Nowhere (arguably) has the peer-review system been hijacked more by "the system" than in the area of global warming. As it became essentially impossible to obtain public funding for any research that had an explicit goal of disproving any specific aspect of it, and it became much easier to obtain research funding for any related (and sometimes unrelated) subject by citing its connection to global warming as at least a partial goal of the proposal, "the system" organized itself to defeat any spontaneous or privately-funded challenges by any means necessary.

Ironically, it is the Socialist-leaning Sinclair who captured the phenomenon perfectly in the following quote:

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Ron Schoenberg writes: 

I'm a econometrician with forty years experience in fitting statistical models. You can google me. The last 22 years I've been involved with writing computer programs for fitting statistical models. I was recently introduced to your web site and I haven't posted anything yet.

But I'm forced to respond to this post.

It's true that the peer-review system can sometimes fail. A better example is the graduate student who proposed that our continents float on tectonic plates. It took years for tectonic plates to be accepted. Global warming however is not a good example. Plate tectonics, Relativity, the heliocentric solar system were paradigmatic. Global warming isn't. A better comparison of global warming is with cigarettes causing lung cancer. Scientists were producing increasingly alarming connections of cigarette smoking with lung cancer. The cigarette companies were freaked out because this hit their bottom line. They funded scientists to produce confusion about the results the scientists were finding. They succeeded in delaying the results from being accepted.

In the same way oil companies are threatened by global warming. The value of their companies depends critically on the oil in the ground they have control over. The implication of climate science is that this oil should be left in the ground. Their valuation shrinks to next to nothing. All they going to have left is plastic (Cf. The Graduate). So they hire scientists to confuse the issue just like the cigarette companies did. The conflict of interest you point out among scientists over public funding is dwarfed by the conflict of interest created by oil companies funding of scientists. I know statistical modeling. The issues about modeling global warming are not paradigmatic. They are not like tectonic plates. And I can assure you the climate scientists are doing it right.

The impact of global warming is happening as we speak. Drought is having an impact on agricultural commodities. This is going to get worse. You need to be paying attention. If you have children who are going to live through this, you need to be paying attention.

Stefan Jovanovich replies:

Global warming and cigarette smoking share a paradigm as political economy. In both cases the reformers end up being the best possible advocates for the people whose economic interests are being threatened. Cigarette smoking was known to have health issues a hundred years ago. The cigarette companies did not "freak out" over Federal regulation; they pushed for it. Those warning labels on the cigarette packages delayed for 20 years any successful class actions challenging the fact that the tobacco companies were selling a product that met all the tests of strict liability - i.e. it was unavoidably damaging to the users.

The global warming advocates are the best friends the international oil companies ever had. Why else would BP have spent millions talking about how green they were? The international oil companies don't own the oil in the ground; the world's oil reserves are owned by state-owned monopolies. What the international oil companies still own are the means of distribution so they have every reason to want to see the oil stay in the ground rather than be pumped and used; high volumes are not profitable for distributors in competitive markets, low volumes are because they create sufficient barriers to entry.

Let's try to be more specific. What is your particular theory of global warming, Ron? Is it man-made CO2 or - as some of the unpopular scientists are beginning to suggest - is it the particulate emissions from wood fires, burning of hydrocarbons (but more importantly, the grinding of rubber tires into tiny particles) that are having serious climate effects?

The problem with conventional global warming advocacy is that it shares all of the nasty habits of 19th century Darwinism (for which Darwin himself should not be blamed); it took only a few decades for Darwin's hypothesis to become the principle justification for the racialism that became the justification for segregation and apartheid and vicious colonialism.

It has taken less time for MMGW to become the justification for preventing the vast majority of the people in the world to have access to the inexpensive energy needed for clean drinking water and cooking fires that do not produce far more lung cancer and other diseases than tobacco smoking ever has.

The science should be open to all opinion; the presumption that a hierarchy of the anointed should be given the power to destroy open markets in the name of progress is a folly that does not bear repeating. We didn't get segregation because street car companies wanted it; we got it because science confirmed the opinion of the all the "good" people that the darkies had to be quarantined - for their own good.


Jaime Klein replies:

Ron proposes the conspiracy theory that oil companies have an interest in fomenting confusion regarding global warming. Maybe it is so, but I can't see why they should be. Global warming, should it occur, will not affect the value of underground oil reserves. Only a tiny fraction of the oil is consumed by heating (6% in the USA) and I dare say the same amount or more is used in air conditioning. My summer electricity bills (in Israel) are the triple of winter ones and we use the same system for heat and cool the palace.

Quote: "Of the 20 million barrels of oil consumed each day, 40 percent is used by passenger vehicles, 24 percent by industry, 12 percent by commercial and freight trucks, 7 percent by aircraft, and 6 percent in residential and commercial buildings."

Computer modellers need no incentive to create confusion. They are quite capable of doing it for free.

Gary Rogan responds: 

I'm not a global warming scientist nor someone who is collecting all relevant facts, so I make my conclusions based on the information I come across in my constant search for information. Let me explain how I reach my conclusions.

Earlier today I posted an article illustrated how Global Warming was used as a stepping stone for success by Margaret Thatcher years ago in a cynical (my interpretation) political ploy. This elevated an obscure theory to a politically and economically viable and important concept.

Years ago I observed how Al Gore and James Hansen made sure to introduce their ideas to Congress on what was expected to be the hottest day of the year, and how they also made sure that the windows were open. I've observed how a British Court determined that Al Gore's movie contained eleven material falsehood and the impact that had on using it as a teaching aid in the UK. This was never publicized to any degree in the US and I had to ask myself "Why?". I've seen Al Gore refuse to debate ANYONE on the merits and I also asked "Why?". I've seen Climategate and the length to which "Climate Scientists" would go to quash dissent. I've seen photos of drowning polar bears forged and the realities of their survival as a species "nuanced" in was beneficial to Global Warming proponents. I've heard HUNDREDS of people of good will (or so they appeared to me) question this theory. These were people who displayed uncommon sophistication and knowledge in areas I was more familiar with. The physics of the increase of one molecule of CO2 in 10,000 molecules of air making THAT much difference never made much sense to me, but that was more from imagining this one lonely molecule among 10,000 rather than any calculations, and of course CO2 isn't the only culprit (yet somehow the main target as oil companies seem like much more inviting targets than herds of cows). I've seen the importance of solar flares questioned, and I've seen all kinds of data about global warming stopping in 1998 or current high temperatures being on par with those in the late 30's and 40's. I have no idea really if the increase in droughts may not be caused by local agricultural practices given increasing world population and use of water and all the deforestation and soil erosion that's going on.

Last night I was listening to James Delingpole, a noted British author question this theory with great believability. When asked "How do you respond to someone who says we should not take any chances and shouldn't we spend whatever it takes in case Global Warming is indeed caused by human activity?" his answer was along the lines of "Can we be sure that aliens will not invade the Earth tomorrow? If not, let's spend billions to equip all airplanes and rockets with anti-alien laser weapons".

Let me just say this: the "theory" is being promoted as a hoax would be by a priori evil, dangerous people like Al Gore. Facts are being suppressed by the mainstream press and by the advocates of the theory. Third world hell holes demand all manner of reparations under the guise of being compensated for the damage done by Global Warming to them. It may very well be true, but if it walks like a hoax, quacks like a hoax, and all that, it probably is a hoax.

Mr. Krisrock writes:

It's preposterous that anyone thinks the same collectivists who are trying to run and control our economy through central planning could do the same thing to world weather.

It shows the outrageous arrogance of San Francisco modelers who think a model so large could work…it defies common sense and a response.

This guy is a dreamer, who takes his advice from the AZTECS who worshiped the sun god…that culture disappeared in case he didn't read the history book.

Sadly, the world can't add up its money to balance its debts despite all his silly models but to think there is NO POLITICAL AIM in global warming?

There is, it's all about a small group of power hungry idiots, no different than tyrants in another time, who create false idols …

The same people as him run the state of California…have run it into the ground financially…and refuse to admit their models don't work.

The smoking argument is bullshit…people will still die from something…but millions in Asia will die far happier than this idiot.

And I add this year we had the largest global harvest of RICE…so much for global warming bullshit…

T.K Marks writes:

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

As one who defines the notion of salary broadly, that Sinclair quote might be the most succinct and trenchant definition of realpolitik that I've ever read.

Charles Pennington writes: 

Climategate demonstrated "peer review" at its worst–faking data and conspiring to ostracize the naysayers. It was a lucky stroke that it was uncovered.

Stefan Jovanovich responds:

Ron: Please accept my sincere welcome to the List. As others will tell you, I am a professional pain in the ass; but I do mean well. What I was trying to convey about the cigarette companies is that their (largely successful) conspiracy was even worse than you alleged. The cigarette companies knew they were selling addiction long before any studies were done on lung cancer. The best cases against them were those that were based on the common law argument that the tobacco companies were knowingly selling a product that was per se harmful. Those cases only had to rely on the fact of addiction - which everyone conceded - and did not need to meet the much harder burden of proof that epidemiological correlation requires. The "reform" that produced the warning labels defeated all that litigation; the tobacco companies now had a safe harbor defense.

Allow me a few last comments before acknowledging the final call to Order from the Speaker of our Parliament.

(1) There is a rather significant difference between Copernicus' situation and that of the global warming skeptics. Copernicus was challenging the established church, which was the international authority on all matters spiritual and intellectual. Your part of the argument already has the international church aka the UN and the holy orders aka the publicly-funded universities on its side. The poor skeptics have to rely on their own money - as did Copernicus.

(2) Isaac Newton was never accused of heresy; on the contrary, he was the author of a number of religious tracts, among them The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended (1728) and Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (1733). He was not even censured for his dabbling in alchemy even though reasonable minds might not consider that the best of hobby choices for someone appointed warden of the Royal Mint.

(3) Einstein first came to the U.S. in 1921 to raise funds for the planned Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received the Barnard Medal and was treated like a rock star. After he won the Nobel Prize that same year, American universities fell over themselves competing to have him come join their faculty. Einstein preferred to return to Europe - which was his home; but he continued to visit the United States regularly throughout the 1920s without ever having any problem getting off the boat. Princeton finally persuaded him to accept a faculty position with them in 1932 on the condition that Einstein be allowed to return to Berlin each year for 5 months. What kept Einstein here in America were the Nazis. He left Berlin in December 1932 (the Nazis took power the following month) and never returned to Germany. Einstein became a U.S. citizen in 1940 but he retained dual Swiss citizenship. The only evidence of Einstein's having had any difficulty with visas or his citizenship application is in Fred Jerome's book - The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World's Most Famous Scientist, by Fred Jerome. St. Martin's Press, 2002. 348 pages. ISBN 0-312-28856; and its only source is Einstein's FBI file, not State Department records.

NB: Those of us who have FBI files know from direct experience that the Feebies apply the vacuum cleaner theory of information - floor sweepings are given equal billing with birth certificates.

Peter Saint-Andre writes:

Over time I have come to see this phenomenon as controlled not by "the government" in some faceless way, but by individuals or classes of individuals who have used the levers of power (federal, state, county, city, etc.) to their own benefit. I have seen this in the city where I live: few things happen in city politics that do not benefit the real-estate developers, and certainly nothing happens that harms them. The same could likely be said for industries and policy areas that I have not studied as closely: defense, energy, finance, transportation, education, materials, you name it. There are people and companies who benefit, and who always emerge untouched. The rest of us are harmed and suffer, to a greater or lesser extent. Perhaps if one followed the money and influence to identify who precisely makes up the aristocracy of pull, one could indeed build a successful investment strategy. I don't think I have the stomach to do so.

And by the way, looking at things in this way makes me much more sympathetic to many self-styled "progressives" (while I think that their understanding of markets is quite incomplete, they too have a sense that the game is increasingly rigged).

Gary Rogan responds: 

It seems difficult to take advantage of observed cronyism while being on the outside. One should only look at trying to invest in solar panel manufacturers, or ethanol producers, or defense contractors (after a certain point). Sooner or later the government runs out of money, and you have to be very close to the action to figure out when the gig is up. The health insurers were quite an interesting story to observe: a very political group that took a huge hit with Obamacare only to recover very nicely. You really have to know who was involved in shaping the legislation, and if possible the real effect. My own solution was to own what Rocky likes to call "world class" companies that seem flexionic, but would persist past any "abandonment" stage, or in companies that have a flexionic component, but that's not dominant (such as a chemical manufacturer with a large biodiesel component). It would be interesting to study if any of Sage's flexionic investments could be taken advantage of after his intent has become public, at least he always knows these days that the company will be saved if push comes to shove. 

T.K Marks writes: 

Not all variables are created equal. Some are unknown; others, unknowable.

Absent insider knowledge, politics for general investment purposes is but a fiefdom of unknowable variables, where knowledge is lord.

But 'knowledge' in such a sense is illegal, or unethical, or both.

At least it's supposed to be.

So one is better off trying to quantify things played out on fields more intrinsically level than politics.


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