Incentives: what’s the incentive? – define the argument!

08/01/2017

Incentives: what’s the incentive? – define the argument!   Al Gore Global Warming_200V 080117

Ever wondered why someone takes a particular stance on a subject, or why a group of individuals argue for something when the data suggests something totally contrary?  I’ll bet a lot of people haven’t because the other side is just plain wrong.  For the vast majority of us it gets down to emotions, it feels right or on the surface it seems logical, the spokesman is one of our favorite actors/actresses and the character they play is always moral or helps the underdog.  It could be that we voted for them in some past election.  The point is, these are all individual incentives, not very good or not very substantial incentives but these incentives drive our desire to take a particular stance.  These are all relatively innocent if not totally uninformed positions simply because our lives have become too busy and we don’t have time to run down all the facts ourselves.  Besides, who is hurt by friendly arguments or discussions among ourselves.  It’s not like anyone in the media or from a political party ever asks us what we happen to think about the subject ……. Unless of course you don’t count surveys and polls. But what about the spokespersons we listen to?  They represent the view so they’ve obviously checked into it and have studied the topic, we can count on what they have to say, or can we? ……… Sometimes I really wonder if they even care.  I would hope they do because they are trying to convince a whole lot of people to be on their side.  Sometimes I have to wonder what their motives are.  Restricting the kinds of healthcare, we can acquire, telling us how our children will be educated or even telling us what kind of light bulb we can buy are just some of the causes I’ve seen celebrities and politicians, as spokespeople, take up with arguments like, thousands of people will die if you don’t do it this way or we’ll bring the earth to the brink of disaster if this isn’t acted on immediately.  The classic is lower Manhattan will be under water in 10 years if we don’t act now, (2006).

When there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary, why on earth do spokespeople take the stance they do when it’s obvious they had to ignore all the points that might raise doubts about their position?  This is the part where I get upset and start asking questions.  For instance, I heard that our favorite internet inventor and our 2nd favorite presidential candidate, (at least in 2000) is coming out with his second movie, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”.  Here is an example of someone who has a voice, (translated by more than enough money to produce it and also enough public visibility to earn money from his name alone), and has decided he wants to be a spokesperson for environmental concerns.  I believe we should be responsible with our environment and aware of how we affect it.  Al has decided it is important to stress the dangers of a warming environment and there is a lot of agreement that if the temperature raises too much it could be disastrous – no argument there.  What are the odds of this happening?  Well this article is not intended to litigate the global warming issue but rather take a look at some of the possible driving forces behind the different stances.  In Al’s movies, he is blaming the entire problem on man’s behavior and the man made sources of greenhouse gases.  For instance, he attributes the rise in temperature over the last 100 or so years to the rise in carbon emissions from burning oil and natural gas.  An argument can be made that temperature has risen and another argument shows an increase in CO2 but correlation is not causation.  I haven’t heard that either movie says anything about water vapor contributing to greenhouse gases yet it is a bigger factor than CO2, (probably because there isn’t any money in water vapor).  Looking at the Hadley Climate Research you note the temps rose from 1870 to 1910 while the CO2 remained largely unchanged, 1910-50, temps dropped while CO2 increased, 1975-2000 temps and CO2 increased and 2000 to 2015 temps rose slowly while CO2 increased sharply.  If there is a correlation that CO2 drives the temp then it is a weak one.  This kind of info is readily available to anyone who wants to look at it. 

The point of this is why would someone with Gore’s reputation for misstatements in the first place have any credibility and why wouldn’t he back off the absurd claims he made in his first movie when the specific claims were demonstrated to be false since they didn’t happen.  When anyone takes a small amount of time to get to the science below the surface the claims Mr Gore makes do not hold up.  If a person looks only at the surface indicators and not what drives the indicators, you come up with a simplistic answer that is opposite to the truth.  As I mentioned earlier CO2 in the atmosphere has increased significantly since roughly 1960.  Carbon emissions from fossil fuels have increased almost 10 fold and temperature anomaly has also increased demonstrable since 1970 so some people have decided Carbon emissions = temperature increase.  Therefore, we should probably conclude that since our hydrocarbon emissions from fossil fuels has greatly increased then it is a fact the CO2 emissions from fossil fuels has directly caused the temperature of the earth to increase and if left unabated at this rate we will create a situation where people will no longer be able to survive on this planet.  As I said earlier correlation is not necessarily causation. The answer, in fact, is far more complicated and it turns out CO2 emissions from fossil fuels plays a miniscule part of the recent increase in CO2 in the atmosphere.  This point is driven home by the fact the major predictions made by Gore did not materialize.  Furthermore, when they attempted to create a simple computer model to match the more recent weather patterns and then forecast the next few years/decades, (a necessary part of modeling), the predictions fell apart because what they thought were the driving factors did not produce the correct results. 

There has been so much written about the global warming it’s hard not to bring up some of it in the discussion.  I found articles in direct support of the man made Climate Change, skeptics of the Climate Change and then skeptics of the skeptics, (not really in support of man made Climate Change but arguing against the arguments the skeptics were making).  Looking at the skeptics of man made global warming vs the skeptics of the skeptic’s vs the supporters I found one side placed the emphasis on answering all the questions while the other side tended to discount as much of the problem as they could and then present what might be considered the overall picture in case you didn’t have the time to look into it any deeper.  For the laymen, like ourselves, sometimes it’s difficult to know which answer is right.  For this reason, it’s important to look at the motives and incentives of the spokespeople.  It’s also very important to look at the character of the spokesperson.  When they make grandiose claims they are responsible for the internet that’s a bit of a brown flag that whatever comes out of their mouths is something of the same color and likely, (definitely not a given), anyone who agrees with them is also tainted.  Tough to know this so go back to the incentives.   By discussing the carbon emissions from fossil fuels Al stands to make a lot of money in donations to the cause and government grants.  A quick look at his assets from before he was senator until now will also point to motives, his wealth has grown immensely, which for a low paying government job he’s done quite well, Hmmmmm.  

It’s important we pay attention to the incentives of the spokespeople.  The weaker the argument the more emotional they’ll be, (throw “Granny” off the cliff, “thousands will die ……”).  Regardless of which side you want to be on remember to keep the emotion at bay, people tend to be hurt more by those responses.  As in the case of the environmental arguments, we stand to be taxed to death in payments directly to the government for things like the Paris Climate accord treaties and then indirectly to subsidize “new” technologies that have not been proven or fully thought out.  Just ask the Australians who recently had to go w/o power because they converted too much of their power generation over to wind and solar and then when the wind died down didn’t have enough backup power on standby to fill the demand.  It could be a fool’s errand and the number of people who may be negatively impacted will be high.  For myself, well I have a healthy respect for what mankind has shown he is capable of accomplishing over the millennia but I have an even greater respect for what the ecosystem we all live in, (AKA: Mother Nature), has accomplished with the enormous volcanoes, (Krakatau Volcanic eruption in 1883), the oil field fires in Kuwait, (1990), etc.  To think that man could have an impact of that magnitude where the earth’s ecosystem couldn’t recover seems to be the height of arrogance.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  Give me your thoughts on the idea, I’m not debating the merits of the man made Climate Change only saying this and many other similar types of subjects should be honestly looked at and lets leave the Snake Oil Salesmen out of the picture.

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