Climate Change XVIII – Reply to a comment


Our climate change and global warming correspondent, Greg Tomlinson, posted a comment about my post Climate Change XVI. I moved it here to be easily available to our readers and posted my reply below.


Greg Tomlinson

February 14, 2018 at 7:13 am Edit

At this point, I no longer argue about whether the earth is warming or cooling. As I have mentioned previously, I believe that the integrity of much of the temperature data has been severely compromised by numerous “corrections” or “adjustments”. Also, stories about the declining polar bear population and shrinking Antartica ice shelves are simply fiction. On top of that, there is the problem of much of the AGW community (especially the folks at SkepticalScience) tending to attribute every severe weather event to global warming even though meteorologists generally tend to associate such events with cooling. Severe weather usually occurs when a cold front collides with warm moist air. Finally, there is the issue that many of those living in the lower 48 states are not seeing warming, but instead are getting longer colder winters. Of course, none of this would be convincing evidence at all to the AGW community, and I simply don’t have time nor energy to sort out fact and fiction among their thousands of claims, and as a “non-expert”, they wouldn’t take me seriously anyway.

There is one aspect of this global warming/cooling, however, that I still stand firmly behind. Whether the earth is warming, cooling, or neither, and that is that humans cannot possibly be causing it. The “control knob” theory of carbon dioxide is easily refuted by anyone with a home weather station. If the station reports any relative humidity less than 100 percent, then the control knob effect is disproven. Remember that for carbon dioxide to be the control of the radiative forcing feedback loop, the concentration of water vapor (the stronger GHG) must be dependent on temperature only. But the only way that can happen is if the water vapor concentration is fixed to its saturation value at all points in the atmosphere. If the H2O vapor concentration would ever drop below this value at any location, then by definition of saturtion, more H2O vapor could be added to the air without raising its temperature, thereby contradicting the requirement that the water vapor concentration must depend on temperature only. Since humans would need this non-existant “control knob” to significantly affect temperature, there is no way they can cause any reported warming (or cooling).

BTW, there are other other bazaar, anti-intuitive results that can be drawn from this CO2 control knob, including the “frozen” world prediction if there were no CO2 in the atmosphere at the time the earth was formed.


Mr. Tomlinson,

Glad to hear from you again, and pleased that you “no longer argue about whether the earth is warming or cooling.” Informed people know that the Earth is warming because of human use of fossil fuels. Continue reading

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Global Warming XVII: “… it was getting too cold all over the place.”


In the week of this year’s Davos conference of world poobah’s and muckety-mucks, Donald Trump spoke to journalist Piers Morgan. There was so much ignorance on display that most commentators neglected to mention this disgraceful exchange: (I copied this extract from a transcript here.)

PM: Do you believe in climate change? Do you believe it exists?

DT: There is a cooling and there is a heating and I mean, look – it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming. Right?

PM: Right.

DT: That wasn’t working too well, because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, so OK, they’re at a record level. There were so many thing happening, Piers. I’ll tell you what I believe in. I believe in clear air. I believe in crystal clear beautiful water. I believe in just having good cleanliness in all. Now, that being said, if somebody said go back into the Paris Accord, if we could go back into the Paris Accord, it would have to be a completely different deal because we had a horrible deal, As usual, they took advantage of the United States. We were in a terrible deal. Would I go back in? Yeah, I’d go back in. I like, as you know, I like Emmanuel… No, no, I like Emmanuel, I would love to, but it’s got to be a good deal for the United States.

I think that Trump is trying to repeat the climate change deniers’ truism, that the climate is always changing, getting warmer or cooler. Thus, why concern ourselves about the warming that may, or may not, be occurring now?

But what does he mean by “…it was getting too cold all over the place.” I’m sure that he is referring to his December tweets about the bitter cold Eastern weather, calling for “… some of that global warming now.” He misunderstands, or more likely is ignorant about, climate scientists’ predictions for the fate of polar sea ice, in the Arctic and offshore in the Antarctic, and the ice covering Greenland and Antarctica. None of the experts claimed that the Arctic sea ice would be gone by now. They can’t say exactly but it looks to them as if it will be gone in a few decades. Even now the Northwest Passage north of Canada or across the Russian arctic opens each summer to commercial shipping without accompanying ice breakers.

Skipping over his “beliefs”, which apparently are being undermined without Trump’s knowledge by Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, Trump displays his ignorance of the terms of the Paris Climate Accords and the US commitments to the world as part of that deal. Those commitments are voluntary. Each nation volunteered what it would do to meet the world’s goals. In addition, the wealthy advanced nations each promised funds to help poorer and developing nations to achieve their goals while continuing to increase their nations’ wealth. If Trump thinks that the US made imprudent voluntary commitments, all he has to do is issue new ones. There is nothing to re-negotiate, and, indeed, the deal is not open to re-negotiation.

It happens to be the case that the Paris Climate Accords are an excellent deal for the United States, and for all the other nations of the world, each of which has signed on. Trump is turning the US into a rogue state.

Here’s the data about the Arctic sea ice, which Trump says are “…setting records, …” by which he means maximums. These data are from Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis.

February 5, 2018, along with daily ice extent data for five previous years. 2017 to 2018 is shown in blue, 2016 to 2017 in green, 2015 to 2016 in orange, 2014 to 2015 in brown, 2013 to 2014 in purple, and 2012 to 2013 in dotted brown. The 1981 to 2010 median is in dark gray. The gray areas around the median line show the interquartile and interdecile ranges of the data. Sea Ice Indexdata.

Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Evidently, arctic sea this this year is competing with recent years for the record minimum, not maximums.

Here’s another view of the trends.

Figure 3. Monthly January ice extent for 1979 to 2018 shows a decline of 3.3 percent per decade.

Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

The situation in the Antarctic is more complicated. Ice sheets a mile thick cover the continent and gradually flow to the surrounding seas, and the seas themselves produce sea ice. Thus, warming over the continent may increase the sea ice because it speeds glacial flows. Here’s the sea ice graph for Antarctica.

All recent years have been below average, and summer 2017-2018 vies with the previous year for record low sea ice.

As in nearly every subject, Trump is both ignorant, and mistaken (negative knowledge). Further, he confidently believes his mistakes, which is a worse matter than mere ignorance. He is un-educatable.

Trump’s and the Republicans’ negative knowledge, strongly believing the opposite of scientific knowledge to which everyone should subscribe, represent an immense, world-wide, calamity. For this single subject, no decent person who cares for the fate of the world and for the world in which their children and grandchildren will grow should ever vote for any Republican for any office beginning with school crossing guard and dog catcher.

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“The Father of Lies”


The Pope has gotten into the business of denouncing fake news, and we can all applaud his effort. His example of the first fake news, however, has a problem.

The AP reported on the Pope’s annual social communications message (which I read about in the Tampa Bay Times, January 25, 2018). Pope: ‘Fake news’ is evil, journalists must search for truth .

Francis writes that the first fake news dates from the biblical beginning of time, which Eve was tempted to take an apple from the Garden of Eden based on disinformation from the serpent.

“The strategy of this skilled ‘Father of Lies’ is precisely mimicry; that sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments,” Francis said of the snake.

The Pope is citing from the second creation account that begins with Genesis Chapter 2, verse 4, and continues into Chapter 3. In case you’ve forgotten your Sunday school lessons from 60 years ago, here are the relevant portions, which I take from the pew bible at my darling wife’s Presbyterian Church, the New Revised Standard Version:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall die.”

And from the beginning of Chapter 3:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5“for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eye, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Reading these lines, I assert that by the plain meaning of the words interpreted as in ordinary English, God lied to Adam about the consequences of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Adam did not die on the day he ate the fruit. I also assert that the snake told Eve the truth, that she would not die if she were to eat the fruit.

I claim that the truth is an absolute defense to the change of “fake news.”

I am confident that the Pope knows these lines, that God lied to Adam, and that the snake told the truth to Eve. Why does he assert that the snake “deceived” Eve? Why did “The Father of Lies” tell Eve the truth?

A good question, and we should ask Francis.

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Confederate Black Troops statue proposed


Responding to the charge that Confederate monuments, flag displays, public school names, streets names, and more are obviously racist because they only honor white Southern men, South Carolina legislators have proposed a monument to the (fictional) black Confederates. Of course, these legislators do not acknowledge that the people they propose to honor have no more reality than unicorns. The headline for another news account of this proposal says Newspaper review of records show no black armed Confederates.

Here are two more accounts, with details, from South Carolina news sources: This from Fox Carolina, Monument sought to recognize blacks who served Confederacy, from October, 2017. This from WIS, Channel 10, in Columbia, SC, 2 Upstate lawmakers call for monument honoring African-American Confederate soldiers at State House, also from October. This last one has illustrations:

African American soldiers in the Civil War (FOX Carolina/ October 11, 2017)

African American soldiers in the Civil War (FOX Carolina/ October 11, 2017)

WIS-TV cited the lawmakers’ press release:

“Explaining the War Between the States and the events leading up to it is much more complex than can be explained by a few paragraphs in a history book,” Burns said in a news release. “This monument can help educate current and future generations of a little-known — but important — part of South Carolina history. These African-Americans, like many of their Caucasian contemporaries, stepped up to defend their home state during a tumultuous time in our country’s history. Their service has largely been overlooked or forgotten. Rep. Chumley and I want to remedy this oversight.”
Chumley added that biblical commandments inspired the proposed legislation.
“The Bible says to honor our fathers and mothers,” Chumley stated. “In that same vein, we can honor South Carolinians who showed more than 150 years ago that they loved their state as much then as Sandlappers of all persuasions do today.”

The article continues citing a statement by the South Carolina Secessionist Party (?!?!?!?! Really, it does. I kid you not!)

The stories of the service of Black Confederates is largely untold throughout the nation, and their service is discredited by those with an agenda to remove any trace of the Confederacy. These types of people often say that many Black Confederates served because they were forced to. While that may be true in some cases, their service is no less honorable and commendable than those who have been drafted and forced to serve in other American conflicts, including the thousands of immigrants forced into service by Abraham Lincoln during the War Between the States.

Modern neo-Confederates and Lost Cause thinkers go to great lengths to (falsely) assert that their desire to honor their white Confederate ancestors has nothing to do with race or racism. “You can’t change history,” they say to those who wish to remove the South’s many monuments to slave holders and traitors. In fact, these Confederate monument advocates and their predecessors work hard to change history, in the sense of what we think, write, and say about the past. For more than 150 years, they have largely succeeded in their quest. “These monuments have nothing to do with racism or slavery. They only honor the bravery of our ancestors.”

in the heady days leading up to the Southern attacks on federal military posts throughout the South and to secession, when those ancestors believed that their cause was just and that their victory was certain, Southern whites were not embarrassed to say that slavery, white slave-owning society, security of property rights in black slaves, and white supremacy were the reasons they would secede from the United States. I’ve written about this elsewhere on our blog.

Lost Cause thinkers, Dunning school historians, and others in the decades after the Civil War and in the shock of their terrible defeat rewrote history. In their telling, the cause of the War was an abstract difference of opinion between honorable white men about the nature of freedom and of states’ rights. Black people had nothing to do with it. As northern whites grew tired of the struggle for black civil rights after the end of Reconstruction, these Southern whites turned to terrorism and murder to disenfranchise blacks, to impose a system of social and legal segregation, and to build monuments to the victory of white supremacy throughout the South (and in the North too).

In their desire to absolve themselves of the charge of racism, some of the defenders of displays of the Confederate battle flag, or the Confederate national flag, or the many Southern monuments (falsely) assert that black men served in the rebel armies. Many of the speakers who defended the Tampa Confederate monument before the Hillsborough County Commission stated that the rebel armies were manned by people of many national ancestries including blacks. Some of these speakers displayed photographs of black men in Confederate uniforms. I wrote about this here.

Modern professional historians strongly support the fact that the Southern armies had no enlisted black soldiers, slave or free. The thought of arming slaves horrified right-thinking white Southerners. I wrote about the Cleburne Memorial, a memorandum prepared in 1864 by Confederate General Cleburne in which Cleburne proposed recruiting slaves into Confederate Armies in return for the promise of freedom. Here, from Wikiquotes are two statements by Howell Cobb.

Howell Cobb

You cannot make soldiers of slaves, nor slaves of soldiers… The day you make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end.

Thomas Howell Cobb (7 September 1815 – 9 October 1868) was a Georgian politician during the 19th century. A southern Democrat who supported slavery and owned slaves himself, he was the Governor of Georgia in the early 1850s and later became a member of the Confederacy during the American Civil War.

This political figure article is a stub. You can help Wikiquote by expanding it.


  • The proposition to make soldiers of our slaves is the most pernicious idea that has been suggested since the war began. It is to me a source of deep mortification and regret to see the name of that good and great man and soldier, General R. E. Lee, given as authority for such a policy. My first hour of despondency will be the one in which that policy shall be adopted. You cannot make soldiers of slaves, nor slaves of soldiers. The moment you resort to negro soldiers your white soldiers will be lost to you; and one secret of the favor with which the proposition is received in portions of the army is the hope that when negroes go into the Army they will be permitted to retire. It is simply a proposition to fight the balance of the war with negro troops. You can’t keep white and black troops together, and you can’t trust negroes by themselves. It is difficult to get negroes enough for the purpose indicated in the President’s message, much less enough for an Army. Use all the negroes you can get, for all the purposes for which you need them, but don’t arm them. The day you make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end of the revolution.
    • Howell Cobb. “Letter to James A. Seddon”, in: Encyclopædia Britannica] (1911), Hugh Chisholm, editor, 11th ed., Cambridge University Press.
  • If slaves make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong. But they won’t make soldiers. As a class they are wanting in every qualification of a soldier. Better by far to yield to the demands of England and France and abolish slavery and thereby purchase their aid, than resort to this policy, which leads as certainly to ruin and subjugation as it is adopted; you want more soldiers, and hence the proposition to take negroes into the Army. Before resorting to it, at least try every reasonable mode of getting white soldiers. I do not entertain a doubt that you can, by the volunteering policy, get more men into the service than you can arm. I have more fears about arms than about men, For Heaven’s sake, try it before you fill with gloom and despondency the hearts of many of our truest and most devoted men, by resort to the suicidal policy of arming our slaves.
    • Howell Cobb. “Letter to James A. Seddon”, in: Encyclopædia Britannica] (1911), Hugh Chisholm, editor, 11th ed., Cambridge University Press.
    • Quote regarding suggestions that the Confederates turn their slaves into soldiers. Also quoted as ‘You cannot make soldiers of slaves, or slaves of soldiers. The day you make a soldier of them is the beginning of the end of the Revolution. And if slaves seem good soldiers, then our whole theory of slavery is wrong’.


The first citation, from a January 1865 letter to the Confederate Secretary of War, dates from the last months of the war. Cobb wrote it to oppose desperate proposals before the Confederate Congress to form black military units. The Confederates enlisted a few companies of black men, but the war ended before any of them saw service. Here’s a good essay about Cobb’s ideas: ‘IF SLAVES WILL MAKE GOOD SOLDIERS OUR WHOLE THEORY OF SLAVERY IS WRONG’.

There are some ironies that this proposal is before the legislature in South Carolina. From this summary table of the U. S. Census of 1860, South Carolina’s 700,000 residents included 300,000 whites and 400,000 blacks. The population was about 57% black. Yet monuments to the 43% minority who fought the United States government to keep the right to own black human beings speak of their South Carolina heritage, as if they represented the South Carolina of 1860.

Modern historians, while insisting that there were no black Confederate soldiers, acknowledge that there were black slaves who accompanied Confederate armies. Some, such as the black man in the second photograph above were body servants to the Confederate officer masters. Thousands of others served as laborers, drovers, cooks, and other support personnel. Yet the South Carolina legislators assert that these slaves were serving the cause of South Carolina’s rebellion in favor of slavery. Well, I suppose that they were “serving.” But that’s a peculiar use of that word.


Plan for Confederate ‘black troops’ statue baffles historian

Fox News Reported on Proposed Monument to Black South Carolina Confederates

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Book reviews: Two computer science books


I’m sure that you remember the two books by Charles Petzold that Brad DeLong showed on his Recommended Reading part of his blog. You told me that you had worked with Petzold.

As I’ve gotten some excellent recommendations for economics books from DeLong, I bought and read the two Petzold books.

The first, Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software is a pretty, clear, and simple book. You certainly know all of the material in this book, which starts with a battery, a light, and a switch, and ends with diagrams on the internal works of an Intel processor, and about the instructions it knows. He tells a little about the people who made the key advances along the way. You will enjoy looking at this book to see a lucid explanation of these elementary matters, but probably not to learn new things.

The second, The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour through Alan Turing’s Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine is a different matter. It’s lucid, but more advanced. After a couple of introductory chapters, the book alternates paragraphs, even individual sentences, from Turing’s famous paper and remarks by Petzold. Of course, you may well have read Turning’s papers in your academic study, probably did. Petzold puts them in their mathematical context, which why I was reading this book, but he also gets into the nitty-gritty of “programming” a Turing machine, which might intrigue you. Petzold sometimes corrects evident typos, but he shows that he has read and knows the subsequent literature criticizing or expanding upon Turning’s paper and ideas. As with the first book, I was impressed with the profound understanding of the material (so it seemed to me) that made it possible for him to explain things, some complex and deep, with such clarity.

If you are familiar with Godel’s amazing incompleteness theorem, you know that the astonishing “trick” has to do with inventing a way to give any possible theorem, or even proposed theorem, proven true, false, or as yet unproven, a unique number, and then to use number theory to prove theorems about those theorems. That’s the metamathematics part. Turning figured out a way to give one of his Turing machines a unique number that his Universal Turning Machine could process and reproduce the operation of the enumerated Turing machine. Well, it would be slow, so no one would actually do this. But the idea was that since the Universal Machine could do what any other Turning machine could do, if you could prove theorems about the Universal Machine, which you, Turing I mean, could, then you’d be proving theorems about any possible machine, including all of our modern computers.


I’ve read other books on these topics, so Petzold’s book was not entirely new to me, and I wasn’t reading to learn the details of how to instruct a Turning machine, but I thought it was worth reading. As you are a computer professional, and I’m but an amateur, you will enjoy learning about “programming” a Turing machine, which is not at all like programming today’s computers.


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“… there must be a way …”


A young and thoughtful correspondent posted a question on his Facebook page, and some of his friends had a Tweet-like discussion. As I don’t do Facebook, I’ll respond to his question by e-mail and post that message below. I added remarks about the debate between his friends too. I re-named the friends: Decent and Sensible Canadian, Bleeding Heart, and Movement Conservative. On these conditions, my correspondent agreed that I could post this to you, to my correspondent, his friends, and to our readers.

Here’s the question:

I don’t understand all the complexities in our healthcare system. However, something compels me to think that there MUST be a way to creatively engineer a system that will provide excellent, low-stress, equitably priced, easy-to-access healthcare for all Americans while reducing waste, fraud, abuse, corruption, and unnecessary bureaucracy. I am open to public, private, and hybrid systems. Let the quest for the Holy Grail continue. However, on second thought, I’m probably being a naive moron to think such a thing.

Here’s the friends’ discussion: Continue reading

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When is 1.5% > 2%?

Yesterday Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in a hotly contested Senate election to fill out the rest of former senator Jeff Sessions. This was Alabama, of course, and I read that there were plenty of typically Alabama oddities about the many candidates in the primaries, the Republican primary run-off, the circumstances that led the scandal-tainted now former Alabama governor to appoint the state’s Attorney General to the seat until this special election, and many others.

Here are the election results reported by the New York Times:

Jones was close to 50%. Indeed, Moore was close to 50%, a frightening thought. But 20,000 more votes, 1.5%, for Jones than for Moore gave Jones the seat.

Here are the election results for the 2016 presidential election.

Notice that 306 > 232, but Clinton received nearly 66 million votes to Trump’s 63 million votes. American voters chose Hillary Clinton to be their president by a margin of 2.1%.

Thus, the title of this post: When is 1.5% > 2%?

The presidential election is the only election at all levels of government in which the candidate who wins the election may not win the office.

It’s not as if this is for some insignificant office, say, school crossing guard. Indeed, it is the only nationwide election.

We have a system that about every four of five elections, at random, gives the office to the candidate rejected by the voters.

The Founding Fathers created this odd system in 1789 to solve problems they thought would make the choice of a suitable candidate in a nationwide election difficult and might lead to poor candidates.

In their day, communication between the colonies and then former colonies was difficult, roads were poor where they existed, and land travel was on horseback or stage coach. There were few newspapers, which did not maintain reporters in other colonies. A paper might re-print news from other colonies when a paper or news report showed up by mail. Many citizens and potential voters were illiterate. How could voters, white men with a certain amount of wealth, of course, select a suitable national chief executive? Presumably, in elections for state legislatures or for a Congressional Representative the locals might well be acquainted with the gentlemen about town or important wealthy planters. The Founders, who were from those groups, expected that voters would have the good sense to choose appropriately among their social betters. How could a backwoods subsistence farmer have the knowledge to make a proper choice among the half a dozen men of sufficient wealth, education, piety, and stature to serve in the single elected national office?

Let the local voters chose among those people they knew because they were also locals. Have these superior choices meet in a central place to discuss among themselves and chose the best man to serve as president and chief executive (and a Vice President too). Let the number of these electors be mostly in proportion to population.

This is a reasonable solution to the perceived problem, but the mechanism began misfiring almost from the beginning. You can read about the troubles that arose after the first two elections of George Washington.

A key reason for the Electoral College was to insure the preservation of slavery. The details of this may be the subject of a future blog post. But it was one of the so-called compromises to encourage the less populous (counting only white people of course) slave states to join the new nation. Those Southern whites had been frightened during the Revolutionary War by the British offer of freedom to their slaves were the slaves to escape to British lines and fight with the British.

It is usually the case that the winner of the popular vote wins the presidency, but if that is our modern intention, why not let the popular vote decide?

What we have now is that every four or five presidential elections, at random, we award the office of the president to the loser of the election.


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