Climate Change and Road Congestion


This is a post about cause and effect, or rather, the lack of cause and effect.

Climate change and road congestion are related, not in a causal relationship, as one might unthinkingly conclude, but as emergent phenomena in complex, chaotic systems far from equilibrium.

If you made it through that paragraph unscathed, I’ll explain further. If not, see my post on Chaos HERE.

Climate prognostication and traffic planning exist in a world of linear relationships, the “If you push something hard enough, it will fall over” world. Every effect has direct discernible cause(s), such that planners can always count on a predictable outcome from any given action. For instance, climate change is caused by human produced CO2 in the atmosphere; traffic congestion is caused by insufficient capacity in highways. Thus, the stories go, if we decrease human produced CO2, climate change will stop or at least decrease; if we add lanes to the highways, traffic congestion will decrease. It seems intuitive.

While this approach has served humans well for generations, in our modern world of 7 billions and counting, with our global societies and ubiquitous technological innovations, linear cause and effect is overcome by the complexity and chaos of our social and technological relationships.

Climate is an emergent phenomenon of chaotic nonlinear relationships among numerous variables and feedbacks, a spaghetti tangle of natural cycles on the Earth, in the solar system and beyond, including human industrial activity and land use changes.

We know that climate changed long before human activity had any other than very local effects. Assuming that modern observed climate variation is “caused” by human production of CO2 is not only factually wrong, it diverts attention from the reality of natural climate variation, misapplies enormous human resources and economies, and ignores the inescapable necessity that humans accommodate to natural cycles rather than attempting to control them.

We know from observation that traffic congestion is often the result of accidents or tailbacks at off and on ramps. Sometimes we run into a clot of cars on the freeway that has no discernable cause and that clears up for no discernable reason, leaving no car parts on the verge to reveal its dynamics. We also know that widening the highway may temporarily relieve existing traffic congestion, but in a relatively short period of time congestion returns in the newly created lanes and ramps.

These seemingly disparate observations are the result of increasing numbers of cars interacting within the complex system of individual driving habits and distractions, on and off ramps and local road conditions, resulting in non-linear responses to small changes in driving conditions. Increasing highway capacity only increases the complexity of these interactions and does not address the root causes of traffic congestion.

If humans fail to learn that we cannot control climate by reducing CO2 production, and that widening the highway will not reduce traffic congestion, then we fail to explore social changes that accommodate to natural climate variation, and reduce dependence on automobiles and truly reduce traffic congestion.

It’s time for a new approach to human growth and development, technology and society. It’s time to apply our growing understanding of chaos and complex, non-linear systems to everyday problems of moving about on a planet with highly variable and unpredictable climates.


Why Climate Change is not a Problem

Climate change is popularly touted as one of the greatest problems humans have encountered since we emerged from the last ice age. A great deal of political capital is expended in attempts to explain how we can solve the problem of climate change so we can continue our civilization as we have gotten used to it over the past 300 years or so.
The foremost social agency involved in this process is the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN sponsored subcommittee of  the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The purpose of the IPCC is to provide policy advice to world leaders on how to deal with Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), that is, human caused Global Warming. The position of the IPCC is that climate change is a human caused “problem,” and therefore, it has a human generated solution. In other words, we caused climate change, therefore we can stop it. World governments, political and environmental organizations, scientists and science organizations have been pummeled into line with the climate change hockey stick, in order to produce a “consensus” conclusion that the climate change “problem” can be solved, given enough money and resources.
John Michael Greer, in his book, The Long Descent, makes the distinction between a “problem” and a “predicament.” Problems, by definition, have solutions. Predicaments do not. 
Pollution is a problem. Humans create air and water pollution. Humans can stop producing air and water pollution. No problem.
Drought is a predicament. There is nothing humans can do about drought, except learn how to accommodate to it. Drought is beyond human solution.
As it turns out, global climate variation is a predicament, not a problem. The Earth’s climate has varied naturally as long as there has been a coupled ocean/atmosphere on this planet. Climate has responded to terrestrial, solar and cosmic influences for hundreds of millions of years, long before humans came on the scene and started creating problems for themselves and all the neighbors.
Do humans influence climate variation? Certainly. Humans change landscapes, particularly forest cover, that influence local and regional climate. However, non-human influences on climate, the long scale cycles of solar and cosmic activity, affect the entire planet in a magnitude that far overwhelms these small and temporary human effects.
Why then do organizations such as the IPCC and the National Academy of Sciences, prominent political figures such as Al Gore, and assorted bloggers, media pundits and self-identified climate alarmists honk on interminably about the perils of global warming, irreversible climate change, the disappearance of Arctic sea ice, forest fires, unending drought, floods, famine and plagues of insects?
The simple answer is that if climate change were a normal phenomenon, not caused by human action, then it would be a predicament and not a problem. There would be no solution. There would be no excuse to extort money from developed countries to pay for “sustainable” development in as yet less developed countries. No excuse to donate money to large international environmental groups to “save the polar bears.” No reason to support political campaigns or politicians offering cap and trade schemes to buck up big business. No basis for extravagant government grants to fund climate change research that supports the AGW hypothesis.
In other words, if climate change were a predicament rather than a problem, the whole global warming industry would come tumbling down around the ears of the climate change community. There would be no recourse other than learning how to accommodate to natural climate variation.
Therein lies the rub. 
When we come to an understanding of climate variation as a normal feature of the planet we call home, we are cast, stark naked and trembling, against the very obvious conclusion that the course of human civilization runs counter to the natural processes that make life possible. 
We live on a tiny, trembling planet, with a thin atmosphere between us and the empty immensity of space and time. All that we know, all the history of our species, lies within the tremulous vapors of our atmosphere. We suddenly realize this is a finite world, containing the only sources of energy, food and shelter available to us. We are suddenly exposed to the concept of limits, boundaries and natural cycles, predicaments over which we have no control, cannot get around and for which we cannot provide solutions.
There is no way out. No one, religious, terrestrial or cosmic, is going to appear in a burst of celestial trumpets with the magic silver bullet that will release us from the constraints of the planet on which we evolved.
This is it. This is all there is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
It’s think or thwim. 
We have two choices: we admit to our feet of clay and get on with the process of reshaping our social arrangements to those that can continue comfortably within our limits, within natural cycles of resource availability, within natural climate fluctuations. We create resilient societies based on change rather than stasis. 
Or we close our eyes to reality, continue on this path as we have for the past three centuries, and sail blithely down the porcelain parkway.
It’s very simple really, and when one gets over the dramatic hand to forehead, deep sigh and resignation stage, it’s very liberating. We can forget about socialism versus capitalism, Democrats versus Republicans, east versus west and north versus south. We‘re all on the same planet, faced with the same challenges and the same inevitable consequences of failure to act.
Let’s just get on with it. No problem!

Dueling Hypotheses

A recent article by Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) contains so many glaring errors and biased assumptions, it’s hard to know where to start.

First of all, the difference between theory and hypothesis:

The problem is not with dueling hypotheses, it is with dueling theories regarding the processes resulting in observed global warming. One theory states: Observed global warming is the result of human greenhouse gas emissions. Another theory states: Observed global warming is not caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, but is a result of natural geophysical processes.

The statement, “Global warming is the result of human greenhouse gas emissions” is not an hypothesis, it is a proposition, or at best, a simple theory. A theory is an explanation of process based on a body of observation.

Hypotheses, on the other hand, are predictive “if…then” statements used to test a small subset of  a theory as an adequate explanation of observations, thus either strengthening or weakening the theory. The results of an individual hypothesis never disprove a theory. A theory can only be weakened and eventually replaced by the accumulation of a body of evidence that contradicts the theories explanation of observations, and the formulation of a new theory that provides a more adequate explanation.

We can test the theory of anthropogenic global warming with the hypothesis: If observed global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, then we should find a positive correlation between the amount and rate of greenhouse gas production and global average temperature rise. This is weak test of the theory, since, if we find such a positive correlation, we merely confirm the existing theory. No new information is gained. If we fail to find the positive causal correlation, it may be because we just have not looked hard enough yet, or haven’t looked in the right places. The truth is still out there!

Alternatively, a null hypothesis would be stated as: If observed global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, then we should not find a negative correlation between the amount and rate of greenhouse gas production and global average temperature rise. This is a much stronger test of the hypothesis, since it only takes one instance of negative correlation to negate the hypothesis and weaken the theory as an explanation of observations.

This is the process of Science, the Hypothetico-deductive Method of Theory Confirmation.

Secondly, Trenberth repeatedly fails to make a distinction between Global Warming and Anthropogenic Global Warming. There is no question that the average global surface temperature of the Earth has been increasing steadily over the past 20,000 years or so, else, we would still be skirting glaciers on our daily commute. The question is: What is the contribution of anthropogenic greenhouse gases to this warming, and, what effect will reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gases have on this on-going global warming, if any?

Since we do not yet fully understand the natural geophysical processes that result in observed climate variations over geologic time periods, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for us to fully understand the contribution to global climate variation resulting from anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Wild predictions of future catastrophic weather events are simply science fiction prognostications with as much scientific validity as a Star Wars movie.

The periodic reports by the IPCC are not scientific documents, they are produced to give policy-makers estimations of the relevant probabilities of various climate scenarios, as an aid in preparation of national and international policies dealing with climate variation. These statements of probability have been inflated by the world press and by politicians anxious to make a name (and fortune) for themselves. Probability has been turned on its head into certainty and is being used by all manner of organizations and individuals to forward their individual agendae. Hyperinflated scare stories of sea level rise, catastrophic flooding, heat waves and droughts have been used to justify continued human growth and development in the face of dwindling natural resources and increasing air, water and soil pollution, all in the name of environmental justice.

At some point, increasing evidence of negative correlations between global average atmospheric CO2 concentrations and global average surface temperature will falsify the null hypothesis and greatly reduce the adequacy of the anthropogenic global warming theory as an explanation of observed global average surface temperature increase. At that point, environmental organizations, politicians and science policy organizations will find they’ve hitched their wagons to a black hole. Their unceasing drum-beat for Anthropogenic Global Warming will ultimately discredit their otherwise worthwhile and necessary programs to reduce human pollution as a result of unrestricted human population and economic growth.

Climate Science – 97% consensus?

There are a couple of important papers available on the web recently.

We’ve all heard the oft-repeated claim that “97% of climate scientists believe in anthroponic global warming,” referring to human CO2 production as responsible for increasing average global surface temperature, and, therefore, we can “stop global warming” by reducing human CO2 output.

In Climate Consensus Opiate, the 97% Solution, Dennis Ambler lays to rest the myth with an examination of the survey that started the consensus rumor. Hint: it’s really .73% of climate scientists!

Questioning the very idea of unprecedented increases in average global surface temperatures, McKitrick and Michaels, JGR 2007 demonstrates that temperature records really are skewed by the Urban Heat Island Effect, such that temperature increases are at least half what is claimed by global warming enthusiasts, placing present temperatures firmly within the range of normal global temperature variation.

No climate deniers here, just well documented and accessible science.

Democracy, climate change and other strange bedfellows

Only 'Global Democracy' Can Prevent 'Climate Tragedy', says Bolivian Ambassador

Yes, democracy’s a good thing when it comes to organizing social systems, providing a means of decision-making, keeping greedy corporate types at bay. That is, real democracy, not the faux democracy-light of the United States corporate oligarchy.

Democracy, even real democracy, is not appropriate when applied to science. We don’t vote on climate change. We make observations, formulate theories, test them with hypotheses and verify the adequacy of the theory. We hold our conclusions up to the real world and see how they fit.

We don’t ask millions of people if they believe in climate change and then act on that concensus belief.

Oh, wait a minute, I guess they do, in the media, in blogs, in popular culture, in the White House and other seats of power and greed.

So what would happen if this Bolivian brand of democracy, that is, rule by the people, caught on? Would we pull power back from corporate interests and re-establish local self-governance and self-reliance? Would we stop this insane and unsustainable consumer society that’s laying waste to the natural world. Would we break up the global economy and bring our economies back under local control?


Would that stop climate change? No, certainly not.

Would it make a better world for millions of people everywhere.



"Climate Change and Open Science," Wall Street Journal

“Skeptics don’t doubt science—they doubt unscientific claims cloaked in the authority of science. The scientific method is a foundation of our information age, with its approach of a clearly stated hypothesis tested through a transparent process with open data, subject to review.”

The Wall Street Journal’s “Climate Change and Open Science” by L. Gordon Crovitz is an excellent article explaining the point of view of the scientific global warming skeptic.

Too often, climate alarmists and global warming enthusiasts try to marginalize climate skeptics by calling us “denialists,” “deniers” and other terms less acceptable in polite company. We are excoriated as unpatriotic, anti-American and damned by association with Exxon, right-wing think tanks and pro-energy media campaigns. As usual, the science of global warming skepticism is lost in the rhetoric.

Climate change skepticism is about the free and open access to data and methodology, the hallmark of all scientific endeavor. Science embraces contradictory evidence as a critical part of evaluating and interpreting data and observation. Were it not for skeptical scientists, we would still view the Universe as revolving around the flat Earth, a demon haunted world where dragons peer over the rim.

As Carl Sagan taught us, science is a candle in the darkness. Let’s not snuff it out in the heat of political expediency.

The Global Warming Wrestling Match

While the Global Warming Propaganda Wrestling Match continues apace, pitting, in this corner, Climate Denier, against, in the far corner, Climate Alarmist, others have been calmly looking at the data and saying, “Excuse me, did you notice…?”

In USHCN vs USHCN Version 2 – more induced warmth, E.M. Smith points out that NASA has modified its US Historic Climate Network data set, again. After having previously deleted 75% of the temperature reporting sites, retaining urban sites with their Urban Heat Island effects intact, now we learn that NASA is putting many of those sites back in the mix, “adjusting” the data as they do so.

As a budding graduate student learning the ins and outs of academe, I remember my astonishment in discovering the power of statistical manipulation of raw data. I was working with tree-rings, both as chronological markers for archaeology sites and as proxy climate data for reconstructing climate factors in Inupiat migrations in northwest Alaska. I learned that through the application of principle component analysis and other powerful tools, one could reduce highly complex raw data into virtually meaningless graphs that could be interpreted to support whatever preconceived hypothesis was put forward.

This didn’t sit too well with my ideological underpinnings. I opted for simpler smoothing and growth based regressions, leaving the heavier data manipulation to those with climate axes to grind. They promptly left me behind, as well, not to mention out of the grant and publication loop.

So I understand how data manipulation takes a strong upper hand, even if there is no nefarious agenda being served by the manipulators.

While I see how climate data is easily shaped to support either the Climate Denier or Climate Alarmist agendae, I don’t see quite so clearly the motivations of their proponents. Hansen, of course, is on the world stage and has staked out a circle for himself that he must defend at all costs, else he, and NASA, come out with egg on their scientific faces. Pachauri has his reputation sunk in the IPCC, and his fingers in many carbon trading and alternative energy technology pockets, not to mention his own liberal “think tank” in India. Many of the global warming skeptics express their distrust of climate change conclusions in terms of detriment to world economics, that is, capitalism and the universal mythology of perpetual economic growth.

What gets lost in all this burning rhetoric is growing global imperialism and militarism, air, water and land pollution, topsoil loss, fresh water depletion, critical habitat loss, human population increase with concomitant consumption and, most of all, increasing frustration and feelings of disenfranchisement in the process of government.

Climate change is real. The extent of human influence on global climate has yet to be objectively established. Until then, we have other wrestlers in the ring threatening to pin us to the mat before they tag their Global Warming partners.