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Now is the Winter of Our Disconnect
“The very idea that science best expresses its authority through consensus statements is at odds with a vibrant scientific enterprise. Consensus is for textbooks; real science depends for its progress on continual challenges to the current state of always-imperfect knowledge. Science would provide better value to politics if it articulated the broadest set of plausible interpretations, options and perspectives, imagined by the best experts, rather than forcing convergence to an allegedly unified voice” - Sarewitz, D. 2011, Nature, 478, 7
“DON'T PANIC!” - Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
This time we're going to look briefly another scare story to afflict our culture – Global Warming. GW was suspended during the Covid pandemonium but, as that narrative collapses, it has been resurrected as a slow burner while the Ukrainian crisis has thrown some raw meat to the professional doomsayers.
Trust and Betrayal
Our natural tendency is to trust others by default so that when someone we don't know lies to us, we tend to fall for it. The bigger the porky pie, the more likely we are to swallow it - partly because we tend to think that no one would lie about something of great importance and partly because the biggest whoppers come from those who talk about important things, like those in authority - often those credentialed experts, the 'elites'.
Lies don't have to be deliberate. It's easy to mislead by over-simplifying and we all do that to ourselves as well as others. After all, we're finite beings who can't remember complicated stuff. Whatever the truth is - in any context - it's unlikely to be simple.
We'll see in a moment that the science of Global Warming is undecided (not what the IPCC says!). This is perfectly normal for any science but climate science is an especially difficult discipline experimentally and different groups come to different conclusions. In an ideal world we would let the scientists get on with the job until there's general agreement.
We don't live in such a world. Politicians, media hysterics and vested interests have grabbed hold of a simplistic interpretation of some early results and theories and constructed an official narrative. Why would they do this? Because fearful people are much easier to control. We can then increase taxes (and have done) to fund our vanity projects such as introducing battery vehicles. If by some accident we get the result we've been predicting then we can claim it was all down to our cleverness and foresight. If not, then we can gloss over any contrary evidence and divert the public's attention to the next crisis.
You will by now be familiar with this modus operandi. We've had the 'forever wars' in the middle east, the war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on immigration and lately the war on a flu-like pathogen into which we - or perhaps I should say our elites - futilely poured vast quantities of blood and treasure.
The Empire Strikes Back
In 1789 the French decided to cure the elite problem once and for all. Tumbrils and Madame Guillotine were deployed and for the next couple of decades terror was king. It didn't work. The elites gradually sneaked back in. They weren't called Le Compte de … any more, they were now drawn from the class of financiers, merchants, lawyers, doctors, professors … men of letters. And they still took over the show.
The reason that the new elites in France and elsewhere in the West got away with their mismanagement and corruption was the rise in engineering and industrial capability. Had this happened before la Revolution then the King and his aristocratic pals might have kept their heads (on their shoulders). The Enlightenment and its offspring the Industrial Revolution made even the most incompetent leaderships successful. Huge surpluses were generated by new manufacturing methods and other innovations and it would take a special kind of stupidity to fail under such benign conditions.
And so to Climate Change, the next great salvo in the arsenal of elitist fear politics.
“At any rate, one factor that we believe is highly relevant is the fact that a primary goal of the IPCC reports is to “speak with one voice for climate science” (Beck et al. 2014; Hoppe & R¨odder 2019). This drive to present a single “scientific consensus” on issues has given the IPCC a remarkable international “reputation as the epistemic authority in matters of climate policy” (Beck et al. 2014). However, many researchers have noted that this has been achieved by suppressing dissenting views on any issues where there is still scientific disagreement.” - Ronan Connolly et al 2021 Res. Astron. Astrophys. 21 131 (my bolding)
“You are all conclusion and no thought process. It's a form of self-abuse.” - Bill Garman
If you read a report like this one (https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-insights/perspectives/ipcc-report-climate-change/) you'd be forgiven for thinking, like the strange sandwich-board men who used to stand in the street, that the end of the world is nigh. It uncritically adopts the IPCC claim that climate change is mainly due to human intervention via the CO2 emissions associated with our lifestyle. Under such a non-nuanced view, the only thing we wicked climate violators can do to avoid a descent into a flaming hell is to repent of our sins and march headlong into a brave new net-zero future. Given the behaviour of many since 2020 this all sounds a little familiar, don't you think.
When we look at careful and nuanced studies of the problem we discover that all is not as black and white as claimed by the IPCC, proselytising headline writers and world leaders. I don't know who is right and I make no claims to inside knowledge but I do see a scientific debate raging that is significant enough to affect the current IPCC narrative.
For example, take the scientific paper by Ronan Connolly et al 2021 Res. Astron. Astrophys. 21 131 (it can be found online at https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1674-4527/21/6/131)
It's a large review article with 23 authors and 9-1/2 pages of citations and so cannot be dismissed lightly. It looks at how much influence the Sun has had on the climate in the past and whether it is, as the IPCC has concluded, exactly zero, or not. It cites over 30 scientific studies that suggest the opposite conclusion: “that much of the global warming since the mid-20th century and earlier could be explained in terms of solar variability.” This is clearly an ongoing scientific debate and yet the IPCC has decided 'the science' is settled. Bear in mind that the IPCC's position and recommendations hinge critically on this position.
In contrast to the detailed arguments presented in the Connolly paper, have a look at earth.org which presents a couple of graphs of CO2 and estimated global temperature over long periods of time. The casual reader might miss that the time axes are logarithmic (perhaps to exaggerate the most recent rise) and consequently fail to notice that the mean temperature has been doing pretty much what it did in previous ice age cycles with a roughly 100000 year cycle: rising for 10 millennia and then falling again rapidly:
Except that recently (as you can see at the right of the above graph), the global temperature graph has an atypical shape - it's been unusually stable for the past 10000 years (the Holocene epoch) rather than plunging back down to a new cold period. As far as I can tell no one has tried to account for this atypical behaviour. Please comment if you know differently! (A readable but lengthy and detailed account of the Holocene is at https://dandebat.dk/eng-klima7.htm)
There's an awful lot more to climate science than simple CO2 dependence. We don't know nearly enough to reliably predict anything so let's stop pretending that we do.
The scientific debate on climate change is simply not settled. There may be a consensus about Global Warming but it certainly is not a scientific one. Given that we just don't know the final story about Global Warming, it looks a lot like the elites have taken on board a grossly oversimplified and possibly wrong model of the climate and are busy pushing it on the rest of us. In other words, a rerun of the Covid debacle.
OK, smarty pants, what are you going to do about it?
Our purpose in these pages is not to call out the egregious behaviour of elites - that's just too easy - but to see how such irresponsible behaviour might be avoided with our modified democracy, the panocracy.
Would a panocracy of the sort we're proposing be corrupted by the kind of whoppers that are routinely pushed on us by vested interests? Would people in such a system be as misinformed and gaslit as they are at the moment?
We will always have elites, leaders and followers: humans are made that way. Panocracy is a cure for elitist politics, not for elites. It allows extraordinary people to do extraordinary things; it hinders foolish people from screwing up.
Let's focus on Net Zero, the mantra that prescribes privation and poverty for the masses as they are made to go cold turkey on fossil fuel use. It's most unlikely that Net Zero would have got off the ground in a system where many thousands of informed and insightful individuals in a large population (and uninformed and bigoted ones too) can debate such a radical idea and consequently foresee the negative consequences of applying it. How can the expertise of an entire country in any discourse be inferior to that of a few, appointed by and accountable to a group of politicians?
Even if by some dark magic such a risky policy was adopted, we would at least have the wisdom of the crowds who opposed it to bring to bear on the fallout. Not so with our current system where the few who can easily afford several hundred percent energy price rises browbeat, gaslight and coerce the many who can't. I’ll believe them when private jets are banned.
Net Zero may turn out to be a reasonable target for humanity and, if we allow a time-span of centuries to achieve it, we won't beggar ourselves in the process - nor will we fry or drown. Alternatively, if the Sun is as variable as has been argued, Human induced global warming may turn out to be a white elephant. Either way, now is the right time not to panic.
In the past few posts we've had a look at how panocracy handles some of the problems that are brushed under the carpet by our current democracies. We're going to delve deeper into this area in future posts.