Controvertible

From the WSJ:

A candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy may have to consider what, if anything, to do about “global warming.” Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.

In September, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, a supporter of President Obama in the last election, publicly resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) with a letter that begins: “I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: ‘The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.’ In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?”

In spite of a multidecade international campaign to enforce the message that increasing amounts of the “pollutant” carbon dioxide will destroy civilization, large numbers of scientists, many very prominent, share the opinions of Dr. Giaever. And the number of scientific “heretics” is growing with each passing year. The reason is a collection of stubborn scientific facts.

Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now. This is known to the warming establishment, as one can see from the 2009 “Climategate” email of climate scientist Kevin Trenberth: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” But the warming is only missing if one believes computer models where so-called feedbacks involving water vapor and clouds greatly amplify the small effect of CO2.

The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. Faced with this embarrassment, those promoting alarm have shifted their drumbeat from warming to weather extremes, to enable anything unusual that happens in our chaotic climate to be ascribed to CO2.

[…]

Signed: Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris; J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting; Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University; Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society; Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences; William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton; Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.; William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology; Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT; James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University; Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences; Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne; Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator; Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service; Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.

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Global What?

From the Daily Mail:

The supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years.

The figures suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames in the 17th Century.

Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.

Meanwhile, leading climate scientists yesterday told The Mail on Sunday that, after emitting unusually high levels of energy throughout the 20th Century, the sun is now heading towards a ‘grand minimum’ in its output, threatening cold summers, bitter winters and a shortening of the season available for growing food.

Solar output goes through 11-year cycles, with high numbers of sunspots seen at their peak.

We are now at what should be the peak of what scientists call ‘Cycle 24’ – which is why last week’s solar storm resulted in sightings of the aurora borealis further south than usual. But sunspot numbers are running at less than half those seen during cycle peaks in the 20th Century.
Analysis by experts at NASA and the University of Arizona – derived from magnetic-field measurements 120,000 miles beneath the sun’s surface – suggest that Cycle 25, whose peak is due in 2022, will be a great deal weaker still.

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The Fragility of Civilization

Implicit in the activist conception of government is the assumption that you can take the good things in a complex system for granted, and just improve the things that are not so good. What is lacking in this conception is any sense that a society, an institution, or even a single human being, is an intricate system of fragile inter-relationships, whose complexities are little understood and easily destabilized.
— Thomas Sowell

From VDH:

In Greek mythology, the prophetess Cassandra was doomed both to tell the truth and to be ignored. Our modern version is a bankrupt Greece that we seem to discount.

News accounts abound now of impoverished Athens residents scrounging pharmacies for scarce aspirin — as Greece is squeezed to make interest payments to the supposedly euro-pinching German banks.

Such accounts may be exaggerations, but they should warn us that yearly progress is never assured. Instead, history offers plenty of examples of life becoming far worse than it had been centuries earlier. The biographer Plutarch, writing 500 years after the glories of classical Greece, lamented that in his time weeds grew amid the empty colonnades of the once-impressive Greek city-states. In America, most would prefer to live in the Detroit of 1941 than the Detroit of 2011. The quality of today’s air travel has regressed to the climate of yesterday’s bus service.

In 2000, Greeks apparently assumed that they had struck it rich with their newfound money-laden European Union lenders — even though they certainly had not earned their new riches through increased productivity, the discovery of more natural resources, or greater collective investment and savings.
The brief euro mirage has vanished. Life in Athens is zooming backward to the pre-EU days of the 1970s. Then, most imported goods were too expensive to buy, medical care was often premodern, and the city resembled more a Turkish Istanbul than a European Munich.

The United States should pay heed to the modern Greek Cassandra, since our own rendezvous with reality is rapidly approaching. The costs of servicing a growing national debt of more than $15 trillion are starting to squeeze out other budget expenditures. Americans are no longer affluent enough to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to import oil, while we snub our noses at vast new oil and gas deposits beneath our own soil and seas.

In my state, Californians for 40 years have hiked taxes; grown their government; vastly expanded entitlements; put farmland, timberland, and oil and gas lands off limits; and opened their borders to millions of illegal aliens. They apparently assumed that they had inherited so much wealth from prior generations and that their state was so naturally rich, that a continually better life was their natural birthright.

It wasn’t. Now, as in Greece, the veneer of civilization is proving pretty thin in California. Hospitals no longer have the money to offer sophisticated long-term medical care to the indigent. Cities no longer have the funds to self-insure themselves from the accustomed barrage of monthly lawsuits. When thieves rip copper wire out of street lights, the streets stay dark. Most state residents would rather go to the dentist these days than queue up and take a number at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Hospital emergency rooms neither have room nor act as if there’s much of an emergency.

Traffic flows no better on most of the state’s freeways than it did 40 years ago — and often much worse, given the crumbling infrastructure and increased traffic. Once-excellent K–12 public schools now score near the bottom in nationwide tests. The California state-university system keeps adding administrators to the point where they have almost matched the number of faculty, though half of the students who enter CSU need remedial reading and math. Despite millions of dollars in tutoring, half the students still don’t graduate. The taxpayer is blamed in constant harangues for not ponying up more money, rather than administrators being faulted for a lack of reform.

In 1960, there were far fewer government officials, far fewer prisons, far fewer laws, and far fewer lawyers — and yet the state was a far safer place than it is a half-century later. Technological progress — whether iPhones or Xboxes — can often accompany moral regress. There are not yet weeds in our cities, but those too may be coming.

The average Californian, like the average Greek, forgot that civilization is fragile. Its continuance requires respect for the law, tough-minded education, collective thrift, private investment, individual self-reliance, and common codes of behavior and civility — and exempts no one from those rules. Such knowledge and patterns of civilized behavior, slowly accrued over centuries, can be lost in a single generation.

A keen visitor to Athens — or Los Angeles — during the last decade not only could have seen that things were not quite right, but also could have concluded that they could not go on as they were. And so they are not.

Washington, please take heed.

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Last Wows

From Peggy Noonan:

The great words of the year? “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”

They are the last words of Steve Jobs, reported by his sister, the novelist Mona Simpson, who was at his bedside. In her eulogy, a version of which was published in the New York Times, she spoke of how he looked at his children “as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.” He’d said goodbye to her, told her of his sorrow that they wouldn’t be able to be old together, “that he was going to a better place.” In his final hours his breathing was deep, uneven, as if he were climbing.

“Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve’s final words were: ‘OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.'”

The caps are Simpson’s, and if she meant to impart a sense of wonder and mystery she succeeded. “Oh wow” is not a bad way to express the bigness, power and force of life, and death. And of love, by which he was literally surrounded.

I wondered too, after reading the eulogy, if I was right to infer that Jobs saw something, and if so, what did he see? What happened there that he looked away from his family and expressed what sounds like awe? I thought of a story told by a friend, whose grown son had died, at home, in a hospice. The family was ringed around his bed. As Robert breathed his last an infant in the room let out a great baby laugh as if he saw something joyous, wonderful, and gestured toward the area above Robert’s head. The infant’s mother, startled, moved to shush him but my friend, her mother, said no, maybe he’s just reacting to . . . something only babies see.

Anyway I sent Ms. Simpson’s eulogy to a number of people and spoke to some of them, and they all had two things in common in terms of their reaction. They’d get a faraway look, and think. And if they had a thought to share they did it with modesty. No one said, “I think I can guess what he saw,” “I know who he saw,” or “Believe me, if he saw anything it was the product of the last, disordered sparks of misfiring neurons.”

They were always modest, reflective. One just said, “Wow.”

Modesty when contemplating death is a good thing.

When words leave people silent and thinking they are powerful words. Steve Jobs’ last words were the best thing said in 2011.

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