The adults in the room

I was having another discussion on Twitter with Jean Goodwin, who posted the following quote. It’s attributed to Mark Largent and may have been delivered at a AAAS meeting.

I’m interested in what other people think of this. I don’t know, however, the context, or if this quote properly represents what was trying to be presented. If it does, though, my initial reaction is to be quite irritated. Broadly speaking, I don’t see how this relates to reality. Scientists don’t have control over what we already know; the work has been done and the information is in the public domain. Also, the benefits of this knowledge have not simply gone to scientists; society as a whole has mostly benefited from our improving understanding of how the world works. Of course, there are aspects that may not be positive (the ability to destroy ourselves) but the positives, in my view, outweight the negatives.

What about this authority and power? I don’t see scientists as having any special authority and power. Scientific/technological knowledge can be powerful, but this is not restricted simply to people who are identified as scientists. Maybe we could restrict how much information/knowledge is released into the public domain, but most who identify as scientists don’t work in an environment where this is the norm, or even really possible.

A few other thoughts. Who is being referred to as “scientists”? Is it simply physical scientists, or is it all scientists (physical, natural, social). If the latter, then why use the term you guys, rather than simply we; it is being presented by a social scientist. The use of you guys also seems unfortunate. I realise that it can sometimes simply mean people, but it is often taken to refer to men specifically. We should, ideally, be avoiding such steoreotypes.

To be clear, my issue is not with the idea that scientists should be adults in the room; ideally we should all strive for this. My issue is with the idea that we’re in some kind of special position in which we simply have to accept the harassment because of our perceived power and authority, and with the implication that we have to be the adults in the room because others won’t be. A sense I have is that we have to excuse politicians, or the media, or business leaders, because that’s just how they are, but we can pressurize scientists to behave in some ideal way. Why can’t we expect these ideals of all, rather than only of scientists? If power and authority require that some group become the adults in the room, I would argue that there are many groups ahead of scientists.

As usual I’ve written more than I intended. I realise that I have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to things like this, because I just find this targetting of scientists annoying. Maybe I’m missing something about this, and maybe there is more merit to it than I appreciate. If so, feel free to try and convince me.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in ethics, Science, Scientists, The philosophy of science, The scientific method and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

178 Responses to The adults in the room

  1. pendantry says:

    I think that you’re underestimating the power that those who understand science actually wield. There’s a big difference between designing and building a television set and understanding how to work the remote control.

  2. Pedantry,
    That did cross my mind. Okay, that is a valid point. But would you regard the scientists are being the ones in power, or the people who decide fund and build whatever it is that our understanding of science now allows us to do? It’s not clear to me that scientists specifically have used their knowledge to create an environment in which they have lots of authority and power.

  3. brigittenerlich says:

    Well said! I also get irritated by the stereotyping of natural scientists by some social scientists. They should know better, as they actually do research on such matters. Instead they contribute to evidence-free stereotyping, contributing to misrepresentations of science and scientists which they then expect to be dispelled by the scientists themselves.

  4. We should indeed all be the adults in the room. But then again, it is a room full of tone-trollers and tone-police and quite a lot of the discussion of tone is rhetoric intended to avoid the science and further partisan causes. At the end of the day, communication depends on both transmitter and receivers. I think telling the receivers to grow up a bit might be more effective than telling scientists to act like adults, as by and large they are already doing so.

    I suspect this relates to mockery of a politician by scientists for making stupid arguments. Personally, I think mockery of politicians when they say something stupid is a sign of health in a democratic society, and I don’t see why scientists should be excluded from this in a misguided attempt to “be the adults in the room”. We need politicians that don’t say (egregiously) stupid things, and remaining overly-respectful to politicians who say stupid things isn’t likely to achieve that. If a scientist is the best person to judge how stupid a scientific argument is, who better to do the mocking? Having said which, fair, witty and good natured ribbing is preferably to biased, witless insults.

  5. brigitte,
    I think I identify slightly more with being an academic, than with being a scientist specifically. Hence, I find it slightly odd to see other academics appearing to define how I should behave in a way that makes it seem as though it doesn’t apply to them.

    Dikran,

    I suspect this relates to mockery of a politician by scientists for making stupid arguments.

    I think that was one of the contexts when this quote was presented. I think I’d prefer to see people arguing that politicians should be endeavouring to avoid making stupid arguments, rather than people arguing that scientists shouldn’t mock them when they do.

  6. “I think I’d prefer to see people arguing that politicians should be endeavouring to avoid making stupid arguments”

    Absolutely, but I’d argue that we should endeavor to have an electorate that doesn’t vote for politicians that make stupid arguments (as sadly that seems to be what guides politicians behaviour these days) and satire/mockery may be one of the better tools for making that happen. From what I have read, I’m not sure that any amount of well intentioned (adult) explanation would have changed this particular politicians mind, in which case what other options are available?

    I agree with Michel de Montaigne about saying/doing stupid things:

    ‘to learn that we have said or done a stupid thing is nothing, we must learn a more ample and important lesson: that we are but blockheads…

    None of us like having said or done something stupid (especially if you have to publish a coregendum ;o), or being mocked for it, but being overly sensitive about mockery seems to be counter-productive in encouraging us to embrace our inner blockhead, which makes us more tolerant of our own stupidity and understanding of the stupidity of others.

  7. pendantry says:

    @aTTP:
    It’s not clear to me that scientists specifically have used their knowledge to create an environment in which they have lots of authority and power.

    I take your point, those who hold the real power are those who hold the purse strings. But at the end of the day, whose fault is that? As the saying goes: “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?”… perhaps we’d all be a lot better off if we lived in a society where smarts were recognised for what they are: the stuff that greases the ball-bearings of civilization.

  8. “scientists have the power” sounds like wishful thinking to me. Scientists have special knowledge, training, insight and influence. Use what you got. Be thankful to be alive in this time and place when your knowledge and insight are desperately needed.

  9. Mitch says:

    On one hand Scott Pruitt shows that scientists have significant power, since he continually tries to eliminate information exchange from scientists in making Environmental Protection Agency decisions. On the other hand, it is clear that political maneuvering significantly weakens scientific authority and makes it difficult for the average citizen even to find out the scientific consensus.

    The fallacy in the quote is that the problem is irresponsibility by the scientific community.

  10. Magma says:

    “my initial reaction is to be quite irritated” — ATTP

    Mine as well. When the majority leaders of American congressional committees on science can cling to childishly stupid ideas about climate change and block even the political admission of AGW, let alone the necessity of measures to minimize and mitigate it, then the limits of the “power and authority” of even such first-rate scientists as Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt quickly become obvious.

  11. Dave_Geologist says:

    “scientists have the power”. Nonsense. Just look at CO2 emissions since scientists identified AGW a a serious issue. Yes, Paris, but too late if not too little (jury’s out still). If scientists had the power, CO2 would be well below 400ppm today.

    Who knows about the relative safety of GM foods vs. chemically or radiation-induced mutations? Who gets to decide what we eat? Who has documented the risks of the current obesity epidemic? Who’s got consumer eyeballs and political clout?

    Need I go on?

  12. Magma says:

    It doesn’t seem that Largent’s views are being misrepresented.

    From a 2016 news article in Science:
    “Mark Largent, a historian of medicine based at Michigan State University in East Lansing, urged vaccine advocates to stop portraying parents who are reluctant to immunize their children as ignorant and anti-science. “Just the opposite,” Largent says. “They have very high levels of trust in science and physicians, and they have very large knowledge about vaccines.” He says they actually have deep concerns about the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance structure, and government regulations that they believe do not have their children’s interests at heart.”
    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/02/why-fighting-anti-vaxxers-and-climate-change-doubters-often-backfires

    Similar comments can also be found in this 2016 Scientific American article:
    “Scientists today are an “intensely privileged group of people,” Largent said. “You are revered. You have more cultural and social authority than any other group, other than very wealthy people.” A defensive stance misrepresents science’s influence and can alienate people already mistrustful of vaccines or other socially relevant findings, he argued.
    As further evidence of his view, he noted at an earlier news briefing that people who oppose GMOs, vaccines and climate change findings often try to call upon scientific studies to bolster their own claims, even if that research is widely considered flawed or manufactured. The very attempt to marshal even bogus science in their favor shows that they oppose a specific issue, not science as a whole.”
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-really-a-war-on-science/

  13. Jeffh says:

    I agree with Dave. We scientists are impotent. If right wing governments don’t like what we say, we are muzzled or ignored. When we do speak out, as I have done numerous times since the first Lomborg period, we are threatened, harassed and ridiculed. The very fact that we are careening full speed towards the abyss, despite repeated warnings over many decades, is proof if any were needed that we have no power whatsoever.

  14. izen says:

    Context, I think.
    http://childnervoussystem.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/engaging-with-anti-vaxers.html

    There is something quite paradoxical about a society in which there is a significant anti-vax attitude, and a widespread problem with opioid addiction. How many addicts oppose vaccination I wonder…

  15. You can also read it in a friendly way and assume that he is exaggerating a bit to get his point across.

    Scientists do not have military or political power, but people do listen when we speak. More than for other people. We have build up a reputation of trustworthiness and of knowing/recognising things others do not yet.

    It is not for nothing that groups who reject science say they care about science. It is not for nothing that industry hires fake experts.

    You do not have to read that he feels we simply have to accept the harassment. Just that he recognises it exists and that he worries that this makes scientists feel embattled and behave defensively, while we have reason to be confident.

    You can see the difference confidence makes in the conman Trump. He is a complete failure who burned the inheritance of his father, but due to the confidence he projects he keeps on finding new people to con or willing to vote for him.

    Thinking scientifically does not come natural to humans. I sometimes fear the age of reason may go away again. Then quotes like this are a good reminder of how important science is for society. A country that rejects science will suffer real loses, initially mainly economically in the end also militarily. This may help to sustain the age of reason even if it feels so fragile.

  16. jeangoodwin says:

    To provide more context for anyone interested, and to follow up on Magma:

    The quote comes from the discussion period of this 2016 AAAS panel: https://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2016/webprogram/Session12441.html

    The panel got a lot of attention at the time, and the quote circulated widely on Twitter (my source): https://twitter.com/_beccaharrison/status/698599493852340224

    The panel was also reported at:
    – Science: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/02/why-fighting-anti-vaxxers-and-climate-change-doubters-often-backfires
    – Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-really-a-war-on-science/
    – The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/02/anti-vaxers-arent-stupid/462864/

    Largent’s views were formed (I believe) in the process of researching _Vaccine: The Debate in America_ (https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/vaccine). It’s a great book and worth anyone’s time. To oversimplify from memory, Largent started the project with an interest in tracing the anti-science “vaccine/autism” beliefs, but ended by concluding that one of the main drivers of vaccine hesitancy was what parents perceived as the arrogant, domineering attitude of the medical establishment. Since then he’s been a leader in Michigan State University’s multi-prong pro-vaccination effort, a research project aimed at supporting changed policies and training pediatricians in better approaches. For example: https://www.freep.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/01/30/oped-vaccines-msu/79537862/ (Although I think he’s had to back-burner this project because he’s now leading MSU’s science honors college, Lyman Briggs.)

    But don’t believe me–read the book! Plus you may want to invite him in to better articulate, or disavow, or etc. his view.

  17. izen says:

    The context of the passage is a description of how anti-vax patients view their physicians and the whole apparatus of science, government and big Pharma that collude to be the Hegamon. (Gramasci?)

    It is not intended to descibe the actual powers of individual scientists.
    It is not even clear that Largent regards that as an accurate description of how society works. Just his view of how skeptics perceive the world.

    Saying you have to be the adult in the room, might imply he regards the views of the anti-vaxxer, climate skeptic, and NWO order cranks as childish.

  18. I wish scientists did have more power. How about as much as, say, economists?
    Then perhaps politicians wouldn’t make so many stupid science-denying decisions.

  19. Magma says:

    “As further evidence of his view, [Largent] noted at an earlier news briefing that people who oppose GMOs, vaccines and climate change findings often try to call upon scientific studies to bolster their own claims, even if that research is widely considered flawed or manufactured.” (quoted earlier)

    Perhaps unfairly, this reminds me of an article I once read about a mentally ill homeless man who noticed that other people were also ‘talking to themselves’ but not drawing unwanted attention. So he mimicked their behavior by making himself a pretend mobile phone and holding it to his ear.

  20. Willard says:

  21. Willard says:

    A review of MarkL’s book:

    What about paths forward? Given their analyses, what should parents, or pediatricians, or science communicators, or public health officials do? Both authors occasionally offer a few pieces of advice, such as Navin’s defense of burdensome exemption policies. However, neither offers anything like a chapter of concrete proposals. This might be because so many of their diagnostic claims are hypotheses, with limited empirical support; but it seems to me that they could still be used to suggest some potential policies. Indeed, taking an adaptive management approach, the best way to gather evidence that could support Navin’s and Largent’s diagnoses might be to use them to design policy interventions (Norton 2005).

    All together, while Largent’s and Navin’s books may be weak on constructive suggestions, they make important contributions to understanding the vaccine controversy. They are especially worthwhile for anyone interested in developing a sophisticated and informed perspective on vaccine hesitant and denialist parents. I highly recommend both books.

    https://kiej.georgetown.edu/mark-a-largent-vaccine-the-debate-in-modern-america-johns-hopkins-university-press-2012-mark-navin-values-and-vaccine-refusal-hard-questions-in-ethics-epistemology-and-health-care-routledge/

    Whatever the merits of these books, I disagree with the author’s conclusion. The onus is on MarkL to present his scientific results in a more open form than a book. If all he wants is to entertain Very Serious readers, than so much the worse for his research.

  22. Jean,

    But don’t believe me–read the book! Plus you may want to invite him in to better articulate, or disavow, or etc. his view.

    Thanks, I’ll try and have a look at all of that. Mark is, of course, welcome to get involved.

  23. I’m inclined to agree with @Dave_Geologist, but I think the problem is broader than what’s articulated by Largent. First, there’s Jacoby’s work with The Age of American Unreason, but this is a bigger thing than the USA, noting the appalling misassignment of blame due to the l’Aquila, Italy tragedy.

    The trouble in the USA, at least in areas less inclined by tribal forces to be biased against scholars or coastal residents (*), is that the public does not want to listen to projections, scientific, economic, or otherwise because, well, Kahneman and Tversky are dead right. And, to the degree politicians want to avoid doing something expensive, complicated, and unpopular, they’ll just go down the slope of least energy. They certainly aren’t going to jump a high energy barrier, especially if the penalty, if any, is something strongly discounted by the length of their term in office.

    I can sort of understand Boston’s failing to appreciate the implications of sea level rise, even if its mayor and the University of Massachusetts and the Environmental Business Council of New England and the Harvard University Center for the Environment are doing everything short of banging people on the heads with the impending risk. Boston still builds on the waterfront, and incentivizes doing so. I understand it, but I don’t excuse it.

    But I do not understand how and why people fail to see how long held tendencies for financial investment are going to be crushed, not by climate, but by the technological change attending the Energy Revolution. I mean, c’mon: They’ve seen this happen with computers, the Internet (think Amazon.com), with digital cameras. Yet they seriously think that plunking down billions of public and private dollars into a rollout of a natural gas infrastructure, one having a payback period and depreciation schedule of decades, is going to make sense. I can only imagine that the advocates for this are excellent flimflam artists and known when they have a gullible mark. But that it would still have such momentum? That’s totally amazing to me.

    But, then, I guess, I was with IBM when they thought their mainframe business would last for decades because everyone needed it. They had a good thing, it had worked before, and they couldn’t imagine leaving it all behind.

    That’s the Big Scene. I see it on the Small Scene, too, whether from me, or more authoritative speakers trying to get municipal and regional planners to take things into consideration. They simply don’t listen.

    More and more, at least to those audiences, I am less inclined to speak. There’s something increasingly attractive about disengaging, remaining at home, and digging into abstract stuff about Statistics, Data Science, and modern algorithms. Miami Beach completely destroyed? Shrug. It’s not like they haven’t been warned. Coastal properties plummeting to zero? Ditto.

    I know we are supposed to care and be engaged, but, I gotta say, trying and being ignored, not even being fought against, that’s pretty disheartening.

    I think Largent needs to answer: Why, for those of us who have tried, hard, should we care?


    (*) I don’t mean for a second to say that coastal areas or scholars do not have a sense of tribalism. Of course they do.

  24. Perhaps in the era of Trump, adultiness is no longer a virtue.

  25. Willard says:

    > Why, for those of us who have tried, hard, should we care?

    If I get MarkL’s point correctly, because you care about yourself, and how you respond to contrarians reflects on you. More importantly perhaps, this response should rest on the evidence we have about communication and cognition, e.g.:

    The two sides in the GM crop yields debate appeal to different sets of evidence.

    These two sets of evidence correspond to two rival epistemological frameworks.

    Even if both sides accepted the same epistemological framework they would disagree about the context of application.

    For these reasons, appeals to “the evidence” are insufficient to resolve the debate.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1369848615000321

    Sometimes, it’s just better to agree to disagree, although there are still reasons to doubt these are honest disagreements.

  26. @Willard,

    If I get MarkL’s point correctly, because you care about yourself, and how you respond to contrarians reflects on you.

    I must not have made myself clear, even though I wrote:

    I know we are supposed to care and be engaged, but, I gotta say, trying and being ignored, not even being fought against, that’s pretty disheartening.

    The problem is not that a contrary position is being stated, or embraced, it’s that people do not like the implications of what is being said, and choose to simply ignore it, and go about doing things as they always have. This is not a contrary position. They don’t want their lives to be bothered by any such things, and, if they are, they let their reps know about it, loudly.

  27. Willard says:

    > The problem is not that a contrary position is being stated, or embraced, it’s that people do not like the implications of what is being said, and choose to simply ignore it, and go about doing things as they always have.

    That’s not exactly true, as things are being done as we speak, even if it’s not at a pace we’d wish. Even if it was true, it still wouldn’t be relevant to the point being made – that you find our predicament disheartening is on you. Worse than that – it’s conterproductive, as it leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    You want contrarians to make more ClimateBall touchdown dances? Continue to pout. Nobody else but you is to blame for your lack of thankfulness for the contrarians’ concerns, including MarkL’s.

  28. @Willard,

    Except that, in my social circles, it is becoming increasingly clear people would rather I not bother them, so “pouting”, as you describe it, seems to be Where It’s At.

    There are three groups, one a community of well-to-do, comfortable, overwhelming white suburbanites who, actually, would rather reinforce their notion of an ideal township, even if it isn’t. The second group is an environmentally considerate, liberal, activist (they march in demos against gas pipelines), who don’t want to hear about Science either, because it doesn’t square with their traditional notion of badness (e.g., plastics always bad, paper good; nuclear always bad; corporations always bad). The third group, ironically, is a set of climate scientists, principally atmospheric geophysicists, who don’t want mere citizen scientists trodding upon their turf, unlike the case for field biologists and the like.

    My activist posture is rapidly consolidating upon being what I might call a solar revolutionary in the spirit of the late Hermann Scheer and after John Farrell’s Keep your energy local. Talking directly at climate change dissipates a lot of energy, with little progress. My efforts are better spent elsewhere.

  29. Joshua says:

    Hmmm.

    From the blurb on Largent’s book:

    Nearly 40% of American parents report that they delay or refuse a recommended vaccine for their children

    IIEC, a relatively very small % of American parents don’t get their children the required vaccines. Combining “delay” and “refuse” is, IMO, likely sub-optimal. My guess is that “delay” can come about for a grabbag of reasons, while “refuse” might be more tightly li ked to attitudes towards the “medical establishment.”

    Jean says:

    To oversimplify from memory, Largent started the project with an interest in tracing the anti-science “vaccine/autism” beliefs, but ended by concluding that one of the main drivers of vaccine hesitancy was what parents perceived as the arrogant, domineering attitude of the medical establishment.

    Seems to me, that perhaps, given the relative rarity of parents deciding to refuse vaccinations because of perceived arrogance in the medical community, we should be careful in how we draw conclusions.

    Not all “main drivers’ are alike. If vaccine refuseniks share certain notable attributes, such as a propensity towards conspiracy ideation, then focusing on the medical establishment’s arrogance may not net a terribly valuable return.

    Should climate scientists spend a lot of time worrying about what they can do about Alex Jones’ fans being “skeptical” about climate change because his fans perceive the climate science establishment as being arrogant?

  30. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    As usual I’ve written more than I intended. I realise that I have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to things like this, because I just find this targetting of scientists annoying.

    I think that the important question is what can be gained by focusing on scientists’behaviors. Scientists being pouty might not be optimal, but the important question,IMO, is who perceives them to be that way; what, exactly explains that perception, and what is the causal impact of them feelng that way.

    Maybe scientists, like everyone else, get pouty. But should we be concerned that Alex Jones fans are “skeptical” about climate change because they perceive scientists as being pouty?

  31. hypergeometric, for what it is worth: welcome on “my” turf! I see no problem whatsoever with people who know their stuff talking about that.

  32. @Victor Venema,

    Thanks. And, I should clarify, it’s actually great being called out when one is wrong. That’s happened for me several times, and I treasure the exchanges, for instance, when Glen Peters pointed out that my calculation of Carbon capture was wrong because I forgot CO2 in oceans and soils, or that I neglected the factor that, it appears, oceanic and soils take-up is diminishing because they have a maximum rate at which they can accommodate additional CO2. I’ve also had memorable and fond exchanges about “the pause” with Francis Zwiers.

  33. Willard says:

    > My efforts are better spent elsewhere.

    Best of luck. My own objective, besides being thankful for concerns such as MarkL’s, is to promote this kind of thing:

  34. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    You want contrarians to make more ClimateBall touchdown dances? Continue to pout.

    Does a contrarian dance in the end zone because scientists pout? Methinks contrarians can find an infinite # of reasons to dance in end zones. Thinking that there is a mechanism to prevent it seem rather futile, to me.

  35. Willard says:

    > Does a contrarian dance in the end zone because scientists pout?

    As the saying goes, never ask a philosopher a rhetorical question, Joshua, for he may answer it with something you won’t like.

    I don’t think I need to presume any strong causality for my ClimateBall point to stand. If a contrarian wishes to excuse the dance he’s doing because of my pouting and I’m not, then there’s gaslighting going on. Gaslighting is more expensive than touchdown dancing. Harder to justify gaslighting on a moral basis or to explain it as a rationally viable strategy.

    Alternatively, I could ignore the personal attack, and continue to push my own ball. Depends if the attack helps the contrarian ball to be pushed forward. Take Junior’s personal attack on Katharine:

    Confronting the personal attack makes lots of sense from Katharine’s perspective. Discussing if Junior’s “but the tweet is arrogant” really works may be less so. As always in all things ClimateBall, mileage varies. My point is thus purely strategical – if a contribution helps you move your ball forward, do it. If it doesn’t, stop it. No room cleaning required.

    Arrogance is oftentimes invoked when people expect deference. Something like “treat me like an adult, kiddo.” If one subscribes to equality of opportunity such as I do, then I expect ClimateBall players who disrespect my contributions to find me arrogant. That’s on them, not on me.

    The only certainty we should seek is about our own communication objective. From that everything should fall into place.

  36. @Willard,

    Sorry, I don’t use Twitter, or Facebook.

    Had accounts. Deleted them.

  37. Joshua says:

    My point is thus purely strategical – if a contribution helps you move your ball forward, do it. If it doesn’t, stop it.

    I agree. There’s nothing to be gained from staking out victimhood space in a battlefield. Those aligned already know you’ve been victimized, and those not-aligned think that you deserve to be a victim or you’re a whiney little snowflake. Those who are neutral are unlikely to be convinced one way or the other, IMO.

    Still, I think that “skeptics” gonna dance ’cause that’s what they do. When you’re looking to see whether they’re dancing or not, you’ve taken your eye off the ball.

  38. Willard says:

    > When you’re looking to see whether they’re dancing or not, you’ve taken your eye off the ball.

    Unless you study ClimateBall. Wink wink.

    Reminding scientists from time to time that most contrarians are far from being batshit crazy is a Good Thing. Taking this reminder as an opportunity to moralize with “be an adult for a change” is less constructive. Unsollicited advices is a market with too much offers for little demand.

    In any case, being an adult starts home. I fail to see how providing unsollicited advice is a way to start an adult conversation.

    No wonder Wittgenstein considered philosophy as a therapeutic endeavour.

  39. Steven Mosher says:

    i would suggest that you read more closely.

  40. Willard says:

    and i would suggest you think before you type.

  41. Steven Mosher says:

    “In any case, being an adult starts home. I fail to see how providing unsollicited advice is a way to start an adult conversation.”

    good advice…haha.

    In fact we start adult conversations all the time by offering unsolicited advice. it usually takes the form of setting boundaries.

  42. Steven Mosher says:

    sorry willard i have not seen any one restate his claims in a way that shows they understand what he wrote.

    charity charity charity.

  43. Willard says:

    > In fact we start adult conversations all the time by offering unsolicited advice. it usually takes the form of setting boundaries.

    One is prescriptive, the other interactional. One takes the form of an imperative, the other is a conditional. In the sense that it can start badly and still end up in an “you’re OK, I’m OK” state, anything goes:

    [A] state of the ego which is most like an artificially intelligent system processing information and making predictions about major emotions that could affect its operation. Learning to strengthen the Adult is a goal of TA [Transaction Analysis]. While a person is in the Adult ego state, he/she is directed towards an objective appraisal of reality.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transactional_analysis#Outline

    A Parent gives unsollicited advices to a Child, not another Adult.

  44. Willard says:

    > i have not seen any one restate his claims in a way that shows they understand what he wrote.

    You go first.

    How’s that for a boundary?

  45. Jon Kirwan says:

    … ended by concluding that one of the main drivers of vaccine hesitancy was what parents perceived as the arrogant, domineering attitude of the medical establishment.
    jeangoodwin

    Thanks so much, Jean, for the added context. It makes more sense then. In the US, this attitude isn’t entirely uncommon among clinicians (those who the hoi polloi make contact) in the medical community. The shoe far too often fits. But I don’t think there is much of an equivalent analogy to be found in the physical sciences. So I think I’ll simply assume he was addressing himself to Medical Sciences (Section N) of the AAAS (and probably more specifically at clinicians than researchers) and that his comments weren’t targeted at the physical sciences or physical scientists. Which means there’s no real need to address them here, I think. It would be talking at cross-purposes.

    Of course, that doesn’t prevent any of us from taking it somewhere else.

  46. Steven Mosher says:

    I was planning on it Willard. Back of the limo headed to the HK airport was not the optimal time or place. Now that I am in the lounge I can start.

    First thing. We lack context. I would want to see the whole text. And further I would want to read everything he wrote and ask him some clarifying questions. He is a historian ( hence the “you guys” and opposed to “we” )

    for a tiny bit of background, but not near enough I started here.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/02/why-fighting-anti-vaxxers-and-climate-change-doubters-often-backfires

    As you know the fair assesment of any writer/speaker, begins with placing the text in question in context. Not just the conetxt of the moment, but the context of an entire body of work.
    or you could judge a guy by one incident with a fire poker.

    That said, we can just start with the words on the page ripped from context, from the rhetorical situation, and do a close reading. This, of course, is one method of reading.

    Claim one: ” you guys are priviledged. you guys are revered. more than any other group you guys have more cultural, social, and economic authority.”

    by you guys I would assume he means scientists, he’s a historian of science. He is apparently speaking to scientists. The only question that is unclear is this: Is he representing his considered view or is he channelling some other groups perception, or is he exagerating his considered views to irrate people, to get his audience thinking. I take it that this was a public speech. If we found similar claims in works that he had written, or say summitted for publication I’d give more weight to it.

    My sense is that most people are irrated at the claim they are priviledged. The defensiveness white people express when folks accuse them of white priviledge is a good example. So what do we want to make of the claim. Scientists have a priviledge ( earned or not is never specified). Do scientists have a special advantage? Are they revered? His work on surveying parents of children would seem to indicate that yes scientists do occupy a position of trust. Note he doesnt argue that this priviledge is unjustified. Pew research has similar findings

    http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/06/27/u-s-public-trust-in-science-and-scientists/

    Where we see that scientists are trusted more than any other group. So his first claim is that scientists as a group are priviledged ( given a special advantage) and revered, and that they have more cultural, social and economic authority than other groups. Our default is to trust what scientists say. As we should unless we are willing to engage them in scientific discourse. One thing we might wonder or propose is that some other group has more social or cultural authority. Do people trust politicians more than scientists? movie stars? business men? religious leaders? Historians? One way to understand the authority that scientists have is the ubiquity of the phrase “scientists say” or even more telling “the science says”. Science, when it speaks, tends to speak with one voice, and controversy is rather rare compared to other groups. take politicians for example. But the best example of the authority and priviledge science has comes in the phrase “anti science”. Think movie stars have more cultural or social authority? If that were the case people would take “anti hollywood” as an insult. Think politicians have more cultural and social authority? Then populist or “anti politican” would be seen as an insult. The potency of the ‘anti science” label, is evidence of the special cultural and social status ( at least in the west ) that science and scientists have. One part of the first claim that gives me pause if the claim of special “economic” authority. It’s not at all clear what he means by this. I suppose he may mean something like those with economic power will grant authority on particular matters to the scientists they employ.

    I suppose if we wanted to critixize this claim we could nitpick the definitions, attack the generalities, demand evidence, metrics. That might be an interesting Q&A. But on balance I don’t find anything objectionable in the first of his claims; Scientists occupy a position of authority and priviledge. they are generally revered. More so than any other group. To such a point in fact that the epithet “anti science” can be seen as the ultimate defeater in any argument. Anti religion is not, anti politics is not, anti sports, anti hollywood, anti business, none of those, I would argue carries the weight of the anti science charge. The other bit to consider is the way scientists play the victim role when they are personally attacked. Ever see a businessman ( say Zuckerburg) whine when he is personally attacked? or a movie star or sports star? or politician? Nope. Ever see any of the groups establisg defense funds? can you imagine a defense fund for business men unfairly attacked? Movie stars unfairly panned? artists unfairly criticized? Why? because it comes with the territory for every other group. With science the expectation is that you wont be personally attacked, because your position, the thing you believe is not personal. One of the priviledges of the scientist is the expectation ( in most cases ) that you wont be personally attacked. With a few exceptions of course.

    Just starting with the first claim, I’d say most reasonable folks here would agree with it.
    If you think I got this wrong or missed something, let me know. If we can’t see eye to eye on the first couple sentences, then that would probably limit the time I would devote to it.
    Opps final gate call

  47. Steven Mosher says:

    also dont misunderstand midwesternisms, “you guys” aint a gender thing. of course you can flip out about it like some deniers have a cow about the D word.

  48. Joshua says:

    Ever see a businessman ( say Zuckerburg) whine when he is personally attacked? or a movie star or sports star? or politician? Nope.

    Nope?

  49. Steven,

    My sense is that most people are irrated at the claim they are priviledged.

    A fair point and I do think most scientists/researchers feel priviledged/lucky to be able to do a job that is interesting and challenging. However, I don’t think that they’re more priviledged than other academics, or than politicians.

    However, the context does help in understanding what was being suggested. How we would engage with members of the public who are choosing not to accept some medical advice should probably be different to how we would treat a politician who says something stupid, or a journalist who writes an article with ridiculous scientific claims.

    The other bit to consider is the way scientists play the victim role when they are personally attacked.

    I don’t think my issue is about victimhood, it’s more about who gets to define my public conduct. My issue isn’t with the idea that it’s worth ignoring attacks and trying to engage in some “adult” fashion, but with the suggestion that scientists need to be the adults in the room. In the context of engaging with people who choose not to vaccinate, maybe this is reasonable (although would be interesting to know if those scientists involved in this would agree). When it comes to engaging with policy makers, I think the situation is slightly different. They should also – IMO – be the adults in the room.

    I realise that scientists don’t always understand the subtleties of politics and there is merit in better understanding this. However, I think there is also merit in suggesting that politicians put a bit more effort into understanding scientists, if they wish to be informed.

  50. izen says:

    @-SM
    “sorry willard i have not seen any one restate his claims in a way that shows they understand what he wrote.”

    But your analysis seems to be largely in agreement with my earlier;
    “The context of the passage is a description of how anti-vax patients view their physicians and the whole apparatus of science, government and big Pharma that collude to be the Hegamon (Gramasci?)
    It is not intended to descibe the actual powers of individual scientists.
    It is not even clear that Largent regards that as an accurate description of how society works. Just his view of how skeptics perceive the world.”

  51. “The other bit to consider is the way scientists play the victim role when they are personally attacked.”

    Translation: “I want to be able to attack scientists without them complaining about it”? ;o)

    If you make a personal attack on someone, they are the victim of the attack and you are the attacker, those are the roles you have imposed. Objecting to someone playing the victim role is the same sort of rhetorical game playing as using victimhood instead of concentrating on the content of the argument AFAICS. Better to try and see things the way they are without posturing on either side IMHO.

    “Ever see a businessman ( say Zuckerburg) whine when he is personally attacked? or a movie star or sports star? or politician? Nope.”

    Err Donald Trump is both a businessman and a politician, he throws his toys out of the pram on a regular basis whenever someone criticizes him (e.g. Sadiq Khan).

  52. Marco says:

    “…people who oppose GMOs, vaccines and climate change findings often try to call upon scientific studies to bolster their own claims, even if that research is widely considered flawed or manufactured.”

    Just like you’ll find cdesign proponentsists refer to scientific studies to bolster their own claims.

    As an argument against the anti-science claim, this is very weak – people just try to find any excuse to maintain the status quo, even if it requires them to cite the scientific literature.

  53. paulski0 says:

    Jeffh,

    What you’ve said reveals that scientists don’t have absolute power, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any at all. Think about the Paris agreement. Almost all nations around the world coming together to agree on there being a problem which requires policy to fix. That happened because of scientists.

  54. Dave_Geologist says:

    As further evidence of his view, he noted at an earlier news briefing that people who oppose GMOs, vaccines and climate change findings often try to call upon scientific studies to bolster their own claims, even if that research is widely considered flawed or manufactured. The very attempt to marshal even bogus science in their favor shows that they oppose a specific issue, not science as a whole.

    No it doesn’t. Has he never heard of motivated reasoning? Science does not come as an à la carte menu. At least where it’s mature (climate change, tick) and there is a broad and strong consensus (climate change, tick), denying one part IS denying science.

    “X denies all science” or “unless you deny all science you’re not a science denier” is a stupid straw man. Not stupid if are a bad-faith tone-troll, but not valid either. No-one denies all science. Even flat-earthers still take antibiotics, see their doctor when they’re sick and may or may not be anti-vax. AGW deniers deny the science they don’t like. That makes them science deniers. End of.

  55. Dave_Geologist says:

    Nearly 40% of American parents report that they delay or refuse a recommended vaccine for their children

    IIEC, a relatively very small % of American parents don’t get their children the required vaccines. Combining “delay” and “refuse” is, IMO, likely sub-optimal.

    Unless you’ve already reached your conclusions before seeing the evidence 😉 ). Then “Nearly 40% of American parents” is optimal, but “only 4% of American parents (or whatever the actual, small number is) refuse a recommended vaccine for their children” is decidedly sub-optimal. Indeed, sub-suboptimal. It shows that the allegedly-flawed current approach is working and there’s no book to sell. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it*. There are some hot-spots, but you don’t fix them by throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You find out what’s different about those states.

    * I realise there is an element of coercion involved, e.g. exclusion from public schools or kindergarten, and it would be nicer to do so without coercion. But in public health as elsewhere, you sometimes have to make hard choices. Smoking bans vs. citizen’s rights. It would have been nice to defeat ISIS without bombing, but… Etc.

  56. Joshua says:

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    Yah, that was my point…along with some of what Steven posted… most Americans trust scientists.

    Evidence shows that levels of trust in scientists is associated with political ideology. So, then, the notion that when they aren’t trusted, it is because of attributes such as being “arrogant,” is dubious, IMO.

    Is it that scientists being arrogant engenders mistrust, or that certain people (in association with ideological predisposition) find scientists arrogant – because the scientists insist on conclusions that are incompatible those people’s ideological predisposition?

  57. izen says:

    @-SM
    “Objecting to someone playing the victim role is the same sort of rhetorical game playing as using victimhood instead of concentrating on the content of the argument AFAICS. ”

    I suspect Largent would draw parallels between members of the scientific community claiming victimhood, and members of the white Christian patriachy who claim victimhood (Happy Holidays, affirmative action, people speaking Spanish) when it is their social priviledge that is under threat.

    @-Dave_G
    “I realise there is an element of coercion involved, e.g. exclusion from public schools or kindergarten, and it would be nicer to do so without coercion. But in public health as elsewhere, you sometimes have to make hard choices.”

    Largent’s previous work has been on the policy of enforced sterilisation carried out for eugenic reasons by the USA. This peaked in the 1930s, but was still being carried out, some state laws remained in place, until the 1970s.

  58. izen – yes whether claiming victimhood is justified depends on whether it is, err… justified ;o) Rather than just objecting to the practice, we need to consider the individual circumstances. It would be bad to have a society where people cannot object to victimisation because they will be labelled as “snowflakes” or accused of “playing the victim”, sometimes it needs to be highlighted so that society is motivated to take action. In a scientific discussion (as opposed to a political one), then it is perfectly reasonable to object to personal attacks as they are inimical to the required focus on the content of the arguments that is required in science (IMHO).

    Personal attacks are often used as a rhetorical device to avoid dealing with inconvenient content. It certainly isn’t “playing the victim” to point out that someone is making a personal attack on you for rhetorical purposes, e.g.

    As Willard says “Confronting the personal attack makes lots of sense from Katharine’s perspective.”.

  59. izen says:

    @-dikranmarsupial
    “Personal attacks are often used as a rhetorical device to avoid dealing with inconvenient content. It certainly isn’t “playing the victim” to point out that someone is making a personal attack on you for rhetorical purposes”

    Personal attacks may be part of a Serengeti strategy, or just a need to cite a specific personalised example of ‘arrogance’ that is actually a quality of the overall social institution of ‘Science’ and may no be exhibited by the particular target.
    But if the target shows they are not personally arrogant, it does nothing to negate the claim that ‘big science and the ‘Team’, is.

    Would Ted Cruz have cause to complain of a personal attack if RPJr had reversed the direction of his critique ? :-

    “The arrogance of leading voices in the political community is absolutely remarkable.
    Testifying in Congress is an both an honor & an obligation that comes from accepting billions $ in support.
    Questioning experts for accurate answers (even if inconvinient) is a privilege.”

    There is ambiguity about who is ‘punching up’ and who is punching down in all this.
    Largent I think views the skeptics as the dispossed, those who have lost personal autonomy to the Hegamon and as a result are punching up against social institutions that are stronger than they are.
    That individual scientists are then collateral damage and complain that they do not have the power and dominance of the social institution of which they are part, does not engage with the motivations of their opponents.

    (Caveat; I am dubious about this form of social analysis that I am attributing to Largent. I am not familiar with his work, so I am deriving most of my assumptions about the precepts of neo-Marxist sociology that he is working from by his use of the word Hegamon!)

  60. Back in the 60s Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov were both writing about the new priesthood of science emerging with the decline of religious belief. Some of what they wrote is recapitulated in this thread.

    Science is what it is and scientists do what they do. Over the past 150 years there have always been a subset of scientists that have thrust themselves forwards as policy advocates, usually with sub-optimal results and usually resulting in a renewed focus on individual scientists rather than the corpus of work they were building.

    Steve Mosher, quit with the ‘denier’ crap, wouldja? It just encourages others. As noted on this thread, even anti-vaxxers don’t ‘deny’ science. They just pick and choose.

  61. Tom,

    Over the past 150 years there have always been a subset of scientists that have thrust themselves forwards as policy advocates, usually with sub-optimal results

    I think there are probably plenty of examples of people thrusting themselves forward with sub-optimal results. I’m not convinced this is somehow unique to scientists.

  62. I didn’t mean to imply that it was.

  63. Joshua says:

    izen –

    Largent I think views the skeptics as the dispossed, those who have lost personal autonomy to the Hegamon and as a result are punching up against social institutions that are stronger than they are.

    Perhaps. Which is interesting, given that “skeptics” dominate control over the levers of power in the US.

    But my guess is that Largent isn’t much referencing, specifically, climate change “skeptics. ” in other areas, of controversy the groups with powr and control vary.

    IMO, a sense of aggreivement and victimhood and powerlessness and lack of autonomy are ubiquitous – and sometimes exist even when, arguably, the aggrieved are actually at the top of the power hierarchy (e.g., Christians being victims of the “war on Christmas,” many whites feeling they are, in balance, victims of discrimination in the US, climate change “skeptics” and climate change “realists” both feeling that they are victimized by those who control the levers of power, etc).

    Once again, I challenge the idea that perceptions of “arrogance” are grounded in the attributes or behaviors of the <i{observed. I think those perceptions are often better explained by the affiliations or ideology or loyalties or predictions or motivated reasoning of the observer.

  64. Joshua says:

    usually with sub-optimal results and usually resulting in a renewed focus on individual scientists rather than the corpus of work they were building.

    Usually?

    What is your evidence? Through a certain lens, pretty much anything can be described as sub-optimal. What is more relevant is comparing the outcome to likely counterfactuals where no advocacy had taken place. I can think of many examples where scientists’ advocating likely produced better outcomes would have manifest otherwise.

    In the other hand, a pattern i see is where advocates on one side use doubke standards to exemot their own advocacy to make ecidence-free assertions about the dekiterious effects of scientists ‘ advocacy.

    If you get my drift.

  65. verytallguy says:

    Steve Mosher, quit with the ‘denier’ crap, wouldja? It just encourages others. As noted on this thread, even anti-vaxxers don’t ‘deny’ science. They just pick and choose.

    Tom Fuller, quit the victimhood and be the adult in the room, wouldja?

  66. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    I didn’t mean to imply that it was.

    So you agree that scientists advocating isn’t a special case.

    Which would mean that when you say the following:

    Over the past 150 years there have always been a subset of scientists that have thrust themselves forwards as policy advocates, usually with sub-optimal results and usually resulting in a renewed focus on individual scientists rather than the corpus of work they were building.

    Should we just ignore your use of the word “scientists”?

    Or is your statement an indictment against advocacy by anyone on any issue, because in your opinion, it “usually” results in sub-optimal outcomes?

    I happen to think that advocacy, in balance, is an important factor in improving our lives in a democracy. I would assume that you feel similarly.

    And so, what are the criteria we can use to identify those forms of advocacy which are counterproductive? I think that is tricky call, and that generalizing from unrepresentative sampling is problematic (even if quite common in the rhetoric of partisans who are heavily identified in polarizing issues).

  67. Joshua says:

    Everything would be so much better if all those pouty people stopped calling us names.

  68. “Over the past 150 years there have always been a subset of politicians that have thrust themselves forwards as policy advocates on scientific topics, usually with sub-optimal results”

    I think that would be broadly true. ;o)

  69. tom says: “Science is what it is and scientists do what they do. Over the past 150 years there have always been a subset of scientists that have thrust themselves forwards as policy advocates, usually with sub-optimal results”
    Can you provide 2 or 3 of the worst cases of this happening so I can get a better idea of what you are referencing?
    Thanks
    Mike

  70. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “Once again, I challenge the idea that perceptions of “arrogance” are grounded in the attributes or behaviors of the <i{observed. I think those perceptions are often better explained by the affiliations or ideology or loyalties or predictions or motivated reasoning of the observer."

    That reasong may be motivated by a real discrpency in wealth, power and status.
    The objections made about SJWs and BLM is that their victimhood is driven by ideology rather than real behaviors of the institutuions they target.

    The 'arrogance' may be institutional. a shorthand for the way in which civic governance co-opts science (previously religion) to legitimise the power it can exercise over the citizen. Or subject.

    If the science would de-legitimise economic activity then in those systems with efficient regulatory capture of government by business, the economic status quo takes precedence over science. Examples would be the continued development of the Boston beachfront and Gas pipeline and storage facilities.

  71. izen says:

    @-Smallbluemike
    “Can you provide 2 or 3 of the worst cases of this happening so I can get a better idea of what you are referencing?”

    The obvious example is in the field of biology where from Francis Galton onward scientists like Laughlin, P.B. Popenoe, Eysenck, Cyril Burt, and William Shocktly espouse as policy that government should follow a discrimination in reproductive rights and educational provision based on racial profiling.

  72. > I think there is also merit in suggesting that politicians put a bit more effort into understanding scientists, if they wish to be informed.

    One good first step would be to realize that scientists aren’t paid to be adults in the first place, but to understand the world. While trying to develop an objective perspective implies becoming an adult, teaching students implies being a parent and daring to go where no giants has gone before requires keeping a child’s outlook.

    Take contrarians’ darling, Richard Feyman. Was he an adult? Not very often. He mainly did three things: he chased women, he played bongos, and he solved problems. (He did many other things too.) Even the report investigating the Challenger disaster ends up looking like good ol’ parenting.

    Two things obtain from that picture. First, a double bind: daring to know implies we tolerate researchers with unconventional manners, verging on adolescent recklessness, while representing the scientific institutions requires a more formal decorum. Easy to complain that one isn’t the other. Second, this is exactly what being privileged means. If follows from having institutions that reward people who dare to know.

    This picture leaves out important characters. Politicians are supposed to be the parents, yet they’re the ones who need parenting. Businessmen, as always, seem to get away with being maverick kids, doing whatever they please and whining when any kind of restriction is being made on their behavior.

    This is an important omission, because it blinds us to a very obvious solution to the GMO denial and AGW denial that Very Serious researchers and journalists (hi, KeithK) hold so dear. Being pro GMO and contra AGW is compatible – it’s being pro industrialism, pro GRRRRROWTH, and pro Freedom Fighters. Being pro AGW *and* contra GMO implies the exact opposite.

    The main problem I see with “you’re the parent in the room” is not that it conceals its prescription, but that it can easily be interpreted as cheap moralism that should be kept to one’s own personal policy. Nobody expects a stranger to come up and say “be a man.” It doesn’t mean anything, and it’s nobody’s business. The prescription needs to be more specific than that. I don’t think studying the history of vaccine denial (picking facts may not be being “anti-science” but it’s still denial) gets anyone a free pass on that.

    Nevertheless, by the same logic that propels this concern from MarkL, let’s be clear one one thing:

  73. Hiya Mike

    Francis Galton and Eugenics
    William Shockley and race
    Paul Ehrlich and demography
    Some climate activists would be happy to add Ivan Giaevar, Richard Lindzen, John Christy and Judith Curry to the list. Others on the other side of the fence would cite Michael Mann, among others.

    While it is trivially true that activists come from all walks of life, the point usually made is that scientists punch above their weight when offering their policy prescriptions. Which should sound a cautionary note.

  74. Ragnaar says:

    As I read the Largent quote, I thought of what you have. Every nation except the United States and one other small one. Every major scientific organization. The President calling us Flat Earthers. Money. Colleges. High School teachers. You have Attorney Generals of various states. Plaintiffs attorneys. Hollywood, environmental groups with all their money. Coral, dolphins, butterflies and flowers.

    Scientists urging solutions have these things. We have Billy Bob. Clod kicking, pick-up driving rednecks. Yes we have energy companies trying put coal out of business if they sell natural gas. Building wind turbines to keep the barbarians from the gates, acting like Republicans in eternal retreat mode.

  75. Mike, regarding those links, there are extreme scenarios. If they are also extreme outliers, prudent risk management does not counsel emphasizing them.

    It appears to this non-scientist that much of the past decade has been spent analyzing those scenarios and have come to a preliminary finding that they are in fact extreme outliers.

  76. > While it is trivially true that activists come from all walks of life, the point usually made is that scientists punch above their weight when offering their policy prescriptions. Which should sound a cautionary note.

    Yet it sounds like a usual concern, similar to “but the D word.” Next we’ll hear “but stealth advocacy,” which seems to fit Junior’s blatant omission:

  77. Perhaps this newsie will put things in perspective as to the kind of “adultdom” we’re living in:

    Where are the auditors when we need them?

  78. izen says:

    @-thomaswfuller2
    “If they are also extreme outliers, prudent risk management does not counsel emphasizing them.”

    Prudent risk management does cousel the serious consideration of extreme outliers.

    Examples would be the Thames flood barrier and the DeltaPlan in Holland where the extreme scenarios for sea level rise were used as the criteria for how high to build the barriers to ensure they would continue to be effective over the lifetime of the physical infrastructure

  79. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    …scientists punch above their weight when offering their policy prescriptions. Which should sound a cautionary note.


    If they are also extreme outliers, prudent risk management does not counsel emphasizing them.

    I’m more cautious about scientists punching above their weight than I am about extreme outlier scenarios too…

    Thank the heavens that the learned non-scientist Tom Fuller is now a regular here.
    The world needs a heavy dose of “I am an expert” expertise, now more than ever.

    What little could scientists possibly grok without the help of the adults in the room?

  80. Thanks, Tom, for these:
    Francis Galton and Eugenics
    William Shockley and race
    Paul Ehrlich and demography
    I am away for a couple of days to portland and don’t have time to review in much depth. I thought of eugenics and thought that might be the kind of thing you were thinking of. I wonder in the three cases above, if the thoughts and ideas of the three principal scientists developed to dominate the mainstream scientific approach in the various disciplines or if they just had political traction and were able to “punch above their weight” in terms of policy development?

    Do you, Tom, believe it is important that the US meet the climate targets that have been set out over the years? Kyoto, Paris, etc. that stuff. Is important that we meet our targets?

    Climate science and global warming are quite mainstream, widely supported by a lot of independent scientists and scientific institutions and yet, in the USA, the public understanding and acceptance of the basic science lags well behind that of the populations of other developed countries. How does that happen?

    Cheers

    Mike

  81. Dave_Geologist says:

    Largent’s previous work has been on the policy of enforced sterilisation carried out for eugenic reasons by the USA. This peaked in the 1930s, but was still being carried out, some state laws remained in place, until the 1970s.

    Well, yes, but you still have to justify or defend your hard choice. A good objective way is to ask what science says. Did the scientific consensus favour eugenics? As opposed to a few prominent scientists? Especially in the pre-human-genome era where anything that was done was bound to be hit-and-miss. How does that compare to vaccine safety and efficacy? To AGW?

    I have no trouble saying no, yes, yes to those three choices. And the first isn’t even a hard choice if you believe the people who say that Down’s Syndrome children, for example, can be loved and loving and have a worthwhile life (IDK if that was on the list, but the principle applies to whatever deficiency they though they were weeding out).

  82. Hi Mike

    Welcome to Portland! I’ve been here the past two years and I like it, except the constant looking over my shoulder to see if dhogaza is following me…

    I do think we should meet our agreed obligations. Notwithstanding John Kerry’s recent mis-statements about our progress towards Kyoto, there has been progress towards Kyoto. Although Trump has announced his intention to break off the Paris Accords, it is my understanding that we’re in it for another five years. I hope we use them well.

    I wonder why you think the public’s lack of understanding of climate change should be different from their lack of understanding of other science. The percentages of the general public who believe very strange things about the age of our planet, the process of evolution, etc., surely should have alerted you to the probability that improving understanding of our climate and our effects on it would be a heavy lift.

  83. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    It appears to this non-scientist that much of the past decade has been spent analyzing those scenarios and have come to a preliminary finding that they are in fact extreme outliers.

    I don’t understand how that fits with your characterization of “usually” here:

    Over the past 150 years there have always been a subset of scientists that have thrust themselves forwards as policy advocates, usually with sub-optimal results and usually resulting in a renewed focus on individual scientists rather than the corpus of work they were building.

    Are you equating “usually” with “extreme outlier,” are you walking your earlier statement back, or is it that I just don’t understand your logic (in which case, I’d appreciate an explanation)?

  84. Joshua says:

    izen –

    That reasong may be motivated by a real discrpency in wealth, power and status.
    The objections made about SJWs and BLM is that their victimhood is driven by ideology rather than real behaviors of the institutuions they target.

    Good point.

    I should have been more careful. I think that we should be careful to examine whether a perception of scientists’ arrogance isn’t more a function of the predilections of the observer than the behavior of the scientists.

  85. Ragnaar says:

    Victor Venema:

    “A country that rejects science will suffer real loses, initially mainly economically in the end also militarily.”

    Rather than acceptance or rejection, we have economics. Hillary Clinton wanted many, many solar panels and said so. That is not economical. We have scientists being relied upon, willingly or not, that leads to the uneconomical. Yes they may be innocent bystanders with this specific issue. This is the real fight. Over the money. If you want to help direct money, that’s the big leagues. Money is a food fight and has been for 200 years.

    I am not sure how the military is mixed up in this?

  86. Did anyone say “extreme outliers”? That rings a bell. Vintage 2018-05-10:

    Sure, don’t present a <1% scenario (says IPCC) as BAU. Seems easy, no?

    RCP8.5 is a BaU scenario by any reasonable definition, so that doesn’t make sense. Your <1% probability statistic is made up, and certainly doesn't come from the IPCC.

    The paper you've just referenced does not refer to RCP8.5 as BaU anywhere, so yeah that was easy. But wait, you've still called it "climate porn". So the question again is: Why?

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2018/05/10/rcp8-5/

    I suppose that “extreme outlier” is more precise than “<1%" because it's less precise.

  87. izen says:

    @-Dave_G
    “Did the scientific consensus favour eugenics? As opposed to a few prominent scientists?”

    Eugenics was mainstream between about 1890 -1930.
    It did not really fall out of favour until after the application Germany had made of the concept in WW2 became evident.
    In nations without a large racial or immigrant community to target, it was applied to wealth/poverty, or the inheritability of ‘Class’.

    It is probably the least attractive episode of science, and scientists, advocating a biological determinism that accorded with the predominant political ideology.

  88. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    I wonder why you think the public’s lack of understanding of climate change should be different from their lack of understanding of other science.

    I don’t think it’s their lack of understanding that is different, but their reactions in the face of that lack of understanding. In most cars, a lack of understanding is just a lack of understanding.

    In most cases, given an inability to understand complex material, the public accepts the prevailing view among scientists and moves on.

    Climate change, and some other issues, are different. Usually in those situations, we can trace out on overlap with ideology and identity-orientation.

  89. > I am not sure how the military is mixed up in this?

    I’m glad you ask:

    Even in 1975, it took a pretty narrow view of history to think all capital is human capital, and that philosophy professors, even the especially bright ones, would thrive in the free market. But there was a historical reason for Nozick’s belief: the magnificent sieve. Harvard’s enrollment prior to World War II was 3,300; after the war, it was 5,300, 4,000 of whom were veterans. The GI Bill was on its way to investing more in education grants, business loans, and home loans than all previous New Deal programs combined. By 1954, with the Cold War in full swing, the U.S. government was spending 20 times what it had spent on research before the war. “Some universities,” C. Wright Mills could write in the mid-’50s, “are financial branches of the military establishment.” In the postwar decades, the American university grew in enrollment, budget and prestige, thanks to a substantial transfer of wealth from the private economy, under the rubric of “military Keynesianism.” As a tentacle of the military-industrial octopus, academia finally lost its last remnant of colonial gentility.

    At the same time the university boomed, marginal tax rates for high earners stood as high as 90 percent. This collapsed the so-called L-curve, the graphic depiction of wealth distribution in the United States. The L-curve lay at its flattest in 1970, just as Nozick was sitting down to write Anarchy. In 1970, there were nearly 500,000 employed academics, and their relative income stood at an all-time high. To the extent anyone could believe mental talent, human capital, and capital were indistinguishable, it was thanks to the greatest market distortion in the history of industrial capitalism; and because for 40 years, thanks to this distortion, talent had not been forced to compete with the old “captains of industry,” with the financiers and the CEOs.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/the_dilettante/2011/06/the_liberty_scam.html

    The Freedom Fighters’ trick is an old one.

  90. Dave_Geologist says:

    tomfuller2

    Back in the 60s Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov were both writing about the new priesthood of science emerging with the decline of religious belief.

    Maybe. A quote and cite would be useful, I must have read pretty much all of Asimov’s work at some time. Including his young-adult non-fiction. Only a few of his detective stories though. Google turns up a fictional Church of Science in his Foundation stories. Which were, not to put too fine a point on it, fiction.

    For Clarke I can only find reference to his short story “The Star”. Which does have a crisis-of-faith moment where a scientific observation challenges the Jesuit lead character’s faith and might be interpreted as raising science above religion. If not for the fact that it, too, is a work of fiction

  91. @willard, @Ragnaar,

    Regarding

    > I am not sure how the military is mixed up in this?

    I was tempted to respond, but you beat me to it, @willard (or is it @nevaudit?).

    There is no part of the American military which does not deeply depend upon advanced technology. To the degree American Science is suffering, whether by lack of support from federal funds, or curtailment of areas of research, or, as has been the case for nearly 30 years, the cutbacks in funding of basic Science by industry, the American warfighter will be using out of date technology and is in the crosshairs of any country which has both Kept Up and has the capability to deploy what they have learned. I have commented on this point before.

  92. And to be more precise:

    James Madison College is a college of public affairs and international relations within Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, USA. It was founded in 1967, “with a vision of creating a residential college merging the best attributes of a small college with an undergraduate education focusing on public affairs and firmly rooted in liberal arts”;[2] the college was named after James Madison in honor of his role in writing the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and The Federalist Papers (which form part of the College’s core curriculum). Originally considered experimental, the college has since come to be recognized as among the best in the nation.

    The college was developed as part of MSU president John A. Hannah’s attempts to increase the profile of the university and to capitalize off of the international and federal government contacts developed by the otherwise ignominious MSU Vietnam Project.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Madison_College

    For those who kinda forgot:

    The Michigan State University Vietnam Advisory Group (commonly known as the Michigan State University Group and abbreviated MSUG) was a program of technical assistance provided to the government of South Vietnam as an effort in state-building by the U.S. Department of State.

    […]

    When implications later arose that the Central Intelligence Agency had infiltrated MSUG as a front for covert operations, the technical assistance program became a cause célèbre in the early years of the anti-war movement.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_State_University_Vietnam_Advisory_Group

    When Freedom Fighters say that knowledge is power, they mean it.

  93. Ragnaar says:

    hypergeometric:

    We have past successes. We have people who don’t care. And we have lame politicians.

    What we don’t have is the product. We don’t have the PC that made mainframes a lot less valuable.

    And science is the best hope to deliver the product. But we do have a product. A body of work. That’s not enough. The scientists have not duplicated what Apple did.

  94. izen says:

    @-W
    “Some universities,” C. Wright Mills could write in the mid-’50s, “are financial branches of the military establishment.”

    Sociology as an academic subject in the US, with an official professional Association and Journals was largely established on CIA funding, sometimes channelled through ‘philanthropic foundations’. In the early years its main research goal was to discover why people were communists and how to ‘de-program’ them.
    (W Simpson. Science of Coercion)

  95. Dave_Geologist says:

    Eugenics was mainstream between about 1890 -1930.

    Really mainstream izen? As opposed to the strongly held and forcefully pushed beliefs of some prominent scientists. I appreciate the institution was different then, but if that’s true, a 97% type literature survey should support the claim. Most of the old stuff is accessible digitally these days, at least title and abstract.

    I genuinely don’t know. While I’ve heard lots of “but Ronald Fisher” over the years, that alone may be no more representative of the consensus than “but Richard Feynman” is of the AGW consensus. Interestingly, the second Google hit has a Feynman from 2017. Thirty years after his death. Heritage must be busy little bees, or maybe they’ve got some bots that are cleverer than Google. The third, ironically, quotes his “time will tell” line. Ironic, of course, because if time had told in the deniers’ favour, you’d have kinda thought they’d have some more recent arrows in their bow.

  96. > W Simpson. Science of Coercion

    Thanks, izen.

    There’s no need to dig very deep. MarkL’s specializes in making its humanities students read The Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville. As per the entry cited above, it’s being called, wait for it, the Madison Bible:

    Majors are chosen at the end of the freshman year, during which all students are required to take yearlong introductory courses in writing and public affairs: Identity and Community: An Approach to Writing (MC 111-112), and Introduction to the Study of Public Policy (MC 201-202), respectively. The first semester of Introduction to the Study of Public Affairs (MC 201) notably introduces its students to The Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America every year; together, these texts are often seen as a sort of “Madison Bible”.

    Alexis de Tocqueville is an interesting character:

    Tocqueville was active in French politics, first under the July Monarchy (1830–48) and then during the Second Republic (1849–51) which succeeded the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte’s 2 December 1851 coup, and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution.

    He argued the importance of the French Revolution was to continue the process of modernizing and centralizing the French state which had begun under King Louis XIV. The failure of the Revolution came from the inexperience of the deputies who were too wedded to abstract Enlightenment ideals. Tocqueville was a classical liberal who advocated parliamentary government, but he was skeptical of the extremes of democracy .

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexis_de_Tocqueville

    Our Freedom Fighters’ father figure is best known for the expression “tyranny of the majority”:

    Beyond the eradication of old-world aristocracy, ordinary Americans also refused to defer to those possessing, as Tocqueville put it, superior talent and intelligence, and these natural elites could not enjoy much share in political power as a result. Ordinary Americans enjoyed too much power, claimed too great a voice in the public sphere, to defer to intellectual superiors. This culture promoted a relatively pronounced equality, Tocqueville argued, but the same mores and opinions that ensured such equality also promoted mediocrity. Those who possessed true virtue and talent were left with limited choices

    Tocqueville said that those with the most education and intelligence were left with two choices. They could join limited intellectual circles to explore the weighty and complex problems facing society, or they could use their superior talents to amass vast fortunes in the private sector. Tocqueville wrote that he did not know of any country where there was “less independence of mind, and true freedom of discussion, than in America”.

    He blamed the omnipotence of majority rule as a chief factor in stifling thinking: “The majority has enclosed thought within a formidable fence. A writer is free inside that area, but woe to the man who goes beyond it, not that he stands in fear of an inquisition, but he must face all kinds of unpleasantness in every day persecution. A career in politics is closed to him for he has offended the only power that holds the keys.” Tocqueville, in contrast to previous political thinkers, argued that a serious problem in political life was not that people were too strong, but that people were “too weak” and felt powerless; the danger is that people felt “swept up in something that they could not control”, according to Kaplan’s interpretation of Tocqueville.

    Op. cit.

    What if I told you that Tocqueville is an ideal figure for the formation of tomorrow’s elite minds that will need to defend the establishment from all these SJWs?

  97. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    In the postwar decades, the American university grew in enrollment, budget and prestige, thanks to a substantial transfer of wealth from the private economy, under the rubric of “military Keynesianism.” As a tentacle of the military-industrial octopus, academia finally lost its last remnant of colonial gentility.

    You mean it’s possible that the local ivory tower is not completely saturated with ‘leftists’ as a Dr Peterson has claimed “is obvious” again and again and again?

    Next you will tell me that the ‘liberal’ main-stream-media are almost entirely owned and operated by conservatives.

  98. > Next you will tell me that the ‘liberal’ main-stream-media are almost entirely owned and operated by conservatives.

    Of course not, Rev. I may tell you however that if you look at the Heterodox Academy’s Club membership:

    https://heterodoxacademy.org/about-us/members/

    I predict you won’t find many “heterodox” economists like StéphanieK:

  99. JCH says:

    I am not sure how the military is mixed up in this?

    The US military, as an entity, is huge user of fossil fuels.

  100. Ragnaar says:

    Willard:

    Nozick was smart. He did a good job laying out a libertarian argument I like.

    His critics said, we has paid by the government and/or other people being taxed, which of course make his arguments wrong. He changed his mind a bit, therefore proving he was wrong. And the Wilt Chamberlain argument, having nothing to do with women, didn’t apply to not Wilt Chamberlain situations. I think because there are bad capitalists with money who are/were not Chamberlain. Look what they do. Never mind that arguments broken down to simple components can work. I think he used whataboutthis.

    And the cherry on top was that, the “libertarian” right is “not just sad; it is repugnant.”

    I went from sad to repugnant, at first happy that I was only sad. I had a bunch of lefties tell me that. I am better now.

    In defense of the critic, he did a good job laying out some libertarian arguments.

    Someone I know works on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UGM-133_Trident_II

    An engineer and the flight guidance system using stars. Still haven’t figured that one out. I can’t see a Trump/Redneck path the Tridents not working and some kind of military diminishment.

  101. ordvic says:

    Before reading other comments I can see why you might object to this take on things. The adult in the room is it, the hegemon, the most powerful thing. So basically they are believing they are god.

  102. Ragnaar says:

    I’ve had my fill of Admirals telling us global warming is real.
    Now do something. Solar panels are pointless as are blimps with wind turbines on them.

    Lengthen your runways as it’s hotter and buy some new engines that compress more air into the engines. Protect or move your seaside bases. You can’t carpet bomb a country with solar panels.

    The military has to follow the politicians. It’s in the Constitution I think. That they followed President Obama means, they followed a politician.

  103. Markets may be underpricing climate related risk.”

    Adults? Sounds like late teenagers on a bender to me.

  104. Ragnaar says:

    We have AGW deniers. Who are more likely to support the military.

    Should be blame the military diminishment on people against nuclear power, vaccines and GMOs too? How about people who deny evolution?

    Look at Trump. Trying to bomb somebody and an AGW denier.

  105. izen says:

    @-Dave_G
    “Really mainstream izen? As opposed to the strongly held and forcefully pushed beliefs of some prominent scientists.”

    The prominent scientists who strongly held and forcefully pushed those beliefs were leading members of the AAAS and were consulted by Darrow in the Scopes/Little Rock monkey trial.
    Here is a link to the leading science Journal of the time –

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/i296720

    While there was some disagreement within biology about the methodology and reification of ‘genetic traits’ by hard-line eugenicists, there seems to have been little push-back against the underlying concept of improving the health and intelligence of the population by controlling who shouldn’t reproduce.

    Perhaps the succes of the scientists was less a reflection of a real concensus within the scientific community, just its dominance within the field because it was so enthusiastically supported by political and economic interests.

    https://courses.lumenlearning.com/culturalanthropology/chapter/eugenics-in-the-united-states/

    “The American eugenics movement received extensive funding from various corporate foundations including the Carnegie Institution, Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harriman railroad fortune. In 1906 J.H. Kellogg provided funding to help found the Race Betterment Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan. … Eugenics was widely accepted in the U.S. academic community. By 1928 there were 376 separate university courses in some of the United States’ leading schools, enrolling more than 20,000 students, which included eugenics in the curriculum.”

  106. Ragnaar: “We have AGW deniers. Who are more likely to support the military.

    This is getting off topic, but great support! Send them off to die mostly doing stuff that does not make America saver, but just generates revenue for the industry. Paying the soldiers themselves poorly, while the big profits go to the donor class. If that is support, I do not want your support.

    Ragnaar: “Should be blame the military diminishment on people against nuclear power, vaccines and GMOs too? How about people who deny evolution?

    People who are against nuclear power do not do deny radioactivity, while a large part of the mitigation sceptical movement rejects that humans activities are responsible for the warming and some even reject the greenhouse effect itself (for example, conspiracy theorist Tim Ball, a regular contributor to WUWT). People against nuclear power do not like the moral hazard and reject the technological application, just like you reject solar power without denying quantum mechanics.

    People against GMOs also reject the application of this technology in the field (mostly not in the lab/factory). They do not deny that DNA exists or that it can be changed, while a large part of the mitigation sceptical movement claims that the Earth is not warming much and some even claim it is cooling (for example, Eric Worral the main contributor of WUWT).

    I am not buying your what aboutism. These cases are not comparable. Come back when your political movement accepts climate science and starts to argue their case on political grounds and explains why the solutions are so bad.

  107. > Come back when your political movement accepts climate science

    You presume something wrong, VeeV. One reason I follow JerryT (the brother of the notorious JamesT) is that he endorses AGW and his working on Freedom Fighters’ misconceptions:

    In return, I’m trying to convince him that when coherent, libertarians should become social democrats…

  108. @VariabilityBlog,

    Speaking of getting off topic, sort of, as I will (hey, it’s about “the adults in the room”), it’s interesting that both Bloomberg BusinessWeek and The Atlantic have significant contributions on the discussion about the possible domination of investments and society by self-sustaining artificial entities, and the impacts upon society. The former has a number of interesting (in my opinion) articles. The latter has an op-ed by none other than former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the matter.

    I recall the late science fiction writer, futurist, and inventor of the geostationary communications satellite, Arthur Clarke, musing in his writings (“Mind of the Machine,” in Report on Planet Three and other
    Speculations
    . Harper and Row. New York 1972) about how a global superior, artificial intelligence might rule, particularly, what is the optimum human population size, particularly in consideration of our collective propensity to destabilize Earth’s climate by CO2 emissions:

    There are many equations in which one of the possible answers is zero; mathematicians call this a trivial solution. If zero is the solution to this case, the matter is very far from trivial, at least from our self-centered viewpoint. But that it could–and probably will–be very low seems certain.

    Fred Hoyle once remarked to me that it was pointless for the world to hold more people than one could get to know in a single lifetime. Even if one were President of United Earth, that would set the figure somewhere between ten and a hundred thousand; with a very generous allowance for duplication, wastage, special talents, and so forth, there really seems no requirement for what has been called the “Global Village” of the future to hold more than a million people, scattered over the face of the planet.

    In any event, perhaps the emissions problem is containable. But, as Norbert Wiener offered in a chapter of his book Cybernetics, the sobering fable of the Monkey’s Paw:

    More terrible than either of these two tales is the fable of the monkey’s paw, written by W. W. Jacobs, an English writer of the beginning of the century. A retired English working man is sitting at his table with his wife and a friend, a returned British sergeant major from India. The sergeant-major shows his hosts an amulet in the form of a dried, wizened monkey’s paw. This has been endowed by an Indian holy man, who has wished to show the folly of defying fate, with the power of granting three wishes to each of three people. The soldier says that he knows nothing of the first two wishes of the first owner, but the last one was for death. He himself, as he tells his friends, was the second owner but will not talk of the horror of his own experiences. He casts the paw into the fire, but his friend retrieves it and wishes to test its powers. His first is for £200. Shortly thereafter there is a knock at the door, and an official of the company by which his son is employed enters the room. The father learns that his son has been killed in the machinery, but that the company, without recognizing any responsibility or legal obligation, wishes to pay the father the sum of £200 as a solatium. The grief stricken father makes his second wish-that his son may return-and when there is another knock at the door and it is opened, something appears which, we are not told in so many words, is the ghost of the son. The final wish is that this ghost should go away.

    In all these stories the point is that the agencies of magic are literal-minded; and that if we ask for a boon from them, we must ask for what we really want and not for what we think we want. The new and real agencies of the learning machine are also literal-minded. If we program a machine for winning a war, we must think well what we mean by winning. A learning machine must be programmed by experience.

  109. Ragnaar says:

    “A country that rejects science will suffer real loses, initially mainly economically in the end also militarily.”

    Rejecting science doesn’t have anything to do with deciding to go to war. However, if we keep it in the ground and rely of some Middle East countries for energy while our wind toys die, we may go to war. Maybe even on Europe’s behalf so that they can have energy. Fracking is safe, isn’t that science? The misguided pursuit of the wrong energy source will hit our economy and result in a weakened military. We are a world power not because some of things the environmentalists are doing.

    I am going to bet that Ball and Worrall would let the economy run and let the military do it’s job more than the average person.

    We have the question of nuclear power being the answer to the global warming problem. Most of this is coming from the left (partly because that has more impact and credibility) with wider distribution it seems to me than WUWT’s reach. So we have solution deniers, because they are afraid. Afraid more of nuclear power than global warming and praying to renewables that don’t really work. Subbing in happy thoughts for solutions. We also have the Republicans being afraid of the Left so as to be ho hum on nuclear power. They need to get their act together and take a hard pro-nuclear stand.

    Lacking solutions we will suffer real loses, mainly economically and in the end militarily. China on the other hand.

  110. > China on the other hand.

    Compare nukes with wind, Ragnaar:

    Who’s denying what, now?

  111. izen says:

    @-Rev
    “You mean it’s possible that the local ivory tower is not completely saturated with ‘leftists’ as a Dr Peterson has claimed “is obvious” again and again and again?”

    One version of history claims that the early 50s academic sociologists in the US were stuck in an ideological rut of regarding people as rugged individualist and worked from the deficit model that if you could tell all the communists in Greece how good democracy and free markets were they would see the error of their ways and become enthusiasts for ‘Truth, Justice and the American way’.

    When it became clear (rapidly) that this did not work, they imported some European sociologists where the subject had a slightly longer history and had developed useful methods that were already exploited by the advertising industry.

    These Europeans applied ideas like ‘Class affiliation’ and identification with sectional interests, suspiciously Marxists, but apparently an effective framing of the problem. These foreign experts identified that people tended to respect and adopt the ideas and values of opinion formers. Prominent individuals who were already admired and who elicited a positive emotional response in the target audience had a disproportionate effect on the acceptance of social beliefs.

    As a result, the radio station Voice of America started broadcasting less political discussion and playing a lot more Jazz, and the State department started arranging foreign tours by famous Jazz musicians to those Nations who were in contention during the cold war.
    Dave Brubeck was dispatched to Greece shortly after left-wing students attacked the US embassy.

    Louis Armstrong (to his credit) did not participate in the early ‘Goodwill’ tours when he made it clear that until the Federal Government intervened in the Civil Rights conflicts then ongoing in the South, he would be talking about that failure as well as playing and singing.
    Duke Ellington IIRC played a concert in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during a CIA sponsored military coup.

    The dominance of a particular political ideology within the ivory towers can be viewed as having evolved from finding what worked.
    And as is often reported, reality has a left-wing bias.

  112. Joshua says:

    NASA head Jim Bridenstine, once doubtful, confirms he believes humans are the leading cause of climate change.

    “The National Climate Assessment, that includes NASA, and it includes the Department of Energy, and it includes NOAA, has clearly stated it is extremely likely, [that] is the language they use, that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming, and I have no reason to doubt the science that comes from that,” Bridenstine said.

    Schatz followed up by asking, “Is it fair to call this an evolution of your views?”

    Bridenstine replied: “Yes.”

  113. Ragnaar says:

    China going nuclear and LNG to clean up their country. I think I have more faith in them to do something. Our allies just march to the cliff.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/china-set-to-overtake-us-as-biggest-nuclear-energy-nation-iea-says-2018-02-21

    We could actually sell the solution. But we are what we are. We poisoned that option decades ago. We got some good politicking and we showed the man.

  114. Dave_Geologist says:

    I’ll concede your point re eugenics izen.

    I did a quick Scholar search from 1900 to 1940, and while it was quite odd (lots from 1905-1915, almost nothing later and some of them anti, so a weird flurry then stasis), I accept that back in those days the endorsement of powerful figures would have been seen by the public as the Word of Science.

  115. Marco says:

    “Fracking is safe, isn’t that science?”

    Compared to what?

    It doesn’t really reduce CO2 emissions (only to the extent it replaces coal, but it’s better to have a non-CO2 releasing technology as a replacement!).
    It uses lots of water – often relatively small compared to local use, but in areas where there already is water stress, it’s an additional stress.
    Especially in the US various undisclosed, but known to be toxic, additives are used.

    And that’s beyond the known increase in small earthquakes. Well…small….a magnitude 5.5 earthquake in South Korea has been linked to fracking.

  116. Dave_Geologist says:

    A bit of a correction Marco from my own science 😉 .

    It doesn’t really reduce CO2 emissions

    Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Less CO2 (and less fly ash, heavy metals, sulphur and nitrogen oxides which escape the scrubbers, fewer dead coal miners) is better than more CO2.

    It uses lots of water

    Not by industrial standards. I’ll use Gasland as a source, which I don’t trust because the burning tap portrayed a natural gas seep from a non-fraccing region as a consequence of fraccing. Even if they didn’t directly lie, failing to say “this is a natural seep, not a fraccing seep, we couldn’t find a nice one of those despite there being tens of thousands of fracced wells, but it’s a warning of the sort of thing that could happen if things go wrong” inevitably led the audience to presume that it was fraccing-related. Otherwise why showcase it in a movie about fraccing? The producers are professionals, they knew that and didn’t omit the disclaimer by accident. Their hearts may have been in the right place, but if I can’t trust them on one thing, how can I trust them on others? So 2-8 million gallons, 50,000 to 200,000 barrels but possible a high-end estimate. About as much as it takes to make 100,000 lb of paper, or 10,000 lb if the plant has very efficient recycling. So somewhere between the load of a panel van and the load of a truck or two. How many truckloads of paper cross the USA every day?

    various undisclosed, but known to be toxic, additives are used

    Evidence please? If it’s from an anti-fraccing website, you need to take the same sceptical attitude you would to Wattsuppia. I very much doubt it for a number of reasons.

    (1) In most of the developed world, the UK certainly, you have to fill out a COSH form or equivalent, even for everyday substances like diesel or paraffin. Even for benign things like a 3 metre length of 4-inch core in a sealed aluminium barrel, but with a few litres of paraffin poured in to stop it drying out. Which means that you have to bring it ashore by ship because helicopters won’t carry it. Even though the fire risk is a tiny fraction of that in the aircraft’s own fuel system. I had to sign a form to get the soil and rubble taken away after my garden makeover. The presence of things like petroleum, fertiliser, paint or botanical risks like knotweed or a tree dead from a disease that’s sweeping the country, affects where and how it can be disposed of. Even if the content is not made public, the regulator specifies how you can handle, transport, contain and dispose of it. More toxic means more onsite inefficiency and more expensive disposal.

    (2) The business is run by multinational operators and multinational contractors who move equipment, materials and personnel to where the action is. Even if US regulations are more lax, there would be an efficiency cost to doing things differently in the US, Special equipment, special operational and safety training, inability to rapidly relocate between countries. There would need to be a big performance incentive to do so. There isn’t. The clever, trade-secret stuff is in the cross-linked polymers. Basically cellulose, plastics and resins, but with a designed structure and a special mix so that one component carries the proppant and the other sets in situ. In the early days they used food additives because they were cheap, readily available and didn’t require expensive handling. You wouldn’t want to drink a modern formulation, but neither would you want to drink the stuff used in a factory making plastic toys, boots, kitchen utensils or auto parts. Yes it can be spilled if a truck crashes, but the same is true of factory supplies, and indeed gasoline.

    (3) This stuff has been used so widely and for so long, that it’s impossible to believe some anti-fraccing lobby hasn’t got hold of a sample and analysed it. Indeed many samples. There are just too many hands involved in the chain of custody, many of them independent contractors or locally hired, to prevent it. Someone, somewhere has done it for money, as a favour to a friend or relative or as a whistle-blower. The Dog That Didn’t Bark comes to mind. You haven’t heard about the tests because they came back as innocuous and were quietly shelved. (Incidentally the suppliers won’t be too worried about losing their trade secrets – chemically analysing the product still leaves you in the position of deducing Coca-Cola’s secret sauce from its final product.)

    IOW I don’t think they use secret toxic chemicals, because they have no incentive to do so, and because using them would offer no real benefit but make their life more difficult and expensive. They’re not angels, they just have no motive.

  117. Dave_Geologist says:

    Coninued… earthquakes and water disposal.

    It’s misleading to quote the Korean event, which was a geothermal well. As with the earlier Swiss geothermal quake, the volume of liquid pumped, and the duration of the pumping, was orders of magnitude greater than that in a frac job. It’s like equating a car crashing into you house to an airliner crashing into it. As with toxicology, the dose makes the poison.

    First, here’s a useful earthquake impact scale from the USGS, with typical magnitudes of the causal earthquake. Details vary depending on earthquake depth and surface soil conditions.

    I. (1.0 – 3.0) Not felt except by a very few under especially favorable conditions.

    II. (3.0 – 3.9) Felt only by a few persons at rest, especially on upper floors of buildings.

    III. (3.0 – 3.9) Felt quite noticeably by persons indoors, especially on upper floors of buildings. Many people do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motor cars may rock slightly. Vibrations similar to the passing of a truck. Duration estimated.

    IV. (4.0 – 4.9) Felt indoors by many, outdoors by few during the day. At night, some awakened. Dishes, windows, doors disturbed; walls make cracking sound. Sensation like heavy truck striking building. Standing motor cars rocked noticeably.

    V. (4.0 – 4.9) Felt by nearly everyone; many awakened. Some dishes, windows broken. Unstable objects overturned. Pendulum clocks may stop.

    VI. (5.0 – 5.9) Felt by all, many frightened. Some heavy furniture moved; a few instances of fallen plaster. Damage slight.

    VII. (5.0 – 6.9) Damage negligible in buildings of good design and construction; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures; some chimneys broken.

    VIII. (6.0 – 6.9) Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable damage in ordinary substantial buildings with partial collapse. Damage great in poorly built structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture overturned.

    IX. (6.0 – 6.9) Damage considerable in specially designed structures; well-designed frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.

    X. (7.0 and higher) Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent.

    XI. (7.0 and higher) Few, if any (masonry) structures remain standing. Bridges destroyed. Rails bent greatly.

    XII. (7.0 and higher) Damage total. Lines of sight and level are distorted. Objects thrown into the air.

  118. Dave_Geologist says:

    Continued…

    So first Korea. The amount of water injected was small by geothermal standards. ‘Only’ a trillion gallons, to ‘only’ trigger a 5.4 event. Yes they were fraccing, but the quake was three orders of magnitude larger than what would be expected based on the amount of energy injected. Hence they must have triggered a pre-existing fault. Which is supported by the focal mechanism, which is compressional, reverse-fault, consistent with the current subsurface tectonic stress and not with fracking which involves tensile failure. (The South Koreans have a strong motive to be good at this stuff, especially after yesterday’s news: it’s the same method you use to distinguish an underground nuclear test from a natural earthquake.) So in the context of Gasland’s fraccing volumes, you’d have to inject five or six orders of magnitude more fluid to make a 5.5 by fraccing alone. Also, keep the damage in context: at least 70 people injured, hundreds temporarily displaced, millions of dollars of damage. Consistent with a VII: a big deal in Korea which doesn’t normally get earthquakes, but chickenfeed in California or Japan (who would have suffered less damage because they have stronger building codes, for obvious reasons).

    Directly fraccing-induced earthquakes do occur, but are rare and when they do occur, typically in the 1.5 to 3.5 range. Somewhere between not-felt and like-a-passing-truck. The recent Lancashire one that caused such a fuss was a 2.3 with a 1.5 aftershock. Ten (yes, 10!) people reported the 2.3. The only damage was to Cuadrilla’s business prospects. Never forget the properties of a logarithmic scale.

    Officers were sent to check reports of cracks on the road over a bridge in Lytham Road, but learnt they appeared up to two years ago.

    A spokeswoman for Blackpool Council said structural engineers would assess if there was any fresh damage to the road but it remained open to traffic.

    She added there were no reports of any damage elsewhere in the borough, including at the council-owned Blackpool Tower.

    If you’re worried about induced earthquakes, you should be banning geothermal, not fracking. Not terribly green and not something I would advocate. Or especially, mining and dams. Those are the real biggies in the man-made earthquake world. Or why not objectively risk-assess both, and evaluate the trade-offs.

    Fraccing is one of those things like radiation or genetic engineering: the less you know about it, the more scared you are. The more you know about it, the more your realise the risks are smaller than you thought and can be (are being) mitigated, although there certainly are some residual risks you have to live with. Just like when you fly in an aircraft or drive a car, or get your house connected to the gas main. You may say “I’ll allow geothermal because it’s green, but not fraccing because it profits the nasty oil companies”. But that’s making a political choice, not a scientific or risk-assessment choice.

    There is an issue with the produced water, but that’s nothing to do with the fraccing: unfracced wells also produce water. I’ll post something about that later. And the fracced water which backflows definitely has to be disposed of carefully. But not because of the contractors’ chemicals. Like the produced water, it contains oil and other, more toxic organic compounds, heavy metals, salts and NORM (naturally occurring radioactive material). Disposal may be more difficult because you haven’t yet tied the well into a central pipeline system which offers communal disposal. But that’s no different to regulating the thousands of other toxic-load tankers which are on the roads every day.

  119. JCH says:

    OT: Professor Collins, from Exeter’s Mathematics department said: “The study helps us to further understand the variability of climate and how that can mask or enhance the global warming signal.”

  120. @Dave_Geologist,

    I don’t have time today to provide links to references or even citations but, things to note:

    (1) While natural gas might be delivered safely and intact in many places in the USA, in the Northeast, gas leaks (“fugitive emissions”), principally in the distribution network. See http://gasleaksclf.org/ and http://blog.massenergy.org/blog/natural-gas-pipeline-leaks. I have a better map-based link someplace which is up-to-date, but I can’t find it right now. Some of this is due to ancient infrastructure, and there are laws now about fixing these. There has been effort put into doing this. But because of the density of the network, and the disruption to traffic, it doesn’t happen quickly.

    (2) There is a published study in a peer reviewed medical journal which associates use of natural in homes with respiratory ailments, principally in kids. Again, no time to find it right now, but it’s there.

    (3) There is tons of evidence that natural gas leaks damage urban flora.

  121. Marco says:

    Fair enough, Dave, but let me add a rebuttal:
    1. Perfect vs the good appears a reasonable argument, but there is a catch: you must really replace the bad, not make the less bad so much cheaper that you’ll use more of it – and thus get a net zero result

    2. As I noted, water use is an issue if you already have local water stress. Paper mills produce in areas where there is lots of water. Fracking takes place wherever the oil/gas is, and there isn’t always lots of ground water there

    3. Yes, in Europe all additives need to be openly listed and must be environmentally safe (enough). To the best of my knowledge, biocides are still used in fracking, and those are not benign compounds (see e.g. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es503724k).
    But safety information is often also missing; see https://www.nature.com/articles/jes201581 and https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.5b04645

    Now, we could talk long about the various rules to prevent spills and whatnot, but experience tells us that spills *will* happen, that some companies *will* play fast and loose with the rules, and that government agencies cannot (or do not want to) police everything.

    With regard to the earthquakes – while it is true that the Korean and Swiss events were from geothermal plants, there are still earthquakes around the Swiss plant, ten years after it was shut down. Maybe that won’t happen with the water injections for fracking, but we don’t have that much experience with the fracking for shale gas/oil) yet.

    And don’t underestimate the impact of loads and loads of small earthquakes. Ask the Dutch: the number of low level (generally below 3) earthquakes due to gas extraction has become such an issue that the Dutch will rapidly reduce gas extraction: https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2018/01/nam-to-cut-gas-production-substantially-following-groningen-earthquake/
    Do note that this is in a country where earthquakes normally just don’t happen, so the infrastructure is not designed to handle that – and do also take into account the type of soil in several parts of the country.

    In other words, I am much less convinced about the business and environmental case for fracking, the latter definitely in comparison to nuclear.

  122. Dave_Geologist says:

    Water, yes Marco but I could have chosen a gold course or an alfalfa farm for my comparison. Or lawn sprinklers.

    The main Groningen concern is about the big earthquakes that they’ve had for decades. That has possibly focused attention on the little ones they accepted as the price for being energy-sufficient. They’ve also had one from waste-water injection. I’ll cover that later. I lived on a main road for 20 years and heavy trucks and buses went past my from door scores or hundreds of times a day. No structural damage. I don’t underestimate the annoyance, or fear among those who don’t understand, but see “the more you know”. Safe doze applies as part of “the dose makes the poison”. The reasons severe depletion, fraccing and bulk injection are different is well understood by the geomechanics community and is grounded in physics, not just statistics. Like climate science 😉 . Admittedly they usually get called in after there is a problem, but at least the problem is understood.

    We’ve had tens of thousands of fraccing water-injection jobs. It’s the biggest database of its type in the world. The statistics are well established. Earthquakes are small, mostly undetectable except with delicate instruments (which are there to monitor and interpret the frac, so even the no-earthquake wells have data. Unless you’re close to a critically stressed fault, which is where the 2s and 3s come from. And unfortunately, can’t be predicted in advance. But is a lot safer than having a car crash into your house, which is far more likely.

    After the first few days or weeks there is no water injection. You’re depleting just like a normal tight gas well. Decades of experience with them. Maybe go back for another week years later for a re-frac. They’re strong enough to be no problem. The problem ones are the good quality reservoirs, which deplete a large area much more severely than a tight gas well can and compact readily. Like Groningen and the Gulf Coast. And waste-water disposal into low volume and/or tight rocks. Like in the southern US incidents.

    Biocides are everywhere. Every oilfield injector well and many/most producers get treated. As do the water filtration plants supplying your home or factory. Obviously they kill bugs. Hence the “cide”. But they’re tailored to the bugs. I know of a field where the sea-water injection intakes got blocked by mussel colonies. The production engineer couldn’t understand why because biocide was injected upstream. It was explained that there are legal and self-interest reasons (less oil and water cleanup required later) to use something that kills bugs and not marine life. Same as with medical antibiotics. Target the materials in bacterial cell walls that are different from those in animal and plant cell walls. There’s nothing special about the bugs in fracced wells, so why use a different biocide than in Europe? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Absent evidence that they’re using something different and covering it up, I place acting on that assumption in the same category as “Gavin Schmidt fiddled the NASA figures”.

  123. Dave said:

    “‘Only’ a trillion gallons, to ‘only’ trigger a 5.4 event. Yes they were fraccing, but the quake was three orders of magnitude larger than what would be expected based on the amount of energy injected. “

    A trillion gallons is about 1 cubic mile of water. Are you sure about this number?

  124. Marco says:

    Big ones? Groningen? I think the worst they’ve had was 4.0. Truck passing by, that’s it!
    Well, apart from the fact that there *is* considerable damage, which is very likely directly related to these earthquakes.

    I know that wastewater disposal by injection isn’t unique to fracking, but it is highly correlated to earthquakes in several parts of the US according to the USGS – apparently even magnitude 5+ in several places.

    With regard to the biocide issue, I do not recommend you try and read up on the various regulatory frameworks between the US and Europe, and within European countries, regarding use of biocides. It’s horrendous in its complexity. But simplistically stated, if you have an effective biocide that isn’t approved in countries A, B, C in Europe (even if ‘approved’ by the EU!), you may very well still use it in the US., but can’t in countries A, B, C. Would you then use in the US the biocide that *is* allowed in countries A, B, C, but is less effective?

  125. Marco says:

    Paul, I read, elsewhere, that 10,000 m^3 was injected. That makes it 10 million litres (2.6 million gallon).

  126. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    The main problem with fraccing in the UK is vehicle movements.

  127. Dave_Geologist says:

    You’re right Marco, I stand corrected. Not sure where I got my original number. The Science paper says 12,800 cu m so about 3-4 million gallons. I haven’t had time to read the papers but there was obviously something different in Korea. What are the odds of Korea getting a 5.5 at their first attempt when it didn’t happen in tens of thousands of US attempts? The usual problem with hydrothermal is that they do it into fractured basement which (a) has very low storage capacity, (b) transmits the pressure a long way until it hits a critically stressed fault and (c) they keep pumping for a long time. One thing they were trying to do here I believe is grow a long, narrow fracture vs. the many short ones you want in a fracced gas well. That does increase the chance of intersecting a fault. It’s possible of course that they won the lottery at their first attempt, but not very likely.

    I’ll do a bit of reading and refreshing (which I planned and which is why faults and injection was going to be a separate comment). No time today though.

    On biocide, one big water-injection-supported field probably uses more in a year than US frac jobs have used, ever. And the situation is more challenging with water injection than with fraccing. You need the biocide because the injected fluids bring oxygen and chemicals (mainly nitrates and sulphates) which allow dormant bacteria to wake up and eat the oil. A frac job is a one-off injection of bug-food and fertiliser, most of which is sucked back out. A decent water injector will pump in between one and two million gallons of tasty seawater per day and flood it through the reservoir. A big field will have dozens. Pumping for twenty or thirty years. Boicided 24/7. You can’t afford specialist designer chemicals. If I was running a Texas frac job and Halliburton tried to sell me something exotic and expensive, I’d ask “why are you offering this stuff at a per litre price? Why can’t we use the stuff we use in the North Sea and the Gulf and buy by the tonne? The P,T conditions are the same, the bugs are the same, the oil is the same, what’s wrong with the stuff we’ve been using for decades”. Of course it’s nasty if it gets in your tap water. So is brake fluid, anti-freeze or screen-wash fluid. That’s why it’s trucked in closed tankers, stored in tanks onsite, collected during flowback rather than flushed into a river and trucked to licensed disposal sites.

    BTW I’m not saying everything is rosy in fracland. But we should give it the same attention to science as we give AGW. There’s as much bullshit, misunderstanding and propaganda out there about fraccing and the O&G industry in general as there is about AGW. Just from different sources. You should treat those with a political, public-policy or philosophical objection with the same scepticism as you do industry spokesmen. By all means take them at face value on their motives, but remember when they make a scientific claim that (a) they have a vested interest and (b) even if they overcome that, they may not be well informed or competent enough to paint an accurate picture anyway. target the real issues not imaginary ones. Traffic is one in a nice quiet neighbourhood. But at least it’s only for a few months. Not like living next to an Amazon distribution centre or an airport. Produced-water disposal is a biggy, which IMHO is not well managed. Although better than mine-water disposal (often into the nearest river, complete with its load of acids, NORM and heavy metals, at least once the mine closes). Making and keeping the wells gas-tight above the reservoir is another. Fugitive emissions from wellheads, pumps and pipe joints. Earthquakes occurring during the frac job, and the toxicity or otherwise of the fraccing fluid? Wouldn’t make my top twenty. But it makes for great newspaper headlines.

    By all means argue that it is not economic (but do you appreciate the irony – that’s a mirror image of the RCP8.5 thread), that it makes it harder to wean us off CO2 (I disagree, less CO2 is worse then no CO2 but better than more CO2; and a gradual transition is better than cold turkey and more likely to be win public support), that it rewards the “criminals” (I disagree, those who spread lies and misinformation are of course responsible for those crimes, but you are responsible for your tailpipe and flue emissions and the power for your a/c, not Exxon). “But earthquake in Korea” is none of the above.

    Conflating fraccing (a week or two at well start-up) with geothermal (a different beast in many ways and much more experimental) with waste-water disposal for the decades after the well was fracced (which is required regardless of whether the well was fracced or not) just muddies the waters. For example, if you think fraccing is the problem, you might ban it but let the 30,000 wells carry on producing but without the opportunity for re-fracs. Oops, there goes another 5.5 in Alabama. That wasn’t supposed to happen! We stopped fraccing!

  128. Marco says:

    Dave, with respect to your “less CO2 is worse then no CO2 but better than more CO2” I would like to stress that it only gives less CO2 if it really *replaces* a worse source (i.e. coal), and *only* that worse source. I haven’t seen any evidence that it has only replaced coal, and not also reduced development of less-CO2-emitting energy options.

  129. John Hartz says:

    Troubling new findings about why climate science is rejected so vehemently by a certain segment of the US population…

    What began as a way of trolling Prius drivers became a signature protest against America’s first black president — rolling coal. Drivers spend hundreds or thousands of dollars retrofitting their trucks so they can blanket cyclists, motorists and pedestrians with thick, black clouds of exhaust. “I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all,” one seller of coal-rolling equipment told Slate. “If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that.” In some instances, the practice has taken on an explicitly racial tone, as drivers publish videos of themselves rolling coal on Black Lives Matters protestors.

    Why would anyone spend so much money to do something so hostile and self-defeating? New research offers some insight.

    After Barack Obama took office, white Americans were less likely to see climate change as a serious problem, according to a recent paper published in the journal Environmental Politics. The study further finds evidence of a link between racial resentment and climate change denial. This is not to suggest that all climate deniers are racists, merely that racial resentment may, in part, be driving climate denial.

    Racial Resentment May Be Fueling Climate Denial by Jeremy Deaton, Nexus Media, May 24, 2018

  130. Dave_Geologist says:

    I haven’t seen any evidence that it has only replaced coal, and not also reduced development of less-CO2-emitting energy options.

    And I haven’t seen evidence that it has reduced development of less-CO2-emitting energy options. So a certain gain vs. a possible loss. Absent demonstration of the loss and quantification vs. the gain, I count that as a positive.

    The obvious way to make sure it is positive and stays positive is a carbon tax. And if we really wanted to, fugitive emissions could also be quantified and taxed more highly, taking into account the CH4 atmospheric residence time. There will be Fiscal Meters where the product stream is commingled with gas from other owners. You could also have them on each well, below or inserted into the Xmas tree. Or at the manifold to the export pipeline if per-well is too costly. Because fracced wells are pretty-much always gathered together in pads, you should be able to get a pretty good estimate of wellhead emissions by making unannounced inspection visits with the right equipment. It’s probably very difficult for academics and others to get the close-up access permissions required. But the government just has to say “let us in or we’ll shut you down”. Make the operator pay the upfront costs, but allow them to recover it via a tax rebate over the life of the well.

  131. @John Hartz, @Dave_Geologist,

    Re: “Trolling”, and natural gas as a path to a clean energy future,

    On the trolling it won’t matter. Let them. Soon enough, probably before my life ends, while gasoline will be really cheap it will also become really rare, simply because the overhead of the supply chain won’t be supportable by the price one can get for it. And why is that? Because the technology of locomotion will be entirely abandoned in favor of electric propulsion, not only in terms of its energy savings, but because nearly everything about these vehicles is simpler and, so, less expensive to maintain.

    And, on natural gas, while it was not so clear 5 years ago, it is clear now, that wind and solar are posed to completely obliterate fossil fuels (and, along the way, nuclear) simply based upon cost, whether or not it is government subsidized, and whether or not punitive tolls are applied to zero Carbon generation. As noted previously, it’s a better than exponential increase and, to the degree a technology maintains that growth, its domination is inexorable.

    People who are serious about an analysis of our now near-term energy needs would be wise to urge people to get out of the fossil fuel business. And they might want to think about how to capture some of that institutional knowledge and expertise. (Does anyone know how to design an integrated circuit by hand any longer? Does anyone know how to build an MX-missile-caliber laser ring gyro any longer?) But, of course, the companies and the experts, including the USEIA and the IEA will insist there are decades of life in fossil fuels as an industry. That’s because the targets of technological disruption have almost never in the dozens of disruptions we’re seen through the 20th and 21st century (so far) foreseen that they would be big losers.

    Don’t have to believe me. Just wait and see.

  132. John Hartz says:

    hypergeometric: I have posted only one comment on this thread and it has nothing to do with trolling.

  133. @John Hartz, It’s the one about yahoos black smoking Prius owners because of hatred of Obama. As I said, who cares? Like it or not their lives will change.

  134. Dave_Geologist says:

    Earthquakes, Marco et al.:

    I don’t want to take over the thread (although I could claim a bit of a connection, in the sense that I’m cautioning about glossing over risks in technologies we like and over-hyping risks of technologies we don’t). Although that’s perhaps more scientist-in-the-room. So I’ll make one more (but split up) post and suggest anyone who wants to discuss it further reads the paper I’ll link to first, so we’re starting on the same page.

    Willard, if you were serious in your suggestion a while back that I do a guest post, this would make a good topic. Something around earthquake/subsidence risks of various energy options. Conventional O&G vs. shale O&G vs. geothermal vs. hydro. We can discuss it offline if you’re interested. It would take a while to write. I feel a responsibility to refer back to the literature rather than rely on memory when I’m writing on an area where I have expertise.

  135. Dave_Geologist says:

    This paper is a useful resource (I always struggle to find it and couldn’t yesterday, because the title doesn’t indicate that it includes a huge historical database). It also has a nice explanation of hydraulic fracturing as it is actually done, how we know what happened where and how (Figs. 7-9), data from actual frac jobs which were monitored seismically (most have negative magnitudes, thousands of times less than the minimum felt level), but some plays are worse than others. Which you learn, quickly. So a 2.3 in the Barnet or Marcellus (

    during

    the frac job) would be astonishing. In the Eola or Etsho, it would be expected. Based on Blackpool, it would probably be expected in Lancashire. But just as you shouldn’t tell Canadians not to worry about Elso fraccing “because the Barnett”, you shouldn’t tell Texans to worry about Barnett fraccing “because South Korea”. Figure 12 shows the likely mechanism for the big events. It needs to be the right fault in the right orientation at the right distance along the right fluid-flow pathway at the right stage in its stress-buildup-and-release history. And with a nod to Paul, perhaps the right phase in the lunisolar cycle. So it will always be unpredictable.

    The events they could track down are listed in Tables 1-3, and graphed in Fig. 2. A shorter version is here. And yes, the ReFINE consortium is industry as well as government funded so you could choose to disbelieve what they publish. Or you could read their robust conflict-of-interest statement and still choose to disbelieve what they publish. Or see that I’ve pointed you to a peer-reviewed paper in a well-established journal with a good impact factor. Which currently has a special issue flagged on its home page on the Lusi mud volcano in Indonesia. And then you might be curious enough to do a Scholar search for Davies PLUS Lusi, and lo-and-behold, find that there’s a long-running debate between Davies et al. and oil company geologists, with Davies blaming the well and the other side blaming the Yogyakarta earthquake. Funny sort of oil industry shill, biting the hand the feeds him 😉 . As another nod to Paul, “The study’s own data and results reveal that pressure dissipation within the Upper Kalibeng Unit 2 clays is slow and, thus, confirms earlier analysis by Davies et al. (2008) that earthquake shaking could not have triggered Lusi as its effect was less than the tides”. Although it is another demonstration that seismologists are well aware of tidal stressing and de-stressing. I have the advantage that my expertise means I know the only way he could have pulled the wool over my eyes is by faking the meticulously referenced incidents. Then we’re back in “Gavin faked the numbers” territory.

    As you can see, the track record for conventional oil and gas is actually much worse than for shale fraccing! Before South Korea, geothermal was about the same as fraccing (remember that both have thousands of microseismic events no one feels which are not reported). Mining is about the same as oil and gas field depletion, but has a lower upper cutoff. Dams are bad, both in scale and duration (so another renewable resource with a high earthquake risk 😦 ). I know of some events they’ve missed. There was a hybrid one in Germany, where water disposal reactivated a fault, and the resulting small earthquake triggered a larger earthquake through the collapse of a nearby mine. A 5.5 in Ekofisk is attributed to water injection but had a freak mechanism. A well failure allowed water to spread out along a bedding plane in a shale far above the reservoir, going above overburden pressure and inflating it like a (very flat) balloon. When the balloon burst, it was mechanically more like a mine collapse. There may have been similar ones with drill-cuttings injection into shale, where it is not uncommon to form a horizontal cuttings-filled fractures. I am familiar with at least two (which didn’t have earthquakes 🙂 ). They were carefully managed, with short periods of injection separated by long periods of pressure-bleedoff. As with fraccing, the risk increases enormously in prolonged, high-volume injection vs. transient, low volume injection. Which is why South Korea was a surprise.

    But there are, what, 30-40 thousand US fracced wells, most with multi-stage fracs, many with multiple reservoir laterals. Hundreds of thousands of frac jobs. Whether you’re a frequentist or a Bayesian, you wouldn’t say the next Bakken frac has a high probability of causing a 5.5. Especially after six more months of fraccing with no 5.5.

  136. @Dave_Geologist,

    Indeed, problems with underestimating the pace at which wind + solar will dominate the energy scene, and failing to have policy for systematic large scale rollout rather than, as it seems, leaving it to the markets to decide, are (1) costs which always attend anarchy, and (2) that because solar and wind will necessarily deploy at synoptic scales, they in themselves will affect climate, at least regionally, and who knows whether or not beyond that. That’s because solar will reduce albedo in comparison to dry open areas, whether deserts or grasslands if deployed there. If deployed in place of forest, it could increase albedo. Separately, it is estimated that if a significant fraction, for example, of the offshore wind resources in the East are tapped, enough collective energy will be pulled out of winds to change weather.

    This isn’t a reason for doing any slower, since we really don’t have any time left, but it is a reason to do that most un-American of business things, coordinate. I daresay, apart from standards (IEEE, etc), not even the electrical grid is coordinated coast-to-coast in this way.

  137. Dave_Geologist says:

    The injection and waste-water disposal ones are mostly fault reactivation. Engineers don’t generally grok geological faults and tend to think they’re OK up to the intact rock limit 😦 . Fig 1 in the Davies paper shows a cartoon model of fault reactivation. To be fully realistic you have to add two additional things. (1) Let the circle get smaller as it goes to the left and bigger as it goes to the right. That is due to poroelasticity, and means that you can sometimes reactivate the fault by moving the circle to the right (= depletion because these are effective stresses, after subtraction of pore pressure). (2) Let the failure envelope flatten out and eventually turn down and hit the x-axis. I can’t find a un-paywalled example to link to, but Google Cam-Clay failure envelope and look at the images. The LHS of the failure envelope is shear failure, the RHS pore collapse/compaction. Most depletion earthquakes are in high-porosity, high-permeability, weak reservoirs and involve compaction/pore collapse, with the earthquake faults often activated in the overburden (Fig. 1A of this paper). That can’t happen in shale plays, the rocks are much too strong. Groningen appears to be behaving as their Fig. 1B. That implies a stress path steeper than 0.67, which is quite unusual. I’ve only seen it in highly overpressured, weak rocks, or in special cases like the edge of the depleted zone (which might be a sealing fault). In Valhall and Ekofisk, which are metaphorically made out of broken eggshells, there is grain rearrangement and collapse involved. I suspect the high porosity sands also have grain rearrangement. Although the Rotliegend is not high porosity, it tends to have a lot of weak clay cement so that may be a factor. I have a feeling the Dutch water injector incident also had a strange stress path but I don’t have time today to look out the paper.

    The water-disposal earthquakes in the south-central US are pretty much all due to fault reactivation by injection pressure. At least the ones I’ve read about. This one at least could have been avoided by better management IMHO. I can see clear evidence of changes to the volume of the tank they were injecting into in 1993, 1995 and 1996, the latter not long before the earthquake. Implying they were breaking through successive barriers. There are techniques to analyse that (e.g. Hall Plots, Pressure Fall-Off Tests, although to do it properly they’d have had to sacrifice some injection capacity by doing variable rate or step tests with shut-in periods). As I said above, that is not a risk inherent to fraccing: the vast majority of the water comes from the post-frac operation of the well. And it’s not frac fluids coming back, it’s the natural formation water.

    It’s a myth BTW that the UK is not seismically active. See for example This paper. It may look that way if you live in London, but not if you live in the north and west. Some of them are coalfield related, but their are no coalfields north of Edinburgh (OK Fife, but only 10 miles north so tiny on their Fig. 2). The Atlantic passive margin west of the UK and Norway is far from passive. The whole of the UK and Norway basement is in a strike-slip fault regime, except the far NW which is compressional. There are huge (kilometres high) compressional anticlines west of Norway and Scotland that grew in the last 10 million years. The shallow depth where most oilfields are is extensional due to gravity (the sediments want to fall into the Atlantic). But even up shallow, as you go downslope it transitions to strike-slip and I’ve seen deepwater exploration wells which indicate a compressive stress state. In my view it’s trying quite hard to form a new subduction zone, like the one that recently (in geological time) formed off Gibraltar and caused the Great Lisbon Earthquake. I’ll bet that in 10 million years there will be a good-going subduction zone kicking out 7s, 8s and 9s.

  138. Dave_Geologist says:

    hyper, my hope is that wind and solar costs do come down and out-compete fossils. But just winding down the installed based (vehicles and aircraft as well as power stations) will take decades. And there’s no guarantee. As with the discussion on the other thread about immature shale oil, we shouldn’t be complacent that oil and coal will be priced out fast enough to let us meet the Paris targets without trying. If you recall Ray Pierrehumbert argued (secondhand) that it could never be done economically because the cost of steamflooding at 500°C would be prohibitive, and require more energy than the oil could yield. But the industry knows that which is why they wouldn’t do it that way. The focus is on controlled underground combustion, sacrificing some of the product to make its own heat. You could call that a disruptive technology for the other side. Elon Musk isn’t the only business man with smart people working for him.

  139. John Hartz says:

    hypergeometirc:

    The information contained in Jeremy Denton’s article ties back to your comment posted on May 22, 2018 at 11:00 pm. Did you bother to read the entire article?

  140. Dave, I would like to see a write-up based on your knowledge.

    The characteristic behavior to keep in mind when contrasting earthquake events and climate is that earthquakes are triggered as essentially discrete events (ignoring aftershocks) while climate behaviors are continuous. So it’s much easier to attribute g-forcing to behaviors such as ocean tides, length-of-day (LOD) variations, Chandler wobble, ENSO, and QBO than to sporadic earthquake events. Any gravitational force applied to a responsive object will be directly measurable as a continuous response,which is why it is so straightforward to detect in those behaviors, and correspondingly more difficult for earthquakes. For the latter, a gravitational nudge will more often than not be ignored.

  141. @John Hartz,

    What Jeremy Denton article? It’s Deaton and, to answer your question, NO, I didn’t read it in its entirety. I skimmed it. What I did read in its entirety was the article by S. D. Benegal in Environmental Politics upon which it is based. I was not impressed with its methods for many reasons, and I am familiar with statistical methods used in political science. The most serious technical problems I find, since you apparently want me to go there, are the suitability of the t-test for the comparison of group responses before and after President Obama’s election, and, then, the failure to challenge or at least report the strength of terms in the ad hoc model Benegal uses for his multivariate regression on perception of climate concern. What if some other other model is more appropriate? In particular, the coding of the Obama presidency is confounded with a shift in time, and the question of whether that’s Obama or whether or not circumstances after the shift are responsible needs explaining.

    As far as the t-test goes, there are so many better ways today of doing that without the assumptions which go into it, that there’s really little excuse for doing the tests a couple of ways.

    Still, the conclusion is plausible. I just never use summaries like Deaton’s. Why when the original is available?

  142. @Dave_Geologist

    hyper, my hope is that wind and solar costs do come down and out-compete fossils.

    I admit choosing to ignore 10X-20X cost savings is something someone might do. However, I can’t say it’ll financially prudent. I expect there to be a lot of stuff in junkyards.

  143. “the comparison of group responses before and after President Obama’s election, and, then, the failure to challenge or at least report the strength of terms in the ad hoc model Benegal uses for his multivariate regression on perception of climate concern. What if some other other model is more appropriate?”

    I had an immediate response to the obama and black lives matter references when I read them because that would not explain the abuse that has been heaped on Al Gore for decades. There may be some racial animus at play, but the tribalism that powers the resistance to climate science is not primarily about race. I think the tribalism at play in climate ball is powered largely by libertarian ideas and ideals versus social democracy and communitarian ideas and ideals. I think it is safe to argue that the veiled and not-so-veiled racism of the birthers, tea-partiers and trumpsters finds an easy confluence with the winner-take-all ethos of the libertarian/randians in the USA.
    complicated and nasty stuff. I would love to see a red/blue nation solution based on two countries: coastal america and flyover and gulf coast america. The US civil war has been resolved yet. The adults in two rooms, as it were.

  144. John Hartz says:

    smallbluemike: I have often wondered if home-schooling might also be a factor in shaping how people in the US accept the realities of manmade climate change. I have not come across anything on this specific issue. Have you?

  145. tedpress says:

    Mike, as a librul dem lukewarmer who voted 3 times for Gore and contributed twice to his campaigns, it may be instructive to hear that I really don’t like what he did/said/showed wrt climate change. He was frequently wrong, always hectoring and his lifestyle didn’t match what he preached. And yes, skeptics overplayed that and some went off the deep end.

    But his attempt at a second career was not impressive.

  146. That was me, by the way.

  147. Dave_Geologist says:

    Out of interest, where specifically was Gore wrong? At least in AIT, he was mostly right IIRC and in line with the IPCC at the time. If you think he’s wrong because you’re a lukewarmer and don’t believe the IPCC: sorry, you’re the one who’s wrong. “He was frequently wrong” should be rewritten “he disagreed with my beliefs which are out of line with the scientific consensus”.

    If we taking the IPCC as a benchmark, then compared to his Republican opponents, Gore’s truthiness score on the issue must be 10-100 times higher. I don’t find his tone hectoring. He was telling people stuff they didn’t want to hear, but the movie’s title said as much. The same would be true for a movie about smoking, obesity or opiods. Some people like to get their pills sugar-coated, I prefer the straight dope so maybe that’s why I didn’t find him hectoring.

    And yes “Al Gore Is Fat And Flies In Airplanes”. But, really? One guy won’t make a difference to the global carbon budget. He’s enough of a realist to know it needs national and global political change to make a difference. Do you really believe that if he went an a diet, vowed never to fly again and sold his cars, it would lead one single denier to change his mind?

  148. Dave_Geologist says:

    For those who found my splurge of fraccing and earthquake info in response to Marco TL;DR and skipped past, no problem. It’s what the PageDown key is for 🙂 .. But as a parting thought which is on the adult-in-the-room, or perhaps-scientist-in-the-room theme (it’s hubristic to think that only scientists can act as adults, or that scientists always act as adults 😉 ).

    Why do you think Ineos (who want to frac in Scotland) are happy to sponsor real, academically respected scientists doing real scientific research published in high-profile (within the geological field) peer-reviewed journals and supported by organisations such as the Geological Society of London (whose statement on climate change is here). Maybe it’s because Ineos is secure in the knowledge that the science is on their side. Why does ExxonMobil not do the same for climate science? Because they know the science is not on their side.

    Part of being an adult is facing up to inconvenient truths. All of them, not just the ones that appear to endorse or support your worldview. Those ones are actually not that inconvenient are they? To other people perhaps, but not so much to you. You’ve accepted that there is no such thing as a free lunch and are prepared to make the trade-off that accepting the inconvenient truth entails.

    By all means have a debate about fraccing. But make it about the real issues: carbon budgets, transition vs. cold turkey, energy self-reliance, displacing coal vs. delaying wind, killing Arctic oil economically when you think it’s already dead politically and doesn’t need further killing, forcing inefficient oilfields into early closure (but maybe governments will subsidise them and they won’t die), contributing to oil company profits (but you do have a pension, don’t you; a mortgage?). Not about the close cousins of mercury-in-vaccines and Frankenfoods.

  149. tom said: “Mike, as a librul dem lukewarmer who voted 3 times for Gore and contributed twice to his campaigns, it may be instructive to hear that I really don’t like what he did/said/showed wrt climate change.”

    Mike says: no, I do not find it instructive. I brought up Gore in the context of the long-running culture war that exists between the red state nation and the blue state nation. Instead of responding in context, you took the opportunity to slam Gore. Classic red state reaction.

    In what state/year did you make your Gore contributions? I want to take a quick look at PDC records to confirm your assertion.

    Mike

  150. And yes “Al Gore Is Fat And Flies In Airplanes”. But, really? One guy won’t make a difference to the global carbon budget. He’s enough of a realist to know it needs national and global political change to make a difference. Do you really believe that if he went an a diet, vowed never to fly again and sold his cars, it would lead one single denier to change his mind?

    I strongly agree with @Dave_Geologist here. It’s not that I think Climate Reality Project is terribly effective, but the sociological facts are that environmentally-minded individuals (not necessarily environmentalists) who focus upon what might be called Personal Environmental Purity tend to be greater consumers in other directions. People who diligently recycle buy more bottles of water. People who have solar PV use more electricity than demographically- and economically-matched non-PV-owning counterparts.

    There is a value frame that says “Every little bit helps”, which is broadly understandable but, to an engineer, that’s silly and a waste of effort and resources. You want to make tradeoffs.
    Even natural gas and nuclear, if the former could be done in a manner without fugitive emissions and sidestream harms (even if we’d accepted those harms in the past) and the latter if it could be done on budget. The most notable trades are putting up solar farms in areas where there was green stuff and species. It’s hard to get people to understand this, even assuming they are being genuine and not just using the green stuff and species as a fig leaf for NIMBYism. Young growth forests don’t sequester much Carbon, and no forest sequesters Carbon like most wetlands do. People oppose intruding upon green stuff and species with solar farms, but they don’t give a blink on local towns permitting expansion of housing developments which kill wetlands and cut up ecosystems into disconnected pieces. (And marine or Blue Carbon wetlands sequester most of all. Unfortunately, these are being clobbered by SLR and there’s impervious development uphill into which they cannot retreat.)

    And, yeah, flying is a big part of emissions, but with people so diversely situated (and we’re not going back to small town America), there really isn’t any alternative. I try to minimize such travel, use trains and busses where possible, and they offset my piece of the emissions using a vehicle I personally know will do the offset. (In my case it’s the New England Wind Fund which at US$40 per WREC offsets 383 kg of CO2. I use this to calculate how many kg need to be offset.)

  151. Dave_Geologist says:

    Back to fraccing: I didn’t deliberately exclude water sourcing and disposal. Those for whom it was not TL;DR will see we did discuss those.

    Water sourcing is easy in that there are regulatory solutions already available. Don’t allow them to use potable water. Or declare water-stress regions or water stress years/seasons and don’t allow them to use potable water in those times and places. It adds costs and the weaker prospects will lie undrilled. Water supply in the US seems to be burdened by grandfather rights. As newbie on the block, fraccing presumably has none. It has the advantage that if states don’t act, presumably their electors don’t care and are getting what they deserve. Publish fraccing usage (from public supplies or shared aquifers) so voters know why they can’t use their lawn sprinklers.

    Disposal is trickier. Some states may well not have good places to put it. You could clean it up and dispose of it to sea, rivers (tougher, to sea means you can leave it salty and only clean out the nasties) or soakaways (but see rivers). Lots of offshore platforms clean up and dispose to sea. But a lot of them will be water-injected fields, and once you’re fully into the cycle, the formation water will be diluted by injected seawater so is not so nasty. The ETAP complex is a better North Sea analogue than most, because it is a central processing facility taking input from multiple fields with different, sometimes nasty formation waters. Operated by multiple companies using different production chemicals. So the ETAP operator probably doesn’t know from day-to-day what it’s receiving. And yes, they inject it into a non-producing subsurface formation. Through, from a quick Google for SPE papers, fibre-glass production tubing. Presumably because metal tubing would rot. When you have to go to the extent of specifying fibre-glass tubing, you’re dealing with some pretty nasty stuff. Norway has been stricter about not disposing to sea. They tend to use younger, softer sediments about the producing formations. There have been a number of incidents of breaches to surface and leaks of oily water. Because these sediments generally can’t build up the stress required to make a large earthquake, it’s the leak that is the problem, not any associated earthquake.

    An elegant solution would be to pump it to the Gulf Coast and inject it into depleted oil and gas reservoirs. Kill two birds with one stone and help cut back the subsidence rate. One thing that is under-appreciated is that subsidence continues even after you stop extracting oil or gas
    . The depletion spreads out into the over- and under-lying shales over a timescale of decades, at least in the sort of recently deposited, uncompacted rock you have in the Mississippi Delta. And the soft sands have permanently compacted and don’t rebound. Post-production subsidence can exceed syn-production subsidence. So it may be worth repressurising fields that are long out of production. Carefully, of course 😉 . You’d need an infrastructure, but it would be small compared to the existing production infrastructure (you’d keep the existing central processioning plants, just build new disposal pipelines).

    Or they could just learn to live with it, like people in mining areas of the UK learned to live with a steady diet of 1.5s to 2.5s, and unexpected subsidence and sinkholes. That would be an adult decision if it was made with full knowledge of the risks and benefits. 3.5s OK, 5.5s not?

  152. The UK essentially went through its coal reserves in 150 years
    They are seeing severe declines in their North Sea oil reserves after 40 years
    OK, so now they will go through the same cycle with natural gas locked in shale. How long will this last if they can recover 10% of the estimated amount discovered?

    Or is it better to leave it in the ground and plan what the UK will do for energy in the long run?

  153. HG says: ” People who have solar PV use more electricity than demographically- and economically-matched non-PV-owning counterparts. ”
    do you have a source for this? This sounds wrong to me.

  154. Dave_Geologist says:

    Paul, I’m not saying don’t ban or restrict fraccing. The point of my round-robin with Marco was to say do it for real reasons, not imaginary reasons. Don’t tell people living above the Marcellus scare stories about 5.5s in South Korea when hundreds of fracs with microseismic monitoring have never got above -0.5, and thousands of unmonitored ones have never been felt. Or if you do, on the basis that earthquakes follow power-laws with a fat tale, do a Gutenberg-Richter plot and extrapolate to 5.5 Then say there is a non-zero risk of a 5.5, but the odds against it in any one well are zillions to one (inset calculated number here).

    Ban it for GHG control reasons, policy reasons, produced water disposal reasons etc. (but be honest and tell them that it’s not the fraccing that produces the water it’s the production, and it’s not enough just to stop fraccing). Not remotely. You have to shut in all the producing wells too. Including the decades-old mom-and-pop unfracced ones. Treat them like adults.

    Tax the wells’negative externalities, and either make it revenue-neutral or use the cash to subside the transition to low-carbon.

  155. @smallbluemike,

    Yes, I do, and can look it up, possibly tomorrow. There are other things I’m committed to do right now. This comes up in a discussion of the pro-and-cons of net metering. In particular, it is an argument for why homes with generation should have two revenue lines, one being compensated, hopefully in a time-varying way, for generation, and the second, a negative revenue or cost line based upon how much they consume. I don’t have the definitive links handy right now but if you want to chase it yourself, one is from talks by Karl Ragabo, and the other is from the energy economics group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

  156. Hey, HG,
    here is the message I sent to Karl Rabago:
    I was told recently that “People who have solar PV use more electricity than demographically- and economically-matched non-PV-owning counterparts” and my gut reaction is that this is incorrect because I believe the same folks who are investing in ownership of solar pv arrays are also reducing their footprint in a myriad of ways. You were cited as someone who could confirm the statement. Can you tell me if the statement is correct? Can you point me at data? Is the consumption confounded by a simultaneous conversion to electric cars or plug in hybrids of an advanced sort that would increase home electric consumption but would not be balanced in the data by the reduction of fossil fuel auto consumption?
    Thank you
    Mike
    I will share answer if and when I get one.

  157. at HG: no rush on providing links. my limited training on experimental design is recalled when I read something like this: “environmentally-minded individuals (not necessarily environmentalists) who focus upon what might be called Personal Environmental Purity tend to be greater consumers in other directions. People who diligently recycle buy more bottles of water.”
    Immediately, I wonder if this is backwards and if it is not actually the case that people who buy more bottles of water, and might be called PEP folks, also are more diligent about recycling, rather than the other way around. I don’t buy bottled water, so I don’t have water bottles of all sorts to recycle, but I recycle pretty diligently nonetheless.
    I am a solar pv array owner in one of those states where you can’t lease out roof space to a solar company, but have to pay for your own array and installation. In my instance, if we looked at consumption from several years ago when we installed the array and compared my energy consumption then to what I consume now, we would find that my consumption has risen. The thing that might not arise in the data review is that I now have 7 people living in my large old house instead of 2, that I have turned off as much natural gas use as possible and have switched to electric, that my electric sources are primarily old hydro sources ala BPA and windpower, there is almost no fossil fuel in the electric sourcing. Raw numbers can be misleading and as in the case of bottled water, you have to consider where the population buying bottled water is significantly different from the population used for comparison purposes. I expect you know this and am not trying to argue for no reason, but out of a habit of asking questions when data is presented that seems surprising or counter-intuitive. Like when a person claims to be of the liberal persuasion, but uses a term like librul which is in more common use as an epithet in right wing circles. Some things just jump off the page at me and make me say, wait a minute, can that be true?
    Cheers
    Mike

  158. @smallbluemike,

    Hi. I was able to get a little research done on this this afternoon, but I haven’t had the time to write it up. I thank you for the question, because it allowed me to dig into the literature and catch up on what’s been found since I last looked.

    I can give you a quick couple of references, though. The phenomenon is called the rebound effect in environmental economics (didn’t know it had a proper name before), and is known both in recycling and in energy efficiency work as well as for solar PV. Here are a couple of references, and I apologize for just including the links and not the full references with links:

    * https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/enepol/v110y2017icp313-324.html (the best one)
    * https://search.proquest.com/openview/7edb62eb69e4949d2044dda8ee76526f/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y (that’s a doctoral thesis devoted to the subject)
    * https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40518-017-0073-5#citeas
    * https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421514005023
    * https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032114007990

    The phenomenon is known in comparisons of so-called green and brown consumers with respect to recycling and solid waste.

  159. rebound effect sounds a lot like Jevon’s paradox: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox

  160. @smallbluemike,

    Indeed, it is. In fact, the term “rebound effects” shows up in that Wikipedia article.

  161. @smallbluemike,

    But “rebound effect” also has its own article.

  162. @smallbluemike,

    But, apparently, it’s not really Jevon’s because in the case of Jevon’s you need to lose all benefit from the improvement. The articles indicate only a 20% loss.

    (Apologies for the 3 separate small comments.)

  163. @hg: I think that the rebound effect is real, as is Jevon’s paradox, but I think you have may still be incorrect to say that the folks with PV arrays use more electricity than the population without arrays. The rebound effect would only indicate that all of the system savings that might have accrued with addition of the privately owned pv array do not normally appear as some part of the savings is consumed by the rebound effect. your statement: “People who have solar PV use more electricity than demographically- and economically-matched non-PV-owning counterparts” still feels wrong to me, I think it’s a variation on a libertarian meme.

    air control to Major Tom: are you there, Major Tom? I want to check your history of donations to Al Gore’s campaign. Can you provide the data to be checked? What year, what race, what state, please.

    Cheers,

    Mike

  164. @smallbluemike,

    … but I think you have may still be incorrect to say that the folks with PV arrays use more electricity than the population without arrays. The rebound effect would only indicate that all of the system savings that might have accrued with addition of the privately owned pv array do not normally appear as some part of the savings is consumed by the rebound effect. your statement: “People who have solar PV use more electricity than demographically- and economically-matched non-PV-owning counterparts” still feels wrong to me, I think it’s a variation on a libertarian meme.

    It doesn’t matter whether or not “it’s a variation on a libertarian meme” if the data is there to support it. The definitive recent study, which I linked, is Deng and Newton, 2017, from Australia, in Energy Policy 110. And as Klein and Noblet from Maine also reported in Energy Policy in 2017 (“Exploring sustainable energy economics: Net metering, rate
    designs and consumer behavior”, and I did not link this), not only does this affect residential solar use, it also results from energy efficiency improvements.(although there it seems to be more, with a loss of 25%). It’s also known in the recycling community, something which I also linked.

    It isn’t that all benefits don’t accrue to the grid, it’s that the consumption by the residence goes up, akin to buying more water bottles for a home because the people living there recycle. And I mentioned how this is seen in many datasets: Professor Lucas Davis cites how having more water efficient clothes washers increases the amount of washing the homes do. Mazar and Zhong at University of Toronto argue people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products.

    As I said, this comes up in electricity rate design for prosumers, something which Rabago is an expert about, as he’s the Value of Solar guy. Essentially, instead of net metering what’s wanted is an income stream for generation, probably time varying, and a cost stream for usage, also probably time varying. Utilities and regulators in the Northeast USA find these inconvenient to deploy. Shrug. But the utilities try to claw back what they see as costs when net metering is the vehicle.

  165. Hey, ATTP, any interest in an analysis of this:

    ” the sociological facts are that environmentally-minded individuals (not necessarily environmentalists) who focus upon what might be called Personal Environmental Purity tend to be greater consumers in other directions. People who diligently recycle buy more bottles of water. People who have solar PV use more electricity than demographically- and economically-matched non-PV-owning counterparts.”

    I think HG and I are locked apart by the idea of demographic and economic matched populations. In this instance, the decision to personally invest in solar pv is a confounding variable in the experimental design and creates a situation where the populations just don’t match. Like saying, ants and bees are matched (disregarding the whole wing thing, of course).

    In this instance, the “wing thing” is the serious commitment to a reduced carbon footprint of one population that is demonstrated by purchase of solar pv. Maybe the frame is too small if the measure is simply electricity use, perhaps it should be full carbon footprint and/or resource consumption, (if those can be measured accurately between the two rather distinct populations).

    If it is true that environmentally-minded individuals are greater consumers in other directions and that there is no difference in true impact between an EM person and a control group that is not EM, then I should take a cruise like a lot of my acquaintances like to do.

    HG, I don’t want to argue these points with you. I trust your take on things generally, I think we are looking at different aspects of this question.

    Cheers,

    Mike

  166. @smallbluemike,

    If it is true that environmentally-minded individuals are greater consumers in other directions and that there is no difference in true impact between an EM person and a control group that is not EM, then I should take a cruise like a lot of my acquaintances like to do.

    In my opinion, that’s an overreaction. In particular, note that the Australian study showed only 20% of the Carbon avoiding effectiveness was lost, not 100%.

    HG, I don’t want to argue these points with you. I trust your take on things generally, I think we are looking at different aspects of this question.

    Could be. It also could be that it’s easy to be trapped in a narrative which assumes people in general act more rationally and deliberately than they do. If we’ve learned anything from Kahneman, and Tversky and Simon and Shiller and Thaler is that the heuristics people use to make decisions often aren’t evidence-based, and, many times, come from similar rules their colleagues use. There are few few markets where rational economic behavior is exhibited.

    Accordingly, I’ve come to think of human beings as just another species, subject to the inexorable constraints of population biology, with its systems of coupled differential equations. I’m a lot happier now that I do.

    I also think that if one wants to motivate people to do something really hard, like mitigate climate change, unless you have greed on your side, you’re not going to get anywhere, even with government regulation.

    But that’s just my two cents.

  167. Dave_Geologist says:

    @smallbluemike,
    Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. 80% of PV CO2 savings is not as good as 100%, but it’s a lot better than 0%.

  168. yes, absolutely. rebound effect consuming 20% of anticipated savings definitely beats jevons paradox where all savings and more are consumed as a consequence of higher efficiency. I think rebound effect is kind of like having a cupcake after going for a run. I am planning to ask my PUD electrical supplier if I can get stats on my monthly consumption for the past 20 years and see what has happened with my consumption as I have completed numerous improvements to make a historic and drafty house less of an energy hog. I expect to see pretty steady reductions in consumptions, with changes in the baseline as the number of people have changed over the years. I think we topped out at about 10 people in the home around 2003 when we took in our 6 sudanese refugee sons, bottomed out at just two of us for a few years, now back at 7, so washer/dryer/water heater are staying busy and turning the meter.

  169. @hg: yes, people often do not act rationally. seen this one?: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/embark-essay-tragedy-of-the-commons-greed-common-good/
    but I think it’s time for pushback on greed and self interest as THE motivators. Greed and self-interest are a mantra for the reagan revolution and that has made greed a virtue and altruism a mirage, but altruism is real. People do engage in altruism. We need to recognize that and appreciate it. We get more altruism if we pay attention to it and encourage it, instead of fighting with ratpack in attempt to entice them to soften to enlightened self-interest. Take a giant step, be an altruist, live simply so others might simply live. No cruises for me.

  170. @smallbluemike,

    Many residential PV-with-battery systems (e.g., Tesla) come with elaborate consumption-related software. We are upgrading our 10 kW PV to 13.5 kW, and with a special ask, are getting detailed consumption monitoring. I opted to do this to help manage our load because of the frankly hostile attitude Eversource has at large to widespread residential PV. I fully expect them to push for surcharges and the like, and I want to be able to manage to minimize consumption from the grid as much as possible.

    At the moment, with great effect, while we don’t have Li-on batteries, I am dumping energy into our hot water tank at peak generation, flipping it from heat pump to pure electric during the generation day, and then back to heat pump at night. We also charge our EV during the day. Eventually we hope to lease an EV we can get power from as well as put in.

  171. it sounds like your consumption and experience is similar to my own: little or no rebound effect in terms of increased consumption per capita in the household, certainly nothing like a jevon’s paradox impact unless you ignore the reduction in fossil fuels for the auto.

    I just received 5 years of monthly consumption data, it’s complicated to parse because of people coming and going, but it looks like our consumption has been relatively flat on per capita basis for the 5 years of data that the public utility district can provide.

    I don’t know if you and I qualify as PEP folks, but I suspect that we are not “having a cupcake” after a run at reducing the footprint. The small footprint thing has its own cupcake quality built in somehow. It’s virtuous, it’s altruistic. Don’t hide your light under a basket.

  172. @smallbluemike,

    it sounds like your consumption and experience is similar to my own: little or no rebound effect in terms of increased consumption per capita in the household … I don’t know if you and I qualify as PEP folks, but I suspect that we are not “having a cupcake” after a run at reducing the footprint. The small footprint thing has its own cupcake quality built in somehow. It’s virtuous, it’s altruistic. Don’t hide your light under a basket.

    Yeah, but there are different ways of looking at this. One form of “altruism”, along the lines of “Don’t hoard electrons”, is to give back all generation possible to “the grid”, which, in reality, means the homes in your neighborhood. Then again, there’s another, which considers the present day means of allocating electrical energy a centralized problem and headache, with its Sankey inefficiencies and insisting upon providing the same high quality of power to and for all applications. In that respect, “taking as little from the grid as possible” is another kind of “altruism” but it is not the same. Then again, there’s another, which considers the present structure of utilities inherently harmful and wants to see that structure collapse as quickly as possible, to be replaced by a much more decentralized, much more locally focussed generation-and-consumption setup. In that, the “altruism” is cooperating with the utility and the grid as little as possible.

    It’s difficult to dictate to people how they should live, not only because it is sanctimonious but also because in all likelihood it is suboptimal. Random variation in policy and plan is a kind of optimization strategy, and dithering can facilitate control: If there’s a traffic jam, a car navigation advisor does not want to make the mistake of recommending the same re-route to all its affected customers. It wants to allocate them with some random variation around several routes, even if some are slightly less optimal than the best. It can’t know who will take what, so random allocation is the best approach.

  173. Michael 2 says:

    “but we can pressurize scientists to behave in some ideal way.”

    Scientists collectively constitute what in a different setting would be called a priesthood, speaking in tongues (may the weak force be with you!) and cloistered into universities often at someone else’s expense.

    The expectations put on you by the public is probably minor compared to the expectations scientists put on each other.

  174. John Hartz says:

    Michael2:

    Amen brother! Amen! 🙂

  175. Michael 2 says:

    hypergeometric asks “Does anyone know how to build an MX-missile-caliber laser ring gyro any longer?”

    [raises hand] I do! Split a laser beam into two fibers, one wound clockwise on a drum, the other counter-clockwise on the same drum. And so on… doing it with precision won’t be easy but conceptually it is simple.

  176. @Michael 2,

    Congrats.

    Now, obviously, it’s trivial to go from that to CEPs of meters, eh? I actually have no idea of how small the CEPs are/were and I’m sure the real ones are classified. (Never privy to those, but intelligent people can figure these things out, just like the 22.5 grams of Pu sufficiently compressed which results in a critical mass.) Anyway, y’all see it.

    ‘Sides, the laser ring gyros are probably obsolete anyway. There are amazing things being done in the electronics for the Internet Of Things, like circuits which get their energy from small capacitors charged by generators which exploit being squeezed and vibrated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.