My Letter on ‘Climate’ to the ‘Islands Independent’
I will hold the Canadian Government responsible for their failure to take action to stop climate change. If the government continues to dismiss its residents, I will come to the G20 meeting in June or participate in demonstrations in my community. I will make it clear to the world that people in Canada care about climate change and won’t accept inaction any further.
Ok, I participated in ‘activism’ in my student days and I think there is a need for the upcoming generation to ‘stir it up’ and make people think. But, … a partnership with the Pembina Institute!?! Is youth the victim of the ‘politicizing of science’?
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I believe that the motivation for the statements on ‘climate’ by Elizabeth May, Nadia Nowak and Peter Carter is ‘the health and harmony of the community/habitat’, and this is true also for myself. This common motivation makes of us a kind of ‘virtual team’. But as in many teams, there is not always a common understanding of ‘the issues’.
My virtual ‘team-mates’ and I currently differ in our understanding of ‘climate’, me being the ‘odd man out’, and I wrote a letter (click here) to the ‘Islands Independent’ (which may be published in the June 11th issue) thanking the paper (Laurie Kay) for providing fair and open access for comments on such issues.
In the letter I mention that;
“Elizabeth May, and perhaps Nadia Nowak, Peter Carter and others, may have no need to discuss dynamic phenomena in more than superficial detail because;
‘they have it on good authority’ that anthropogenic global warming and CO2-forcing of climate change ‘are fact’.”
Also in the letter, I speak of my continuing studies into the complexity of natural systems dynamics, and my exchanges with respected climate scientists which support the fact that;
“I too can say that ‘I have it on good authority’ that anthropogenic global warming and CO2-forcing of climate change are ‘artifacts’ of over-simplifying nature’s complexity.”
Ok, we have all heard more than we want to hear of arguments of the ‘yes it is’, ‘no it isn’t’ variety and it is not my intention to repeat all of this here. What I want to do here is to share ‘my forty-year trail’ of inquiry into ‘complexity’ aka ‘nonlinear dynamics’ in as simple and straight-forward a manner as I am able to. This is what I mean by taking the discussion on climate down deeper than ‘superficial detail’.
My interest to understand something ‘scientifically’, has always oriented to ‘real world phenomena’, moreso than in simple experiments that avoid complexity, as is the standard fare of university courses in physics. In working as a geophysicist (which kicked off 46 years ago), I had to inquire directly into the unmitigated complexity of the ‘earth’.
When one drives below the superficial details, one realizes that, to ‘really understand the earth’, one has to question what is meant by ‘the earth’. Henri Poincaré tried to bring this out with the contention that; ‘it is nonsense to say that ‘the earth rotates’’. That raised a lot of eyebrows amongst his colleagues in 1905, when he made this statement in ‘Science and Hypothesis’ and he later elaborated on what he intended in ‘The Value of Science’ in a chapter on ‘Science and Reality’, section VII ‘The Rotation of the Earth’.
I will make a somewhat ‘bold’ statement here, following up on Poincaré’s reflections in his personal writing that only a handful of his colleagues ‘got it’ (understood his point).
My contention is that most people, scientific experts and dabblers in the sciences of nature’s complexity ‘still don’t get it’ (I will explain ‘it’ in a moment), even though it is key to understanding the complexity in nature. Having worked with Ph.D scientists while managing an applied research operation, I know that such understanding does not come automatically with a ‘good science education’, such understanding is rather in the realm of ‘philosophy of science’ and/or ‘systems theory’. (ordained in the 1950’s to try to address complexity that was not being addressed by mainstream science).
I don’t have a Ph.D in physics (I have a B.Sc) but I have been published‡ in ‘Complexity’, the journal of the Santa Fe Institute which was founded in 1984 by a group of Los Alamos scientists and Murray Gell-Mann (Nobel prize in elementary particle physics, discovery of the quark [hadronic resonance] etc.). These scientists contended, as the ‘systems scientists’ had before them, that ‘the universities’, including the worlds ‘top’ universities, were not addressing ‘complexity’ in the depth that it needed to be addressed. They distinguish this science that ‘goes deeper than’ ‘standard science’ by calling it ‘complexity science’.
Ok, time to talk about what ‘it’ is, these ‘deeper complexity’ that is often ignored in ‘standard science’ and how it relates to ‘earth science’.
Don’t worry, I am not going to go down to quark level (I am not capable of it, in any case). The sort of complexity that ‘standard science’ doesn’t deal with is easily accessible to the average person, even if they dropped out of school in grade 6. In fact, there is evidence that the basics of ‘complexity science’ may be MORE accessible to a grade 6 dropout than to a Ph.D because a standard science education hones a person’s skills in ‘linear’ thinking.
For example, ‘standard science’ addresses only the ‘linear’ aspect of ‘the economy’ just like ‘standard physics’ (Newtonian physics) address only the ‘linear’ aspect of earth movement. There is no ‘standard science’ theory for ‘collapses of the economy’ just as there is no ‘standard theory’ for ‘earthquakes’, and all of this ties back to Poincaré’s commonly misunderstood comment that “it is nonsense to say that ‘the earth rotates’” and to his discovery of ‘sensitive dependence on initial conditions’ in 1895 which lay fallow until 1962 when it was rediscovered by Edward Lorenz, an MIT meteorologist, and re-labelled ‘Chaos Theory’ and/or ‘the butterfly effect’.
Is this sounding ‘complex’ and ‘hard to understand’?
Don’t worry, it truly is simple and you can understand it from your everyday experience; e.g. do you put up with someone who keeps annoying you ‘to a point’ and then ‘blow up’ and vent your anger at them? That is, do you have in you this proverbial behaviour described by ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’?
If you understand this, then you understand one of the entries into ‘complexity science’, and you understand why classical economic theory does not deal with ‘collapses of the economy’. Why not? … because classical economic theory implicitly incorporates ‘the rational investor’, an investor who never ‘loses his cool’; i.e. who never behaves ‘nonlinearly’, who has none of this ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ exposure. So much for the theory because it is a confirmed fact that, for most investors, if they get too much ‘bad news’ in a short period, they panic and sell, the domino effect ensues and markets collapse.
This sort of behaviour pervades nature’s dynamics, however, the physics of material dynamics is not architected to include and address ‘earthquakes’ even though ‘earthquakes’ are ‘the general case’.
Why is the grade 6 dropout more likely to ‘understand complexity’ than the university physics graduate? The university physics graduate has mastered the physics of linear phenomena (what the standard science of physics is architected to deal with) and, like a man with only one tool, a hammer, he will see only ‘the nail’ in every issue. So too, the trained economist. He plays an ostrich game, not wanting to see what is ‘really going on’. In the recent 2008 market collapse, ‘expert economists’ were ensuring investors that it made sense, not only to invest in Bear-Stearns et al, but to buy more at current bargain prices and make a profit when it regained its proper valuation/price. These up and down oscillations are addressed using ‘linear theory’ just like the movement of rocks up and down a slope. Linear theory does not address ‘earthquakes’ and/or ‘market collapses’ when the very foundations that one has been assuming no longer ‘hold’.
How would the grade 6 dropout describe ‘complexity’? Perhaps in words something like this; ‘Every time my mom nags me, I tense up, and unless her nagging stops for awhile so that I can get back into a relaxed state again, the tension continues to build to the point that I ‘lose it’ and ‘go postal’. He could as well be describing the basics of earthquake phenomena and/or market collapse; i.e. the building of invisible tensions to a threshold at which the system can no longer support the stress and violently undergoes reorganisation in which the stress (accumulated potential energy) is transformed into explosive physical movement (the accumulated potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy).
This is called ‘self-organized criticality’ and it associates with ‘the power law’ that predicts that there will be many more small releases of stress for every big release, but such ‘theory’ cannot predict either the timing or the magnitude of the release.
The ‘jargon’ in the last paragraph will not be understood by the grade 6 dropout but the basics of the nonlinear phenomena will be understood. As for most of the PhD physicists and/or economists, they will be ‘steering clear’ of these nonlinear dynamics and seeking to understand and explain things on ‘either side’ of these ‘discontinuities’; i.e. their theoretical treatment will not include and address these nonlinear dynamics. During the onset of the unpredicted economic collapse, the high-paid economist/expert will look sheepish, but soon he will be laughing all the way to the bank as the victims of the ‘economic earthquake’ hire him in a desperate attempt to bring things back to normal.
Did I say ‘normal’? Are earthquakes ‘abnormal’? Are nonlinear dynamics ‘abnormal’. Is it ‘abnormal’ to ‘lose your temper’ when stress continues to build?
All of that which is beyond ‘linear theory’ yet ‘happens anyway’ is ‘perfectly natural’; i.e. the nonlinear is natural; i.e. it is the general case in nature, but ‘standard science’ is not interested in it. That’s why Murray Gell-Mann, for example, left his tenured professorship at Caltech to co-found the Santa Fe Insitute (that’s only back in 1984; i.e. ‘complexity science’ is still pretty young, and still not very popular. There’s a lot more jobs, money and prestige in ‘standard science’).
The plot thickens here. Why has ‘complexity’ and ‘chaos’ been ignored by science. Why did science not ‘pick up on it’ when Poincaré discovered that it was inherent in nature back in the 1890s? This question has been explored by philosophers of science, and the ‘concensus’ is that;
“Although the [complex] systems themselves were found in the nineteenth century, their study was “repressed in the cultural and ideological context of the times.” – Prigogine and Stengers
“Science owes its success to its ability to predict natural phenomena thus allowing man a degree of control over his surroundings” -.R.S. Shaw
It has been further suggested that the orientation of ‘standard science’ to problems and solutions that facilitate ‘control’ associates with a gender-biased view;
“A key origin of androcentric bias can be found in the selection of problems for inquiry, and in the definition of what is problematic about them” – S. Harding
“To the extent that such models [models that posit central governing elements] also lend themselves more readily to the kinds of mathematics that have been developed, we need further to ask. What accounts for the kinds of mathematics that have been developed? … might it not be that prior commitments (ideological, if you will) influence not only the models that are felt to be satisfying but also the very analytical tools that are developed?” That is, since we know that the choice of scientific and mathematical models influences the evolution of community, … not only in the context of developments made available to the community, … but also with respect to how the benefits and risks of such developments are presented to the public.” – E.F. Keller
Before you accuse me of having a ‘feminist view’ on the subject of complexity science [and climate science], I am merely reviewing my ‘due diligence’ in investigating the ‘complexity’ in natural phenomena and in our approach to inquiring into and seeking understanding of such complexity.
Who could claim that this is ‘irrelevant’ to inquiry into ‘climate science’? I think no-one, who has delved into this topic, beneath the superficial details that are generally presented in newspaper reportage.
Whatever one makes of this, the following cannot be denied (there is too much evidence in support of it); i.e. scientists split into two camps when it comes to scientific inquiry into complex phenomena such as ‘climate’.
The one camp [‘standard science’]orients toward bringing out the ‘predictable aspect’ of climate phenomena; i.e. to force-fit the climate data into a ‘causal template’. This camp will assume the existence of causal agency/s and hold it/them responsible for variations in climate even if the climate variations derive from nonlinear influences.
The other camp [‘complexity science’] does not orient to ‘causal mechanisms’ but instead, to “geometric mechanisms responsible for unpredictable behaviour”;
“chaos theory does not pay any attention to causal mechanisms, it does concentrate on revealing mechanisms of another sort; geometric mechanisms.” – Stephen Kellert
The point is that the second group of scientists, unlike the first, is content with ‘not being able to predict and thus ‘control’ dynamic phenomena’, but instead, to simply understand the ‘geometry’ that gives rise to inherently unpredictable dynamics. In a macro sense, the geometry of convection cells in the earth’s lithosphere explain why some continents are moving away from each other, why some continents are moving towards each other and why earthquakes are bound to happen as stresses periodically build and release on a non-predictable basis;
What ‘disappears’ in this geometric view is the notion that ‘continents drift’. As it turns out, what we have been calling ‘continents’ are merely that portion of the lithic convection cell that is current exposed at the earth’s surface. We could put this in the same format as Poincaré’s claim that ‘it is nonsense to say that ‘the earth rotates’’, and say that ‘it is nonsense to say that ‘continents drift’’. The ‘nonsense’ (however ‘useful’ this nonsense may be in its descriptive capacity) lies in the fact that when we make these claims, we imply that ‘space is an absolute fixed and empty container’ that serves as a reference for the motion of ‘the earth’/the continents’, a simplifying abstraction that must not be confused for reality.
Anthropogenic global warming and greenhouse-gas-forcing of global warming are models that identify ‘causal mechanisms’ that [claim to] ‘explain’ climate change (global warming and cooling) which opens the door to ‘controlling’ climate change.
‘Buried’ in this view is the ‘problem’ with scientific inquiry that was raised by Poincaré in his contention that “it is nonsense to say that the ‘earth rotates’” and in the contention of Systems Science pioneer Russell Ackoff in his contention that ‘analytical solutions’ (causal models) oversimplify what ‘really’ goes on.
Don’t go away. The guts of this contention are easily accessible to anyone. Ackoff uses the example of ‘the university’ to elaborate on what he means.
Before the system we know as ‘the university’ emerged, there was the system of ‘society’; i.e. the ‘social dynamic’. The social dynamic ‘changed’ when the universities emerged but it didn’t go away. To say that ‘universities act/educate’ is thus similar to saying ‘the earth rotates’ and/or ‘the continents drift’; i.e. this implies that the university is a ‘local system’, notionally equipped with its own internal causal mechanisms. And indeed, if we focus on the university, its physical structures, its departments, faculties, processes etc., we can come up with an explanation of ‘what a university is’ in these ‘analytical terms’. If variances appear in the ‘university’s behaviour’, we can use the analytical description to probe into the guts of the departments and faculties and the integrative processes which bring the activities in the university into an overall smoothly oiled machine dynamic. That is, we can look for ‘internal causal mechanisms’ to explain the variances in the university’s behaviour.
But this sort of inquiry would miss the fact that the university, like the continent, is included in a larger and more comprehensive ‘suprasystem’, that of the social dynamic in which it is an included system (subsystem). Instead of being a ‘local, independently-existing system’ with its own ‘locally originating, internal causal mechanism-driven behaviour’, … we can now see it in the same revised context manner that we saw the ‘continent’; i.e. as secondary to the suprasystem dynamic it is included in. In other words, the university’s behaviour and the variances therein are ‘not really’ driven by internal causal mechanisms (the professors and students are not just acting on behalf of the university, but are, at the same time, included in the social dynamic which parented and continues to inhabit/animate the university).
There is no system in nature that is not included in a suprasystem. This applies not only to universities, continents and planets such as earth, but to every ‘apparently local, independently-existing system notionally with its own internal causal drivers’. Reflection shows that we implicitly impose the assumption that the ‘space’ that the ‘local system’ is in, is an absolute fixed and empty reference frame, without the imposing of which we would be unable to synthetically ‘split out’ the ‘local system’ and impute to it its own ‘absolutely its own’ behaviour. It takes an absolute space-frame, serving as a reference, to impute ‘locally originating, internal causal mechanism driven behaviour’ to a notional ‘local system’. With the absolute frame in place, we can say ‘the continent drifts’ and/or ‘the earth rotates’, but if we back off imposing the frame, then the behaviour of the ‘continent’ etc. can only be ‘relative’ to the suprasystem dynamic in which the notional ‘local system’ is included. In other words, there is no such thing, in nature, as a ‘local system’ with ‘its own locally originating, internal causal mechanism-driven’ behaviour.
You may then well ask, … what assumptions are we making [that we are not explicitly stating] when we say that CO2 emissions cause variances in the earth’s [climatic] behaviour? That is, the proposition that CO2 emissions on earth ‘cause’ variances in the earth’s behaviour implies that we are modeling the earth as a ‘local system’. As in the case of the university, when the behaviour of the university varies in a way that we take to be unhealthy, we can ‘examine the causal drivers in the internals of the university’ and no doubt we will come up with some of them which are ‘wonky’. The trouble is, these notional ‘internal causal mechanisms’ do not represent ‘first cause’ of the behaviour variance in the university; the ‘first cause’ of the behaviour variance derives from the suprasystem in which the notional ‘local system’ of ‘university’ is included, in the same manner that ‘storm-cells’ are included in the suprasystem dynamic of atmospheric flow.
Whether we are talking about four universities in the social dynamic, four continents in the earth’s geodynamic, or four planets in the celestial dynamic, we have the option of imposing an absolute reference frame over each one, and in developing an analytical model for it which features internal causal mechanisms driving its behaviour, or we can go one step further and acknowledge that these dynamic ‘features’ are secondary to the surprasystem dynamic in which they are included. That is, the variances in their behaviour do not ‘really’ derive from internal causal mechanisms; that is simply a ‘short-cut’ way to describing what is going on.
If we say a storm-cell is ‘intensifying’ (i.e. if we describe it as if it were a local system) then when we look inside at updrafts and downdrafts and thermal energy transformations, condensation and evaporation etc. etc., we will surely be able to explain variances in storm-cell behaviour in terms of notional ‘internal causal mechanisms’ which we can measure and validate. The same is true of the university and its ‘internal causal mechanisms’.
BUT….this sort of explanation of behaviour variance, as is derived from analytical models that assume that the system is a ‘local system’ with ‘its own locally originating internal causal mechanism-driven behaviour’, does not ‘trump’ the fact that the ‘primary source’ of the overall dynamic and thus ‘the behaviour variance’ is the ‘suprasystem dynamic’ in which the so-called ‘local system’ is inextricably included, and is separated from the suprasystem only by the synthetic modeling device of imposing a notional absolute space reference frame over it so that we can describe it relative to the absolute reference frame. This is the source of all so-called ‘local systems’ that we impute to come equipped with their own ‘locally originating, internal causal mechanism-driven’ behaviours.
So, when you hear two groups of scientists arguing over whether climate change is ‘celestially forced’ or ‘locally forced’, you can interpret this in terms of ‘two ways of modeling’ the same phenomenon; i.e. whether the behaviour variance is seen as originating ‘firstly’ in the suprasystem dynamic or ‘firstly’ in the notional ‘locally originating, internal causal mechanism-driven behaviour’ of the system modeled as a ‘local system’ (imposing an absolute space reference frame).
The ‘right’ answer is that ‘it is celestially forced’ and the question therefore becomes’ ‘how well does the simplified ‘local systems model’ perform’ as a predictive tool?
The President of the United States may say that ‘he is where the buck stops’ with respect to the health of the local national economy; i.e. he will work the local banking, trade and other ‘locally controllable’ instruments so as to ‘sustain the health’ of the local economy. But, if the EU economy fails, it may take the U.S. economy down with it. The point is that the notion of a ‘local economy’ is an ‘idealisation’ just like the ‘Declaration of Independence’ (we all share inclusion in an unbounded dynamic space, the imaginary-line-boundaries of sovereign states notwithstanding); i.e. the notional ‘local system’ is idealisation that should not be confused for ‘reality’.
I have probably gone far enough to introduce the reader to some of the internal ‘issues’ in scientific inquiry, the ‘dirty laundry’ that underlies the head-butting that does surface between and amongst scientists, … far enough to support the claim of ‘due diligence’ in my explorations into the sub-superficial details of ‘climate science’.
So, … ciaoforniao, …
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What, you want more?
Ok, here’s more.
Geologists tend to be on the side of ‘celestial forcing’ of climate change. This is because their plot of climate change is about a metre in length, while the period where man could have influences is about one millimetre. The general public tends to think that they know what ‘normal climate is’ based on their experiencing of climate (about one thousandth of a millimetre on the wildly fluctuating global temperature curve).
“Geologists, for the most part, don’t get as excited about climate change,” he says. “We have a longer world view. We recognize that there are intervals when it’s warmer or
colder.” – Professor Tim Patterson, Carleton University
“Tim Patterson is in a rush. He has 500 students signed up this semester for his climate-change course at Carleton University, and he’s got to get ready. On the first day, he always asks how many of them think the climate is pretty much the same. “A majority put up their hands,” he says. “They think the climate is an immutable thing, and any deviation must be due to human activity.” – Margaret Wente (Globe & Mail), ‘Just a Dissenting Geologist’, January 8, 2008
The intensive use of science to ‘predict and control’ has made its impression, over generations, on youth. The notion of ‘local system’ is infused into our ‘scientific understanding’. That is, we are prone to confusing ‘local systems (simplified idealisation) for ‘reality’. That is ‘where Patterson’s students are ‘coming from’’.
The notion in the scientifically acculturated head is that the system is local and if its behaviour changes, then it must be due to the internal causal mechanisms that drive the behaviour of the local system.
If the 500 students were asked ‘does the earth rotate?’ or ‘do continents drift?’, … a majority would likely respond; ‘of course the earth rotates’ and ‘of course continents drift’. Similarly, the public if asked whether ‘tropical storms intensify’ and ‘head northwards’, the majority of people would likely respond in the affirmative. A small minority might respond with something like the following;
“The bigger picture lies in the dynamics of the atmosphere where non-uniform capture of thermal energy from solar irradiance introduces thermal energy and pressure/density differentials which induce convection currents in the flow. These induced ‘cells’ are not local systems in their own right, but are the visible artifacts of thermal- and pressure-field differentials in the suprasystem of the spatial atmosphere-dynamic, thus what we are seeing is the transformation of the flow of the atmosphere, highlighted by the secondary formation (within the spatial transformation) of apparently local ‘convection cells’.”
Now, someone might argue that ‘a bad university president’ TRULY WILL SCREW UP the performance of the university; i.e. that he is a local internal causal mechanism.
But one could similarly argue that ‘a bad president of Greece’ TRULY WILL SCREW UP the performance of the Greek economy; i.e. that he is a local internal causal mechanism.
The paradox here is resolved when/if one acknowledges that there is no such thing as ‘the performance of the Greek economy’ (the local system aspect is pure idealisation). However strong or weak the Greek economy performs derives from the suprasystem dynamic (global economy) that it is included in. The same relations apply as between the flow of the atmosphere and the strength and weakness of the convection-cells that emerge within it. The claims by a sovereign state’s political party or President, that they are causally responsible for a strong economy, have no monopoly on the truth of the matter, and the truth is that there is no such thing, really, as a ‘local economy’ because there is no such thing as a ‘local system’, except as a simplified idealisation. The notional ‘local system’ is an ‘idealisation’ that may be very useful, but its ‘localness’ is not ‘real’.
The foolishness of a ‘president’ of a university and/or the ‘president’ of a sovereign state can indeed ‘influence’ the overall dynamic but it must be remembered that ‘the university’ and ‘the sovereign state’ are idealised notions based on ‘common belief’ in their definitions. The ‘kingdom of Ralph’ or ‘the continent of North American’ takes on a ‘reality of its own’ (as a ‘locally existing entity’) if enough people agree to believe in ‘its existence’. The boundaries of that bit of the lithosphere sticking up out of the ocean that we call ‘North America’ will of course change in correspondence with the water level; i.e. islands can become unbounded irregularities on the water bottom and vice versa depending on the water level. Like mountain peaks, they become discrete ‘locally existing objects’ only by common belief.
In terms of the influence (and how it ‘plays out’) of some measurable dynamic that is within the imaginary bounds of the in-reality-unbounded ‘local system’, as in the above satellite photograph of the four storm-cells, Mach’s principle can be applied; i.e. “The dynamics of the habitat condition the dynamics of the inhabitants at the same time as the dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat.”
Mach’s principle (of the relativity of space and matter) gives us a way to take account of dynamic influences without having to impute ‘first cause’ to anything that ‘appears’ to be local. Thus, there is, in general, no need to invoke the notion of a ‘local system’ that is notionally capable of locally originating, internal causal mechanism-driven, system behaviour.
The implicit foundational assumptions underpinning such propositions as “human CO2 emissions cause global warming’ and/or ‘Greenhouse gas emissions cause climate variation” should be becoming evident from this discussion context; i.e. these propositions rest dependently on ‘local systems’ concepts.
The actions/dynamics of the Greek President (and other presidents) condition the global dynamic at the same time as the global dynamic is conditioning the dynamics of the Greek President. This relationship is geometric and ‘relative’ rather than causal and ‘absolute’. If the global economy is strong, it is difficult for any local source of influence to screw it up. But it is always possible to identify the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ or the single sand-grain that triggered the avalanche. When the older brother nags his mom to point where she is ready to ‘lose it’ and the younger brother arrives innocently home from school and begins also to nag, he is likely to see her explode. Did he cause her explosion? No, but he ‘triggered’ it.
This brings the discussion back around to nonlinear dynamics, the general case in nature, which also expose the propositions of anthropogenic global warming and greenhouse-gas forced climate change as being the artifacts of oversimplifying the complexity in nature.
‘Time’ comes into play here. Scientists studying nonlinear dynamics (‘complexity science’) speak about ‘the clockworks hegemony’. What is implied here is that systems that behave ‘unpredictably’ are not seen as useful, orderly and controllable. It is these sort of systems that attract the interest of most scientists because they are ‘useful’;
“In order to bend phenomena to human needs, natural processes must be reduced in complexity and simplified into predictable, lawlike behaviour. The domination of nature thus involves “making the world more predictable, by reducing the chaotic complexity of natural events and processes to regular procedures that can be controlled.” ( J. Rouse, ‘Knowledge and Power’) Once simplified, natural events can be controlled and exploited because they behave predictably according to laws that hold for all time and space.” – Stephen Kellert, ‘In the Wake of Chaos’, Ch. Beyond the Clockwork Hegemony.
Ok, what is it that makes ‘systems’ behave unpredictably? As the grade 6 dropout knows, it is when tensions build ‘over time’, invisibly (we can intuit this build up) and reach a threshold where the system ‘goes ballistic’.
What does mainstream science do about such systems?
Believe it or not … mainstream science has devised a problem-defining and solving approach which assumes that such systems ‘do not exist’ and force-fits all systems into a ‘rational’ framework wherein the present behaviour of the system depends only on the immediate past and not on the remote past (as where tensions build slowly over time).
In the words of Henri Poincaré;
“Origin of Mathematical Physics. Let us go further and study more closely the conditions which have assisted the development of mathematical physics. We recognise at the outset that the efforts of scientists have always tended to resolve the complex phenomenon given directly by our experience into a large number of elementary phenomena. And to do this in three different ways : first, with respect to time. Instead of taking into account the progressive development of a phenomenon as a whole, we simply seek to connect each moment with the one immediately preceding. We assert that the present state of the world depends only on the immediate past, without being directly influenced, so to speak, by the memory of a more distant past. Thanks to this postulate, instead of studying directly the whole succession of phenomena, we may confine ourselves to writing down “its differential equation” ; for the laws of Kepler, we substitute the laws of Newton.” — Henri Poincaré, ‘Science and Hypothesis’, Ch. ‘Hypotheses in Physics’, subsection “Origin of Mathematical Physics”
The reader will recognize in this ‘simplification’, the notion of the ‘rational investor’ in classical economic theory. The ‘rational investor’ (the investor as a ‘rational system’) deals with information (interprets, decides, responds) as it comes to him, thus his ‘present behaviour’ depends only on ‘the immediate past’. Our grad 6 dropout would recognize that this is not the way things really work. As things continue to go badly, tensions continue to build until the tensions reach a threshold where there is a violent release of energy. Life is like ‘earthquake theory’, ‘self-organized criticality’ and all that ‘nonlinear-dynamic phenomena’ that is unpredictable. It is unpredictable because, in real life, the present depends on the remote past as well as the immediate past. So much for ‘mathematical physics’ and its ‘simplifications’ (which are representative of mainstream science in general).
How does this relate to ‘climate change’.
In this context, let’s examine the following statements of Marina Leibman, the Chief Scientist of Russia’s Cryosphere Institute;
“There is no global warming caused by human activity, first because greenhouse gases do not affect climate. They do not affect climate. That is a physical theory, it is an invented horror – it does not exist.” … “While politicians and public … compare “today” with “yesterday”, geologists (science community which I belong to) always think in terms of geological time, events lasting thousands and millions of years. Such a viewpoint takes a lot of imagination in addition to knowledge. Not that effective as something Global and Hazardous, we call it in Russian “Strashilka” (a scarecrow).” – Marina Leibman
Marina’s focus is ‘ice deposits’ and ‘permafrost’. Imagine how these screw up the simplifying assumption that ‘the present depends only on the immediate past’. When we measure the temperature, it is mitigated by the melting of ice and/or permafrost that may have been deposited millions of years ago. We can think of ice as putting ‘downward pressure on global temperatures. The more covering the surface of the earth, the greater the seasonal melt and the greater the downward pressure on measured temperatures. Supposing that this seasonal melt reached the threshold where all the ice there was to melt had been melted. The temperature would be relieved of the downward pressure of the melt and would suddenly rise. The depression in temperature due to the seasonal melt would derive from the remote past, from the period of heavy deposition of glacial ice. The rise in temperature would trace back to the beginning of the downward pressure of the seasonal melt, perhaps thousands of years earlier. But with the standard model that assumes that the present depends only on the immediate past, scientists would be looking for some correlation between a measurement made last year and this year, something different that could be the causal mechanism responsible for what ‘just happened’ (the step-rise in temperature).
Reflection will show that this is like searching for what caused the earthquake to happen, as if there were a causal mechanism or ‘smoking gun’ responsible for it, when the fact is that there is no causal mechanism in the immediate past that can explain it, the present depends instead on the remote past, something that our standard science models do not address.
Imagine that the temperatures of the arctic and/or arctic ocean currents move from colder to warmer to colder. Let’s say that in the colder period there is a net annual difference in the thickness of arctic (floating sea ice) of +2 feet per year in the colder period ranging to -3 feet per year in the warmer period and then ranging back down to +2 feet per year. It would be a coincidence if the ice thinned to the threshold where it broke up when the warming was at its peak at -3 feet per year. It could be well into a cooling period again and the thinning reduced from -3 feet per year to -1 foot per year when the break-up threshold was reached. But since the ice breaking up is very noticeable, the causal observer would correlate this ice breaking up with ‘warming’ even though we were well into a cooling period. Imagine the reception the scientist would get if, while everyone was in hysteria over the ice breaking up, he announced that we were in a cooling period and that what we were looking at was a ‘threshold effect’ arising out of influences accruing from the remote past. His explanation would not be nearly as simply digested as one which assumes that the phenomena we observe in the present depends only on the immediate past; i.e. such an explanation is;
Not that effective as something Global and Hazardous, we call it in Russian “Strashilka” (a scarecrow).” – Marina Leibman
Ok, I don’t expect, with this note, to change anyone’s opinion on ‘climate change’ because I don’t believe that such opinions form from personal diligent investigations into the nature of complex earth phenomena. Rather they form from ‘advertising campaigns’ and indoctrination of youth through the educational system and through youth organizations such as the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition (CYCC) which is a member of the Youth Climate Movement, … an international coalition of youth organisations;
“The coalitions aim to inspire, empower and mobilise a generational movement of young people across the world to take action on climate change. The movement is funded by contributions from its member organizations, as well as occasional contributions from organizations like UNICEF and the government of the Netherlands.”
The CYCC invites youthful volunteers to ‘do battle’ with the ‘deniers’; e.g; from the CYCC website;
“Fight the Deniers Volunteers
The Canadian Youth Climate Coalition has partnered with the Pembina Institute to fight the denier rhetoric which still appears in the media. We are looking for a core team to be trained by the Pembina Institute and CYCC to take on the task of writing op ed peices, letters to the editor, and commenting on climate change media that comes out. If this is somethig that excited you please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get your name on the list.”
Like I say, I don’t hope to compete with this program of ‘indoctrination’ and change anyone’s view. I claim only this, that I have been ‘duly diligent’ in my inquiry into complexity as is clearly relevant to ‘climate change’; i.e. I have drilled down beneath the superficial details presented in the popular press, and;
“I too can say that ‘I have it on good authority’, …. that anthropogenic global warming and CO2-forcing of climate change are ‘artifacts’ of over-simplifying nature’s complexity.”
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‡ Complexity and the ‘Learning Organization’, Ted Lumley, Complexity, 1997 Vol. 2, No. 5