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« Peer Review | Main | Global Warming – Part 4 »



"I do think that Scott's posts are typical of this blog. He tends to take a position that will get the most people annoyed, and will therefore stimulate the most comments. ..... It's not a matter of which position is correct, but which stirs up the strongest emotions. Presumably he does this by design, regardless of his personal opinions."

Posted by: Kaputnik | May 28, 2007 at 12:15 PM

HUH.... is that true Mr. Adam (shocked.....) to think I almost called you sheikh !!! :)

Robin Burchett

Have you noticed that all the people who agree with me are unusually inelligent, while those that disagree are frickin idiots?


Working for a large investment bank, I can tell you that computermodels will be the next big thing soon. Currently there are already a lot of automatic systems available(mostly what if the market crashes/booms and I am in the restroom kind), but the number for instant trading ("in a second") is rising. That's their niche. Nevertheless the comparison is not fair, since actually humans on the market are much harder to predict than chemical reactions like global warming


Ok, I haven't said a thing about this so far, but seeing as you keep on keeping on, it appears you may just be both smart AND interested enough to take the following on board.

FACT: Warming has been, and currently is, occurring on all other planets of our solar system, including Pluto (I extend it planetary status for this argument ;) In some case the local environmental effects are measured in 10's, some even in 100's% of percent change in the last few decades. This is from data that was collected BEFORE anyone was interested in proving, supporting or destroying a man-made global warming agenda one way or another. This data was mainly collected and published by NASA, in a non-earth global warming context. It's there for anyone to access and interpret.

Question to a thinking person: Apart from natural fluctuations that might be experienced by the Earth's climate over time (Ice ages and non-ice ages come to mind), IF a **significant** portion of the current warming is caused by man, then you need to also be able to explain away the current warming of ALL other planets. You can't have the sun be responsible for most of it everywhere except Earth.

History will look back on this time as a Luddite driven panic orgy. IMHO, of course.

(Scott, I can provide hard references on request - I just can't stand to have the unwashed masses grapple with things they can't understand, like, they live in a Universe, not just a village called Earth).

It's all in the frame of reference...

("Frame of what?")



Too many variables. No real- world model can never really be accurate. And the non-linearity introduced by many variables imply that it is IMPOSSIBLE to ever generate an accurate model. We can only have approximations, and worse, only special-case scenarios.

Weather predictions, stock predictions, human behaviour predictions, etc can only be carried under special conditions, assuming a lot of variables, and ignoring many others.

When it comes to predictions, you never know how much impact a seemingly small variable could have. You just research and hope that you can uncover and measure all the major variables.

When it comes to the global warming debate, scientists will always try giving a certain set of variables more importance, depending on their funding and personal convictions. But the point is that if either side is wrong, which will cause us more damage?

Lets assume global warming is due to humans and we ignore it, and it ends up destroying the ecology and the lives of billions. Now lets assume that we do something about it, and everything is better off at the cost of industrial development. Which is a better alternative?
If global warming has nothing to do with humans and we do nothing about it, its a perfect situation. But if we sacrifice development for a lost cause which anyway is going to ruin the entire ecology and the lives of billions worldwide, its an odd situation.

This is a question which a game theorist and economist should be answering? Take the conditions around us and tell us what the best move should be.

zachary king

I can only recommend as others have before me that you take a look at the Stern Report.
The importance of the Stern review lies in the fact that it defines the scale of the problem and presents a path of action to prevent the worst of these effects:

"Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t
act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least
5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts
is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.
In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the
worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each

S@ns S@nity

~start rant

I have tried to be quiet on this issue so far... But no more...

There is always shit on both sides of the issue, but one has to be closer to the truth than the other. The people who shout more are generally farther from the truth. Look at the ID/evolution & religion/non religion debate for evidence of that.

I have no problem trying to cut emissions, and towards that I don't own a car, and use public transport to the maximum and cycle for shorter distances. I do it for personal reasons, because cycling keeps me in shape and public transport usually gets you to your destinations faster. People saying "even if its not proven, is there any harm in being environment friendly?" are absolutely right, and we should all attempt to watch how much crap we spew.

But I DO NOT want to pay more senseless taxes to the inefficient govt for the same. All action I see from govts all around the developed and almost developed world is using it as a ruse to levy more taxes, and that is what increases the bullshit factor for the pro AGM group.

It is true that our natural resources are depleting. But remind me again how many of these resources (like gas, jet-fuel, etc etc) are being used to run the War for Oil in Iraq? Someone please provide some estimates of total fuel being actively used, and the amount of fuel it takes to build the vehicles and weaponry used in that senseless war. Even if it is comparatively small compared to total US emissions, would it not be better if we still save them.

If you view the situation from economic perspective, the biggest worry the US government should have is the magnitude of economic depression that might happen on account of spiraling fossil fuel prices. Could the US economy slip into hyper-inflation like seen in countries like Russia and Zimbabwe in the past? Perhaps not! But why are you still increasing the national debt funding a war which will never give you open access to the Oil fields for which you went there in the first place? High national debt is the only thing which could throw the US economy into hyper-inflation if oil prices spiral away.

I wonder if there are any monkeys in the White house like the ones that apparently run the stock market. If there were, we might be seeing some better decisions flowing through on a purely random basis.

~end rant

All said, I am still not sure which side to believe. But lowering thermostats in winter and wearing warm clothes, using less personal transport, and saving electricity are all good things to do and we should try to do them. But don’t expect me to support a bill to increase taxes to fund a "War on potential, not-provable but most likely 2 degree Temperature increase"

Are Riksaasen

I have solved the greenhouse problem. We just increase the oceans albedo (reflective index) by covering them with pingpongballs. Around 100 quadrillion white pingpongballs.


The average temperature has gone up one degrees the last 20 years. The polar ice cap is melting. Yes, I am speaking about the global warming - on Mars.

I find the compact silence about these news confirming that the global warming is not sience - its politics.


Climate change happens. Just look at the past ice, extreme heat lots of oxygen, lots of CO2 we have had them all.

The worrying thing with recent times is the rate of change. What has taken tens of thousands of years in the past has happened in 100. Deny at your peril!

Ashwin R J

I dont see what all the fuss is about scott. Even if all these gases and emissions are not screwing up the planet as it seems to your infinitely brilliant mind, I am sure you would agree that all this smoke and gases are not good for the human body. Now thats something thats got irrefutable proof. Cleaner sources of energy means lesser dependence on the arabs and lower prices for oil which means that countries that would want to fund terrorism would have lesser money to do that, the holy war will have to be limited to those AK-47's and knives instead of WMD's. This would also mean that the lesser the US will have to meddle in the middle east and the lesser the number of american lives lost. And the biggest advantage - we can leave the next generation some of that clean air.

Pradeep Kumar

1. Global Climate change is happening(not necessarily warming).
2. It is detrimental to present.
3. Whether its due to human activity is inconclusive.
4. Whether it has happened in the past is irrelevant.

Identify how to adapt,protect ourselves when drastic climate changes happen and survive it.

Spend more time on above than trying to determine 3 as 1 and 2 are here already.


"I'm a scientist myself and I'd like to point out there are too many theories about global warming and not just too. One of them, and that's the one I prefer, stands on the fact that there is certain kind of warming, but is not even global.

For those interested on this point, "Fear State" (Michael Crichton's 2004 novel) makes a surprisingly good presentation on this subject."

Well I'm going to go right ahead and call bullshit on your being 'a scientist'.

Brad Hutchings

P.S. Dr. Taleb has a web page:

But read his books anyway. If they don't make you stop and think 100 times, you don't have a brain. In fact, the only other book I found in the same realm of challenging my thinking was Atlas Shrugged. Anyone who read that will know what I'm talking about and want to snatch up Taleb's books.


"Garbage in, garbage out. Simple as that."

Really? Well if it's so simple, perhaps you can explain what you are talking about. What exactly is the 'garbage in'? People's observations and measurements of the planet?

Or did you just not think it through?


hello scott. please stop using the bullshit test. it doesn't work so well. for example, i am an ignoramus with no training in biology. i look at my friend billybob and think boy billybob is a marvel of God because he can grill a succulent opossum. hence, billybob has to be intelligently designed.

so it is with you. you have no training in anything and regardless, you formulate your theories based on what you think is bullshit. no it doesnt work that way. the earth is spherical regardless of what you think. it doesnt matter whether you think something is bullshit because you do not have training in that field. so quit it. stick to stupid stuff that is without controversy.


hello scott. please stop using the bullshit test. it doesn't work so well. for example, i am an ignoramus with no training in biology. i look at my friend billybob and think boy billybob is a marvel of God because he can grill a succulent opossum. hence, billybob has to be intelligently designed.

so it is with you. you have no training in anything and regardless, you formulate your theories based on what you think is bullshit. no it doesnt work that way. the earth is spherical regardless of what you think. it doesnt matter whether you think something is bullshit because you do not have training in that field. so quit it. stick to stupid stuff that is without controversy.

Brad Hutchings

Two book recommendations for you Scott, both by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a guy who had a long, successful trading career... "Fooled by Randomness" and his latest, "The Black Swan". The models actually don't work on Wall Street any better than a monkey throwing darts works. Taleb explains why in very accessible prose with lots of understandable examples and drawing on a wide range of literature, from philosophy to biology to physics. Don't buy into this predictive models stuff until you have a really good sense of what the models are trying to do, and then don't buy into them anyway, especially if they do so great with historical data ;-).


"Meteorology mathematical models are chaotic in nature."

Climate is not the same thing as weather. There is no reason to suspect that climate is chaotic


"GIGO + fear = grant money."

Where do people get this idea that scientists do little more than sit around slavering over research grants and would sell *anything*, including the planet, to get one?

We apply for research grants so we can do more and better work - they are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Its not as though we get to spend the money on anything cool - it goes mostly into salaries.


whether or not human activity is the culprit, the speed with which we are working through our distinctly finite resources should be enough to jolt us all into responsible consumption. moderation, reuse and recycle neednt be only because we are warming the planet.

John Elliot

Watching the layman approach science is amusing. First, the layman doesn't have the requisite knowledge to approach the necessary research. So demonstrating to the layman anything that doesn't seem intuitive is an uphill battle, that, at least hypothetically, could take you years to teach all of the underlying requirements before you can satisfy their skepticism. This isn't always the case, because if something seems entirely removed from their reality they may actually accept unintuitive facts. You could be told from k-12 that the speed of light in a vacuum is an impassable constant, and it having no apparent relationship to your life at all, will pass into your head as if I had told you "if everyone was the same, it would be boring." On the other hand you could, day after day, tell people that there is no natural basis for the metaphysical concept of free will that they associate with their religious practices, and they will come up with some reason why that's just bullshit, often framed in some argument oozing with babble that reads like a Star Trek script.

As to the ignorance, this does not deter the layman, for to him knowing nothing about science is like knowing nothing about wine or art. He doesn't know anything nontrivial about them, but he knows what he likes and that is all of the understanding he needs about them. It works for wine and art, so it works for science, too.

The layman picks up any number of 'factoids' from the environment. These factoids are often misunderstandings, oversimplifications, or outright urban legends that are distributed from person to person. When the topic they are related to is broached, the layman responds by parroting the factoid. This is the first sign that you are dealing with a layman: the set of factoid patterns can be quite small, and can even suggest a possible trail of information depending on how perfectly they replicate the factoid. These are the first weapon the layman reaches for when defending himself from unintuitive information.
"Everyone knows you can see the Great Wall from space, man. It's scientific fact."

The second weapon the layman carries is the unreasonable confidence in his own ability in his field. He is probably not as competent in his field as he thinks he is, but that does not deter him from believing that his supposed above-average competence at his job means that he is just so unnaturally bright that he can obtain instantaneous expertise in the topic discussion--often from a few moments of reflection on the subject at hand. If he cannot then the subject is probably bullshit, and can be discounted in its entirety.
A creationist IT drone takes his expertise in configuring a mail server and believes this is a good basis for discounting carbon dating.

A third weapon the layman enlists is political ideology. If the unintuitive results of a study conflicts with policy decisions that are ideologically sound, it's because the science is crap. That AP Stats class is all the expertise you need to debunk the statistical analysis of that study whose synopsis you obtained from CNN that was written by someone that majored in Journalism, because otherwise the results would encourage communism or something.

A fourth weapon the layman enlists is high standardized test scores. They scored perfectly on the math section of the GRE, and even though they didn't complete their postgraduate studies, and though they majored in Gameboy, their mastery of arithmetic and synthetic geometry at a 9th grade level is all of the science education they need to know that scientists are just full of shit.

A fifth weapon the layman enlists is the ad hominem assault. Scientists, even though they probably don't know any because scientists find them uninteresting to interact with do to their unnatural interest in American Idol, are dicks, schmucks, or just as intellectually bankrupt as they are. They are lefties or righties, they obtained all of that extra education because they weren't good at working for a living, they live in some fantasy world detached from reality, or just pick any sort of insult or a priori reason for dismissing them. Maybe they're just stupid. "After all, I worked with a Computer Science Ph.D. and he didn't know what the return value of that function I use everyday did! What an idiot he was!"

There are of course a lot of other defenses that the layman uses to preserve his intuitive understanding of the world. Whenever faced with a possibility that they don't like, or can't understand, they will pull them out and rationalize dismissing people that put all of the work into figuring out how the universe works.

Of course if the layman was being sued, he would put his usual bullshit expertise of the law that he uses in web forums aside and hire an attorney to deal with the obscenely complicated world of law. His WebMD expertise of medicine quickly evaporates when he arrives at the ER and the doctor tells him he has cancer. After he breaks his car, suddenly it dawns upon him that he isn't an expert mechanic after all. Strangely, though, the average layman never seems to find a situation where he retires his honorary degrees in every physical science aside. Even if he's the first person to dismiss critics that don't share his qualifications in his field, if scientist discover anything that is unintuitive or revise any previous theory, it's all bullshit.

Many of the people that have commented here on this subject over the last few days are layman. I think they are also tools, because it's a pointy-hair thing to do to assume superior expertise to experts in a subject you have ten minutes of education in, based upon fallacious nonsense. The experts may be wrong, they may be right, but regardless of the outcome if you assert expertise where you have none, it doesn't matter if you happen to guess correctly; you are a tool.

Go Far With A Car

What most people fail to understand is that unless we as a specie stop having babies, the entire argument about whether we are doomed or not (from global warming) is mute.


75% of the time the weather today is the same as it was yesterday. The weather man, with all his climate models, gets it right 82% of the time. Big deal.


We've been here before:
My Last Effort to Help My Family Get It Bombs....
(from the last time the sky was falling).

from Ghostbusters 2...
MILTON: "I predict that the world will end at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve."
VENKMAN: "This year? That's cutting it a little close, isn't it? I mean, just from a sales point of view, the book just came out, right? So you're not even looking at the paperback release for maybe a year. And it's going to be at least another year after that if the thing has movie-of-the-week or mini-series potential. You would have been better off predicting 1992 or even '94 just to be safe."

... sounds like the new Chicken Little's learned this lesson...

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