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Steven Koonin on climate change

Steven Koonin, an advisor to Obama on climate change policy, has issued a sensible position on the issue.

His soon to be published bookUnsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters” notes that global average temperature has risen by about 1C degree since 1900. More important, it decries any notion that we are in a “climate emergency”. He expects another 1C increase in this century.

“Humans exert a growing, but physically small, warming influence on the climate. The results from many different climate models disagree with, or even contradict, each other and many kinds of observations,” he wrote. “In short, the science is insufficient to make useful predictions about how the climate will change over the coming decades, much less what effect our actions will have on it.”

 

The New York Post article on Koonin’s opinions says:

“Among the most significant revelations were that human activity had no significant influence on hurricanes over the past hundred years; Greenland’s ice sheet has been shrinking at the same rate for the past 80 years; and parts of the world that have been destroyed by wildfires have declined by greater than 25% since 2003, with 2020 being one of the lowest years on record.”

This is congruent with a more extensive set of graphs produced by Willis Eschenbach in Watts Up with That.

Among the charts that interest me most in Eschenbach’s article was the one on sea level rise. It shows that between 1990 and now, sea levels have risen about 80 mm in 25 years. Let us extrapolate this to 320 mm in 100 years, without further justification.   This is about 12 and one half inches in a century, which is far less than the rise expected by the physicist Lawrence Krauss, who wrote The Physics of Climate Change . He predicted a rise on sea level of about a meter (39 inches) by mid century.

Krauss situated the problem of global warming principally in rising sea levels, caused by melting glaciers and the expansion of water itself under the influence of greater heat. Krauss believes that places such as the Mekong Delta will be flooded with sea water at high tide, and rendered sterile, by 2100. This would have a disastrous effect on food production in a nation of 90 million people. Krauss is an alarmist but not a catastrophist, and his arguments are persuasive as long as you don’t look at contradictory data.

 

I have come to the views expressed by Koonin: that humans have had a small warming effect on the climate. and even if we stopped CO2 production right now, we would still be increasing global temperatures by a degree or two for another century at least. But in terms of the policies the elite wankers want us to adopt, I side with General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove. I have smelt it for a long time.

 

 

 One mania substituted for another

It is apparent that CO2 madness is being replaced by COVID as the mania of choice for members of the elite. The opportunities for direct social control with COVID are so much greater and more satisfying to the control freaks, and the willingness of people to go along with the scare so much greater than is the case with CO2. Decades of panic mongering about CO2 as the master control knob for global climate change have not succeeded in making the case for turning off our oil refineries and shutting down civilization as we know it. Always go with the panic that grows government authority most readily, and that is COVID, not atmospheric carbon dioxide.

 

I wish I could illustrate 415 against a million, but a million is 10,000 (10 to the 4th) times greater than a hundred (10 to the second). I am not proposing that we need orders of magnitude more CO2 in the atmosphere. What I am saying is that a trace gas is vital to plant life. More of it is greening the planet.

It will be evident that any serious policy aimed at reducing carbon emissions will have to focus on more nuclear reactors, as our Liberal government now understands.

 

 

 

So is this truly the end of Greta Thunberg’s influence? Hardly. The damage is now institutionalized in the poilicies of governments that seek to shut down tar sands and other sources of petro-chemical energy. Fanatics like Greta are mascots for the movement. But the attention has moved on from long term abstractions like climate change to hospitalizations and actual deaths.

Delingpole on the Climate Wars

Never mind about the science: for Delingpole, the climate thing is a branch of the culture wars.

The question I am asked when I express my doubts about climate catstrophism to the true believers is: how dare I question the consensus of people who know so much more than I do? To which Delingpole answers at minute 21 of this interview…

Catastrophists versus hopefuls

“Population Bombed: Exploding the Link Between Overpopulation and Climate Change”, by Pierre Desrochers and Joanna Szurmak”.

I have had the most useful engagement with a book recently, and I thought I would bring it to your attention. For those concerned with the global warming/climate change issue, the biggest challenge is to realize that this issue is perennial, and that its underlying attitudes have been fought over for ages. The clash between outlooks will never be resolved, I suspect, because it is religious in nature. By religious I do not mean having to do with God, or Gaia, but with basic human propensities towards hope or fatalism.

Let me give you the biologist’s view in a simple picture and quote:

In a nutshell, that is the ‘limits to growth’ ideology in two sentences. At the heart of it lies the enemy known as capitalism: relentless, restless, seeking, appetitive, knowing neither piety towards the gods nor despair of the future. Bad dog! Bad man! Bad male! By contrast, the depletionist view holds that we are all just bacteria in a closed petri dish. We will expand until we come up against the limits of the carrying capacity of the planet, as which point we will experience a catastrophic die-off . The metaphor is of fixed limits. It is the product of the epistemic bias of the science of biology.

Then there is the view of the Rational Optimist, which is the view of Pierre Desrochers and Joanna Szurmak, and others whose thinking they expose one to. One such is Adam Frank, astrophysicist and astrobiologist, and I quote him:

“It’s not the earth that needs saving. Instead it’s us and our project of civilization that need a new direction. If we fail to make it across the difficult terrain we face, the planet will just move on without us, generating new species in the novel climate it evolves. The ‘we suck’ narrative makes us villains in a story that, ultimately, has none. What the story does have are experiments – the ones that failed the ones that succeeded.” – cited from page 173 of “Population Bombed”

As Adam Frank told Joe Rogan, “we are what the biosphere is making right now”.

Population Bombed reviews the arguments of the catastrophists and their opponents. One such opponent was Julian Simon, an economist, who famously bet the doomist biologist Paul Ehrlich that a list of five natural resources would be cheaper in a decade’s time than they were at the time of the bet. [It appears that Julian Simon chose the right decade for his bet].

More importantly, Population Bombed shows that there was a straight-line relationship among three catastrophist visions: soil depletion in the 1950s, global cooling in the 1970 caused by polluting aerosols, and global warming of the present day. It was pushed by the same people, and funded by the same sources. Doomists changed their particular cause of doom without breaking stride.

Desrochers and Szurmak conclude:

“Trade, the division of labour, more people and more carbon fuels are what allowed humanity to simultaneously bake and enjoy an ever larger number of economic and environmental cakes, while in the process making human societies ever more resilient against extreme weather events and any climate change they may be confronted with”.

Eventually Desrochers and Szurmak seek an understanding of the doomists/limits-to-growthists in the epistemic prejudice of biology, which is set forth above in the quote from Ursula Le Guin. If your governing metaphor is that humans are like bacteria in a petri dish, and hydrocarbons are the sugar that has been added to the mix, then human population will explode until we suffer a catastrophic die-off. In the depletionist mind-set, humans suck, and you do not have to go far before you discover that many eco-catastrophists are very close to exterminationist in their beliefs.

If, by contrast, your view is the humans are constantly adapting , then one is not surprized to find that one of the first adaptations humans have made to prosperity is to reduce their birthrates in all societies across the planet. The education of women – caused by the advances that energy, technology and prosperity have allowed – has led to plunging birthrates, even in societies that have not industrialized. This was the subject of Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline, by Bricker and Ibbotson. Empty Planet is worthwhile but much narrower in scope than Population Bombed, since the former confines itself to a discussion of what world population will do until about 2100.

My point is that the optimists – in reality the hopefuls – are right to emphasize that humans adapt. Resources are not fixed. Indeed, the term “resources” is like the word “weed”, or “kosher” or “haram”; it denotes belonging to a class whose nature has been previously determined on other grounds. The iron age has not yet run out of iron, nor did the stone age run out of stones. What is a “resource” depends on a prior idea of science, technology, or art. Resources are not fixed; they expand or contract as human vision and opinions change.

The optimists are aware of this. The eco-catastrophists are fixated on the metaphors of depletion, finite resources, carrying capacity of the planet, and spaceship earth. The optimists are saying, in essence, that we are the things that dreams are made of. that though we are part of the natural order, we are in the most significant ways not a part of the natural order. Using our curiosity, imaginations, our willingness to learn and trade, and to make, the human species has risen to great heights. If we remain flexible and adaptive, we may survive yet.

Finally, in order to explain better that catastrophist mindset, Desrochers and Szurmak refer to an old favourite of mine, Jane Jacob’s Systems of Survival, one of the most important books ever written. Yes, I know that is a large claim. Jacobs discusses the contrasting moral outlooks of the “guardian” and “commercial” syndromes. It is a book of amazing and concise explanatory power, and doubtless it offends those who cherish confusion, nuance and messiness over clarity and precision. However, Jacobs’ two moral syndromes is a heuristic, a rule of thumb, not an exclusive or exhaustive discussion of all things human.

I leave you to look it up. The interest for me was the linkage that Desrochers and Szurmak forge between the guardian mentality and the eco-doomist catastrophist outlook, which for me was akin to finding that piece of the jigsaw puzzle linking large collections of previously separate areas of thought. Population Bombed situates a contemporary debate in a larger and older clash of ideas and beliefs, and I admire it for grounding me in that age-old discussion, as well as ably advancing the cause of the hopefuls.

“Stick with the optimists. It’s going to be tough enough even if they’re right.” 
― James Barrett Reston

US Marines train for invasion of Canada

Published reports show that the US military is shifting its training from desert climates to frosty ones. Though they pretend that the concern is with Korea and Russia, we all know that the closest target of uncertain loyalty is Trudeau’s Ottawa. It is a balmy -2C here today, going down to -14 tonight. Conditions will be ideal next week for winter training at -18C in the Gatineaus.

The snow is deep, the conditions cold, and the commanding view over Ottawa creates a good place to plant artillery. I have a few spots in mind.