Climate Issue Excerpt from The Constellation of Liberty

© by DC Treybil 2010, All Rights Reserved



Science and Religion Revisited - the Difference
Precision and Accuracy
Tree Ring Data as a Basis for Historical Temperature Measurement
Six Billion Tons
Every 1/4th Mile
Weather Modeling
Summary of Climate Change "Science"


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Science and Religion Revisited - the Difference

What puts the science in conscience?

That is the thought I want to open this discussion with.

Agricola is a movement that treats science itself as a religion.

If Agricola can exist and does exist, then how is anyone to distinguish science from religion?

The best science, which is to say, the most reliable science, is dispassionate. The scientist is able to totally separate himself or herself from the phenomenon being investigated. The best science might include Lavoisier's experiments regarding the conservation of matter, which he conducted in the late 1700's. Or the best science might include the work of various classical astronomers who advanced the understanding of how the planets move. In both these examples, the scientists involved could completely separate themselves from the phenomenon being investigated. And, the experiments could be repeated for verification.

Religion, by way of contrast, is anything but dispassionate.

The believer is involved.

No one is more affected by any particular belief than the person who holds that belief.

The religious journey can take many routes.

Some religious journeys are smooth.

Some religious journeys are bumpy.

Not all religious journeys end well.

Not all religious journeys end badly.

Whatever course any particular person's religious journey may take, the believer must from time to time become acutely aware of the tenets of their religion as well as their understanding of those tenets and how their personal lives are affected by those things. How is one to be dispassionate concerning these things? I don't think it's humanly possible. Each of us is unique. How is anyone to verify the course they're on it the right one? By their fruits shall ye know them is the answer offered by Jesus in Matthew 7:16 and 20.

I've already mentioned Maxwell's discovery of radio based on an apparent lack of symmetry in a mathematical equation he was studying. The equations did not tell him the answer, but they told him to look and gave him an idea about where to look. Except for his intense study in that field, the thought of looking might not have occurred to him.

Likewise, texts considered religious are often consulted by individuals seeking guidance in an as yet uncharted area of their own lives. The sage of old lamented there's nothing new under the sun. That lament is two-edged. The bad news is, suffering has always been and always will be part of the human experience. The good news is, if you're suffering, no matter how or what, someone has been where you are. If you keep looking, you'll find something written by someone in your situation about what the experience was like and how they dealt with it.

Can you say cognitive dissonance? Sure you can, sure. (Think Mr. Rogers here.)

I have sort of contradicted myself within just the past few paragraphs. I said we're all unique. Then I said there's nothing new under the sun. Which way is it?!

I also said that Maxwell's equation told him to look. Well, he was already looking at something!

To the extent that our own personal suffering may be cast in terms of the experience of others, and that suffering in turn is part of the personal religious experience, religion does resemble science in that the experiment is repeatable - repeated even! The suffering of one can be compared to the suffering of another, the approach taken can be the same of similar, and results can be compared.

Think of it, the strongest science can be stated as, If it happened before, it will happen again.

And the strongest religion can be stated as, If it's happening now, it's happened before!

Still, each of us happens only once (unless you believe in reincarnation) and the desire to get this life right and to get it right this time, in the present is powerful. But there's no way to remove yourself from the religious quest. There's no way to separate yourself from the outcome.

And I consider that to be the source of passion in religion.

Einstein was once asked something to the effect how he would feel if he tried 100 theories and none of them worked. He replied that he would know those 100 ways were wrong and he would try to come up with a 101st way.

So maybe Copernicus, and Keppler, and Galileo and Newton could be dispassionate about their work as it related to astronomy. And maybe so could Lavoisier and Maxwell and Einstein be dispassionate about their work in their various fields of endeavor.

But in our personal pursuit of happiness, each of us only gets one bite at the apple. And even those who believe in reincarnation probably are ready to get this life right today.

If that's the source of passion in religion, it is also the source of passion in politics, not that those two things should ever be confused.

It's also the source of passion in current issues such as climate change. Has this ever happened before? Absent that, how can anyone say it will happen now? What's repeated for verification? What's repeatable for verification? Is survival a personal stake? Are you kidding - what stake could be higher?!

It's exactly as hard (impossible actually) to separate the disciple from the discipline as it is to separate either church from state or individual from union.

The difference between science and religion is in the relationship between the observer and what is being observed. When the relationship between the observer and the observed is different, then the reliability of the "scientific" endeavor can be higher than that of the religious endeavor. When the relationship between the observer and the observed is the same, the results of two disciplines become equally uncertain.

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Precision and Accuracy

I once took a course in electronic instrumentation.

The terms precision and accuracy became relevant at one point.

Imagine that it's 50 degrees Fahrenheit outside and you have a digital thermometer and an old style dial thermometer or maybe a mercury thermometer.

And let's imagine that all three instruments are indicating exactly 50 degrees. With the digital thermometer, the observer can see the Arabic numerals five, zero, a decimal, and another zero. This is highly precise. Precise meaning that all observers upon viewing this instrument will report an indication of 50 degrees. It's also totally accurate.

The dial and the mercury thermometers are equally accurate; however, as each observer views the mercury thermometer, the top of the mercury might appear to be slightly above or below the line at 50 degrees. Some observers might report an indication of 50.5 degrees upon viewing that instrument. Same thing with the dial thermometer. The tip of the pointer might appear to be slightly to one side or the other of the mark for 50 degrees according to various observers. Some observers might report an indication of 49.5 degrees when viewing that instrument.

The variation in interpretation of the instrument's indication is the measure of its precision. The smaller the variation in interpretation among various observers, the more precise the instrument is considered to be.

Now, let's imagine that the temperature continues to hold at 50 degrees Fareheight but that all three instruments indicate 47 degrees. All three instruments are now inaccurate on the order of 6%. However, upon viewing the digital thermometer, all observers will report an indication of 47 degrees. The digital thermometer indication in this example, while inaccurate, is just as precise as in the first example. Upon viewing the other two instruments, various observers may report slightly different indications. So, the dial and mercury thermometers, while now also inaccurate, are just as imprecise as in the first example.

Which brings me to . . . .

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Tree Ring Data as a Basis for Historical Temperature Measurement

As a basis for historical temperature measurement, tree ring data strikes me as neither precise nor accurate.

To begin with, it is my understanding that it is possible to get more than one ring in a single year. Likewise, it is also possible to get no ring in a given year.

Also, factors other than temperature can influence the thickness of a ring. Wet year, dry year for example. How about cloud cover, or a persistent dust storm?

And then there's El Nino. I think we're all familiar with the weather pattern changes that El Nino causes. A slight water temperature rise in the Pacific Ocean (thought to be caused possibly by volcanic activity) causes heavy rain in the South East USoA. If the ocean is being warmed slightly, that means lots of heat is being released from the Earth's core into the water. The rate that heat escapes Earth through the atmosphere is unchanged, and yet a slight temperature rise almost certainly has to accompany this, a slight temperature rise having nothing to do with extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

That slight increase in temperature might increase tree ring thickness in an area on the lower margins of a tree species' temperature range while decreasing tree ring thickness in an area on the upper margins of a tree species' temperature range.

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Six Billion Tons

At one point I became interested in how much the Earth's atmosphere weighs. I never completed the calculations, but I did get started. I started by estimating the weight of a one-inch thick layer of air at sea level.

You can calculate the volume using the calculator application that comes with a pc computer. Just select the scientific mode and it goes to 32-digit calculations.

Once you know the volume of a sphere with a 4,000 mile radius, you can calculate the volume of a sphere with a 4,000-mile and one inch radius. (That's where the 32 digits come in handy.) Subtract the smaller volume from the larger volume and you have the volume of a one-inch layer of air at the Earth's surface.

Keep in mind that one mole (Avogadro's number) of an ideal gas (such as nitrogen or oxygen) occupies approximately 22 liters of volume at standard temperature and pressure (STP). STP exists at sea level.

And, a mole of a chemical weighs its atomic weight from the periodic chart in grams.

Get the average of 80% 28.0134 and 20% 31.9988 and you have the effective gram-molecular weight of 99% of the atmosphere. This ignores water vapor and particulates and those gases such as hydrogen and helium and carbon dioxide etc. which make up less than 1% of the atmosphere.

Convert the volume to liters and use the factors provided.

I got six billion tons.

I'm not going to repeat that calculation. I have fair confidence in the result.

Anybody who ever took chemistry 101 or even high school chemistry should have learned the stuff needed to arrive at this calculation. Look it up online.

A thousand inches is 80 feet or so. Think of it, 80 feet of air weighs 6 trillion tons! That's 6 tera-tons.

So a mile of air (high enough to reach Denver, CO) would weigh 360 tera-tons or so. Yep. 360 trillion tons! Actually slightly less because there is a significant pressure drop. Not less than 180 trillion tons. I'm guessing around 300 trillion tons.

How much does 83 million barrels of oil weigh? About 14 million tons. Miniscule when compared to the weight of one mile of atmosphere.

Of course, to this, one must add the weight of coal and natural gas burned each day, plus wood and other flammable materials, including cow chips in some parts of the world.

Of course, if the Earth were static, in a few years carbon dioxide concentrations would become lethal. But this has not happened. And it has not happened because the Earth is not static. It's dynamic. Plants metabolize the carbon dioxide. At what rate? And how is that base rate affected by the presence of slightly more carbon dioxide?

How can anybody possibly know this?

I don't think it is known currently.

I'm satisfied that it can't be known currently.

But the previous two statements are strictly opinions.

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Every 1/4th Mile

I attended a talk about meteorology in the mid 1980's. This was before the internet was widely available. The speaker described the IBM AS400 (?) computers (designed for high speed data communications) working around the clock to receive the information available from around the world and feed it into a supercomputer, possibly a Cray. When asked a question regarding the not-so-great reliability of weather forecasting, he replied saying it was estimated that reliable weather forecasting would require sensors located every quarter of a mile, both on the ground and reaching up some distance into the atmosphere.

I gather each sensor station would collect temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, and wind velocity, at least.

In the mid 1980's weather information (as listed above) was collected from stations at ground level separated by a few miles on average.

And that strained the communications network available at that time.

Imagine a tower a few thousand feet high located every couple of blocks all over the world! And people complain about cell-phone towers!

Was tree-ring data collected at quarter-mile intervals?

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Weather Modeling

I was told of a Weather Channel feature about weather modeling broadcast in the mid 1990's.

Two forecasts were shown using the same data. In one forecast, either 2 or 3 significant digits were used from raw data as input to the model. In the other, one more significant digit was used. The forecasts were significantly different from one another.

I hope the weather itself is not as critical, as acutely responsive, to slight changes as this model indicated!

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Summary of Climate Change "Science"

The best science is verified by the repetition of experiments. Things that only happen once don't lend themselves readily to "the best science". Neither do things that haven't happened yet.

In the best science, the scientist can be dispassionate about the results of the scientific work. How can anyone be dispassionate about the possibility of extreme climate change?!

With survival possibly at stake, even highly disciplined scientists can become passionate, involved.

Without getting too technical, I want to survey the possibilities posed by the climate change issue. The following scenario take into account the possibility that global warming is real or not real, action is taken or not taken, the human race survives or perishes. This would suggest 8 combinations; however, the astute reader will note that 9 are presented. This is because in some cases the effectiveness of the action taken was significant, producing more possible combinations, not all of which were presented. For each combination presented, impact on green advocates and non-green advocates is briefly explored:


1. Global warming real, no measures are implemented, human race perishes,

green industry investors make no financial gains at end.

non-green: Non-green advocates ask green advocates to say "I told you so" at end.

2. Global warming real, measures implemented have no effect, human race perishes,

green industry investors have more money in bank at end.

non-green: Non-green advocates ask green advocates to say "I told you so" at end. When green advocates say "I told you so", non-green advocates reply, "Thanks for trying."

3. Global warming real, proper measures are chosen and work only partially, human race survives longer than we would have if nothing had been done,

green industry investors have more money in bank at end, do group hug and give a collective shoulder shrug at end.

non-green: Non-green advocates join green advocates in group hug.

4. Global warming real, proper measures are chosen and work, global warming reversed, human race survives, everybody lives happily ever after,

green industry investors profit handsomely and deservedly so, winning gratitude and affection from all.

non-green: non-green advocates are simply glad to be alive. They start a movement where "Chicken Little" is watched on holidays. Active members of that movement cheer Chicken Little every time he yells, "The sky is falling!"

5. Global warming real, implemented measures accelerate global warming, human race perishes sooner than it might have otherwise,

green industry investors have more money in bank at end.

non-green: non-green advocates do about the same while desperately trying to revive the Republican party.

6. Global warming not real, no measures are implemented, human race survives,

green industry investors make limited or no financial gains.

non-green: non-green advocates do about the same while desperately trying to revive the Republican party.

7. Global warming not real, measures are implemented anyway. Measures implemented have no effect, human race survives,

green industry investors profit nicely. Lenny Bruce experiences retro-chic comeback. e.g. Cop sees idle beatnik on corner swinging hand, snapping fingers. Cop asks beatnik, "What are you doing?" Beatnik replies, "Keeping away elephants man, keeping away elephants." Cop says, "Are you crazy?! There's not an elephant within 3,000 miles!" Beatnik says, "I'm doing a pretty good job, aren't I?"

non-green: Non-green advocates scarf up Lenny Bruce memorabilia and make huge amounts of money on E-Bay.

8. Global warming not real, measures are implemented anyway. Implemented measures excite/cause global warming, human race perishes when it might have otherwise survived, farce is discovered,

Green: castles of green industry investors are stormed at end.

non-green: Upon completion of said castle-storming, non-green advocates do group hug and give a collective shoulder shrug at end.

9. Global warming not real, no measures implemented, climate remains stable.

Green advocates stop watching "Wizard of Oz" and "It's a Wonderful Life", replacing those holiday classics with "Chicken Little". Kermit the Frog's "It's not easy being green" sweatshirts make retro-chic comeback.

non-green: Non-green advocates visit green advocates and join in the viewing of "Chicken Little" on holidays. While exchanging knowing glances, they gleefully join in the obligatory "The sky is falling!" chant at the appropriate places in the movie. After the movie, they make subtle references to "The Wizard of Oz" and "It's a Good Life". On the way home, they desperately try to figure out how to help their friends from being so worried.

Remember how I talked about knowing the thoughts of every person who ever lived in order to understand history. Clearly that's impossible. Likewise, in a page and a half, it's not possible to go very deeply into the issue of climatic change. At the same time, I don't want to devote much more space than that to the issue. Hence, the simplified, abbreviated sketch of that situation.

Consider the current data suppression controversy. Think about it. Somebody goes to a great deal of trouble to assemble accurate historical climatic data. Because the result of using that data doesn't necessarily fit the foregone conclusions, parts of it are suppressed. Even at this point, I am reminded of the boot camp exercise of dig a hole, fill it up. But it gets worse. The efforts to suppress this data have been uncovered and now attempts are being made to cover that up! Where does it end?

On the CSI shows, the phrase "Follow the evidence" is often stated. In politics, the evidence is money, lots of it. So the catch phrase becomes, "Follow the money". There's lots of money floating around. I don't know where all that money comes from or where it goes. Still, a major aim of all endeavors, noble or otherwise, in science and politics is profit. With this much money in play, personal integrity may suffer. Remember Bernie Madoff?

Now consider scenarios 2, 5, 7, and 8. In each of these scenarios measures against climate change are implemented, meaning, lots of jobs are created, many of them bureaucratic make-work positions. Remember the guy dipping mud from that old Roman Empire movie I described? And remember those 53 people writing memos in a circle I described? Can you see how the people in these positions will be in the same situation? At some point, more than a few of them will be asking, "Where is all this mud coming from?!"

Are people in these positions going to be new guards for our future security?!

Are people in these positions going to feel like new guards for our future security?!

Consider the dire outcomes of scenarios 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8. These scenarios cry out for solid science. They cry out for a solid determination of whether global warming is real or not. They cry out for a solid determination of whether global warming, if it does exist, is a consequence of anything being done by man. And, assuming global warming is actually occurring and that it is actually being caused by human activity, they cry out for a viable, effective solution.

They do not cry out for huge ineffectual, or possibly even harmful (whether by innocent misapprehension of the situation, or deliberate malign profiteering) bureaucracies.

And again, I'm not saying do nothing. I'm saying get it right!

Consider the underscored phrases in these passages from the opening chapters of Genesis:


1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

So even over 2,000 years ago, there was concern regarding proper stewardship of the earth by man.

That concern persists today.

Let's get it right.


Note: The preceding material is an excerpt from The Constellation of Liberty. It is about a page and a half in length. If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy the 600 pages of material written by the same author in The Constellation of Liberty. The book discusses freedom and liberty and justice as it related to the constitution and the 2008 - 2012 election cycles. By now, some of the material is dated, but most is not. If you enjoyed this article, why not give The Constellation of Liberty a read?

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