December 18, 2009
Who Needs Data?By Randall Hoven
The scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) and the people who funded them did not know how utterly useless the CRU is. All the research done at the CRU made no difference whatsoever to the "science" of global warming. Just ask other scientists and global warming alarmists. Heck, ask CRU.
You think CRU was the only source of raw thermometer data going back 150 years? Nope, there are two others. So who cares if CRU "lost" theirs?
You think CRU did science that showed warming trends? So what? Their conclusions were the same as everyone else's. Phil Jones, head of CRU, said that.
In fact, all that nonsense about thermometers, stations, adjustments, tree rings, ice cores, etc. -- all totally useless. Just look at the polar ice caps: one of them is shrinking. Eugene Robinson, Megan McArdle, and Katie Couric said that.
In fact, we don't need any data whatsoever. If there is even the slightest chance that the world might end if the alarmists are right, then the correct policy is to spend humongous gobs of money from now on. Thomas Friedman said that. According to Mr. Friedman, it doesn't matter at all if the science is "unequivocal"; we need be only 1% sure.
Skeptics, your weapons are useless. The climate alarmists always have something else that trumps whatever evidence you have against their alarmism. They don't even need evidence at all -- just an asserted probability as low as 1% that the world will end if they are right. (It's Pascal's wager for the new age.)
Below is a very brief summary of the conclusions from the climate scientists themselves -- those who believe in man-caused, catastrophic global warming.
One could go on. Remember, these are the things that climate alarmists generally concede. So far, I see only slight warming and sea-level rise, nothing that looks unprecedented for an interglacial period, and nothing that looks unnatural. Everything is totally consistent with a planet that is near an interglacial peak and following cycles of various periods (from one year to 40,000 years) that are "not well understood."
What the alarmists do not mention is that their entire CO2-as-culprit story depends on the concept of "positive feedback." Richard Lindzen, professor of climatology at MIT, explained it.
William Happer, Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics at Princeton University, went further.
In short, if the "positive feedback" hypothesis is false, and "experimental observations" so far say it is, then the case for global warming alarmism completely falls apart.
Do these professors at MIT and Princeton sound like cranks to you? Senator Inhofe (R-OK) found over 650 such "cranks." By the way, these people have "Ph.D." after their names.
But let's get back to Thomas Friedman's formulation -- the formulation in which physical observations become moot. Upon entering Friedman's world, we talk only of costs and probabilities. Not just possibilities, but probabilities. Otherwise, we could invoke the possibility of the planet-eating Flying Spaghetti Monster of atheist fame and justify spending every cent we have to combat it. (Actually, Friedman's calculus is not far from that.)
(Freidman is not the only one to propose his argument. It is used throughout the blogosphere by those who think they can avoid all hard thinking and all hard data with some magical, logical QED that trumps everything.)
The cost of fighting global warming has recently been estimated. As reported in The Washington Post,
The world's GDP in 2008 was about $70 trillion. So 1% to 3% of that is $700 billion to $2.1 trillion. Per year. Let's call it two trillion every year from here out.
To justify an expense of $2 trillion per year to avoid catastrophe, the "expected cost" of catastrophe must be at least $2 trillion per year. The expected cost is the product of the probability of catastrophe and the cost of catastrophe. That is
If we think the probability of catastrophic warming is just 1%, then we would have to assume that the cost of such catastrophic warming would be $200 trillion per year to make our abatement cost worthwhile. That is almost triple the entire world's GDP! How can the cost be more than everything we have or could ever hope to have?
Recall that this probability must include the combined probability that (1) the globe is getting warmer, (2) it is due to man's use of fossil fuels, (3) the warming is catastrophically bad, (4) the only remedy is drastic curtailment of fossil fuel use by man, and (5) all the governments of the world will actually implement such a policy. On top of that, we must include the probability that the remedy must be implemented immediately to be effective. Waiting even another decade or two for more evidence would be too late.
Larrey Anderson put this combined probability at 2.8% using generous assumptions. That's not too far from Friedman's claim of "a lot higher than 1 percent."
If we bump up the probability to a generous 3%, the cost of catastrophe would have to be almost $67 trillion to justify the $2 trillion cost of abatement. That is almost the entire world's GDP. Every year.
How many of you think the cost of catastrophic global warming is wiping out mankind or sending him back to "cannibalism," as Ted Turner claimed?
Even if we give the climate alarmists the benefit of the doubt and call the probability of catastrophe even, or 50-50, then the cost of catastrophic global warming would have to exceed $4 trillion per year, or about 6% of global GDP. Every year.
That is the combined GDP of approximately 145 of the 227 countries in the CIA World Factbook.
Do we really think the costs of catastrophic warming are that high -- the equivalent of completely wiping out two-thirds of the planet, or even the entire planet?
You can formulate the problem as Friedman does. But to get the answer he gets requires extreme assumptions...extreme in the probability of catastrophe and extreme in the cost of catastrophe.
The IPCC's worst-case scenario over the next hundred years is a temperature rise of 4o (7.2o F) and a sea-level rise of 26 to 59 centimeters (10 to 23 inches). Why would that wipe us out?
The average annual temperature in Memphis, Tennessee is 62.3o F. The temperature of Lexington, Kentucky is 54.9o F. That is a bigger difference than the IPCC's worst-case scenario.
Could mankind handle that kind of adaptation -- moving from Memphis to Lexington in the next hundred years?
Thomas Friedman thinks it's worth $2 trillion a year to avoid even the slightest probability of that.
I do agree with the climate alarmists on something: CRU's findings and CRU's e-mails did not affect science.