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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Slashdot Comments | Climatic Research Unit Hacked, Files Leaked

Slashdot Comments | Climatic Research Unit Hacked, Files Leaked: "phoenix321 (734987) * on Friday November 20"

" You can have billions of data points over several millenia and the only thing you can hope to prove is a strong correlation between A=CO2 levels and B=global temperature.

But you cannot prove or disprove that A causes B, B causes A - or an unknown C causes A and B. Because of the scientific method, you only have a hypothesis, which can only be judged from the quality of the predictions it made.

And here we come full circle: the theory of global warming predicts a global temperature increase over the next few decades. And then scientists urge us to do something to counter that. With large amounts of money and maybe even a reduction in our quality of life. Let's call this strategy of repentance R and the opposite strategy, doing absolutely nothing and keep on sinning S.

Now we can bring game theory into the fray:

Player Mankind M against Global Warming Theory(tm) W.

Mankind can play strategy SIN or REPENT while Global Warming can play the strategies HOT or NOT.

Now let's look at the payoff matrix:

(S, H) = it's now hot, Global Warming was right, but we saved billions of Dollars, Euros, Yuan and Rubles that happily multiplied on compound interest all those years. Let's spend the money on building dams, counter-desertificaton and storm shelters. And pour some money into researching fusion, we need it. Mankind will suffer, but certainly recover. Countries that pursued Repent anyway will now have a severe disadvantage.

(S, N) = it's cool, Global Warming was wrong. We saved uncounted billions of dollars and are probably on the way of building the spaceship for the Alpha Centauri victory condition. Countries that pursued Repent anyway now have a severe disadvantage.

(R, H) = it's now hot, but we don't know if Global Warming was right OR an unkown variable O (let's call it "Sun Output" just for kicks) was the reason. We spent billions and lost the equivalent of Earth's weight in Gold in missed compound interest. Anyway, we didn't spend enough so we lack the funds to build enough dams and shelters. Those few countries that bailed out of the plan now CAN build dams and shelters and will gain the upper hand.

(R, N) = it's cool now but we spend billions of dollars and missed a lot of compound interest. We either did enough or global warming was weaker than expected or the unkown variable C was decreasing as well. Spaceship victory condition is delayed for several centuries. Those few countries that bailed out of the plan will gain the upper hand.

As the scientific method can only disprove, (S, N) provides the only definite answer: Warming was wrong. All other outcomes are unreliable:
(S, H) could mean Global Warming was right or variable O was the reason
(R, H) could mean Global Warming was right, but we did too little, too late OR variable O was the reason.
(R, N) could mean Global Warming was right and we did enough OR Global Warming was wrong and we wasted oodles of money.

to That means
- even in 20 or 30 years, we will not know for sure if global warming was right.
- those who didn't pursue a Repent strategy will always have outpaced those who did
- defect is the dominant strategy for different factions of Mankind
- we either need a New World Order to force everyone in line or the defectors will laugh at us in any possible outcome.

Great. Just great.

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to map out a more complex scenario with two players, Mankind and Warming, where Mankind can "Repent" or "Sin", but Warming can play "Hot from CO2", "Hot from the Sun" or "Cold either way". I doubt the payoff matrix favors insane spending to Repent.

Anyway, the latest predictions I heard of our holy climate priests were an increase of 2 degrees centigrade in 2100. (no, not 2010). If the global temperature was a random walk with a delta of -0.1, 0 and +0.1 every year, we can and will obtain much greater deltas just by chance alone."

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