Monthly Archives: May 2015

Global Cooling?

Global Cooling? By Peter Burrows – 5/20/15

In my last column, “Confirmation Bias,“ I mentioned a Facebook share from a liberal friend of mine, a lady I like very much, even though we‘re from different planets.  It was an article titled “The Great Grief: How to Cope With Losing our World.”  The first two sentences set the tone: “Climate scientists overwhelmingly say that we will face unprecedented warming in the coming decades.  Those scientists, just like you or I, struggle with the emotions that are evoked by these facts and dire predictions.” It goes downhill from there. (1)

My friend’s comment was out of character with her usual good nature: “Even if we make great progress NOW, we will still have to deal with some of the changes anyway. Damn the holdouts and obstructionists! Yes, I am asking God, The Goddess, The Gods, to Damn them and get them out of the way because there is much work to do.”

This is a clear case of confirmation bias at work, hers and also mine.  She reads such an article because it reinforces her sense of righteous indignation over global warming skeptics, who reject what “climate scientists  overwhelmingly say” because they are “obstructionists”  who stand in the way of Saving The World.  When I read such an article, it reinforces my conviction that global warmists are emotionally unable to accept any facts that disagree with their “religion.”  In fact, if they could, some of them would treat climate skeptics much like Muslims treat heretics and apostates. Google “James Hansen Nuremburg,” or “Punish Climate Change Deniers.” Note that both my liberal friend and I each think the science is on our side.

As my article on confirmation bias said, when opinions become tied to one’s ego, emotions take over and it’s best to avoid confrontations, when possible.   With global warming, that’s not possible.  There’s too much at stake. The global warming agenda forces billions of dollars of unnecessary costs on society, e.g. banning coal, requiring renewable fuel standards, and huge subsidies for solar, wind and biomass.

I used to think that if the skeptics could show that climate scientists do NOT overwhelmingly accept global warming’s “dire predictions,”  then the whole global warming hype of cards would fall down. Sigh. Wrong again. Back in 2007, eight years ago, Senator Inhofe, (R-OK) published a list of over 400 scientists who disagreed with the global warming orthodoxy. Didn’t make a wave then, still doesn’t, even as the list of scientists has grown to over a thousand. (2)

I listed fifteen of them in my article “Global Warming’s Useful Idiots and Useful Innocents” on, 6/29/14. Not one of my better efforts, but two of the scientists on that list were the Russian Dr. H. Abdussamatov and Danish physicist Dr. Henrik Svensmark.  If these gentlemen are right, the absence of global warming over the next few years will become so obvious that even the mainstream media won’t be able to ignore it.

Dr Habibullo Abdussamatov is Director of Space Physics at the Polkovo Observatory in St Petersburg and Russian Director of the International Space Station.  He believes there is clear evidence that both short term and long term solar cycles will lead to the start of a new Little Ice Age, with declining temperatures, well into the 22nd century. He predicted the beginning of this cycle could begin as early as last year, 2014, and he thinks there will be no more global warming this century. (3)

The first publishing of Dr. Abdussamatov’s  research I could find was in 2005, which means that for at least ten years his hypothesis has been in the public domain. (4) Ever heard of him? Of course not.  There have been numerous updates since then  and at least one independent confirmation. ( 5)

I suppose global warmers will say Abdussamatov is following the dictates of his Russian masters who have a vested interest in selling oil and gas to the rest of Europe, but his predictions are tracking actual weather/climate much, much more closely than global warming predictions, which are failing miserably.  Anybody notice we are having a very cold spring?  Back in Wausau, Wisconsin, where I lived for 20 years, they have had two miserable winters in a row, much like what I remember when I first moved there back in the 1960’s.

Also, the work of Henrik Svensmark, author of “The Chilling Stars“ with Nigel Calder, presents what I think is a compelling description of the mechanism by which solar cycles work to influence the climate.  This was partially confirmed by a CERN experiment, CLOUD, which has led to more research buttressing Svensmark’s hypothesis. (6)

Finally, we should not ignore research from the other side of the planet. In 2009, Chinese scientists studied tree rings on the Tibetan Plateau covering the past 2,485 years.  They published their results in 2011 and confirmed that The Medieval Warming Period, The Roman Warm Period and The Little Ice Age were climatic events that occurred in Tibet and were not confined to Europe or only parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

“What‘s more, they  found the temperature cycles were associated with solar activity, with cold intervals corresponding to sunspot minimums. Based on these findings, they predicted temperatures will decrease until 2068 A.D. and then increase once more.” (7) The Chinese confirmed these results with two other studies, one using sediment cores from two Tibetan lakes, and one using sea shells from the northern South China Sea. (8)

Abdussamatov and Svensmark: Take a bow.

These hemispheric changes in climate, especially the Medieval Warming Period, cannot be explained by a global warming theory that only looks at the carbon dioxide additions caused by the burning of fossil fuels.  Also, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s claim that “recent decades have been the warmest in at least the last 1,300 years” (9) is something that just cannot be said with such certitude. (10)

The Chinese are paying a lot of lip service to the carbon dioxide argument but it wouldn’t surprise me if they have concluded, given the prideful and even xenophobic nature of the Chinese, that they have decided that their scientists know a helluva lot more about climate change than the Occidental Chicken Littles pushing expensive renewable energy while banning coal.

I’d even bet that the Chinese agreed to cap their CO2 emissions starting in 2030 — 2030! — because they figure that by then the global warming argument will have been skewered by temperatures going down, not up.  In the meantime, Chinese coal consumption has been growing rapidly and they are by far the world’s largest user, consuming roughly four times that of number two, the U.S. Chinese coal consumption is just about equal to the U.S. on a per capita basis.  I wonder what it will be by 2030?

I doubt if I’ll be around to find out, but if temperatures are in fact falling, I’ll bet today’s global warmists will be blaming the burning of fossil fuels for that, too.

(7)  Roosters of the Apocalypse by Real Jean Isaac, Heartland Institute, 2012, pg. 22 and footnote 58, pg. 96.
(8) and
(10) and
CO2 Science

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias by Peter Burrows 5/18/15

The Internet is a great source of facts, opinions, and sometimes myths and lies, and while in theory it should make us all better informed, I’m afraid that it more frequently makes us just more opinionated.  An article by Alsesh Houdek in The Atlantic a few years ago makes this point: “We weigh facts and lines of reasoning far more strongly when they favor our own side, and we minimize the importance of the opposition’s argument. —to the extent we internalize these tendencies, they injure our ability to think and see clearly.”(1)

This tendency is called  “confirmation bias” and it’s always been with us, just easier to exercise these days thanks to the Internet. Furthermore, Houdek says that studies “show that this effect is stronger in well-informed, politically engaged individuals. —- By blocking our ability to have meaningful conversations, this effect is actually harming political discourse.”

I agree with Houdek, and I would add that this inability to have meaningful conversations is caused by emotional attachments, for whatever reason, to one side of an issue.  The more emotional, the less logical we are, which is what I think Houdek is saying when he says “the extent” to which we internalize our point of view. In other words, the more we identity with a point of view, the more our egos are involved, and the more likely we are to get emotional about it.  Where emotions are involved, logic and rationality go out the window.

We are all prone to this very human tendency, and it‘s easy to identify it in yourself and others.  If you find yourself getting upset with someone’s point of view, you are guilty. Ditto for anybody who gets emotional about an issue.  Usually, the best thing to do is avoid the topic if emotions are likely to get riled.  Don’t you have friends that you never discuss politics, or religion, or abortion, or something with?

This is a lesson we learn as we get older.  Furthermore, the older we get, the more things get sorted out into important and not important. There’s a funny chart that perfectly illustrates the point.
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Fortunately, most folks are open to reason, and most folks just don‘t have emotional opinions on many hot-button issues.  For example, on the topic of raising the minimum wage, most people think it’s a good idea, but most people also think workers shouldn’t be paid more than they earn. If you’re emotionally committed to raising the minimum wage, you won’t understand that.

What got me started on this topic was a Facebook posting by a liberal friend on the topic of global warming. It was an emotional article, and my friend’s reaction was emotional.  Global warming should be a mater of scientific objectivity, which it certainly is not. In fact, both sides claim science is on their side! More on that in the next article.

(1) “How Partisans Fool Themselves Into Believing Their Own Spin – Science shows that we often allow our moral judgment to overshadow factual arguments.”   Alesh Houdek, The Atlantic Nov 20, 2012

Walmart: Capitalist Icon

Walmart: Capitalist Icon by Peter Burrows 5/5/15

I have Facebook-friended a very liberal friend of mine and it’s been a real education. It seems as though she and I live in different worlds.  Our opinions differ, sometimes 180 degrees, on welfare, national defense, unions, property rights, government spending, education, and all sorts of things.

Perhaps nothing symbolizes our differences more than Walmart, the retail giant liberals love to hate.  She recently shared a post that purported to show how Walmart is scamming America by, first, paying low wages which forces their employees to get food stamps.  Second, Walmart then exploits tax loopholes to avoid paying billions in taxes that support food stamps which are, third, redeemed at Walmart to the tune of an estimated $13 billion a year, from which Walmart reaps “billions in profit –.”

The responses to this posting were very gratifying to those of us who think most liberals are a bunch of emoters who don’t have any brains.  “F— Walmart” responded one.  He went on to add, “I hope the board of directors all get cancer terminal cancer (sic).”  Another: “Close all of them!” Others: “I detest Walmart” – “Add it to my list why I hate Walmart.” – “Walmart just plain SUCKS on SO many levels!” – “Yet another reason why I NEVER enter a Walmart store!”

A couple of quick observations.  First, if there are tax loopholes for Walmart to “exploit,” whose fault is that? Is Walmart doing anything illegal? By the way, Walmart’s tax rate was 32% in fiscal year 2015, amounting to $8 billion in taxes.  Second, Walmart’s after-tax profit margin was 3.37%, which when applied to the estimated $13 billion in food stamps allegedly spent at Walmart, amounts to only $438 million of profits, a tidy sum but not quite the “billions in profit’ the article claims.

More fundamental problems with the article and its responders have to do with their mistaken vision of how the world works.  As someone who has in the last ten years both worked FOR Walmart in a part-time job and now works AT Walmart in a part-time job for one of their vendors (Hallmark), I think I can bring a little reality into their world

First, let me say I didn’t like working for Walmart, and it wasn’t so much the low pay as it was the constant schedule changes that are a fact of life for any 24-7 retailer. Having said that, a young person just starting out who is hard working, conscientious and willing to work a flexible schedule will find Walmart offering better paying opportunities very quickly.

In fact, working for Walmart can be a great career for those with no better, or more pleasant, careers to pursue.  I see the beggars on the highway at the Walmart exit and I have to wonder: Is that what my liberal friends would prefer young people to do?

Still, the retail business is tough, and Walmart is always pushing to get more production out of its workforce. This has led to some veteran employees leaving for better paying or less stressful jobs. One assistant department manager recently approached me about working for Hallmark, but was aghast that her starting pay would be only about $9 per hour.  Since Walmart was paying her $18 an hour, there was no way she’d make that move.

This illustrates a couple of real-world facts the moronic Walmart haters apparently can’t grasp. One, not all the employees at Walmart are low-paid food stamp recipients.  Two, and most importantly, WALMART DOES NOT FORCE ANYONE TO WORK FOR THEM.  Walmart’s employees are free to get better jobs if and when the opportunities arise, something they do all the time. On the other hand, you can bet your bottom dollar that many of Walmart’s critics would use plenty of force to shut down Walmart if they could.

Of course, many of us think any job is better than no job, but that opinion is not shared by “progressives” who think Walmart el al should pay a “living wage.”  Such people are free to invest their own money and to tap into the vast array of progressive billionaires for the capital to start a chain to compete with Walmart, one that would pay what they think is a living wage.  But that would take work. That would mean DOING something, putting a little skin in the game.  Much easier to take the highly visible “I care” moral high ground and simply not shop at Walmart, which only hurts the very employees they are concerned about, or pass living wage laws, which also hurt those very same employees.

Walmart’s critics frequently say that Walmart “creates poverty” with its low paying jobs, but a just released BLS study shows that almost one in five families has NO job holder.  Seems to me that “no job” is more of a poverty creator than a Walmart job, many of which pay pretty well.

In fact, Walmart alleviates poverty.  Years ago, the little Wisconsin town I lived in had the opportunity for a Walmart store but the city leaders turned it down, thinking it would be ecologically damaging and only spread poverty with its supposedly low paying jobs. So I did a little survey comparing the grocery prices at the two local supermarkets vs. those in a Walmart store some thirty miles away.  I didn’t price produce or meat, and I didn’t count anything on sale at Walmart. The result: My basket of goods cost between 14 and 15 percent less at Walmart.

That’s how capitalism works, folks. Competition drives down prices, the customers benefit and the owners of the successful enterprises sometimes get rich.

Question for all those busybody morons who think they are occupying the moral high ground by being Walmart critics:  What have you ever done to help poor people that is even a millionth of the benefit poor people get by buying their groceries at Walmart?

Back to the lady who inquired about working for Hallmark.  Her husband also has a job, and while I don’t know what it pays, I suspect they are doing pretty well.   A two-job family may not fit the Cosmic vision of how the world should work to the Walmart haters, but who made them God?