Certainties and risk perception (2)

Continuing with the opening statement of Senator Peters. In previous post I had the impression that his risk perception was seriously influenced by his (unwarranted) certainty of the understanding of the climate system, his specific definition of “global warming” and the very strong simplification of what is in fact a very complex system. This have led him to believe that the science is clear that there are huge risks involved. The rest of the opening statement also builds on this and politics enters the mix.

But first he reflected on the disagreement he was expecting in this panel:

We going to hear today that there is some disagreement, some disagreement, in the scientific community of the magnitude of that risk. As a matter of fact, we going to hear from three scientists and a political commentator and blogger, who disagree with various aspects of the scientific consensus as well as to argue that the science is not settled.

Interesting are the repeated of “some disagreement”, as to underline that there is only a little bit of disagreement. That “some disagreement” seems to be only on the magnitude of the risk. We already know what he thinks the magnitude is of that risk. Just two sentences earlier, he said that “the possible consequences of all these areas range from the bad to the catastrophic”. Which he probably thinks is the consensus position.

That the science is not settled is I think a given. Anyone who claims that a science (studying a complex, coupled, chaotic system with sparse, constantly changing historical data, pointing to one specific parameter amongst thousands) is settled, is not really honest in my opinion.

Here we need to support our scientific community so they can continue answer the open questions and how policy makers make better understand the risks we face.

I hope he also was talking about the skeptical scientists… Open questions are not only about the magnitude of the risk, but also about how certain we are about that risk, questioning things like politicization/polarization of the science, the consensus, (unvalidated) model data,…

And we hear that scientists need to be protected from political interference from either side of the aisle. And I certainly agree that we need to support our scientific community and protect them from political influence.

Hey, that is really interesting! I hope he realizes that the IPCC is a political body and that their process mixes science with politics by design… 🙂

But I also know that while we continue to refine the science, we have to act on the risk and findings that our scientists have discovered.

I heard that many times before: science builds on itself, we sit on the shoulders of giants,… I have no problem believing this for example in engineering or a science with a solid base of evidence. However, we might not have such a solid base to build on yet. Climate is a hugely complex system that only recently got investigated, there are only reliable data for the last several decades for some of the many parameters, not very reliable historical data and the scientific method doesn’t apply when we want to study how the theory [stands] in the real world. And yes, that is why the mathematical models are used in stead, but according to the testimony of Dr. Christie they don’t exactly match.

After this came the part where organizations that agree with the consensus are being listed (see previous posts here and here). He concludes the list with this:

It is the position of these organizations that the evidence is overwhelming, that the Earth is warming, that global warming is real and that human activity is the primary contributor.

That is all rather ambiguous. For example, it depends on what evidence is overwhelming exactly? I agree that there is indeed plenty of evidence that the Earth is warming. That is not controversial. The big question is whether that is caused by human CO2 emissions and that is everything but sure.

Global Warming is real. I agree with that and I think most of the skeptics do too. But it is also an ambiguous claim. It can mean anything between “there is warming” to “there is dangerous warming and we are the cause”. It is an empty quote if one does not first explain what the definition is of “Global Warming”.

Whether human activity is the primary contributor of climate change is not so clear. As far as I know it is based on surveys of some scientists or scientific papers. In my world that doesn’t exactly count as scientific proof.

We know there will always be more to learn. We will undoubtedly find more down the road that there is more to discover what we don’t know. And that is really the beautiful thing about science. We always have more to learn.

I think both sides can agree with that.

But knowing that there is more to learn should not, it should not, stop us from acting from what we know now. We must discuss and determine what actions we need to take to limit the serious risks that we face and there are many thing we can do that is not only good for the environment, but are good for the economy.

We indeed must discuss, but we must discuss with all information available. At this point there is only one side that gets the attention and the other side is ignored or vilified. That perceived “serious” risk is there only because of the one-sidedness of the information we receive. It is my experience that if one takes a look at both sides of the story, alarmism there isn’t much room for alarmism.

Investments in clean energy create good paying jobs and help us to produce the energy that we need right here in the United States. For example, Michigan is home to 220 wind and solar companies, representing tens of thousands of jobs. The growth in Michigan’s clean energy sector can be attributed in part to state renewable electricity standards which requires 10% of the states energy come from renewables. But there is a lot of room to grow. If industry sourced its parts from local manufactures, renewable energy could support over 20.000 Michigan jobs in manufacturing alone by 2020. What is more, expanding Michigan electricity standards from 10% to over 30% by 2030 would generate over 9 billion dollars in new capital investments. Investments in research and science, including the understanding of our sun-earth system, paying diligence on our countries future economic growth, economic competitiveness and our very way of life.

I expected “will create” and “will help”, somewhere in the future, but now I hear “create” and “help” in the present tense. Do they really achieve that already now? Why is it that politicians try to paint investments in “clean” energy as economical and provider of jobs? While in reality we experience exactly the opposite. In a way I could understand the basis of the reasoning: if industry sources its parts from local manufactures, it will generate cash flow for the state. But even assuming this, many questions are popping up. Where does that money comes from in the first place? How many non-alternative-energy jobs were lost in the process? What does he exactly mean by “investments”? Subsidies? If so, doesn’t that mean a cost for the government, because a certain technology is not economically viable and how is that “good for the economy”? What about that “if industry sourced it parts from local manufactures”? Does that mean those 220 wind and solar companies don’t do that already? Where do these parts come from now and what is the impact on the very thing they want to avoid? Are these part locally available and at what price?

He then closed with a bang:

China certainly understands that, so if we missed these opportunity to make these investments now, we soon find ourselves falling behind in the global economy. So let’s focus on innovating our way out of this problem and take a big step forward as a country.


Have I got some news! China understands that wind might be free, but the contraptions that catch it are incredibly expensive. China understands that it doesn’t want to affect its economy and therefor has no intention to sacrifice its economic growth by reducing its emissions. China understands that it need coal plants if it want to create affordable energy and a lot of them are being build or will be build in the near future. China understands that when the Western world want them to convert to “clean” energy, that they have to give the money to do so. If China really would believe that wind energy is “good for its economy” (in the present tense), why aren’t they eager to put its huge resources to use and why on earth would they need to ask money to implement it?

From this I would rather conclude that China understands that fossil fuels are driving its development.


2 thoughts on “Certainties and risk perception (2)

  1. poitsplace

    Let me just point out along the lines of “creating jobs”. The jobs created by such systems are parasitic and unnatural. Think of the economy as a pyramid. Looking back in history we have essentially 100% self-employment in the form of hunter-gatherers. As people began to specialize, we began to get more work done with fewer people, the pyramid went from completely flat to a slight incline. More and more people were able to provide technology. As time went on there were numerous advances and eventually things like assemby lines and robotics…leading to massive increases in output…the pyramid is now enormous.

    But green jobs are the opposite…they reduce the pyramid. ALL sources of “green energy” being pushed today require about 5-10X the materials, 5-10X the labor, and 5-10X the maintenance. Every aspect of their production, use, and upkeep involves paying more people lots of money to provide less product and of vastly inferior quality…AND AT FAR GREATER EXPENSE.

    And along with this come massive numbers of regulatory jobs. And as I’ve said before, people need to understand that while some regulatory jobs are necessary…one has to keep in mind that every single regulatory job is in fact a person that is paid…to stop other people from working as hard, as efficiently, as effectively.

    In short, the so-called green revolution can never be anything other than an economy crushing drop in the standard of living. And each worker will at minimum be the result of a loss of a worker in another sector that made more complex goods…or more likely, result in not only the loss of that worker but a lower demand for workers overall due to the increased costs and lower quality of output.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      I am with you here. I never assumed that those jobs were a solution. When considering for example contribution for social security or pensions, these jobs are not even counted.



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