The Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) was perhaps the first to note the universal trend that growth is slow but ruin is rapid. I call this tendency the "Seneca Effect."

Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Collapse of Trust in Science: Climate Science is one of the Victims


The blog of El Gato Malo is fun to read and, often, reports useful data and correct discussions of the COVID pandemic -- of course, it is very political, as you can see if you peruse the site. But when the Gato tries to apply his skills to climate science, it is a complete disaster, such as in this screed about the climate of planet Venus. The Gato's failure is a good example of how you should always maintain a certain degree of humility when you approach a field you are not familiar with. 

The problem is not so much the site of a person who signs himself as "The Bad Cat".  The problem is that it is a wave. It could become a tsunami. There is a clear phenomenon of loss of trust in science resulting by the mounting evidence of corruption and politicization of those who claim to be the "voice of science" and whose advice the public should follow. The result is a wholesale rejection of everything that's supposed to be supported by "Science." It is not just that climate science becomes a conspiracy by the Greens. It also becomes a commonplace opinion that chemtrails exist, that renewables consume more energy than they produce, that electric cars pollute more than diesel and gasoline cars, that peak oil is an invention of the oil companies, and much more. 

Climate science is an easy victim of this phenomenon because it is a complicated matter that most people do not completely understand (and maybe nobody does). It is relatively easy to comb the data to find examples that don't (or don't seem to) agree with the standard interpretation. From there on, it all becomes politics and all attempts to use reason or data are destined to fail. Politics is not based on data. Just look at the comments to El Gato's post and be horrified: you are staring directly into the abyss. 

Yet, we must cling to science because it is the only thing we have that allows us to understand the world around us. In a sea of corruption, ossification, and ignorance, there do exist islands of sanity and understanding. Below, you can see an example of an attempt to develop a new way of looking at the ecosystem. It means not just turning CO2 into the villain of an adventure movie, but trying to understand how the whole system works and the role of the biosphere in maintaining the climate we need to survive. If we lose good science, we lose everything (UB)

From "The Pround Holobionts" Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Do we focus too much on CO2 alone? An appeal for the conservation of natural ecosystems

 Have we exaggerated with the idea that CO2 -- carbon dioxide -- is the arch villain of the story? Aren't we overemphasizing solutions that imply CO2 removal? How about geoengineering, sometimes touted as "the" solution that will allow us to keep going on burning fossil fuels? 

There is no doubt that the emissions of carbon dioxide are returning the ecosystem to a condition that was never seen before at least one million years ago. There is no doubt that CO2 is warming the planet and that none of our Sapiens ancestors ever breathed in an atmosphere that contains a concentration of CO2 of 420 parts per million -- as we are doing. 

But by focussing so much on CO2 alone is easy to forget what humans have been doing to the ecosystems that keep the biosphere alive (and with it, humankind). The ecosystem is a giant holobiont that strives for stability: a fundamental element to stabilize Earth's climate. It is a dangerous illusion to think that we, humans, can replace the work of Gaia with our fancy carbon capture machinery, or whatever other tricks we may concoct. 

Here is a reminder by a group of people from Eastern Europe who managed to maintain a certain degree of mental sanity. They remind us of the damage we are doing. Will anyone listen to them? (UB)

Appeal to the international community, governments, scientific, public organizations and business


Terrestrial and marine natural ecosystems are the basis for preservation of biological life on Earth. They have existed almost unchanged for millions of years and all this time have supported climate stability, biochemical flows, global water circulation and many other processes, irreplaceable and essential for preservation of life on our planet. Undisturbed natural ecosystems maintain the Earth's temperature, suitable for human life.

The laws of nature are the basis of life on Earth, and all the laws of human society that regulate economic, political, social and cultural relations are secondary to them and must take into account the biosphere’s operating principles and man’s place in it.

However, over the past decades, human activities aimed at meeting the needs for food, energy and 
water have caused unprecedented changes in ecosystems, including land degradation and deforestation. These changes have helped improve the lives of billions of people, but at the same time, they have destroyed nature's ability to regulate the environment and maintain the climate.

According to current estimates, more than 75% of natural ecosystems are subject to degradation and loss of their functions, which undermines all efforts to preserve the climate and threatens the achievement of SDGs, including hunger, disease and poverty eradication. 

Humanity is standing on the edge of a precipice. Over-threshold disturbance of ecosystems leads to
irreversible loss of the gene pool, up to complete disappearance of ecosystems. In the face of growing efforts and understanding of the threat of climate change, it is now necessary to recognize and support the unique role of natural ecosystems in preserving the climate and a vital environment. International climate policy adjustments and fundamental changes in national development strategies are required.

We call to wake up and recognize the fundamental and irreplaceable value of natural ecosystems and for strong and urgent action, including:
  1.  To recognize the goal of preserving natural ecosystems as humanity’s highest priority and stop their further destruction through adopting a global moratorium on any further development of territories still untouched by human activities, with international support mechanisms, including funding.
  2.  Promotion of large-scale natural reforestation is an urgent task. Climate-regulating functions of forests, associated with the ability to retain soil moisture and maintain continental water transfer, are their main value, which are orders of magnitude higher than the cost of wood. Undisturbed forests should be completely removed from economic activity by law and allocated to a separate category with the maximum degree of protection. 
  3. At all levels, from international to regional, national and local, it is necessary to review ongoing development strategies and take urgent measures to protect natural ecosystems and wildlife. It is necessary to adjust all sectoral policies, including agricultural practices, in order not only to meet the demand for food, but also to minimize the burden on natural ecosystems
  4. A transition from conventional sectoral management to basin and ecosystem management is required, including raising the status of nature conservation goals. Water resources management should ensure that natural ecosystems are guaranteed priority in water supply that is necessary for their conservation, as well as protection and restoration of aquatic and other ecosystems - from mountains and glaciers to deltas and reservoirs.
  5. Measures aimed at preserving natural ecosystems also require a review of existing incentives and tools and creation of new ones, so that ecosystem services are no longer perceived as free and unlimited, and their management takes into account the interests and roles of the populations and local communities which directly depend on them and are their custodians.


International Socio-Ecological Union, Eco-Forum (of 54 public organizations) of Kazakhstan, 
Association (non-governmental organizations) «For Sustainable Human Development of Armenia»,
Eco-Forum (independent non-governmental organizations) of Uzbekistan, as well as professional and non-governmental organizations of Armenia, Moldova, Russia, USA and others


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  2. I hear you on this! It is hard to have a good grasp of each scientific field, and we shouldn't expect anyone to be an expert at everything. It is good when people are aware of their own limits though :-) Physicists are often lauded as society's best geniuses, but even they get things wrong too! it's not uncommon to hear them say absolutely absurd things about biology.

    When it comes to "green tech" and EVs, I think the problem is more to do with marketing claims not being congruent with the actual science. EVs can be worse for the environment depending on the situation. For example, if you drove an EV powered by electricity produced from a coal power plant, and then dumped the massive car battery every 10 years or so, the EV would or could pollute more than an ICE (especially one that ran for 30 years)? Analyzing renewable energy capturing technology and EVs is very fraught by how wide your analysis goes. The narrow focus on tailpipe emissions has allowed green pundits to get away with spouting a lot of half truths. Even calculating a true EROEI for so-called renewables is tricky; what to include, what to exclude. What happens to the pollution calculations when renewables don't met their design life? In a free market, price often sorts out these calculations for us (currency being a proxy for energy cost), but when renewables are subsidized by the govt, it's harder to be certain. We have to rely on scientists to calculate the EROEI. When one reads these papers and sees what's included and what is excluded it is pretty easy to spot obvious exclusions. It can be infuriating when people cite the bad study and just ignore the published papers that refute the bad study.

    I totally agree that the focus on CO2 emissions has taken attention away form other critical breaking points in the natural system :-(
    I'm one of those people who does understand the basics of climate change, but doesn't know what to believe from all the models and worst case scenarios. I'm super thankful that crude oil only has a few decades left and then our ability to destroy our life support systems will be dramatically reduced. Much of our concrete will be crumbling after 100 years, creating a lot of space for new plants and trees to grow and suck up some carbon. Look how quickly the plants took over the concrete at Chernobyl as an example.

    1. When left alone, the power of Nature is immense: each year an irreversible gain.

      The father of a cousin of mine was an investor in a mountain holiday resort in N. Spain which, thankfully, didn't work out.

      When we visited, it was wonderful to see trees pushing up through the tarmac and in the abandoned buildings - although some places were still occupied on cheap rents. Very much post-Rome....

  3. Long time lurker, first time commenter.

    At this point, it's pretty clear that nothing will be done about climate change. Nothing that matters in any case. The best we can hope for are reasonably effective local mitigation strategies to deal with the consequences of climate change. The worst that can happen is a COVID-style response that does little-to-nothing to address the problem, while causing an enormous amount of harm (and making some people very rich and/or very famous in the process).

    Trust in science may be indeed be dead. If so, it was largely deserved. I mean, astrophysics may be fine. But anything that might influence policy - forget it! The public just gets told whatever the big shots think will maximize the probability of the public doing what the big shots want it to do. And quite a few deplorables have figured that out by now and are acting accordingly (by ignoring everything the big shots say, that is).


    1. That's when the so-called 'Deplorables' become the 'Estimables'.....

  4. This comment is to do with your last post regarding bureaucracy ('Bye-bye university!'). I suggest that the problems you allude to go back for generations. It may be worse now, but it's not new. To illustrate this point I published 'A Magnificent Navy on Land' at It's based on Parkinson's "Law" and so is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but not necessarily incorrect.

    I am analyzing the new proposed rule from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The rule, if implemented, will require publicly traded companies to (a) disclose the extent of their greenhouse gas emissions, and (b) assess the risk that climate change poses to their business. The intent of the rule is good, but it will lead to a massive increase in the number of "support" agencies, consultants and paper work in general. If Parkinson's Law applies, then we come up with a modern version of his insight:

    "The number of specialists, learned papers, web sites, blogs, meetings and government edicts to do with climate change will increase at a rate of between 5 and 6.5% per annum regardless of actual greenhouse gas emissions. This Law is true even if emissions do not decline at all."

  5. 1) Climate science is an immensely complex topic, with hundreds of feedback loops, many of which are not understood, and some of which are not even identified. Moreover, some of the loops involve human and social behavior, which are inherently difficult to model (one of the reasons that 'Limits to Growth' is still relevant after 50 years). So it is not surprising if most people ignore science - it's hard work, and most of us have a life to live.

    2) As economic and social conditions drift downhill, people may blame scientists for being good at talking about problems, but less good at fixing them.

    3) There is a confusion between science and engineering/project management. People may hear that some new technology such as hydrogen cartridges show great promise. They therefore assume that we have a solution to climate change. They do not appreciate the immense effort needed to transform our technology base in just a couple of decades.

    4) It is my understanding that monasticism often becomes more common as societies decline. I wonder if scientists may form isolated communes where they do not have to interact with the world at large, and where they are free to work out a new "theology".

  6. There is so much to say on the subject. The loss of confidence in science is obvious, and it is not due to the public that has been deceived too many times. Scientists as a whole are responsible for this situation by not having been able to protect their discipline from corruption, by not denouncing more fraudulent studies and the abuses of the bureaucracy that you described well in the previous post. Of course they are humans who need to work to live, but they have let themselves be locked in a dead-end, and so science will have to die to be reborn.
    Concerning the climate, I have stopped caring about it because the same people who created the problem are the ones who claim to be getting us out of it. The alliance of scientists, bureaucrats and politicians is going to use this crisis to consolidate a little more power in the hands of a few people? The climate has become a pretext but who really cares? Hypocrisy reigns at the highest level and it has become impossible to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. This sad fact will make it impossible to get humanity to adhere to the necessary restrictions and the price will have to be paid, one way or another.

  7. I understood form older posts in this blog that science almost doesn't exist any more, phagocytized by corruption, metrics, career-bulding, self-branding, business, fame, politics...
    And now we are missing it already?
    (I'm joking, I'm aware there is no contradiction)

  8. I suggest that what should all miss, in any field one cares to name - science, medicine, politics, religion, the arts, etc, - is......INTEGRITY.

    1. Yes, formulated like this you break the fallacy on which my (bad) joke was sitting.