Sunday, August 30, 2009

Anthropogenic Global Warming: Who put the hype in hypothesis?

A blog by Peter Foster in the National Post (Full Comment) caught my eye this week. I have studied and taught science for more than 35 years so I am well familiar with the Scientific Method and how it is used. Mr. Foster's comments on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) pretty much says it all for me.
I have no doubt that Global Warming is occurring or has occurred, otherwise I'd be writing this from under at least 1000 metres of ice that passed through these parts during the last Ice Age. The ice is gone, so it must have melted because of rising temperatures whose cause has yet to be determined, but it wasn't us. In fact the melting continues and has now reached Canada's most northern outposts including Arctic waters. As well, glaciers and ice sheets around the world seem to be shrinking, and yes it is possible that certain gases released by human activity have accelerated this melting; that is the hypothesis that underlies AGW. Make no mistake, it is still an hypothesis. In science an hypothesis is not a fact or even a theory. To use an hypothesis to make predictions, extrapolate consequences or anything else is bad science and of course that is the basis of the general belief that AGW will lead to global catastrophe. A tenuous cause predicts catastrophic events that are accepted by a consensus of scientists and politicians. The effect is accepted before the cause is proven. Why governments and many scientists have acceded to this idea with apparently little dissension is discussed in Mr. Foster's article but no real explanation is provided. Here is where I must show how utterly cynical I am. If you were a scientist working for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) it is not in your self interest to question the need for your employment. If you are in government and you can expand your power to include huge amounts of money and influence it is not in your self interest to question the authority of the IPCC.

All science always operates under varying degrees of uncertainty, even the simplest weather forecast is couched in terms of probability of this or that happening. Weather prediction is a science because as more data is gathered the degree of uncertainty is diminished and weather events can be predicted with reasonable accuracy in the short term. Climate prediction is very different. Although our computer climate models show temperature increases in the future with potentially catastrophic effects, the models and the very computers themselves are so new that the accuracy of their predictions is questionable at best compared to currently used weather models. With that level of certainty is it wise to spend billions or more to mitigate a situation that may not happen? Then why do it? Self interest - but not yours.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What are the entitlements of Canadian Citizenship?

What are the entitlements of Canadian Citizenship if one is detained or in trouble in a foreign country? A good question given recent news of the Somali-born Canadian who was "detained" by Kenyan authorities for 3 months. Not only did Canadian authorities ignore her pleas for help they actually invalidated her valid Passport. Why didn't Canadian authorities investigate the valid Passport she carried? Was it stolen? The women had a pocket full of other Canadian ID; was that not worthy of investigation? Is this a case of racial discrimination? One might expect Canadian Border Services to consider such a case as worthy of further investigation, at least check out her story and do the minimal due diligence. Instead she was ignored. Fortunately for her, an extraordinary genetic test showed her to be the person described in the Passport and a remedy for her plight exists in Canadian law, she is suing Canada for $2.5 million and an apology. This case highlights our government in action (no pun intented) for all to see. Is the government obliged to protect its citizens and if not what other purpose does it serve? Hmmm.....good question.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Religion losing its grip on America

America is becoming more secular....slowly. In a survey released by Trinity College of Hartford: the ARIS 2008 the headline in part is "Non-religious on the Rise". Finally!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Charter Cities

In recent years Cuba has been a destination for many Canadians to escape the winter. For me the politics of that place for the past 50 years is a turnoff and I'm not a fan of sun and surf anyway. But a small and problematic part of that island is run by Americans, Guant√°namo Bay, may become a bargaining chip in Obama's overtures to Latin America. If the Cuban ruler, the younger Castro or whoever takes over, has any smarts they may opt for an idea put forth by economist Paul Romer. Romer unveils a bold idea: "charter cities," city-scale administrative zones governed by a coalition of nations. Could Guant√°namo Bay become the next Hong Kong? Watch:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Government bailouts and Moral Hazard

Another great column today by Gwyn Morgan in the Globe and Mail titled: Bailouts and the nasty consequences of 'moral hazard'. It points the finger at the cause of the financial mess that started in the U.S. and then proceeds to explain how "they gets us coming, and they gets us going." Morgan rehashes much of what has already been said, but he is more lucid and speaks with the authority of a Canadian business person and says it far better than I could. Do yourself a favour and read it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Seasteading Institute and The Israel Test

I often hear people ask where are the libertarian countries that exist today in 2009? The answer is simple, there are none that have all the components of a libertarian society, but there are many countries that operate to a limited degree under some libertarian principles. The most immediate hope for a completely libertarian society is TSI, The Seasteading Institute. Under the direction of Patri Friedman the grandson of Dr. Milton Friedman (see YouTube interview below), TSI seeks to establish autonomous ocean communities to improve the human condition by enabling innovation with new political and social systems - hopefully libertarian systems. The young Friedman gives up on attempts to change our societies from within, instead he thinks we should start from scratch - at sea. I certainly understand the frustration from which an idea like that can originate so I will watch TSI with interest and anticipation. In the mean time I will continue to pound the table for change here, on dry land, within easy driving distance to just about everything.

In a recent column, Neil Reynolds wrote about a book The Israel Test, which discusses Israel's extraordinary free market achievement and posits that "Israel has become one of the most important economies in the world and is second only to the United States in its pioneering of technologies that improve human life." The book also discusses achievements of Jews (a minority group if ever there was one) in general and of Israel in particular. Israel was established in a hostile environment just 60 odd years ago and has evolved from a pseudo-socialist democracy to a country that has "sloughed off its manacles of confiscatory taxes, oppressive regulations, government ownership and socialist nostalgia." Here is an experiment like the one TSI aspires to, that shows even a small measure of liberty has impressive results. The results are more impressive given the achievements of those nations, mostly dictatorships and religious autocracies surrounding Israel by comparison. Imagine what a large measure of liberty would nurture - in any nation.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The good news of the Toronto garbage strike

There are rumblings in some Toronto media that a political shift has occurred and the tide has turned in the politics of the City of Toronto. The cause is the 39 day garbage and city workers strike that seemed to hinge on the issue of bankable sick days. The city's mayor insists that a victory was achieved and that the city will save $140 million over the next five years which amounts to an annual saving of less than 1/3 of 1% of the city's operating budget of $8.7 billion (2009). The union thinks their membership did well; obviously someone is wrong. The problem is that the city's negotiators were hamstrung. They did not have the option to negotiate with another entity like a private contractor. The city was negotiating with a city sanctioned union monopoly and no one else. This "partnership" between the city and the union benefits the union at the expense and inconvenience of the city tax payers. As a result of the strike the good news is that city tax payers are beginning to realize this as evidenced in this poll (see the PDF on the right). The idea of contracting out garbage collection (as exists in the former City of Etobicoke and many other municipalities in the GTA) is finally becoming a viable option for many Toronto voters (see the poll). Only when competition exists can prices be set that are fair both to the taxpayer and the city worker given market conditions of the day. In the midst of a recession with GTA unemployment approaching 10%, you would think that even unions would contemplate concessions. Why should they given their monopoly position? So is the mayor of Toronto right in declaring victory, or is this a wake-up call for all voters? I think its time to wake up.