Sunday, June 04, 2017

Swift Would Have Understood

When I was a kid and read Gulliver's Travels, there was a part where the Lilliputians tailor a suit for Gulliver by measuring his thumb and multiplying by various amounts to figure out all the dimensions. At the time, I thought "Brilliant"! Later, it was obvious that Swift was making a joke--one which was lost (well, I had an inkling at the time) on my 12-year old self. Nowadays, adults take this kind of logic seriously. Really!

Take the central dogma of climate change: Man is increasing CO2 levels->Increased temperature->Specific (always detrimental) changes in climate->The One-And-Only Solution->Make tiny decreases in the rate at which we increase our CO2 output*. The base stealing goes on in the latter claims: The first couple of things are certain (one can quibble about the degree) but the final bits range from speculative to almost certainly untrue. We can use the scientific method to measure CO2 and temperature changes. Models about what changes in temperature would do to climate are theoretically possible, but I would not put any faith in them until they have established a track-record of predictive accuracy. A prescription for a course to take, falls almost completely outside of Science. There is an infinite set of possible solutions, the application of science and engineering can be used to evaluate their merrits, but one will notice that none of this has happened! It (reducing CO2 emissions) was landed on as if it was the one and only possible solution.

*Really! The vaunted Paris Accords call for cuts in the output of industrialized nations, while 3rd world countries actually increase their CO2 output. Even if every country made a massive cut of 50%, we would still be adding to the total amount in the atmosphere! If there is already too much there, how is adding more any kind of solution?

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