How can I convince my son (who has an MBA) that the climate change is man-made and not a “natural correction” touted by “Faux News?”

How can I convince my son (who has an MBA) that the climate change is man-made and not a “natural correction” touted by “Faux News?”

[ 30/August/21 ]

That is not a useful way to conceptualize the problem, it is actually more of the problem.

“Convincing” people is what has driven society for most of the last few thousand years. That is essentially about dogma, about being “right”.

Science doesn’t work like that.

Science is about learning how to evaluate experiment and evidence, then looking at the evidence, and drawing your own conclusions.

Don’t try to “convince” your son about anything.

Encourage him to learn about how science works, about the many levels of bias inherent in being human, and how to effectively mitigate them in different contexts, and introduce him to reliable datasets, and encourage him make his own evaluations and decisions. That is the only real way to break the control inherent in dogma, be it religious dogma, political dogma, philosophical dogma, economic dogma, scientific dogma, cultural dogma or any dogma of any form at all.

The only thing you really need to ensure that he understands (recursively) is that every level of freedom demands a new level of responsibility, if one is to have a reasonable probability of surviving with it.

And moving to such a way of being, of thinking, of living; is bound to be uncomfortable, because most people are deeply biased to prefer the “comfort” of group agreement over individual judgement. We just need to accept that such will be the case for many. For many their choices will only occur as options within the bounds of what their particular group finds acceptable. That is how human neural networks are, for the most part, configured.

Not many people get through the process of growing up, their peer groups, the educational systems, the entertainment systems, the political and legal and economic and social systems, with any real degree of open responsible choice in tact. It takes a lot of conscious work to examine and re-configure all of those implicit sets of assumptions; and work like that is always uncomfortable and time consuming.

So encourage him to look at the data, and at evaluation techniques, and at common errors and biases, and support and love and respect him whatever the case. And we all need to accept that sometimes the bias in young male brains to separate from the home group overwhelms all others. That too is part of being human.

[followed by Mike replied “the classical method of testing multiple hypotheses” … “(1) climate change is all man-made, (2) climate change is partly man-made and partly natural, (3) climate change is wholly natural”]

Too simplistic Mike.

Climate is always changing for multiple classes of reasons; some of which are entirely unpredictable even in theory. That is often the way with complex systems. Our human neural networks are heavily biased to look for simple models and solutions, and to find them even where they do not exist.

One needs to get a reasonable handle on modeling, on uncertainty, and on some of the infinite classes of chaos, before going anywhere near climate change.

And the evidence for human induced influence is beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.

And I am no fan of “natural” climate change.

I have no desire at all to go into the next “ice age”.

I am all for humans developing tools to manage climate change, and that demands of us that we have cooperative systems world wide that do in fact respect liberty, and the diversity that must logically result from any real expression of liberty. That sort of cooperation is nothing like control of the hegemony of any particular anything.

[followed by If the evidence for human induced influence is indeed beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, then my suggested method is perfect for convincing doubtful people of that fact.]

Hi Mike,

Of the three options you gave, 1 & 3 can be eliminated instantly. We would have to not exist for 3 to be true, and we have already identified multiple classes of non human impacts on climate (so that eliminates 1).

There is only 2.

That is not the issue.

The issue is, to what degree do the various classes of influence actually influence and what are the implications over various timeframes and contexts of various classes of strategic response to various scenarios?

The issues are really complex, and some of them cannot be simplified without causing major issues.

The evidence sets are vast, necessarily, because we are looking for small signals in noisy data, because of the many classes of “natural” variation. That takes complex math that can deal effectively with uncertainty at multiple levels.

[followed by]

It takes a lot of effort to actually – look at the evidence.

It is vast.

One needs to become familiar with vast arrays of sensor technologies, their reliability in different sets of conditions, the sorts of processes used to calibrate them , and the classes of mathematical process used to sort “signal” from both known and unknown classes of “noise”.

Takes a lot of effort to do that, you need to become familiar with some very complex mathematics, with quantum mechanics, with uncertainty and chaos, with metallurgy, with signal conduction and transduction and transmission. You need to get a familiarity for how difficult it is to sense anything reliably in marine environments (where most of the energy is going) and to build your own confidence in making such assessments. To understand the difficulties of remote sensing, and how to get reliable information, and how it can go wrong.

Then one needs to start to become familiar with modeling systems. That always starts simple, and slowly works to the complicated, complex and chaotic.

Then one has to deal with meteorology and biology, both of which are complex and contain multiple classes of uncertainty and unknowability.

And when one has spent decades doing that, of becoming reasonably confident about the major classes of signals, the major classes of noise and uncertainty, then there really isn’t a lot of doubt that humans are having a significant impact.

Does that mean we can say anything about climate with certainty?

No. Can’t do that, too many classes of fundamental uncertainty and chaos present to do that.

Does that mean humans are not have an impact?

Nope, absolutely not.

They are very different classes of assertion about the nature of complex systems.

What can people look at that is simple and meaningful?

The level of CO2 in the atmosphere. That is human induced, no real uncertainty in that at all – 99+% confidence. Simple, logical, vast sets of evidence in the balance sheets of the mining industries around the planet.

No real uncertainty that it has a “greenhouse effect”. The science on that was settled over 100 years ago.

Those are simple and straight forward.

But we are doing lots of other things to.

How do they all interact with each other?

That is an impossibly difficult question.

We can, as you say, make computer models about such things, and they will, by definition, be simplifications of the things they model, and as such imperfect. Having been involved with computer models of fisheries and economies and terrestrial ecosystems for over 30 years I have some reasonable awareness of the many ways in which models can fail. And the more they fail, the more we correct for those failures, and the better the general class of “picture” that comes out of them, generally speaking, and all such things have notable exceptions.

So if, like me, someone has been looking at all those issues for the last 50+ years, then someone like myself can be very confident indeed, that there is human induced climate change.

I can be equally confident that there are classes of solutions to that suite of issues that can deliver a high standard of living to every person on the planet, and can enable freedom and diversity (note here that means real diversity, not any form or level of hegemony). And I can be equally confident that there are no such solutions that involve free market economics. Automation breaks the sets of assumptions that traditionally made markets a useful proxy for human value more generally; and we need automation to solve a large set of classes of already very well characterized existential level risks. So reform of the economic and political systems is required. And that has its own non-trivial suites of issues.

I am clear that there are no long term solutions that involve central control.

The only classes of solutions that have any reasonable probability of long term stability are those involving cooperation between multiple levels, classes and instances of diverse agents; where such diversity is respected, and all agents accept the reality that if liberty is to survive it must be exercised responsibly; because all classes of agents are made of systems that have sets of constraints that are required for their existence. So nothing really simple here either.

So in my understanding, climate change is real, it has solutions, we need to invoke one of those solutions, and all such solutions require global cooperation between all levels of agents.

It is not our biggest problem by any stretch of the imagination, and it is one that is sufficiently real yet sufficiently benign that it doesn’t actually send most of the population into some sort of anxiety disorder. So in that sense it is a useful proxy for a large class of much more difficult problems that can be usefully solved with the same class of cooperative solutions.

[Followed by]

Hi Mike,

This tells me that the models are far from perfect.

I already know that the multiple sources of natural variation on a year by year basis swamp the human inputs, but the human inputs have been cumulative for a long time.

There are positive feedbacks, that if they initiate, will make things much worse.

Does that mean that I can say with certainty that any particular rise in temperature is the result of human activity?


The natural variation is too high and too uncertain (fundamentally) to say that.

And what I can say with confidence is that the human cumulative factors are present.

Could they be swamped by natural factors?

Yes, that is entirely possible. A few big volcanoes going off could do that; so could a major solar event.

All other things being equal, human impacts will cause heating. Can I say all other things are going to be equal?

NO – not a chance.

Complex systems are often like that.

People keep expecting them to be simple systems, but they’re not, never will be.

Are we doing things to climate that are “unwise” in a probabilistic sense, if we continue them long term?

Sure – no reasonable doubt about that.

Do we need to do things differently?


Are we doomed?

Definitely not – provided that we start taking actions that do in fact mitigate the risks.

That, at least, is how it appears to me, as someone with very close to 60 years of interest in the subject.

Is any of this an excuse for central control and global hegemony – definitely not – actually quite the reverse.

When one does actually begin to understand how risk management in the face of fundamental uncertainty actually works, then it is clear that diversity, multiple “safe to fail” experiments, is key to survival. Lots of different eggs in lots of different baskets.

Is this any excuse for any sort of global austerity?


It is a requirement to investigate and develop technologies that actually work long term, and deliver reasonable levels of security and freedom to everyone.

[Followed by]

Hi Mike

Would like to look at your data.

I wasn’t thinking water vapour, the positive feedback that worries me is methane, particularly in the North Sea and Tundra.

Climate mitigation has been on my radar since the 60s, with or without human induced changes. We don’t want any more ice ages, so we need effective tools to me able to modulate the solar input to the earth system by +/- 5% – and the only realistic way to create technology on that scale in any reasonable time frame is to put self replicating remote manufacturing systems on the moon and let them go until they cover the moon’s surface with solar cells, then use that energy to launch lunar mass back into earth orbit with linear motors (no reaction mass required – not actually true, the entire remaining moon is the reaction mass), and then we can build systems with said capabilities above. Doesn’t matter if it takes 100 years, ice ages don’t typically initiate faster than that. With that sort of technological capacity, we could also build and deploy a suite of remote sensing and mitigation systems to significantly reduce the risk from impactors of any class. A nice side benefit is the ability to build and deploy a decent number of O’Neill cylinders, of suitable size. Increases the potential for risk mitigation at multiple levels.

All of that is, of course, predicated on global cooperation, because any sort of fundamental competition with that level of technology leads to fairly rapid self termination. So definitely multiple levels of “work to be done”.

[Note – Mike’s data arrived 2 days ago, but the next 3 weeks are insanely busy for me, so I am unlikely to look at it for a few weeks – written 30th Sept 21]

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
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