Another Interesting Climate Article

Some research reported this week supporting that climate warming makes rainfall increase while climate cooling makes a region drier.

A striking pattern emerged: Over long timescales of multiple decades and centuries, all three monsoons behaved similarly. Warm temperatures made the monsoons wetter while cold temperatures dried them out. During an extended cold period known as the Little Ice Age, for instance, the entire Northern Hemisphere appears to have suffered a “superdrought” that lasted from 1350 to 1650, the team found.

Scientists Debunk Key Carbon Source Theory

Earth may be warming. The scientific record is clear that most parts of the earth have been through warming – and cooling – stages over the course of time. One theory – the Government is not acting on this one – is that this warming/cooling cycle over history will continue, likely because something about climate warming causes cooling, and something about climate cooling causes warming. The other theory – this is the one the Government has been spending a lot of money promoting – is that climate warming, underway globally at this time, has gotten hotter faster, so it will continue to get hotter faster until we burn up.

A key sub-theory of the Government’s current theory is that a warming climate will cause the release of massive amounts of carbon molecules (greenhouse gasses) from the tundra. New research says that doesn’t appear to be true:

The call to human action to stop infinite global warming is why city governments got in the business of attempting to regulate people’s carbon footprint, expanding municipal interest, for the first time, beyond the safety of human-constructed spaces and objects.

You would expect the call to action to be taken up by highly trained experts on energy consumption, generation, and transmission – engineers. Instead, the architects and designers jumped forward to claim ownership of this highly technical set of standards, and found the mandates a bonanza of enhanced fees.

Nor did municipal governments allocate big bucks to hire engineers and scientists to implement. They relied on their existing building and safety staffs to police the designers.

We all agree that sustainability is important. But differences of opinion arise between builders, owners, architects and city regulators as to what all that bureaucratic, technocratic language in the code actually means. The result is that the 2009 IECC Energy Code isn’t working. Advocates promise that the Energy Code won’t force anybody to spend money that they won’t get back through energy bill savings in longer than ten years. In fact, we now have stories about how it resulted in a rehabilitated business being forced to spend money that it will likely never recover through power bill savings.

Lake Powell

They’re digging the Castle Rock cut deeper at Lake Powell, which will save untold thousands of gallons of gasoline smoke per year.

Some environmentalists oppose the excavation because they believe a changing climate and excess demand for water will eventually drain Lake Powell into a hiker’s paradise.

This seems an extreme perspective to me. To prioritize the eventual drainage of Lake Powell above the emissions of boats burning thousands of gallons of gas would be an error.

It’s kind of like when the Sierra Club sued to stop the widening of US-95.

The Parable Of The Broken Window

Government does stuff over alot, it seems. Ranging from tearing out curbs and replacing them with different curbs (to comply with ADA) to busting out windows and replacing them with triple-paned tinted glass (to comply with the 2009 Energy Code) it seems like Government’s always replacing something.

It’s one thing to argue society benefits (by increasing handicapped access to the world, in the case of ADA compliance). But when politicians claim separate benefit because this activity “created jobs” – well, they haven’t learned the Parable of the Broken Window. It explains, quite clearly, why recovering from accidents and catastrophes, and other replacements of capital assets, create net loss (not considering any specific societal goal served by the activity).

Ruminating on Science

Science (from Latin  Scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.[1]

So begins Wikipedia’s definition of science on August 22, 2012. Remember – Wikipedia is subject to change by anyone at any time, both the secret of Wikipedia’s brilliance, and its Achilles’ Heel. I’ve been a licensed CPA for more than 20 years. But my subscription to Science News is even older than that. I guess that gives me an unusual perspective on the debate that drives today’s issues.

Wikipedia’s definition the day I looked it up turns out to be a thoughtful paraphrase of J. L. Heilbron‘s introduction to the 2003 The Oxford Companion to the History of Modern Science, in which he describes Science as a meld of established and theoretical explanations of the physical world. The two parts are purposefully distinct: “established” explanations (tennis balls and all models of Estes model rockets go up into the atmosphere and fall back to the ground so consistently I can predict the outcome of a given launch) and “predictions” (each of which lives apart until its last advocate quits or until it becomes an “established” explanation). They are very different halves of a sphere. As J.L. initially said,

“… modern science is a discovery as well as an invention. It was a discovery that nature generally acts regularly enough to be described by laws and even by mathematics; and required invention to devise the techniques, abstractions, apparatus, and organization for exhibiting the regularities and securing their law-like descriptions.”

Coming from an accountant’s perspective as I do, I think of the “testable explanations about the universe” portion of Science as a sort of balance sheet. It’s the state of affairs on a given day, at a particular moment. You can measure it, take pictures of it, and gather independent observers around you who can agree they saw the same thing you did.

The other part – the “predictions about the universe” a.k.a. “invention to devise…” – is much more fuzzy. It’s the most attractive theories, at any given moment, about things we don’t understand.

At times, this category has included:

  • Thinking the Manhattan Project would incinerate the atmosphere over six seconds. Instead it saved millions of today’s grandparents’ life and limb, in Japan and America.
  • Imagine: If we can just kill all the witches, imagine all the people living life in peace.
  • These astrophysicists claiming to be honing in on the Science of galaxies are idiots. They’ve been predicting their stupid Higgs bosun for decades, and can’t prove a thing.
  • Understand the shape of the skull, predict anti-social behavior.
  • Bleeding will cure George Washingtion’s cold or flu.

To be fair, at times this category has also included:

  • Pasteurizing milk reduces food poisoning.
  • Beams of radiation will kill cancerous tissue faster than it will kill non-cancerous tissue.
  • The sun will rise tomorrow, I promise.
  • Administering insulin to dying diabetics will keep them alive for decades, until some other malady claims them.
  • No, we circle the Sun, not the other way around. I promise.
  • Beta is a better format than VHS (just kidding – that’s a joke thrown in for the grandparents out there)

The “predictions” are like an income statement. “Predictions” which eventually prove consistently “testable” are pluses; “Predictions” that eventually prove false are minuses. If more predictions this year turn out to be consistently testable than false, it’s a good year and the balance sheet grows. The income statement is positive. If it’s the other way around, it’s a bad year, the income statement shows a loss, and the balance sheet shrinks.

The years just before Science figured out that bleeding flu victims was a bad idea was a time when Science probably moved humanity backwards. Sadly, those years included the year George Washington had the flu. He was retired, so his medical murder did not interrupt the course of the development of the United States of America, back when their separate consensuses were considered. But let there be no doubt: America’s best medical Scientists killed our first President.

My late friend and colleague Bill Raggio often described aggressive policy-makers as being “too far over their skis”.  Bill grew up in Reno, less than an hour’s drive from the mid-60’s winter Olympics. He was referring to how far forward a skier should lean over their skis, to make themselves go faster. The reckless pursuit of fastest can leave a skier too far over their center of gravity. It doesn’t last long, and is usually followed by “Wild World Of Sports” caliber video of tumbling skier.

Can society get too far over its skis when it takes scientific theory as fact?