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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Illogical arguments in global warming

Illogic is killing the case for global warming deader than a VOLE, I mean vole

H undreds of things—467 to be exact, according to a group of climatologists from the University of Hawaii in Manoa—have been predicted[1] to occur due to global warming.

I'll have to take their word for that: the journal wants $8.99 to find out what they are, and my local university library doesn't carry it. For that price, I could get one of those purple ribbon awareness silicone bracelets that say “We stand together.” It doesn't say what it's awareness of; I'd guess epilepsy, a serious problem and a good cause indeed.

If it was global warming, you'd have to cover both arms and legs three or four layers deep. From increases in the price of beer to more people wetting the bed (not, apparently, related), more voles, more rainfall, more drought, more snow, less snow, and a spread of malaria and ticks, the list seems endless. Those compiling it seem to think that more is better, and we'll be con­vinced because of the prospect of someday finding ourselves up to our ears in voles.

Mora et al. Fig. 2
Fig. 2. in Mora et al. Pink = bad, blue = good

Voles, or VOLES, as the UK Daily Mail calls them, are small mouse-like rodents of genus Microtus, having a stocky body, short tail, and incon­spic­uous ears. Think moles with smaller snouts and forepaws or mice with tiny ears and short tails.

What's really going on? The predictions simply provide a list of potential counterfactuals. If they are solid predictions, then the non-appearance of even one of them—say, a non-tsunami of voles—would disprove global warming. If they are not solid predictions, then they are scare­monger­ing, and, as the skeptics conclude, who is to say that AGW itself is not also scaremongering?

In other words, predictions based on the assumption that the effect is real have no probative value. The question is, how come they can't see this?

There are two possibilities: either they're speaking only to their own tribe, or they don't care anymore. I'm leaning toward the latter: I'm by nature inclined to think CO2could, theoretically, do something, but if warmers wanted to convince me it was all hogwash they couldn't have done a more thorough job.

Many of the computer models were based on the same logical flaw as their prediction of warmer, more expensive beer: if warming is happening, then the Arctic ice will melt. This is, of course, true, but it doesn't really tell us anything. A computer model that predicts this would be useless.

Now, it might be that they're trying to argue against the idea, made by some skeptics, that global warming is beneficial. But if so, why not take on those arguments directly, specifically that plants will benefit and agriculture will thrive? There can only be one reason: they can't. They have, in effect, ceded the argument.

I take an agnostic position on AGW: since it became politicized, all the evidence for and against it has been tainted by politics. Therefore it's a political issue, not a scientific one, and I ain't interested. Politics is the realm of opinion, and opinion nowhere intersects with fact. By letting that happen, the warmers have paid the price: a tipping point has been reached in public opinion, and it's now irreversible.

Those computer models predicting that ice will disappear in the Arctic within a few years are examples of this logical flaw. Models are programmed with what the researcher believes to be true. If the researcher believes AGW is a real problem, then the model cannot be relied on to predict whether AGW is a real problem because it'd be programmed into the model. The researcher tells the press that if the world gets warmer then ice will melt, confident that the public's grasp of simple logic is so weak that they can't see a tautology when whacked in the face with one.

The soothsayer Jeanne Dixon used the same tactic back in the 1960s. She didn't actually predict the Kennedy assassination as was claimed, but she was skillful enough to know that if you make enough dire predictions, some will come true just by random chance, and people will forget the ones that did not. This lends itself to severity bias.

The so-called precautionary principle is an example of that. We all do cost-benefit calculations in our heads, evaluating formulas like the following:

Importance = Severity × Probability

This means the more severe the outcome, the more important it is do do something about it. Skeptics concentrate on the probability term. Since warmers assume the probability is 1.0, they focus on the severity term. The vole stuff is there to beef up the severity, which means they're not yet convinced. They are, ironically, skeptical. Is it too much to hope this thing will get back on a scientific basis?

Update Nov 25, 2018: A new paper has come out saying that it's economically feasible to cool the planet by spraying sulfate aerosols into the upper atmosphere. The authors say they're not taking a position as to its desirability, only that it's affordable. It puts warmers in a bind: if they reject the idea, it will prove the skeptics right in their claim that the whole thing was a scheme to undermine fossil fuels. If they accept it, they risk producing global cooling, which has a better chance of being catastrophic than even the scariest predictions of warming.

1. Mora C, Spirandelli D, Franklin EC, Lynham J, Kantar MB, Miles W, Smith CZ, Freel K, Moy J, Louis LV, Barba EW, Bettinger K, Frazier AG, Colburn JF IX, Hanasaki N, Hawkins E, Hirabayashi Y, Knorr W, Little CM, Emanuel K, Sheffield J, Patz JA and Hunter CL (2018). Broad threat to humanity from cumulative climate hazards intensified by greenhouse gas emissions. Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0315-6. (paywalled)

nov 21 2018, 6:23 am. updated nov 25 2018, 3:47 am

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