Saturday, December 31, 2016

GWPF Newsletter: Sceptical Climate Scientists Coming In From the Cold








Climate Science And The Illusion Of Knowledge

In this newsletter:

1) Sceptical Climate Scientists Coming In From the Cold
RealClearInvestigations, 30 December 2016

2) Republican Attorneys General Eager To Dismantle Obama’s Climate Agenda
The Washington Times, 26 December 2016
 
3) Trump Puts Global Warming Action On Ice
National Review, 27 December 2016
 
4) Canada Keen To Find Common Cause With U.S. On Energy Plans
The Daily Caller, 28 December 2016
 
5) Climate Science And The Illusion Of Knowledge
Scott Adam, 30 December 2016
 
6) David S. D'Amato: The Environment’s True Friends Are Libertarians
Foundation for Economic Education, September 2016

Full details:

1) Sceptical Climate Scientists Coming In From the Cold
RealClearInvestigations, 30 December 2016
James Varney

In the world of climate science, the skeptics are coming in from the cold.
Researchers who see global warming as something less than a planet-ending calamity believe the incoming Trump administration may allow their views to be developed and heard. This didn’t happen under the Obama administration, which denied that a debate even existed. Now, some scientists say, a more inclusive approach – and the billions of federal dollars that might support it – could be in the offing.

“Here’s to hoping the Age of Trump will herald the demise of climate change dogma, and acceptance of a broader range of perspectives in climate science and our policy options,” Georgia Tech scientist Judith Curry wrote this month at her popular Climate Etc. blog.

William Happer, professor emeritus of physics at Princeton University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is similarly optimistic. “I think we’re making progress,” Happer said. “I see reassuring signs.”

Despite harsh criticism of their contrarian views, a few scientists like Happer and Curry have pointed to evidence that global warming is less pronounced than predicted. They have also argued that this slighter warming would bring positive developments along with problems. For the first time in years, skeptics believe they can find a path out of the wilderness into which they’ve been cast by the “scientific consensus.” As much as they desire a more open-minded reception by their colleagues, they are hoping even more that the spigot of government research funding – which dwarfs all other sources – will trickle their way.

President-elect Donald Trump, who has called global warming a “hoax,” has chosen for key cabinet posts men whom the global warming establishment considers lapdogs of the oil and gas industry: former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run the Energy Department; Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma to run the Environmental Protection Agency; and Exxon chief executive Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

But while general policy may be set at the cabinet level, significant and concrete changes would likely be spelled out below those three – among the very bureaucrats the Trump transition team might have had in mind when, in a move some saw as intimidation, it sent a questionnaire to the Energy Department this month (later disavowed) trying to determine who worked on global warming.

It isn’t certain that federal employees working in various environmental or energy sector-related agencies would willingly implement rollbacks of regulations, let alone a redirection of scientific climate research, but the latter prospect heartens the skeptical scientists. They cite an adage: You only get answers to the questions you ask.

“In reality, it’s the government, not the scientists, that asks the questions,” said David Wojick, a longtime government consultant who has closely tracked climate research spending since 1992. If a federal agency wants models that focus on potential sea-level rise, for example, it can order them up. But it can also shift the focus to how warming might boost crop yields or improve drought resistance.

While it could take months for such expanded fields of research to emerge, a wider look at the possibilities excites some scientists. Happer, for one, feels emboldened in ways he rarely has throughout his career because, for many years, he knew his iconoclastic climate conclusions would hurt his professional prospects.
When asked if he would voice dissent on climate change if he were a younger, less established physicist, he said: “Oh, no, definitely not. I held my tongue for a long time because friends told me I would not be elected to the National Academy of Sciences if I didn’t toe the alarmists’ company line.”

That sharp disagreements are real in the field may come as a shock to many people, who are regularly informed that climate science is settled and those who question this orthodoxy are akin to Holocaust deniers. Nevertheless, new organizations like the CO2 Coalition, founded in 2015, suggest the debate is more evenly matched intellectually than is commonly portrayed. In addition to Happer, the CO2Coalition’s initial members include scholars with ties to world-class institutions like MIT, Harvard and Rockefeller University. The coalition also features members of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorology Society, along with policy experts from the Manhattan Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute and Tufts University’s Fletcher School.

With such voices joining in, the debate over global warming might shift. Until now, it’s normally portrayed as enlightened scholars vs. anti-science simpletons. A more open debate could shift the discussion to one about global warming’s extent and root causes.

Should a scientific and research funding realignment occur, it could do more than shatter what some see as an orthodoxy stifling free inquiry. Bjorn Lomborg, who has spent years analyzing potential solutions to global warming, believes that a more expansive outlook toward research is necessary because too much government funding has become expensive and ineffective corporate welfare.

Although not a scientist, Lomborg considers climate change real but not cataclysmic.

“Maybe now we’ll have a smarter conversation about what actually works,” Lomborg told RealClearInvestigations. “What has been proposed costs a fortune and does very little. With more space opening up, we can invest more into research and development into green energy. We don’t need subsidies to build something. They’ve been throwing a lot of money at projects that supposedly will cut carbon emissions but actually accomplish very little. That’s not a good idea. The funding should go to universities and research institutions; you don’t need to give it to companies to do it.”

Such new opportunities might, in theory, calm a field tossed by acrimony and signal a d├ętente in climate science. Yet most experts are skeptical that a kumbaya moment is at hand. The mutual bitterness instilled over the years, the research money at stake, and the bristling hostility toward Trump’s appointees could actually exacerbate tensions.

“I think that the vast ‘middle’ will want and seek a more collegial atmosphere,” Georgia Tech’s Curry told RealClearInvestigations. “But there will be some hardcore people (particularly on the alarmed side) whose professional reputation, funding, media exposure, influence etc. depends on cranking up the alarm.”

Michael E. Mann, another climate change veteran, is also doubtful about a rapprochement. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State and author of the “hockey stick” graph, which claims a sharp uptick in global temperatures over the past century, believes ardently that global warming is a dire threat. He concluded a Washington Post op-ed this month with this foreboding thought: “The fate of the planet hangs in the balance.” Mann acknowledges a brutal war of words has engulfed climate science. But in an e-mail exchange with RealClearInvestigations, he blamed opponents led by “the Koch brothers” for the polarization.

Full story

2) Republican Attorneys General Eager To Dismantle Obama’s Climate Agenda
The Washington Times, 26 December 2016
Ben Wolfgang

As soon as President-elect Donald Trump assumes office Jan. 20, Republican attorneys general who have spent the past eight years battling the Obama administration’s climate change agenda will have a new role: supporting the Republican president’s complex legal effort to roll back that agenda.
 

Republicans have begun exercising their influence over the incoming president and his pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has built a political career by battling the very agency he is about to lead. (Associated Press)
Republicans have begun exercising their influence over the incoming president and his pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has built a political career by battling the very agency he is about to lead. (Associated Press) - Photo by: Sue Ogrocki

By contrast, states with Democratic leadership — such as California, where Gov. Jerry Brown has promised all-out war against Mr. Trump on global warming — will go from being environmental partners with the federal government to legal aggressors on their own.

Republicans have begun exercising their influence over the incoming president and his pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has built a political career by battling the very agency he is about to lead.

Earlier this month, 24 attorneys general signed an open letter laying out how the Trump administration could begin to dismantle President Obama’s global warming agenda. The effort was led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican who often partnered with Mr. Pruitt in bringing lawsuits against what they said was EPA overreach

The letter focuses on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, a proposal to limit carbon emissions from power plants that requires all states to meet strict pollution guidelines laid out by the federal government.

Federal data show the plan would drive up electricity prices.

The Supreme Court this year issued a stay halting implementation of the Clean Power Plan, but Republican attorneys general are eager for the proposal to be formally taken off the books.

“The incoming administration and Congress now have the opportunity to withdraw this unlawful rule and prevent adoption of a similar rule in the future,” the attorneys general wrote. “An executive order on Day One is critical. The order should explain that it is the administration’s view that the rule is unlawful and that EPA lacks authority to enforce it. The executive order is necessary to send an immediate and strong message to states and regulated entities that the administration will not enforce the rule.”

The executive order, analysts say, is just the first step. Under Mr. Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA will have to go through a formal rule-making process to kill the Clean Power Plan, including public hearings, comment periods, draft proposals and other formalities that likely will take at least a year to complete.

“Soon after Trump takes office, they will issue a proposal to revoke the Clean Power Plan, but that will actually have to be a fairly comprehensive document that explains the rationale,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, a leading environmental attorney and former assistant administrator at the EPA’s office for air and radiation. “They can’t just say that the president said to get rid of it and we’re going to do it.”

Because of the Supreme Court stay and the impending doom of the Clean Power Plan, Mr. Holmstead said, states can continue to ignore the emissions thresholds without penalty or threat of enforcement from Washington.

Some Democrat-led states are likely to continue implementing emissions reduction programs and are poised to become the EPA’s legal adversaries over the next four years. They will assume the job held by Mr. Pruitt’s Oklahoma and Mr. Morrisey’s West Virginia, completing a full role reversal.

Full story

3) Trump Puts Global Warming Action On Ice
National Review, 27 December 2016
Michael Barone

The new U.S. administration is not going to be bound by the Paris climate agreement and is not going to phase out fossil fuels.

It’s been a tough year for political elites, here and around the world, what with the passage of Brexit in June in Britain, the repudiation of Colombia’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient in the October FARC referendum, and the defeat of America’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient’s preferred candidate in the November presidential election.

Not all the consequences are clear. But one thing seems true: The election of Donald Trump has put the kibosh on two projects long pursued by American elites, the entitlement reform sought by conservative elites and the measures to address climate change sought by liberal elites.

Neither problem is pressing right now. But elites believe that America is headed to disaster — fiscal ruin, flooded plains — if current policies remain in place. These elites believe they have a responsibility to look far ahead and prevent disasters that they, unlike most ordinary people, foresee.

Trump disagrees with them. He didn’t have much elite support in his campaign for president, and he has made plain that he’s opposed to significant changes in entitlements and doesn’t see future global warming as justifying measures that kill jobs and choke off economic growth.

As president, he will have command of the executive branch and a veto to check Congress. It’s hard to see how Republicans in Congress will go to the trouble of addressing entitlements if their efforts can’t succeed. And it will be hard for liberal elites to frustrate his policies.

He’s on particularly strong ground on climate change. Global-warming alarmists proclaim that their dire scenarios are certain to occur, and they would be clearly right if the only thing affecting temperatures were carbon dioxide emissions. But many other things (e.g., the sun) affect climate as well, and the interactions among them and their differing effects are not fully understood, as the failure of climate scientists’ models to explain past observations shows.

Liberal elites tell us that “the science is settled” and that people must have faith in their predictions. But science is never settled. Scientists produce theories and test them against observations. When Albert Einstein announced his relativity theory in 1905, he didn’t ask people to have faith. He claimed that his theory would do a better job than Isaac Newton’s of predicting observations in a solar eclipse in 1919.

It is religion, not science, that demands that people have faith in things that otherwise seem unlikely, brands those who do not as “heretics” and “deniers,” requires participation in repeated rituals (recycling, anyone?), and permits sinners to purchase indulgences (carbon offsets for Al Gore’s private jet).

The sensible thing to do about possible climate change is to learn more, to fund research (and not just by believers in the alarmist faith), to think seriously about how to mitigate possible bad effects — and to take advantage of possible good ones. (I grew up in Michigan, where I would have been happy to experience a little warming.)

In the meantime, we are not going to be bound by the Paris climate agreement and we are not going to phase out fossil fuels. We may even stop harassing “heretics” and “deniers,” at least for the next four years.

Full post

4) Canada Keen To Find Common Cause With U.S. On Energy Plans
The Daily Caller, 28 December 2016
Chris White

Canada’s energy minister said he can find common ground with President-elect Donald Trump on oil pipelines and energy infrastructure.

“We’re very careful not to judge this administration on anything other than what they do. And what they do will become better known after January 20th,” Jim Carr, Canada’s minister of natural resources, told reporters Wednesday.

His comments suggest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration is taking a “wait and see” approach to the real estate tycoon-turned-president-elect. Carr also floated the possibility the prime minister could find “areas of common cause” with the incoming Trump administration.

Trump’s victory has also bolstered hopes the Keystone XL pipeline, which was rejected by President Barack Obama last year, might get a new lease on life. Carr said it’s up to the company behind Keystone and the U.S. government to decide whether to proceed.

Trudeau has approved several pipelines, arguing that such projects play a crucial role in reducing Canada’s carbon emission levels.

Carr and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, for instance, approved the-now controversial Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline along with Enbridge’s Line 3.

The $6.8 billion project was not considered controversial when Trudeau gave his seal of approval in early December, because it follows an already existing line, but environmentalists bristled at the prime minister’s reasoning behind the decision.

Full post

5) Climate Science And The Illusion Of Knowledge
Scott Adam, 30 December 2016

Yesterday I kicked the hornet’s nest by suggesting that no scientist really believes that complicated models with lots of variables can reliably predict the future. This is a subset of my larger point that no non-scientist can evaluate the claims of climate science because BOTH sides look 100% convincing to the under-informed.

So how did the public respond to my claim that BOTH sides of the debate look convincing? They berated me for not sufficiently researching materials from ONE side of the debate that happens to be their side. Many people suggested that I could simply do some homework, on my own, and get to the bottom of climate science.

That is a massive public illusion.

For starters, when I say BOTH sides of the debate look 100% convincing to a non-scientist such as myself, it does not advance the debate to call me insulting names and direct me to a link supporting ONE side of the debate. I promise I have seen convincing arguments on your side no matter which side you are on. The problem is that both sides are just as convincing to a non-scientist.

You can’t change my mind by telling me exactly what I just told YOU. We both agree with you that your argument is 100% convincing. Just like the argument that says you are totally wrong. Both excellent.

And so we have an odd situation in which both sides of the debate are in deep illusion, even if one side is right and the other is wrong. The illusion is that one side is obviously correct – and the belief that you could see that too, if only you would spend a little energy looking into it on your own. If you hold that belief, no matter which side you are on, you can be sure you are experiencing an illusion.

Non-scientists don’t have the tools to form a useful opinion on climate science. What we usually do instead is look at one side of the debate, ignore the other side, and use confirmation bias to harden our illusion of certainty. That’s how normal brains work. So if you are both normal and you have a strong opinion about climate science, I can say with confidence that you are hallucinating about your certainty.

I don’t know the underlying truth of climate science. But I do know a lot about persuasion. And I can say with complete confidence that if you are a non-scientist, and you have certainty about your opinion on climate science, you are hallucinating about the capacity of your own brain.

You’re wondering how I can know that other people are hallucinating and not me. That’s where it comes in handy to study persuasion and hypnosis. Delusional people leave tells.

One of the tells in this case is an ad hominem attack on whoever disagrees with you on climate science. You can see that happening on my Twitter feed today as the pro-climate-science types are coming after me in numbers. When you see an oversized reaction to what should be nothing but competing scientific claims, that’s usually a tell that someone slipped into cognitive dissonance.
 

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What is the trigger in this case? The trigger is that someone smart (me) pointed out the weakness in their argument. If you believe you are smart, and a smart person disagrees with you with a solid argument, it forces you to either change your mind (which humans don’t like to do) or to enter an hallucination that explains away the new argument as total nonsense.

Another tell involves sending me links to one side of the argument to debate my point that both sides are good. That makes no sense at all.

Another tell is an emotional argument against some related point I did not make and would not make.

Another tell involves claiming non-scientists can dig into the science and figure out how credible it is on their own. If that were true we wouldn’t need highly trained scientists. We could all just wing it using our common sense and whatnot. We can’t. Non-scientists can understand a simple argument from scientists but we don’t have enough context to know what is MISSING from the scientist’s argument. Without that bit of context there can be no credibility.

For example, if you did not have a deep understanding of the science of persuasion you would have no basis to judge the credibility of climate scientists. You might mistakenly believe it is deeply unlikely for so many professionals to be wrong, and your misunderstanding would bias you toward agreeing with the majority. But trained persuaders who understand economics, incentives, and confirmation bias would put less credibility in the majority opinion because we know how often the majority has hallucinated in ways that look a lot like the climate science situation.

Now suppose one side shows me ten solid pieces of evidence in support of their side. Should I be convinced by that? Well, not if the other side has fifty pieces of evidence that is just as convincing but I don’t know any of it exists. As a non-scientist, I don’t know what I don’t know. You’re probably in the same boat. Until about a minute ago you didn’t think the science of persuasion was important to your opinion on climate science. But it is.

Based on my knowledge of persuasion, I’m probably NOT hallucinating in this particular case because I see both sides as equals. And I have explored both sides of the argument at least as far as my non-scientist brain can take me – and that isn’t far. My assessment is that a bright, well-informed non-scientist has no realistic chance of reaching an independent opinion on climate change that is better than a guess.

Full post

6) David S. D'Amato: The Environment’s True Friends Are Libertarians
Foundation for Economic Education, September 2016

Government is itself the worst polluter, responsible for more serious environmental damage than any other single actor. Government wastes and destroys its own holdings, because it lacks the incentives of the true owner, insulated as it is from the attendant costs.


Photo published for The Environment’s True Friends Are Libertarians

The libertarian movement should have been the natural home of environmentalism. Robust, well-defined property rights and mutually-beneficial exchange in a genuine free market create strong incentives for environmental stewardship, thwarting the kinds of environmental degradation that have been all too common under the status quo, defined by pervasive regulation, inept bureaucracy, and thus frequent disasters.

As economist and public policy scholar Robert H. Nelson observed, “environmentalism and libertarianism have important common elements. Both outlooks are fearful of the uses to which human beings will put the enormous new powers made available by the modern products of science and economics.”

The philosophy of liberty furthermore emphasizes the importance of accountability, personal responsibility, and efficiency: values which should be focal points for any worthwhile project of environmental protection. Why, then, does prevailing opinion make private property and free market competition the enemies of nature, cast as the sources of widespread pollution, ecosystem destruction, and thoughtless resource depletion? Clearly something has been lost in translation, confused by the easy and largely incoherent narratives of left versus right.

Recasting the Debate

Libertarians are, no doubt, partially to blame for this. We have emphasized the primacy of economic development and market innovation, the processes that have enriched the world. But the fact that the selfsame processes have at the same time made the world cleaner and more sanitary is less frequently remarked upon, lost in the narrative that freedom means corporate license—which in turn spells doom for the natural world.

First, libertarians must challenge the oft-repeated myth that unhindered competition is a cutthroat game of wild and irresponsible misbehavior, the inevitable result of which is environmental destruction borne by the many, and large profits enjoyed by the few. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, libertarians see well-defined private property rights and voluntary exchanges in the marketplace as the best mechanisms through which to protect the natural world and its resources. Seldom do the free market’s detractors—or indeed even its friends—observe its valuable restraining effects: the natural limits that property and exchange place on corporate power and license.

Sincere environmentalists should care about the track record of government intervention and regulation. The worst, most tragic environmental disasters have uniformly been spawned from heavily-regulated and cartelized industries, occurring in spheres of human activity in which property rights are not well defined or are vested in derelict government bureaucracies.

And we should be especially indisposed to give credence to government’s lofty environmental protection rhetoric given that government is itself the worst polluter, responsible for more serious environmental damage than any other single actor. That this fact will surprise so many demonstrates the success with which the federal leviathan has deceived and cheated the American people.

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The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.


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