Saturday, April 20, 2013

A morality that is "Beyond human life"

I was asked for ideas about encouraging energy companies to work together regarding attacks on their business by those who oppose energy production in the name of saving the world from global warming.  The Sierra Club has campaigns called "Beyond oil", "Beyond natural gas" and beyond coal".  My quick response was as follows.

Most fundamentally, what must be attacked is their morality, which boils down to "beyond human life", meaning what philosopher Ayn Rand called a morality of suffering and death.  It is the nature of humans, as opposed to all other living creatures, to use our faculty of reason to find ways to re-shape the environment to meet our needs instead of adapting ourselves to suit the environment.  Thus, the nature of human life is to discover resources we can use and ways to improve our lives by using them.  It is precisely this approach, recognized by the thinkers of the enlightenment and implemented by the scientists and productive businessmen since the industrial revolution, that has allowed human life to flourish in both quantity and quality beyond all previously imagined levels.

What we are fighting for, but most people do not recognize, is our MORAL right to survive by the means we discover and choose and that standing up for this right is the only way to disarm opponents who try to claim the moral high ground.  If we cede morality all we have left is pragmatic arguments about which form of energy might be better at a point in time.  One of the staunchest defenders of this morality is Alex Epstein, founder of the Center For Industrial Progress, who engaged the Sierra Club in a debate.

It is the strongest philosophical ideas that dominate minds and rule the day.  If people believe they are acting morally they will be prepared to create and endure suffering if the morality demands it.  To offer more powerful ideas we must identify a correct morality, speak about it loudly and consistently and oppose incorrect morality whenever possible.  A morality of life, of reason, of rational self-interest, of productivity is needed.

Companies that supply energy are acting morally to provide life-giving energy to people who need it to maintain and improve their lives.  We need to recognize them for their productive virtues, thank them for improving life, support them by speaking publicly of their value to society and educate them to speak out about their moral validity.  If they join together to speak with a louder and more consistent voice then success is more likely.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Climate change science NOT updated in April 2013 Ottawa Library lecture

On April 18th I attended a lecture titled "Climate Change at a Crossroads: An Update on Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth" by David Rhynas at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Library.  I was disappointed to see that there was almost no science presented, that the science referenced was badly out of date, poorly referenced and explained only superficially.  I will explain with a few examples and references.

The presenter started off with a very apropos quote from Mark Twain: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble.  It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." Since Al Gore and his ilk claim the science is settled and almost no reputable scientist disagrees, his positions would fit into the latter part of Twain's quote, meaning they just ain't so.

Claim 1: CO2 is the predominant greenhouse gas.  This just ain't so because water vapor is the greenhouse gas with the highest concentration.  The concentration of CO2 is presently about 0.00038 and has been rising slowly.  The concentration of water vapor varies with location and weather but is 20 to 120 times higher. Unfortunately, the climate alarmists usually dismiss water vapor since it is not seen as a man-made gas, but research in the last decade has shown a crucial role for water and clouds in regulating the climate cycle - a role that is actually the opposite of what some earlier researchers thought. A recent mathematical discovery indicates that CO2 is actually irrelevant to global temperature since water vapor adjusts in a natural feedback to balance changes in CO2.

Claim 2: Greenhouse gases are pollution.  This is clearly wrong if CO2 is to be labeled as the predominant culprit, since CO2 is essential for all life on Earth and in history life thrives when the concentration of CO2 rises.  CO2 is an essential nutrient for plants and all higher forms of life rely on plants for their existence.  Eliminating CO2 from Earth's atmosphere would kill almost all life forms, humans included.

Claim 3: CO2 causes the Earth's temperature to rise, as indicated by hundreds of thousands of years of ice core data.  While some scientists initially looked at data from the Vostok ice core and saw the rise and fall of temperature and CO2 as one where CO2 causes temperature to change, subsequent analysis with higher resolution of time has identified other possible conclusions. The data below was presented by Gore and in this presentation by Rhynas, as two lines on two graphs.  When you superimpose them, it becomes apparent that temperature change often leads CO2 change.

This lead time is as much as 800 years, so it is plausible that changes in temperature cause ice to melt, glaciers to recede and free up C02 that was trapped in frozen vegetable matter under the ice and in solution in the colder oceans.  This CO2 then is liberated into the atmosphere to feed a new generation of plants and animals.  It could also be that another cause operates to change both temperature and CO2.  There is very convincing solar cycle research to suggest the latter is the most accurate.

Claim 4: Global temperature was stable for hundreds of years and then rose rapidly in the last 150 years.  This is known as Michael Mann's hockey stick graph and has been thoroughly examined and disproven almost since the time it was first published.  Mann not only used incomplete and selective data but used a flawed mathematical model that had to produce the hockey stick effect. 

Mann et al, 1999
Macintyre and McKitrick showed just how flawed Mann's work was when they took Mann's own data and corrected the errors, showing two thousand years of fluctuations with little overall change.  We must not forget that the accuracy of measurement in many of these studies is low, and that the error of measurement may be larger than the stated variations.