Thursday, February 14, 2008

Somebody's calling my name?

What's that, Brad? You say you want me to write a long post that contains scientific knowledge to show how incredibly ill-informed Megan is about climate change? Wow, I'd think that that's a little dry for your tastes, but ok.

Outside the Box:

A post in which Megan thinks outside the box... of good ideas!!!!

Will Wilkinson wants to know whether climate change worriers are as interested in abatement as they are in prevention:

Also… from Warren Meyer I see this: “[Some climate scientists] claim now that man-made sulfate aerosols and black carbon are cooling the earth, and when some day these pollutants are reduced, we will see huge catch-up warming.”

Has anyone in the Pigou Club advanced the argument for subsidizing sulfate aerosols and black carbon (and whatever else has cooling effects)?
That's a good question;

We stop here, at a place where there should be a period. Great, now there is yet another person on my mental list of people who should never ever ever ever ever open their mouths about science ever ever ever again.

No, that is NOT AT ALL a good question. That is a retarded question. That is a question so startling in its basis in a complete lack of scientific literacy that I'm amazed the physical laws like gravity haven't stopped applying to the positer in disgust. The reason this is a retarded idea..... CHAOS!

Yes, that's right boys and girls, we're gonna talk with our old friend Jeff Goldbloom about why you don't go FUCKING AROUND IN RANDOM WAYS WITH COMPLEX SYSTEMS THAT GOVERN WHETHER OR NOT WE LIVE OR DIE!!!!!!!!

You see, there's a reason the rhetoric has shifted from "global warming" to "climate change." Climates are complex, intricately interwoven things. You cannot change one variable and expect predictable results. Hell, you can't even hold all variables constant and expect predictable results. Screwing around with the make up of the atmosphere is a bit like introducing the cane toad to Australia. Yea, it might solve that problem you have with the slugs, or, it might just fuck over your entire continent and make for a hilarious episode of The Simpsons.

Have you ever played that game when you stick a bunch of toothpicks through a glass tube, place a bunch of marbles in the tube, and then take turns pulling out the toothpicks until all the marbles come crashing down? It's a bit like that. There's a bazillion variables in our atmosphere having to do with concentration of various chemicals and particles at various locations and all are affected by a gazillion different absorption and emission processes that are so mind-fuckingly complex that to even begin to imagine which toothpick, or set of toothpicks, is the crucial one is pretty freaking impossible. The best solution is not to start putting toothpicks in and pulling them out willy nilly, unless you like picking up marbles. The best solution is to LEAVE THE FUCKING TOOTHPICKS THE GODDAMN HELL ALONE.

<deep breath>
there's no reason that global warming has to be fixed through conservation,
Yes, Megan, there is a damn good reason to fix it through conservation because there's not other way to fix it, for the reasons stated above. We have to either stop producing CO2 or stop letting it get into the atmosphere.
in part the focus on conservation has a lot to do with what the environmentalists would say is a broader worry about outstripping the planet's sustainable carrying strategy,
Here's where we get to the fun and scary part. I actually don't care too much about anthropogenic climate change (anthropogenic = made by people) because there's a much bigger, more certain problem staring us right in the face. Simply put; we KNOW there is a limited amount of oil, coal, and natural gas. Unless we find other means of producing energy and soon, we're going to see some scary shit. How soon is a matter of debate, but it's frightening how narrow the debate is. I've read estimates from nowish to 50 years, neither of which is a time frame I think we can really develop and deploy an entire new technology that will allow us to sustain our whomping appetite for energy. But I digress....
[climate change critics may be motivated by] what their critics would call an aesthetic fixation on a low-consumption lifestyle. Me, I think it's probably a little bit from column A, a little bit from Column B. But either way, using AGW as a stealth way to advance your other agendas is a little bit disingenuous.
Again she calls it AGW, which stands for anthropomorphic global warming. Have you seen The Day After Tomorrow? Yes, scientists don't really believe that Dennis Quaid (or whoever) is going to save his son and his love interest from a cataclysmic storm that happens in like two weeks without warning, but they do believe that global cooling is as likely as global warming. Again, it's because of chaos. That's why we say CLIMATE CHANGE.

I also love how she throws in a little bit of psychoanalysis here. Of course conservationists just have a secret desire to make us all live in straw huts. Haven't you read Liberal Facism? No, they're not worried about anything trivial like the collapse of modern civilization. They just hate big screen TVs cause they're so frivolous. (The TVs, not the conservationists.)
As to the particulars of Will's question, however, I certainly hope no one's arguing in favor of subsidies for suflate aerosol emission, since we just implemented a massive emissions trading program to remove the damn things from the atmosphere. Sulfate aerosols are what cause acid rain.
Yes, we all have our hopes. I, for one, hope that no academic ever gave you anthing higher than a Z---- in first year chemistry because you're ignorance of it is more prominent than Gorbachev's birthmark.

Sulfate is an ion, McMoron. You can't just put an ion in solution by itself. It has to be present with a counter-ion in order to make the charge balance. The pH (measure of acidity) of any solution containing sulfate is going to be determined just as much by the counter-ion as it is by the sulfate. Put in sodium sulfate, Na2SO4, and you'll actually get a basic solution. Put in hydrogen sulfate, H2SO4, and you'll get an acid. Put in the proper mixture of the two and you'll get neutral pH. This is not difficult to obtain.

For the record, this is actually the second time she has made this exact same mistake. Seriously, what high school allowed her a diploma? Has she even heard of an atom?

Okie, I'm done. I brought up a lot so if people want to discuss things knock yourselves out in the comments section. you may have gathered that I have a lot to say on this subject.


Clever Pseudonym said...

Wow. Good post. Lots of information. Thanks.

"Haven't you read Liberal Facism?"

Teeheehee. No she hasn't, but that won't stop her from writing a 4,000 word essay on it anyway. Then again, as you've just demonstrated, she's pretty good at writing on volumous amounts of subjects that she doesn't understand.

Sonic Charmer said...


Let me see if I understand: your case against what Megan kinda-sorta suggested is based on the fact that the atmosphere is a "COMPLEX SYSTEM" and therefore we can't possibly know how doing X will affect it for any X. Like you say,

"There's a bazillion variables in our atmosphere having to do with concentration of various chemicals and particles at various locations and all are affected by a gazillion different absorption and emission processes that are so mind-fuckingly complex that to even begin to imagine which toothpick, or set of toothpicks, is the crucial one is pretty freaking impossible."

That's a fascinating argument. It may even be correct. I wonder how consistently you believe in it however.

In effect, whether or not you realize it you are asserting that the atmosphere simply cannot be modelled.

So then why do you and so many other people believe that GW or 'climate change' or whatever you want to call it is in our future? I mean, the only reason people believe this is that atmospheric scientists have built.... models of the oceano-atmospheric system, and that's what the models say.

If your post here is to be believed then those scientists are not. If any scientist comes up to me and claims that he has a model demonstrating that a secular increase in CO2 will necessarily lead to a feedback effect causing a global mean temperature increase of whatever-degrees, all I have to do now is to quote you:

"There's a bazillion variables in our atmosphere having to do with concentration of various chemicals and particles at various locations and all are affected by a gazillion different absorption and emission processes that are so mind-fuckingly complex that to even begin to imagine which toothpick, or set of toothpicks, is the crucial one is pretty freaking impossible."

So good job in destroying Megan's argument. I guess you're right that we shouldn't try to cool the atmosphere. After all, we have no good reason - according to your logic - to believe in any sort of predictable 'climate change' in the first place, so why bother doing anything? Thanks,

NutellaonToast said...

Yes, Sonic, I was actually hoping someone would bring that point up. This is the exact reason that I remain skeptical of global warming. I, however, see conservation as completely necessary due to resource limitation. It just so happens that those two problems have essentially identical solutions. (Although not necessarily as carbon trapping is somewhat feasible).

I can give you the counter arguments that climate change scientists would give, if you like, but it'd be a bit less hearted. Their main points would be that CO2 is a global problem whereas sulfate introduction would be done locally. While you might theoretically be able to maintain a constant global average temperature, climates are as much about consistent local variations which would be altered by such a method.

Again, my heart's not really in it because I'm a climate change skeptic in that I have a hard time believing that the atmosphere can be modeled at all, just as you said.

The larger point still stands. If you assume the CO2 destabilizes, this does not mean that a counter measure would restore equilibrium, which is the flaw in Megan's logic. In fact, chaos theory itself would say that if there is any effect, it's more likely to be a further destabilization.

You see, I was arguing against someone who believes in CO2 as a driving force for climate change. If you make that assumption, you can't make the assumption that just throwing some reflective crap into the atmo is going to fix it. That's not how chaotic systems work.

You do realize my work here is not to state my own beliefs, but to point out the failure of Megan to be logically consistent or know what the hell she's talking about, right?

brad said...

Dear Sonic Charmer,

I don't like meta.
I know you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but it had to be said.


Sonic Charmer said...

What "two problems"? There's (1) resource limitation that you worry about and (2) ????. Is (2) = climate change? But again, by your statements here the atmosphere cannot be modeled so there's no reason to believe any model predictions of the climate whatsoever.

I don't understand how human-emitted CO2 is a 'global problem' in a way that humans emitting (some other thing designed to cool) would not be. In both cases humans emit the stuff, from places that humans are. We would presumably not emit the sulfate from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, true, but neither are we emitting large amounts of CO2 from there. So why is CO2 'global', or if it is, why couldn't (some other thing) be?

"If you assume the CO2 destabilizes, this does not mean that a counter measure would restore equilibrium, which is the flaw in Megan's logic."

Ah. Okay, well this makes sense. But then by the same token it's not even worth reducing our CO2 output in an effort to cool, because that, too, is a countermeasure to the historical CO2 increase and (like you say) it would be folly to think that the system would respond in such a simple way by going back to a cooler mean. There will be hysteresis effects, etc. Right?

I guess if you're indeed deep down a climate change skeptic then ok. I got the wrong impression because in your actual argument you speak as if the climate change claims are true. For example, "We have to either stop producing CO2 or stop letting it get into the atmosphere." Why exactly? Whether we 'produce CO2' and/or 'let it get into the atmosphere' has nothing to do with conservation.

I understand that your goal is to point out the flaws in Megan's argument, I'm just pointing out that your approach undermines the logic of trying to address the global 'climate' in the first place. If you're ok with that I'm ok with that.

NutellaonToast said...

Oh gosh, I certainly hope no one is looking to me and Megan for guidance on the climate change debate. If I were looking to influence that I'd start from scratch and not from Megan's feeble standpoint.

Anyway, your points:

CO2 is global because it is a gas and is easily diffused global. Sulfates would exist as aerosols (suspended liquid or solids) and thus would not diffuse as thoroughly. In fact, they'd behave differently in many ways. Furthermore, they'd also return to the surface at some point having possible ecological effects.

You're also right about the hysteresis bit. I hadn't though about the fact that I was treating the introduction of CO2 as a reversible process (please, oh please don't ask me for the definition of reversible process.) which, of course, you cannot. One could then possibly extend the argument of the skeptic to say that chaos dictates simply that we stop putting gases into the atmo and don't worry about we've already put there. However, whether or not this means keeping CO2 levels at their current state or ceasing to emit them altogether is open to interpretation. As I said, I'm a skeptic but since I don't view it relevant vis-a-vis the problem of resource scarcity, I just don't spend a lot of time thinking about climate change, let alone the minutiae.

As for the two problems, I thought it obvious I meant climate change and resource scarcity. I don't see why I can't call them both problems when I'm skeptical about one.

I make passing mention, though don't make it clear, that there is the possibility of consuming carbon without emitting CO2 so the two "problems" don't necessarily have identical solutions. It's just that the two most prominent solutions are identical.

So are you honestly interested in this stuff or just trolling?

Sonic Charmer said...

I've never been to clear on what "trolling" is. From what I can glean, some people - including some on this blog (not nec. you) - implicitly define "trolling" as "making comments on a blog that aren't 100% in agreement or laudatory". In that sense I'm "trolling" I suppose. I'm also genuinely interested in the GW debate, and in particular claims (and fantasies) about climate models, having worked on them a bit myself in a previous life.

Thanks for answering me on CO2/global. I understand what you mean now although it's still unclear to me why a (suitable, i.e. surely not sulfates or whatever) 'local' cooling agent couldn't be part of a solution to GW - to people who believed GW existed and was a problem of course. I do believe this was Megan's point BTW.

See, the sleight of hand in your rebuttal to her is that it relies on an argument that a GW believer could never actually accept (without self-contradiction). If you really want to take the Jeff Goldblum "we can never predict"/"chaos" line on the climate there may be some merit to that, but Megan was specifically speaking about people who by definition believe in climate models so I guess that's why ultimately I think you missed the mark. Of people who believe the climate can be modeled it is surely fair to wonder why they don't seek cooling agents, and 'the climate is so complex!' is not a good explanation for why they don't. Even if it explains why you don't.

One last minor gripe I have is the bit where you say that perhaps chaos dictates we "stop putting gases into the atmo". Surely we can't "stop" putting gases into the atmosphere (living human beings create gases..), even if we wanted to, and even if you had an argument for why this was necessary, which you don't (and, being a climate-change skeptic, wouldn't seek one, right?). I would say the real takeaway lesson, if one buys your ideas about the role of chaos and the unmodelability of climate, is that there is no problem in the first place because the climate is always changing, it is supposed to change, change is its natural state. The 'climate change' worriers are implicitly assuming that there is such a thing as equilibrium in climate and then they wring their hands over deviations from that equilibrium, etc.

If I buy your line that the climate is chaotic and for all practical intents unmodelable on the scales people are talking about (and I'm not sure I don't), there is of course no such equilibrium and never has been. Yet somehow, humans have survived. So it is not worth worrying about; 'climate change' is redundant. Climate changes, that's what it does. Right?

NutellaonToast said...

yes, I agree with you largely about your points on equilibrium. you could argue though that we're at least a metastable state and introducing massive amounts of CO2 will disturb that state. The comparison of respiration to burning of greenhouse gases is completely off, though, as obviously the latter is orders of magnitude more important to global CO2 concentrations.

I think the key to the problem of combating warming with cooling agents is that the climate is a complex system in that it depends highly not only on how much energy is absorbed, but where it is absorbed and how. That is why you can't just say "sulfate aerosols will offset CO2 emissions." It's true that if you believe the models, you could believe that modeling could be done to show that aerosol could restore a hypothetical equilibrium or whatever you want to call it. I have read reference to people who've studied the matter and determined that this is not the case, specifically because of the regional aspect of absorption of energy.

As for your last paragraph, this is true, but that doesn't mean climate change isn't catastrophic. there are those that argue the dark ages were caused by climate change. While it's true that we can't mitigate all forms of change, we know that changes cause disruption and thus if we believe there is a change that we can actively avoid (as is the case if you're an AGW advocate) then steps should be taken to avoid that change. We can't fix all problems, but we can fix some (especially the ones that we cause) is basically how that argument works.

I don't think you're a troll. It's hard to define one but I basically see trolls as people who come to sites simply to disagree, and have no interest in actually debating, only in making people look stupid.

And yes, if you've read my comments on MM's blog, I often troll there (though sometimes try to contribute constructively). We all have our guilt pleasures as I've said before :).

Sonic Charmer said...

I realize respiration is a tiny contributor, but you did say "stop", not "reduce". :-)

The hypothetical cooling-agent approach would probably have to involve using models to identify key places (times?) to place the agent, optimal agents to use, etc. It's not obvious why this couldn't be done, couldn't be a fruitful line of pursuit, etc. - again, if one believes modeling is possible at all - and like I said, I believe this was Megan's point.

Re: 'climate change' - Well, if the climate is destined to change in a way that is (1) net-bad, but (2) can be controllably mitigated via a method that (3) survives a true cost-benefit analysis, then of course we should do so. This is true whether or not that coming climate change is "anthropogenic" (which I consider a red herring). But the GW believers have proven none of (1)-(3). They seem to assume (1) follows automatically from 'climate change' (equilibrium = good, so change = bad), and take (3) for granted, and as for (2), they seem to only look for one single mitigation method: reducing the CO2 we emit. As Megan (really Will Wilkinson) wrote, this is interesting. Anyway.

p.s. In commenting, even in those cases where I am trying to make others look stupid, my sense is that I make myself look stupid roughly as often as I succeed in making others look stupid, so if I'm a troll, I'm a pretty bad one :)

NutellaonToast said...

I pretty much agree with you that nothing is proven re: climate change. I'd look more into it and see about the evidence if I thought it were relevant.

That being said, I don't think you can assume that because you know that man made CO2 is bad (because of models or whatever evidence) you also have enough knowledge to mitigate those effects with sulfate aerosols. That is my point in a nutshell.

Let's assume, for arguments sake, that AGW is real and caused by CO2. If we make that assumption right now and it suddenly became universal consensus, that's a few decades of research right there to prove a long held theory. Now, all of a sudden, though we've just proved that double or tripling of CO2 in the atmo causes climate change, we know exactly how to reverse that climate change using a largely unstudied player.

We're also ignoring the larger question; what else are the sulfates going to do. Will we put enough of it to effect the biosphere in other ways?

This is exactly why I brought up the cane toad., Originally introduced to eat slugs that were ravaging Australian cane fields, it turned out to have no interest in the slugs at all. Predators turned out to have no interest in it. An interest did get shown, however, by the toad for just about every other food source on the island. Turns out the toad also had a big interest in screwing like crazy, being a far more prolific mater than any other amphibian on the island.

End of story; Australia is literally drowning in cane toads.

The point of chaos is not yes or no. You can't say "we can't perfect this model so it's worthless." The point is that there is a limit to precision. To use the Jeff Goldbloom example, yeah the water drop fell of different sides of her hand, but both times it fell down and onto her hand. They knew the model well enough to know the water drop wouldn't fly outwards or upwards.

And with regards to the idea that the any climate change is a net bad, that is a VERY safe assumption. Gigantic amounts of our infrastructure is dependent on local climate consistency. Any significant change anywhere that is populated will lead to catastrophic loss of property and/or life. There will also almost certainly be damage to the biosphere as the much more sensitive and much less mobile indigenous animals of any region will be affected.

Climate change = bad is just about guaranteed.

Sonic Charmer said...

I agree that releasing sulfates into the atmosphere probably isn't a good idea. By my reading, so did Megan McArdle. Her post wasn't advocating this, it was more along the lines of wondering: "Would GW believers seek this sort of the solution in the first place?" She thinks they would not (for reasons that don't solely have to do with concerns about 'chaos' and cane toads) and I agree with her.

Of course climate change is a net bad outside of a certain range but this says very little about climate changing within certain tolerable bands that we can adapt to with little pain. Which sort of 'climate change' lies in our immediate/mid-term future is not known to us unless one believes in the output of certain models, which you don't. So we're back to having no good reason whatsoever to believe in (1), properly understood. best

NutellaonToast said...

She says "that's a good question" which to me means she at least lends merit to the possibility when it lack merit completely.

Also, her objection to the use of sulfates is completely wrong and she should know this because she's posted on this exact subject before and been told by numerous commenters how chemistry actually works.

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