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Prejudging Technologies

Holman Jenkins writes in The Wall Street Journal,  The Climate Speech Obama Didn’t Give, 6/28/2013


If we are serious about climate change, we must seriously factor in the accelerating rate of technological change already in our society. I’m personally impressed with what I read about the progress of nanobatteries, which may soon turn solar into a real contributor rather than a sinkhole for taxpayer charity. I’m impressed with the prospects for cheaper, inherently safe nuclear power, like in the new documentary, “Pandora’s Promise” (go see it!).

So here’s what we can really do to help future generations and ourselves. We can maintain the dynamism of our economy, from which new technology emerges. We can broadly favor low-carbon energy without prejudging (probably wrongly) which technologies will succeed. Carbon capture, for instance, may well be the sort of white elephant boondoggle we’ll be glad we avoided.

Now I believe these new technologies will emerge or not emerge largely irrespective of what government does, though a little help can’t hurt. I also believe, no matter what we do, the rest of the world will choose economic growth over reducing atmospheric carbon. So technology is our only hope.

The tax reform I envision other countries could adopt out of self-interest, not self-punishment. But it also doesn’t matter what they do. If the technologies that emerge are truly superior and competitive, other countries will adopt them anyway.

Either way, we will not have impoverished ourselves with futile gestures. We will have done absolutely the best thing government can do to address the risk that human greenhouse emissions will lead to dangerous climate change. We will have resisted the temptation—all too typical of Washington—to do foolish or cynical things in the guise of acting against global warming.

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Global Warming – Again

From To the Horror of Global Warming Alarmists, Global Cooling Is Here by Peter Ferrara in

Booker could have been writing about Robinson when he concluded his Sunday Telegraph commentary by writing, “Has there ever in history been such an almighty disconnect between observable reality and the delusions of a political class that is quite impervious to any rational discussion?”

“Here in Britain, where we had our fifth freezing winter in a row, the Central England Temperature record – according to an expert analysis on the US science blog Watts Up With That – shows that in this century, average winter temperatures have dropped by 1.45C, more than twice as much as their rise between 1850 and 1999, and twice as much as the entire net rise in global temperatures recorded in the 20th century.”

A news report from India (The Hindu April 22, 2013) stated, “March in Russia saw the harshest frosts in 50 years, with temperatures dropping to –25° Celsius in central parts of the country and –45° in the north. It was the coldest spring month in Moscow in half a century….Weathermen say spring is a full month behind schedule in Russia.” The news report summarized,

“Russia is famous for its biting frosts but this year, abnormally icy weather also hit much of Europe, the United States, China and India. Record snowfalls brought Kiev, capital of Ukraine, to a standstill for several days in late March, closed roads across many parts of Britain, buried thousands of sheep beneath six-metre deep snowdrifts in Northern Ireland, and left more than 1,000,000 homes without electricity in Poland. British authorities said March was the second coldest in its records dating back to 1910. China experienced the severest winter weather in 30 years and New Delhi in January recorded the lowest temperature in 44 years.”

Booker adds, “Last week it was reported that 3,318 places in the USA had recorded their lowest temperatures for this time of year since records began. Similar record cold was experienced by places in every province of Canada. So cold has the Russian winter been that Moscow had its deepest snowfall in 134 years of observations.”

But there is a fundamental problem with the temperature records from this contentious period, when climate science crashed into political science. The land based records, which have been under the control of global warming alarmists at the British Met Office and the Hadley Centre Climate Research Unit, and at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the U.S., show much more warming during this period than the incorruptible satellite atmosphere temperature records. Those satellite records have been further confirmed by atmospheric weather balloons. But the land based records can be subject to tampering and falsification.

Faith in Global Warming is collapsing in formerly staunch Europe following increasingly severe winters which have now started continuing into spring. Christopher Booker explained in The Sunday Telegraph on April 27, 2013,

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A Scientist Faces His Own Global Warming Theory

Lorrie Goldstein writes in The Toronto Sun, Green ‘drivel’ exposed – The godfather of global warming lowers the boom on climate change hysteria, 6/23/12.


Having observed that global temperatures since the turn of the millennium have not gone up in the way computer-based climate models predicted, Lovelock acknowledged, “the problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago.” Now, Lovelock has given a follow-up interview to the UK’s Guardian newspaper in which he delivers more bombshells sure to anger the global green movement, which for years worshipped his Gaia theory and apocalyptic predictions that billions would die from man-made climate change by the end of this century.

Lovelock still believes anthropogenic global warming is occurring and that mankind must lower its greenhouse gas emissions, but says it’s now clear the doomsday predictions, including his own (and Al Gore’s) were incorrect.

He responds to attacks on his revised views by noting that, unlike many climate scientists who fear a loss of government funding if they admit error, as a freelance scientist, he’s never been afraid to revise his theories in the face of new evidence. Indeed, that’s how science advances.

HKO comments:

A scientist changes his theory when it conflicts with reality.  A political ideologue tries to change the reality.  Changing reality requires the heavy hand of a government authority.

Lovelock also notes the reality that few of the climate ideologues wish to face. They accuse those who dispute them for being  interests of the energy companies.  Besides the fact that many of the energy companies support climate ideologues because it thins the herd of their competition, the ideologues also refuse to admit the being paid by the government to find proof of anthropomorphic global warming does not also distort their findings.

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A Return to the Dark Ages

The emergence of the scientific method ran into the beliefs of the church and was often treated as heresy.  Skeptics of anthropomorphic global warming are treated the same by the powered elite who seek not a fight for truth but a fight to retain power.

There are three factors that drive my skepticism.  In order:

1.  The universe of factors that affect climate is so vast and changing that there is no list of PhDs that can claim to know the weather years ahead with any accuracy. Nor can they know for certainty all the factors, including man’s activities, that will impact the climate and to what degree.  In fact it seems that those who claimed to have the answers ten years ago missed their predictions by greater margins that some of the heretics. The validity of a theory is directly related to its ability to predict.

2.  History is filled with predictions of disaster and Apocalypse from the educated and the credentialed that fail to come true.  Technology has rendered many scarcities irrelevant. Remember the story of the proposal to close the Patent Office in 1910 because there was nothing left to invent.  You can now Google it on your iPhone.

3.  While the skeptics are treated as unscientific  it is those that call them heretics who are imitating the intolerance o f the Church who fought the development of scientific inquiry.  Science depends on reproducible objective factors.  It is not decided by opinion polls and political ideology.

These points were well made in Concerned Scientists Reply on Global Warming in the Wall Street Journal on February 21. 2012.  The original article, No Need to Panic About Global Warming, ran January 27, 2012, and a number of scientists responded in Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate, on February 1. This was a response to their challenge.


Trenberth et al. tell us that the managements of major national academies of science have said that “the science is clear, the world is heating up and humans are primarily responsible.” Apparently every generation of humanity needs to relearn that Mother Nature tells us what the science is, not authoritarian academy bureaucrats or computer models.

One reason to be on guard, as we explained in our original op-ed, is that motives other than objective science are at work in much of the scientific establishment. All of us are members of major academies and scientific societies, but we urge Journal readers not to depend on pompous academy pronouncements—on what we say—but to follow the motto of the Royal Society of Great Britain, one of the oldest learned societies in the world: nullius in verba—take nobody’s word for it. As we said in our op-ed, everyone should look at certain stubborn facts that don’t fit the theory espoused in the Trenberth letter, for example—the graph of surface temperature above, and similar data for the temperature of the lower atmosphere and the upper oceans.

One might infer from the Trenberth letter that scientific facts are determined by majority vote. Some postmodern philosophers have made such claims. But scientific facts come from observations, experiments and careful analysis, not from the near-unanimous vote of some group of people.

The Trenberth letter tells us that decarbonization of the world’s economy would “drive decades of economic growth.” This is not a scientific statement nor is there evidence it is true. A premature global-scale transition from hydrocarbon fuels would require massive government intervention to support the deployment of more expensive energy technology. If there were economic advantages to investing in technology that depends on taxpayer support, companies like Beacon Power, Evergreen Solar, Solar Millenium, SpectraWatt, Solyndra, Ener1 and the Renewable Energy Development Corporation would be prospering instead of filing for bankruptcy in only the past few months.


I encourage you to read the article and the others referenced in the article.  The labeling of skepticism with heresy and the willingness to hold economic growth hostage to ideological dogma is the kind of thinking that brought us the dark ages.

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Scientific Agnosticism

Science was not a strong subject for me and I am certainly not qualified to pass judgment on the hard data and the cases for or against anthropomorphic (man-made) global warming.  Yet I also realize that most of the pundits that express such strong opinion on the subject know just as little about the science as I do.  The language used to describe the ‘opposition’ is the language of political and religious fanatics, not scientists.

Daniel Botkin makes this point well in  Absolute Certainty is Not Scientific, in the Wall Street Journal, 12/2/11.

I felt nostalgic for those times when even the greatest scientific minds admitted limits to what they knew. And when they recognized well that the key to the scientific method is that it is a way of knowing in which you can never completely prove that something is absolutely true. Instead, the important idea about the method is that any statement, to be scientific, must be open to disproof, and a way of knowing how to disprove it exists.

Therefore, “Period, end of story” is something a scientist can say—but it isn’t science.

Some scientists make “period, end of story” claims that human-induced global warming definitely, absolutely either is or isn’t happening. For me, the extreme limit of this attitude was expressed by economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, who wrote in his New York Times column in June, “Betraying the Planet” that “as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason—treason against the planet.” What had begun as a true scientific question with possibly major practical implications had become accepted as an infallible belief (or if you’re on the other side, an infallible disbelief), and any further questions were met, Joe-McCarthy style, “with me or agin me.”

Not only is it poor science to claim absolute truth, but it also leads to the kind of destructive and distrustful debate we’ve had in last decade about global warming. The history of science and technology suggests that such absolutism on both sides of a scientific debate doesn’t often lead to practical solutions.

HKO Comment:

Is there in fact a trend of Global warming?

Is the amount of global warming bad?

Is it predominantly caused by man?

Does the environmental ecosystem have any self correcting capabilities?

Will the solutions proposed have any measurable effects?

While I barely know which end of the test tube the cork goes into, it seems absurd that we could know the answers to these questions with any degree of certainty.  If global warming was so certain then why has ‘climate change’  been substituted?  Who determines if warming is bad? Haven’t more people died from cold extremes?  Exactly how much warming is bad?  Does anyone really know what the optimal temperature is? If we are so certain that man is causing this, then how do we explain previous periods of climate change when man’s global foot print was significantly smaller?

It appears that mixing politics and science is no more palatable than mixing religion with politics.  Politics pollutes them both.