Saturday, February 05, 2011

End of times approaches

This is freaking me out.

The Telstra guy told us he’d never seen the intersection of Beaconsfield Ave, Kenilworth Ave and Soldiers Rd, Beaconsfield, under water in all the twelve years he’s lived in the district.

There’s something . . . um. . . not right with the climate.

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Blogger Caz said...

Twelve years of data collected and analysed?

Hell, I'm convinced.

Holy crap, we're in so much trouble!

5/2/11 7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like many of my fellow travellers I like to chat with God: Sabrina, that’s Her name, is a good listener and does offer me the occasional advice.

The last chat I had with Sabrina was about something that burns my brain – climate change. You see I have no idea who to believe when it comes to carbon “pollution­” and anthropoge­nic global warming. I had two questions for Sabrina:

What causes our climate to change? And, do human beings contribute significantly to global warming?

Sabrina informed me that the complex matrix of variables related to climate change could not be comprehend­ed by mere mortals. “After all” said Sabrina, “have you ever been able to understand the inner workings of your wife’s mind?” “That’s a hard one” I replied. She then followed with a more confronting question:

“Do you not think it a little bit arrogant of you, or anyone else, to think you could understand the way I manage your universe, let alone get me to change my ways?”

I must admit at that point I felt like looking for another God; but She did follow with the suggestion that if human beings had their hearts set on this carbon reduction game then She had a solution that would meet all our carbon reduction targets for years to come. And it would be painless; so painless in fact we could party for the rest of our lives and reduce carbon levels.

“How." I enquired. “War.” Sabrina replied.

Sabrina then informed me that if war was a country the annual carbon emissions would equal 139 of the world’s nations. “Wow Sabrina, I never thought about that.” I replied. She then suggested a little homework regarding war and carbon emissions. “After all I did give humans a particular­ly large brain and a free will, so get to it.” She ordered – mmm, so much for free will.

Having consulted my trusty abacus, slide rule and particular­ly large (overworke­d) brain it soon became obvious that if homo sapiens stopped dropping bombs, building war ships, tanks and nuclear bombs we could meet all our carbon reduction targets for the next 137 years, 9 months, 3 days, 2 hours, 25 minutes and 13 seconds; this is a fact, if you don’t believe me then go ask the experts.

When I got back to Sabrina She was most pleased that I had done my homework and rewarded me with a really hot day and a headache (She really does work in a mysterious way – but so does my beautiful wife).

She then concluded that homo sapiens were a weird mob, for too often a solution to their problem stares them in the face – but they keep telling it to go away.


6/2/11 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

The last time I had a yarn with Her (She insists I call Her Alanis), She told me that, yes, the climate is changing, has always been and will always be changing, but that, "Yep, Jacob My darling earthling child, heavy duty stuff My mortal children do down here on earth does significantly influence the climate."

As a case in point, this is what She told me She wants us to do with Mars, once She "permits" us to get up there. Under her breath, She muttered something about us "getting it right here on Earth first," we've already stuffed up Paradise Mk I and She's not going to wear a repeat.

(She tends to mutter under Her breath quite a lot, have you noticed? She seems a very stressed Deity.)

Anyway, I was feeling argumentative so I suggested that Her idea about Mars was nuts. And anyway, I said, Your people back in the 17th Century denied the multiplicity of worlds and roasted Giordano Bruno for suggesting otherwise.

Sensing yet another flaming row over historical wrongs perpetrated by dickheads She'd negligently allowed to act in Her Hallowed Name, She spat it, told me to STFU and left in a huff and puff of holy smoke.

I haven't seen Alanis since, but something in the climate says I can expect another visitation soon.

6/2/11 10:18 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Your god is a chatty little thing Justin. Quite the verbose one. (The ten commandments were shorter, weren't they?)

6/2/11 10:22 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

"(She tends to mutter under Her breath quite a lot, have you noticed? ...."


Sounds like a drinking problem to me.

6/2/11 10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the trouble with female gods - they talk too much.

My first choice of gods to chat to is of course Dionysus, but he's always been too pissed to make any sense whatsoever.


7/2/11 7:21 AM  
Blogger Father Park said...

You are almost a Tony Abbott Caz.

Clearly we contribute to this. Create this is another matter of course.

How much our contibution effects the natural cycles of warming and cooling is the question of real importance.

There is no doubt the world is in a warming phase. The recent events (unusually cold winters in the northern hemisphere for example) are well predicted facets of this.

9/2/11 11:54 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

In his last reports, Professor Ross Garnaut insisted that Australia was now and forever more in state of perpetual drought Father. Good thing he has a new series of reports coming out right about now. And, surprise, he’s insisting that “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet” … not sure if he’s talking droughts or floods or the decreasing number of cyclones. But, he’s an economist, not a scientist. Strange that an economist should be the most authoritative voice on behalf of the gov’t in relation to something that will likely cost trillions of dollars, and make not an iota of difference to emissions or temperatures in 100 years time. (I’ve yet to see the weather or the temperature respond to a tax or a trading scheme.)

There is no debate about how much humans contribute to carbon in the atmosphere, that’s known: a bit over three percent of the total.

Will an increase in a minor trace gas that is a 0.00038 (380 parts per million) part of the atmosphere, to, say, 0 .00048 (480 ppm. ) part of the atmosphere, cause runaway global warming?

The answer is no, but the real questions should be can a trace gas increasing from 0.038% to 0.048% of the atmosphere of which human beings can claim responsibility for 3.4% cause runaway global warming? If so, would limiting part of the 3.4% make any difference?

Total CO2 in the atmosphere is about 0.038% having increased from about 0.028% pre industrial revolution. But CO2 is spread unevenly through the atmosphere.

Within that 0.038%, Humans can only claim responsibility, if that's the word, for about 3.4% of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere annually, the rest of it is all natural.

That equates to 0.001292% of the atmosphere. Australia’s emissions are about 1.5% of the the world so Our ETS will try to control 0.000019% of the world’s atmosphere!

Oh, except that two years ago a few days' bushfires in one state emitted as much CO2 as nearly a full year's national human emissions. Bugger!

How much our contribution effects the natural cycles of warming and cooling is the question of real importance.

Yes, indeed. Ordinarily one would like an answer to that question prior to taking a wrecking ball to the economy, and assessing the full range of opportunity costs, and the costs/benefits of alternative actions (eg, adaptation).

10/2/11 12:36 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

"Perpetual drought" perhaps somewhat over simplifies what the Garnaut report said. When large parts of Australia are/were in drought, the bits that were about drought were predictably emphasised. But that report was about a lot more than just drought impacts: severe weather events, flooding, storm surges, less numerous but more severe cyclones, etc.

That Garnaut is an economist rather than a scientist is probably a good thing, because he'll presumably have a grasp of the socio-economic dimensions of various scenarios. All of us, for the most part not being specialists in the relevant scientific disciplines, have to make our own call based on our own judgement of whatever consensus obtains at a given point. Garnaut's brief is to base his calls on the IPCC synthesis.

The interesting thing about CO2 is not its paucity in the mix, but its propensity for 'radiative forcing', and its persistence. The problem for the human component of world emissions is that there's no mechanism for taking it back out, as generally happens with 'natural' emissions.

10/2/11 7:36 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

All economists make poor scientists Jacob (I say that, as an economist).

Studies (much criticised, of course) have demonstrated (ie, not ill-conceived computer models), that as far as the Earth turning into some sort of hot-house, the atmosphere has been largely self-correcting, far more so than thought.

The blowback, the unintended consequences (they will be many and far reaching) for sequestration or for 'pulling back' CO2s don't even bare thinking about. We're just not that clever. The folly of man playing God is pretty much out of hand. We know not what we do, which is not a good argument to keep doing more of it, in ever increasingly risky ways on ever increasing scales.

By all means, do whatever, but trillions to do ... what?

Anyone who as done so much as economics 101 macro and micro knows the basics of cost/benefits and opportunity costs (best bang for the buck). For purely political, not scientific reasons (and they're not - well documented the bias of the research, and how dependent grant money is on saying and finding evidence of the 'right' things ...), none of the most basic analysis is undertaken (even by soft-science's standards), rather, assumptions are taken as true, and assumption that human CO2s are fully to blame is taken as true.

Come fifty years time, this will likely be the most shameful episode in science (akin to suppressed memories in psych)and will be recorded as one of enormous arrogance and vanity. Given the extent of human vanity and arrogance, that's saying something.

Science, which continues to struggle for legitimacy in the US (nothing tops goblins and heaven over there, still) will take decades to recover and rebuild its reputation.

10/2/11 7:58 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Er, it doesn't matter if they're poor scientists... they're economists. They weigh inputs and outputs, and sometimes even externalities, and come up with conclusions that may or may not bear some relation to the real world.

I'll grant you the whole edifice of climate science, as we know it, could well undergo a paradigm shift, sort of like a Copernican revolution. It's a bold move to make such a call, and my hat's off to you. It's conceivable that the Climategate scientists reputed desire to "hide the decline" could well be the modern equivalent of the desire of the Ptolemaic astronomers of yore to "save the phenomena", with ever more elaborate geometric devices infesting the celestial spheres to account for perturbations in planetary movement.

In any event, I'm fairly solidly with you in dread for the possible "blowback" of sequestration and other such 'clever' technologies.

James Lovelock, the so-called Father of so-called Gaia (actually, the theory thereof), has said emphatically it's already too late, we're beyond the tipping point, etc., so goodnight Vienna.

Like you, however, I'm not so sure it's "goodnight". The "self-correcting" aspect of the Earth is not often considered, but then the question remains whether accelerating the loading of the atmosphere with GHGs might overrun the planet's capacity to self-correct.

And to borrow an anology from economics, market corrections can tend to be unpleasant for many. (Sorry, I know that's a sound byte, but I'll let it stand.)

10/2/11 9:49 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Nearly 30 years ago Jacob, I read a short book about HIV/AIDs, which came out very early in the piece, and covered the science of it, how it works. I used to write down the names of every book I read, by for some reason didn't write down the title, much to my own annoyance, otherwise I would cite it here. Anyway,when I finished the book I proclaimed - to myself, since no one else was listening - "there will never be a vaccine, there will never be a cure". So far, so accurate. Perhaps in another thirty years I'll be proven wrong.

Sometimes, you do your research, mentally go through the evidence, the real science, all the permutations and mutations ... and come out the end of it with a very firm view of how things will pan out.

In business (private & public sectors, it's all the same) my opinion is that at least 90% of what happens (good and bad) is 100% predictable. My point is, all too frequently people do the whole "OMG, who would have thought it would turn out like that?!". Well, pretty much everyone if only they'd bothered to think it through and consider consequences. But who has time for that, hey? I've found my rule of thumb to be mostly correct.

The only purpose of those little anecdotes is that, fundamentally I'm a business analyst, working on risky things that cost serious dollars, it's my business to be able to be able to think fast, collect all evidence, analysis and synthesis it, and come to some conclusion or action. I don't even have to think about it, it's automatic pilot.

Was Howard going to lose the second to last election? Yep. Was it going to be primarily because of blowback from Work Choices? Yep. I said exactly that on Harry's blog, a full 18 months, probably longer, prior to the election that Howard lost. Harry expressed the thought that I was a twit and had no clue.

I was right, based on mental analysis of what was going on at the time. It's all about patterns. (Even genius is only the gift of genaralising and choosing ...).

That's not being clever or showing off (yeah, yeah, my crystal ball is better than his),it's just how my mind operates.

If the permafrosts melt, we're all dead. I know that much is true.

If they don't, we'll live to see another day, or hundreds of millions of days, and climate, over the course, will change, as it always has and always will, until some day, a time so far in the future we can't imagine it, an ice age will come, which will wipe out nearly everything - because cold kills far more efficiently and widely than balmy weather. (More people die in winter than during even the worst heat waves.)

Is there a certain hubris to believing we're so darned fabulous that we can not only change the world's climate, but also change it back ... and back to where?

I'm all for mitigation and spending truck loads on adaptation: water security, food security, resource security and geographic security. Won't happen though, 22 million of us, which is only a small number of people to worry about, and we're too stupid to set ourselves up .. shit Jacob, we can't even build a few rail lines at a reasonable cost and run trains on time. You think "we" are going to "reverse the temperature"? Sorry, I know we're just not that smart. Just as I know I'm not smart enough to understand any notion of "consensus" science based on computer models lacking fundamental data on myriad of factors. It's like building a house with no walls or ceiling. Sure, you can call it a house, if you insist, but that doesn't make it a house.

10/2/11 10:27 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Continued .....

"Consensus" science had never been heard of, was not an expression anyone ever needed until now. Science was never a popularity contest until the new religion of climate joined the hit parade, and new terms were coined to support it. As a sociological and psychological experiment, it's quite fascinating. The metaphors are not original, all very old hat, all biblical, but the new language needed to prop it all up continues to fascinate me.

It's possible science will eventually catch up with the religious fever (as per my HIV example, with me still waiting to be proven wrong) ... yes, it is, because almost anything is possible. Not necessarily plausible or probable, that's all.

I will change my mind entirely, and admit it, freely and lavishly, as soon as scientists get back to being impartial, and strip the politics out of their profession ... it is so sullied it makes me want to weep.

And we should all demand that politicians and economists get their friggin' hands off science, both pure science and practical science, otherwise we'll all be rooted and we'll start going backwards ... and it won't be because of the climate the weather or the temperature.

10/2/11 10:27 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Hubris? Hell yes! - the poor doofus who cut down the last tree on Easter Island 'knew' the ancestors would provide, because you see it's all about us.

There's the rub, I guess... By virtue of machines and other means of 'amplifying' our feeble faculties, we humans do have immense, unprecedented power to change our environment. Regrettably there's no reliable means of 'amplifying' understanding or comprehension - unless by long and painstaking reflection, which will virtually never prevail over a given political cycle.

Then again, where would we be without hubris? - which is intimately connected with seat-of-our-pants optimism and initiative. Computer climate models have failure in-built almost as a design feature, since they're unavoidably finite systems that aim to 'emulate' a virtually infinitely complex system. Still, we'll have a go because it's there just begging to be conquered by our vaunted ingenuity.

Such a no-brainer as running trains on time is certainly possible. Ask MTR Corp, the Hong Kong company that majority owns our Metro Trains here in Melbourne. They have a fantastic system in Hong Kong where a late train is reported in their mass media almost as an oddity. But the poor bastards have taken on a metropolitan transit system in a socio-economic setting that's sorely bereft of Confucianism.

And hey, I'll say again, I'm still waiting for Arthur C Clarke's vision to materialise of scheduled Pan Am flights to the Moon. Sadly I think it might have sank long before Pan Am ever did.

Clarke got it right when he pioneered the precepts of communications satellites - that was optimism and initiative - but overeached with that stuff about scheduled flights to the moon by the year 2001 - that was hubris.

I disagree, however, that "consensus science" is anything new. Huxley worked like a "bulldog" to help create a pro-Darwinian consensus, and before that Kepler and Galileo consciously laboured for the heliocentric consensus.

Maybe the term "consensus", as a socio-political fashion, is relatively new. But the paradigms that inform the climate 'debate' are as old as the hills.

Just for one, take anthropocentrism: We're either completely to blame for environmental havoc, or the inexhaustible, imperturbable environment is exclusively ours to go forth and multiply in.

I suspect the reality is infinitely more complex - but then, what do I know, eh?

11/2/11 9:23 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

I would never suggest that humans don't affect the environment, hell, we're all over it like a rash, literally.

Evolution is proven science. There is no debate.

No idea what "pro-Darwinism" would be in the scientific world, nor why a consensus would be needed now (perhaps decades ago, but the science was not disputed; it was God what got in the way ... not alternative scientific proofs). Since then, the proof has only grown richer and greater depth has been added to the understanding of evolution.

11/2/11 9:40 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Sorry if I gave the impression that I thought you'd suggested "humans don't affect the environment". Not intended, was just waffling.

Evolution (by natural selection) wasn't 'proven' science until perhaps Mendel came along with the basis of the science of genetics. In one of those quirks of history, Mendel published his work fairly soon after Darwin published his 'Origin of Species', but no-one put 2 + 2 together until well into the 20th C. So, before then there was lots of room for debate.

Even today, the theory of evolution can only be said to be 'proven' in the somewhat 'weak' sense that it's strongly supported by related disciplines and of course the fossil record. To 'prove' it, however, you have to have a time machine. For some, that leaves plenty of room for 'debate'.

Darwinism was for the most part well-received, early on, for a number of reasons, some of which had nothing to do with science. Not least of these was its resonance with some strands of social and political philosophy. So, since Darwin, we've had numerous clods, untrained in science, who've appealed to 'the science' to endorse various social engineering projects, such as harebrained eugenics programs.

Much like today we have numerous clods, untrained in science, who've locked onto climate science to bolster their worldviews and political programs. There are some spooky parallels between vulgarisations of evolutionary science and of climate science. At least, so it seems to me.

As you've noted, some proponents of warming seem to want to "change it back ... and back to where?" Presumably to some romantic Arcadian state that most likely has never existed except in their heads. Oh, and if only the brown peoples of developing countries knew how good they have it, being at one with nature, and not go go chasing after carbon-spewing modernity. We can send aid (if we can afford it) to mitigate those less charming aspects of paradise, such as subsistence living, malaria, child mortality, etc.

12/2/11 1:35 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

No, no - no need for apology, was just making the point that we're pretty reckless with our planet and it's resources - I don't think there's any question about that: none. I also think we're not nearly as clever as we like to believe. We're pretty dumb about the husbandry of what we have. We're even dumber when it comes to "fixing" things that we've broken. Some exceptions, eg, air and water pollution were addressed reasonably well, albeit, we still have massive air and water pollution (imagine if steps had not been taken to clean up our act in the West?).

Even today, the theory of evolution can only be said to be 'proven' in the somewhat 'weak' sense that it's strongly supported by related disciplines and of course the fossil record. To 'prove' it, however, you have to have a time machine. For some, that leaves plenty of room for 'debate'.

I used to think the same Jacob, but it's not true. The theory of evolution is just that because it's no longer a hypothesis. Even Christian scientists do not dispute the theory. I did a lot of reading about science and about evolution itself, and realised that I had a lot of misunderstandings in my head.

Darwin didn't get it all right, of course, the science has become more robust since his time, as you would expect. Since he was a live, the theory has been proven.

This is from Skeptics, and addresses the US obsession with creationism vs evolution, so only some of the points are relevant:

"“Biologists study evolution in exactly the same way as other scientists deal with historical phenomena. They examine the available facts concerning what contemporary processes could operate to explain them on the assumption that these would have operated in much the same way in the past as in the present (just as we all assume the sun will rise tomorrow), and see how well they explain the historical patterns. This works amazingly well. In the Origin of Species, Darwin provided a whole series of facts about biology that make perfect sense in the light of evolution — descent with modification. Subsequent research has thrown up a huge number of others. Any of these can of course be explained as an arbitrary whim of a Creator, so creationism can never be falsified, in contrast to evolutionary hypotheses. In addition, the mechanism of evolution by random mutation and natural selection (and some other processes unknown to Darwin) is a typical scientific theory, which has been receiving ever-increasing support over the 150 years since Darwin. Any good book on evolution lays this out. The creationists disparage evolutionary biology because it conflicts with their religious beliefs, and they are simply not prepared to face up to the evidence. While there are plenty of open questions, and the accepted interpretations of many specific phenomena have changed over the years, this is true of even the most solidly established sciences such as physics. Science would grind to a halt if we had complete explanations of everything. Appealing to non-natural processes to explain away difficulties simply means you are not doing science.”

12/2/11 1:50 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Yes, those brown people are blessed! And we sure as shite don't want them heading to our shores for refuge if this climate change thingy really takes off! (Sorry, but I do think the very worst when anyone in developed countries start getting the vapors about the poor natives who might get swamped and will need ... a new home ... like ... with "us". You ca almost see them losing sleep about such a prospect, no matter how hypothetical.)

So, since Darwin, we've had numerous clods, untrained in science, who've appealed to 'the science' to endorse various social engineering projects, such as harebrained eugenics programs.

Yes, in particular misappropriating "survival of the fittest" (which was actually survival of the fecund, regardless of how "fit" they were), to justify no end of vile social, cultural and political ideologies. This is shown no more so than in America, where survival of the fittest undermines even the most liberal thinking. It's quite a brutal society, despite so much good. Big irony, hey, that the most rabidly Christian developed country in the world is underpinned in every regard by the misapplication of the theory of evolution. Quite boggling, really!

12/2/11 2:01 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

On Dawkins most recent book

"Dawkins begins profoundly confident, “We don’t need fossils, the case for evolution is watertight without them.” Which is why, he continues, “it is paradoxical to use gaps in the fossil record as though they were evidence against evolution.

The Greatest Show on Earth is a straightforward and inspiring exegesis of evolution by means of natural selection. It is by no means overtly anti-creation. Dawkins does not rail against the book of Genesis. He doesn’t need to. He need only explain Darwin’s theory of incremental steps trudging mindlessly through time.

Yet the theory of evolution is more than that. Darwin’s revelation imparted something well beyond common ancestry and natural selection. He wrenched darkness from our eyes to illuminate a process of thought, an entirely new way of thinking about the world around us. There is a greater truth in the knowledge and understanding of evolutionary theory than there is in evolution alone."

12/2/11 2:06 PM  

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