Bewildered

[Martin Taylor 951015 16:30]

Bill Leach 951014.06:06 and other messages

yes, I know that you did not imply the
"unwashed" remark as that was uniquely one of Martin's condecending
comments

I would like to see a quote from one of my posting to support this remark.
If I ever used such a term, I must have a split personality, one of whom
knows nothing of what the other writes.

Now, I do remember a posting in which I mentioned that the journal "Science"
had printed several articles on global warming from different points of
view, and noted that you obviously used different sources than they did,
with the comment that you should really write a letter to the editor
of Science putting them right. Is this what you translate to "unwashed?"
And I said the same about American Scientist, which is less widely
available, being distributed to members of the Sigma Xi and not (I think)
available on newsstands.

My point had nothing to do with the authority of the journals, or of the
sanitary habits of those who don't read them. It had to do with the
variety of kinds of approach in those journals to the very serious issues
under discussion, and the fact that Bill claimed to have evidence from
other sources that is apparently unknown to the editors and referees of
the journals. If he has such evidence,he should at least try to ensure
that it becomes part of the debate. (Not the local debate on CSG-L).

ยทยทยท

-------------------
Now, I had intended a posting about the light that this discussion sheds
on PCT, and vice-versa, but that can wait. I'd just like to question a
few "facts" Bill has mentioned in various postings, even though this is
neither a political nor an environmental mailing list. I crave the indulgence
of other readers of the Control Systems Group list, for a brief excursion
outside the domain of this group.

On the role of government:

One the one hand, most PCTers appear to be anarchists when talking about
individuals and immediately turn around and become ardent socialists when
talking about political science. It seems as though there is no
recognition that quite possibly someone that produces some sort of goods
might object to being forced to share their production with others
equally (particularly when such forced sharing results in a disturbance
to their own controlled perception for how much of their product is
required for their own needs).

Even the idea that the "Arts" and "Science" should be supported, using
the application of force (if necessary, which after all IS what
government is all about), against all others not so engaged, seems to me
to be quite inconsistent with the idea that a control system should be
allowed to control its' own perceptions.

In other words, you support the idea that a few control systems should be
allowed the means to control their own perceptions, while the many should
not? That's not my notion of the role of government. In common language
(not PCT), my view is that government exists so that as many people as
possible should be happier than if it were not there. To translate
that into PCT terms, government should maximize the possibilities for
as many people as possible to control as many perceptions as possible.

It's highly unlikely that "as many as possible" could translate into "every"
in either part of the foregoing, so there are bound to be conflicts between
people who see the government's actions (or inactions) as restricting
their control possibilities and those who see the same actions (or inactions)
as enhancing theirs. But I can't see any moral reason for saying that
either group is right in any particular case, other than the sheer number
of people and the magnitude of the restrictions. The restrictions imposed
on a millionaire by taxing him another hundred thousand are minimal, compared
to the restrictions imposed on one unemployed person who is unable to get
medical attention because the government failed to impose that slight
restriction on the millionaire. And there are many such.

Another way of looking at much government regulation is to make the analogy
with the painting of lane-markers and parking slots in a large parking lot.
Everybody can control perceptions like getting easily to the shops much
more readily if they accept the restrictions on where and in which direction
they can drive and where they can stop. Relinquishing control possibilities
in some respects can enhance it for perceptions that really matter.

But of course there are lots of regulations that don't accomplish this.
Don't, please, accuse me of saying all government regulation is good. No,
less is better, if the regulation doesn't enhance more people's ability to
control what is important to them.

On nuclear plants:

I can't help myself with this one since it is the matter with which I am
most familar... Yes, indeed why do we not build nuclear power plants?

Why indeed? I've never really understood that question. It seems to have
to do with the word "radiation" and the linkage between the word "nuclear"
and the word "bomb." People who don't understand the science get scared
by those words. And most journalists don't are just people. Journalists
are people who make money by having other people read what they write.
Scaring people makes Stephen King a lot of money.

The dangers from nuclear plants, both the worst case scenario and the
ongoing expected dangers are far less from nuclear power plants than they
are from fossil fuel plants. A couple of years after Chernobyl, there was
an analysis of the comparative death rates in the (then) Soviet Union. It
argued that to match the death rates from the operation of fossil fuel
plants, the SU would have to have one Chernobyl-level accident per year.
Even if it is wrong by an order of magnitude, it's still a pretty dramatic
comparison.

The dangers of nuclear power are great, but much less than the presently
available alternative. The worst-case scenario for fossil fuel burning
is a runaway positive feedback greenhouse effect (and yes, as you say,
warming does increase greenhouse gas levels, including methane and CO2,
at least in part from melting permafrost tundra and perhaps from ocean
outgassing). A runaway greenhouse effect COULD result in atmospheric
temperatures well above boiling. A worst-case accident in a nuclear
power station probably involves its core being blown up by a hydrogen
bomb, making half a continent or more uninhabitable. That's better than
killing all living things on Earth.

the assertion that mankinds' burning of fossil fuels being a
significant contributor to global average CO2 concentration looks pretty
absurd.

As for natural and human sources of CO2, I was skimming some old Science's
at home (I'm not there now), and came across the following figures:

Fossil fuel burning adds about 7 * 10^9 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere
each year. Mt St Helens added about 7 * 10^4 tons. Explosive volcanos
are the most gassy kind. Let's exaggerate, and say that Mt.Pinatubo
was 100 times worse than Mt St. Helens, and that the lesser volcanos of
the earth produce 10 Mt Pinatubo's worth of CO2 per year. That would
bring the volcanic contribution up to 7* 10^7 tons, or 1% of the human
contribution, and that's probably at least one order of magnitude too high.

Volcanos shouldn't matter much for ozone, unless they can launch it into
the stratosphere directly and quickly. Low-level ozone doesn't get up to the
stratoshpere, where it is needed. It's too unstable, and has to be
continuously re-made, by lightning, by catalysis, or by ultraviolet from
the sun, to name three major sources. The Antarctic ozone hole develops
in the cold of winter, and is even now largely (but not completely)
recovered before the next winter.

CO2 depends on carbon. Where is that, in the land, sea, and sky?
Most is in carbonate rocks (e.g.limestone). Much is in oil and coal, and
some is in living things and in the atmosphere. We are taking the carbon
that was in oil and coal and living things and methodically putting it into
the atmosphere as CO2 (and methane, etc.). The only way it gets out of the
atmosphere is by being sequestered in a liquid or solid. We can manufacture
plastics from the atmosphere (but we don't), but otherwise it must eventually
become limestone or oil/coal, because a saturated ocean can hold only a
fixed amount that depends on its temperature and whatever else is dissolved
in it. Some goes into new rock at the bottom of the ocean, and that part
can be recovered from the atmosphere into the ocean.

It's not clear where all the CO2 goes. There are clearly sinks apart from
the main sink in the ocean (the source of all the limestone rock you see all
over the world), but the dynamic quasi-stability that seems to reign at one
(low) level during ice-ages and at another (higher) level in interglacials
has been disturbed, and the CO2 level has been increasing steadily since
about 1840.

As Bill Powers points out (not unsupported by normal physics
and laboratory experiment), when the CO2 level goes up, so must the
average global temperature. Whether that's a good or bad thing is
irrelevant. There may be negative feedback stabilizing influences, such
as cloudiness due to increased evaporation, whereby global albedo goes
up with increasing CO2, but as with a control system, these influences
can mitigate, not reverse the temperature trend insofar as they are due to
temperature effects. The climate models get better and better at
retrodicting climate, the more they take clouds into account. They
may be wrong, but when the life of the planet depends on it, it's a bad
bet to be too sure they are wrong.

Actually one would not be far from the truth if one did assert that
Schneider "owned global warming". Schneider is the one that first
predicted that we were due for an "ice age" back in the early '60s.

The two "predictions" are not incompatible, because they are on different
time scales. The ice-age prediction is based on the Milankovitch cycles,
an interacting set of periodicities in the earth-sun relationships. The
shortest of those periodicities is the precessional cycle of 26,000 years.
How the various cycles reinforce and cancel each other seems to be a
major influence on whether or not we are in an ice age. At least there's
a remarkably good correlation between the astrophysical and geological
data.

We are currently in a period in which we might expect to continue the series
of ice-ages that started about 5 million years ago. The present interglacial
is something like 18,000 years old (depending on when you take it to have
begun), which is quite long as these things go. It could go on for another
10,000 years (in the absence of humanity) or the next ice-age might start
within the next few centuries, just judging from the past record. The
next few centuries seems to be not a bad bet, unless the increased CO2
from fossil fuel burning counters it. It's not unreasonable to predict
a new ice-age, and to suggest that it might start sooner rather than later.
Of course, we MIGHT have had the last one in the present series, but it's
a "courageous" bet to say so.

But the global warming time-scale is decades, not millenia. I can say that
I am getting more wide-awake shortly after I get out of bed, without
contradicting a prediction that in a few hours I will be feeling sleepy
and dog-tired if I haven't gone back to bed. And if increased CO2 is to
counter the Milankovitch cycle effects, the time-scales of the two must
more or less match. You can't stop an iceberg by hitting it once with a
big hammer, but you can stop it by pushing gently for a long time. However,
if, as some studies suggest, the climate is currently very close to a
bifurcation point between "glacial with ice-caps" and "uniformly warm
pole-to-pole" then the push of a big burst of CO2 might just end the series
of ice-ages. Who knows?

Speaking of icebergs:

The ocean level is a hotly debated issue. In the first place, melting of
the antartic ice cap is not likely since summer temperatures are not
increasing.

I think that three observations are warranted:
(1) It may not be likely (and you are probably right, there, since the
Antarctic ice cap seems to have outlasted all the interglacials of this
5,000,000 year sequence of ice-ages), but if it happened it would be
rather "interesting" (in the sense of the Chinese curse).
(2) There seems to be quite a bit of iceberg calving and retrogression
of the ice sheets, whole large bays now being water that only a few years
ago were thick permanent ice shelves (and quite possibly the East (West?)
Antarctic ice sheet is no longer frozen to the rock base, as I read a
few years ago in a refereed journal, probably Science).
(3) The summer temperature is not as important as the yearly average
temperature, and the number of melting days during the summer. When water
runoff in the summer exceeds the snowfall, the ice-cap will eventually
vanish. Antarctica is largely desert, with very little actual snowfall.

The consensus
of those that I have either read or talked with is that overall, an
increase in global average temperature would increase the productive
capacity of the earth's ecosystem dramatically but there would be some
species of plants and animals that would probably not survive.

Yes, probably so, for a SLOW change in the global temperature. But
the big problem is that ecosystems are interconnected, and temperature
is part of the set of parameters that determine what kind of an ecosystem
exists in what place. For example, consider the kind of forest cover
on the Appalachians and Alleghenys. If the climate became warmer, the
lower boundary of this system would creep up the mountainside. Eventually
it would cover only a disconnected set of peaks, and when the warming
continued, what then? Where could it go? A whole interwoven ecosystem gone,
animals included. Even on the plains, without human help, the northward
shift of ecosystem boundaries might be faster than many long-lived species
could handle. Yes, the warm long interglacials were lush, but rapid
transitions are unlikely to be good for most species (including humans).
It takes a dynamic system time to recover from a big transient.

You also have to consider the apparent fact that although plants tend to
mass more under high CO2 conditions, their mass is less nutritious. It's
not clear (to me, at least) where the optimum is, when you are considering
food production, even if there were no geographic shifts in the boundaries
of deserts and other biomes.

Bill, I am bewildered. While your science activity is rejected by the
"mainstream" essentially because it is not "politically correct", I
perceive you defending "environmentalism" with a vigor that makes Bruce
Abbott's "defense" of "classical behavioural science" much less than
even tepid!

It doesn't really matter what political philosophy you espouse. We all live
in the same environment, and any rapid changes in that environment are
bound to induce transients in all our social systems. For individuals,
that means more difficult control, possibly much more difficult. If you
believe PCT has something to say about people, that should matter. Some
may be lucky, and find that the resulting disturbances move them toward
their perceptual references. But such luck is likely to be a relative rare
event. I don't see how one can be a rational human and not take care to
ensure that the environment changes only slowly, if at all. To have high
gain perceptual control systems that produce high output against
perceived assaults on the stability of the environment is, it seems to
me, only natural. To consider money as a variable on a par with the
survival of a species (even our own), strikes me as highly irrational.

But, thinking of money:

We are not talking here about the mere millions
that individual government programs typically deal with but trillions of
dollars (equivalent) in the world markets JUST for the elimination of
CFCs alone.

And does that money go into a sink? Is it not available to those to whom
it is paid, and does it not enable them to have a bit more control over
their lives? Money used is not money lost, a simple fact that seems
unknown to our present (US, Canadian, and Ontario) governments and their
voting supporters. When you talk about the "cost" of a program, you should
talk also about its value, and about the value of the other things that
happen because that money was spent (subtracting, of course, the value
of other things that would have been done but weren't).

I'll quit here, and (I hope I have time) deal with the PCT view on this
whole interchange sometime in the next week, because I think it is quite
interesting and worth dealing with in an effective way. It ties in with
our earlier discussion on probability and prediction.

I'll be away some of next week at a workshop.

Martin

<[Bill Leach 951014.06:06 U.S. Eastern Time Zone]

Bill Powers

Bill, I am bewildered. While your science activity is rejected by the
"mainstream" essentially because it is not "politically correct", I
perceive you defending "environmentalism" with a vigor that makes Bruce
Abbott's "defense" of "classical behavioural science" much less than
even tepid!

One the one hand, most PCTers appear to be anarchists when talking about
individuals and immediately turn around and become ardent socialists when
talking about political science. It seems as though there is no
recognition that quite possibly someone that produces some sort of goods
might object to being forced to share their production with others
equally (particularly when such forced sharing results in a disturbance
to their own controlled perception for how much of their product is
required for their own needs). Or if this is recognized that such would
seem to be a rather incompatible difference between Socialism and
Anarchy.

Even the idea that the "Arts" and "Science" should be supported, using
the application of force (if necessary, which after all IS what
government is all about), against all others not so engaged, seems to me
to be quite inconsistent with the idea that a control system should be
allowed to control its' own perceptions.

Also, I believe that all "governmental control" of the activities of
citizens should be looked upon with great suspicion as there is no way to
ensure that those doing the regulating will not be using their authority
for purposes inconsistant with both individual liberty and the "generally
accepted common good". Thus...

<flame on>
Have I missed something here? Has there been a fundamental change in
human nature that assures you that there will never be another Hitler or
Stalin? Is it now true that the "exalted elite" are incapable of setting
references for perceptions that could be controlled only by at expense of
others?

Ted Turner can not possibly be like Randolph Hearst and engineer a war
(or other equally "immoral" activity) to boost his own income and
prestige? Learned scientific bodies no longer engage in irrelevant
slander when confronted with "questionable" research such as "Cold
Fusion" but instead approach the work from a wholly objective and
honest scientific approach?

Pardon me for being a skeptic but one of the Rothschild's (banking) said
sometime in the thirties that you could have the control of government
but give him the control of the value of money and he would control the
country. Hitler and a few others failed to recognize the truth of
Rothschild's statement but you can bet that there are others that have
paid attention (not to mention the remaining Rothschild's).

The "environmental movement" is the single largest economic influence in
the history of mankind. We are not talking here about the mere millions
that individual government programs typically deal with but trillions of
dollars (equivalent) in the world markets JUST for the elimination of
CFCs alone. If one thinks that such sums don't tempt a class of people
that already consider the "unwashed masses" as being of less importance
than ANY of their own controlled perceptions (much less their attitudes
concerning "third world people"), you are being more naive than I would
expect from you.

You seem to view the billions of dollars poured into "environmental"
research by government as though it could not possibly be "tainted" by
the desire for results of a particular nature. That our "saintly"
governmental grant review committees could have any agenda other than
"the search for the objective truth".

Is it really necessary for another of the "unwashed" such as myself to
remind you that the causal link between well proven scientific facts
(such as from chemistry and physics) and the "environmental" conclusions
is rather a bit looser than what one finds in even the more esoteric
aspects of research physics? <and yes, I know that you did not imply the
"unwashed" remark as that was uniquely one of Martin's condecending
comments -- such a comment from you would "floor" me indeed>

You might call me a "pompous pig headed stubborn ass" (and not
necessarily be far off of the truth) but to find you claiming
that I was somehow "less human" because of what I believe, would
shock me to the core.

-bill