solar cycle is getting a lot of attention. What are its effect on us?, 11 February 2012
  8. Start of another swing of the media narrative – to global cooling?, 11 September 2013

An introduction to climate change:

  1. What we know about our past climate, and its causes
  2. Good news!  Global temperatures have stabilized, at least for now.
  3. What can climate scientists tell about the drivers of future warming?
  4. What can climate scientists tell us about the drivers of future warming?  – part two of two



36 thoughts on “Global Cooling returns to the news, another instructive lesson about America”

    1. John,

      I strongly disagree that the post you cite proves that, or anything at all. It’s a ritualistic invocation of names. We have no idea if Ritholz knows what those organizations say, or the extent to which they agree with his views. In fact, I have had other conversations with him about this, pretty much echoing this one.

      Speaking generally (not about Ritholtz), this is a common trope among climate activists — pointing to the IPCC or lists of articles to support their views, even when these authorities disagree with their own (its’ an odd form of appeal to authority). Almost always their cognitive defenses are sufficient to ignore specific citations showing contradictions. They just know.

      1. John,

        Let me emphasize that I respect Ritholz. He’s an educated, brilliant guy. I regularly read his website and Twitter feed.

        That’s what makes this so fascinating. It’s a common phenomenon, one discussed in dozens of posts on the FM website (hundreds of examples given). We have been subject to a generational-long barrage of propaganda — by all sides, on many subjects — because it works so well on us.

  1. I had a similar Twitter exchange with Ritholtz following hurricane Sandy which he claimed was indisputable evidence of global warming.  I referred to an article which Born Lomborg had just written which was of interest.  He said Lomborg was a denier and with out credibility.  Oh, well.  That’s the thing about credibility. But I wasn’t sure that was a credible criticism.

    Honestly, I really don’t care. I’m amused by your own fascination with the issue. What we do know is that earth has had liquid water on the surface for 4 billion years.  In the grand scheme of things that’s a pretty tight temperature range. And still earth temperature isn’t a constant.  We also know that it’s been in a warming trend for 18,000 years.  There is no evidence, yet, of that reversing.   So, perhaps speaking just for myself, in the absence of other evidence, I think it prudent that we anticipate the trend to continue.  Ritholtz is a trader.  We should presume he understands trends.  But then there’s that whole credibility issue again.

    If I lived or worked on an island like Ritholtz does, I would be thinking about those trends.

    1. MarcoPolo,

      (1) “I had a similar Twitter exchange with Ritholtz following hurricane Sandy which he claimed was indisputable evidence of global warming.”

      I too read many such statements, excellent examples of how the Left has abandoned climate science — preferring the propaganda value of just making stuff up. Sandy was in no way unusual, and of an intensity which has hit NYC several times in the past. The remarkable aspect is that the folks of a major city two feet above sea level have made so few efforts for such storms; no wonder they seek to blame it on changing climate rather than their own stupidity.

      For more information see Hurricane Sandy asks when did weather become exceptional? (plus important info about US hurricanes).28 October 2012.

      Such comments are esp daft since no major hurricane has hit the US since Wilma on 24 October 2005. This is the longest such period since records began in 1900. Global data also show no increase.

      (2) “I referred to an article which Born Lomborg had just written which was of interest. He said Lomborg was a denier and with out credibility.”

      Use of the label “denier” is IMO a reliable indicator of indoctrination, and a resulting closed mind. On the other hand, I share Ritholz’s disinterest in reading about climate from non-scientists. Climate scientists have produced a adequate body of information easily understandable by the layperson. I wouldn’t read Lomborg either.

      (3) “I’m amused by your own fascination with the issue.”

      My guess (emphasis on guess) is that you have not carefully read my posts. As stated yesterday, “Climate change appears on the FM website (about geopolitics) because it shows how America deals with highly politicized and complex challenges.” That is imo an important subject, and incontestably so. And…

      (3) “What we do know is that earth has had liquid water on the surface for 4 billion years. In the grand scheme of things that’s a pretty tight temperature range.”

      That’s crazy. The extremes of temperature during the past 4 billion years would kill billions if they (either warm or cold) reoccurred (the record shows that temperature regimes have changed with fantastic speed).

      (4) “We also know that it’s been in a warming trend for 18,000 years. There is no evidence, yet, of that reversing.”

      I agree. Ditto for sea levels, which have been rising since the glaciers went home. Our lack of preparation for these trends is irresponsible.

      On the other hand,climate scientists have made a compelling case that the rate of warming (and associated effects) might accelerate during the next few decades. Determining is this is so is IMO a high-priority task, for obvious reasons.

  2. “We were a skeptical people. Our current complaisance of thought and action has shallow roots in our history and character.”

    It has been almost 45 years since unusual weather started to be blamed on “the moon landings”. I don’t recall that being a left vs. right issue. And I don’t recall it being provoked by journalists. Just the natural tendency of many people to be drawn to superstitious pseudo-science. (Such conclusions were joined by others wherein the individual denied that the moon landings ever took place.)

    In our time, the internet promotes the dissemination of both facts and mythology. And self-interested individuals and organizations have ample opportunity to exploit the old superstitious human weaknesses. So when FM states, “Somehow, I don’t know how, we must become better at distinguishing fact from propaganda”, the magnitude of this problem becomes disheartening.

    1. Ken,

      That’s a fascinating comment, with several threads. Let’s take it by line.

      (1) “It has been almost 45 years since unusual weather”

      What “unusual weather”?

      (2) “started to be blamed on “the moon landings”.”

      I never heard that. A quick scan of Google shows no references to this. How widespread was this?

      (3) “Just the natural tendency of many people to be drawn to superstitious pseudo-science.”

      I agree. There is always a spectrum of belief, and weird things live in those tails. But what’s important from a public policy spectrum is the big bell part of the bell curve, not the small numbers with odd beliefs in the tails.

      But unfortunately, as you note, there are many odd beliefs held by a large fraction of the population. Disbelief in evolution. Belief in astrology. Etc. Hopefully these things will change in time. More important, America has done well despite these beliefs in the past. And I hope we can in the future.

      (4) “magnitude of this problem becomes disheartening.”

      I agree. I wish there was some other way to see the problem. Something easier to fix.

  3. (1) “It has been almost 45 years since unusual weather”

    Sorry I was not clearer… what I meant is any unusual weather. The people doing this wanted the proof that the moon landings messed things up so they found the evidence any time they experienced a cold wave or hurricane.

    (2) “started to be blamed on “the moon landings”.

    I stated this only from my memory. I too just googled it without success. Again, it was not an organized campaign put on by self-interested groups. Just unscientific speculations stated as fact.

    (4) “magnitude of this problem becomes disheartening.”

    I did some more thinking on this. I really believe that this superstitious, anti-reason behavior is timeless. One challenge we have now is that political leaders of all persuasions are embracing and exploiting the creation of facts. Generally for dishonest partisan reasons. It would be great if some of them, in their own factions, would shine a light on the abuses and call them out for what they are. Both Obama and McCain have done this, on occasion. But they have not been fully committed to truth-telling.

    1. Ken,

      All valid points!

      “this superstitious, anti-reason behavior is timeless.”

      It’s interesting how often people say this. All human behavior is timeless. it is their variation of magnitude and combinations that gives each nation, each era its distinctive character — and drives history.

  4. “I wish there was some other way to see the problem. Something easier to fix.”

    Perhaps another way to see the problem, though no easier to fix:

    Superstition and similar fact-free thought processes thrive when actual knowledge that would empower the knower to do anything advantageous is not available. Few people really care much about truth for its own sake; most of us want to know things because knowing those things will enable us to decide and act more effectively for our own benefit.

    When we have effects on our world which are amenable to prediction, we learn from experience. When important things are unpredictable, or when we are powerless (or believe ourselves to be), our innate drive to understand and control frequently leads us to fill the vacuum with superstition. (There is a reason there are no atheists in foxholes, but it’s not because having no way of knowing whether you’re going to be blown to bits in the next ten minutes fosters mental clarity.)

    A key problem for democracy is that while it matters greatly what people as a whole think, in most areas of public concern there is no feedback mechanism that causes any individual person to be rewarded positively for accurate knowledge and negatively for false beliefs. There are, however, rewards that tend to depend on how well one’s beliefs harmonize with one’s social group. There is simply no value in accurate information; the dominant rewarding factors are social, and bear little relation to factuality.

    Our environment trains us. For most political questions, it does not train us to seek accuracy.

    1. Coises,

      I also think that is a brilliant analysis. I think it can be useful, although I am not sure how to apply it. The notion that the rewards come from the social groups and not from being right in ones beliefs, should be exploitable. But how and by whom. I would think those within a group would be best able to exploit this idea, and most like do so now.

      Fabius, you have asked how to reshape America. What kind of organization is necessary? Perhaps rather than a small group working together this small group needs to disperse and infiltrate other groups and mold opinion from inside these groups. I suspect this is what the CIA and similar organizations have been doing since at least the 30’s perhaps earlier.

    2. Coises
      It is also known that cells grow in relation to environment. Stem cells will grow into particular purpose and shape in a pure food environment, while by changing the environment those same cells will grow into something else.

      This coresponds to your analysis that humans are also shaped by environment of other humans, not by rational thinking, just as cells are determined by environment not exclusively by genetic material. Can we change environment for humans?
      We also change our own environment by what we say and do, intentionaly or not. Just as our enviromnet changes us. We are not the same person when single or inside a family.

      So, the science of human behaviour becomes more understanding if it is merged with other sciences that went further in discovering structures and behaviours like bio science.
      Is the climate science also an extended attempt to give diferent terminology then biology of living systems?
      Is economics also understandable trough understanding of living systems?
      Economics following the rules of physics, biology, in short, all living systems?
      Is there a general, universal rule of living systems? System dynamics.

      System dynamics include internal feedback loops and stock/ flow.
      Many economists make mistakes due to not incorporating feedback loops and stock/ flow modeling. there is one economic school that uses stock/flow consistent modeling with feedback loops but is not accepted yet.
      Climate, sociology sciences have to use system dynamics in order to be useful. I like to call it 4Dimensional thinking instead of 3D and 2D that is mostly used today. Add time to 3D and you get 4D which includes feedback loop and stock/flow analysis.

    3. Here’s a little fantasy for you…

      Suppose the government instituted a program in which each citizen who is eligible to vote receives, quarterly, either $4000 or a 10% break on that quarter’s income tax (whichever is greater). However, there is a condition: to qualify, the citizen must take a test on current events. The test is comprised of questions of fact about which there is no substantial disagreement (so that even if a person believes a certain “fact” is false, the test can still be said to measure one’s knowledge of the generally accepted consensus). The percentage of questions a citizen answers correctly is the percentage of the possible payment or tax break he or she receives.

      Just a thought experiment (so no point picking over implementation details): What would happen? Would our public debate, and our citizens themselves, change?

      1. Coises,

        That’s a common idea. It’s a common view, but imo its quite daft. Why not a test of art history, creative writing, or knitting?

        From Heinlein’s Expanded Universe (1980) — I have not verified this quote, but I recall something like this.

        A state that required a bare minimum of intelligence and education – e.g., step into the polling booth and find that the computer has generated a new quadratic equation just for you. Solve it, the computer unlocks the voting machine, you vote. But get a wrong answer and the voting machine fails to unlock, a loud bell sounds, a red light goes on over the booth – and you slink out, face red, you having just proved yourself too stupid and/or ignorant to take part in the decisions of grownups. Better luck next election! No lower age limit in this system – smart 12-yr-old girls vote every election while some of their mothers – and fathers – decline to be humiliated twice.

        There are endless variations on this one. Here are two: Improving the Breed — No red light, no bell…but the booth opens automatically – empty. Revenue — You don’t risk your life, just some gelt. It costs you 1/4 oz. troy of gold in local currency to enter the booth. Solve your quadratic and vote, and you get your money back. Flunk – and the state keeps it. With this one I guarantee that no one would vote who was not interested and would be most unlikely to vote if unsure of his ability to get that hundred bucks back.

        I concede that I set the standards on both I.Q. and schooling too low in calling only for the solution of a quadratic since (if the programming limits the machine to integer roots) a person who deals with figures at all can solve that one with both hands behind him (her) and her-his eyes closed. But I recently discovered that a person can graduate from high school in Santa Cruz with a straight-A record, be about to enter the University of California on a scholarship, but be totally unable to do simple arithmetic. Let’s not make things too difficult at the transition.

    4. As far as I can tell, Heinlein’s notion has nothing to do with the thought experiment I suggested.

      Perhaps I confused matters by saying “each citizen who is eligible to vote”—I could have said “citizens” just as well. Nothing in this fantasy scenario changes who can vote or creates any incentives for or against voting.

      The point of my original comment was that there are many issues regarding which citizens of a democracy need to have accurate knowledge if they are to engage in effective self-government; but for many of those issues, there is no individual, personal incentive to gain that knowledge. The point of this thought experiment is to imagine making it worthwhile—in a direct, individual way—to have actual information instead of just a working knowledge of what one’s peers like to hear.

      What is Quantitative Easing?

      A. A US Treasury program that loans money to financial institutions which might otherwise become insolvent.
      B. An operation in which the Federal Reserve Bank sells bonds to private financial institutions below face value.
      C. An operation in which the Federal Reserve Bank buys bonds or other assets from private financial institutions.
      D. A US Treasury program that makes it easier for the President to spend money without the approval of Congress.

      How many adult Americans would know the answer?
      Would more of them know the answer if knowing things like that could put additional dollars in their pockets?
      Would public understanding and debate be improved if more people knew things like that?

    5. Shorter: I’m not interested in stopping ignorant Americans from voting; I want to give Americans a good reason to make themselves less ignorant.

      1. Coises,

        I agree with the goal. But Americans do not value voting sufficiently to change their behavior in order to qualify. Also, I cannot imagine why a test of facts would help. Many of our most misinformed people on the Left and Right have college degrees.

        Part of the devaluing of voting is the vastly larger electorate than the Founders ever dreamed of. Chet Richards discusses this is his great book If We Can Keep It.

        Shrinking the electorate is imo a great idea, if we can find a rational way to do it. Community service, as Heinlein proposed in Starship Troopers (he later said that the qualification should be extended beyond military service — which is what the book said).

    6. “I agree with the goal. But Americans do not value voting sufficiently to change their behavior in order to qualify.”

      We’re talking past each other. For the record, I wasn’t talking about voting at all. I was talking about raising the quality of public knowledge, and (as a consequence) the climate for public debate. I know you experience the problem daily: Try to give people actual information about anything that has political implications, and you spend most of your time vainly trying to disabuse them of their cherished tribal preconceptions. We are ignorant not because we are stupid, but because we have no use for the truth.

      So… let’s consider voting, then. You are right, of course, that Americans do not value voting. That can be analyzed with the same line of reasoning I used in my original comment. There is no feedback mechanism that reinforces “intelligent” voting. In fact, since the chances of one’s vote making a difference must be many times smaller than the chances of getting seriously injured on the way to the polling place, the rational thing to do is not to vote at all.

      Necessarily, whatever compels people to vote is not reason; we can safely say that people vote for a combination of psychological and social rewards, not for any rational expectation of influencing the outcome. We are social animals, and it is instinctively important to us to belong, to participate. Beyond the internal psychological reward, we want to share our participation with others; and even though ballots are secret, normal adults are ill at ease lying, so most of us don’t want just to say we voted—in whatever way plays best to present company.

      In short, we vote so as to reinforce our sense of belonging and minimize cognitive dissonance. (Marginalized citizens who feel they do not belong to mainstream society might accomplish this by not voting.)

      As a contrast, consider the common statement that free markets work because consumers “vote with their dollars.” Purchasing is nothing like voting. If I purchase a Honda Civic and you purchase a Corvette, I pay for a Civic and live with a Civic; you pay for a Corvette and live with a Corvette. If voting had the same immediacy of individual effect—if each person lived with precisely the consequences of the policies for which they themselves voted—people would have a strong incentive to learn to vote wisely.

      But voting doesn’t work that way, and I can’t even come up with an imaginary scenario under which it could.

      In economic terms, ignorance regarding public affairs is an externality. Externalities are rarely dealt with effectively by pleading with the actors to be more responsible while doing nothing to change the real incentives.

  5. Having lived through scientific consensuses that have alternately predicted a new ice age (1970s) and global warming (which at least has current data on it side) I will voice my preference for attacking problems without such wide bands of uncertainty about them, of which there at least as many as there are poor people suffering needlessly.

    On the science: it is entirely possible that we will experience at least some cooling and possibly a “little ice age” since solar cycle 24 is proving to be the weakest in a century, possibly two, and the *next* solar cycle 25 is forecasted to be one of the weakest ever. See links in

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if global cooling happens for decades or a century, CO2 concentrations increase, the sun wakes up, and we all get fast-fried? All of us peons not living in climate-controlled bubbles, that is.


    1. Beneign,

      I’ve covered these myths in considerable detail, as have many others.

      (1) “scientific consensuses that have alternately predicted a new ice age”

      That’s quite false. Then as now, one cannot determine the prevailing consensus of scientists by reading news magazines, or DoD and CIA (which mirror the currently popular fears to shill for more funds). The record is quite clear on this point: there were fears of both cooling and warming, both dependent on anthropogenic factors (i.e., aerosols and CO2). The clean air regulations of the 1970s in the developed nations removed much of the aerosols, leaving a clean sky for CO2). And there were natural cycles at work, of which scientists have learned much since the 1970s.

      (2) “it is entirely possible that we will experience at least some cooling and possibly a “little ice age” since solar cycle 24 is proving to be the weakest in a century”

      (a) The current solar cycle looks similar to cycle 14: 1902 – 1913. We didn’t have a little ice age in 1902. Here’s a easy to understand article discussing results from the recent AGU conference.

      (b) There are scientists who believe there is a link between solar cycles and Earth’s climate. But that is a minority opinion. Here is an article which Lief Savgaard expresses the consensus opinion (more or less): “A cosmic ray-climate link and cloud observations“, Benjamin A. Laken et al, Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate, issue #2 – 2012 — Abstract:

      Despite over 35 years of constant satellite-based measurements of cloud, reliable evidence of a long-hypothesized link between changes in solar activity and Earth’s cloud cover remains elusive. This work examines evidence of a cosmic ray cloud link from a range of sources, including satellite-based cloud measurements and long-term ground-based climatological measurements.

      The satellite-based studies can be divided into two categories: (1) monthly to decadal timescale analysis and (2) daily timescale epoch- superpositional (composite) analysis. The latter analyses frequently focus on sudden high-magnitude reductions in the cosmic ray flux known as Forbush Decrease events. At present, two long-term independent global satellite cloud datasets are available (ISCCP and MODIS). Although the differences between them are considerable, neither shows evidence of a solar-cloud link at either long or short timescales.

      Furthermore, reports of observed correlations between solar activity and cloud over the 1983–1995 period are attributed to the chance agreement between solar changes and artificially induced cloud trends. It is possible that the satellite cloud datasets and analysis methods may simply be too insensitive to detect a small solar signal. Evidence from ground-based studies suggests that some weak but statistically significant cosmic ray-cloud relationships may exist at regional scales, involving mechanisms related to the global electric circuit. However, a poor understanding of these mechanisms and their effects on cloud makes the net impacts of such links uncertain.

      Regardless of this, it is clear that there is no robust evidence of a widespread link between the cosmic ray flux and clouds.

  6. From above:
    Your guess is correct. With some background in geology I once tried to understand the science. At least a little. I read a lot of papers and never found any of them particularly compelling. Maybe that’s just me. But I gave up. I’ll not be a climate scientist. And that “large body of work” that people site today, I would tell you that most of it is worthless. Maybe again, that’s just me. I really don’t know.

    “Temperature changes that would have killed billions….” isn’t inconsistent with liquid water and a planetary stability which endured long enough for life as we know it to evolve – which is a long shot at best. It’s remarkable that we are here at all. And I should say something about those who don’t see the hand of God in that, but I don’t know what to say.

    As a geopolitical indicator the issue does have its lessons.

    1. MarcoPolo,

      ” isn’t inconsistent with liquid water and a planetary stability which endured long enough for life as we know it to evolve”

      This is not a subject for rational debate. Changes of a few degrees (2 degrees? 4 degrees?) would destabilize world temperature and rain/snow patterns, devastating world agriculture.

      There has been a massive amount of work on this. But then, people who consider large bodies of science” worthless” are beyond hope. I’m done with this.

      1. MarcoPolo,

        From “Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises“, National Academies of Science (2002) — Chapter One, line one:

        Large, abrupt climate changes have affected hemispheric to global regions repeatedly, as shown by numerous paleoclimate records (Broecker, 1995, 1997). Changes of up to 16°C and a factor of 2 in precipitation have occurred in some places in periods as short as decades to years (Alley and Clark, 1999; Lang et al., 1999).

        A change of 16% over even a few decades will kill billions. Probably many billions. Not very stable.

  7. It is all George Bushes fault oh wait a second he has not been President for 5 years it must be Obama’s fault. oh wait a second blah blah blah

  8. “..we vote so as to reinforce our sense of belonging and minimize cognitive dissonance.”

    Coises, it seems like you are saying nothing more than “we vote to make ourselves feel better than if we don’t vote”. Since we generally do everything for that exact reason (masochists aside), I don’t understand the significance of your reasoning.

    1. Typically (buying a car, bothering to go to work, refraining from punching our neighbor in the nose) our calculus includes the anticipated consequences of our actions. (Even if habit, ritual or ethical beliefs are the immediate motivations for those activities, those motivators are reinforced by real-world consequences.) Society depends on those individual motivations leading people to behave in ways that work reasonably well for the whole.

      As I wrote, consider purchase decisions in a market economy. Businesses thrive or go bankrupt based on the combined effect of individual choices—and those individual choices have consequences. Distributed decision-making works when each actor has individual incentives which sum up to good choices for the whole. (Typically, but by no means always, that is the case in a free market.¹)

      Voting in any particular way has no expected consequences for the individual. That is by design in a democracy, and I consider it a design flaw (though I don’t know how to fix it). We depend—in theory—on the combined choices of millions of individuals to guide us, yet the motivators for those individual choices are not anchored to anything we should expect to sum up to wise choices for the nation.

      My point is that those motivators are entirely psychological and social, with no feedback from objective reality.² We should not be surprised that people vote with a level of ignorance they do not display when buying a car or performing their job duties.

      – – –

      ¹ It never ceases to amaze me that people seem to understand the theory of free markets, but fight vehemently against the obvious observation that some markets don’t fit the conditions of the theory well, and few fit perfectly.

      ² Except to the degree that people already understand the issues for some other reason: then the drive to minimize cognitive dissonance could be a channel leading to useful voting behavior. As I noted earlier, in the political sphere there is little motivation for truth for its own sake. That appears to me to be a more promising avenue for change than addressing voting directly. To have a less ignorant America, we need to make knowledge more rewarding and ignorance more costly.

    2. You state that “habit, ritual or ethical beliefs” can be an “immediate motivation” for some activities. Then you say “Voting in any particular way has no expected consequences for the individual.” Why can’t you view the consequences of voting in a particular way similarly?

      Citizens are members of society. As such, they can view the expected consequences of a vote as benefiting society, themselves or both. If voting in a democracy has a “design flaw”, it is what Fabius said above: “Part of the devaluing of voting is the vastly larger electorate than the Founders ever dreamed of.”

      This seems like a debate in search of a disagreement.

    3. You state that “habit, ritual or ethical beliefs” can be an “immediate motivation” for some activities. Then you say “Voting in any particular way has no expected consequences for the individual.” Why can’t you view the consequences of voting in a particular way similarly?

      I do view them the same way. The habits and ethics that prompt us to go to work in the morning, or to refrain from violent altercations with people who annoy us, are backed up by likely consequences for the individual. Those consequences support our habits and ethics in ways that maintain a cohesive society. Habits and ethics don’t come out of nowhere, and they don’t persist without at least occasional reinforcement.

      What likely individual, personal consequences apply to a person’s choices on election day? Only internal, psychological ones, and social ones following from those, which compel us to align with our tribe. The “real” consequences, the ones that depend on accurate information and valid analysis, apply only to the results of the vote, which cannot be affected by any one individual.

      There is no transmission mechanism that reinforces choices based on actual knowledge and understanding, because the psychological and social incentives are to maintain consistency with our peers and preconceptions, not to develop an accurate assessment of reality.

      This seems like a debate in search of a disagreement.”

      I think we are pretty much agreed that tribalism and ignorance make effective self-government in the United States impossible.

      My thesis is that these are not mysterious character flaws in modern Americans, but natural adaptive responses to prevailing conditions. If we want to change the response, we have to figure out how to change the conditions.

      Voting, to me, is not that interesting… it’s the end point of a process that goes astray long before election day.

    4. “the results of the vote, which cannot be affected by any one individual.”

      This goes back to the infintesimal likelihood of a statewide election being decided by one vote. But the same can be said of the likelihood of a dollar on a collection plate making a difference. Maybe we do these things for complicated reasons. But we likely understand that there is a fundamental difference between infintesimal probability and zero probability.

  9. Global cooling, is a complicated issue, and one doesn’t wish to over simplify a complicated issue with just a few empirical data points of evidence, and then dig in your heel’s into a indefensible position, to come to a radical conclusion, in order to draw headlines, and all kinds of attention to oneself.

    Just like that moron who ran for President…..Al Gore, and all his legions of contemptible vermin, who thought it wise to scare people into believing they were the cause of a meltdown. While he, gassed up, and jetted all over the Globe getting rich, and stealing from the suckers who actually listened to his shit.

    1. James,

      I stand second to nobody in my contempt for Al Gore! And yes, there are some scientists who believe that cooling is possible in the near future. I’ve seen references to some in the US, and (from memory) some in Russia. But they are distant outliers in the climate science community, at this time.

      The most widespread theory looks to solar influences. But revisions — nearing completion (if I understand this correctly) — to the accepted solar chronology weaken the relationships. And there is no proven mechanism for a substantial solar influence on Earth’s climate on the relevant time scale matching the known climate cycles of the past millennium or so.

      So it remains fringe science: a theory that departs significantly from mainstream theory (i.e., the current paradigm). This does not mean that it is false, or true. Just where it is at a specific point in time.

      1. James,

        Here are some papers about solar influences on Earth’s climate:

        1. Are cold winters in Europe associated with low solar activity?“, Mike Lockwood et al, Environmental Research Letters, 10 April 2010
        2. Solar Influence on Global and Regional Climates“, Mike Lockwood, Survey in Geophysics, July 2012
        3. Solar influence on winter severity in central Europe“, Frank Sirocko et al, Geophysical Research Letters, 28 August 2012 — Gated. Open copy here

        It’s a minority opinion, but it is there.

  10. Pingback: Panicking about climate change? See the rest of the story. – Climate Collections

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