March 31, 2007

Impervious Perversions

Continuing a never ending series of environmental messages, sponsored by Duck Friday ™, because ducks are part of the environment and have avowed to offset their farts by 100% by doubling their flying time, thereby reducing their web print.

(I know, I know, this is old news, so what? You don’t expect me to keep you up to date with things happening in the world, do you? Do you?)

The MSM has been collectively slurping up Al Gore as if he’s a delicious ice cream, following yet another Oscar winning performance, this time in front of an American Congress committee.

The most disturbing thing about the reporting was that the slurping noises weren’t supported by anything that Gore actually said. Which is worse than that really convenient documentary, you know, the one without visible scientific support, strung together with multiple untested hypothesis and chewing gum?

“Mr Gore was clearly on top of his subject. When one Republican at the House committee hearing suggested that the science on global warming was "uneven and evolving" and that the measures for curbing carbon emissions advocated in Mr Gore's film "provide little benefit at huge cost"

"Mr Gore paused for a moment and looked puzzled, as if to suggest that he could not understand how anyone could still hold such views.”

Yes, yes, you read correctly.

In this sophisticated media age of ours, being “on top of his subject” means that someone pauses and looks puzzled with disbelief. That’s how you respond to entirely reasonable, legitimate, succinct, pertinent questions. Right on top of his game!

Gore finally offered this verbal response:

"The planet has a fever," he said. "If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says, 'You have to intervene here,' you don't say, 'Well, I read a science-fiction novel that says it isn't important.' "

You also read that correctly. Gore uses a fiction analogy, presumably without blushing.

Let me spell this out, in case you’re not thinking clearly: what Gore is saying – stating as fact, not merely implying – is, firstly that he alone is the font of truth, and that his truth doesn’t require scientific testing like any other hypothesis; secondly, anyone who does not agree with him, any material that challenges his untested view is an out-right fiction.

Gore essentially dismisses science, period, particularly anything that might provide data and information to contradict or disprove his agenda. If he does not agree with it, then it is to be ignored as nothing more than a fanciful, imaginative work of fiction. Simple cost / benefit economics is not even addressed, being, we are left to assume, of no consequence to Gore and his coiterie.

Taking this even further – if that were possible – he adds, with no irony intended, the “science” label, because the science fiction genre is even more fanciful, fabricated and ludicrous, than mere garden variety fiction. Evidently, Gore sees no paradox in his tossing the word “science” about, no matter the context: the science of his agenda, science fiction, heck, it’s all got “science” lurking in there somewhere.

Let this sink in.

Let that seep through every pore in your body, because this is more Orwellian than any warmongering euphemisms, or terrorist placating newspeak. This is worse than the death of language. This is the death of thought. The socialization of ideas and science; citizen debate has been scooped by Gore, dozens of dollops at a time.

“Mr Gore also said global warming was the biggest crisis America had ever faced, bigger than the wars the US has fought and greater than the threat posed by totalitarianism in the 20th century.”

"A day will come when our children and grandchildren will look back and they'll ask one of two questions," he said. "Either they will ask what in God's name were they doing? Didn't they see the evidence? Were they blinded and numbed by the business of political life and daily life to take a deep breath and look at the reality of what we're facing?

"Or they'll ask another question. They may look back and they'll say, 'How did they find the uncommon courage to rise above politics and redeem the promise of American democracy and do what some said was impossible?'"

This is a moral crusade, writ large, we already know that, but the scale of the emotional blackmail, the call to irrational thought, is unethical, or at least it would be if anyone else was trying this on with any other political issue. But this is “the environment”, unethical behavior is almost an obligation, lest one be caught, in 100 years time, napping on the wrong side of the moral divide. Ethics be damned.

Note the impossibility of grey in any of this. You are on his side or the wrong side.

“Didn’t they see the evidence?”

Even though there is, and may never be, evidence, given the extreme difficulties entailed in empirically testing weather patterns, or having a control-earth for human generated carbon comparison purposes. None of the current claims can ever be tested. Not even by waiting 50 years and retrospectively laying blame. The weather appears to be more unpredictable, sea levels are rising, and when the data comes, at the end of this century, the only certainty will be yes it happened, or no it didn’t. Causal links will never be known, they will remain forever hypothesized.

“How did they find the uncommon courage?”

Even though this could prove to be a normal earthly weather cycle, which, in 20,000 years might be followed by an 80,000 year ice age, an event over which no amount of “uncommon courage” could possibly be controlled by mere humans or mere politics.

Even though this might prove to be the most hideously irresponsible economically and socially catastrophic hoax ever perpetuated on the world.

Let’s not forget that back in the 1970s the Club of Rome, also a collection of scientists, forecast – with all the empiricism that they could muster – that by now, that is, by today, as we live and breathe, the world would have run out of most minerals and that India and many other countries would be facing mass starvation. Yes, the circumstance was different to the current wishful-catastrophe-braying, because the weather is something that humans can not control with nothing more potent than a bit of ingenuity and gutsy-heroics. It’s not the same circumstance as being able to produce 10 times as much food with 30% less land by application of chemicals and improved agricultural practices.

We can, perhaps, be grateful that no-one took up the challenge to perform any uncommon acts of courage to avert the crystal gazing catastrophe that was predicted by the Club of Rome.

“To rise above politics and redeem the promise of American democracy”.

Break out the stars and stripes, place hand on heart, and photograph the collective tear-filled eyes, as the environment and democracy collide in a moist fusion of utter irrelevance. Emotive drivel is not a scientific or an economically astute argument. But they will win this thing! Even if totalitarian means are required!

“And do what some said was impossible.”

Announcing premature victory against unknowable and uncontrollable forces of nature should be an impossibly laughable statement, but not these days. The contemporary mandate is to announce the thrill of the Rapture long before its arrival, so that everyone can be dressed nicely, and wearing clean underwear.

Casting the world into heroes and villains on the frontline of the weather is a blatant and unsophisticated manipulative divide and conquer strategy, preying on the gullibility and goodwill of people everywhere. Hey, duh! Isn’t that what politicians of all ilk do all the time? Buyer beware folks, buyer beware.

With global warming / climate change, we have claims that are immune from empirical testing.

Achieving some mythical "impossible" goal will be equally immune from empirical testing.

No matter the outcome, victory can be claimed! Which is the achievement of collective dellusion, as opposed to achievement of the impossible.

We won't know for at least 50 years if the IPCC forecasts are right. Just as important, we won't know the global consequences, until at least then, even in the highly improbable circumstance that these long range forecasts proved to be correct. After all, the population "explosion" continues apace, without any of the dire consequences predicted as far back as 50 years ago.

“Democrats on both committees were clearly impressed with Mr Gore's performance.”

Why?

“Mr Gore was the clear winner.”

How?

Sensible, responsible, economically rational and mulitple approaches to adaptations to changing weather patterns are called for, rather than launching fatuously heroic crusades. But you can’t sell boring old good sense as a sexy campaign, can you? Not when humans are so darned in love with tales of hardship, heroic acts, valor and happy endings against the odds. Even if it is a fiction. This is the fairy tale come true. The monomyth bought to the lives of the common people. A wish fulfillment.

If the environment is suffering pathologies, they are being eclipsed by the pathological nature of the debate over the appropriate cure.

7 comments:

  1. Wow!!!

    Stuff Al Gore. Will you be our guru, Caz??

    Anyway, I certainly share your distrust of gurus such as Al Gore. The trouble, as you rightly suggest, is that the general public - or maybe that should be the media - is more susceptible to glitzy presentation and giddying narrative than to sober, rational and -yawn- plodding good sense.

    Ah yes, the Club of Rome. Perhaps this is rather an unfair comparison, given that the Club's doomsaying was based upon hopelessly flawed assumptions and algorithms (no pun intended), etc., all fed into a computer model - garbage in, garbage out, as they say.

    Whereas at least much of climate science is based upon copious empirical observation. The arguments are, of course, over what may be inferred or extrapolated from the data. That an overwhelming scientific consensus infers big problems from the data doesn't, of course, preclude the possibility that they might be wrong.

    If they're wrong, then the implications for economic growth could be dire if the world takes strong remedial action. Conversely, if they're right but the world does nothing at all, the consequences could be equally dire - but mainly for subsequent generations.

    Hence, a question of pure science has become the political hot potato of perhaps the century, if not the millenium. Also feeding into the politics of it is the inkling we all have that, if the 'strong remedial action' option is taken, then the pool of resources that humanity perennially brawls over will necessarily become more finite, and the brawling consequently more frenetic.

    Interesting times.

    (Oh stuff Blogger too!!)

    ReplyDelete
  2. The thing is Jacob, the models are, at best, hypothetical.

    Can you think of a single instance when a social, economic, or scientific “prediction” for 20, let alone 50 or 100 years hence has ever come true? I can’t.

    Have you noticed that we are now being subjected to breathless monthly and quarterly weather hysterics, much the same way that economic indicators are reported?

    The problem is, these short term “gasp, shock, horror” weather summaries and comparisons with the past are a total nonsense. Even a scientist would tell you that. Weather patterns are only established over a minimum period of a decade, for meaningful data, that is, to show real, verifiable change. This hyping of every “hottest March day since 1999” business really makes me angry. In any other era it would have been of passing interest, a point of trivia, but now we’re burdened with unspoken significance and the gravity of the extinction of life as we know it, blah, blah, blah, just because we have a couple of hot days during a month when there haven’t been any for a number of years. Ooooh, aaaahhhh. It’s not a “pattern”, it may not even be an aberration. It isn’t anything. Particularly in Melbourne, where we have up to 7 seasons on any given day, summer or winter.

    I do believe the global climate is changing.

    I do believe that sea levels are rising.

    I do believe that habitat and the animals of the world will be affected, some for the better, some for the worse, thus changing the current status of the ecosystem. But correct me if I’m wrong: hasn’t the ecosystem been an evolving and changing thing for millions of years now? Surely our pride gets the better of us if we believe the billions of humans wander the earth, by their sheer mass, would by some act of magic bring to a screeching halt earthly evolution – for better or for worse. If nothing else, the history of earth has shown that it is mostly for the worse, with or without much in the way of human numbers.

    I do believe the climatic changes will very dramatically depending on the part of the world, with some areas getting warmer, while others will need two or three layers of thermal underwear.

    I believe this might be the outcome, but I do not believe it is a definite, not by a long shot. So, telling people that life as we know it is shot to hell is too emotive, irrational, and hysterical for me, particularly when the human race is so utterly and surprisingly adaptable.

    My concern with actions Jacob is the hundreds of billions – trillions? – of dollars that will be pumped into “cutting” carbon emissions, rather than being thrown into preparing countries for their changed climatic conditions, and whatever ramifications seem probable (not merely possible – probable) for their particular continent.

    If human carbon emissions have contributed to, or sped up a normal climate cycle, it is most probably a smaller contribution than currently being claimed, and, very importantly, it is already irreversible.

    In which case, prepare for changed weather; put the trillions of dollars and the technology, and the wherewithal into those endeavors, not into goddamned carbon sinks in the earth (I mean, please, really?).

    Let Branson offer his enormous prize for a giant carbon sucking machine – that’s terrific, but don’t act as if hypothetical’s are real, and, thereby, send the global economy into turmoil for the next 50 years, and, in doing so, ensuring that there isn’t enough money to invest in changed aspects of living, and new technologies that haven’t even been thought of yet, but which may be needed.

    What if increases in carbon levels really do lag behind increases in the temperature, as historic patterns have shown?

    Yet, here we are, across the world, ready to spend trillions of dollars, and turn our lives and economies upside down on unwarranted, useless actions, when the money, the inventiveness, and the interventions should be invested in the things needed for the new and irreversible – mostly natural – climatic circumstances.

    My angst, my fear, is around the actions to be taken, the money to be spent – how, where, why – because many of these decisions will be irreversible, and some may indeed send us reeling into catastrophe.

    This insistence that humankind is fully to blame is one part hubris and one part masochism. An oddly religious need to punish ourselves. A persistent belief that humankind is recalcitrantly bad and the source of all evil in the world. Inherent in that belief is that the natural world – including the weather – is benign and blameless. This is the remarkably biblical overtone, a secular politics converting to a belief in Armageddon, insisting that we all must do penance. Sodom and Gomorrah revisited. There are many ironies and human frailties and myths all wrapped up in this issue of a millennium Jacob. The moral dilemma of all time, minus an ethical backbone.

    Who needs a deity or a bible when modern man can invent his own nine horsemen, his own apocalypse?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yoh!! - that one should have been another post in its own right...

    I'm not the climate-boffin that the PM is, but I'm every bit as much the bullshit artist. So...

    the models are, at best, hypothetical

    That's science for you. It's not about ultimate truth, it's about the testing of hypotheses. More generally, it's about whether and how we can ever know something. In Philosophy 101, they taunt newly grown adults with Hume's problem of induction - a problem they still haven't solved to everyone's satisfaction. But still we all carry on as if the sun will rise tomorrow, as it always has...

    breathless monthly and quarterly weather hysterics

    Indeed, wasn't Feb supposed to be the hottest in ... I forget, but let's say 70 years. Big deal. And that Feb 70 years ago was the hottest since ... well, we don't have reliable records to tell us, but it was probably matched or exceeded sometime perhaps around when the First Fleet arrived. Who knows?

    If human carbon emissions have contributed to, or sped up a normal climate cycle, it is most probably a smaller contribution than currently being claimed, and, very importantly, it is already irreversible.

    Well, that's the technical crux of the conundrum. I'm not sure about "most probably a smaller contribution", but would tend to agree it's "already irreversible". The latter leaves the question of whether and how best to mitigate the effects.

    My angst, my fear, is around the actions to be taken, the money to be spent...

    That's the bread-and-butter or hip-pocket aspect of the conundrum.

    This insistence that humankind is fully to blame is one part hubris and one part masochism.

    Not sure if that's the whole picture, though. Could be there's more to that analogy with 'The Fall' than I'd given credit. Beware archetypal narratives and other atavisms.

    Geez, look at the time. I think I should wander across to my neighbours' place. They've left the back porch light on long after they and their friends were driven inside by local coldening. Don't they know or even hypothesise that there's a crisis on...?

    Hmmm, might have to take a bottle over with me...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Science is the testing of hypothesis, repeatedly, improving methodology as they go along, and discounting others, and eventually, more or less establish that something appears to be true or not true.

    As we know, science does not offer proof of anything, which is the domain of mathematics.

    The climate change / human carbon emission dichotomy is being spoken of as if “PROOF” has been established. This isn’t’ and can never be so.

    My point, which I probably made poorly, was the inability to empirically test these particular hypotheses.

    One computer model, or 15 computer models, are not empirical tests, baring in mind that we have more than one hypothesis in our sights, although they have become quickly and inappropriately conflated, as if there is a singular problem to examine. Quite misleading, and not helpful to the lay public, nor the lay politicians either, who keep getting hung up on the human blame game, and tying themselves into knots over carbon output, but perhaps becoming less and less able to see the trees for the forest, as it were.

    Alas, Jacob, this does

    ReplyDelete
  5. "That's the bread-and-butter or hip-pocket aspect of the conundrum.

    Not so much the hip-pocket that concerns me, given that we have so much abundance. "We" do have trillions of dollars sloshing around, in the public and private sectors. If ever there was a good time to have a serious crisis, requiring a lot of money and research and development, well, now is a pretty good time.

    There will also be a lot of money to be made from this situation, in some sectors, serious economic growth and expansion.

    The collective "hip-pocket" is busting at the seams, in search of investment opportunities.

    We already waste an enormous amount of money (tax payer money) on non-fruitful pursuits, and it's easy to envisage much more of the same, but on a staggering scale. I'd just like to see better - serious, smarter, more astute - decisions and investments being made. And definitely not more symbolic nonsense, or squillions on nothing but advertising campaigns and brochures.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yes, I do see what you're saying.

    Bjorn Lomborg (if that's him) has been arguing along similar lines, notwithstanding he accepts anthropogenic warmefying. He takes the view that the money - or much of it - would be better spent on poverty reduction, health, and other initiatives.

    There are middle courses that are almost never acknowledged in this 'debate'.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Not familiar with Bjorn, and can't say I'd go to his extreme.

    All the health and education spending we can muster won't matter a damn if crops are cut to buggery (or being used as fuel instead of FOOD!), and people end up starving to death, and if we haven't set in place strategies, infrastructure, technologies, economic plans to manage the consequences of climate change.

    Health and education are the very first things to be thrown overboard in hard economic times!!

    As I said, there are many economic opportunities in all of this. Look at the Aussie citizen who is the richest man in China - and he's young - all through solar power.

    Okay, that's one individual, so it's a nice story, rather than significant, but still, having to innovate usually leads to remarkable things, and remarkable economic bubbles - some of which will no doubt burst in an ugly and messy way, but that's captitalism, and if there weren't any major pear-shaped outcomes it would mean they're really not trying. A few, or a lot, of failures are the norm, in order to achieve great successes.

    None of this need entail less investment in bread and butter matters like health, education and poverty. Zero reason why money has to be taken from areas in order to go into this - there is plenty of investment money; although we do need far more of that going into research & development.

    ReplyDelete