Liars and Storytellers
Tom, I’ve reread this morning the article by Naomi Oreske’s et.al. The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future that you’ve posted on your Facebook page some time ago. My initial opinion, that she misinterprets the evidence, stands. However, my initial response was ill-tempered and snarky. You noted:
coming from someone who spent his professional life in counterintelligence and who has since taken up fiction, I’m not sure what to make of your comment.
I behaved as a Scheisskopf. In so many ways I was wrong. Herewith is my critique of Ms. Oreske’s paper, but hopefully with better manners.
Ms. Oreske believes Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW), that the doubling of atmospheric CO2––a trace gas composing less that .04% of the atmosphere–– from 200PPM to 400PPM, will unleash a global chain reaction that will destroy the earth. She forecasts the future as science fiction to describe what the doubling of CO2 will do to the world.
This is a sci-fi plot device that worked most spectacularly (IMHO) in Kurt Vonnegut’s, Cat’s Cradle. Ice-Nine is a chemical solution that turns water into a solid. The beaker containing Ice-Nine, of course, breaks. All the oceans and waters of the earth turn solid. As good end-of-the-world sci-fi should, it scares the whoopee out of you. In fiction, the reader suspends judgment for the novel’s duration.
However, when we lay the novel down, we must again retrieve discernment and judgment.
Before I articulate my skepticism apropos Ms. Oreske’s academic paper, I want to tell you how much I owe you and Giovanna, despite how differently you and I might see the world. We share at least love of the acoustic guitar and the scorching experience of raising three articulate, painfully intelligent and beloved daughters. Has it now been twenty-five years we’ve known one another?
Sue, I, Christopher, then eleven-years-old, and Michelle, nine, moved to Madison in July 1989. I had run the Air Force counter-intelligence program in Washington, D.C. through the 1980s, my main task being to shine bright light upon the Soviet Union’s arms control deception program. The USSR sought not only to deploy bigger and more effective weapons, but also to convince the US to deploy fewer and less effective weapons. Ground truth was in short supply; what facts we had were suspect. In 1987-88, the Soviet spy team, Walker and Whitworth, which had been passing U.S. coding material to the KGB since 1967, was arrested. Upon these broken codes, more damaging and complete this contemporary Snowdon , the Soviet Strategic Deception Directorate was able to insert false intelligence into our communications, evaluate our reaction, and adjust their message, telling us what we wanted to hear. It was the British WWII Double-Cross program all over again. In that summer, 1989, I was tired, tired, tired. The Soviet Union was our enemy for decades to come. They had our most secret codes and I simply had no more to give. I left the military.
Giovanni met Sue at mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace, invited us to join this odd Catholic ‘Schismatic’ group that meet for mass outside of the main church. My wife, ever ready to please, agreed. We attended “Group” a few times, and Sue wanted nothing further to do with you. You were free thinkers. My wife, child of an alcoholic, sought structure, rules, and doctrine.
Washington, D.C also was a hard place to raise a family. When a military family moves to another military post, the stress on children is not bad. The kids share the rules, background and social structure. S/he knows where s/he stands. It is not so when one moves from a military post to a civilian community. When in 1982 we moved to Springfield, Virginia, a Washington, D.C. suburb, my teen-agers left a high school of 250 students to one of 1500. The ‘good’ civilian kids already had their friends; newcomers attracted the troubled and disaffected. Every day seemed to be a crisis.
So, would we attend mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace as doctrinaire Catholics or schismatic renegades per Giovanna’s invitation? Christopher, who befriended your oldest, and Michelle, who befriended your youngest, organized a sit-down strike. They (the little Wobblies) refused to attend mass at Queen of Peace. ‘It bores us blind!’ they said.
I took no position. In 1989-1990 I was taking no positions. Queen of Peace or “Group;” I’d go either way. I could blank out just as well one hour at Our Queen of Peace as in any random house on Madison’s west side, wherever there might be an hour’s quiet.
Sue compromised. A priest attended ‘group’. He conducted the mass. He would correct doctrinal drift and stamp out heresy. In October, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and I watched open-mouthed. We attended ‘group’ because of your three daughters. The children played while we adults respectfully snarked at one another.
Your daughters brought me peace. How, you ask? They lambasted you, your attempts to impose rules, your political and social positions, and everything you stood for. And they clearly loved you. Hmm. Watching your three daughters interact with you allowed me to mend my broken ties to my own daughters. We love each other dearly, despite my divorce with their mother. Thank you.
So, back to Naomi Oreske. She believes the ‘experts’; I double-check them. Having been an ‘expert,’ I distrust expertise. Richard Feynman “Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts” knows whereof he speaks.
I saw how easily the Soviet Union convinced Western ‘experts’ to believe black was white. Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims describes how simple deceptions gulled generations of Western intellectuals, willfully blind to genocides so close they could reach out and touch it, but they would not see it.
In Washington, D.C., I saw how cheaply I could buy ‘scientific expertise’ when I had your tax money to spend. I submitted requests for proposal, picked among the supplicants, and told the winner what to write. The Golden Rule is, I suspect, no less true now than then. “Them’s got the gold, rules.”
I suppose I regret my part in this crisis in scientific truth. 30 or 50 or 80% of scientific papers now published are irreproducible, i.e., false. Computers write papers accepted in scientific journals. It suggests to me that skepticism of received wisdom is as appropriate now as in the 1980s.
We Americans now discount the CAGW meme. There are other problems more concrete, less chimeric, more amenable to solution. Let’s clean the Lake Mendota watershed; let others will clean their own pollution. This sounds right to me.
The Gallup Poll posits reasons for the public’s disbelief in Naomi Oreske’s view of the future. Gallup suggests we are ignorant, heads in the sand, suffer a sense of helplessness and passivity, are unwilling to acknowledge our betters…
Global warming is a fact. The earth has been warming, for some periods more, some less, since the end of the little ice age, around 1850. But the cause is not CO2.
Dr. Patrick Moore, a Green Peace founder, note this anomaly:
The increase in temperature between 1910-1940 was virtually identical to the increase between 1970-2000. Yet the IPCC does not attribute the increase from 1910- 1940 to “human influence.” They are clear in their belief that human emissions impact only the increase “since the mid-20th century”. Why does the IPCC believe that a virtually identical increase in temperature after 1950 is caused mainly by “human influence”, when it has no explanation for the nearly identical increase from 1910- 1940?
In 2000, the temperature rise paused, and now the climate is probably cooling even as atmospheric CO2 content grows.
Ice core analysis without exception shows that since the dawn of time, global temperatures rise , then atmospheric CO2 content rises, as is occurring now.
There, that’s how I assess the current evidence. Man affects the environment, but not catastrophically. As a hypothesis, CAGW fails to account for ground truth.
Now, God knows I’ve been wrong before. But, Tom, these preceding paragraphs do not explain why I responded to Ms. Oreske with anger and snark.
In a word, she writes half-truths with the smug satisfaction of a Soviet disinformation specialist. I’ve read hundreds of ‘how-to do deception’ papers in the classified Soviet Military Journal, and dissected hundreds of deception articles on the pages of Red Star, and had to respond to them Truth is a bitch; deception is easy to do, hard to unravel. I regret not doing better. Oreske reminded me of my failures. I expect to do better with my fiction.
Tom, I thank you for Naomi’s paper. It is the least of things for which I am grateful to you. It is deceptive. The science surrounding Anthropogenic Global Warming calls to mind Cold War Camouflage, Concealment and Deception. I have more to say about CAGW and CC&D, if for no other reason than it is the plot device of my current novel.
I’ll sing with you when I return in the fall.[subscribe2]