Global Warming 4: Disastrous Disaster Forecasts

March 4, 2007

Global Warming is in the news every day. Rarely is the news good. Can it lead to Apocalypse, Armageddon, doomsday, showdown, annihilation, extinction? It can indeed. But will it, if drastic changes are made? It probably will not. What do we need to change to avert doomsday? Can such changes actually happen? Those are the important questions.Storm at the ocean

Drastic changes only happen if credibility is beyond doubt that “staying the course” means certain disaster. Global Warming is an extremely complex issue and layman credibility is a tall order. No one knows the full story. Many conclusions rely on murky assumptions fed to climate forecasts of dubious accuracy. Past cry-wolf forecasts of different subjects were wrong, their assumptions off the mark. Skeptics believe, suspect and argue that Global Warming is yet another forecasting fad and flop.

Ignore the forecasts and focus on Global Warming as it impacts Earth today. The uniformly negative actual events are enough to paint a very bleak picture. Current Ocean storm waveevents will be felt long into the future, perhaps for a thousand years. That is not a forecast but plain scientific fact. Chemistry is chemistry, as are physics, biology and geology. Do the Skeptics know better? If they do, they better prove it.

The forecast issue clouds people’s mind and therefore must be dealt with. This post examines intricacies of forecasting. What is real, what is not and how do you tell the difference?


Odes and Songs – Ballad of the Lemmings

Let’s take an example from Sweden, known for balanced, considered and calm views. Their very conservative government meteorological institute recently published a fact sheet on climate change as observed in this icy, Northern outpost. Some points made in this the Ballad of The Lemming:

  • Northern temperatures are up about 1 degree Celsius. Rainfall, due to severe thunder storms, is up 7%. Ocean levels rose due to glacial run-off and higher temperatures, causing flooding.
  • Climatic and growth zones move North at a rate of 10 km per year. Existing, The Tale of The Swedish Lemmingstationary forests are threatened as their eco systems move north.
  • Some alpine areas have lost 15 meters, or 45 feet, of its snow and ice pack. Alpine tree-limits rose from 700 meter above sea level to 1,200 meters.
  • The density of harmful insects is increasing. New species of butterflies arrive.
  • Nordic lemmings (see picture) are going extinct because their natural tundra habitat is thawing. The declines in lemmings cause a decline in the fox and owl population.

I choose this example, the Ballad of The Lemming, because it is neither unique nor all that dramatic. Similar climatic and ecological events happen in Chile, the Sahara, Maine, Bolivia, Tibet, China, Indonesia, Alaska, the Urals or just about anywhere including the Arctic and Greenland. Add the events happening in the oceans, alpine mountain tops, tundra, glaciers, ice sheets, ice packs and coral reefs and the true picture slowly emerges.

The lemmings’ microcosm is real, measured and documented. These events are not causing the extinction of Swedes today. Nor is the rest of the world seriously threatened by the demise of the lemmings. Some of us may not truly care what happens to lemmings. It’s really just another rat. But multiply this simple example by a factor of thousands and you might get concerned. You should be.


About the Essay and Its Eight Parts

I split the essay into eight posts because of its size. Click here for more details on each post.

  • The first post examines the basic reasons why we ended up in this dreadful mess.
  • The second post covers the political and UN scene.
  • The third post deals with rising temperatures.
  • The “Sauerkraut” post dives into Europe and its mysteries.
  • The present fourth post bares secrets about the forecasting business.
  • The fifth post explains the problematic contribution of rising populations.
  • The sixth post discloses public and not so public opinions on Global Warming
  • The seventh post looks at the very real effects of Global Warming already present.
  • The eighth post views possible outcomes – cure or disaster?

Additional posts cover special subjects, comments and news. The “Sauerkraut” post looks at Europe and its peculiar history of early tribes, wars and more wars, deceit, Fuehrers, Generalissimos, Emperors, Kings and Queens, imperialism, strange food, democracy, greed ending as the world’s largest market and how all of that more or less relates to Global Warming.


Table of Contents

An elaborate link and TOC (Table of Content) system helps you get around the mass of material in this essay of eight main posts. Use it to find what is of your most immediate interest. Just above, there is a TOC button that lets you enter the navigation system. Enjoy.

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Odes, Ballads, Songs and Arias

This essay contains real life mini stories. They describe usually small, even insignificant, effects of Global Warming. The aim is to make you consider reality, survival, pain and your own future. I cite simple stories about how some of us (humans, animals, plants, oceans and everything else) are already in, or cause, deep trouble. Here are links to the various little puzzle pieces:


Images in this essay

The photos in this post are devoted to the oceans, being a crucial part of the Global Warming Beached Fishing Vessel by the seaprocess. Watch the many nuances of oceans, fishing, wildlife and pollution. I’ll have a lot more to say about the seas, rising, falling, their streams and mind boggling energy contents, ice, ecology, krill, cod, whales, bottoms, reefs, salinity, temperatures, acidity, photosynthetic and thermohaline processes, evaporation and perhaps most crucial – its storage reservoirs for carbon dioxide gases.

I produced most of the factual graphs from my own databases, combining data from many sources. All photos in this post are from external sources.

This blog, its design, text content (except quotes from others) and my own images and graphs are copyright © Leading Design, Inc 2006-2007. All Rights Reserved. I make absolutely no claims on images or quotes originating in other sources.


Odes and Ballads – The Carol to Failures

Throughout history, bad and failed forecasts abound. This Carol sings the story of many such cases, most real and some pure fantasy. Enjoy the flops, ignorance, BS and plain incompetence. Marvel at the level of foolishness. Laugh at the dim views. Then try to laugh about Storm by the oceantoday’s incredibly ridiculous views. The trouble, of course, lies in knowing just which view is laughable and which is the true gospel. You’ll never be safe or sure.

The carol comes in three verses, the first two deal with old failures to grasp the basics. The third verse pokes a bit of fun at events today. The thing is – can you really tell what might be and what might not? Here’s the Carol to Failures:

Verse 1 – Statements by those that should have known better:

  • “Fooling around with alternating current, AC as we know it, is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever. It’s too dangerous. Direct current is better.”; “The phonograph has no commercial value at all.” Thomas Edison
  • X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” Lord Kelvin, 1883; “Man will not fly for 50 years.” Wilbur Wright, 1901; “The Titanic is practically unsinkable” Engineers, 1912. “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” H.M. Warner, 1927.
  • “It is significant that despite the claims of air enthusiasts, no battleship has yet been sunk by bombs.” From a US Navy pamphlet dated November 28th 1941, eight days before the bomb attack on Pearl Harbor sunk eight battleships.
  • “Among the really difficult problems of the world, [the Arab-Israeli conflict is] one of the simplest and most manageable.” UK Newspaper 1948
  • “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” Albert Einstein; “The atomic bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert on explosives.” Admiral William Leahy.
  • “[Man will never reach the moon] regardless of all future scientific advances.” NYT 1957; “Space travel is utter bilge.” UK Astronomer 1956; “Space travel is bunk.” UK Astronomer 1957.
  • “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” DEC 1977 (now bankrupt); “640K ought to be enough for anybody.”; “We will never make a 32 bit operating system.” Bill Gates (not bankrupt).

Verse 2 – More formal and quite embarrassing forecast flops:

  • 590, 992, 1424, 1700, 1882, 1911, 1914, 1925, 1928, 1936, 1952, 1953, 1967, 1981, 1982, 1991, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006: the all time favorite forecast -The End of the World is near; 1552, 1844, 1992 and many more – The Return of Christ is near. Both forecasts are frequently quoted on the US Senate floor by Highly Religious Senators.
  • 1798 forecast by Thomas Malthus – Great Britain and the world face immediate and deadly starvation; 1865 forecast by Stanley Jevons – British coal will run out within a few years; 1914, 1939, 1951 forecasts by US Government Agencies – Oil reserves will be depleted within ten years. Not true.
  • 1919 Albert Porta – The Sun is about to explode. 1950s – Nuclear War is imminent; 1960s saw Summers of Love, a New Left, a Sexual Revolution, Social Activism, Counter-Cultures, LSD and much more, all of which were to last, none of which did. Sadly.
  • 1968 – The Population Bomb by Paul Erlich – “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate…” So far no sign of this dreadful event. Not counting Africa, of course.
  • The 1960s and 1970s – The Ice Age is coming (this is not really a flop – unusually decisive government action changed the outcome). The 1972 forecasts by the Club of Rome – All kinds of raw materials from gold to oil will run out within decades. Details follow below.
  • 1987 – Raveendra Batra published “The Great Depression of 1990”; 1988 – he published advice how to deal with said depression, followed in 1998 by “Stock Market Crashes of 1998/99”, in 1999 by “Crash of the Millennium” and in 2004 “Greenspan’s Fraud”. I suppose the dot com bust might be what he meant by the 1998/9 Stock Market Crashes. The rest of the stuff is pure bunk.
  • 1993 and 1994 – the U.S. Treasury Department’s staff rejected the notion of the Euro as “fantasy”; The late 1990s – At midnight December 31 1999, all computers face meltdown due to that little year mistake. Sorry, no go.

Verse 3 – My personal forecasts of current affairs, based on absurd fantasies, nightmares, lies, insults, a few jokes and serious mental issues:

  • Skeptics finally and convincingly prove the liberal inspired Global Warming is a hoax – it’s only a few sun spots and Martian cosmic rays; it’s a poor loser named Al Gore; it’s treasonous, falsified, biased data and/or outrageous, politicized lies and it’s corrupt, greedy, anti-Christ scientists loving the spot lights and fat grants.
  • Common Conservative Sense prevails as does creationism and school prayer. The ultimate demise of Democrats dooms gay deviants, abortionist monsters, misguided abortionees, Social Security freeloaders, obstructionist generals, whiny veterans, minimum wage losers, rabid Jews, shameless lawyers, Arab nihilists, homeless duds, clueless actors, shifty gypsies, Cuban weekend warriors, anarchist atheists, NYT journalists, hateful Islams, deadbeat immigrants, Hillary Clinton, Ralph Nader and yours truly blogger.
  • Weirdoes are out, neo cons are in. Indian casinos, surveillance, racial profiling, torture and border fences are popular as are lobbyists, under the table money, Halliburton, reborn Enron and Good Ol’ Religion. James Inhofe takes over EPA. Oprah Winfrey runs for President with Dr. Phil as VP and David Letterman as Campaign Manager but loses badly to the Jerry Springer/Tom Cruise/Bob Dole team.
  • George W. Bush approval ratings skyrocket, opening the East Coast, Washington DC, the Alaska Wildlife Refuge and Hope, Arkansas for oil drilling and pipelines. Other initiatives include whale hunting and secret detention of suspect Americans such as jaywalkers, San Francisco residents and Catholics. Dick Cheney wins the Nobel Peace Price, shoots the last whooping crane, Bill Frist and Tom DeLay while narrowly missing Barney the Scottish Terrier. Chief Justice Donald Rumsfeld approves ethnic cleansing of Bronx, New York, by a new mean and lean FBI.
  • Bill Clinton is arrested for groping three undercover policemen, Ann Coulter, Donald Trump, Ruth Ginsburg and Britney Spears. DNA proves he is not the father of Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern, nor Daniel Wayne Smith – “It was only a cigar and I did not inhale”, Bill promised. Hillary Clinton stands by her man, announcing her safe-bet VP candidate of choice, the late Strom Thurmond.
  • Paris Hilton heads the Christian Coalition of America. Michael Jackson is elected Democrat Senator from Idaho. Bill O’Reilly, President of UC Berkeley, rejects lame, teary pleas for a job from disgraced, homeless Stephen Colbert. Rush Limbaugh is the CBS Medical Expert on ED, anchoring the “Living A Swinger’s Life” segment. Larry King announces he is the loving father of Dannielynn Hope Marshall King. Rudi Giuliani announces he is the excusive North American licensee of the British “Peerage for Cash” program. “Just bring the cash”, he said, abandoning Presidential plans.
  • The 2007 hurricane season wipes out Cuban Miami, Guantanamo, most of Mexico and Havana due to the outlawed Global Warming. “Praise the Lord”, announces President Bush, sending Michael Brown, DHS Over-Secretary, to level the mess. Brown, believing Miami is in Alberta, Canada, charters a plane and departs for Frankfurt, Germany.
  • Secretary of Defense Ann Coulter wins the Iraqi war, establishes fascism and sends the troops back for R&R before the next mission. Iraq’s cache of WMDs is surrendered to Greenpeace for use against Japanese whalers. Peace and fascism spreads across the entire Mideast in spite of defeatist slants from Barack Obama, Jay Leno, Martha Stewart, Geraldo, Nancy Pelosi, Liza Minnelli and Pat Buchanan. Michael Brown levels Iran in a case of mistaken identity, heads for Moscow-Miami International.
  • Terrorists are those refusing to stand tall beside George W. Bush for decent photo ops. Terrorists are all the same – bad, bad people with unruly beards to be tortured for invaluable info on Osama bin Laden’s shoe size, toothpaste and boiled mutton recipes, then deported to the CIA affiliate Bulgarian Freedom Subcontractors and Executioners (NASDAQ BFSE) to maintain our collective, well surveilled security. Michael Brown is last seen departing for Tokyo-Miami International after accidentally levelling Moscow. “Praise the Lord”, Mr. Bush exclaimed, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”.

Don’t get me wrong. Many forecasts actually come out right. The eruptions of Mount St. Helens and Mount Pinatubo were correctly forecasted, saving many lives. 9/11 was forecasted but no one listened. The Iraq war disasterHurricane ashore on the ocean beach was forecasted but Bush ignored the evidence. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was accurately forecast but the audience was asleep.

Salmon run forecasts in Alaska are pretty accurate. I can forecast my age going out several years. Greenspan’s 1996 stock market outlook “Irrational Exuberance” turned out correctly while mine did not. But my forecast that Phoenix is hotter than Anchorage turned out OK.


Forecasting disasters

Global warming is not the only disaster scenario in town as you might gather from the Carol above. Shipwreck on an ocean beachI’ll look at two popular Armageddon views – the Club of Rome and a recent, overly pessimistic Fisheries study. I’ll discuss why these two forecasts failed. Why is Global Warming a real threat when these and other “Cry Wolf” scenarios were dead wrong? How do you judge what is what?

In the next post, I’ll discuss population growth, a thoroughly researched subject. My goal is to interpret its impact and possible future issues. It is a good example of how a potential disaster is dealt with in real life. That serves as the background to several important Global Warming issues.

Let me explain the basic philosophy of my “On Reality” series of essays. Nothing is real. We have Harbor Fire and Pollution Disastervery little knowledge of “Reality”. Our Reality is based on distortions. We can’t distinguish between distortions and Reality. That point of view is a major theme in this essay. To place your bet on survival based on unreal distortions does not seem to be a good idea. But if so, what is a good way?

By the way, why are we typically caught with our pants down when a catastrophe actually happens? Witness our lack of preparedness when hurricanes Hugo, Andrew and Katrina hit. Or check out the one hitting Galveston in 1900. Consider the lack of accurate disaster weather forecasts:

“With their understanding of the forces that act on tropical cyclones, and a wealth of data from earth-orbiting satellites and other sensors, scientists have increased the accuracy of track forecasts over recent decades.

High-speed computers and sophisticated simulation software allow forecasters to produce computer models that forecast tropical cyclone tracks based on the future position and strength of high- and low-pressure systems.

But while track forecasts have become more accurate than 20 years ago, scientists say they are less skillful at predicting the intensity of tropical cyclones. They attribute the lack of improvement in intensity forecasting to the complexity of tropical systems and an incomplete understanding of factors that affect their development.”

“The improved accuracy” may be true but don’t bother pointing that out to the citizens of New Orleans and surrounding areas. Consider Rumsfeld’s forecasts of post-invasion events in Iraq. They were not accurate as a few thousand dead Americans can attest. Is the lack of a forecast better or worse than failing to act on a one that happens to be correct? What do you do to a forecaster who misses the mark at the expense of thousands or millions of lives?


Real is Good

Evidence of Global Warming is already in place and well documented – the reduction of Greenland ice packs. The opening of the Northwest Passage due to melting ice. The disastrous effects of the Another shipwreck by the ocean shoreIndonesian, Amazon and other deforestation. The emission of methane on a massive, but “natural” manner from warming Siberian lakes. The huge emissions caused by heating and cooling buildings. The transportation industry’s supply of high margin gas guzzlers and, yes, SUVs rather than efficient transportation. Temperatures edging upwards. The weather growing violent. We see droughts and famines, then storms and flooding.

Those effects are not dim, complex and vague forecasts – they are facts. That is why I believe Global Warming is real. Most established reports – IPCC 2007 and the Stern Report rely on and emphasize forecasting models. I believe that emphasis distracts from the message. Stick with observable facts.

  • Realize that most forecasting is a futile act – there is no way to predict unexpected future events. The unexpected are the events that will shape the world, not those that happened in the past. The only time forecasting stands a chance is when such unexpected events by luck simply do not happen or cancel out. Such luck is very rare.
  • A small example from the world of business: Tell me one non-involved person who forecasted the demise of Enron and WorldCom. There were plenty of smart people forecasting the opposite of what happened. In fact, forecasting the fall of either in, say, 1998 would have been viewed as pure irresponsible speculation (except by Kenny Lay, Bernie Ebbers and fraud pals).
  • Another example: The US Federal Reserve sets interest rates based on its opinion of future growth, inflation and other black box fantasies. Everyone relies on that rate, from the stock market to home owners to foreign powers. Since the Feds revise their view several times a year and the factors they deal with usually change much slower, the Feds tend to be right quite often simply by “staying the course”. When the economy does the unexpected, the Feds will generally not recognize that in time but continue their “stay the course plan” too long. The Feds will exaggerate the ill effects of the unexpected change in the economy. They are a lagging indicator of the economy, not the leading indicator they should be.
  • Forecasting is merely a tool: This post is about our inability to see into the future. Any view of the future is extraordinary limited and potentially dangerous. We routinely draw the wrong conclusions and make the wrong decisions about future events. We live in an uncertain world where almost everything is distorted. While there are a few good forecasts, there are simply way too many bad ones.

The most powerful super computers on Earth predict weather patterns. They, for instance, analyze hurricanes and predict tSunken shipwreck off an ocean beachheir track. Ask New Orleans citizens of their view of the accuracy of these super computers. Nor are they very good at issuing timely warnings for tornadoes or any type of extreme weather. In these cases, we look at a time frame ranging from minutes to a few days. Why would you expect these computers saying something meaningful a year out? Do you trust these machines to give good answers 20 or 40 years out?

No one likes uncertainty, least of all politicians and investors. Every one loves a forecast that provides the “right” answer. Yet limiting our beliefs to such forecasts is like relying on tea leaves or a pair of crutches. Concentrate on what actually is happening even if it is in a remote location far from you.


Secrets and Witchcraft

Ocean going tanker in troubleI’ve had the fortune to spend fifteen years as a technical forecasting guru. I created quite complex forecasting systems and used them to produce believable (if I was lucky) results to clients such as the UN, EEC, FAO, OECD, the World Bank and many other very big organizations. I forecasted everything from product life cycles, supply/demand of commodities, business cycles, housing prices, currency rates to industry ROI. Later on, I spent some 10 years as an economist for a major corporation.

After twenty five years in the business, I know where the forecasting skeletons are buried. I went away skeptical of many forecasting techniques and disgusted with the often sensationalistic and self promoting attitude of some forecasting and economist practitioners.

The downfall of forecasting is its reliance on historical data to provide a pattern. The forecaster extrapolates this pattern into the future, believing nothing will change except, possibly, changes to the pattern that the forecaster subjectively inserts. The mathematical system may be quite sophisticated, taking into account time series, cross sectional data, price elasticity, multivariate factors, spectral analysis, statistical and economic theories, measures, distributions, Groundhog Day, recent Elvis sightings and much else. The result is a huge, complex black box that is incomprehensible to most humans, including the scientists themselves.

f(x;\mu,\sigma) = \frac{1}{x \sigma \sqrt{2 \pi}} e^{-(\ln x - \mu)^2/2\sigma^2}

\mathrm{E}(X) = e^{\mu + \sigma^2/2}

\mathrm{var}(X) = (e^{\sigma^2} - 1) e^{2\mu + \sigma^2}\,

\mu = \ln(\mathrm{E}(X))-\frac{1}{2}\ln\left(1+\frac{\mathrm{var}(X)}{\mathrm{E}(X)^2}\right)

\sigma^2 = \ln\left(1+\frac{\mathrm{var}(X)}{\mathrm{E}(X)^2}\right)

Above is the math representation of a life cycle curve, known as a lognormal distribution. It was a favorite of mine for cross sectional analysis. It’s still used frequently.

I’m showing the graphs to emphasize the black box syndrome of the forecasting business. For all its little mysterious variables and odd Greek characters, below are some samples of the different forecasts you can get given the wonder of science shown above. Just look at the spread of the curves and pretend they are forecasts of world temperature. Pretty wild, huh? Makes any sense? Of course it does not. This complex mass ofLog Normal Distribution Forecast Samples math and theory is quite a powerful tool – better than many others. But few of us understand that power and even fewer can use it effectively. The graphs are obtained from here.

The sophisticated systems of today may explain history in an astonishing detail but not necessarily in the right manner. Even assuming the researcher got the historical patters right, why does anyone believe that these patterns will hold true in the future?

Here are a few examples where historical trends were useless in forecasting the future:

  • In the first years of the 1900s, no one had successfully flown a heavier that air airplane. Thus the forecast said 1) man would never fly or 2) if in fact man did fly, then there would never be commercial air traffic. In the 1950s, no man had reached into space, therefore it would never happen. “Manned space flights are bunk”. There are scores of similar examples where because no one succeeded in the past, it would never happen. Ever. Wrong.
  • 1960s forecasts of a new ice age did not consider that the sharp rise in SO2 pollution could be reversed as in fact it was. Early forecasts claimed that Global Warming would never happen since it never happened in the past. Just because something didn’t happen is no guarantee it will not happen eventually.
  • I’ll never get fired because I never was fired in my life. I’m sad today, therefore I’ll never be happy. I’ll never suffer from cancer because I’ve never had cancer. I’ll never die because I never died in the past. Ladies and Gentlemen, place your bets – true or false?
  • WWI was the war to end all wars. More troops in Vietnam would win the war. In 2003, Bush forecasted the Iraqi mission was accomplished with the capture of Baghdad. He stated Iraq would be the Mideast stronghold of democracy and a base for spreading the gospel to the rest of the area. None of this nonsense turned out accurate.
  • Forecasts say mankind will run out of this or that vital resource: oil, coal, food, Barbie dolls, space, umbrellas, Mini Coopers, pot, Internet IP addresses or fish sticks (frozen, breaded). Temporary conditions generally do not last long. I believe the Minis are still in tight supply but the other items are easily available.
  • The 1990s forecasts of Microsoft stock doubling endlessly. The wildly overstated 1990s forecasts of fiber optic network demand. The 1990s forecasts of CompuServe’s ever rising customer base. A similar forecast from AOL based on the distribution of millions of CDs to unsuspecting households. The 2000s forecasts believed that Google stock will 1) fizzle or 2) rise forever. The 2000s forecast housing prices will increase forever is already proven false as are the other outlooks in this paragraph.
  • The 1950s forecast that manufacturing costs would be low in Japan forever. The 1990s forecasts claimed that labor costs in Mexico, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore would remain low. The 2000s forecasts stated that manufacturing and service costs would stay attractive in Malaysia, Vietnam, China and India. None of these forecasts survived the test of time. Africa is the next exploitation target. That’s the last outpost.
  • The 1950s and 1960s CIA assessed the superior economic and military strength in the USSR required the US to counter by spending more on “defense” – actually offensive – capabilities. The longstanding belief was that the Soviets sought to expand its dominance world wide – the domino theory requiring massive US counter measures. In reality, the USSR never expanded beyond Eastern Europe and was soon to go bankrupt.

The common feature in above examples is that some actual or perceived historical fact, trend or event somehow will govern the future. Occasionally, that is a valid assumption: we know the sun will rise in the east and settle in the west every day. We can forecast the position of stars and planets Dying ocean sealrelative to earth with great precision. It’s easy to forecast when we turn 50. In general, except for a few such cases, assuming the past will prevail forever is a very bad foundation for decisions.

Any forecasting system can provide absolutely wild and totally unbelievable results. I produced a lot of systems that happily went off the map in believability and common sense. You quietly dump these systems and hope no one will notice. These rouge systems may explain historical patterns very well. There is plenty of theory explaining why this happens. Analysis of real life is very difficult. The earlier “lognormal” graph is a simple illustration of how you can get results that are so extreme that they are completely useless.Dying heron on an ocean shore

In real life, some fool starts a war in Iraq, throwing every oil price forecast out the door. Or it snows in Boston, destroying all flight forecasts in a jiffy. This in turn makes confetti out of stock price forecasts. Then interest rates rise or decline, freaking out the banks and pushes another Silicon Valley biotech company over the edge; just because it snowed in Boston. But and flourished because what else can you do when it snows?

You’d be amazed to know how many controversial and perhaps newsworthy forecasts are based on a Forest Gump approach. They are not sophisticated or advanced. They are based on trivial “Statistics 101” level analysis. I’ll show famous examples below.

No one can accurately forecast future patterns, however smart the forecaster or his/her toys are. But some forecasts are better than others. Here are two examples, telling the tale of the furious battle of scientists (you and me):

You: You are given a grant to forecast meteor hits on Earth and their impact. You quickly analyze the precise effect of a 1 mile diameter meteor hitting the Aleutian Chain in Alaska on May 3, 2008 at noon, local time. Results: the globe will be real cloudy and cold for a long time, the Bering Sea fish stock evaporates, half of mankind dies and no one worries about Global Warming. Next, a historical pattern tells you meteors hit once every 10,000 years The last hit was 9,998 1/2 years ago. So you say May 3, 2008 will be a real bad day after consulting your PDA calendar. The world’s Mass Media report the sensational news. Every one runs for the hills. Of course today you have no idea if the meteor even exists. But history tells us… ah well, I hope you got the point.

Me: I am to forecast what will happen to a forest lot that was recently clear cut. Here is my forecast: on May 3 or 4, 2008, there will be no timber harvest from that lot. Why? First, it’s a Saturday or Sunday (remember the date line) plus many parts of Earth will be dark at noon Dutch Harbor time. Next, I forecast that there will be no mature timber on the lot, hence no harvest. I also boldly forecast there will be no meteor hit that day because I want what’s left of your grant money.

You: The meteor forecast may be detailed and accurate as to the impact of a hit. The problem is you relied on that 10,000 year historical pattern. The probability of that holding true for that day and location is microscopic and pure speculation. You are promoted to Dutch Harbor’s postal office effective May 5, 2008. I win the grant.

Me: The sneaky forecast of no meteor hit is likely right on. My harvest forecast uses the historical pattern saying it takes about 80 years to grow trees. That is well researched and based on biological facts. I’m pretty safe about the week end, no work deal. Lastly, I’m OK if there are earthquakes, insurgent attacks, tsunamis or forest fires on the lot. My no harvest, no meteor forecast for May 3/4, 2008 is a pretty sure winner.

Serious practitioners are quite aware of high and low probability forecasts. If faced with low Otter dying from oil spill by the oceanprobabilities, produce “what if” scenarios. Put all high probability forecasts on page one, whether relevant or not. That provides a range of perhaps relevant answers but no special way to determine the real outcome. Forecasting models are also of value when looking at the consequences of doing nothing – the obvious, simple answer: no change means more of the same but it can really impress the audience if “the same” is quantified in some convoluted manner. Often, the safest forecast is saying something will NOT happen as is evident in the example above. “In our forecast, no tsunami will hit Chicago tomorrow”. Gee, promote that guy, he is right again.

Here are examples of low probability forecasts, meaning they probably won’t be correct:

  • Timing of meteor hits, tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.
  • Spotting Elvis, the Loch Ness monster, James Traficant or Michael Jackson next Tuesday.
  • The stock market and commodity futures one month out. Weekend movie ticket sales.
  • Timing of turns in economic cycles. Housing market peaks or bottoms. The price of oil.
  • The roulette table hitting 6 three times in a row (anytime soon) in your favor.
  • Fish catches two years out. Agricultural yields six months out. Kentucky Derby winners.
  • GHG concentrations returning to the levels of 1900 in 6 months. Gas prices in Vermont.
  • Glaciers back to 1950’s levels in a year. Swedish lemmings prospering.

Here are some higher probability forecasts, meaning a pretty good chance of hitting the mark:

  • Forest land harvest one year out (assuming no forest fires and similar catastrophes).
  • No meteor hits, UFOs, volcanic eruptions or earthquakes at your place tomorrow.
  • Your loss in one day’s Las Vegas gambling exceeding what you can afford.
  • One’s income next week (assuming no meteors). One’s rent/mortgage bill next month.
  • Tomorrow’s weather being the same as today. Rain today means rain tomorrow.
  • Average world temperatures 5 years out and its impact on many ecological changes.
  • GHG levels 5 years out and its impact on temperatures and ocean acidification.
  • The US, China and India will not curb CO2 emissions within the next two years.

How do you judge the accuracy of forecast model? If you are a scientist and forecaster you examine the methodology, if available, and you consider probabilities. Sometimes you deep-six the other guy’s model because he is a competitor or, possibly, because Mr. George W. Bush told you so. If you are a real person with no expertise, you exercise skepticism till a sufficient number of real experts will put aside their vicious infighting (“where the stakes are low”, as some say) and tell the truth.

With all this negativity – why don’t I reject the Global Warming outlook as I do with so much else? It really boils down to four factors.

  • First, much of the data does not rely on forecasts but on readily observed actual events. The rise in temperatures and increases in green gases ARE occurring NOW.
  • Second, these events are widespread, consistent, univocal, readily observed and measured. Few deny the universal importance of global warming except George W. Bush, his friends, employees and lobbyists and a few neo con bloggers.
  • Third, there is a unique case of general agreement among experts. In doubtful cases, there will be differing opinions and lots of infighting. Most scientists are in a rare state of agreement in the case of Global Warming.
  • The fourth factor is that the scientific community has strong enough arguments to actually generate some world wide political attention. That attention resulted in the Kyoto Protocol, its annual boondoggle conference and a few, at times, meaningful national and industry programs, such as in the EU. Unfortunately, universal attention does not equal universal political action.

I’ll draw on three examples of real life forecasting: first, the disaster scenarios of the Club of Rome in the 1970s and 1980s. Second, I’ll examine recent forecasts that there will be no edible fish by 2048. Third, I’ll cover population growth and related alarmist outlooks (next post).


The Club of Rome

How many of you know about, or remember, the Club of Rome? Probably that is not too many, these days. The Club was formed in 1968. In 1972 it published a book that sold 35 million copies. The Oil spill on the ocean beachbook caused both the rise and fall of the Club. The Club still exists although it’s hard to understand why. For a time in the 1970s and perhaps the 1980s, they were really quite influential. Today they are not, to the best of my knowledge.

Their book is called “Limits to Growth”. It dealt with perceived limits to raw materials throughout the world. They stated that gold would run out by 1983. Petroleum (oil) would run out around the mid 1990s. Since it was published in 1972, the oil crisis starting in 1973 seemed to confirm their thesis. Even I have a copy of the book somewhere. It really had a broad cult following of millions.

The trouble, of course, is that their forecasted disasters never happened. That will destroy credibility quite fast. And it did to most of the world. Who are these guys anyway? They are labeled a global “think tank of innovation and initiative” to this day. Their motto:

“As a non-profit, non governmental organization, it brings together scientists, economists, businessmen, international high civil servants and heads of state and former heads of state from all five continents who are convinced that the future of humankind is not determined once and for all and that each human being can contribute to the improvement of our societies.”

They do have a current membership which seems to fit their motto to some degree. For instance, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Mikhail Gorbachev are members as are a number of ex-Presidents and big shot Academia. To this day, they do seem to deal with a variety of issues and operate on a world wide basis. Critics say it is an elitist, old boy European power group with very murky motives, whatever that means.

Club of Rome Gold Reserves

Let’s return to their 1970s glory days of “Limits to Growth” (sponsored by Xerox by the way). They used a model called World3 to run a series of analyses to examine what they called static and exponential indices of supply and demand of key raw materials in light of very rapid growth in populations. The index is simply the ratio of supply (existing reserves) to annual consumption.

They forecasted this ratio based on two assumptions: The static index assumed that demand is constant. The exponential index let demand (but not supply) increase by some growth rate. The result would be the number of years of remaining supply.

Club of Rome Oil Reserves

The alert reader will realize that the exponential index will result in a quicker catastrophe (running out of raw materials) than the static index. The two graphics next to this text illustrates their forecasts of gold and oil (petroleum) supply, as seen in 1972. You can see gold running out by the early 1980s. Oil would run out by the late 1990s. They were wrong by, probably, a few hundred years as we know today.

This model is quite naive. It’s below Statistics 101. It’s a classic example of bad analysis somehow gaining a foothold in the minds of ignorant people (including me for a while). The analysis and results mean absolutely nothing. Not too surprising, it was a total failure. Incidentally, it took me about five minutes to reproduce their “World3” forecasting system in Excel. It took a bit longer to produce the two graphs above (I’m no Excel guru) to show how their model works.

The “Limits to Growth” of 1972 led to 1992’s “Beyond the Limits” and various updates in 1993 and 2004. You might wonder what they had to say after their so incredibly silly first try. Here is a sample (source here):

“Society has gone into overshoot … a state of being beyond limits without knowing it. These limits are more like speed limits than barriers at the end of the road: the rate at which renewable resources can renew themselves, the rate at which we can change from nonrenewable resources to renewable ones, and the rate at which nature can recycle our pollution.

… We are overshooting such crucial resources as food and water while overwhelming nature with pollutants such as those causing global warming.”

‘Beyond the Limits’ recognizes that the future doesn’t lie in tinkering with resource use or simply squelching population growth in developing countries. A sustainable future will require profound social and psychological readjustments in the developed and developing world.”

Current crop yields can only sustain the world’s population at subsistence levels … while nonrenewable energy resources and fresh water supplies are dwindling, and greenhouse gases and other pollutants increase.

But while the prognosis is disaster within decades if nothing is done, there are encouraging signs.

Technology offers greater efficiency in energy consumption and pollution control, international response to the ozone crisis has been relatively swift, and recycling efforts are gaining headway.

[However] … the conditions underlying limit overshoots-population growth and resource depletion in a finite world, for example–remain un addressed in the corridors of power.”

I’m not clear on what they are saying above except I’m surprised by their statement about Global Warming which has to be a very early reference (1992). Have they learnt? Perhaps they have, perhaps not. Perhaps it is the strange English. There is no way to tell unless you read their books. I’m not sure I have the time. Frankly I don’t care. This is too much like shooting fish in a barrel.


Forecasting Traps and Mistakes – Take 1

Here are a few items ignored by the Club (and, by the way, a lot of other bad analysis):

  • The forecast doesn’t account for productivity and technology – one kilo of raw material lasting longer or growing faster. One kilo of computer is infinitely more powerful than 20 years ago. A given car part is much lighter than before. The DVD won over the video tape and the CD. CDs killed cassettes. Cassettes killed LP’s.
  • The forecast doesn’t consider finding more recoverable resources – such as new findings or better extraction of, say, gold, oil or coal. Additional resources are found daily through very sophisticated means. Consider solar power panels – unheard of just a few decenniums ago.
  • The forecast ignores that scarce resource demanding a higher price leading to diminished demand – the oil crisis of 1973 lead to explosive growth in the use of wind power. Wind power can theoretically supply all of Earth’s electricity needs. High gas prices recently dampened the demand for SUV’s.
  • The forecast fails to account for preservation acts – today’s gas mileage is far better than in 1973. Most appliances use less energy. Food items stay fresh longer. There is an abundance of legalities aimed at preservation from a household level to big industry.
  • The forecast doesn’t allow for substitutions for the scarce materials. Wind power, again, is a good example. So is the use of somewhat controversial hybrid or electrical cars. The possible substitutions of gas fuel by ethanol, natural gas, butane, propane, diesel, hydrogen fuel cells and improved lithium batteries.
  • The forecast bypasses the influence of political means to protect, regulate and promote resources through subsidies, tariffs, threats, intimidation and any other means. Take textile, steel, farming, tobacco, sugar and lumber as just a few examples.
  • The forecast is completely out of whack with the historical data: Historical data is not always relevant if there is an explainable break in trends. However, be very suspicious if no history is shown or no explanation is given why there is a break. What do these guys want to hide? Easy: the history doesn’t support their insane forecasts. Perhaps they never explained or looked at history, just making up some numbers.

Simple historical trends and patterns NEVER last. They ALWAYS change. Any forecast that assumes static relationships is sure to fail. Unfortunately, there really are no reliable ways to forecast how these historical relationships will change. That did not bother the Club of Rome – they simply ignored history, changing trends and made up the numbers.


No more Fish

I like fish. It tastes great if done the right way and it is mostly good for you although various toxins and bacteria are alarming in some fish catches. As a kid I went fishing with spectacular failures. Once upon a time I ran a fish wholesale business, doing just as badly as in my fishing endeavors. I even went to College learning about fish and the preservation of quality (keep’m cold, don’t step on’m).

So when I see headlines stating no more fish beyond 2048, I’m alarmed. Never Fishing in the Bering Sea, Alaskamind if I live that long I probably won’t care. Still it sure sounds bad indeed. The headlines were due to a quite recent study by the University of Stockholm, published in Science Magazine and funded by the National Science Foundation.

A personal comment: I will mention trends, techniques and events in this section that I personally am not all that happy about, such as fish farms and genetically manipulated fish. I will set aside my own concerns to provide an unbiased and balanced (?) perspective.

The study deals with what the authors call “collapses of stocks”. First a fact: about 140,000 species go extinct every year, some part of which is fish. Second, according to the study, a third of fish species have “collapsed” since 1950. In 1950, six commercial species went critical. By 2003, 2,200 species had collapsed according to the study. A species is collapsed when the harvest falls below 10% of historical levels.

Below is one of my reasons for suspicion. The graph shows US fish and shellfish consumption per capita from 1910 to 2004. It looks like consumption was pretty flat from 1910 till the late 1960s. Then, up till the RECORD year of 2004, consumption INCREASED steadily by about 60%. Further, the data is on a per capita basis. The US population increased by 300% between 1910 and 2004. That means that gross US consumption of fish increased by a whooping 360% over the 94 years with no sign of letting off.

US Fish Consumption 1910-2004

Where are the signs of “collapsing species”, starting in 1950? There is sure no sign thereof in the US. Perhaps some species have suffered but substitution more than made up for that. Data source: US National Marine and Fisheries Service.

World Fish Catch 1998-2004

The next question in my mind was that perhaps the US is uniquely lucky in this regard. So I tool a quick look at the rest of the world. Indeed, the picture in Europe is a bit different. Based on data from 1990 through 2003, it looks like European fisheries hit a peak in 1995 and has fallen quite dramatically since. That may not be too surprising since their primary catch – North Atlantic cod – has indeed collapsed. A closer look at the data reveals that the decline (and the 1995 peak) was shared almost totally by two countries: Denmark and Spain. Major fishing nations such as Norway and the UK seem to be unaffected. Neither do UN figures for the world as a whole seem alarming as shown in the graph above.

Obviously, there is something I’m missing. Or is it? Here are the authors somewhat feeble conclusion:

Human-dominated marine ecosystems are experiencing accelerating loss of populations and species, with largely unknown consequences. We analyzed local experiments, long-term regional time series, and global fisheries data to test how bio diversity loss affects marine ecosystem services across temporal and spatial scales.

Overall, rates of resource collapse increased and recovery potential, stability, and water quality decreased exponentially with declining diversity. Restoration of bio diversity, in contrast, increased productivity fourfold and decreased variability by 21%, on average.

We conclude that marine bio diversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean’s capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations. Yet available data suggest that at this point, these trends are still reversible.

The study mentions possible Dead fish washed up on ocean beachsolutions or, at least, hopeful factors, such as marine conservation. That sounds innocent enough, but the world newspapers draw different conclusions using the sensational parts of the report.

The study forecasts that commercial fish species would all have collapsed by 2048. The world press quickly picked up on this and the news flew around the world in no time. A few accounts, first some of the pro arguments:

  • Unless we fundamentally change the way we manage all the ocean species together as working ecosystems, then this century is the last century of wild seafood… It looks grim, and the projections into the future are even grimmer
  • The impacts of species loss go beyond declines in seafood, the authors said, noting that human health risks also emerge as depleted coastal ecosystems become vulnerable to invasive species, disease outbreaks and noxious algal blooms.
  • …. Declining species diversity could have profound impacts, creating more unstable marine ecosystems that are quicker to crash and slower to recover. For humans, the decline in diversity was tied to declining seafood harvests, water pollution and a stagnation of maritime economies. And as more species collapsed, they concluded, the overall ecosystems may unravel at a faster rate.
  • The research team analyzed 32 controlled experiments, observational studies from 48 marine protected areas and global catch data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s database of all fish and invertebrates worldwide from 1950 to 2003. The scientists also looked at a 1,000-year time series for 12 coastal regions, drawing on data from archives, fishery records, sediment cores and archeological sources.
  • …. Pressing question for managers is whether losses can be reversed, the authors said. If species have not been pushed too far down, recovery can be fast, they found, adding that there is also a point of no return where recovery is unlikely, as in the case of the northern Atlantic cod.
  • Examination of protected areas worldwide showed that restoration of bio diversity greatly increased productivity and made ecosystems 21 percent less susceptible to environmental and human-caused fluctuations on average—an indication that ocean ecosystems have a strong capacity to rebound.

All of the above SOUNDS reasonable with responsible reporting and all. Obviously the study is quite detailed and possibly well thought through, based on the above. Still, why does none of this show up in readily available and authority based data? Next, some of the critique:

  • Global fishing trends point to a collapse of most wild seafood harvests by mid century… “It’s just mind-boggling stupid,” said…. For example, most of the harvests in the North Pacific off Alaska… are not in sharp decline… (Seattle Times)
  • (Paul R.) Erlich wrote that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in the future (more to come). Of course the future was 1985. This [study] is similar nonsense.
  • ….. Does not share the researchers’ alarm. Fish stocks naturally fluctuate in population….. Developing new technologies that capture target species more efficiently and result in less impact on other species or the environment…….. Industry does not adversely affect surrounding ecosystems or damage native species.

So some disagree. That’s to be expected. Yet, I don’t really see the answer. Llet’s look closer. Here is the simple graph from the study that destroys a fair bit of its credibility:

Naive Fishery Foreccast

Sorry about the blurriness – no, it isn’t your eyes after too much reading! Look closely at the graph. Here is another classic example of exaggerating a few facts (history) to create a sensational result. And yes, they did gain the attention of most major newspapers and magazines around the globe. The trouble is that the conclusion reached in the graph is dead wrong. Fish and seal victims of by catch fishing

Consider this. First, do you see the similarity to the Club of Rome nonsense? In both cases there is a trend line (forecast) that dramatically heads down to hit a rueful zero (or in this case “100% collapse”) What I said about the errors of Club of Rome applies just as much here. Do not blindly extrapolate your favorite trend.

Second, they – as opposed to the Club of Rome – provided a bit of historical data which to an untrained eye may validate the results. A trained eye immediately picks up on a glaring error in the analysis – notice that the historical data points are all BELOW the trend line in the 1980s and ABOVE the trend line in the 2000s. That statistical phenomenon is called auto correlation and invalidates the collapsing trend line right there.

Again, how come their historical data bear no resemblance to the historical data I picked up from the UN and the US government? It certainly raises some integrity questions. Can’t they even get their easily verified history right?

Let me play with the graph above a bit:

Woldwise Seafood Catches - Alternative Forecasts

As you can see, I extended the time scale by a hundred years or so. Then I penciled in (so to speak) a straight line that fits the historical data far better than does the original downwards curved trend Mixed ocean fish catchline (the one the authors insanely labeled “Projected trend” to the joy of mass media). The new, much more technically plausible “Do Nothing” forecast delays Armageddon till 2122 – by 74 years.

But even the more optimistic, linear “Do Nothing” trend is no better than the Club of Rome’s static index foolishness. It ignores any break in historical patterns. The chance of that happening is zero. It disregards all kinds of scientific wisdom.

So I made my own assumptions. I speculated that some positive change will occur. It might be effective Fishery Management, which can work well and is in place today in many part of the world. Bad by catch from ocean trawlingIt might be fish farms that have spread, successfully, like wild fire for many years. It might be genetically managed fish on a huge scale. Or it could be an improvement in the astonishingly low productivity in the fishery industry in general. Perhaps such measures will turn the curve up. Why not, it happened with some species of whales.

The hypothetical result is a curve that returns to previous heights. Perhaps not very likely considering disasters such as North Atlantic cod but still just as plausible as any of the study’s unsubstantiated calls. Take Maine lobster, left for dead a few years ago. They were over fished, near extinction and no doubt “collapsed”. Today Maine fishermen enjoy record catches with no sign of depletion or “collapse”. That’s what Fisheries Management is all about. Plus some luck.

But I’m still troubled. The optimistic assumptions that I made are plucked right out of thin air. I ignore far too many other possible outcomes. For instance, how will global warming affect the fish ecology? The oceans are warming up. Acidity and salinity change faster than in a very long time. Will that kill fish or the other way Bristol Bay, Alaska Crabbingaround? What about the mercury poisoning of many fish species and other pollution impacts? What about the possibly disastrous side effects of fish farms? Farmed fish can severely threaten wild stocks. What about biotechnology – good or bad? How will pollution affect the ecology of the oceans? Anyone claiming to understand these issues a liar. No one has all the answers.

The fact is fish stocks may easily nosedive. The pessimistic study forecast may prove to be right for the wrong reasons. The same is true of any view of the future. Things may easily go to hell. We live in a world very vulnerable to mankind’s manipulations. We need no forecasting systems to tell us that. Just look around you.


Forecasting Traps and Mistakes – Take 2

Take 2 adds the lessons learnt in the Fisheries example plus some other general observations, many of which I’ll discuss in later posts in this series. This is the final list of do and don’t items. Put it on your wall.

  • The forecast doesn’t account for productivity and technology – one kilo of raw material lasting longer or growing faster. One kilo of computer is infinitely more powerful than 20 years ago. A given car part is much lighter than before. The DVD won over the video tape and the CD. CDs killed cassettes. Cassettes killed LP’s. Farmed fish grows faster than wild fish. Farmed trees grow faster than old growth. Genetically managed fish, trees and food drastically change the supply curve. General labor and capital productivity in food production, such as farm land optimization, feed stock growth and disease control, in particular in less developed areas, can hugely increase food production.
  • The forecast doesn’t consider finding more recoverable and/or renewable resources – such as new findings or better extraction of, say, oil or coal. Additional resources are found daily through very sophisticated means. Consider solar power panels – unheard of just a few decenniums ago. Fishermen are remarkably adept at finding new species to catch as their traditional markets or supplies decline. Continued energy shifts such as towards wind, solar, recycling, farming (including food, fuel, trees and energy), hydro or even nuclear energy is not only possible but highly likely.
  • The forecast ignores that scarce resource demanding a higher price leading to diminished demand – the oil crisis of 1973 lead to explosive growth in the use of wind power. Wind power can theoretically supply all of Earth’s electricity needs. High gas prices dampened the demand for SUV’s. Historically, high priced fish has been substituted for lower priced, often new species – when is the last time you chose wild King salmon over farmed salmon in the supermarket?
  • The forecast fails to account for preservation acts – today’s gas mileage is far better than in 1973. Most appliances use far less energy. Food items stay fresh longer. There is an abundance of legalities aimed at preservation from a household level to big industry. Alaskan king crab went through a major boom-bust cycle some twenty five years ago – preservation has led to a solid recovery of the species to the point of being a threat to other species. Energy conservation and supply from a macro national level to micro household actions will be effective.
  • The forecast doesn’t allow for substitutions for the scarce materials. Wind power, again, is a good example. So is the use of somewhat controversial hybrid or electrical cars. The possible substitutions of gas such as ethanol, natural gas, butane, propane, diesel, hydrogen fuel cells and improved lithium batteries. Farmed fish substitute for low stocks in some areas and possibly globally – cod and salmon in the North Atlantic, wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest, various other species in Chile and elsewhere.
  • The forecast bypasses the influence of political means of protecting, regulating and promoting resources through subsidies, tariffs, threats, intimidation and any other means. Take textile, steel, farming, tobacco, sugar and lumber as just a few examples. Fishery Management in the US, New Zealand and elsewhere are examples as is the moratorium on deep-sea trawling.
  • The forecast ignores that historical patterns generally cannot be extrapolated into the future for all the reasons above.
  • The forecast does take into account major shifts in demographics, immigration, regional labor imbalances, all of which can lead to explosive social problems.
  • The forecast does not address economics: growth, stock markets, currency rates, budget deficits, employment, capital formation, productivity and entitlement programs. Balancing supply and demand across countries: free trade, free labor movement, free capital flows, international cooperation politically and financially.
  • The forecast ignores ecology issues: the weather, pollution, ozone layer, El Nino, flood control, poison spills, farm land runoff, forest fires, and much else such as Global Warming and catastrophic events.
  • The forecast fails to account for human and livestock health issues: affordable drugs for less developed countries, new drugs and treatments such as cell stem innovations, crisis management: flues and viruses, control of Mad Cow and other animal diseases are crucial items that need resolution.

Dying duck by ocean oil spillOur ABC of forecasting the future in a comprehensive manner is getting quite long. Of course, not all of these items are required in all forecast projects. You probably can ignore Mad Cow disease when determining the need for day care centers in lower Manhattan. The ozone layer may have little to do with balancing supply and demand for crayons. But as you dive deeper into the game of forecasting, you will be surprised at the complexity of seemingly simple issues.


Next and Previous

Here is a summary of the eight posts in the essay. Navigation links are located just below the summary.

GlobalWarming:1 discusses why Global Warming happened, who and what causes it, ending up with a list of villains. It did not go into the consequences of Global Warming. There was no discussion of impacts on the oceans, the Arctic, Greenland, El Nino, ecosystems, the weather, tundra and ice packs. The Kyoto Protocol or the Stern reports or other Global Warming topics were not covered. That is yet to come.Crabs killed by pollution piled up on ocean shore

GlobalWarming:2 covers two main subjects. The UN provides a real mixed bag of positive and negative influences on the fight against Global Warming. The positive is that they try, have some credibility and many resources. The negative is that they fail. The current versions of the Kyoto Protocol and its associated reports do not reduce emissions. The CER system causes more harm than good. Solutions exist but are not acted on. Industrial strategies and national policies do little to reduce Global Warming – in fact, the opposite is often true in spite of rhetorical lip service.

Global Warming:3 examines the basic root cause of our problem: rising temperatures. Is the increase real and does it matter? Is it natural or caused by man? Are the temperatures unusual compared to history? Do GHGs actually cause the increase? What can past temperature variations tell us about what we face today? Can you even trust the basic data and analysis of temperatures? The post answers those and other questions in exuberant detail.Dying penguins by the Antarctica Sea

The current GlobalWarming:4 notes that Global Warming is not the first disaster forecast ever done, published and hyped. There were many in the past and as a rule they failed. The disaster in question simply did not happen because extending some historical trend into the future does not work – trends change. So the question is – why is this particular doom and gloom outlook right? What is different this time? As you will see, plenty is different.

GlobalWarming:5 reviews the role and issues of population growth. This is a vital issue for future emissions as shown in GlobalWarming:1. Historically over the past 250 years, the explosive growth in populations explains two thirds of the increase in GHG emissions. The rise in personal carbon use must be reversed as must other issues related to unbalanced growth in populations.

GlobalWarming:6 summarizes some important and a few not so important opinions on Global Warming. Global Warming is a battle ground, galvanizing the left against the right, neo conservatists against liberals, the sane against those not quite sane, the religious right against evangelists, politicians against constituents, reactionaries against activists, bloggers against bloggers, late show hosts against ratings, journalists against circulations, spokespersons against skeptics and, not least, scientists against scientists. This post contains a small sample of the rare truth, accusations, biases, Fish killed by ocean pollutionopinions and propaganda thrown left and right, up and down.

GlobalWarming:7 is perhaps the meat of this series. It gets into the details of what is happening right now in the some 25 different real life areas. The true impacts of Global Warming range from ocean bottoms to mountain tops, from oil fields to highways, from tundra to tropics and from farm fields to smoke stacks. These items are not forecasts, assumptions or opinions but verifiable hard facts. The picture is indicative of your, and my, future. The earthly signs get worse by the day.

GlobalWarming:8 paints three scenarios (not forecasts) of what might happen in the future. There are pessimistic, optimistic and middle of the road pictures. The three scenarios use simple, common sense assumptions, very different from the elaborate, multi million $ systems enjoyed by the UN, the Stern Report, EPA and others. The big systems rely on myriads of assumptions as input, many of which aren’t really known and/or subject to lots of complexity. I favor the KISS approach.Bird dying from ocean oil spill

I’m by no means competing with the “big” studies or the smart people putting them together. I used to be a forecasting guru working for the UN, the World Bank, FAO, OECD, the EU and many Fortune 500 companies. I guess I have a right to an opinion. No one is required to consider my views.

I am completely nonaffiliated. No political party enjoys (or wants) my support. I have no axe to grind. I receive no monetary compensations, grants or sponsorships. There are no PayPal buttons on these pages. I have no obligations to fulfill. Office politics do not thrive around here. I promote no agendas except my own – the survival of us all. Occasionally, I put up some of the photos from my portfolios and my photo business.

GlobalWarming:5-8 will follow together with other commentaries and follow ups. Hang in there. The links below help you navigate this monster essay. It’s all quite important to your health.

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10 Responses to “Global Warming 4: Disastrous Disaster Forecasts”

  1. […] post by Leading Design Photography and Multimedia and software by Elliott Back Share and Enjoy:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where […]

  2. Jenny said

    Kudos – now more than ever, it’s important that we are all informed on this crucial issue. Many people don’t know details (I didn’t until recently) of how the underwater world will be impacted. I ran across this clip from ScienCentral, thought I would send it your way…

  3. Karl said

    Thanks, Jenny. That’s a good clip. The oceans are such a crucial part of life on earth. Not every one realizes how much we depend on them. Nor do most understand how much of a power keg they are. The energy content of the ocean currents exceed any conceivable alternative, including all out nuclear war or a hit by a major meteorite.

    And here we are, doing our best to upset the balances and checks upon which the oceans depend. Scary.

    Incidentally, acidification of the oceans will reduce your annual intake of crab – they won’t be able to shell themselves for survival as the oceans get more acid, eating away on the calcium shell of the crab and many other species – shrimp, krill and lots more. Then, traditional fishing grounds will move away – – no more fish and chips.

    I do wish people realized how much life depends on oceans.

    Thanks, Jenny for sharing that video.


  4. ball said

    Ididnt even saying so. Better than how my father did. Yes, ball gag stories rolling and.

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