Home > Environment > The end of the “hiatus”

The end of the “hiatus”

June 8th, 2015

Graham Lloyd in the Oz (not going to link) is pretty upset about the latest research showing that there is no significant difference between the rate of global warming over the 15 years since 2000 and that over the 50 years 1950 to 2000. The finding is the result of some corrections to data on sea surface temperatures, with the result that the estimated temperature at the beginning of the period is higher (so warming since 1950 is lower) and the fact that the period since 2014 has been the warmest on record.

Lloyd and others have popularized the term “hiatus” to refer to the slowdown which could at least plausibly be found in the data prior to this update and correction. Climate denialists capitalized on the ambiguity in this term to keep alive their beloved, but long discredited, “no warming since 1998, no significant warming since 1995” talking point.

For those interested, there’s a good analysis at Real Climate.

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  1. zoot
    June 8th, 2015 at 15:54 | #1

    I await with interest Andrew Bolt’s refutation of this outrageous distortion. (No I don’t)
    The link is borked. Should be http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2015/06/noaa-temperature-record-updates-and-the-hiatus/#more-18571

  2. John Quiggin
    June 8th, 2015 at 16:44 | #2

    @zoot

    Fixed now thanks!

  3. Tim Macknay
    June 8th, 2015 at 16:54 | #3

    The London School of Economics has released research suggesting that Chinese GHG emissions are likely to peak by 2025, making it increasingly likely that the world can avoid 2 degrees warming.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/08/chinese-greenhouse-gas-emissions-may-peak-by-2025-says-study

  4. hc
    June 8th, 2015 at 17:27 | #4

    My fear is that this gossip about whether climate trend data is accurate or not will feed denialist propaganda. The truth is that temperature has moved in ramp like fashion for decades and we don’t that much about why. If the recent increase has or has not been monotonic does not affect the basic climate story. It is an extension of the argument that the cold start to winter on the east coast disproves global heating.

  5. hc
    June 8th, 2015 at 17:31 | #5

    When I look at the RealClimate link you cite it makes the same point I did – probably more clearly:

    “The ‘selling point’ of the paper is that with the updates to data and corrections, the trend over the recent decade or so is now significantly positive. This is true, but in many ways irrelevant. This is because there are two very distinct questions that are jumbled together in many discussions of the ‘hiatus’: the first is whether there is any evidence of a change in the long-term underlying trend, and the second is how to attribute short-term variations. – See more at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2015/06/noaa-temperature-record-updates-and-the-hiatus/#more-18571

  6. June 8th, 2015 at 19:10 | #6

    Pr Q said:

    Lloyd and others have popularized the term “hiatus” to refer to the slowdown which could at least plausibly be found in the data prior to this update and correction. Climate denialists capitalized on the ambiguity in this term to keep alive their beloved, but long discredited, “no warming since 1998, no significant warming since 1995” talking point.

    I don’t see much point in flogging the dead climate change-denier horse. Its long since bolted. And even if it was chased down you wouldn’t get much for the hide at the tannery.

    What is more interesting is to track how much closer the earth’s climate is heading towards irreversible tipping points, beyond which the thermal momentum for run-away global warming would be impossible to constrain.

    Nearly three years ago (based on Lenton’s canonical paper) I detailed six fundamental climate system thresholds which, when crossed, would make futile any further attempts at mitigation:

    – Greenland ice sheet (GIS)
    – West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS)
    – Sahel and West African Monsoon: (WAM)
    – Indian summer monsoon: (ISM)
    – Atlantic meridional overturning circulation: (AMOC)
    – El Niño–Southern Oscillation: (ENSO)

    At the time I repeated that I was “cautiously pessimistic” about the prospects of pulling up short of the tipping point. In the past two years the news has gone from bad to worse.

    The Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) is suffering a stronger alebdo effect owing to greater quantities of settling dust on larger surface melt:

    Greenland is warmer than it has been in more than 100,000 years and climate disrupting feedback loops have begun. Since 2000, ice loss has increased over 600 percent, and liquid water now exists inside the ice sheet year-round, no longer refreezing during winter.

    …Every year that passes sees Greenland ice getting darker and darker, as more and more dust accumulates on the surface, and more and more energy is captured, melting more and more ice.

    We are now heading towards a very powerful El Nino (ENSO) that appears to be forcing a step-change in global climate:

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a 60 percent chance that the El Niño it declared in March will continue all year. An El Niño is a weather pattern “characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.”

    some climatologists believe that we may be witnessing the start of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures — a jump that could be as much as as 0.5°F. It already appears likely that March will be hot enough to set yet another global record for the hottest 12 months on record (April 2014 through March 2015) and a global record for hottest start to a year (January through March) ever.

    The Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) has been delayed by a massive heat wave and will be “deficient”:

    In a bad news for the country in general and the agriculture sector in particular, Monsoon rains this year will be “ deficient”, the government announced on Tuesday.

    Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan informed that the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has revised its rainfall forecast from 93 to 88 percent, i.e. from “below normal” to “deficient”. This means India will be experiencing two consecutive years of “deficient” rains as 2014 too had turned out be a drought year.

    The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is in the process of speeded up collapse:

    A vast slab of Antarctic ice that was previously stable may have started to collapse, according to new analysis of satellite data.

    Research published in the journal Science on Thursday found the Southern Antarctic Peninsula (SAP) ice sheet is losing ice into the ocean at a rate of 56 gigatons each year – about 8,500 times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza. This adds around 0.16mm per year to the global sea level.

    “It hasn’t been going up, it hasn’t been going down – until 2009. Then it just seemed to pass some kind of critical threshold and went over a cliff and it’s been losing mass at a pretty much constant, rather large, rate,” said Bamber.

    The Atlantic thermohaline circulation (AMOC) is also looking a bit tired and threadbare:

    evidence is mounting that the long-feared circulation decline is already well underway. …Our recent study (Rahmstorf et al. 2015) attributes [anomalous North Atlantic cold water] to a weakening of the Gulf Stream, which is apparently unique in the last thousand years. It happens to be just that area for which climate models predict a cooling when the Gulf Stream System weakens…

    That this might happen as a result of global warming is discussed in the scientific community since the 1980s – since Wally Broecker’s classical Nature article “Unpleasant surprises in the greenhouse?”

    I don’t have any up to date news on the West African Monsoon (WAM). Things seem to be pretty stable there.

    But as a special bonus I can announce that due to drought and fires the Amazon rainforest is now losing its ability to act as a natural carbon sink:

    The Amazon rainforest is losing its ability to absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as trees are dying, which could have negative implication on climate change across the globe…For the first time in history, carbon dioxide absorption by the Amazon rainforest has been surpassed by fossil fuel emissions in Latin America, the study found. Historically, the rainforest absorbed about 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.A study led by the University of Leeds revealed that tree growth in the Amazon rainforest has declined by one-third since the 1980s and that the net uptake of carbon dioxide in the rainforest has dropped by half.

    And finally the long-awaited threat of melting Arctic permafrost releasing masses of greenhouse-forcing methane clathrate gas now appears to have become manifest with giant sink-holes opening up in the Siberian permafrost:

    weird things are starting to happen. Last summer, giant mysterious craters discovered by reindeer herders in a remote section of northern Siberia captured the world’s attention. Upon closer inspection, it was obvious these craters formed recently with some explosive force behind them.According to measurements made by Russian scientists, methane concentration at the bottom of one of the holes was thousands of times higher than in the regular atmosphere. A more thorough recent expedition identified “dozens” of new holes, all of which apparently formed in the last year or two.

    The Siberian holes draw into question the near-term stability of Arctic permafrost, which traps enough carbon, if fully unleashed, to double atmospheric concentrations and potentially push global warming into a frightening new phase. Scientists are quite certain it will take at least a century for that to happen in a worst-case scenario, but it’s clear that the release has already begun.

    Based on this evidence I would be inclined to go shorter on the global climate. Expect real estate values in cooler damper climates, such as Tasmania and Canada, to increase. Although I would be happy to be proven wrong on this point.

  7. Ikonoclast
    June 8th, 2015 at 19:41 | #7

    @Jack Strocchi

    It’s rare that I can agree with you but I do agree on this one. The issues you discuss are very concerning.

    You can add changes in the Polar Vortices to your list.

    “The general assumption is that reduced snow cover and sea ice reflect less sunlight and therefore evaporation and transpiration increases, which in turn alters the pressure and temperature gradient of the polar vortex, causing it to weaken or collapse. This becomes apparent when the jet stream amplitude increases (meanders) over the northern hemisphere, causing Rossby waves to propagate farther to the south or north, which in turn transports warmer air to the north pole and polar air into lower latitudes. The jet stream amplitude increases with a weaker polar vortex, hence increases the chance for weather systems to become blocked. A recent blocking event emerged when a high-pressure over Greenland steered Hurricane Sandy into the northern Mid-Atlantic states.” – Wikipedia.

    More recently, in the last few years, this weather system “meandering” and “blocking” has resulted in more extreme and longer West Coast droughts and East Coast blizzards in the USA (and parts of Canada).

    The climate appears to be changing rapidly in all sorts of ways. The benign Holocene climate is being disrupted. It’s not just a matter of things being a little bit warmer. All sorts of disruptions are occurring, especially to rain events, snow packs and rivers on which humans depend for much of their fresh water.

    Emphasise this a bit and you get called alarmist. Play it down a bit and you can get called complacent. What is the correct approach I wonder? Personally. I think we should go full speed ahead on de-carbonising our energy system completely in the next 25 years.

  8. June 8th, 2015 at 20:29 | #8

    The hiatus could not be “plausibly” found in the data before this study, it was a propaganda technique based on misuse of statistics and a monster El Niño. Don’t give these fools credit for propaganda.

  9. totaram
    June 8th, 2015 at 20:37 | #9

    @Faustusnotes
    Quite correct. +100.

  10. Ken Fabian
    June 8th, 2015 at 20:41 | #10

    … six fundamental climate system thresholds which, when crossed, would make futile any further attempts at mitigation:

    I have to strongly disagree; failure at mitigation, even after some of these dangerous thresholds are passed, can still make things much worse. In a politcal environment where seeking cause to abandon mitigation before ever truly committing to it is a main goal of mainstream players, too hard, too late and pointless are unwelcome excuses.

  11. Donald Oats
    June 8th, 2015 at 20:45 | #11

    Tamino has annihilated any argument of a pause, or a hiatus, in global warming, using statistics. He has repeatedly demonstrated that even with the slight adjustments and corrections to the data, or without the adjustments to be more to the point, there is and was no hiatus. More accurately, the hypothesis of no slowdown in the rate of global warming is not rejected (at your favourite significance level, say 95%). Tamino has done this even as Graham Lloyd has spouted the hiatus, the pause, the slowdown, as the reality. Of course, Tamino is just one of many publishing scientists who have demonstrated this…and been ignored by the inveterate journal of tyrants, our own national chip-wrapper (or bum-wrap, depending upon demeanour: however, due to its highly irritating nature, I don’t recommend this alternative).

    There are plenty of strong climate hints that we should be doing the de-carbonisation dance; I don’t think history will be kind to this current government on this particular issue, and nor should it be kind.

  12. June 8th, 2015 at 21:11 | #12

    i do not suggest that attempts at mitigation should cease. Simply that the odds are stacking up against mitigators, given that the problem may soon be out of human hands.

    But there is a large element of uncertainty in the slope of the “tipping point” gradient. It is likely shallow at the outset meaning that a determined enough effort could bring climate change to a halt.

    My sense is that we need to start building massive carbon sinks rather than relying on reducing carbon sources, such as industrial greenhouse gases.

    That will cost alot of money. And it may be too late. But even if the revolver has six rounds in the chamber its worth making a last ditch effort to take one round out.

  13. Chris O’Neill
    June 8th, 2015 at 21:14 | #13

    The finding is the result of some corrections to data on sea surface temperatures

    Actually, that finding was already true before those corrections.

    The rate (including confidence interval) of global warming since 2000 by the GISTemp version at Skeptical Science was 0.091±0.127?/decade and the mean rate of global warming from 1950 to 2000 was 0.105?/decade. Since the confidence interval 0.091±0.127?/decade contains 0.105?/decade, there was no significant difference between the rate of global warming since 2000 and the rate from 1950 to 2000.

  14. June 8th, 2015 at 22:23 | #14

    Agree with Chris O’Neill and Faustusnotes. There never was a statistically significant pause. I was always just, “Here, look at this chart! Its stopped, hasn’t it?”

    It was made worse by the huge 1998 spike in lower troposphere temperatures as measured by satellites. But the satellites aren’t measuring the same thing as the ground stations, and there seem to be ongoing problems turning their raw data into something meaningful.

    Anyway, the denialists have had a brief victory where they slowed the rate, not of the warming, but at which we are doing something about it. Jack Strocchi is moving on to the next phase of denialism, “Its too late to do anything about it now.”

  15. June 8th, 2015 at 23:05 | #15

    The “pause” was merely regression to the mean, and I think Lewandowsky was right to identify this phenomenon of seepage that has entered into recent scientific discussion of it. Disappointing.

  16. Brian
    June 9th, 2015 at 03:16 | #16

    @Jack Strocchi
    The larger methane clathrate release is from sea-floor deposits that have been seen fizzing on the surface in refrigerator sized chunks.

    However, the arctic releases appear to be explosive sometimes, and may proceed more quickly.

  17. I am and will always be Not Trampis
    June 9th, 2015 at 12:43 | #17

    I have shown Tamino demolished such pause claims before this paper.

    It is derp at work as Kruggers would say.

  18. Collin Street
    June 9th, 2015 at 13:39 | #18

    > “Its too late to do anything about it now.”

    We could kill him. Shedding the load he presents certainly can’t hurt: I think there’s enough climate-change deniers that killing them would make a significant impact.

  19. Tim Macknay
    June 9th, 2015 at 13:54 | #19

    @Collin Street
    Collin, some kinds of unpleasant thoughts are best left unexpressed, for the sake of civilised discourse.

  20. Collin Street
    June 9th, 2015 at 14:47 | #20

    You don’t tell that to Strocchi. There’s an assymetry here; he can say all the unpleasant things he likes.

  21. Collin Street
    June 9th, 2015 at 14:54 | #21

    We don’t have civilised discourse, is the point here.

  22. Tim Macknay
    June 9th, 2015 at 15:13 | #22

    @Collin Street
    Jack Strocchi may have a bad case of Dunning-Krugeritis, but last time I checked he wasn’t threatening to kill anybody. I don’t plan to continue this line of discussion further.

  23. Collin Street
    June 9th, 2015 at 15:40 | #23

    > but last time I checked he wasn’t threatening to kill anybody.

    “Let’s not mitigate climate change” doesn’t count because….?

  24. Peter T
    June 9th, 2015 at 17:21 | #24

    I more or less buy JQ’s argument that we can switch to green power generation fairly quickly at low cost. That said, that just takes us towards the cliff more slowly, when we need to throw the vehicle into reverse.

    I would be interested in any estimates of the costs (broadly defined) of removing CO2 from the atmosphere faster than all or even future processes are putting it in.

  25. Ken Fabian
    June 9th, 2015 at 17:24 | #25

    I don’t wish people I disagree agree with to be killed; minds changed is my preference. It’s a very bad precedent especially without being done according to law ( depending on whether there is a death sentence).

    But, for those who hold positions of trust and responsibility, who know the science is sound and the harms both serious and real, or choose to remain ignorant (criminal negligence?) but who deliberately lie and mislead in order obstruct and oppose efforts to act, and especially if doing so for gain, should be facing some kind of legal consequences. The gain could be simply the continuence of the socially embedded cheating that emissions without responsibility represent, or the popular votes with gullible constituencies that get them elected, or, of course, actual monetary gain.

  26. Tim Macknay
    June 9th, 2015 at 17:45 | #26

    @Collin Street

    “Let’s not mitigate climate change” doesn’t count because….?

    Collin, Jack didn’t even say that. It was someone else’s intepretation of what he said, which Jack subsequently clarified.

    It isn’t rocket science, Collin. Civilised people don’t threaten to kill people because they don’t like what the people said. It’s antisocial. That is all.

  27. June 9th, 2015 at 17:55 | #27

    Collin Street @ #18 June 9th, 2015 at 13:39

    We could kill him. Shedding the load he presents certainly can’t hurt: I think there’s enough climate-change deniers that killing them would make a significant impact.

    Thanks for the death threat, my first for the day. I’m glad that it doesnt violate Pr Q’s comments policy as I am a firm believer in free speech, even hate speech should be protected.

    However I am not sure that I am the right person you want to kill, at least today. My views on climate change are completely consistent with the best science of the day:

    1. Its happening,
    2. Humans are causing it.
    3. It may be too late for conventional (GHG emission) source curbing mitigation to avoid an AGW tipping point. We may have to turn to unconventional (GHG emission) sink creating mitigation to reel back from the brink.

    These statements are not controversial amongst climate scientists. The Tipping Point risk is one that I have taken from Tim Lenton, formerly from East Anglia, who is about the last person on earth one could describe as a climate change denier. Two and a half years ago I made a “cautiously pessimistic” prediction on the basis of his theory and, so far, the evidence coming in is consistent with a higher risk of tipping point, see #6 above.

    If you don’t believe me, perhaps this will convince you (hint, you have to read it before drawing your revolver):

    Jack Strocchi @ #12 June 8th, 2015 at 21:11

    i do not suggest that attempts at mitigation should cease. Simply that the odds are stacking up against mitigators, given that the problem may soon be out of human hands.

    But there is a large element of uncertainty in the slope of the “tipping point” gradient. It is likely shallow at the outset meaning that a determined enough effort could bring climate change to a halt. My sense is that we need to start building massive carbon sinks rather than relying on reducing carbon sources, such as industrial greenhouse gases.

    That will cost alot of money. And it may be too late. But even if the revolver has six rounds in the chamber its worth making a last ditch effort to take one round out.

    So, to summarise, I am not a “do nothing”, more like a “do something drastic, already”.

    Im not sure that these beliefs really warrant the death penalty. But perhaps you should ask questions first before you shoot yourself in the foot.

  28. June 9th, 2015 at 18:31 | #28

    I agree with Jack re: the challenges, though I’m less optimistic – I don’t think we’ll be able to get unconventional sink creation working. My position is simpler: we’re doomed. Or rather, our children and their children are.

  29. June 9th, 2015 at 19:37 | #29

    Tim Macknay @ #22 said:

    Jack Strocchi may have a bad case of Dunning-Krugeritis, but last time I checked he wasn’t threatening to kill anybody. I don’t plan to continue this line of discussion further.

    Hi Tim,

    Thankyou for reinforcing civilized norms of discourse, and maybe even saving my life. I don’t think there is much we can do about “Collin Street”. He seems to suffer from a bad case of the Dunning-Krugeritis that you supposedly diagnosed in me.

    Anyone who likes to flap their jaws on high-falutin concepts can be susceptible to Duning Kruger. The very smart author of this blog came a cropper with “the Last Liberal”. I made a fool of myself with Iraq War.

    My way of controlling this tendency is to make testable predictions and then compare them with empirical outcomes a few time periods down the track. (As in the case of Tipping Points) Further to our JAN 2014 debate on the prospects of AI, it looks like my optimistic prediction about the higher probability of human-level Artificial Intelligence (sometimes hyped as “Singularity”) within the next generation or so is looking like a more reasonable bet.

    In the intervening 18 months there has been a number of momentous developments in AI which seem to point to Kurzweil and away from Lanier as plausible prophets of technology. The success of Deep Mind in playing Atari games using AI neural networks is a major break through.

    The sci-tech community certainly now takes the prospect of strong AI seriously. This Future of Life open letter reads like a whos who of the AI/physics/genetics community. These authors seem to be taking Kurzweil seriously.

    By contrast, your JAN 2014 assertion of a low probability of strong AI is looking a little naive and threadbare:

    Contemporary AI applications are nothing like visions of the early AI thinkers, and their grandiose goals (and those of contemporaries such as Kurzweil) are as far away as ever.

    To err is human, to abjure empirical testing is (Duning-Kruger) stupid.

  30. Chris O’Neill
    June 9th, 2015 at 20:10 | #30

    @John Brookes

    But the satellites aren’t measuring the same thing as the ground stations

    Also, the satellite measurements just cannot be as accurate as the surface measurements because their trend has a much wider confidence interval. Just try a few examples at http://www.skepticalscience.com/trend.php

  31. John Quiggin
    June 9th, 2015 at 20:40 | #31

    Collin Street, please stop this

  32. Tim Macknay
    June 9th, 2015 at 23:44 | #32

    @Jack Strocchi
    That’s fair enough, Jack. It was pretty cheeky of me to describe you as suffering from ‘Dunning-Krugeritis’.

    You’re right that AI is making significant progress, and perhaps I was overly harsh on Kurzweil – although my beef with him was less about his predictions concerning IT, in which he is obviously an expert, and more about his thoughts on mind-uploading and immortality. If ‘strong AI’ does arrive on schedule, I remain skeptical that the option of disembodied immortality will follow shortly after. 😉
    But, being in agreement with you on the question of empirical testing, if the facts change I’ll change my mind.

  33. June 10th, 2015 at 09:14 | #33

    Peter T, we should be able to remove CO2 from the atmosphere agriculturally and sequester it for under $100 a tonne. Currently I can purchase agriculturally produced biomass that is denser than seawater and have it loaded onto a ship for about $110 per tonne of CO2 it has removed from the atmosphere. The cost of taking this material out to sea and dumping it in deep ocean water where it should be sequestered for thousands of years would be fairly trivial. Much less than transporting it to a foreign port. Since almost any plant material will do, I think the actual cost will come to under $100 per tonne of CO2 sequested. While this process could not plausibly sequester any where near the amount of CO2 that fossil fuel use currently emits, with a $100 a tonne carbon price to pay for the process, very little fossil fuels would be burned as other alternatives would be cheaper.

    I have not mentioned the type of biomass I can currently purchase at the price mentioned above because I find that at least one person will generally fail to understand that it does not have to be that particular material. Any biomass that will stay intact until it sinks into deep ocean waters will do.

    Additionally other methods such as producing biochar are likely to be cheaper, however the costs of producing biochar on a large scale are not currently clear, while putting agricultural material on ships and moving it over deep ocean waters is something we currently do on a large scale and so we can have a fairly good idea of how much it will cost.

  34. June 10th, 2015 at 09:37 | #34

    Tim, Kurzweil often simply makes stuff up, but he is right that downloading of personalities is not something that is particularly difficult. Have you ever read a novel and felt as though you really knew and understood a character in it? Well there is about a megabyte of data in a novel. Other people have gone on to outline human personalities on a 10 point scale, but realistically we might be looking at 50 or more bytes to accurately capture a human personality. It’s just emmulating a human brain so there’ll be something to run it on that is the hard part. But the good news is that once we do get a human brain emmulation up and running and get it loaded up with a reasonable amount of knowledge and 50+ bytes of personality, it will just confabulate whatever we’ve left out just like real human brains do.

  35. Tim Macknay
    June 10th, 2015 at 10:49 | #35

    @Ronald Brak
    Ronald, I can’t tell if you’re being serious, but I sincerely hope not. 😉

  36. Ikonoclast
    June 10th, 2015 at 11:18 | #36

    @Ronald Brak

    You have to be careful not to confuse a personality simulation with a personality. It is unclear in any case exactly what you mean by the term “personality”. I would suggest in this context that we need to take the term “personality” to mean all that makes a person, a PERSON. I mean in the sense that just as reality means “all that is real”, “person-ality” must mean all that is the person.

    A person is a complex biochemical-electrical system with body and brain or perhaps more accurately (as brain is body too) body and mind. Then the arguments must begin of course as to what “mind” is. Is mind limited to consciousness and so on?

    We are only humans holistically, as complex systems. Consciousness is the product of the holistic system. Another way of saying this is that without the hardware there is no software. Our entire consciousness, from self-reflective philosophizing down to awareness of somatic pain, is not simply the product of stored data. It arises out of the materially real complex of biochemical-electrical hardware and software of body-brain.

    If a person has feelings what form does this feeling data take? Is the “feeling data” or “consciousness data” extractable from the biochemical-electrical matrix (the nervous system) which somehow contains or generates it? Is an electrical field extractable or isolate-able from the phenomena which generate the electric field? I think not in each case. The best bet for a theory of consciousness is to consider consciousness as a kind of “field” generated by certain material biochemical-electrical constructs. For a start, inorganic computers will not be the way to go (IMO) to generate AC (Artificial Consciousness). We would have to develop organic computers to have any chance of doing this.

    The idea that uploading your mental or consciousness data (whatever that is) could re-create YOUR consciousness elsewhere would remain false even if A consciousness were so created elsewhere. YOUR consciousness is generated from YOUR biochemical-electrical hardware. A twinned consciousness would be created (if it were possible at all). You would have no awareness of its awareness. There is no path this way to individual conscious immortality.

    As a personal final note, I think individual conscious immortality would turn into hell in any case.

  37. Ikonoclast
    June 10th, 2015 at 11:21 | #37

    I got moderated in reply to Ronald so I will try again.

    You have to be careful not to confuse a personality simulation with a personality. It is unclear in any case exactly what you mean by the term “personality”. I would suggest in this context that we need to take the term “personality” to mean all that makes a person, a PERSON. I mean in the sense that just as reality means “all that is real”, “person-ality” must mean all that is the person.

    A person is a complex biochemical-electrical system with body and brain or perhaps more accurately (as brain is body too) body and mind. Then the arguments must begin of course as to what “mind” is. Is mind limited to consciousness and so on?

    We are only humans holistically, as complex systems. Consciousness is the product of the holistic system. Another way of saying this is that without the hardware there is no software. Our entire consciousness, from self-reflective philosophizing down to awareness of physical pain, is not simply the product of stored data. It arises out of the materially real complex of biochemical-electrical hardware and software of body-brain.

    If a person has feelings what form does this feeling data take? Is the “feeling data” or “consciousness data” extractable from the biochemical-electrical matrix (the nervous system) which somehow contains or generates it? Is an electrical field extractable or isolate-able from the phenomena which generate the electric field? I think not in each case. The best bet for a theory of consciousness is to consider consciousness as a kind of “field” generated by certain material biochemical-electrical constructs. For a start, inorganic computers will not be the way to go (IMO) to generate AC (Artificial Consciousness). We would have to develop organic computers to have any chance of doing this.

    The idea that uploading your mental or consciousness data (whatever that is) could re-create YOUR consciousness elsewhere would remain false even if A consciousness were so created elsewhere. YOUR consciousness is generated from YOUR biochemical-electrical hardware. A twinned consciousness would be created (if it were possible at all). You would have no awareness of its awareness. There is no path this way to individual conscious immortality.

  38. June 10th, 2015 at 11:36 | #38

    Tim – not entirely serious, but not entirely facetious either. It does rather hinge upon what one means by personality. But to me it does seem to be a rather over rated concept. Personally I feel certain that my personality is quite different from my brother’s (for one thing, mine is much sexier), but in practice it appears that people can’t actually tell us apart simply because of an approximate physical resemblence. (We don’t actually look that alike. I am much more handsome.) So if people can’t tell the difference between my brother and I on the basis of our personalities, they probably couldn’t tell the difference between me and my personality boiled down to 50 bytes of information and emulated by a computer. And the emulation wouldn’t be be aware of any difference because it wouldn’t know any better. If the emulation and I hung out, I’m sure we would agree that our personalities were very different, but I think that, like my brother and I, other people would think our personalities were interchangable. (But they would think that I was much better looking.) So for all practical purposes, 50 bytes of information would probably be enough to emulate personality. Sure, if the emulation didn’t have my knowledge and store of memories it wouldn’t feel the same emotional reaction to the supurb artistry of the great musician Meatloaf, but that is not necessarily personality.

  39. Ikonoclast
    June 10th, 2015 at 11:49 | #39

    @Ronald Brak

    Don’t you mean 50 megabytes not 50 bytes?

  40. Tim Macknay
    June 10th, 2015 at 11:53 | #40

    @Ronald Brak
    Glad to hear you’re not serious – I’d be worried if you were. As this topic is a derail, there’ll be nothing further form me on it.

  41. June 10th, 2015 at 12:08 | #41

    “..we might be looking at 50 or more bytes to accurately capture a human personality.”

    Peter Dutton gets by on 5.

  42. June 10th, 2015 at 12:41 | #42

    Ikonoclast, with 50 bytes one could assign 50 measures of personality values from 0 to 255. That seems plenty to me. I just wrote 50+ bytes to err on the side of caution. 10 should be enough.

  43. David Irving (no relation)
    June 10th, 2015 at 12:47 | #43

    @Steve from Brisbane
    I see your mistake – “human” and “personality.”

  44. Ikonoclast
    June 10th, 2015 at 13:35 | #44

    @Ronald Brak

    You’ve got to be kidding. You must be totally pulling my leg. Well done, you have me going there. LOL.

  45. Peter T
    June 10th, 2015 at 14:09 | #45

    Ronald,

    Well, at $100 a tonne, and even at removing 1Gt over say 20 years (after we decarbonise electricity generation), we are looking at $5 trillion a year. Every year, just to keep the system stable. Not an impossible amount given world gdp (around 75 tn), but not chicken feed either. Given that this is pure overhead, it would make gdp “growth” very nearly impossible. Not that this would be a bad thing. Just a very steep mountain to climb.

  46. Collin Street
    June 10th, 2015 at 16:21 | #46

    My understanding is that current scientific research suggests there’s only about five personality attributes that make a huge difference.

    [the usual stuff and] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits

    Five levels of each of them would be 3125, call it twelve bits. On top of that would be your experiences, I guess, in sort of the same way that smell enhances flavour.

    I don’t have three thousand friends so I wouldn’t know for sure.

    [why five levels? Because there’s no point having level-distinctions that are smaller than the noise in the sample.]

  47. June 10th, 2015 at 18:07 | #47

    Peter T, assuming a cost of $100 a tonne, $5 trillion a year would be enough to remove and sequester 50 gigatonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. That’s a lot more than what human activity currently emits into the atmosphere. And with a $100 carbon tax greenhouse gas emissions would be much lower than they are today. A carbon price at that level would eliminate fossil fuels from electricity generation and change land use practices. And it would greatly reduce and perhaps eliminate the use of fossil fuels for process heat and reduce emissions from cement production. Currently a $100 a tonne carbon tax is not enough to decarbonise transportation, but I am confident that improvements will continue to be made in the electrification of transportation and we will see large reductions in the use of fossil fuels there. So a decade after the introduction of a $100 a tonne carbon price I don’t think there would be a great deal of emissions left to sop up in order for civilisation to go carbon neutral. Now you may want to go further than that and assist natural carbon sinks in removing CO2 from the atmosphere to further decrease climate risk, but that’s not something I’m going to worry about at the moment. For now I’d be quite happy if people would just agree that we’re in a hole and need to stop digging.

  48. Peter T
    June 11th, 2015 at 12:41 | #48

    Ronald – you’re right. Arithmetic was never my strong suit!

  49. June 11th, 2015 at 19:07 | #49

    Even the most evangelistic advocates of biochar don’t see it being able to sustainably remove more than 5Gt, and that’s based on an incredibly unrealistic transformation of every aspect of land use and agriculture.

  50. Peter T
    June 11th, 2015 at 22:04 | #50

    Ronald

    Back of the envelope:

    Total human emissions are around 37Gt. Of that, around 15 Gt is coal. If we can rapidly eliminate coal as a power source, that leaves us having to offset around 25 Gt each year (replacing coal with natural gas reduces CO2 by half). Assume we can do a bit better, but not get to total CO2-free power generation for a bit). On your figures, that costs $2.5 tn. Around 3% of global GDP. If that’s pure overhead, there goes growth. I’d be happy with this, but it’s a hard sell.

  51. June 11th, 2015 at 23:55 | #51

    Faust, drawing down and sequestering 5 billion tonnes of atmospheric CO2 a year using biochar would probably require at least two Australias, so no one is likely to try that.

  52. June 11th, 2015 at 23:57 | #52

    Peter, with a $100 a tonne carbon price little or no natural gas would be used for electricity generation. That is clear from current costs of wind and solar generation. And their costs will continue to decline. And given the rapidly declining cost of electric cars it is clear that we can eliminate most oil use from transportation if we wish too, even though current electric cars on the market still command a premium over conventional vehicles. Now it is true that if all the various subsidies around the world that exist for electric cars were suddenly removed and replaced with just a $100 a tonne carbon tax, the electric car market would be in a pickle, but that’s not likely to happen and they will continue to come down in price. So with a $100 a tonne carbon price there’s not going to be a lot of CO2 emissions left to mop up, if the goal is to go carbon neutral. If the goal is to cut emissions by 80% which is sufficient for natural carbon sinks to start to draw down the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere, then obviously that is much easier to accomplish.

    And by the way, all else equal, if we suddenly devoted 3% of global GDP to building pyramids or something, after a period of adjustment wouldn’t that just reduce growth by 3%?

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