A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The war on science continues some more: A tale of two headlines

"California Drought Is Made Worse by Global Warming, Scientists Say."  -- NYTimes Aug 2015
Global warming caused by human emissions has most likely intensified the drought in California by 15 to 20 percent, scientists said on Thursday, warning that future dry spells in the state are almost certain to be worse than this one as the world continues to heat up. . . .  The paper provides new scientific support for political leaders, including President Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown of California, who have cited human emissions and the resulting global warming as a factor in the drought.
"A Climate Change Warning for California's Dams."  -- NYTimes Feb 2017
Scientists have said for years that a warming atmosphere should lead to more intense and frequent storms in many regions. 
So the theory predicts that California will become drier and that it will become wetter. Is there nothing this theory cannot predict, at least after the fact?


  1. "So the theory predicts that California will become drier and that it will become wetter. Is there nothing this theory cannot predict, at least after the fact?"

    No. It's like (*snicker*) 'modern evolutionary theory' in that respect.

  2. It seems completely unable to predict anything good. I even once saw an article about how Climate Change ne Global Warming was bringing life to the desert, ruining it.

  3. Occasional intense storms are consistent with over-all, long term, dryness.

    1. Yup. Just as occasional intense droughts may be consistent with over-all, long-term wetness. The irony here is that overall the number and intensity of the extreme storms have actually been decreasing. How much this may be due to the collapse of the Sun's magnetic field, to Dansgaard-Oeschger events, or some other factor, who knows. I recollect from back in the day that extreme stormy weather was supposedly a result of global cooling.

  4. Or, alternatively, the end of the Quaternary Glaciation—or even just a reduction in glaciation levels—causes drastic increases in moisture, because water that used to be trapped in ice is now back in circulation.

    Any model of climate that ignores the fact we're in an Ice Age right now—normally there are no glaciers at all—is a skewed model.

    1. That's a point that seems so obvious that I would pull out my hair if I still had enough to get a grip on. Ultimately, it's a time-frame question: "the climate" is nothing more than weather over time. So, how much time? The panic-mongers want the time frame to be decades. As soon as it becomes millennia, things get funny. As soon as it becomes millions of years, things become ridiculous. For almost all of the last 500 million years, there weren't any icecaps, from which we can deduce that the sea level and the temperatures were higher than they are now. If things get a bit warmer and melts all the ice caps - much to be preferred to the alternative, and at least a centuries-long process - it will be a return to 'normal'.

      Where we are now is a knife's edge, with a few ice caps and relatively low sea levels (but much higher than during a full glaciation). Conditions like these have obtained some tiny percentage of the time over the last 500 million years, and never for more than a few tens of thousands of years at a stretch (this is of course a best guess - as GK Cheterton mentions in another context - it is good to maintain a healthy level of skepticism in such matters.) To imagine we can keep it the way it is now is nuts.

  5. I don't see the confusion. Have the last five years already been forgotten, with "a five-year drought of historic proportions" in California?
    The "warming atmosphere should lead to more intense and frequent storms in many regions", and it has, hasn't it? Like in New Orleans 2006. Or The Philippines 2013 (105 m/s or 230 mph winds).

    Kindest regards,

    1. New Orleans 2006 and the Philippines 2013 were NORMAL events. These things happen periodically. Both the number and the intensity of tropical storms have decreased in recent decades; but the media cover everything (which they used not to do), and they blame everything on ‘global warming’ – as if without global warming the frequency of hurricanes and typhoons would be zero.

  6. You call 230 mph winds normal?

    You may want to check this out, and don't forget to follow the links!

    1. Normal for a major typhoon, yes. The point is that storms happen, and the frequency and intensity of them, on average, have been declining. If you want to blame global warming for an increase in the average frequency and intensity of storms, it’s like blaming the sun for being dark.

    2. Incidentally, I do not take either Slate or XKCD as a legitimate source on science, and I’m afraid I can’t take you seriously if you do.

    3. Do you call a 15 kiloton nuke "normal"? Because there are over 100 earthquakes involving the same amount of energy, every single year. That's more than 100 Hiroshimas per year, and we notice almost none of them.

      And as I pointed out above, any conception of "normal" for this planet's climate, that doesn't take into account that we are in an Ice Age right now, is a fundamentally flawed conception. All human civilization has existed within a highly unusual set of conditions: normally there are almost no glaciers whatsoever.

    4. I understand that you didn't read the information and didn't follow the links. Fine. Let's just agree that scientific evidence has nothing to do with what we believe. After all, 97% of all climate scientists MAY be wrong, and the oil industry may be right.
      But let me ask you this: IF you're right and I'm wrong, what would the downside be of moving from fossil to renewable powersources anyway?

    5. After all, 97% of all climate scientists MAY be wrong

      That's a bogus number obtained by invalid statistical sampling. Many skeptical scientists found themselves included in the 97%, for example.

      what would the downside be of moving from fossil to renewable powersources anyway?

      Intermittent power generation. Insufficient power. Increased poverty. Increased death, esp. among the poor.

      The so-called renewables are a thin soup; unless we build solar power satellites, esp. in solar-polar orbits so they're never in earth's shadow and can beam down uninterrupted solar power by microwave to rectenna farms on the ground.

    6. Intermittent power generation. Insufficient power. Increased poverty. Increased death, esp. among the poor

      That may be true if we switch tomorrow, but with a gradual switch I can't see any of this coming true. Why would it?

      Can't guarantee the truth of the below (for one thing I think we have quite a ways to go before we reach 20% efficiency) but it's worth considering.

    7. Why? The sun doesn't shine at night, no matter how efficient the solar cells; and the wind does not blow consistently, no matter how many wind farms the Other Environmentalists fail to block.

      We have the experience of Germany's Energiewende to inspire us. They built solar and wind capacity equal to (iirc) 31% of Germany's demand. Consequently, Germany came perilously close to shutting down several times last December. Due to the intermittence of wind and sun. The economic appeal of renewables plummets when you need to keep an entire fossil-fuel system as back-up for calm or cloudy days. That's why advocates focus on "capacity" rather than on power actually delivered. You can't run a 21st cent. first-world country with essentially 14th cent. power. (Wind and hydro were used widely during the middle ages, sufficient unto its time.)

      There is a discussion on the Energiewende here":
      but it's behind a paywall, in euros; but an English translation can be found for free here:

      Solar power satellites delivering beamed microwave energy to rectenna farms on the ground can address the intermittency problem. And nuclear power plants can deliver watts with no CO2 emissions whatsoever. For some reason, environmentalists aren't crazy about it. I suggested SPS to some staffers when I worked on the Floyd Haskell re-election campaign, but their reaction was all sorts of woo-woo about mad scientists aiming ray guns at earth.

    8. "Invalid statistical sampling" is Mr. Flynn being polite, incidentally; the 97% (actually 96%) number is actually just straight up lying.

      Included in the number is anyone who says "assuming for the sake of argument the climate change predictions are accurate, what would we see?". Also included is anyone who accepts any form of human influence on the climate—which, as the number indicates, almost everyone does. But there are dozens if not hundreds of competing models of what that influence is, and only a tiny minority are the doomsday scenario you're talking about. Nevertheless all of them were lumped together as if all scientists were agreed on the same model, to manufacture an illusion of unanimity to dupe the uninformed—like you.

      The reason that some people act like the whole idea is a scam, is that the people pushing it act like scammers. "We're all agreed, shut up" is not how science is supposed to work, please try to understand the actual meaning of your own faction's quaint myths, like Galileo. And unlike with Galileo (there was no actual empirical evidence of heliocentrism till centuries later), there is significant evidence that the dominant model of climate-change is wrong.

      And I notice you keep ignoring the point that we are currently in an Ice Age—the Quaternary Glaciation. Our conception of "normal" for this planet is deeply skewed.

    9. I just noticed that the xkcd cartoon actually started just 22000 years ago. Here is a link with some older data:

      SF: what's the point of your last paragraph? That we shouldn't mind if the climate that was current when all the carbon that is now (used to be) buried in the ground was distributed in the atmosphere, returns? The current, cold, state works imho quite well for human life.
      And now when we've started to insult each other, I'm withdrawing from this conversation. You won't change your mind(s) even if the icecaps melted away, and I won't change my mind until they are restored to what they were 100 years ago. We'd better elect to believe the climate models that are furthest from the doomsday scenarios because if the doomsdays aretrue, we'd have to do something about it, and we wouldn't want that, would we!?

    10. Well, if you had a right to opinions, you would know that Homo habilis, not markedly different from H. sapiens in terms of things like the climates it could survive in, lived before the Quaternary glaciation. So did almost all the extant pantherines—tigers, lions, etc., and most of the rest of the fauna familiar to us. Though there were also many other lineages (machairodonts, mastodons) that are no longer present.

      And no, actually, the reason not to believe the doomsday scenarios is that, in terms of public policy, they are—like all scenarios of the kind back to Malthus—little more than thinly-veiled advertising campaigns for vicious human-rights abuses that amount to (among other things) ethnic cleansing. Maybe if fewer of your proposed solutions involved "sterilize the brown people", you would be worth taking seriously. But since you are genocidal racists, why on Earth would we give you the benefit of the doubt?

      Then, of course, there's how hot, cold, wet, dry, windy, and calm conditions are all equally evidence for the theory. It is conceivable that that could be the case—but since in most cases it isn't, you have to explain why contradictory data all supposedly proving the same conclusion isn't just "heads I win, trails you lose".

      Someone so uneducated about basic, relevant facts of paleontology, who keeps citing comic strips and politics blogs as if they were academic sources—in support of bigotry and oppression—doesn't get to be so insufferably smug and self-righteous.

  7. SAL: "what would the downside be of moving from fossil to renewable powersources anyway?"

    Flynn "Intermittent power generation. Insufficient power. Increased poverty. Increased death, esp. among the poor."

    We could ask Ted Kennedy if thouse are sound considerations, but he'd dead.