The Truth, Convenient or Not

I’ve studied climate change more than anyone I know. Whether it’s because I led a company with huge opportunities in solar power, or because I was wondering if green energy companies would be a good career move after I sold said company, or because I was worried that my children would inherit a degraded earth, or that my BS meter went off when the usual suspects started pushing emergency government action… I’d say it was a combination of all four. When I look at my stock portfolio I realize that I have something to gain by jumping on the “we must invest now!” bandwagon. But I’ve learned that the truth eventually emerges, and the further you are found from it when it does, the more severe the damage. And when it comes to climate change, I feel a strong need now to share what I’ve learned.

First- the earth is warming. It has been for many thousands of years, since glaciers covered the northern half of the US. No one disputes this;

Second- mankind is affecting temperature. The urban heat zone effect and deforestation account for temperature rise. Indisputable;

Third, laws of physics govern the greenhouse effect, and a back of the napkin equation can be used to show this.

BUT, on the other hand…

Many physicists were using the Stefan-Boltzman constant which applies to black body radiation, and the earth is hardly a black body. It’s albedo (measure of how much radiation is absorbs vs. reflects, driven by cloud-cover) needs to be plugged in.

And the earth’s albedo is constantly changing. NASA has a satellite to monitor this. And this accounts for most of the change (at least 60%) in temperature the past 100 years.

The primary driver of albedo is the sun. For decades, climate scientists ruled out the sun as the cause of heating because they couldn’t detect the change in output. But they’ve now discovered the interplay between solar activity, cosmic rays, and cloud nucleation. This was demonstrated at CERN (world’s largest particle accelerator and inventors of the internet) in an experiment that’s not yet half-through that will quantify this relationship.

And the ongoing experiments, ongoing data collection, and incomplete analysis mean that anyone who thought they knew the answer even a year ago was wrong. The vast majority (97%?) of these old models failed to predict temperature decrease the past 15 years, failed to predict minimal rate of sea level increase (or decrease), failed to predict Antarctic ice growth.

And the failure of these models is indisputable. The emergence of cloud cover as a primary driver of temperature is indisputable. The need to adjust models to account for solar activity is indisputable. And the likelihood of only minor changes over the next 100 years (on the order of 2-6 inches of sea level rise and not 20 feet) and even a possibility of temperature declines is indisputable.

Also indisputable: this is not the warmest period in history, or in the past 2000 years, or even in the past 100 years. While the overall trend has been up, there have been peaks in the past (Medieval warming period, and Dust Bowl years), and it has been the cover-up attempts that have convinced me that there are a group of scientists (amazing how many of them come from East Anglia University in the UK and connected to Scripts Institute/UVa in the US) who have hidden, misinterpreted, and even falsified data to make climate change look more serious than it is. And this is human nature- witness the manufactured crises of slow cell phone connections, split ends, and ring around the collar that attract millions or billions of dollars in extra revenue.

So now that PhD faculty at MIT, Cambridge, Harvard, UAB (home of NASA’s satellite temperature program), Princeton, Stanford, Sorbonne, Hebrew University, etc. have stated that climate change has been… overstated… and that changes the next 100 years can be dealt with via relatively minor means (dealing with 4 inches of sea rise vs. the need to deal with millions of people regularly flooded by feet of water with the kind of technology employed in Holland and New Orleans is minor, especially when you factor in the all the beneficial effects of warmer climate, increased agricultural productivity, and modern electricity), we face another indisputable truth: no one likes pollution.

It’s true that pollution has negative effects. Beijing skies can be terribly smoggy, and asthma is made worse. But there are nearly 2 MILLION people who die just from Indoor Air Pollution EACH YEAR from burning coal, wood, and dried cow dung for heat and cooking. The negative effects of pollution are nothing compared to the negative effects of not having electricity. And having visited undeveloped areas in China, I can tell you first hand that you have not seen pollution until you’ve seen areas without modern energy. I’ve never seen orange streams in the US, but I saw them there.

And the fact is that nearly 3 BILLION of our fellow humans live on less than $2 a day. Minimal clothing, minimal food, minimal communication, minimal healthcare, minimal hygiene, minimal employment, minimal life expectancy- and the primary driver is minimal energy, which is primarily what distinguishes these impoverished areas. Whether it’s China, or India, or sub-Saharan Africa, or elsewhere, the advent of modern electrical power has boosted living standards by multiples. But people have been trying to stop this modernization- in the name of climate change.

Forcing developing nations to use solar or wind power is like forcing a nascent taxi company in NYC to buy a Tesla roadster instead of a Chevy. 5-10X more expensive, with half the capacity. While American power companies are rich enough to afford to pay $.25/kwh for wind power (as well as $millions$ more in storage in lakes) vs. $.025/kwh or less for coal-generated power, third world power companies and societies are not.

So, for me, the immorality of climate change is this: that anyone would think it acceptable to conscript billions to ongoing poverty while failing to make the most of our productive capacity out of unwarranted fear to deal with a couple degrees of temperature change over the next 100 years when we have the technology and resources to continue the massive improvements we’ve seen the past 100 years (bearing in mind most everyone lived in poverty in the early 19th century)- and make lives better TODAY.

Perhaps all this doesn’t change your mind. In most social circles, the impact of saying “I have doubts about climate change” falls somewhere between “The Tea Party may have a point” and “gay people should not be allowed to get married”, with a certain rush to ostracization and shunning to follow. But I was happy to see that my congressman, a physicist, was one of the few Democrats to vote against cap and trade last time after I wrote him a series of letters. And my kids have seen what real poverty looks like, so as for me and my family, we’ll always stand for trading a minor amount of extra warmth for modern electricity and a global economy driven to spread wealth.

I would be remiss if I didn’t provide a few links- start with the first for the best explanation I’ve seen to date:

http://cloud.web.cern.ch/cloud/People/Publications.html

http://www.drroyspencer.com/

http://www.climateaudit.org (search Yamal, it’s amazing how the remnants of one tree drove climate science and how the Medieval Warming Period was removed from the historical record)

http://www.realclimate.org (for the other side of the argument- I highly recommend getting both sides of any argument before making a judgement, and this is ground zero for establishment climate science in the US)

And I’d love to have one of these:

but I’ll likely more end up with one of these:

 

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I didn’t predict the results of this election, but I’ll take a shot at 2016

It looks like President Obama will keep his job. If so, as far as I’m concerned, John McCain lost this race for Romney. When he could have focused in 2008 on Pelosi-Reid-Obama high-tax, high-energy-cost, high-protectionism, high-labor-cost, anti-capitalist policies they ran on in 2006 designed to slow suburban sprawl, global warming, and growth of excessive wealth (it worked), he instead chose to talk about “the American worker” and focus on foreign policy, where Obama had already moved to the center (bear in mind Obama wanted to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq in 2004). McCain has allowed Obama four years later to run on the disasterous economy he “inherited” (more like, created).

With a divided government, Obama will continue to move to the center on economic issues (a la Clinton- we won’t see card check or cap and trade, as if that was ever what this country needed) and the primary issue in four years will be the effect of Obamacare on family budgets and new company formation (please, please, please let it not be Iran or we’re in big trouble). I submit that in 2016 when people are paying double for policies with higher deductibles and copays that are increasingly used as costs (outside pharmaceuticals, where technology will continue to help) continue to soar, and capital investment continues to move away from the US, we’ll have a Republican President.

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On Foreign Policy, Teams, and Roles

Other than the horses and bayonets zinger (does the President know the Army and Marines still use bayonets and we still have horses in the military?) I haven’t heard any details about last night’s debate. Could be that Romney wants to keep attention on the economy, which makes sense on one level, but before we walk away from foreign policy let’s consider the importance of teams and roles in the Presidency.

Great leaders do a couple things really well. First, they assemble great teams. Second, they make sure everyone knows their role. The Founding Fathers were very concerned about this, which is why they went to some lengths to define the role of a Federal government vs. the role of individuals, families, and more local governments. And the most important roles the Founders gave the Federal government were providing for the common defense, controlling monetary policy, and making sure the States could get along.

Forward a couple hundred years and we now have a Federal government that has undeniably gone far beyond that limited role, with an Obama Administration set on going further. Leaving aside the questions of debt, noncompetitive tax rates, choosing losers, and the wisdom of moving control to Washington, D.C., a bigger question emerges- is the Federal government handling its core responsibilities?

Ever since the Civil War, the States have managed to coexist peacefully, if not always in total harmony- expecting morals and law to be equivalent between Utah and California or Montana and New York seems no more likely today than it was 100 years ago, especially as the latter states sow the seed of fiscal and social disaster with half their babies being born to single-parent families. But there is little concern that a state is actually going to attempt to leave the Union (Rick Perry’s gaffe notwithstanding).

Leaving monetary policy aside for a future post, President Obama is to be lauded on many foreign policy fronts, because his team is so heavily-laden with appeasers (13 soldiers are killed by someone screaming “Allahu Akbar” and they call it “workplace violence”). Which means he does deserve credit for going through with the Bin Laden mission, even if it was in no way a difficult decision anywhere but inside his White House; who was then more interested in taking political credit, even if it meant putting SEALs in jeopardy, than in reinforcing the critical precedent for terrorists set by George Bush- that terrorism is only going to get you killed, not into negotiations.

It was Obama’s team that pushed back against the military’s request for more troops than they were given in Afghanistan, and Obama’s team that pushed for deadlines to leave Iraq (without a status of forces agreement), and Afghanistan, even though the military explicitly advised against doing so. It was Obama’s team that somehow thought a well-executed terrorist attack on 9/11 was caused by a demonstration against a video, even though they saw in real time was no demonstration, and Obama’s team that kept talking about that video for days, even though reviewing Youtube videos has to be one of the last roles for a Federal government ever imagined by the Founding Fathers (in fact, given everything that was being said and cartooned about King George, the idea that a government would have anything negative to say about a free expression has to have some of them turning over in their grave). And it was Obama’s team that thought it would be good to go apologize in Cairo in 2009, leading to a 5% approval rating there today vs. 30% before the speech. Mislabeled buttons, misguided bows, misdiagnosed violence, not the hallmarks of a strong team.

And then there’s the roles thing. Just like a center who wants to dribble the ball up the court instead of rebound and the point guard who wants to post up in the lane instead of pass, or the mom who wants to go out partying to leave the dad (or grandma) at home with the baby (yes, I’m old fashioned), when roles are mixed up, negative consequences ensue.

The lack of progress in Afghanistan, the speeding rise of radical Islam, continued Iranian nuclear program (and threats to erase Israel with it), death of an Ambassador and three others in a six hour attack (with American fighter jets just minutes away), looming sequestration (funny how Democrats say it’s Congress’ fault yet they were the ones pushing to cut defense), these are some of the negative consequence most people know of. But what about France falling to Socialism, China’s continued military buildup and espionage, and Poland and Israel’s angst over our disinterest in their primary interests? What about Afghan and Iraqi cooperators concerned about their securities after we abandon them? How about other ongoing nuclear programs, including Syria and North Korea? And where are the breakthroughs, other than the death of Osama Bin Laden which was many years in the making (and more the result of the dreaded waterboarding than combing the hills of Afghanistan).

It is the lack of breakthroughs, and confusing lack of unity (for all his talk of carrots, the President himself is mostly a realist who has maintained drone strikes, cyberattacks, and Guantanamo) that exposes this administration’s role confusion. As Senator Obama, the President was ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq. He has always “spoken softly” to our enemies (and make no mistake, the US has enemies who, like enemies of the past, interpret softness and appeasement as fear and weakness). And while he undoubtedly carries a “big stick” thanks to many Trillions of dollars of investment (thanks to great American capitalism and wealth creation), there is no longer agreement on when, how, or even if that stick should be used other than attacking mud huts with drones.

The ultimate role of a President, and his team, is not to be Sympathizer in Chief. There are hundreds of millions of Americans who are sympathetic, and in better position to actually do something with their sympathy. It is not to be Apologist in Chief. There are thousands of companies and organizations that have to carry their own water on their missteps of the past and make amends going forward with renewed investment and commitment to the developing world, where 3 billion people still live on less than $2 a day (easier to do if investment capital is taxed at competitive rates again soon). It is not to be Economist in Chief, as the strength of the US economy has always been in the incentives for innovation and hard work of its people. It is to be Commander in Chief, the one person who has the responsibility to send clear signals to friend and foe alike- and make sure everyone in their administration and nation gets that message. While Romney is no clearer in this currently muddled environment, there is no doubt he would more clearly focus his team on this role, just as Bush and Reagan did in making both significant foreign policy and economic progress that has been sorely lacking the past four years.

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Romney in Free Fall

Conventional wisdom is Mitt Romney is losing, by more every day. Let me beg to differ, though I understand why you may not agree.

In 2008 the GOP ran a good guy, John McCain. He cited “the American Worker” as the strength of our economy, and suspended his campaign to participate in a meeting about the financial crisis. Obama led the meeting, attacking capitalism (you know, where money goes to where it can generate the greatest returns, even when that’s insuring the insurance on loans), and attributing our problems to the boom decades of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. It would have been nice to have a candidate talking about the higher tax, energy cost, wage, regulation, central planning, and isolationism policies of the Democrats promised during the 2006 elections and started delivering in the 2007 Congress, but, alas, John McCain was a lover, not a fighter. And a loser.

But come 2010, the Tea Party adopted a fighting posture. And the GOP won big.

Now, in 2012, Mitt Romney is waxing not-so-eloquently on the problems with the welfare society and appeasement. This isn’t coming across as very “Presidential” and so the opposing party and media have declared that he is losing.

My opinion is that if he now tries to “look Presidential”, he will lose. Big. But his choice of Paul Ryan didn’t strike me as looking to just go along to get along, and his doubling down on his recent comments further indicates he’s in this not just to get elected, but to make the election about something. And that’s where we have some good news.

Because Welfare Societies always suck in the long run. And Appeasement never works. Especially not with people who’ve sworn to destroy you, your friends, and the horse you rode in on. So if Obama and his supporters want to throw in with Mao and Trotsky and Neville Chamberlain and Jimmy Carter in the debates… DING DING DING. For Romney, as Jack Buck would say, “that’s a winner”.

Nothing looks more “Presidential” than saying “I said what I meant and meant what I said”. When your opponent thinks the Federal government should review Youtube videos like they’re some Big Brother version of Rotten Tomatoes (although I missed their review of Bill Maher’s religious hate-movie), you need to pound them on that. When your opponent wants to apologize for a privately-funded movie, or cartoon, or book (although, again, I missed their apology for Maher’s movie that had 20 minutes of anti-Islam ranting, maybe they were too busy planning on how to use the $1M he gave Obama’s Super-Pac) you need to pound them on that. When your opponent doesn’t see the problem with record welfare (since when was advertising “we take WIC and EBT” good for your brand?) and almost half of all babies are now being born into welfare, you need to pound them on that. Because once we focus on the structural problems now forming both at home and abroad, then we can discuss the current set of solutions. And how they worked out (or rather, didn’t) in USSR, N. Korea, Cuba, Syria, Red China, E. Germany, and everywhere else tried, including the US.

Sure, Romney needs more support from his party- GOP governors on the campaign trail, helping him fight for GOP principles: free trade, capitalism, price signals, overwhelming military strength. They brought us and the world record peace and prosperity in 2006.

But he also needs rank and file supporters who realize that leaders don’t follow polls, they change polls. And if the attack from the other side is to focus on the size of entitlements and who can apologize for American freedom most profusely, that’s an argument Romney can win.

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Chicago Teachers Strike

Seems to me to be not the best timing… Governors Christie and Walker have already shown what happens when the debate is centered on big government, unions and unsustainable expenditures vs. free enterprise and cuts. And you’d think CTU striking for 30% raises- when they average over $34.50/hour and have a 40% failure rate- would bring a lot of focus to this issue.

While it shouldn’t be a Federal issue, the Federal subsidies for public schools and organized labor make it so.

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I wish I had confidence

Tonight the President talked about his first appearance at the Democrat convention in 2004, and the changes since. I remember 2004. And 2005. And 2006. After recovering from the 2000 recession, unemployment was at an all time low. Global growth (and peace) was at an all time high. Inflation and long term interest rates were low. The tide was turned in Iraq with Al Qaeda losing decidedly. Educational results for the lowest quartile of children improved significantly. GM, Ford, and Chrysler were earning record profits. The balance sheet of Americans had never been stronger, and charitable contributions and alternative energy research were booming.

Then, he and Nancy Pelosi ran on a platform of higher taxes. Of leaving Iraq but sending more troops to Afghanistan. Of more college education and more central planning. Of more union work rules and higher energy prices. Of slowing suburban sprawl and cooling global warming. Of prematurely scaling new energy technologies. Of building more bridges.

And the results the past six years since he and Pelosi and their party won Congress were predictable. Big government, high tax, redistributive, central planning policies have never worked. Not in the USSR or Mao’s China or Cuba or E. Germany or N. Korea or Syria or even the US, the UK, or Sweden (as each country has waivered between pro-growth and redistribution policies over the decades).

Tonight, I heard the President applaud natural gas technology breakthroughs and Navy Seal operations and a strong military. I heard him honor Americans who work hard in the face of adversity, even if our definition of poverty is far different from the majority of the world. These are the fruits of a wealthy nation- whose wealth was built by Capitalism, not Central Planning.

Tax and interest rate cuts have always worked. They worked for Reagan, they worked for Clinton, they worked for Bush. Making sure America’s tax rates are competitive has always been key, drawing global investment. And in a world where our nation with 4% of global population and 25% of production/consumption exists amidst three billion people living on $2 a day or less, our tax rates on the foreign investments of our multinationals need to be competitive as well- or they won’t be “our” multinationals. The President’s plan is just the opposite.

I wish I could believe. But based on the results of the past six years, I can’t.

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On Clint and the genius or idiot theory

Watching Clint Eastwood last night, the cognitive dissonance was overwhelming. So cool. So old. So funny. So odd. So spot on. So rude.

So I must invoke my genius or idiot theory here. This theory is that some things that some people do make so little sense to most of us that they are inspired by either out-of-my-league genius, or unfathomable idiocy. I’d like to think that one of our two major parties, with billions at their disposal, would have focus grouped or otherwise vetted Clint’s performance to determine that it would be amazingly effective at swinging the votes of undecideds everywhere, or at least the ones inspired by Gran Torino’s “get off my laaawn”-version Clint. Genius….

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