[asa] one more reason

From: Don Winterstein <dfwinterstein@msn.com>
Date: Sat Dec 05 2009 - 00:25:16 EST

One more important reason for my AGW calamity skepticism: human predictions of large-scale calamity of any kind, as far as I can recall, have never been fulfilled. Back in 2006 I wrote the following in an ASA post concerning a discussion of the coming energy catastrophe (note that my speculations about oil prices and economies were fairly close to "bang on;" they just came true a lot sooner than I'd thought!):

"As for what future oil prices will be, given the historical price volatility of this commodity, it would not be at all surprising for T. Boone and BP's chief both to be right. In fact, I would be mildly surprised if oil did not both fall to less that $40 a barrel and rise to more than $100 over the next 10 years. China's rapid growth has been defying gravity for years. If their economy and the US economy were to experience hard times simultaneously, the resulting big drop in demand would lead to a big drop in price. How likely is it that these economies will continue to grow rapidly for another 10 years? As for the high side, how likely is it that some political problem will disrupt the flow of oil from the Middle East and cause a price surge? After all, $100 a barrel is less than twice what it's going for now. For the longer term it seems inevitable that oil prices will go much higher than they are now--but how high is anybody's guess. Almost certainly higher than the price of bottled water.

"Whose longer-term predictions are more likely? All those in the know recognize that the quantity of oil is finite and that easily producible oil is running out. What they disagree on is whether the landing will be soft or catastrophic. It's a fact, however, that alarmists have had a poor record over my lifetime, and this is part of the reason I've been taking a cautious stance on this issue of late. The only true world-class catastrophe since the 1930s was World War II, and at least one highly placed figure had predicted "peace in our time." Since then we've been urged to fear nuclear annihilation (still possible, but nobody takes it as seriously as they used to), world running out of food, Japan's economic dominance to the detriment of the US, Y2K calamities, etc. And now global warming, and also the export of good US jobs to China and India. There have always been crucial elements in the scheme of things that the alarmists have failed to take into account. Perhaps the optimists' ideas have at least some merit. Or perhaps this time will be an exception, the alarmists will be right, and we really will have a catastrophic energy shortage.

"So what's the average guy to do? I say, come out in favor of conservation and the search for alternatives whenever the opportunity presents itself. No matter whether the landing is hard or soft, the world is going to miss easily producible petroleum and natural gas."

So what's the average guy to do about the predicted AGW calamity? I say, come out in favor of conservation and limitation of GHG emissions whenever the opportunity presents itself, but don't panic or take self-defeating economic measures in an attempt to forestall what at this time is only another predicted calamity of another bunch of fallible humans. Focus on adaptation, not control. Humans have neither the power nor the resources to control climate, but we've been good at adapting.


----- Original Message -----
From: Don Winterstein<mailto:dfwinterstein@msn.com>
To: asa<mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 2:10 PM
Subject: a modest proposal [was: Re: [asa] Phil Jones Stepping Down..]

"What would turn me from skeptic to believer?" I asked myself. Simple: Give all the raw climate data to scientists in a related geoscience field and get them to process and interpret the data so as to see whether there's an interpretation that shows effects from greenhouse gases to be relatively mild. If they can't do it, and they conclude that GHG release is indeed a serious problem, I'd be well on my way to believing.

The ideal people to undertake such a study already exist in large numbers: the thousands of oil company geophysicists and geologists. Requirements: they would need: familiarity with scientific research methods, meaning they should have PhDs;
                                            to have recorded, processed and/or interpreted real Earth data;
                                            a minimum of 7 years' geoscience experience;
                                            to come highly recommended for their scientific accomplishments;
                                            experience with modeling geoscience data;
                                            familarity with the data of historical geology;
                                            an eagerness to participate in such project;
                                            support from government or oil company;
                                            no possibility of getting post-project grant money to further their climate research for at least 3 years;
                                            to have no history of trying to alarm people about impending disasters from GHG.
You will say, "These people will tend to be biased against finding a hazard from GHG!" Exactly. That's the kind of bias needed to counter the prevailing biases. As scientists they will be no more likely (and possibly less so) to cheat with the data than the climate scientists we're all familiar with--those who prosper by persuading people to give them money, where alarmism is a most effective method of persuasion.

Major oil companies worldwide would likely be more than willing to provide and support some of their best researchers for such a project.

Before world governments traumatize their economies by requiring huge cuts in GHG emissions, it would seem imperative to invest five years or so in a project of this sort. Best of all, it could remove my skepticism. : )


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Don Winterstein<mailto:dfwinterstein@msn.com>
  To: Iain Strachan<mailto:igd.strachan@gmail.com>
  Cc: AmericanScientificAffiliation<mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
  Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 12:33 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Phil Jones Stepping Down..

  It's true that few people would like to see the planet destroyed for human habitation. (There'll always be some.)

  However, I recall instances where certain ardent supporters of AGW seemed to want to attribute adverse weather phenomena to AGW, and I've sensed their disappointment when, for example, large portions of this country (if not the whole thing) were cooler than usual for much of this year. That is, there seems to be a desire among some to point to actual weather conditions as "proof" that the models are on track. Support for AGW predictions would surely go up if people could actually feel the world getting warmer instead of cooler, etc.

  So I suspect not a few ardent AGW supporters would like to see dramatic bad effects of GW. Then they'd be able to rub their skeptical friends' noses in them.

  As a former Earth scientist I remain skeptical about the significance of the "A" in AGW. The hacked/whistle-blown emails increase my skepticism. Apart from them, my skepticism has two primary sources: (1) Earth is extremely complicated and messy, very difficult to predict in any detail, and the data are often messy. I get that from my experience as a scientist. (2) The issue has been and still is extremely political, and many of the scientists involved are obviously political. I simply don't trust scientists who have obvious political motives connected to their field of investigation.

  My experience with some national lab scientists leads me to predict how this email investigation will turn out: The email authors will be busy concocting stories to "explain" their comments, they'll get buy-in from all their friends, everything will turn out to have been as innocent as newly fallen snow. That's how things work in the real world. --That is, unless they get an adversary involved who's really feisty, smart and tough. What are the chances?


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Received on Sat Dec 5 00:26:21 2009

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