FURTHER CRACKS IN THE GLOBAL WARMING PROPHECY

Although global warming zealots continue their religious crusade, more research reveals skepticism toward the doomsday prophecies. Recently Finnish scientists published research that further debunks claims about the role of humans in generating global warming. Their thesis is that global temperatures are controlled primarily by cloud cover, which is a natural occurance that is beyond human control:

https://www.ecology.news/2019-07-12-climate-change-hoax-collapses-new-science-cloud-cover.html

The opponents immediately denounced this as a junk science:

It is OK and normal to have debates within scientific community. We, regular lay tax paying people are understandably not shrewd in all intricacies of scientific debates around so-called climate change. Yet, I am sure many of us want to make sure that no financially ruinous global or nationwide social engineering scheme would be enforced on all of us by social activists who decided to side with a group of aggressive academic zealots claiming scientific consensus and squashing dissenting views.

In his Counterrevolution of Science (1955), F. A. Hayek wrote about the dangerous hubris of “science worshippers” who wanted to extend their theories, which at best had narrow application and limited experimental database, to reshape the life of entire humankind. The first aggressive spearheads of this hubris were “generation X” socialists, acolytes of Henri St. Simone, who congregated in and around Paris Ecole Politechnique from the 1810s to 1860s. They dreamed about New Christianity – a creed based on the religion of science. With its “Council of Newton,” it was to regulate entire life of society. In the past century, we already lived through projects designated to reshape the life of humanity through “scientific” societal laws peddled by Marxism. We also lived through national socialist attempts to breed the better race of human beings based on “scientific” laws. More recently, in the 1970s, driven by the same scientific hubris backed by moral considerations, we resorted to global ban of “evil” DDT.  This led to the outbursts of yellow fever and mass deaths in the Third World.

During a brief period of soul searching and self-scrutinizing among the left in the wake of communism collapse in the 1990s, in his Seeing Like a State (1998), James Scott, a leftist academic, gave a severe critique of that hubris that he called high modernism arrogance. Not naming socialism directly and sparing the ideological feelings of his fellow comrades, who have been dominating humanities and social sciences, he subtitled his book as follows How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Still, it was a devastating accusation of the “science”-based social engineering, from German attempts to breed perfect healthy forests in the 18th century to the “scientific socialism” of the Soviets  who methodically ruined Russian agriculture by their aggreesive collectivization. The current left are not as modest as Scott’s generation. They quickly moved on, sweeping their own history under the rug. Being emboldened by the crisis of 2008 (a new “sign” of capitalism end of times), the left are now ecstatic about the Green New Deal and its Stalinist global warming regulations that are peddled by the big-eyed “democratic” socialist of “color” from Congress. It seems we are invited again to step on the same rake in order to smash our forehead once again by adopting another scientific Utopia.

Global Warming and Scholarly Conspiracies, etc. Part Two

In Part One of Scholarly Conspiracies, Scholarly Corruption and Global Warming, I drew on my own experience as a scholar to describe how the scientific enterprise can easily become corrupted for anodyne, innocent reasons, for reasons that are not especially cynical. I argued, of course, that this can especially happen in connection with such big, societal issues as climate change. I concluded that the findings of scientists do not, as a matter of principle, merit the quasi-religious status they are often granted. It follows from this that the Left’s attempt to stop any debate on the ground that science has spoken is grotesque.

I should have added in Part One that at different times in my career, I may have benefited by the kind of corruption I describe as well as having been hurt by it. Of course, one thing does not compensate for the other. Corruption is corruption; it constitutes more or less wide steps away from the truth whether I profit by it or whether it harms me. These things just add up, they don’t balance each other out.

Once you open your eyes, it’s not difficult to find gross derailments of the scientific enterprise. To be more precise, the transformation of limited scientific results into policy often gives rise to abuses. Sometimes, they are gross abuses verging on the criminal.

A recent book describes in detail how the slim results of 1950s studies that were obviously flawed both in their design and with respect to data collection were adopted by the American scientific establishment as policy. They resulted in a couple of generations of Americans being intellectually terrorized into adopting a restrictive, sad, un-enjoyable diet that may even have undermined their health. The book is The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz .

For most of my adult life, I limited my own intake of meats because saturated fats were supposed to give me cardiac illness and, ultimately heart attacks. I often thought something was fishy about the American Heart Association severity concerning saturated fats because of my frequent stays in France. There, I contemplated men of all ages feasting on pork chops fried in butter followed by five different kinds of cheese also eaten with butter. Then, they would have a post-prendial cigarette or two, of course. None of the men I knew exercised beyond walking to shop for pâtés, sausages, and croissants sweating butter (of course). Every time, I checked – often – Frenchmen had a longer life expectancy than American men (right now, it’s two and half years longer.)

Yet, such was the strength of my confidence (of our confidence) in the official medical-scientific establishment that I bravely followed my stern semi-macrobiotic diet even while in France. In my fifties, I developed Type Two diabetes. None of my four siblings who lived and ate in France did. I understand well the weakness of a such anecdotal evidence. And I know I could have been the one of five who hit the wrong number in the genetic lottery. (That would have been the inheritance from my grandfather who died at 26 of a worse illness than diabetes, a German bullet, in his case.) Yet, if there are quite a few cases like mine where siblings constitute a natural control for genetic factors, it would seem worth investigating the possibility that a diet high in carbohydrates is an actual cause of what is often described as an “epidemic” of Type II diabetes. If there are many more cases than there were before the anti-fat campaign, controlling for age, something must have changed in American society. The diet low on saturated fats pretty much forced on us since the fifties could be that societal change.

I am not saying that it is. I am saying it’s worth investigating, with proper design and normal rules of data selection. I am not holding my breath. I think the scientific establishment will not turn itself around until its biggest honchos of the relevant period pass away. Teicholz’s book may turn out to have many defects because she is more a journalist than a scientist. I am awaiting with great attention the rebuttals from the scientific establishment, or – you never know – their apologies.

And then, there is the old story of how it took twenty years for the American Medical Association to change its recommendation on how to treat the common duodenum ulcer after an obscure Australian researcher showed that it was almost always caused by a bacterium. (The story was told about twenty years ago, in Atlantic Monthly, I think I remember. You look it up.)

The de facto scientific establishment is not infallible but it usually wants to pretend that it is. It’s aided in its stubbornness by the religiously inspired passivity of ordinary people who were raised with misplaced all-around reverence for science and anything that appears, rightly or wrongly, “scientific.”

The climate change lobby, wrapped in a pseudo-scientific mantle still thrives in several policy areas in spite of most Americans’ relative indifference to the issue. Two of its main assets are these: First it is well served by irresponsible repetition of a simplified form of its message that amounts to constant, uncritical amplification; second, even well-educated people usually don’t pay a lot of attention to detail, don’t read critically because they are busy.

Now, I am not going to spend any time denouncing the myriad airheads with short skirts who add their own climate change sage commentary to their presentation of ordinary weather reports. (I am a man of vast culture, I listen to the same tripe in three different languages!) As I keep saying, I don’t beat on kindergartners. Let’s take National Geographic, instead, that justifiably respected monument to good information since 1888.

The October 2013 issue presents another striking photographic documentary intended to illustrate fast climate change. One of the photographic essays in the issue concerns, predictably, the alleged abnormal melting of glaciers. The talented photographer, James Balog, contributes his own completely superfluous, judgmental written commentary:

We know the climate is changing…. I never expected to see such huge changes in such a short period of time.

The guy is a photographer, for God’s sake! He has an undergraduate degree in communications. His credentials to pronounce on long-term climate change are…? Even the National Geographic, generally so careful about its assertions, couldn’t resist, couldn’t bring itself to tell him, “This is outside your area of competence, STFU!” Why not let the janitor also give his judgment in the pages of National Geographic? This is a free country after all. Most people simply don’t have the energy to notice thousands of such violations of good scientific practice.

Now to inattention, still with the venerated National Geographic. The September 2013 issue, entitled “Rising Seas” presents a truly apocalyptic future in case global warming is not controlled. As is usually the case with N.G. the article is chock-full with facts from studies. The article is also tightly argued. N.G. is normally careful about what it asserts. To make things even clearer, it offers a graph on pp. 40 -41 purporting to demonstrate a disastrous future for the earth starting very soon.

Being a leisurely retired man endowed with an unusually contrary personality, being furthermore well schooled in elementary data handling, I did the obvious with the graph, the obvious not one educated person in 10,000 would think of doing, or care to do. I took my desk ruler to the graph itself. Here is what I discovered:

Between 1880 and 2013, there was less than a one foot rise in the oceans level according to National Geographic. Of course, those 123 years cover the period of most rapid rise in the emission of alleged greenhouse gases. Imagine if National Geographic had an article entitled:

“Less Than Foot-Rise in Ocean in Spite of More than 120 Years of Greenhouse Emissions”

Many citizens would respond by thinking that maybe, possibly there is global warming but it’s not an urgent problem. Let’s take our time looking into the phenomenon more carefully, they would say. Let’s try and eliminate alternative explanations to greenhouse gases if we find that there is indeed abnormal warming. After all, how much of a rush would I be in even if I were convinced that water rises in my basement by almost one tenth of an inch each year on the average?

This is not an absurd mental exercise. The business of science is to try to falsify and falsify again. When you get interesting results, the scientific establishment (if not the individual scientist author of the findings) is supposed to jump on them with both feet to see if they stand up. Instead in connection with global warming, scientists have allowed the policy establishment and those in their midst that influence it to do exactly the reverse: If you see anything you like in a scientific study, try hard for more of the same. If you find something that contradicts your cause, bury it if you can, ignore it otherwise. You will get plenty of help in doing either.

Scientists have become collectively a complicit in massive anti-scientific endeavor with many religious features.

I am finally proofing the print copy of my book:

I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography.

Democrat Incompetence and Mendacity, in Nine Points

President Obama, during his first campaign, declared forcefully and clearly that he would close Guantanamo Bay prison within a year. There was no qualifications, no “ifs” and “buts;” it was a simple straightforward and forceful declaration of intention. It’s been more six years and the prison is still operative. It holds un-indicted prisoners, several captured under such dubious circumstances that it’s possible that some are shepherds or traveling salesmen caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, I had leisurely talks with five people in their late twenties about the topic of Guantanamo Bay Prison. Here are my accounts of these conversations.

One had never heard of Guantanamo Bay. She had voted for Mr Obama twice.

One had heard of Guantanamo Bay prison but he did not know whether it had been closed or not. He had voted for Mr Obama the first time and abstained the second time out of disinterest.

One knew Guantanamo Bay prison and he knew that it was still open. He had voted for Mr Obama once and deliberately abstained the second time. He now sports a bumper sticker proclaiming Obama to be a “dick.”

One had never voted for Mr Obama and she knew that the Guantanamo Bay prison was still open in spite of the president’s campaign promise.

The last person, an academically and professionally successful young woman, knew well about Guantanamo Bay prison and she knew it had not been closed. She is a forceful Obama supporter who was not able to vote for technical reasons. She argued that the president was unable to close the prison because of “Republican opposition.” She said that Republicans always stop him from doing anything good.

Now, her political position is interesting because the young woman was in good faith herself but her assertions were false. Guantanamo Bay case is an excellent test of the president’s own good faith and credibility. The President of the United States is the undisputed Commander in Chief of the armed forces, “undisputed.” A single one sentence order from him would start the process of closing the prison. Any opposition from any part of the political spectrum would be impotent to stop it. The president would have to take the political fallout of his order, of course, but that’s exactly why a politician should not make irresponsible promises.

There is a Chapter Two to the analysis of this clearly failed promise of the president. Even if he absolutely wanted political cover, he could have done it during the two years when his party had an absolute majority in Congress. And, by the more way, the president would have received considerable support from all sides had he had the courage to take the step explicitly contained in his campaign promise. There are plenty of conservatives like me who hate the idea of people detained indefinitely without charge. The legal technicality employed by Pres. Bush to put detainees in Guantanamo out of reach of American constitutional guarantees on the grounds that it’s not American soil was not his finest moment.

President Obama either lied or he spoke irresponsibly. It does not hurt him much with his followers. It seems, they like a good speech expressing generous sentiments above all. My side is not responding in a politically effective way to the reality of his appeal.

The Republican Party’s own political discourse is all over the place. It sounds like a cacophony where the only word emerging are: “Obama bad.” This lacks seriousness. Republican politicians have forgotten basic rules of good communication, rules about attention span, about clarity and about the value of repetition.

If it were my call, I would do the following:

Name three things that the president clearly promised to do and that were doable and that he did not do. (Stopping global warming isn’t tone.) That the president did not do them has to be easily verifiable. Closing Guantanamo Bay prison is a good example. Keep repeating slowly the three unkept promises.

Name three things that the president did that were done badly. The deployment of the health insurance exchange is a good example. Keep repeating them. Keep repeating that they were doable, that others would have done them well.

Name three things that he should have done and that he failed to do or did badly, irrespective of promises he might have made or not. The three things have to be actions that are within the bailiwick of every American president; they have to be part of the job. Reforming the Veterans’ Administration before he had to fire his own appointee to head it would be a good example.

Here, that’s nine things, not many but as many as my young interviewees of Memorial Day are able to understand, digest or retain durably. Maybe that’s even too many.

My communication plan deliberately stays away from foreign policy where Americans disagree strongly, especially when it comes to military intervention. It refrains deliberately from the common couplets presenting Mr Obama as the Devil himself, or even as “socialist” (a word devoid of meaning.) The plan highlights the fact that President Obama has been a very bad manager of American interests, that he did not take care of business anywhere near the level of competence and attention Americans ordinarily expect. Many independents and some liberals should come to the conclusion that Obama would be fired for simple non-performance if he were not protected by his office.

The objective is to make very difficult or impossible for a future candidate to anything to ride on the Obama wave. After a few months, there should be no Obama wave left at all. If Mrs Clinton should be the Democratic candidate for the presidency, for example, she should not be tempted and not be able to borrow Barack Obama’s likability without also putting on his cloth of gross incompetence. She should thus be forced to ride on her own likability which is very low, as everyone knows.

This is a plan to establish the fact , without unnecessary acrimony, without hysteria, that Democrats produce so-called  “leaders” who don’t do the job even minimally. It’s a constructive step toward making it difficult for the Democratic Party to saddle us with yet another non-doer, Hillary Clinton, for example. (She is a woman who has also done absolutely nothing except be loyal to a husband who deserved no loyalty.)

I am quite pessimistic. I think we are already in an advanced stage of fascism with a one-party system not far int the future. The ray of hope comes from today’s Peggy Noonan column , as it often does. She argues (WSJ 05/31/14 ) that Mr Obama inaction and bad actions are giving government a bad name. I hope she is right; I hope I am dead wrong.

Scholarly Conspiracies, Scholarly Corruption and Global Warming: Part One

97 % of scientists, blah, blah…. Ridiculous, pathetic.

Thus challenged, some people I actually like throw reading assignments at me. Some are assignments in scholarly journals; some, sort of. Apparently, I have to keep my mouth shut until I reach a high degree of technical competence in climate science (or something). I don’t need to do these absurd assignments. I am not blind and I am not deaf. I see what I see; I hear what I hear; it all sounds familiar. Been there, done it!

A long time ago, I accepted a good job in France in urban planning after receiving my little BA in sociology from Stanford. I was a slightly older graduate and I had no illusions that I knew much of anything then. I had some clear concepts in my mind and I had learned the basic of the logic of scientific inquiry from old Prof. Joseph Berger and from Prof. Bernard Cohen. I had also done some reading in the “excerpts” department including the trilogy of Max Weber, Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx. Only a couple of weeks after I took my job, my boss sent me to a conference of urban sociologists in Paris. Having been intellectually spoiled by several years in the US and conscious of my limited knowledge of urban planning, I asked many questions, of course.

In the weeks following the meeting, I became aware of a rumor circulating that presented me as an impostor. This guy coming out of nowhere – the USA – cannot possibly have studied sociology because he does not know anything, French sociologists thought. I had to ask how the rumor started. I was aware that I knew little but, but, I did not think it was exactly “nothing.” Besides, most of my questions at the conference had not been answered in an intelligible manner so, I was not convinced that my comparison set – French sociologists working in city planning – knew much more than I did.

Soon afterward, I wrote a “white paper.” It was about the eastern region where I had been tasked to plan for the future until 2005 (the year was 1967) as part of a multidisciplinary team. The white paper gave a list of social issues city planners had to face at this point, the starting point of the planning endeavor. As young men will do, I had allowed myself short flights of speculation in the white paper, flights I would not have indulged in a few years later. My direct supervisor, an older French woman who was supposed to be sociologist, read the whole ambitious product, or said she had, and made no comments except one. She took exception to one of my speculative flights in which I made reference to the idea that much societal culture rises up from the street. It was almost an off-hand remark. Had that part been left out, the white paper would have been pretty much the same. The supervisor insisted I had to remove that comment because, she said exactly, ”Marx asserts clearly that culture comes from the ruling class.” She told me she would not allow the white paper to be presented until I extirpated the offending statement.

In summary: The woman had nothing to say about the many parts of the report that were instrumental to the endeavor that our team was supposed to complete, about that for which she and I were explicitly being paid. She had nothing to say about the likely mistakes I exhibited in the report because of my short experience. Her self-defined role was strictly to protect what she took to be Marxist orthodoxy even if it was irrelevant. There was a double irony there. First, the government that employed us was explicitly not in sympathy with any form of Marxism. The woman was engaging in petty sedition. Second, Karl Marx himself was no lover of orthodoxies. He would have abhorred here role. (Marx is said to have declared before his death, “I am not a Marxist”!)

In any event, I was soon rid of the ideological harridan and I was able to do my job after a fashion. For those who like closure: I went back to the US to attend graduate school, at Stanford again. Two years later, my old boss called me back. He had come up in the world. He was in charge of a big Paris metropolitan area urban research institute. He begged me, begged on the phone to go back to France, and take charge of the institute’s sociology cell. He said that he understood not a word of what the “sociologists” there said to him. He added that I was the only sociologist he had ever understood. I yielded to his entreaties and I promised him a single year of my life. I interrupted my graduate studies and flew to Paris. In the event, I gave the sociologists at the institute one month warning. Then, I summoned each one of them to explain to me orally how his work contributed to Paris city and regional planning. (“What will it change to the way this is currently being done?” I asked.) They did not respond to my satisfaction and I fired all six of them. I replaced them with people who could keep their Marxism under control. My boss was grateful. I could have had a great career in France. I chose to return to my studies instead.

Three years later, having completed my doctorate, I found my self at critical juncture common to all those who go that course. You have to turn your doctoral thesis into papers published in double-blind refereed journals. (Here is what this means: “What’s Peer Review and Why It Matters“)

That’s a lot like leaving kindergarten: no more cozy relationships, no more friends assuring you that your work is just wonderful; the real world hits you in the face. The review process in good journals is often downright brutal. Anyone who does not feel a little vulnerable at that point is probably also a little silly. To make matters worse, the more respected the journal, the harder it is to get in and the better your academic career. As a rule, if you have not achieved publication in a first-rate journal in the first three or four years after completing your doctorate, you will be consigned forever to second-tier universities or worse.

Be patient, I am just setting the stage for what’s coming.

Much of my early scholarly work happened to take place within a school of research dominated by “neo-Marxists.” It was not my choice. I was interested in problems of economic development that happened to be largely in the hands of those people. My choice was between abandoning my interests or buckling up and taking my chances. I buckled up, of course. My first article to be published was innovative but a little esoteric. (Delacroix, Jacques. “The permeability of information boundaries and economic growth: a cross-national study.Studies in Comparative International Development. 12-1:3-28. 1977.) I presented to a specialized journal and therefore not one that could be called “first tier.” It happened to contain nothing that would offend the neo-Marxists. It took less than six months to have it accepted for publication.

The second published paper out of my dissertation struck at the heart of neo-Marxists convictions. It demonstrated – using their methods – that the parlous condition of the Third World – allegedly caused by capitalist exploitation – could be remedied through one aspect of ordinary good governance. I submitted it to one of the two most respected journals (the American Sociological Review). All the reviewers who had the technical skills to review my submission were also neo-Marxists or sympathetic to their doctrine. The paper reported on a study conducted according to methods that were by now common. Having the paper accepted for publication took more than three years. It also took a rare personal intervention by the journal’s editor whom I somehow managed to convince that the reviewers he had chosen were acting unreasonably. (The paper: Delacroix, Jacques. “The export of raw materials and economic growth: a cross-national study.American Sociological Review 42:795-808. 1977.) No need to read either paper.

Am I telling you here a story of conspiracy or a story of academic corruption? Yes, I faced a conspiracy but it was not a conspiracy against me personally and it was mostly not conscious. The only people – but me- who had the skills to pass judgment on my paper were not numerous. They were a small group that shared a common understanding of the reality of the world. It was not a cold, cerebral understanding. Those people formed a community of sentiment. They believed their work would contribute to the righting of a worldwide injustice, a “global” injustice committed against the defenseless people of underdeveloped countries. Is it possible that their ethical faith influenced their judgment? To ask the question is to answer it, I think. Did their faith induce them to close their eyes when others from their own camp cut some research corners here and there? On the contrary, were their eyes wide open when they were reviewing for a journal a submission whose conclusion impaired their representation of the world? In that situation, did they overreact to an uncrossed “t” or a dotted “i,” in a paper that undermined their beliefs? Might be. Could be. Probably was. Other things being equal, they may have just thought, it would be better if these annoying Delacroix findings were not publicized in a prime journal. Delacroix could always try elsewhere anyway.

So, yes, I faced corruption. It was not conscious, above-board corruption. It was not cynical. It was a corruption of blindness, much of it deliberate blindness. The blindness was all the more sturdy because it was seldom called into question. Those who would have cared did not understand the relevant techniques. Those who knew them shared in the blindness. This is a long way from cynical, deliberate lying. It’s just as destructive though. And it’s not only destructive for the lives of the likes of me who don’t belong to the relevant tribe. It’s destructive of what ordinary people think of as the truth. That is so because – however unlikely that sounds – the productions of elite and abstruse journals usually find their way into textbooks, even if it take twenty years.

Are the all-powerful editors of important journals part of the conspiracy? Mine were not but they tended to adhere to imperfect rules of behavior that made them objective accomplices of conspiracies. Here is the proof that the editor of the particular journal tried to be impartial. Only a month after he accepted my dissenting paper, the editor assigned me to review a submission from the same neo-Marxist school of thought that trumpeted another empirical finding proving that, blah, blah…. After one reading of the paper, my intuition smelled a rat. I spent days in the basement of the university library, literally days, taking apart the empirical foundation of the paper. I found the rat deep in its bowel. To put it briefly, if you switched a little thing from one category to another, all the conclusions were reversed. There was no imperative argument to put that one thing in one category rather than in the other. The author had chosen that which put his labor of love in line with the love of his neo-Marxist cozy-buddies. If he had not done it, his pluses would have become minuses, his professional success anathema. In the event, the editor agreed with my critique and dinged the paper for good. Nothing worse happened to the author. No one could tell whether he was a cheat. Or, no one would. No one was eager to. The editor was not in appetite for a fight. He let the whole matter go.

Myself, I came out of this experience convinced that it was likely that no one else in the whole wide world had both the skills and the motivation to dive into the depth of the paper to find that rat. It’s likely that no one else would have smelled a rat. It’s possible that if I had not still been smarting from three years of rejection of my own work, I would not have smelled the rat myself. The editor had the smarts, the intuition fed by experience, I would say, that he could put to work my unique positioning, my combination of competence and contrariness. He put it to work in defense of the truth. That fact is enough to exonerate him from complicity in the conspiracy I described. To answer my own question: Do I think that powerful scientific journal editors are often part of a conspiracy of the right thinking, of an orthodox cabala? I think not. Do they sometimes or often fall for one? Yes.

For those who like closure: My interests switched later to other topics. (See vita, linked to this blog’s “About me.”) I think the neo-Marxist school of thought to which I refer above gradually sank into irrelevance.

After that experience, and several others of the same kind, do I have something better to propose? I don’t but I think the current system of scholarship publication does not deserve anything close to religious reverence. Even if there were anything close to a “consensus” of scientists on anything, that should not mean that the book is closed. Individual rationalism also matters. It matters more, in my book.

What does this story of reminiscences this have to do with global warming, climate change, climate disruption , you might ask? Everything, I would say. More on the connection in part Two. [Update: Here is part 2, as promised! – BC]

Climate Change and Flat Earthers

“There has been no universal trend in the overall extent of drought across the Unites States since 1900.”

“Trends in severe storms, including the intensity and frequency….are uncertain and being studied intensively.”

Both quotes are from the fine lines in the 829-page quadrennial National Climate Assessment. That’s the report Pres. Obama flogged on national television recently for nearly an hour. The president insisted something had to be done right now.

I have not read the report, of course, why should I ? (See below.)

(The first quote is in the report according to a Wall Street Journal editorial on 5/9/14. The second is in the report according to my frequent reader and commenter McHenry. He is a young man who does, or used to, believe in the threat of man-made climate change. He has good scientific training.)

A few months ago, when the Great Lakes were 90% frozen, that great scientist, Secretary of State Kerry relegated me to the ranks of “Flat Earthers.” He did this because I am very skeptical (and growing) of the climate change thesis. (See definition below.)

Of course, anyone who has been observing him from his political beginnings knows that John Kerry has no scientific competences, no competences about anything at all, except windsurfing and marrying rich widows. (I don’t knock either, no sir!) It’s also possible that he knows some French. That would tend to contribute to his misinformation, I think.

I suspect, in fact, I am almost sure, that Mr Kerry’s self-assurance is based on the belief that 97% of scientists, blah, blah, blah…

The climate change thesis deconstructs as follows:

1 There is a global rise in temperature.

That’s from some undetermined date. Hasn’t been any for the last fifteen years according to federal government’s own reports.

2 It’s caused by human activity.

This includes the burning of fossil fuels, of course but yet, there is no call for an increase in nuclear energy production which is a reliable and lasting way to relieve worldwide reliance on fossil fuels. No reason is ever given for this absence. Sometimes, perfectly serious climate change partisans also include among the causes of man-made global warming belching and flatulence by the large worldwide cattle population. The latter “cause,” of course, calls for a quick conversion to vegetarianism. (That is where secret evangelists show their hand.)

3 The world, or parts of it, or us, or some of us, are in imminent danger of a variety of catastrophes that will be caused by climate change.

Note that the three propositions are logically linked: If there is no global rise in temperature, we don’t care about human activity. If human activity does nothing to the globe ( to what, exactly?) there is no emergency. If there is a global rise in temperature and it’s not man-made, there is not much we can do. If there is global warming and it is the result of human activities and it does no harm, there is nothing we should do. If it does both harm and good (longer growing seasons in the north, access to minerals near the North Pole) then, there is something important to discuss internationally.

As the evidence in support of the thesis becomes more complicated and contradictory, the alarmist cries are becoming shriller. This makes a sort of macabre sense. Simple rationality is getting lost along the way. What we are told about urgent policy requirements does not fit with the evidence that is presented by the same people who demand urgently a new policy of de-industrialization. The climate change book is like a novel whose cover would proclaim “Joe Is the Killer” while the inside pages would sow doubt on the idea that Joe has ever killed, or even harmed anyone, has ever so much as spat on the sidewalk.

Sometimes, downright fraud is also prominently involved. That’s the case for the “97% of scientists” that I think certified incompetents like Sec. Kerry rely on. Personally, I have always known and said that there was nothing to the number. There is no 97% of anything anywhere, except in some banana republics and in North Korea. Now, we have good evidence of fraud on this matter.

In past postings on the climate change or global warming, I have been at great pains to declare, even to prove my ignorance in matters of climate science. I did this because I wanted to step resolutely away from jargon-filled experts’ and pseudo-experts’ discussions that can only befuddle people who have to make a living, rear children, prepare their taxes, pay a mortgage, go to the gym.

In fact, I have fair general scientific training: I easily recognize a good study design. (They don’t grow on trees!) I can spot bad measurements from a mile away, like a jealous wife a single long hair of the wrong color on her husband’s lapel. I also possess a skill that is rare in the general literate population but common among those who have acted as referees for scholarly journals: a keen sense of studies’ formal conclusions that shout when the findings would only merit whispering.

Note that I don’t claim I have ever committed this last little sin myself when I was a scholar. It’s damned tempting though. How can you admit, “Yes, I and two colleagues worked hard on this study for three years and, frankly, what we found does not amount to a hill of beans.”

And then, there is the vertiginous, nightmarish situation where you would have to report, “The consensus is that X causes Y. Our study, carefully conceived in every way – go ahead and check everything – suggests that X does not cause Y.” This is like yelling, “Go ahead, don’t publish my study!” (I actually published two such studies in my time, one at the beginning of my career, one at the end. The last one took twenty years! See on my vita linked to this blog: Delacroix, Jacques. “The export of raw materials and economic growth: a cross-national study.” American Sociological Review. 42:795-808. 1977. Delacroix, Jacques and François Nielsen. “The beloved myth: Protestantism and the rise of industrial capitalism in 19th century Europe.” Social Forces 80-2:509-553. 2001.)

There is also a general, well known anti “negative findings” bias in all scientific disciplines. Few journals have the intestinal fortitude to publish articles that proclaim: “We did not find anything.” I doubt that the climate sciences constitute an exception. Do you?

Here is a fictitious but realistic example of such a conclusion:

“Humans have been pumping ‘greenhouse gases’ into the atmosphere with increasing intensity* for one hundred and ten years and yet, there is no rise in the frequency of droughts.”

How does this work for your career, do you think?

Here is an example of bad design, specifically.

Several years ago in one of the respected American scientific magazines there appeared an article authored by three Australian professors with impeccable scientific credentials. (I am very sorry I don’t have the reference. However, my memory forgets but it does not make up stuff.) The article purported to tackle the issue of long term global warming. It was an attempt to recoup after the disaster of the “hockey stick scandal”** which involved downright cheating.

The issue is this: If it was warmer in 1000 that it is today, it’s hard to argue that gases specific to industrial societies are an exclusive or even a primary cause of global warming. (It’s difficult but not impossible; it would involve heavy scientific lifting.)

Anyway, that article relied on one form of measurement of temperature, tree rings, I think, for the longest period, extending from about year 1000, to about year 1800. Then the authors switched to other, probably better, more sensitive measurements, based on other than tree rings, for the period extending from about 1800 to the present.

That’s impossibly bad scientific design, of course. Here are the reasons. If the first measurement somehow underestimates temperature then, it’s necessarily true that temperatures in the other period from 1800, will appear higher. If the second type of measures somehow overstates or simply detects more accurately high temperatures, the years 1800 to present will necessarily seem warmer. Both false effects would tend to be seem true irrespective of the real temperatures in both periods .

It tuns out that 1800 to present is the period of interest. If you are going to prove a sharp rise of temperature coinciding with industrialization, you have to demonstrate a big uptick for that period . The design is thus not neutral with respect to results. It favors some rather than others.

It’s such breathtakingly bad design that I had to read the article twice to believe it. (That’s what caused me to check the authors’ academic credentials. As I said, they were excellent.)

The alert reader will have noticed that the potential bias I describe above can work either way: If the measurements to 1800 overestimate temperatures while the measurements from 1800 to present happen to underestimate temperatures, you may find that you have demonstrated that there is no warming that corresponds to the industrializing period although one exists. You might even show that temperature has declined on the whole although it has actually risen.

Now, suppose that the study of reference showed precisely either no change or change in the “wrong” direction. That would be no change in global temperatures, 1000 to 2000, or a slight decline of temperatures beginning, say, in 1810.

My educated first guess is that, in the intellectual climate of the past fifteen years, the authors would not then have presented their research for publication. My second, also well informed guess, is that if they had presented it, the journal editor would have turned them down. He would have turned them down irrespective of his religion toward climate change. That’s because, journals don’t like negative results of the form: “Nothing happened.” See above.

That’s in addition to the fact that many editors are members of the same intellectual class that has lost its way on climate as it lost its way previously on communism and on Third World revolutions (another story I plan to tell soon on this blog).

In conclusion: Our current system of scholarly publication almost guarantees that there is little chance that scientific findings of high quality that contradict the belief in the thesis described above will see the light of day. It does not take a real conspiracy to arrive at such a situation, just the perpetuation of well-established bad habits.

How about the three credentialed Australian professors who committed the dramatically faulty research design? Are they scum? That’s were religion comes in. It’s helpful in pretending that the bad actions you commit are not really sinful. Did you know that the crusaders who captured Jerusalem in 1099 put all its inhabitants to the sword while shouting “God wants it”?

So, OK, I am a Flat Earther. It’s not so bad, really. One of these days, I will figure out the truth by noticing that no one ever falls off the earth, no matter how far he travels. I might even figure out why some get back home simply by moving in a straight line. Paying attention to negative evidence like this pays off. On the other hand, those who live inside a square box will never learn anything. Their blindness is dangerous for everyone.

* I don’t know the actual numbers but I would be surprised if we did not, collectively, burn one hundred times more than we did in 1800. One thousand times would not surprise me, not even 10,000 times.

**Look it up. Great story!

Australia may ban [more] boycotts…

Australia has been in the news quite often in the last year for its new Prime Minister’s controversial legislation that protest groups say put vast areas of Australian nature in threat of destruction.  Environmental issues are one of the more complex issues facing libertarians today.  The vast entanglement of property rights can make explaining those issues to non-libertarians quickly and clearly quite difficult.  Luckily for me the Australian government is currently attempting to assault a far more basic set of rights.  The right to organize, the right to persuade, and the right to spend your money and time how you wish.  We are, as the title implies discussing the right to organize a boycott of a product or products.

The Australian secretary of agriculture Richard Colbeck wants to “remove an exemption for environmental groups from the consumer law ban on so-called “secondary boycotts”.  These secondary boycotts are also illegal in the UK and the United States.  For clarification a secondary action is industrial action by a trade union in support of a strike initiated by workers in another, separate enterprise”.  

Libertarians often find themselves on the wrong side of both environmental and union actions but it is important to remember that liberty also means the freedom to refuse to purchase a product for any reason you can imagine; whether it is because the company that makes the product is partaking in actions you disagree with or because their logo is yellow.

Even though libertarians disagree with the end goals of the hard-line environmentalist movements (namely government control of industry) we cannot forget to support situations like this on principle and also to remember that environmental issues are essentially property rights issues and thus core to libertarian ethics.

Risks Of Regulation

A bit dated but still very relevant.

Regulation; the four letter word of the business world.  Many people see regulation as a protective shield from the ‘dangers’ of the businessman; a way to protect people, property and the environment.  The oil industry is one of the most heavily regulated enterprises in the United States.  Despite being intended to protect us; these regulations failed catastrophically on April 20th, 2010 when the Deep Water Horizon oil rig suffered a mechanical failure resulting in an explosion which sank the rig two days later(1).  Yet, when the disaster happened, we were met with pleas for more government oversight and more red tape.  The regulations on that industry, both in the Gulf Mexico and throughout the country, helped cause the Deepwater Horizon disaster and removing them would help prevent similar disasters in the future.

Regulations in the Gulf of Mexico begin with the Minerals Management Service (MMS).  Created in 1982 due to the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act the MMS “both regulates the [gulf oil drilling] industry and collects billions[of dollars] in royalties from it”(2, 3).  The MMS’s responsibility to regulate includes monthly inspections, issuing safety documentation, and issuing safety citations(3).  Royalty collection is based on number of barrels of oil removed and varies from well to well.  The MMA also provides  “royalty relief“ to a number of rigs based on previous legislation. Until November of 2000 the royalty relief was issued based on the Outer Continental Shelf Deep Water Royalty Relief Act of 1995, better known as DWRRA.  This act “relieves eligible leases from paying royalties on defined amount of deep-water production”.  At depths over 2,526 feet oil companies did not have to pay the United States royalties on 87.5 million barrels of oil, between 1,312 and 2,625 feet the relief was 52.5 million barrels and between 656 and 1,312 feet the relief was only 17.5 million barrels.  While this act expired in the year 2000 it was replaced by an incentive program that allowed royalty relief to be “specified at the discretion of the MMS”(4).  This incentive program provides more relief if a drilling site is “more expensive to access” even if it is at the same water depth as another rig receiving less relief (2).  The royalty relief system provides incentives for Oil Rigs to operate in deep waters, especially those classified as “Ultra-Deepwater” by reducing the royalties paid on those sites(5).

While not specific to the gulf, there are a variety of moratoria on drilling throughout the country.  These moratoria take two forms.  The first set, known as “leasing moratoria” are general bans on drilling in select areas , the second set are temporary bans due to specific incidents.  Since   the fiscal year 1982 congress has denied funds to the MMS to “conduct leasing for the specified Outer Continental Shelf areas”.  Currently there is a “blanket moritorium” on leasing in effect “through 2012” that covers a large portion of both the East and West coasts( 2).  One of the largest bans on drilling however exists in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge(ANWR).  Located in the “northeast corner” of Alaska over ten million acres of land are off limits to drilling.  In this wildnerness it is estimated that there exists “between ten billion and sixteen trillion barrels of oil” that could supply twenty percent of U.S. demand for nearly thirty years(6).  The most recent temporary bans have been a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  A “30-day pause in offshore drilling” followed the sinking of the Horizon rig(11).  This did not only cover BP’s rigs but all offshore drilling “based on water depth”(7).  That ban was removed by a federal court, but was replaced with a revised ban that will be in effect until November, 2010(7).

Beyond physical limitations on drilling there are also economic regulations.  There are a number of federal subsidies and tax breaks for the drilling industry.  David Kocieniewski says that “examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses”.  These tax breaks occur for a number of reasons.  Many are simply to lure oil companies to American shores, others were “born of international politics” or “date back nearly a century”(8).  Beyond that the United States government has put “Liability Limits” on drilling operations.  The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 limits an oil companies liability for damages to only $75 million dollars.  Any remaining damages, up to $1 billion, are payed through the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.  This fund is “financed primarily through a fee on imported oil”(1).  Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey recently introduced bill, S. 3305 which would raise that cap to $10 billion(9).

All of these laws and regulations have one thing in common.  They increased the probability of a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Each regulation increased the risk of such a spill in some way and when combined they resulted in the disaster that is causing massive destruction in the Gulf today.  The Minerals Management service was organized to be the overarching regulatory body for the Oil Industry.  Why did it fail in its duty?  Why did “spills from offshore oil rigs…in U.S. waters more than quadrupled this decade” despite the MMS’s oversight(10)?  This question was answered by economist Walter Block in his book The Privatization of Roads & Highways (12).  Quoting Cecil Mackey, former Assistant secretary of transportation, he says:

“As the more obvious regulatory actions are taken; as the process becomes more institutionalized; as new leaders on both sides  replace ones who were so personally involved as adversaries in  the initial phases, those who regulate will gradually come to reflect,     in large measure, points of view similar to those whom they regulate.”

Quite simply, the MMS adopted the views of the Oil Industry completely negating their ability to regulate it.  Congressman Nick J. Rahall confirms this saying “MMS has been asleep at the switch in terms of policing offshore rigs”.  Using numbers supplied by the MMS in the prior 64 months before the incident “25 percent of monthly inspections were not performed”(3).  Are we to believe another agency would be any more efficient?  Bureaucracy and corruption are not the only things to blame however; legislation played a vital role in this disaster as well.  DWRRA, for example, incentivized the risk to drill in deep waters.  Under DWRRA the greater the depth being drilled the greater the royalty relief amount.  These waters are inherently less safe to drill in.   It is easy to compare the difficulties in dealing with a site 5000 feet below the ocean against one 500 feet below the surface.  These incentives were made worse when DWRRA expired.  Under the new program “the most economically risky projects would receive the most relief”, safer projects on the other hand would receive “little or no relief”(4).

While acts like DWRRA incentivize the risk of deepwater drilling the greater incentive to drill in the Gulf of Mexico is simply that there are so few places to drill in the continental United States.  The United States Exclusive Economic Zone extends “200 nautical miles” from all of it’s shores(2).  Yet, much of this area is off limits to drilling.  The “blanket moratorium” issued by former President George H.W. Bush in 1990  restricts drilling in “all unleased areas offshore Northern and Central California, Southern California except for 87 tracts, Washington, Oregon, the North Atlantic coast, and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico coast”.  The Gulf of Mexico is the only economically viable offshore area left for them to drill.  This of course pales in comparison to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Most of the 10-million-acre area is not even adjacent to the ocean, surely drilling on land or in shallow water is much safer than drilling 5000 feet under the ocean(6).  Beyond helping to cause the spill in the first place the government is increasing the risk of future disasters.  The temporary ban issued in response to the Horizon spill “neither improves safety nor mitigates risk”(11).  By forcing drilling to stop you immediately cause a number of problems.  Reentering a location is as dangerous, if not more so, than the original drilling operation.  Experienced workers have been fired, laid off, or relocated and will need to be replaced with less experienced ones.  Equipment in worse quality will be all that remains when the moratorium ends(11).

The economic regulations were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  A single tax break for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig covered “70 percent of the rent” or “$225,000 a day”.  Or, as policy analyst Sima J Gandhi describes it “We’re giving tax breaks to highly profitable companies to do what they would be doing anyway”(8).  These breaks are not only an unfair advantage, they incite these companies to make riskier choices.  If the potential cost of the Deepwater Horizon rig wasn’t offset by these breaks it may not have been economically viable to drill in such a dangerous location.  On top of the lower cost of the initial operation; the Liability Caps ensured that any potential risk was marginalized by the government.  The $75 million limit that has been in effect since 1990 was a message to the industry to attempt increasingly risky drills(1).

The oil companies should be liable for the full cost of any damages done by their rigs.  The worry that “operators and nonoperators in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico will be unable to obtain adequate protection from insurance” is totally unjustified (1).  If the site is not economically viable then there is no reason to drill there.  If BP and Transocean knew they would have been liable for all damages they would not have received a citation for “not conducting well control drills as required and not performing ‘all operations in a safe and workmanlike manner'”(3).  There would have been an incentive to spend money on safety, training and equipment instead of the incentive to take risks knowing they would be protected.  Or as one lawyer explained the situation “arbitrary liability caps are just not reasonable.  You cannot decide the expense of a disaster before it happens.  Liability caps allow companies like BP to avoid bearing the responsibility for the full cost of the damage they inflict”(9).

The oil has stopped flowing from the bottom of the Gulf; for now.  The question remains: How can we prevent this from happening again?  There, of course, is no easy answer.  Accidents, mistakes, and disasters can never be guarded against completely.  We can however mitigate the risk involved in those dangerous operations that are needed for the sake of humanity.  The best way to increase the safety of the oil industry is to remove the regulations that incentivize the risks involved in their industry.  Preventing drilling in safer areas, tax breaks, royalty reductions, liability limits; all these things make an already dangerous prospect that much more perilous.  We need to neither help nor hinder these companies, they must succeed or fail on their own merits.

Sources available upon request.