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Authoritarianism as Science

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a gem from George Will in National Review, The ‘Settled’ Consensus du Jour

excerpts:

Four core tenets of progressivism are: First, history has a destination. Second, progressives uniquely discern it. (Barack Obama frequently declares things to be on or opposed to “the right side of history.”) Third, politics should be democratic but peripheral to governance, which is the responsibility of experts scientifically administering the regulatory state. Fourth, enlightened progressives should enforce limits on speech (witness IRS suppression of conservative advocacy groups) in order to prevent thinking unhelpful to history’s progressive unfolding.

Authoritarianism, always latent in progressivism, is becoming explicit. Progressivism’s determination to regulate thought by regulating speech is apparent in the campaign by 16 states’ attorneys general and those of the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, none Republican, to criminalize skepticism about the supposedly “settled” conclusions of climate science.

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Climate and Keynesian Economics

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From Phillip Magness, The ‘Climate Science’ MONIAC Machine

Economics has fortunately moved well beyond the days of the hydraulic MONIAC machine and its underlying assumptions about economic causality. We have since learned – sometimes the hard way – that the economy is simply too complex to causally map out as a precise system of policy levers that could shape production and commerce with reliable and predictable outcomes. Forecasting took a similar turn as well, moving away from drawing out trend lines that were backfilled to fit the predictions of overly simplified causal relationships. In its place, economics adopted the statistical conventions of modern forecasting tools with their associated cautions against making long range predictions and claims of precision.

In a strange way, modern climatology shares much in common with the approach of 1950s Keynesian macroeconomics. It usually starts with a number of sweeping assumptions about the relation between atmospheric carbon and temperature, and presumes to isolate them to specific forms of human activity. It then purports to “predict” the effects of those assumptions with extraordinarily great precision across many decades or even centuries into the future. It even has its own valves to turn and levers to pull – restrict carbon emissions by X%, and the average temperature will supposedly go down by Y degrees. Tax gasoline by X dollar amount, watch sea level rise dissipate by Y centimeters, and so forth. And yet as a testable predictor, its models almost consistently overestimate warming in absurdly alarmist directions and its results claim implausible precision for highly isolated events taking place many decades in the future. These faults also seem to plague the climate models even as we may still accept that some level of warming is occurring.

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The 34% Consensus

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Matt Ridley brings some objectivity to an issue where it is sorely lacking- Climate Change

It is a long post and is a compilation of a few of his articles:

excerpts:

The climate change debate has been polarized into a simple dichotomy. Either global warming is “real, man-made and dangerous,” as Pres. Barack Obama thinks, or it’s a “hoax,” as Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe thinks. But there is a third possibility: that it is real, man-made and not dangerous, at least not for a long time.

This “lukewarm” option has been boosted by recent climate research, and if it is right, current policies may do more harm than good. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other bodies agree that the rush to grow biofuels, justified as a decarbonization measure, has raised food prices and contributed to rainforest destruction. Since 2013 aid agencies such as the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank have restricted funding for building fossil-fuel plants in Asia and Africa; that has slowed progress in bringing electricity to the one billion people who live without it and the four million who die each year from the effects of cooking over wood fires.

It cannot be what is happening to world temperatures, because they have gone up only very slowly, less than one-half as fast as the scientific consensus predicted in 1990 when the global warming scare began in earnest. Even with this year’s El Nino-boosted warmth threatening to break records, the world is barely half a degree warmer than it was about 35 years ago (the surface data sets say nearly 0.6 degrees, the satellite data sets about 0.4 degrees of warming since 1979). Also, it is increasingly clear that the planet was significantly warmer than today several times during the last 10,000 years. [An excellent source of charts and data on climate is at: http://www.climate4you.com]

Nor can it be the consequences of this recent temperature increase that worries world leaders. On a global scale, as scientists keep confirming, there has been no increase in frequency or intensity of storms, floods or droughts, while deaths attributed to such natural disasters have never been fewer, thanks to modern technology and infrastructure. Arctic sea ice has recently melted more in summer than it used to in the 1980s, but Antarctic sea ice has increased, and Antarctica is gaining land-based ice. Sea level continues its centuries-long slow rise – about a foot per century – with no sign of recent acceleration.

Perhaps it’s the predictions that worry the world leaders, then. Here, as we are often told by journalists, the science is “settled” and there is no debate. But scientists disagree: they say there is great uncertainty, and they reflected this in their fifth and latest assessment for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It projects that temperatures are likely to be anything from 1.5C to 4.5C degrees warmer by the latter part of the century – that is to say, anything from mildly beneficial to significantly harmful.

The 40,000 people meeting in Paris over the next ten days are committed to the view that the weather is certain to do something nasty towards the end of this century unless we cut emissions. In this they are out of line with scientists. A survey of the members of the American Meteorological Society in 2012 found that only 52% agree that climate change is mostly man-made, and as to its being very harmful if unchecked, only 34% of AMS members agree. The rest said they think it will be either not harmful or not very harmful.

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The Publication Bias

From The Truth Wears Off by Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker:

An excellent article on the publication bias- keep in mind that in order to be peer reviewed it has to be published- although up to a third of articles claimed to be peer reviewed in one of the IPCC report were not. IN Mann’s case 43 of the peer reviewed had also co – authored studies with him- again I question some of the peer review process.  It is supposed to be squeaky clean. If it is not then there is corruption that is quite damaging to the scientific profession.

 Jennions, similarly, argues that the decline effect is largely a product of publication bias, or the tendency of scientists and scientific journals to prefer positive data over null results, which is what happens when no effect is found. The bias was first identified by the statistician Theodore Sterling, in 1959, after he noticed that ninety-seven per cent of all published psychological studies with statistically significant data found the effect they were looking for. A “significant” result is defined as any data point that would be produced by chance less than five per cent of the time. This ubiquitous test was invented in 1922 by the English mathematician Ronald Fisher, who picked five per cent as the boundary line, somewhat arbitrarily, because it made pencil and slide-rule calculations easier. Sterling saw that if ninety-seven per cent of psychology studies were proving their hypotheses, either psychologists were extraordinarily lucky or they published only the outcomes of successful experiments. In recent years, publication bias has mostly been seen as a problem for clinical trials, since pharmaceutical companies are less interested in publishing results that aren’t favorable. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that publication bias also produces major distortions in fields without large corporate incentives, such as psychology and ecology.

Stated in another way-  97% of egg-lovers claim eggs are awesome. 97% of the Flat Earth Society believe the Earth is flat. 97% of the Labour Party believe in Labour. 97% of musicians think that people need music in their lives. 97% of climate scientists believe in anthropogenic global warming. 97% of YouTube commenters believe that they know everything. I think there’s a pattern here.

Lehrer further illuminates-

 Such anomalies demonstrate the slipperiness of empiricism. Although many scientific ideas generate conflicting results and suffer from falling effect sizes, they continue to get cited in the textbooks and drive standard medical practice. Why? Because these ideas seem true. Because they make sense. Because we can’t bear to let them go. And this is why the decline effect is so troubling. Not because it reveals the human fallibility of science, in which data are tweaked and beliefs shape perceptions. (Such shortcomings aren’t surprising, at least for scientists.) And not because it reveals that many of our most exciting theories are fleeting fads and will soon be rejected. (That idea has been around since Thomas Kuhn.) The decline effect is troubling because it reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything. We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that’s often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe. 

 

 

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Historical Temps

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