The shape of things to come; Snailbats, HALsays, Scarems, LewPapers and DickPols.
Environmental alarmism is by now a well established phenomenon with nearly a four decade long history. In that time, we’ve been on the receiving end of doomsday predictions as diverse as holes in the ozone layer, overpopulation, resource wars, acid rain, a new ice age and the most successful one of all, global warming.
Since there has been no upward change of global temperatures in over the last decade and a half, that scare had become embarrassingly untenable. In response, the alarmists switched from screaming about global warming to hyperventilating about climate change. That was an explicit admission that their specific prediction of a looming thermogeddon was wrong, which is why skeptics should never use the term climate change but keep on sticking it to them with reminders about the global warming us humans were supposed to be causing, which never actually materialised.
The advantage about the rebranding away from a specific threat to a vague umbrella term, was that there are potentially a myriad of things which could be blamed on climate change, because climate does actually change. If it got colder, fine, that’s climate change in action. If it actually got hotter, that’s climate change as well. Whether it got wetter or drier, either could be attributed to climate change. It’s a wonderfully flexible scare.
For example, the by now famous computer models of the UK Meteorological Office (UKMO) predicted a drought for 2012 that might stretch into 2013. Suddenly hose pipe bans were declared and a lockdown of precious water in reservoirs was initiated at the start of the year. After the wettest summer, autumn and winter for years, with attendant flooding and loss of life, what few gullible people left who had any confidence in the UKMO’s predictive powers, finally decided they were totally incompetent. Seemingly believing everyone is suffering from Alzheimers, the escape clause now being used by the UKMO is to blame climate change for one of the wettest years on record. It’s a win win piece of nomenclature.
The really big advantage of the name change is that not having to prove a specific thing – that the world is heating up - you can cherry pick your proofs of climate change occurring. Any change, real or otherwise, will do.
There appear to be five generic types of bogus proof that man-made climate change is occurring.
The first type is studying some really obscure organism, like for instance the South Pacific Snailbat, that nobody has researched in any detail before and concluding their population is in decline because of man-made climate change. It’ll nearly always be a decline, because nobody is interested in population increases, as it wouldn’t gel with their worldview of us humans always damaging the environment. There’s no real longterm data on the species, though usually some sort of historical proxy is found, which indicates a decline. While the layman might think proxy measurements are reliable, they rarely are. It’s all a matter of interpretation, and in some cases, just cherry picking the right hockey stick shaped example which appears to back up the conjecture being made. For lack of a better name, we’ll call that type of proof a Snailbat. We must save the snailbat.
It’s a very versatile sort of proof. You can do a snailbat on pretty much anything organic, from insects right up to sequoia trees.
The second type of proof is the computer model predicting something untoward is going to happen. It’s nearly impossible to get across to someone who’s never tried their hand at computer modelling, how limited a domain of problems are actually amenable to modelling. I had a go at that a few years back and a link to the piece is below. The critical factors in any model are the physical nature of the problem, how complete your understanding of the problem is and the parameters, otherwise knows as guesses, built into the model.
If you don’t really comprehensively understand the problem, no computer, no matter how powerful, is going to help you solve it. Climate is the result of the interactions between an undefined set of systems, many of which would be technically classified as non-linear complex systems. The mathematical reality is that any type of non-linear complex system cannot be modelled for predictive purposes anyway.
Just to illustrate to you how a lot of very clever, motivated, hard-nosed and financially competent people can walk themselves over a cliff by having blind faith in computer models, consider the case of the hedge fund firm Long-Term Capital Management. They had a couple of Nobel Prize winning economists on board, a battalion of financial analysts and another battalion of software developers. They built a shiny computer model of their own business area and started using it to place their bets on the derivatives market. They bet heavy too, confident in how good their models’ predictions were. There was no way they could lose money.
The models were wrong. In less than five years, they went from an enterprise with assets of 130 billion USD and a trading position of 1.25 trillion USD, to going broke. It was so big a disaster, that there were genuine fears it might bring down the whole of the derivatives market, which forced a 4 billion USD bailout by the industry itself. A lot of supposedly very smart people lost a lot of money, because of that insidious idea that if a computer predicts something is going to happen, then it must surely be going to happen.
While no reasonable person would believe anyone can foretell the future for decades ahead, it always amazes me how readily they accept that a silicone chip contraption somehow can. If we don’t know how to predict the future, we can’t program a computer to predict the future. Forget computers, forget science, forget math, it’s actually as simple as that.
Computers can’t predict the future.
If you’re a fan of the director Stanley Kubrick’s work, you’ve probably seen his movie 2001 a space odyssey. Although there are other themes in it, one of them is a supercomputer called HAL predicting things which actually didn’t happen. The crewmen believed HAL and suffered the consequences. Put too much uncritical faith in computer predictions and you’ll inevitably end up pleading with HAL to open the pod bay doors. Just tell the suckers that HAL says we’re heading for an eco-disaster, and they’ll believe it. That variety of proof, we’ll call a HALsays.
The third type of proof is what can only be called a Scarem. Whatever extreme weather event comes along, attribute it straight away to climate change and scare the pants off them. It doesn’t matter if there’s not a single shred of scientific evidence to back up that assertion. The legacy MSM can always be relied on to run with an extreme weather event story and all you have to do is volunteer that opinion to them as a climate expert, irrespective of your qualifications, if any. That’s how tropical storm Sandy magically mutated into a Frankenstorm, as far as the ordinary person was concerned. Scare them, scare them again and keep right on scaring them.
Next up would be the dark side of proofs. Global warming must be real because skeptics of it can’t be right. They have to be wrong because you’ve got some sort of proof they’re all either insane, conspiracy nuts or child molesters. They’re even the sort of people who should be executed. In all good taste and as a tender mercy to you good reader, I won’t dwell too long on this bottom feeding type of so-called science paper, except to lump them all into the general category of LewPapers, as a hat tip to one of their pioneers. Climate science has truly fallen before the onslaught of its own internal post-normal Visigoths. They own its ass.
Finally we have weird sorts of Tammany Hall polls masquerading as a proof. There are simply too many ways of rigging polls or post-processing the numbers to yield the desired result, and every one of those techniques is actively used. The whole thrust of them is to give the impression that the threat is real and people are really weally worried about it. By and large, they’re ignored. In a previous article, I compared them to those elections dictators periodically have, which always come out with a 99% vote in their favour. I suppose the apposite name for this stripe of beastie is a DicPol or perhaps more appropriately a DickPol, when you look at the sort of people behind them.
All of these proofs can be used in various combinations. Just mix and match as required and cook to taste but always take with a pinch of salt. For instance, based on a previous study of them, a new computer model predicts the endangered Snailbat will become extinct in less than a decade unless something is done to mitigate the impact of climate change on them. Of course, when you write it up for your paper, add in a lot of ass-covering caveats but you know the media will skip them all when your sensational research hits the front page. Sure, you’re going to have a squabble with the skeptics but that’ll all happen in the aftermath of the desired headlines and never be reported on anyway.
You follow it up with a DickPol showing how outraged people are at the desperate plight of the poor suffering snailbat and demanding action. The finishing touch would be to get Greenpeace to launch a Save the Snailbat campaign.
If that little lot doesn’t get you more research funding, nothing will.
The Snailbat, HALsays and Scarem proofs rely on the very understandable but very erroneous human perception that the environment not only shouldn’t change, but also something strange is happening if it is. Too much of environmental thinking on all sides is unconsciously based on something I called the steady-state environment delusion in a previous piece. There’s a link to it below, but the following paragraph from it summarises the essence of the idea.
We look at our world and the universe with human eyes and more importantly, with a human lifespan. In terms of the latter, we see an apparently ageless and unchanging view but it’s a false impression. When looked at through the eyes of “deep” time, it is dynamic, violent and forever changing. There is no ideal static harmonious state which must be maintained. There never was and there never will be either.
The reality is that the Earth’s climate, like the entire universe, has always, is, and will always change. The fundamentally dishonest thing about all these proofs, is the insistence that we’re the cause behind any change.
Any real scientific basis for the theory of man-made catastrophic global warming has by this stage been thoroughly shredded. What we’ve got coming at us in the future are; Snailbats, HALsays, Scarems, LewPapers and DickPols, because that’s all they’ve got left to use. Enjoy yourself sorting them into the appropriate categories as they come along.
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