Fashionable Beliefs

One thing that’s remarkable about the current French insurrection is that it seems to be the first time that climate science has exploded into national politics.

It’s something that has been simmering for over 30 years, with alarmists on one side, sceptics on the other. But this seems to be the first time it has resulted in riots and roadblocks.

And Emmanuel Macron appears to be a fully-paid-up Global Warming alarmist, determined, in his capacity as French President, to stop the French people generating carbon dioxide with their cars and trucks. He’s France’s Al Gore.

And the French people seem to mostly be global Warming sceptics. They don’t believe what Macron believes. They’re not bothered about carbon dioxide. And they’ve been making their contempt for it very plain, by starting fires everywhere. Climate sceptics and climate alarmists are now fighting in the streets.

What makes some people into alarmists, and some into sceptics? Is Macron a climate scientist? No. Is he any sort of scientist at all? No. He’s a banker. So why does he fervently believe in the threat of global warming? And why are most French people disbelievers?

I suspect that this is another town-and-country divide. New fashions first catch on in towns and cities, and Paris is one of the most fashionable cities in the world. And in these cities, the social interactions between people proceed with high intensity. And so new ideas rapidly gain currency in cities. They take longer to percolate out into the country outside the city, where social interactions are far slower.

And climate alarmism is one of these fashionable new ideas that periodically sweep through society like infectious diseases. And it was one that first gained currency in cities, by word of mouth, and newspapers and TV. Within a few years, everybody was worrying about carbon dioxide. Everybody, that is, except the hicks who lived out in the sticks.

Macron is a fashionable thinker who thinks in the same way as his fashionable city friends. And he’s very concerned with keeping up appearances:

Since entering the Elysée Palace in May [2017], the 39-year-old president has settled two bills from a personal makeup artist called Natacha M; one for €10,000 and another for €16,000.

Macron is a fashionable Parisian with fashionable Parisian clothes, fashionable Parisian hair, and fashionable Parisian beliefs. And most likely French farmers, far from Paris, have none of these fashionable accoutrements.

And all Macron’s fashionable beliefs will have been acquired, secondhand, from other people.

The one thing that Macron will not have done is to study matters himself. The same applies to Al Gore, and most other climate alarmists. They’ll simply be quoting James Hansen or Michael Mann, or other climate scientists who actually have studied these matters, and who have been elevated into global authorities on climate.

But over the past year, I’ve been slowly building my own computer climate simulation model. It’s taken me years to get one working, because previous attempts came to nothing. And it’s a very simple model. But I think it’s a highly instructive model. It even has a simple multi-layer atmosphere, with radiative heat exchanges between layers, such that if I increase the absorptivity of the air, its temperature goes up – just like the global warming alarmists say it does when absorptive greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are added to it. I can emulate global warming in my model.

I think that everybody ought to have their own climate simulation model, and use it to demonstrate to themselves and their friends what happens when you change the absorptivity of air, or the albedo of the planet, or the eccentricity of the orbit of the Earth. Because if they don’t have such models, they’re simply relying on the authoritative assertions by people who have such models: they’re relying on secondhand knowledge.

I’ve always been a model builder. And building model houses using wooden bricks, or model boats and planes using paper or cardboard will teach you a lot about how these things work. It’s only when you do things yourself that you start to learn anything. You only learn to cook when you do it yourself. If you don’t do it yourself, you’ll be forever reliant on other people’s cooking, and never have any idea how anything is made.

How can anyone discuss climate if they don’t have a climate model? Yet Emmanuel Macron almost certainly hasn’t got his own climate simulation model. And all those rioting Frenchman haven’t got any either. And so it’s the blind leading the blind. Or rather, it’s the blind fighting the blind. Neither side have any real idea what they’re talking about.

Furthermore, earlier this year I bought a (rather expensive) tome: Principles of Planetary Climate by Raymond Pierrehumbert. It’s chock full of the sort of equations that I need to construct my simulation model. But aside from the equations, and the easy conversational tone of the book, what’s most remarkable about the book is how many Big Questions in climate science remain unanswered. In fact the opening chapter of the book has the title: The Big Questions. And so if the book is highly informative about the things that climate scientists know, it’s also highly informative about the things they don’t know. And there’s a heck of a lot that they don’t know.

So if Macron knows next to nothing about climate science, and the French rioters are the same, then it would seem that climate scientists are themselves full of unanswered questions too. And so maybe our current climate alarmism is not so much the result of any progress in climate science, but instead an anxiety consequent upon its lack of progress in answering a very long list of Big Questions. We’re all terrified of what we don’t know.


About Frank Davis

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7 Responses to Fashionable Beliefs

  1. Frank Davis says:

    What is happening is the result of years of fragmentation of French society,” said one Prefect, according to comments published Monday by Le Monde.

    “I am very worried because the power is in a technocratic bubble,” says another. “They are cut off from France, from the brave people who cannot make ends meet.”

    “We prefects could give them some details but they do not ask us anything. When they come on the ground, they come with their Parisian arrogance,” the government official added.

  2. garyk30 says:

    They claim it is going to get too hot; but, they never can say just what is the ideal temp the Earth should be.

    They seem to know what Utopia would be; but, they have no idea of what temp it should be.

  3. waltc says:

    Bloomberg, teasing that he’ll run for president in 2020, said he’d run on a platform of saving the planet from global warming (or climate change or whatever ot is). See how well THAT goes over–even in the blue cities where utility rates are already exorbitant. Or in the coal states .

    As for the French, I’m not sure they think about global warming (or climate change or whatever it is) one way or another (either skeptically vs anxiously) but are just furious about being the ones who have to pay through the nose for this abstract projection that’s never fully or understandably explained and that shape-shifts from hot to cold, drought to downpour.

    • Frank Davis says:

      As for the French, I’m not sure they think about global warming

      Well, they’ve probably heard of it. They’ve probably been told about it 10,000 times. And if they believed what they were told, they’d agree with Macron that something had to be done to prevent it. But clearly they don’t agree with Macron. So they can’t believe in the threat of global warming. So to that extent they must have thought about it.

      And I think ordinary, sensible people are unlikely to believe in global warming. Because everyday experience will tell them that the planet is not perceptibly warming. We were told that we’d never see snow again, and all it takes to disprove that claim is a blizzard or two.

      Because it is, as you say, an abstract projection. It’s an intellectual construct. An imagining. Carbon dioxide is an imaginary threat, in the exact same way that tobacco smoke is imaginary threat.

      • waltc says:

        But on second thought…you can SEE tobacco smoke and if you’re told (and told and told) that if you can see it, or smell it, it’s going to kill you–and not just you but your The Children™, you can be made to believe it. So perhaps if you see a blizzard or a forest fire or go through a day that’s hotter or colder or rainier than you like or read about an earthquake or a hurricane somewhere and you’re told (and told) that it’s caused by Climate Change and it’s going to kill the planet– and your The Grandchildren™ maybe, if you have the leisure to worry about it and the money to pay for it, you can be convinced to believe it. Because it does seem that global warming worry is mostly a luxury of the well-off urban liberal class, whereas everyone can feel free to worry about secondhand smoke.

  4. petesquiz says:

    The problem with these issues is that we are constantly being told what WILL happen if we follow a course of action – the planet WILL get warmer if you keep burning fossil fuels, you WILL die if you smoke cigarettes, Britain WILL be better off outside the EU, Britain WILL be better off inside the EU – but no-one from our media calls them out as prognosticating charlatans.

    Nobody KNOWS what is going to happen in the future and yet this is peddled as certainty. I don’t understand how these extreme attitudes have become so mainstream (and so corrosive).

    Actually, I do understand (I think) – nobody would buy a newspaper that said, “The climate is changing, but it probably won’t be too bad…it might even be a bit better” or one that said, “smoking cigarettes helps your concentration, relieves stress, but their might be some downsides as well” or one that came out with, “whether we leave or stay in the EU the country will probably survive and in 10 years we’ll be doing OK”.

    Imagine all the climate scientists, public health ‘professionals’ and political analysts that would be out of a job if the reality of these scenarios were to be accepted and believed by everyone. My Utopia would be quite warm, but not baking hot, where you could smoke wherever you wanted to and our politicians concentrated on serving the people properly!

  5. “How can anyone discuss climate if they don’t have a climate model? Yet Emmanuel Macron almost certainly hasn’t got his own climate simulation model. And all those rioting Frenchman haven’t got any either. And so it’s the blind leading the blind.”

    But the hicks have billions of years of history and records on their side…

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