September 29, 2003

Global Warming

Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller has well-informed and nuanced views on global warming, and other topics:

"I am terrified of human-activity-generated CO2 causing global warming. I think it is the biggest environmental challenge humanity faces. I think strict conservation is the key, induced by high taxes on carbon emissions. I am not sure that we can see human-caused global warming in the climate data. I am opposed to the Kyoto Treaty."

CO2 shouldn't be causing as much temperature change as we are seeing, at least not unless there are stronger positive-feedback amplifiers in the climate system than I think likely. We could have ten cold years. Then where would we be? In the ****, because there is no doubt that global warming is a big threat, and that the politicians really need to listen to us--if not in this generation, in the next one.


"After 2 1/2 years of painstaking work I've disproved my theory of the [recent, 100,000-year] ice age cycle. But I've disproved their theory too. Which leaves us nowhere."


"Physics is that part of science in which friction plays no role. If friction does play a role, you give it to the engineers."


Posted by DeLong at September 29, 2003 05:45 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Engineering is that part of science in which consumers play no role. If consumers play a role, you wrench it from the engineers and give it to marketing.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on September 29, 2003 08:20 PM

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Where are the quotes from? There was no link provided.

Posted by: Adam Morgan on September 29, 2003 08:26 PM

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And so if friction plays no role, it's a job for economists, but if there's friction, it belongs to businessmen, and if consumers are involved, it belongs to politicians? Is this the law of the inverse correlation between friction and fiction?

Posted by: john c. halasz on September 29, 2003 10:07 PM

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The global climate can ONLY be conceived of by the rational intellect as some sort of a reticulated multi-compartment model--like a person's immune system, an ecosystem food web, a national economy, the international political system, or any other complex system, open or closed, that you can name. In science, every such model could well be unpredictable in principle, for reasons similar to Godel's theorem--and in fact, in the history of science, no complex system (that I know of) has been definitively predicted in experimental repetition. This appears to be related to the Aristotelian-style metaphysics that, as we conceive mathematics, relations can only be computed between two things at a time. (Indeed, further back, additions and multiplications are performed with only two numbers at a time.) Newton thought the case of more than two gravitational interactors was permanently intractable to the human mind--the three-body problem, or n-body problem--and this of course is a simple case with a rather simple equation that is reused for each couplet. For another example, in economics Walrasian general equilibrium is unsolvable, and the Arrow-Debreu proof shows only a sort of topological existence: is this akin to saying that in the global climate, we may expect Earth to have at any one time a set of temperatures? (Which of course we already knew.) Use of computers and automata only obfuscates the main issue (although it's lots of fun, and should be heavily subsidized) while pointing up some other issues: the fact that we may not have the correct mathematical relations, or not enough data, or can't make accurate and timely measurements on the real system for good input and output, or can't run the real system enough times (the climate, again) to test and correct the model.

Meanwhile there are attempts at overall systems characterizations, like general systems or complexity theory, which, like Arrow-Debreu, give no predictive results.

Could we agree to say that the global climate model, like every other complex system model, will NEVER be accurate enough to convince the likes of Dick Cheney, the vested interests, and the market fundamentalists? For they appear to have swallowed the false premise that good science must be hypothetico-deductive, which not even Newton believed, and which has become a kind of diversionary propaganda to gain their policy objectives. (See, for example, the idiotic "junk science" websites, and how that term has pervaded the rightwing thinktanks.)

But of course we can say true things about complex systems, in an inductive manner: 1) If left alone, systems tend to stay in their pre-existing oscillative regimes. 2) Add an exotic species, or an overdose of a native species, and a system will oscillate into new regimes, often violently--even though we can't say precisely how or when, sometimes not even exactly why. And it is PRECISELY TRUE that you don't know exactly what, how or when things are going to happen, before they happen. Item: add enough disease to an immune system, and the person will get sick at some unknown specific moment. Similarly no one supposes he can predict the exact moment of death. Item: add a new top predator to a foodweb, and the system will change, maybe down to the plants. Item: innovate in an economy, and no one pretends she knows what it will do to people's lives. Item: invade a country without international support, and we can only guess at the long-term consequences...

Add more CO2 quickly to the climate and it will increase Earth's heat budget. This WILL change winds and currents; it WILL make some places hotter, colder, wetter, drier; it WILL make storms more violent and the oceans rise--and WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PREDICT IT.

But since systems TEND to remain in their old ways unless so perturbed, the "precautionary principle" is therefore the MOST SCIENTIFIC policy stance.

I think the real questions are: Is there a way to get the laws of inductive reasoning (e.g. John Stuart Mill) into the public mind and to the forefront of scientific policymaking in these areas? And, will scientists ever clearly admit to the fact that some real things will remain unknowable before they occur? (Will this depend on whether we can convince politicians to continue scientific funding nonetheless?)

Posted by: Lee A. on September 29, 2003 11:21 PM

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Physics is that part of engineering in which friction plays no role. If friction does play a role, its no idea to try to take it from the engineers.

Posted by: Mats on September 30, 2003 12:03 AM

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Wasn't there a norwegian, who solved the three body problem, late 1800s?

Posted by: big al on September 30, 2003 03:33 AM

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Viscosity doesn't count as friction? Navier-Stokes equation isn't physics? Then why is "What are the units of viscosity" a classic physics oral exam question?

Posted by: Matt on September 30, 2003 04:16 AM

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>>Viscosity doesn't count as friction?>>
It does, but it seems we are talking about the earth here. Frictional forces are proportional to the length scale squared, inertia forces is proportional to the cube of the lengthscale.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there is any heat diffusion either on these scales.

Posted by: Mats on September 30, 2003 07:35 AM

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Thank you Matt! I can understand the sentiment expressed in the quote Brad gave, but it is a usual case where brevity is inversely proportional to accuracy, and the statement is brief.

I am a "condensed-matter" physicist who could reasonably classify my work as "stuff that happens with friction" (non-equilibrium dynamics that is first order in time, only because of friction). The annual conference I attend in March, a significant portion of which could also be described as stuff that happens with friction, has attendance between 4-5k (I'm pretty sure that's the largest physics conference in the world).

Oops.

Posted by: Ben Vollmayr-Lee on September 30, 2003 07:38 AM

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CO2 shouldn't be causing as much temperature change as we are seeing...

What nonsense. This is what happens when someone goes outside their specialty.

It's well-known in the meteorological community that most of the predicted warming comes not directly from CO2, but rather from an increase of water vapor that the (smaller) CO2 warming induces. It's well known that the scientific question is what happens to the hydrologic cycle in the presence of the CO2 warming--even if water vapor goes up (which means more warming), what happens to the distribution of clouds (which, depending, could produce either more or less warming)?

That this physics professor writes as if there's
some mystery to him ("...than I think likely...")
shows that Brad (who has always appeared otherwise sensible) is occasionally too easily impressed.

Posted by: Matt Newman on September 30, 2003 10:00 AM

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CO2 shouldn't be causing as much temperature change as we are seeing...

What nonsense. This is what happens when someone goes outside their specialty.

It's well-known in the meteorological community that most of the predicted warming comes not directly from CO2, but rather from an increase of water vapor that the (smaller) CO2 warming induces. It's well known that the scientific question is what happens to the hydrologic cycle in the presence of the CO2 warming--even if water vapor goes up (which means more warming), what happens to the distribution of clouds (which, depending, could produce either more or less warming)?

That this physics professor writes as if there's
some mystery to him ("...than I think likely...")
shows that Brad (who has always appeared otherwise sensible) is occasionally too easily impressed.

Posted by: Matt Newman on September 30, 2003 10:05 AM

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CO2 shouldn't be causing as much temperature change as we are seeing...

What nonsense. This is what happens when someone goes outside their specialty.

It's well-known in the meteorological community that most of the predicted warming comes not directly from CO2, but rather from an increase of water vapor that the (smaller) CO2 warming induces. It's well known that the scientific question is what happens to the hydrologic cycle in the presence of the CO2 warming--even if water vapor goes up (which means more warming), what happens to the distribution of clouds (which, depending, could produce either more or less warming)?

That this physics professor writes as if there's
some mystery to him ("...than I think likely...")
shows that Brad (who has always appeared otherwise sensible) is occasionally too easily impressed.

Posted by: Matt Newman on September 30, 2003 10:10 AM

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Love you all. Very clever.

In 1883 A. Lindstedt showed (following a demonstration by Newcomb) that a solution to the three-body problem by an infinite series of purely periodic terms was obtainable; it was shortly later shown (by Poincare) that such a series, not uniformly convergent, may assume arbitrarily large values (chaos); it was shown also (by H. Bruns) that it may fluctuate into divergence. (from Wilson’s chapter on the “three-body problem” in Grattan-Guinness, ed., Companion Encyclopedia of the History and Philosophy of the Mathematical Sciences, Routledge 1994, volume 2, page 1058.)

In 1912 K. Sundman found an infinite series that could in principle be summed to give the solution, but which converges exceptionally slowly. (from one of the lovely little histories of science in the notes--worth the price of the book--to Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science, p. 972.)

I don’t know whether either of these fellows was Norwegian.

There was also a very recent solution claimed (I can’t find the article) but unfortunately involving an infinite algorithm (you might have guessed it)--so it would seem the planets themselves solve it much faster.

And of course a computer’s being hard-wired in Japan to model globular clusters--it’s exciting stuff, and may lead to something great. But again, it’s all the same equation. Try to imagine hardwiring a computer to interrelate the different microclimates of every region on every continent.

With regard to multi-compartment complex models in general: I did not intend to confuse the separate issues of 1) undecidability and computational irreducibility, 2) forming the correct mathematical relations and hypotheses for the real system, and 3) measurement and re-experimentation to verify the model of it. (I want to plead that it was past bedtime.) I suppose that each issue is administered in its own way by statistical science. And each different complex system has difficulties by a different mix of the issues--this has not been well examined. Certainly global climate has most problems with number three--particularly, re-running the experiment.

I would just like to know at what point anybody thinks the science is going to be solid enough to convince Dick Cheney and his awful cronies that they can no longer risk hiding within the politics of ignorance.

I’m not a physicist, but I’m as concerned as Professor Muller. Maybe Saam Barrager at the top is right: global warming policy may be a problem in marketing. The public apppears to be already mostly on board. So the question remains: does it have to be marketed to the scientists, first?

Posted by: Lee A. on September 30, 2003 10:13 AM

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CO2 shouldn't be causing as much temperature change as we are seeing...

What nonsense. This is what happens when someone goes outside their specialty.

It's well-known in the meteorological community that most of the predicted warming comes not directly from CO2, but rather from an increase of water vapor that the (smaller) CO2 warming induces. It's well known that the scientific question is what happens to the hydrologic cycle in the presence of the CO2 warming--even if water vapor goes up (which means more warming), what happens to the distribution of clouds (which, depending, could produce either more or less warming)?

That this physics professor writes as if there's
some mystery to him ("...than I think likely...")
shows that Brad (who has always appeared otherwise sensible) is occasionally too easily impressed.

Posted by: Matt Newman on September 30, 2003 10:15 AM

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"Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller has well-informed and nuanced views on global warming,..."

Leaving aside the question of whether an economics professor is a good judge of what is "well-informed" regarding global warming, let's take a look at Dr. Muller's views:

"I am terrified of human-activity-generated CO2 causing global warming."

THAT'S "well-informed" and "nuanced"?! :-o

I don't think it even reflects very well on a scientist, that he'd make such as statement!

First of all, any scientist who has paid even slight attention to the issue of global warming OUGHT to know:

1) The world has either been warming up or cooling down for as long as the world has existed. Somehow, homosapiens have muddled through. (Y'wanna talk about a real bummer, think "ice age.")

2) One of the first principles of environmental analysis is that "the dose is the poison." If Dr. Muller is "terrified" that human emissions of CO2 might warming result in surface temperatures that average, say 0.2 degrees Celsius higher than they currently are, he's either very keyed into some drastic result from such a small increase in temperature, or he's phobic.

"I think it is the biggest environmental challenge humanity faces."

Worldwide, over 1 million people die every year from drinking contaminated water...but Dr. Muller thinks global warming is the "biggest environmental challenge humanity faces?" How many people does he think die each year from global warming? Or doesn't the number of people who die each year enter into his assessment of an "environmental challenge"?

"I think strict conservation is the key, induced by high taxes on carbon emissions."

Presumably this comes from his being "terrified?" Has Dr. Muller considered joining a support group? ;-) There are groups for virtually every phobia imaginable, I'm sure there's something for globowarmophobics. ;-)

"I am not sure that we can see human-caused global warming in the climate data."

Oy, vey! It just gets worse and worse! :-( Dr. Muller is "terrified" of anthropogenic global warming, and thinks the "key" is "strict conservation...induced by high taxes on carbon emissions." BUT he's not yet sure that we can "see human-caused global warming in the climate data!"

Well, Dr. Muller, considering that levels of all (non-water) greenhouse gases have been equivalent to a 60% increase in CO2 concentrations since the 1880's, it's hard to envision that CO2 concentrations increasing by less than 0.5% per year will be a big deal...at least in the coming century.

"CO2 shouldn't be causing as much temperature change as we are seeing, at least not unless there are stronger positive-feedback amplifiers in the climate system than I think likely."
In fact, the problem with (general circulation) climate models is that they've so far OVER-predicted temperature changes.

"We could have ten cold years. Then where would we be? In the ****, because there is no doubt that global warming is a big threat,..."

Assuming facts not yet in evidence.

"...and that the politicians really need to listen to us--if not in this generation, in the next one."

It would be a shame if politicians listen to Dr. Muller...he doesn't seem to have a clue what he's talking about.

I gotta tell ya', Dr. DeLong: if this is what passes for "well-informed and nuanced" at UC Berkeley, it doesn't speak well for the "science" being practiced at U.C. Berkeley.

Mark Bahner (environmental engineer)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on September 30, 2003 04:10 PM

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Perhaps we should ask Dr. Muller to give his reasons.

I am not an environmental engineer, so I would like to find out the following:

It may have been warming up or cooling down for as long as the world existed, but isn't the issue really the accelerated rate of new forcing, its possible new effects, and the resilience of the rest, given what we have observed in other types of systems, from wetware to software?

The "dose may make the poison," at least in toxicology, but surely that begs the question of when the poison's finally been made. Do you have to get sick to find out, and before you are justified in registering an objection? What level of carbon dioxide is presumed by scientists to be finally dangerous?

Aren't complex systems of all kinds, with new additions, often observed to fluctuate wildly and without warning? Do we have an example of a complex adaptive system in any field of research whose manifestations remain more or less linear, so that continuous increases of an additive at less than 0.5% per time unit, after 120 units' increase of 60%, remains benign?

Should we assume that the increases in reports of global warming effects (broken ice shelfs, wildlife range changes, etc.) are occurring simply because we are now looking for them more?

Are environmental engineers concerned that global warming may end wildlife ecosystems as we have known them, because plants and animals have begun to change their geographic ranges in response to the heat and moisture changes, but wildlife areas have already been reduced in size and fragmented by often impassable human habitat; and wildlife corridors, should they even be built fast enough, are not wide enough to allow some species populations to be big enough to preserve their requisite genetic variety, while yet other species migrate too slowly to stay in the race?

Posted by: Lee A. on September 30, 2003 06:48 PM

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I don't think that Mark Bahner is now, or ever will be, qualified to comment on what is, or is not, well-informed and nuanced.

With no referee and no scorekeeper, the last man standing wins. And that will be Mark.

Posted by: Zizka on September 30, 2003 07:16 PM

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Oh, thank you

Posted by: Lee A. on September 30, 2003 08:48 PM

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Interestingly Zizka's brevity was perfectly accurate vis-a-vis Mark.

Posted by: Stan on October 1, 2003 08:21 AM

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Lee A. writes, "Perhaps we should ask Dr. Muller to give his reasons."

That would probably make more sense than savaging him when he's not around to defend himself. ;-) My bad.

So maybe Dr. DeLong can invite Dr. Muller to explain his views. Specifically, I'd like to know why Dr. Muller is terrified of human-caused global warming, given the fact that human emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases have resulted in the equivalent of a 60% rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, but Dr. Muller thinks that the temperature hasn't even measurably raised due to this situation.

Lee A. also asks me many long questions related to my previous comments. These questions would take answers to properly address. I don't have that kind of time, so I'll do my best in the time I have:

1) "It may have been warming up or cooling down for as long as the world existed, but isn't the issue really the accelerated rate of new forcing..."

Well, we really have a hard time judging how the apparent rate of surface temperature increase of the 20th century relates to previous temperature increases. This is because we only have *direct* temperature measurements for the last ~140 years. (And that record isn't well-distributed around the globe.) Any previous data we have are *indirect* temperature measurements.

As far as "new forcing"...it's true that CO2 levels are as high or higher than at any time MAN has been on earth. But the earth has definitely had much higher CO2 levels than we have today--like 2-5 times as high--during the history of life on earth.

As far as "accelerated rate"...actually the rate of forcing from human-caused greenhouse gases appears to be shrinking, not increasing. This is because methane concentrations appear to be plateauing, and chlorofluorocarbon concentrations are actually going down.

Lee A. asks, "What level of carbon dioxide is presumed by scientists to be finally dangerous?"

I goofed, in that I tried to make an analogy that was probably too subtle. It's essentially impossible for us to ever get to an atmospheric level of CO2 that would be harmful to human beings, because such a level would be over 10,000 ppm (and current levels are only ~370 ppm, increasing by about 1.5 ppm per year).

What I was trying to get to with the "dose makes the poison" comment is that, if the TEMPERATURE increase is small enough, it's not reasonable to think that global warming will be a problem. And conversely, if the temperature increase is large enough, everyone should agree there is a problem.

For example, suppose that the temperature rise in this century is going to be less than 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit...most reasonable people would agree that small a temperature rise wouldn't be a problem. But suppose the temperature rise would be 50 degrees Fahrenheit (that's right...FIFTY degrees). I think everyone would agree that such a rise would be a significant threat to the very survival of the human species. In between those two extremes is where the debate is.

HOWEVER...Dr. Muller has said that he thinks that the temperature rise from human emissions of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) hasn't even been MEASURABLE yet. And since the concentration has increased by what would be the equivalent of a 60% increase in CO2 concentration...and since the concentration is only increasing by 0.5% per year...from Dr. Muller's viewpoint, he should be virtually certain that the temperature increase over the coming century will be somewhere near that 0.5 degree Fahrenheit value that everyone ought to agree won't be a problem.

"Do we have an example of a complex adaptive system in any field of research whose manifestations remain more or less linear, so that continuous increases of an additive at less than 0.5% per time unit, after 120 units' increase of 60%, remains benign?"

Well, yes. The increases in greenhouse gases since the 1880s have been equivalent to approximately a 60% increase in CO2 concentration. And so far, I think the changes can be reasonably characterized as "benign." (There have been some problems, but also some benefits.)

"Should we assume that the increases in reports of global warming effects (broken ice shelfs, wildlife range changes, etc.) are occurring simply because we are now looking for them more?"

Some of the effects we observe are because we're looking more carefully. However, most scientists agree that the earth's surface warmed during the 20th century. Some of that warming was probably due to the sun, and some was probably due to human emissions of greenhouse gases...and some may have been for reasons we don't yet understand. (Note: It's important to remember that Dr. Muller isn't even sure that ANY of the warming of the 20th century can be attributed to human emissions of greenhouse gases.)

"Are environmental engineers concerned that global warming may end wildlife ecosystems as we have known them, because plants and animals have begun to change their geographic ranges in response to the heat and moisture changes, but wildlife areas have already been reduced in size and fragmented by often impassable human habitat;..."

Whoa! That's a very long question, that would require a very long answer...which I simply don't have time for. Issues that your question brings up include: 1) how much temperature rise will we have (if there's no temperature rise, there obviously won't be any temperature-related problems), 2) how many species are reduced very small geographic areas, 3) how many species can't adapt to changes in temperature,...and a bunch more questions I probably haven't even thought of.

But, for example, polar bears are pretty much restricted (in the wild) to the North Pole regions. Further, polar bears apparently need ice flows from which to catch the seals that form a large portion of their diet.

http://www.enn.com/news/wire-stories/2002/05/05212002/reu_47273.asp

So polar bears COULD have a real problem, if there is significant warming in the 21st century. However, that would be true if humans were the cause of the warming, OR if the SUN was the cause of the warming. And if the SUN was the cause of the warming, even humans reducing greenhouse gas emissions to essentially zero...at tremendous cost to humanity...wouldn't help the polar bears.

I'd like to close by repeating something I wrote earlier: we know, for a FACT, that contamination of drinking water (e.g. from human urine and excrement) kills over ONE MILLION people worldwide, every year. That's over 3000 people dying EVERY DAY from bad drinking water. The human race has only so much money, and so much time. If we spend significant amounts of money reducing our emissions of CO2, to try to reduce temperatures to help polar bears, an awful lot of people are going to die from bad water, that could have otherwise been saved.

That's something that THIS environmental engineer is concerned with. Let's make sure that we don't waste precious money and time focusing on relatively small environment problems, at the expense of neglecting very large environmental problems.

Mark Bahner (environmental engineer)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on October 2, 2003 03:40 PM

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Zizka (aka John Jemerson) writes, "I don't think that Mark Bahner is now, or ever will be, qualified to comment on what is, or is not, well-informed and nuanced."

Let's see, Zizka...you have a BA in English, and have taught English as a second language, and have interest and experience in matters related to China.

I have a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering and a Masters in Environmental Engineering, with about 20 years of engineering experience in matters related to energy and the environment (particularly air pollution).

So, Zizka, what in your background and experience qualifies *you* to judge whether *I'm* qualified to judge what is "well-informed and nuanced" on the matter of human-induced global warming?

Posted by: Mark Bahner on October 2, 2003 03:53 PM

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Maybe it WOULD be a good idea to get Dr. Muller in here to explain his alarm! I may have essayed, not only at length, but out of turn... I took the concerns in Dr. DeLong's entry to be from the inductive systems approach, which argues by analogy with the events observed in other complex adaptive systems of many kinds, and warns of catastrophes that are unpredictable in principle--and finds that the cause of them is often an external forcing. Long study of them certainly scares the hell out of me. On the other hand, an engineer must deduce from calculations in his model, and extrapolate only carefully. Conclusions formed in either approach are unlikely to satisfy objections from the other. Some day a new chapter may be written in the history of the philosophy of science which details how these two approaches played out, in the long politics of global warming.

Two minor observations on the engineering side: 1) The ecologists are distraught. Wildlife ecosystems all appear to be on deathwatch for various new reasons, such as lack of population replenishment after local extinctions because fragmentation prevents immigration. Climate change accelerates this derangement, again in various ways. 2) I seriously doubt whether the cost-benefit studies of greenhouse gas reduction are accurate, because businesses are costed without supposing they will develop new products and prosper, while on the benefits side, all sorts of ancillary goods are not tallied--such as savings in medical treatment of lung disease from auto exhaust, and savings in foreign policy from having to ally with, or invade, corrupt oil regimes. (On the cost-benefits question, the systems view is clearly more realistic.) Certainly we should increase government spending on alternative energy research across the board, from solar to fusion, to help get it to market--waiting until these become “economically viable” by private initiative is an absolute scandal, more intellectual confusion about the primacy of the free market, promulgated by the oil companies. And the idea that this must displace spending on clean water for everybody is a similar diversion--although if we have to wait for private companies to find profit in it, WE may end up drinking disease, too.

Posted by: Lee A. on October 2, 2003 09:41 PM

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Maybe it WOULD be a good idea to get Dr. Muller in here to explain his alarm! I may have essayed, not only at length, but out of turn... I took his concerns, if genuine, to be from the inductive systems approach, which argues by analogy with the events observed in other complex adaptive systems of many kinds, and warns of catastrophes that are unpredictable in principle--and finds that the cause of them is often an external forcing. Long study of them certainly scares the hell out of me. On the other hand, an engineer must deduce from calculations in his model, and extrapolate only carefully. Conclusions formed in either approach are unlikely to satisfy objections from the other. Some day a new chapter may be written in the history of the philosophy of science which details how the two approaches played out, in the long politics of global warming.

Two minor observations on the engineering side: 1) The ecologists are distraught. Wildlife ecosystems all appear to on deathwatch for various new reasons, such as lack of population replenishment after local extinctions because fragmentation prevents immigration. Climate change accelerates this derangement, again in various ways. 2) I seriously doubt whether the cost-benefit studies of greenhouse gas reduction are accurate, because businesses are costed without supposing they will develop new products and prosper, while on the benefits side, all sorts of ancillary goods are not tallied--such as savings in medical treatment of lung disease from auto exhaust, and savings in foreign policy from having to ally with, or invade, corrupt oil regimes. (On the cost-benefits question, the systems view is clearly more realistic.) Certainly we should increase government spending on alternative energy research across the board, from solar to fusion, to help get it to market--waiting until these become “economically viable” by private initiative is an absolute scandal, more intellectual confusion about the primacy of the free market, promulgated by the oil companies. And the idea that this must displace spending on clean water for everybody is a similar diversion--although if we have to wait for private companies to find profit in it, WE may end up drinking disease, too.

Posted by: Lee A. on October 2, 2003 09:45 PM

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Posted by: big dick on November 11, 2003 01:32 PM

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If you save the world too often, it begins to expect it.

Posted by: Robinson Michael on December 20, 2003 05:32 PM

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