Sunday, October 18, 2015

Why I'm a "climate change" skeptic

I've been keeping up with science, generally, since I was a kid. I'm an engineer because physics, mathematics and the application of these to making things in the real world is fascinating and fun. (For me, anyway.)

My job involves writing a program used by other engineers to simulate the operation of integrated circuits. The program sets up and solves large systems of differential-algebraic equations. The equations come from the topology of the network of connections and from modeling the physics of the devices involved (transistors, resistors, capacitors, etc). If we get the physics or mathematics wrong, the chips in your washing machine, car, camera, cell phone, or Internet router won't work, or die young. Ultimately, the program must match reality or what we do is worse than useless.

With the above as a preamble, it appears to me that the "climate change" crowd is off in the ozone.
  • They're still arguing about the data. The surface temperature data appear suspect (especially after being "adjusted"). Data from satellites are more reliable (more accurate; avoids "heat island" distortions and arbitrary data adjustments) but doesn't show a warming trend. In fact, researchers have looked at satellite data and noted no global warming for between 16 and 26 years. Using different datasets over a somewhat longer periods there is a slight (under 0.2C/decade) warming trend, but that trend stopped for at least 16 years while CO2 emissions continued apace.
    Remote Sensing Systems troposphere temperature data, Oct 1996 to Sept 2014 
  • Questionable methodology: The University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, among others, made the news with "adjustments" to data, lousy statistical techniques, and concomitant conclusions. It looks like lying with data.
  • The models don't match reality. The models used in various IPCC reports just don't fit reality. If your program's results have no predictive ability, you don't understand the physics. Which introduces the next point...
    John Christy, PhD, University of Alabama, Huntsville 
  • The models' physics are suspect: Looking at the above, it does seem plausible that the models are off -- way off. Freeman Dyson, heir to the "smartest man in the room" title in the physics world after the death of Albert Einstein, famously called out climate models as being full of "fudge factors." Phenomenological and empirical models can be useful, but Dyson's mention of fudge factors points out their lack of understanding of the basic mechanisms. The list of poorly understood effects (as regards their contribution to warming) is long, and most of these effects are not included in the models: sunspot cycles, ocean oscillations, ocean currents, Milankovich cycles, even El Nino. One thing that is well understood is carbon dioxide's contribution, but that is under 40% of the model's overall response.
  • Proposed solutions ignore the obvious: The "solutions" to global warming all seem to involve the developed world impoverishing itself to reduce carbon emissions. The 80% reduction goal for the USA would have us roll back our carbon emissions to levels not seen since around 1905, which could take trillions of dollars to accomplish. What will this do to global CO2 levels? Essentially nothing. The reality is the United States can't unilaterally make much change in global CO2. China and India are the number 1  and 3 emitters now, and they're just getting started. They have billions of people, many of whom would very much like to just have heat and electricity. The only "solution" that would work to affect global CO2 levels would be a mass extinction of humans. Personally, I object to that as a solution.
Back in 2007, the IPCC Working Group 1 published this gem“The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” As I mentioned earlier, this is quite close to what I do for a living, and is absolutely true. The initial conditions of such a system wildly change the solution. Factor in the possibly major contributions of poorly modeled effects and missing effects, and it's little wonder that there is no predictive ability in the models.

And as a parting shot, from one of my favorite economists, Thomas Sowell:
Would you bet your paycheck on a weather forecast for tomorrow? If not, then why should this country bet billions on global warming predictions that have even less foundation?
Why, indeed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A modest environmental proposal

Recently the Obama administration pronounced conjecture as settled science in stating that climate change is causing massive health problems, even though there have been other reports citing studies to the contrary. I'm not buying it. "Climate change" advocates are too shrill, too fact-light and not effective in explaining things like why their models are off, why there's been a much-reported 17+ year pause in warming even though CO2 continues to rise, why the seas have only risen millimeters when they promised that Miami would be swimming before 2000...

Their predictions are consistently wrong. Why should they be trusted? This is just a bunch of government-backed bullies who are willing to twist facts around to get their way, whatever the collateral damage. They'll keep changing the story as pieces of their yarn unravel.

I read a blogger whose mantra about climate change is, paraphrased, "I'll believe it's a crisis when the elites start treating it as a crisis." Normally this is mentioned after Gore or DiCaprio take multiple private jet trips, or the Obamas take two or three government jets, on a boondoggle across the globe. Call it their "carbon bootprint." Obviously the "elites" don't care about their own carbon output.

But these are the people are proposing national climate policy, who supposedly care. They are trying to commit the US to massive efforts and trillions of dollars to combat "climate change." Recent recommendations are to cut US emissions by 80% by 2050, which would roll back our CO2 output to levels not seen since 1905. Even if this were possible, it would impoverish us. The very rich would still be comfortable, but the rest would be freezing in the dark. And that's here in the USA.

Elsewhere on the planet there are billions of people who just want to be warm and have some electricity, running clean water, maybe a nicer place to live, and perhaps eventually a car. China is now the world's largest emitter of CO2, and they've barely started to develop a middle class. India is the third largest emitter, a bit behind China but still progressing toward becoming middle class.

The USA cannot unilaterally reduce the trajectory of atmospheric carbon. We could drop emissions to zero and it would barely change the rate of accumulation of atmospheric CO2. (BTW, I do not think rising CO2 is a disaster. The earth has for most of its history had much higher CO2 than now.)

However, for those who claim to be serious about the "problem," this is the crux: too many humans striving to improve their lives. Even 19th century living conditions for billions of people may produce too much for the anti-carbonistas: China has become the number one CO2 source while much of their population just burns a few lumps of coal for warmth. China will not stop economic progress -- they will do as they have done: make placating noises while developing their economy.

The solution is obvious: a mass extinction event for humans. A few nuclear bombs sent to China and India would probably "save the planet," if anthropogenic global warming is in fact anthropogenic. The USA should be on the hit list as well, since it's still number 2 on the list of CO2 contributors, although I think India will probably pass the USA eventually.

I'm not advocating this. I think the whole "climate change" thing is way overblown and the science is being manipulated. But until the elites propose a solution that would actually "work" rather than a series of half-steps that will beggar the Western world, I cannot believe they are serious.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Internet, net neutrality, regulation and business

I, among many, watched the Internet grow up, or at least portions of it.

In the '80s, when I was first exposed to it, it was mostly ARPAnet. Institutions had to apply to get on it, and to be approved you had to be somehow involved in research benefiting ARPA, the Advanced Research Project Agency (renamed after DARPA dropped 'Defense'). Overnight email was common, and you never quite knew whether an '@' address was going to work, or if you had to revert to a '!' path routing. The web was being thought about, but Gopher protocol worked. Anonymous FTP was allowed and popular for file (and, eventually, virus) dissemination. USENET was the information exchange method getting the most use, and it had some very good science and technology discussion groups and a whole bunch of "flame wars."

In the '90s, rules for hooking up to the nascent Internet were liberalized. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) popped up everywhere. Any geek with a rack of modems and a little business sense could open an ISP shop. The telephone company thought this was great, initially. They couldn't install new phone lines to ISPs fast enough. Nationwide ISPs appeared: America OnLine, Compuserve, Netzero... USENET became clogged with idiots, most of whom seemed to be interested in ASCII-encoded binary porn downloads. (Serious articles were written at the time about how the porn industry is always leading-edge in adoption of new technologies: video tape, DVDs, then the Internet. Ugh.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why I support the FairTax

I hope you've heard about the FairTax. Here I attempt to explain why I think it's a credibly positive piece of legislation.

I'm sure we can all agree that the US tax code is a disaster. With all the negative publicity the IRS generates for itself, compounded this year by confusion added by the Affordable Care Act (e.g. Obamacare penalties), it's about time to try something totally different. And I mean different in a very good way.

What is the FairTax?

The FairTax is a national sales tax. It's initially proposed to be revenue-neutral at 23%. That's pretty big. It sounds bigger if you note that, to be comparable to quoted income tax rates, 23% is a 'tax included' rate, meaning that if you paid a total of $100 at the register, $23 was tax. Thinking about it like a state sales tax, though, the rate would be 30%: If you buy a $77 item, the tax again is $23 for a total of $100, and 23/77 is 30%. Either way, same large-sounding tax.

The FairTax isn't all that big when you consider what it does: It replaces all federal personal, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, self-employment, and corporate taxes. If you have a job, your paycheck increases because none of these federal taxes are taken out.