February 2010


WARNING! LONG,  BORING, SCIENTIFIC ENTRY FOLLOWS.  READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

It would be hard to think of an instance where the separation of true knowledge from mere prognostication is of more import than in the debate surrounding anthropogenic global warming.  With the recent revelations of the – shall we say – creativity within the research staff of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, a pause seems in order.  Let’s review briefly what is known with reasonable certainty about global warming:

  1. Emissions of carbon dioxide increased in the 20th century.  Emissions increased slowly beginning about 1890, with nearly all of the increase being observed since 1940.
  2. Some analyses of records of sea surface temperature and land surface temperature suggest that global temperatures have increased on the order of 0.5 degrees Celsius in the 20th century (however, see below).
  3. The same records indicate that no global-scale warming has occurred since about 1998.
  4. Sea-surface elevations have risen anywhere from zero to 5 inches over the 20th century.

That is the sum total of the “settled science” – to use the phrase currently in vogue among true believers.  All of the other predictions which are used to justify global emissions curbs are derived from computer models which employ the laws of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics to predict the future effects of assumed changes in atmospheric constituent proportions, and from the ensuing speculation about the worst-case scenarios which could result for humankind.  Despite the strenuous assertion of the Goreites in the media and academe, there are severe problems with the computer models and even with the observed temperature records.

First, the notion of “settled science” is itself unscientific; such phraseology has always been used as a semantic and political effort to minimize dissent.  No sober researcher without an agenda would ever use the term.  One needs no reminder that the body of “settled science” once included Aristotle’s views on motion, Ptolemy’s model of the universe, the phlogiston model of chemistry, the concept of the invisible aether through which radio waves traveled, the belief that light emanated from the eyeballs to illuminate things, and even Newton’s Laws (refined and to a certain degree replaced by Einstein’s).

Now, to the problems.  Computer models are useful tools, but embody the assumptions given to them by the human programmer and are therefore inherently biased in that direction.  For this reason, the assumptions must be solidly founded on correct theory and reliable observed data, and the models must be accurately calibrated and verified with long-term records.  However, this is not the case with today’s long-term climate models because

  • The magnitude of the warming effect of carbon dioxide is not known with reasonable certainty, and therefore the computer models cannot be adequately calibrated.  Some researchers believe that CO2 is actually a relatively minor greenhouse gas with much less effect than is currently programmed into most models.
  • Most researchers agree that the most important greenhouse gas is water vapor.  Yet, not enough is known about the effect of water vapor in mitigating warming influences by other greenhouse gases.
  • The effect of the sunspot cycle on global temperatures has not been adequately defined and factored into the models.  Some studies indicate that the sunspot cycle is correlated more heavily with global temperatures than are increases in greenhouse gas concentrations.

Yes, the computer models predict warming.  But if the models are simply reproducing incorrect or poorly-founded assumptions of the programmers, an “output” from the model in itself means little.  The fact that “the computer model says so” is often used to bolster and even conceal underlying poor science.

In addition to the shaky computer modeling, the land surface temperature records used to bolster the observed 20th-century warming suffer from several defects:

  • Stations which were originally located in a rural area or on the outskirts of a city have gradually been encompassed by asphalt, brick, and concrete.  It is well known that stations located in urban areas tend to overestimate temperature locally due to radiation from man-made structures.  A station which is “urbanizing” should be expected to show a gradually-increasing temperature bias.
  • It has now been revealed that much of the data at stations in less-developed countries such as China cannot be adequately accounted for, and that many of these stations were actually moved large distances over the period of record.
  • It now appears that the density of weather stations has been reduced over the period of record, and the stations that have been eliminated were in the colder and/or high-altitude areas.  This would tend to lead to an increasing temperature bias.

Reviewing the last 12 to 15 years of published research on climate change, the bias toward anthropogenic global warming – the conscious ignorance of adverse data and analyses – is simply too obvious not to notice.  The recent appearance of chinks in the armor of the UN climate change juggernaut have caused respectable scientists to step back, take a breath, and contemplate that there may be nothing “settled” about the science of global warming.  Nothing, at least, that warrants the sort of panic being drummed up by people like Al Gore, and the forcible economic redistribution that is the passion of Mr. Gore and other climateoholics.

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A minor surgical procedure always puts one in a reflective mood about the prospect of government-run medical services.  At least it has that effect on me, whereas others may not be so lucky.  My brief incarceration as I recuperate bids me to think back on the process, which began on January 20.  The doctor said, “Yep, you need procedure X.”  I said, “OK, let’s do it.”  He said, “I have the 16th of February or the 18th of March free.”  “Let’s go with the 16th.”  So we did, and here I am.  A successful minor procedure completed with relatively little encumbrance from the statist know-it-alls.  I knew what it would cost beforehand, considered the costs and benefits, and agreed to pay.  The doctor was willing, and so it was done.

Imagine the same scenario repeated under Brit-care or Canada-care, both of which have become hopelessly dysfunctional, or under Obamacare, which would be dysfunctional out of the box.  If I had been allowed the procedure at all, it would have been because some political compromise, or bureaucratic decision, had blessed it.  It would have been scheduled not one month, but perhaps 6 or 9 months, after the decision was made.  It may never have been scheduled at all, because in the strictest sense, it was not life-threatening and did not fall into any category typically favored by the political class these days.

The faults of the medical care system in the United States – and there are many – can all be traced to the manipulation and distortion of the free marketplace by well-intentioned government meddling.  The sooner we face this fact, the better:  whenever the state injects itself, it screws things up.  This is true not because people in government are bad or evil (as a general rule), but simply because government does not have and can never have the kind of incentives as do individuals making free decisions, which naturally tend to control costs and increase quality.  Even so, our system is still the best and freest in the world, but the clearest way to improvement is less government, not more.

Ordinarily, people throw away their junk mail.  My wife is no ordinary woman.  In response to a couple of choice pieces that came in last week, she wrote the following letters.  I love my wife!

February 1, 2010

Dear [name withheld to protect the pawn of the state],

Yesterday we received a flyer from you advertising that we could have our furnace and air conditioner replaced for much less than the fair market cost, due to available stimulus money.  Your letter states, “The government is actually paying you up to $1,500 to lower your heating and cooling cost when investing in a high efficiency system.”  This is flat wrong.  “The government” doesn’t have money of its own.

Your flyer should more accurately state, “Your government is forcibly taking money from your neighbors and giving it to you so that you can purchase a new furnace and air conditioner for less than the fair market price.”

I promise you, I will never, never, use your company for my air conditioning or furnace needs.

Sincerely,

Karen Brockway

The Administrative Offices of CLG
1262 West 12700 South
Riverton, UT 84065

February 1, 2010

Dear Community Lending Group Administrative Offices

Yesterday we received a flyer from your office advertising:  “Fannie & Freddie are now able to offer Affordable Housing Programs to both high and low income households for home purchase, refinance and debt consolidation, with fixed interest rates at 4.125% on loan amounts up to $625,000.”

The letter stated that Fannie and Freddie are able to do this because of HR 3221: “HUD’s Federal Housing Administration will offer assistance to home owners…”  This is a false statement.  HUD’s Federal Housing Administration has no money of its own to give to others.

Your flyer should have more accurately stated, “Because the government is taking money from your neighbors (who purchased their homes responsibly), you may now have a loan at a low interest rate made available to you (who purchased your home and accumulated debt irresponsibly).”

We are not in need of your program, because we purchased our home well below what our income could afford, and we paid off our home in less than 10 years.  But even if I did need a new loan, I would not participate in any program that forcibly takes money from my neighbors to make up for my own irresponsibility.  If I cannot obtain a loan in the fair market, I should not expect my fellow citizens to be forced to provide funds for me.  It is immoral and unethical to do so.

Sincerely,

Karen Brockway