451 comments

Getting Rich with Science

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An angry man by the name of Jared stopped by the blog the other day and left this beauty of a comment on my old A/C article:

Oh, you anti-air conditioning freaks crack me up. Here in Alabama I keep my a/c unapologetically set between 68-71 all year around. […] I do not care about utility bills. Some mornings I have my house so cold my windows are dripping with dew. I love my air conditioner. You guys toughing it out make me laugh. Even on 62 degree days the western sun warms it enough to bump on the air conditioning. When I’m drinking I set it even lower. Who are you air conditioning Nazis– judging your neighbors for running the a/c’s? Enjoy sweating, I guess. It’s currently 69 degrees in my house. I have two spare window units in my garage that serve as emergency backups should the central systems fail for any reason. Have fun saving $50. Buy 3/4 of a tank of gas with it or something. Cry about the climate change lie our government wants you to be afraid of so they can control you.”

 

Now, my first inclination was probably the same as yours – a deep sigh as you pull on the 20 ounce XL bloxing gloves and prepare to Deliver some Education yet again. But if you set aside the facts and just look at the feeling behind these words, I’m right there with Jared. He and I are not so different after all. If I were to paraphrase a little:

Do you outsiders really think you can tell me what to do? Fuck that. I’m going to continue doing as I see fit, and now I’ll even make a show of it, just to prove that you don’t own me.

 

In fact, defiance and standing up for your own freedom while rejecting the influence of invaders is a natural human instinct. It has been pretty useful to us in the past, and it can still come in handy today if you use that rage for a good cause.

Unfortunately for our defiant friend, the substance of the argument doesn’t stand up quite as well as the emotion. And a good chunk of our society’s self-imposed hardships come from falling into the same basic trap: becoming so convinced that you are right, that you block yourself from ever learning anything.

Looking at this example specifically, we start with a guy rightfully seeking happiness. But in doing so, he seems to have snarled in the idea of comfort and convenience as being part of happiness.

He is wrong, and both old philosophy and modern science have shown it.

Voluntary discomfort and mastery of hardship are far more powerful life boosters than avoidance. Even Jared has probably noticed that kicking the ass of a daunting challenge is more satisfying than having all of life’s luxuries flow in through an IV needle and then back out through the catheter and the bedpan.

The key is in what challenges you choose to embrace: I suggest as many healthy ones as you can handle. Especially those dished out by Mother Nature herself.

Because if you stand up and face the challenges of maintaining a stronger and more flexible body and mind and developing skills and frugality muscles you will be far less likely to come up against the more unpleasant challenges of navigating the medical system or the psychological strain of long-term debt.

Then there’s the rest of those factual errors. Lowering your dependence on climate control and other electrical extravagances isn’t about saving 50 bucks. It’s more like $100 per month, which compounds rapidly into $17,300 every ten years.

And that 17 grand doesn’t have to go into your gas tank and out through the exhaust pipe. Instead, it could buy portions of businesses and thus become an army of employees that work for you for a lifetime. That’s a solid start at becoming a millionaire, which is something best done ten bucks at a time.

Then his argument goes on to reinforce my point perfectly with the generalization about climate change. Here our man has singlehandedly outfoxed the world’s scientific community and declared the last few decades of their research to be incorrect.

The incredible irony is that he confuses climate science with a government plot to control society, when it’s actually quite clearly documented that the opposite is true: climate change doubt is a strategic misinformation campaign designed to control voters to rally continued support for the fossil fuel industry. The doubt is most prevalent in countries where the industry has close ties to the political system and the campaign has been well-funded.

For the past 20 years or so, I have watched with wonder from the sidelines as this societal experiment raged, because I’m shocked that it actually worked so well. Why is our species so easily duped by such transparent (and centuries-old) methods of tomfoolery? How are the morally good air-conditioning lovers of Alabama converted into campaigners against science itself (and unwittingly against their own best economic interests)?

How has science become a political issue, with liberals and scientists being branded together as out-of-touch elites, and a certain 50% of Real Americans united in a mistrust of the whole field?

Let’s clear this all up right now and get one thing straight:

Science is your friend. It is the most useful thing humans have ever developed, and there is absolutely no downside to it.

Regardless of your religious or political views, understanding what Science is, and using everything it offers to your advantage is the fastest way to accelerate your path to leading a rich and fulfilling life.

Science is not about ideology, or trying to cover the truth, or trying to manipulate people. That is what politics are generally about, and Science is exactly the opposite of that.

Science is all about looking for evidence through experimentation, and forever questioning itself and refusing to simply repeat dogma. By refusing to cling to existing assumptions about what “The Truth” is, Science gets us forever incrementally closer to understanding what is really going on in our world.

In other words, Science is the method that we have developed to protect us from our own tendency to cling to incorrect assumptions forever.

Luckily for all of us, we don’t have to get into the bullshit national debates about the current political hot topics (which politicians are using to control you). Instead, you can apply the principles of science to improve your own life right now.

How to Get Rich through Scientific Living

1. Understand more about yourself as the Human Animal, so you can work around your own mental weaknesses.

At the core, you were “built” for exactly one reason: to produce as many healthy babies as possible. Every finger and toe, emotion and follicle of your being has been optimized for this purpose. If you have other goals, like deeper life satisfaction or getting out of debt, you need to learn to override some of your default programming. Learning about how we are all Predictably Irrational is the key to this.

The moment you think you are a perfectly rational being is the moment you stop being able to think critically (and the moment you become easy for others to manipulate). A study of your own species by learning some basic psychology and behavioral economics is the best bit of education you can get.

2. Understand the difference between correlation and causation, and the value of the double blind test.

When society falls for massive misinformation, it is often because of our tendency to latch on to simple patterns and fall into the herd mentality.

  • “I always win at Roulette when I wear my bright red shirt”
  • “these $59.00 Chi Energy Alignment Pills always make me have a better day”
  •  “Buying this more expensive wine will provide me with a happier life”

…are common blunders that could be avoided if we were all better at conducting semi-controlled experiments upon ourselves.

And fear of doing something differently from everyone else tends to lead us all into group mediocrity, even while stepping out and doing things in your own better way is much more likely to earn you attention, respect, and greater success.

3. Instead of fighting the gifts of Science, embrace them and use them to live a better life.

Climate change skeptics aren’t really uncomfortable with the science, they are uncomfortable with the implication that their fossil-fuel dependent lifestyle is immoral and endangered. This is an incurable condition that will lead to lifelong unhappiness, because the science is not going away.

Try as you might, you are not going to out-science the scientists by reading “skeptic” websites and repeating their memes. You’d need to practice in the field for many years to make even a small new discovery, and yet the “armchair” climate scientists are fond of grabbing each news story and squawking about how the deep ocean results prove this or disprove that.

Don’t waste your time. The real scientists will just keep collecting evidence until you’re the last one standing on the shore insisting the world is flat and those sailing ships are falling off of a giant waterfall at the edge of the horizon.

Instead, I prefer to learn more about the science by letting the specialists do their work for me while sit back and read the summaries as they come in.

I then have my own time free to decide what it all means to me, and how to best deal with reality. I too wish that the world wasn’t warming so quickly, but there’s a happier way to deal with it than angry denial.  I can choose to lead a happy and engaged life in my own community and consume a bit less stuff. More money, better health and closer friendships: No loss there.

Sometimes you may still choose to blatantly burn plenty of fossil fuels despite a full knowledge and acceptance of the results. I’ve been known to drive across the country, hop on a jet, or even eat a steak. But I get to do it with the understanding that it is a tradeoff, instead of hiding behind a plastic shield of wimpy denial.

The extra bonus is that understanding some of the workings of our environment has greatly reduced my craving for BMWs, which has saved me at least $250,000 so far. It also brings me great optimism – I think the world’s transition away from sloppy and expensive fossil fuels is the biggest business opportunity we have yet stumbled across. The progress and prosperity involved will keep the stock market and the economy booming for more than the rest of my lifetime.

Although I now have this blog to share my own ideas about better living, its effects are obviously very finite. But there’s no need to fret about what the rest of the world is doing, because that is outside of my circle of control. Worrying is 100% counterproductive, and it was psychological studies that helped figure out that very principle.

Science is bound to deliver news that is sometimes convenient (the news that sex is very good for your health, for example), and sometimes less so (that fossil fuels and alcohol are not).

But knowledge is power, and power means the opportunity to make the best of your own life, which includes dominating on the financial side of things, as well as just the ability to go to bed with a broad smile on your face each night.

Science is the way you get knowledge – nothing more, and nothing less. You’re free to fight it at your own peril, but I’ll be hanging out here in my own Life Laboratory keeping the grand experiment going as long as possible.

 

Further Reading: An earlier MMM Classic called Safety is an Expensive Illusion digs into some more examples of how scientific thinking about everyday life decisions and risk can lead to huge profits.

  • McDuffy October 7, 2014, 3:59 pm

    An interesting quick case study on global warming is ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. His nuanced public comments reveal a scientist trying to balance data and an obvious conflict of interest.
    5 yrs ago he admitted “the globe is warming” but without “proven connection to human activities”. 2-3 yrs ago he indicated the world was getting warmer but with quantitative uncertainty. More recently, he stated that the temperature trend was flat in the most recent decade and that the globe needed more instrumentation to reduce the models’ uncertainties. In practice, Tillerson has expanded arctic technology development, suggesting to some buy-in to the theory.

    Go read the articles, view the evidence, and draw your own conclusions (as a good scientist should), but based on his position in society as a scientist, engineer, and businessman, it would seem difficult to justify a position more skeptical of climate change than Tillerson… at least until the evidence and analysis changes.

    Reply
    • Mark October 7, 2014, 5:08 pm

      Is Rex Tillerson here, being held as an example of a climate scientist and authority on climate change? Rex Tillerson may have a science background, but he is not a scientist, he is the CEO of the company that might stand to gain the most from short term exploitation of fossil fuels. Its not hard to justify his position: if he wants to keep his job he will try to maximize next quarters profits for ExxonMobil, not cut back on fossil fuels and invest in research. And he cant just accept climate science on the issue and then keep acting contradictory to it, so to keep throwing everything at fossil fuels and not have to publicly say you dont care about science, the path is to create controversy in the science.

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      • Matth October 8, 2014, 10:32 am

        Mark, I think you misread McDuffy’s comment. He was suggesting Tillerson is an exemplar to be imitated, or an authority to be accepted.

        I read his point as Tillerson represents the most skeptical position that can be rationally held, since he represents the monied interests that have the most to lose.

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        • McDuffy October 11, 2014, 1:27 pm

          Thanks, Matth, Rex’s conflict of interest does evidence that holding a more skeptical stance than his would be difficult to justify.
          I encourage everyone to go read his comments and draw their own conclusions. That said, my interpretation is that, in a welcome break from politically- or media-sourced skepticism, his tone parallels that of a scientist. He presents a nuanced, coherent argument with a tone and historic precedent suggesting willingness to change as data changes. Those similarities and his occupation as a manager of tens of thousands of scientists neither qualify him as climate science expert nor lend credence to his position.

          Reply
  • Jay October 7, 2014, 4:02 pm

    There is another aspect to the whole climate change thing that we don’t hear about too often. Climate changes by itself, even without human intervention (a point that deniers love to use to refute science). It’s happened before, like for the Vikings in Greenland, and the outcomes have been almost uniformly ugly. I think this might help convince climate change deniers to help solve the problem without compromising their own beliefs.

    To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter what causes climate change (although I too prefer to side with science, which says humans are responsible). Just accepting that it’s happening should be sufficient reason for anyone to change their ways.

    Humans are like a family living beyond their means when the economy booms. We’ve taken out multiple loans from the Bank of the Earth, at high interest rates. Climate (like economies) is cyclical; we’ll have a “bear market” sooner or later and face job loss, bankruptcy and foreclosure. The causes of the downturn are are not so important; being unprepared will lead to tragedy. Being Mustachian will help us ride it out much better.

    Jared’s not going to be able to afford his air-conditioning if food prices skyrocket because of climate change. That alone is a strong incentive for him to reduce his dependence on it.

    Reply
  • Steve D October 7, 2014, 4:07 pm

    Not that I am doubting MMM, I agree completely. But I would love to see some references for:

    “Both old philosophy and modern science have shown that this is counterproductive: voluntary discomfort and mastery of hardship are far more powerful life boosters than avoidance.”

    I often have this discussion with friends and family and would love to have some studies to reference. Thanks to anyone who can help!

    Reply
    • Andrew Norris October 7, 2014, 4:32 pm

      I have followed the science on happiness / positive psychology – and did not hear of that. It is something that Stephen Covey taught – and most of his 7 habits were based upon religion I recall reading! However, we can always experiment and see whether it works for us or not. Become our own scientists. We don’t have to wait for a study to confirm it yah or nah, as studies by their nature can be wrong. Some science is more pseudo than others, and that goes for happiness scientists. You are asking people are they happy, and they often do not report accurately for a variety of complex reasons / psychology.

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    • Lisa October 7, 2014, 8:12 pm

      I’d be interest in reading more on this as well. I suspect reading the Stoics might provide some insight on this – something I’ve been meaning to read more of, but just haven’t. It does seem to me that voluntary discomfort and mastery of hardship at the very least would foster resilience and flexibility in dealing with unexpected changes in life. Or enable the strength needed to make your own changes in life – sometimes a very uncomfortable process. Trying to figure this out in my own life!

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    • Chris D October 9, 2014, 12:27 pm

      I would also like to see any research done on this. I’ve embraced the idea of happiness through selected voluntary discomfort, but anecdotal evidence never really held much weight for me.

      Reply
  • Andrew Norris October 7, 2014, 4:41 pm

    I think that when we adhere to one group or another, we take sides. We all need to remain independent, and not say, “I am on the side of science, it is best”, or a “religion” to make choices, or “philosophy”. If we are independent we don’t feel the need to agree with that peer group. In fact, it is often people on the outside of science that are disagreeing with the majority of scientists at the time, that make the biggest discoveries. Science as a community for example, at the moment, repels any idea that existence may be created from consciousness, and consciousness is all that exists. Yet this does simplify things and solves the “hard problem” of consciousness”, and the problem of why all the atoms, quarks etc, are obeying laws and all seem to know where each other is. What is computing the universe? All we are doing is observing the rules? It’s like looking at software without even thinking there must be a computer behind running it! So science, which claims to be truth seeking, is repelling one theory, that could be the key to explaining why everything is happening. This is why I say don’t take sides, because you are being as bad as those religious people who believe the world was created in 7 days. Truth seekers just look for the truth, they go where they need to. They are never on a side.

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    • Mr. Frugal Toque October 7, 2014, 7:58 pm

      We didn’t put people on the moon by thinking that the universe is a product of our imaginations. We didn’t eradicate smallpox or build nuclear reactors by treating the universe as a software program.
      When scientists have been wrong, it has never been people “outside” who disprove them with whacky yoga exercises and magical thinking, it’s always been people rigorously doing experiment after experiment until no one can doubt the failure of the old model.
      The thing about science, you see, is that it works.

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      • Andrew Norris October 8, 2014, 5:14 pm

        You misread me. I’m with you on all of that. Science works!!! It is useful. I always loved science at school and watch the discovery channel, read new scientist etc. Now I’m a software engineer. Not sure why you mentioned “whacky yoya” – although if that works for people in terms of making their body more supple – then good with it. They don”t need to wait for studies, which in health are mainly funded by pharma bodies. They can be their own scientists and just give it a try!! In terms of outsiders you should read a short history of nearly everything, a well researched book that shows just how much those that made many of the most important scientific discoveries – had to fight the establishment. If you have read it – read it again! Science is not good with outsiders and innovators as much as you may think.

        **********************************
        But none of the above was my point!!!!
        **********************************

        Sorry, I had to the make that clear.

        I don’t think you got my point at all, that in terms of understanding what is going on, science is only ever looking at the software. And the culture of science does not presently allow radical viewpoints that put consciousness at the center. Yet it makes so much sense and simplifies things. Like I said philosophy is best placed at the moment to answer that. Science is not about the truth behind what is going on, but more about what works and making the world better (mostly) as a result of great new machines and ideas and continual innovation – all of which I love.

        But if you want to know what is really going on in the universe – look to philosophy. Because what is running this universe, the hardware, is beyond the permit of just looking at what is happening with quarks and atoms, or even quantum. mechanics (although that does show us weird things are happening). You actually have to think, and can work it out without any knowledge of the universe we see. As afterall, the whole universe somehow came from that state of nothing. The big bang does not explain how particles got here, how laws are being obeyed (the hardware running it all that science has not even touched upon). I find it quite funny that many scientists, and supporters, seem to think we now “understand it all mostly”, now that we have discovered, and seen evidence for, the big bang. What is going on here is still an extreme mystery. We are clueless which is why we need paradigm shifts.

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        • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 9:09 pm

          Maybe I’ve misread you, but I still think this sounds like magic:
          “[science] repels any idea that existence may be created from consciousness, and consciousness is all that exists.”
          “You actually have to think, and can work it out without any knowledge of the universe we see.”
          Like I said elsewhere, if science really thought it had everything figured out, science would stop.
          Because science is the process of testing the universe to see how it reacts. You can’t do that just by thinking about stuff. You have to go out there and do the hard, rigorous, tedious work of hammering away at experiment after experiment and force those answers out of the universe. Some of those answers don’t come easy and some of them don’t make sense to laymen. But the idea that consciousness is something significant to the general application of science sounds bizarre and new-agey/pseudoscience to me. Consciousness is just an emergent property of our brains, nothing more.

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  • Mark October 7, 2014, 4:42 pm

    I came here to say that modern science might be a little more nuanced and messy than seems to be implied in some of this, but I hope I avoid being grouped with these people demanding evidence for climate change.
    The point i would make is that there is politics in science (global warming, evolution) and there is way too much poorly done science (anti_evolution, and anti-global warming) and things that parade as science that are not science (astrology, homeopathy), for me to be comfortable saying something like “there is absolutely no downside to it”, or “use everything that comes from it as much as you can.”

    I think there is an importance in using science responsibly and having your critical faculties about you when digesting science that isnt being demonstrated here. Enthusiasm for science is great, but just saying “Im doing science so Im doing something good” can be dangerous. Even well intentioned science can fall victim to unconscious bias and institutional pressures. You cant really trust the result of one study to be “the science” on the issue. You really have to be able to take in the whole landscape of literature and be able to separate the good from the bad – and that is not always easy.

    Then again, this might not be the most ideal place to take on a critical review of the attitudes to take in science, alongside folks talking about science like its one big machine that pumps out doctrines – subtleties can get lost in the interest of landing stronger punches. So ill just say that while science has certain issues to be aware of, and taking healthy attitudes is important, science does achieve remarkable results and is responsible for all kinds of human progress. And as far as the AGW debate the facts are indeed in. (http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024/article). Climatology is not physics, climate models are messy and complex and producing one experiment that yields a 100% accurate model and being able to move on, having settled the debate, is not what happens in this kind of science. But when everyone (http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=57) agrees on certain facts and the empirical evidence, ancillary hypotheses (http://skepticalscience.com/comparing-global-temperature-predictions.html), studies from public and private sector (http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/spmsspm-understanding-and.html), all keep pointing to the same conclusions (http://www.climatechange2013.org/), or if anything, say that we have vastly underestimated the seriousness (http://www.neomatica.com/2014/10/06/southern-hemisphere-analysis-reveals-global-warming-underestimated-24-58/) of the issue. The only thing stopping people from coming to those conclusions also are external (PR campaigns, family attitudes, peer groups, channels of information consumption) or internal (psychological) environmental factors. I think those are what primarily need to be addressed when attempting to change the attitudes/opinions of such people.

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  • Texas Jim October 7, 2014, 4:48 pm

    Well I have not read everything down to here but being a scientist I can tell you that despite statements to the contrary there are many scientists who do not accept the hypothesis of man made climate change as currently packaged. No one denies that we are in a clear warming period that began before the rapid industrialization of the planet. For me two major questions arise…1) What proportion of the rising global temperature now results from the industrialization of the world and 2) Given the size and personality of the industrial world, can remedial actions on our part really change the direction of this behemouth. On another note, the concept of association and causation pointed out above is a most important one that effects us all. The key word missing here is “RISK”. Epidemologists and environmentat toxicologists use correlations from very large numbers of people to predict risk to the population. The population has very little appreciation of risk. Large scale studies routinely indicate that the risk of lung disease for smokers is great. However, someone will always identity a smoking relative who lived to 95 and died cancer free in his sleep. Although I can guarantee that gramps had reduced lung capacity and air flow the example misses the point. The risk is about the probability of disease in the larger populace. Whether one gets lung cancer is a probability event and if you smoke the probability goes up. The general public really does not assess risk well but particularly so when they feel they can’t control the risk. Example in point, the current risk of being injured in an vehicle crash is quite high. Everyone has been in some crash and yet one still sees reports of injuries due to not wearing seat belts. People are willing to accept this substantial risk because they feel they can control it with their outstanding driving skills. On the other hand, if they do not understand the risk or feel it is beyond their control (it’s in the water, or the air) they go ballistic. Improving agricultural yield and reducing food costs by adding a gene from another plant to a crop that makes the new plant taste bad to inch worms or resistant to drought is totally unacceptable. This is despite the fact that the scientists who know what they are doing have determined that the risk to human health is statistically not different from zero. This kind of missplaced risk leads them to pay extra for bottled water and the millions of plastic bottles and for organic and GMO free vegetables. How GMO free cooking oils is any different than that from any other plant is beyond me. But people who are unable to afford the extra cost are being sold a bill of goods.

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    • Tallgirl1204 October 7, 2014, 10:15 pm

      So I think you wandered off course here a little with your examples. What makes you believe that the bulk of published climate change science is wrong?

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      • texas Jim October 8, 2014, 8:33 am

        TG….I don’t think the bulk is wrong. The assertion that we are responsible for it is a hypothesis. We are in a real warming trend. The trend however has happened before and this one began before the current accumulation of greenhouse gases. The unanswerable part is how much of it is mankind responsible for and what can he or what is he willing to do about it. The Kyoto accords went nowhere accept for the silly profiteering of the carbon exchanges. Most of the proposed remedial steps are laudable goals in and of themselves but for most the degree of implementation is unlikely to have a significant impact. Some very goals might have serious negative economic consequences for the 3rd world. As for being off thract, the articles discuses correlation and causation and the majority of my examples are about that.

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        • Kevin October 11, 2014, 11:29 am

          What strikes me about your comments is that you seem to be saying, “Yes, we are on a warming trend, but if it’s not definitely our fault, then it’s not our responsibility to do anything about it.”

          What scares the hell out of me, as a former scientist, is understanding how devastating past episodes of climate change have been, for life in general, and for civilization during the more recent times. And now we live in a world were much smaller disruptions in climate than have happened in the past would have catastrophic effects on millions of people, and would likely lead to staggering degrees of social and political unrest.

          Also, I’m even more alarmed that the current trend began before significant accumulation of greenhouse gases. There’s no model that indicates the ever rising levels of CO2 and methane won’t have huge effects, for both the oceans and the climate. Throwing that on top of a natural trend is like saying we don’t need to worry about the forest fire approaching the gasoline refinery, since forest fires happen naturally, and this one might not be arson.

          Reply
      • Texas Jim October 8, 2014, 8:42 am

        TG….I don’t think the bulk is wrong. The assertion that we are responsible for it is a hypothesis. We are in a real warming trend. The trend however has happened before and this one began before the current accumulation of greenhouse gases. The unanswerable part is how much of it is mankind responsible and what can he or what is he willing to do about it. The Kyoto accord went nowhere accept for the silly profiteering of the carbon exchanges. Most of the proposed remedial steps are laudable goals in and of themselves but for most the degree of implementation is unlikely to have a significant impact. Some solution may even have unintended yet significant negative consequences for 3rd world economies. As for being off tract, the article discusses the importance of correlation and causation and the majority of my post and examples are intended to address that separate point.

        Reply
  • Lil October 7, 2014, 5:20 pm

    I heard the jury is still out on science. ;)
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=A_sHriUR1IY

    Reply
  • Erin October 7, 2014, 5:36 pm

    This argument is currently full-swing in the TE household. My husband keeps coming home and complaining because it’s “too cold” yet he’s wearing ONE shirt. Either a t-shirt or a flannel. I work from home and I’m a baby about it being cold, yet here I am…me and my homeslice the thermostat. Layers, buddy…layers!

    Reply
    • texas jim October 7, 2014, 7:17 pm

      I find that men are homeotherms and women are functional poikelotherms. Thus, the only sane solution is that she pays the electric bill from her SS and in return she has complete unrevokeable control of the thermostat.

      Reply
      • Danielle October 8, 2014, 11:25 am

        I find that men struggle with reading comprehension whilst women are functional communicators.

        Reply
  • MamaKate October 7, 2014, 6:03 pm

    Great post! I teach science methods courses at a local university, preparing pre-service teachers to teach science in the elementary school classroom. The failures of science education in this country come through loud and clear in your comment section… In recent history, the primary purpose of science education in schools was to prepare future scientists – we needed to win the cold war and science was the way. The unfortunate side effect of this was that we focused on finding the best and the brightest and preparing them for careers, while largely ignoring scientific literacy for all. The trend in teaching science is now moving towards promoting scientific literacy, but it’s still a work in progress.
    Scientific understanding, as you’ve noted, is constantly evolving. A scientifically literate population has a good understanding of this tentative nature of science (as well as the fact that science is empirical, creative and social, as I teach my students). The scientifically literate also recognize that scientific information, while tentative, is also dependable and represents the best understanding of a phenomenon given our current resources (technology, funding, etc).
    And, because I guess I’m in the mood to throw fuel into this fire… I do think it’s worth noting that the university I work at is Jesuit. There is no conflict between religion and science in my mind, or in my teaching. Science is based on empirical understanding of the natural world. Religion is a way of understanding the spiritual and supernatural.

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  • Rowan Roberts October 7, 2014, 6:42 pm

    As a microbiologist, I’m not sure I agree with there being “absolutely no downside” to science – you should see the sheer volume of pipette tips, Petri dishes and other single-use plastics we send to landfill… it makes my insides cry!

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  • businessgypsy October 7, 2014, 6:48 pm

    Every time you use about your boxing gloves metaphor, I wonder what is wrong with you. Really, you’re going to beat me down if I dare disagree? No, you are not. You can listen or not, engage or not, discuss or ignore – but you absolutely, positively are not going to use violence (or the written threat thereof) to change my mind. It’s a destructive and negative approach to the world, and stains an otherwise valuable dialogue. It doesn’t matter whether you could actually overpower me or not. I’m an eighty year old woman in a wheelchair, for all you know. It’s just a lowest common denominator approach.

    I logged in to ask if you’ve ever worked in an organization with a number of scientists on the payroll, or lived in the deep south? If not, I would ask that you temper your response a bit. Colorado is not Alabama. I’ve currently got the luxury of following the weather with a nomadic lifestyle, but spent my youth and young adult years in New Orleans. I’d pay to see how productive you’d be without A/C during the nine hot months. I’ve lived with and without. It can be done, but there is a cost in capability, not just comfort.

    On the subject of absolute faith in science, doesn’t seem very different than absolute faith in religion. A considerable number of scientists lie, cheat, falsify data and skew results with zeal and enthusiasm, for the same reason some accounting department employees embezzel : it keeps the money flowing. Apply the same critical eye you use with investment advisors and you’ll be less disappointed when the inevitable errors surface. I appreciate and value this blog, but the arrogance level exceeds digestion ability far too often.

    Reply
    • Texas Jim October 7, 2014, 7:31 pm

      BG…I am sorry but you are incorrect about a considerable number of scientists. Two points…1) .everything in science is collaborative and repeated. There are too many students and technicians around for it to go far. Thus cheating and lying gets you nowhere fast and gets quickly exposed by your colleagues and others trying to replicate your work. 2) the reason everyone knows about falsification in science is because the scientific societies make a big deal about exposing it to the larger community.

      Reply
  • chris October 7, 2014, 6:59 pm

    If I may quote a previous MMM classic, “Science is the best chance we have at finding the Truth in this World (credit Señor MMM).”” If you think about it, it’s our best chance at finding objective, fact based information. Is it perfect, no. Is it sometimes manipulated, yes. That’s why the highest level of education/learning is discernment of fact based information.

    This is a bit paraphrased, but you get the point. I whole heartedly subscribe to this philosophy.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  • Andrew October 7, 2014, 7:30 pm

    I like the blog for the most part, but you’re a little over the top whacked out w/ your thinking that you are having that much effect on the planet. If India and China don’t care, and they don’t. You riding your bike pulling around a refrigerator isn’t going to make a shit of difference.

    I drive a reasonable vehicle, recycle, have a reusable bag for the grocery store. I do my part, but listening to people like you that think jerry rigging your bike to move your furniture is going to make some miraculous difference, is over the top crazy and people get sick of hearing about it. I’m not a wasteful person, and I get sick of environmentalists pissing on everything all the time. It gets old.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2014, 8:23 pm

      All right Andrew, I appreciate the tips. But I think I missed how that comment relates to science and its benefits (or even lack thereof) in the context of personal finance?

      Maybe you can post a more detailed response on your own blog.

      Reply
    • WageSlave October 8, 2014, 7:43 am

      “You riding your bike pulling around a refrigerator isn’t going to make a shit of difference.”

      That is probably true, the behavior of one in seven billion is likely insignificant. But, I suspect MMM is trying to be a leader. How many people see him pulling big, heavy stuff on a bike, and think, “Wow, if that guy can pull a refrigerator on a bike, surely I can ride mine to work a couple times a week.” And now you’re no longer talking about one person, but many. And maybe you get a critical mass of people in a community where enough are riding bikes that even more start doing it if only due to herd mentality.

      Reply
    • bigun October 8, 2014, 7:03 pm

      Andrew – I agree with WageSlave. I’m far less extreme than MMM on pretty much everything, on but this blog is helping move me in the right direction. I don’t give a shit about someone who drives a reasonable car, recycles, and “does their part”. It’s not interesting or inspiring to hear about your “normal” life, and read about how you ridicule people who is push boundaries.

      I think this is a blog about behavior change. It’s had an impact on my life, and apparently a lot of other people.

      If you want to feel good about your current lifestyle, and get some reassurance that you’re not a wasteful person, you’re probably in the wrong place.

      Reply
  • JB October 7, 2014, 7:56 pm

    Going back to the solar panel/Utility thing, if it was mandated that new houses had to have solar panels, the prices would come down pretty quick. The building codes mandate a ton of things, why not solar? Especially in the West where there is a ton of sun.

    Reply
    • B October 7, 2014, 7:58 pm

      Increasing demand for solar panels would raise their prices. Not lower them.

      Sounds like MMM needs to do an economics vs science article.

      Reply
      • JB October 7, 2014, 8:09 pm

        Economies of scale make them cheaper. That is why if Tesla sell more cars, they become cheaper. The R&D is spread out over more units.

        Reply
        • B October 7, 2014, 8:14 pm

          There are two curves, supply & demand vs cost & R&D.

          At some point the curves will cross and the cost will go down even as both supply and demand increase.

          But in the short term after such a law is passed the cost would rise very very high. Why not let economics and the free market take its course instead of using legislation? Eventually the cost of electricity from cheap solar panels will bring them into mass acceptance without force.

          Reply
          • LennStar October 8, 2014, 1:36 pm

            Here again germany (and the rest of teh world btw) show the opposite.
            Of course, if you make a “80% reduction” law then it would take 2-3 years to build up capacities, but nobody is saying that.

            Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque October 7, 2014, 8:21 pm

        Um … “economies of scale”.
        If solar panels were a finite resource grown in a cave at the other end of Destiny Road, we might have an issue, but we keep finding new and better ways to make them – a series of scientific and engineering advances that will only be accelerated by increasing demand.
        You could look at, for example, the 40 Meg hard drive I keep as a paper weight/door stop and the 64 Gig USB thumb drive I bought last year for a better analogy of how we should expect solar panel costs to change.

        Reply
        • B October 7, 2014, 8:26 pm

          Read the rest of the thread. Economies of scale would not immediately kick in if such a law was passed.

          Reply
          • Kevin October 11, 2014, 11:37 am

            And yet building codes change all the time, as do car safety regulations, and food safety, and so on. This was the excuse to not go to ABS and airbags and have crash test requirements for cars, and why builders usually balk at energy efficient building techniques. Over time, it ends up being cheaper and better, and the time it takes is usually less than the nay-sayers expect.

            Reply
      • LennStar October 8, 2014, 1:34 pm

        In germany, some renewable energy is mandatory. Most go for solar heat, bc its most effective.
        However, there are lots of PV panels set up on roofs and on “toxic” ground (old industry grounds).

        The price did not rise, in fact most of german PV producers have gone out of the market because China makes them so cheap now.

        Reply
        • B October 8, 2014, 1:47 pm

          Ok, I get it, solar panels are not bound by economics.

          Reply
          • LennStar October 9, 2014, 1:55 am

            They are. They work like everything else.
            Like: Even if solar heat saves you money on the middle/long run, people dont install it, because its costs are extra at the start.

            And for PV: As every expensive new technology, they need incentives for the first investors. In this case it was a guaranteed income per kWh.
            That made it possible to build the huge capacities needed for getting the price down – economies of scale.
            While the efficiany has improved by 50% in the last 20 years, the price has fallen to 1/5. For german electricity prices, PV is now at market prices or way under if you use for yourself (heavily depending on your usage pattern and of course your “sun income”).
            In other countries like spain that is so for several years because of more sun.

            The thing not bound by economics is cars. People buy too big cars, that are too expensive, drive them unneccesarily while ranting about fuel prices and also ranting about taxes to build roads and roads that are crowded. And not included is the “price” of teh destruction of nature and environment.

            Reply
  • Karl Keefer October 7, 2014, 8:03 pm

    Dear MMM, this reply is long, but please read it. I’m a long time reader, and for once I think you’re not quite on point.

    Let’s not throw around “because science” if we’re not going to be scientific about things. Perhaps the most important ‘tenet’ of science is to be vigilantly skeptical. AGW is victim to politicization from both sides of the aisle, and both sides have lost sight of the actual science (it’s not just the gas companies trying to manipulate public opinion).

    The climate models we have been using are wrong (even if AGW is in fact happening). The IPCC has consistently over-estimated GW since they started releasing reports, and all of the ad-hoc explanations for the complete pause in warming (and recovery of arctic ice) over the last 10 years look like grasping for straws (even if it turns out their explanations are accurate, the contradictory evidence means you must abandon or adjust your hypotheses, and the ocean heat sink claims seem very difficult to falsify).

    A lot of people are acting a lot more sure about this than they should be, especially given the IPCC track record (over-prediction of warming in every single report they’ve released) – perhaps there is political motivation here that is undermining good science.

    The “consensus” figures that are bandied about are problematic for a number of reasons: http://econlog.econlib.org/…/02/david_friedman_14.html

    Furthermore, even if all climate scientists agree that it’s happening, that doesn’t speak to their thoughts on if it’s a bad or good thing, and also doesn’t speak to their thoughts on anything we could or should do about it, which to some extent becomes a question of economics.

    The science isn’t nearly as clear as a few particularly loud scientists would have you believe.

    Given the evidence we have, it’s very likely the human-generated c02 is strongly related to the warming trend we’ve seen, but it’s also clear that the IPCC models don’t accurately model reality (which is a very hard problem, so we shouldn’t be surprised if they mess it up).

    While Jared from your post likely doesn’t have such a nuanced position, that’s part of the point. There are lots of smart and informed people who have doubts about various claims related to the climate change discussions, even if most of them agree that humans have an effect on the climate.

    Reply
  • Mr. Frugal Toque October 7, 2014, 8:06 pm

    The first thing you’re going to get is a lot of flak from people who read a website somewhere saying that some part of the science was in dispute. It isn’t. We can use carbon isotope ratios to tell us the carbon in the atmosphere is ours and satellites to tell us that the CO2 is blocking infrared from going out into space. Done. But I can see already that we’re going to have a crazy festival of deniers.
    The second thing is that you accidentally made the use of A/C sound AWESOME. I mean what could be cooler than powering your house with a peleton of Tour de France cyclists attached to stationary bikes outside your house?
    Other that that: Woo! Science!

    “At the core, you were “built” for exactly one reason: to produce as many healthy babies as possible. Every finger and toe, emotion and follicle of your being has been optimized for this purpose.”
    You know this isn’t exactly true, though, right? There are a lot of adaptive features, yes, but also a lot of accidental genetic baggage because something is attached to something else, and a lot of random drift because, well, shit, your eyes had to be *some* colour or other, didn’t they? It probably isn’t a big deal, but people shouldn’t assume that every part of the human body is there for a good adaptive reason. You might make false conclusions.

    Reply
    • B October 7, 2014, 8:11 pm

      Why must a skeptic be automatically categorized as the absolute definition of a denier?

      Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque October 7, 2014, 8:31 pm

        Because 97% of the relevant scientists in the world, who have been studying this at length, very seriously, with the best instrumentation available, have given us a very thoroughly worked out explanation of exactly what’s happening, what caused it and exactly how the cause has led to the effect.
        Pretending that you know better than these people, or that this is somehow a giant conspiracy to destroy the world and institute some bizarre United Nations government, is going off the deep end.

        Reply
        • B October 7, 2014, 8:34 pm

          “or that this is somehow a giant conspiracy to destroy the world and institute some bizarre United Nations government, is going off the deep end.”

          And this is precisely the problem I have with people like you. I don’t think climate change is a giant conspiracy. I’m simply skeptical. But here YOU go off the deep end, making assumptions and criticizing people whom you know nothing about.

          Funny how you’re all about evidence and accuracy yet you so easily jump to fallacious conclusions about others. Practice what you preach.

          Reply
          • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 5:23 am

            That was merely an example of one of the many ridiculous anti-science lines of reasoning.
            You’re derailing.
            The important part of that post is how 97% of the scientists in the world, who have been studying this for decades, have reached the same conclusion.
            Did you miss that part while you were derailing? You managed to avoid replying to it. Don’t think we didn’t all notice.
            This article is about using the results of the scientific process to take the best route in our lives. Are you going to be skeptical about cigarette smoking, too? I’m sure I can find some skepticism about cardiovascular exercise as well as more than a few people who think drinking your own urine is good for you.
            Best of luck with line of thinking.

            Reply
            • B October 8, 2014, 7:40 am

              How old is the Earth? And scientists have been studying it for *decades*? Well I’ll be damned!

              At one time, even scientists didn’t believe that smoking was bad for you, now we know differently. If I was a skeptic about smoking back then, I imagine you would have criticized me then too.

              Scientists also thought everything revolved around the Earth at one time, now we know differently.

              I have to assume that these climate change findings will change over time. I will not be surprised in another few decades when these scientists begin to come to different conclusions. Climate change is simply the topic du jour. Best of luck with your arrogance and pompousness. You must be so proud of yourself as you pass the unenlightened on a daily basis. What say you of the 3% of disagreeing scientists? Surely they must be idiots in your opinion. All we’re seeing here is the herd mentality. Not even 97% of dentists will agree how to properly brush and floss. To expect climate change scientists to be so independently sure leaves me unconvinced.

              Reply
              • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 8:48 am

                Yes. They’ve been studying climate for decades. They have dedicated their entire lives to the pursuit of that knowledge.
                Whereas you have read some websites and think you know better than them.
                You would also do well to see what the tiny minority of anti-AGW global warming scientists are saying – what part of it they’re speaking against – and who is funding them.
                Yes, natural philosophers thought the world was flat *thousands* of years ago. Then they thought it was a sphere and centre of the universe. Then they realized it wasn’t the centre. Then they realized it wasn’t a sphere, either. That’s what science does. If you think the sphere-thinkers were just as wrong as flat-earth thinkers, you’re more wrong than all of them combined. (That’s Asimov, btw.)

              • B October 8, 2014, 8:58 am

                Unfortunately (or fortunately) I can no longer directly reply to you.

                Thank you for avoiding the point of my writings. The science changes over time. Not all scientists, even at present, are in agreeance. We will see the current climate change egos find themselves having to adjust their stances again in the future as new SCIENCE proves the present science wrong.

              • Kevin October 11, 2014, 11:56 am

                “Scientists also thought everything revolved around the Earth at one time, now we know differently.”

                Actually, the guy who went against the religious establishment of the time and provided the scientific data that showed the earth was not the center of the universe is largely credited with ‘the’ father of modern science.” There really weren’t scientists then, in the way we consider the term now.

                The people who believed the earth was the center of the universe never attempted to make observations to verify this. They just ‘knew.’ Kind of like you seem to be doing.

                And dentists don’t agree about how to brush and floss? You really went there? Haha, okay, I now realize I completely wasted 5 minutes of my time trying to reason with you.

            • Doug October 8, 2014, 4:22 pm

              So were you siting the Cook et al. (2013) ‘Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature’ paper as your basis for the 97% fact (term used loosely)?

              If so you might want to take another look at the data (seems data manipulation is a prerequisite to be a climate change scientist):

              http://www.populartechnology.net/2013/05/97-study-falsely-classifies-scientists.html#Update2

              Great quote by an actual scientist who’s papers were classified him as part of the 97%…

              The claim of a 97% consensus on global warming does not stand up!

              Consensus is irrelevant in science. There are plenty of examples in history where everyone agreed and everyone was wrong.

              http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2014/jun/06/97-consensus-global-warming/print

              Reply
        • Mike Earl October 8, 2014, 12:13 pm

          Mr. Toque – where did you obtain your 97% statistic? And who decides which scientists are “relevant”? How about this group — are they relevant? http://climateconference.heartland.org/speakers/

          Reply
          • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 12:31 pm

            Most of them aren’t qualified to comment on the issue at all.
            I don’t have time to research them all, but a lawyer, an architect, a Theology Ph.D. and a computer programmer don’t count as expert sources on climate change. It looks like maybe 2 or 3 of them might be qualified in related fields (uh … astrophysics? Maybe he could talk about solar variation, but that’s it.)
            That’s like listening to physicists tell us that evolution is impossible.

            Reply
          • LennStar October 8, 2014, 1:40 pm

            Lets just say the leading climate expert of germany has said it were 99%, ok?

            Reply
  • Mr. 1500 October 7, 2014, 8:56 pm

    It saddens me that while the rest of the world gets smarter, folks here in the US seem to be getting dumber. We have measles outbreaks because people won’t vaccinate their kids. We choose to believe ridiculous conspiracy theories spouted by uneducated people on AM radio. Science is what made America great. Don’t turn your back on it. Keep up the good fight MMM.

    Reply
    • Andrew Norris October 7, 2014, 9:18 pm

      People are sceptical not to believe what they are told when it comes to “science” from drug companies. As there is a vested interest for them to make money. They fund studies and can select ones to be done that they think will support them. People thinking for themselves is a good thing mostly. Let’s not all bow down to authority. It’s harmless to “believe” in aliens or the lock ness monster. Deep down I don’t think people that say they “believe” really do with any certainty. They are just having fun and exploring their imagination. Although there will be some who will truly believe just about anything. But they are few.

      Reply
    • Andrew Norris October 7, 2014, 9:21 pm

      It pays not to get sad about it, focus in your circle of influence. I don’t let it get to me that drug companies try to falsify studies, I’m just glad a growing number of people are seeing this. It makes me glad how it is going.

      Reply
  • doc tim October 7, 2014, 9:42 pm

    On the topic of science vs faith, one mentioned the horrors of athiest USSR. This misses the true problem that in my opinion is the concept of heresy, defining heresy as the making of questioning a set of beliefs a crime. In that sense the horrors of many religions over the years and those of Stalin, Hitler or other tyrants results from the creation of a system where questioning is not allowed.

    On the topic of God, the question “do you believe in God?” Cannot be answered yes or no as the differences between a deist, theist, and Spinoza’s God are so vast that more explaination is required. Back to heresy a good question for a nonbeliever is what evidence would they have to see to believe X (miracles,virgin birth, etc), while a good question for a believer is what would you have to see to change your mind. If one is not even open to being wrong, beware.

    On global warming\climate change\carbon emission I have long felt now that this is an argument about the existence of a system rather than the underlying disease and as a result focusing only on the symptom is a disservice. The root problem we are approaching is that civilization is large enough that the planet can’t be thought of as an infinite source of raw materials or as a sink for pollution. Arguing over whether we exactly know what the limits are and if mankind has hit them is a very different discussion than one on whether limits exist at all. In my opinion the denial of limits overall falls into the “religious” and political realm. Many arguments against global warming are people who don’t believe in limits but use won’t say so and instead point out errors in the models. I think many scientists are reluctant to discuss potential large modelling uncertainty because of fear it will be jumped on my deniers of any limits on planetary resources.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 8, 2014, 9:35 pm

      You’re on to something there. I find the climate change hypothesis very plausible because the rough numbers sound about right, and of COURSE we have the ability to impact the planet in many ways. We are no specks of dust – we’ve converted almost HALF OF THE PLANET’S LAND INTO FARMS – a spectacular destruction of natural ecosystem and replacing it with monocultures.

      This has been proven in almost every dimension of the ecosystem. Thank goodness it is so resilient and we haven’t run into more trouble than we have so far.

      So the implication of all the research is simply that we should wean ourselves mostly off of fossil fuels. As soon as we stop whining about how difficult this is, you can do some calculations and realize it is relatively easy. The key is reducing just a portion of the ridiculous consumption, while preserving everything that delivers actual quality of life. 75% of oil burning gone right off the bat.

      Reply
      • doc tim October 9, 2014, 5:27 am

        I agree that climate change and the whole concept of the anthropocene epoch is plausible. Although as an engineer who does modeling I recognize that given the complexity of the system the uncertainty in what our impact will have is huge. The problem is some look at this and say business as usual while others have more caution to mitiagate the impact if the worst case happens. I do think that climate change has become a litmus test for one world view and has forced people to choose from the false dichotomy of viewing it as a certainty with certain outcomes versus a conspiracy hoax. I think our brains are biased toward this dichotomy thinking though and people don’t like to accept uncertainty as an answer. A good education formal or self taught in science, math, and probability helps but especially with probability most people don’t understand it well. So if a climate change report comes out with error bounds or different scenarios with estimates on likelihood what makes it into the general population is the worst case with no discission of the nuances of the analysis.

        So it goes with the religion debate also. Scientists I think have a better ability to accept uncertainty so more don’t have to formulate a concept of a god to fill in the gaps. Despite his being often overly antagonistic and caustic, Richard Dawkins had a good summary in the god delusion in the initial pages where he defined a spectrum from certain belief to certain disbelief and granted that he was not at certain disbelief only very close. I read another book a while back called wedge of truth by Phillip Johnson. I enjoyed the book whose main premise was to argue that sciences naturalism has an effective assumption of the absense of a god. I think he had some reasonable points but I felt there was a lot of hypocricy in that he didn’t have any discussion of the “wedge” of possibility that there was no personal god. Having been raised in a religious family and going to catholic school through high school some of my best math and science teachers were the priests and brothers who gave me examples of holding the conflicting ideas in my head and keeping the cognitive dissonance at bay. They stressed in school a lot that an unexamined faith is not as strong as an examined one. After high school when I did more examining, faith was on the losing side. I think this has to be a possible outcome of honest questioning. If I see more evidence to convince me of the claims of religion I am open to reevaluate it though. Apologizes for adding to the non finance/religion fires but good discussions on money politics and religion are the most interesting.

        Reply
      • Eldred October 9, 2014, 7:27 am

        “The key is reducing just a portion of the ridiculous consumption, while preserving everything that delivers actual quality of life. 75% of oil burning gone right off the bat.”

        75%?!? Ok, that’s impressive. Is that figure based on just eliminating your car? I’m not in a position to do that right now, and probably never WILL be. But I could certainly stand to do better.

        Reply
  • Steve October 7, 2014, 9:43 pm

    New here.

    While I am not sure I want be a Badass, I know I do not want to be an ass. I think we all need to find our right path in life. I am 55 married man and I like some of the comforts of life like A/C. Please I live in the South Jersey. However, I like way you challenge us softasses to think about the way we spend our money.

    This blog has become a must read for me and will help me plan for my retirement in seven years. If I was willing to live on $27,000 per year, I could retire now. Yes, I am softass. I am looking to retire on a spending limit of 80K, so I plan to work for another seven years. I will keep reading and learning and maybe reduce my spending needs.

    Reply
  • Jordan October 7, 2014, 10:05 pm

    I certainly lean more towards MMM’s words here, but one reason I can’t completely dive into the “climate-change-is-real-and-is-caused-by-humans” camp is because of the sample size of the data. The earth is over 4 billion years old and we are basing the claims on 150 years of data. Everyone would laugh off an experiment with a sample size of one, so I don’t quite understand how scientists can just glaze over this detail. That being said, I don’t care if it’s a hoax either way. I’m a huge fan of efficiency and conservation and I think the only way to move forward is to pursue cleaner, more prevalent energy solutions. If the reason those technologies come about is because of climate change claims, that’s fine with me. Differing from the norm usually requires some sort of a catalyst, and that’s as good as any, hoax or not.

    Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 7:07 am

      That’s the craziest part of the anti-science group.
      I mean, what’s the worst case if we’re wrong?
      We reduce our pollution, reduce our energy consumption, clean up our planet’s air and water … and Oh. My. God. We did it all for nothing!

      Reply
      • B October 8, 2014, 7:43 am

        Are the 3% of scientists who don’t agree with climate change considered to be in the anti-science group?

        Reply
      • JB October 8, 2014, 7:48 am

        There are costs associated with making air perfectly clean. I guess the gov’t has to mandate everyone live in a 1,000 sq ft house. One child per family, ration water and electricity. That will keep people from wasting resources.

        Reply
        • Mr. Frugal Toque October 8, 2014, 8:59 am

          There are costs associated with pollution.
          The people who benefit from a product should pay for the actual costs of the product and let “the free market” work the rest out.

          Reply
      • Juan October 9, 2014, 8:43 am

        This is how I’ve always felt about it too. Whether you believe in climate change or not…whether you believe it’s caused by humans or not, there’s a simple premise we should all follow…You don’t shit where you eat. This is our only planet (for now), so why not do what we can to ensure a clean place to live? Stop polluting, stop burning through every resource like a replay of The Lorax, recycle and leave things nicer than the way you found them. Maybe it won’t stop the “imaginary” global warming, but maybe we’ll all live a bit healthier. And maybe a bit smarter.

        Reply
    • Kevin October 11, 2014, 12:32 pm

      @ Jordan – “The earth is over 4 billion years old and we are basing the claims on 150 years of data.”

      This is totally incorrect. There are a lot of amazing ways scientists have figured out to get data about climate over extremely long periods of time. In fact, it is the misuse of that data, which shows past episodes of VERY slow warming and cooling that the deniers use to try to let humans off the hook for the recent staggering increases in CO2, etc. We have huge amounts of data. The main argument is about the rapidity of the changes we’re seeing now, and how relevant those changes are (at least, the main argument between those who have purused the data — there are those who ‘just know’ the truth, and don’t need to look at anything).

      Reply
  • GalinAZ October 7, 2014, 10:32 pm

    Mr M, this post got me wondering what you think about patenting genetically modified foods and the controversy surrounding it. Is it a good use of science to modify the plants? Or is that a moral/ethical issue, and if so, how should science address the moral and ethical impacts of its discoveries?

    Reply
    • Druid October 8, 2014, 2:44 am

      Well at least you didn’t suggest an article on abortion.

      Reply
    • Texas Jim October 8, 2014, 9:23 am

      GAZ….Those inside and outside science should always weigh the consequences of its discoveries. Anytime one alters the current ecosystem there is a potential for problems. I think for example kudzu was imported to control erosion and it simply went wild. However, I beleive the controversey surrounding GMO foods arises from a lack of understanding of the process and the results. We have be modifyong plants for centuries through selective preeding of more productive mutants. The process of gene insertion allow one to do the same thing with more efficiency and percision. If one edible plant naturally repels insects like the sweet basil in my garden (my observation) wouldn’t it be great if I could insert the gene for that particular enzyme into my cabbage which I apparently plant simply to feed the worms. I suspect the beneficial factor is the basil aroma and thus we might get a resistant cabbage that has more flavor. Patenting the new plant is another question. I believe the company should have the exclusive rights to sell the seed but I disagree with the lawsuits brought against farmers who bought the seed , grew the plants and reused the next generation seed from their fields. The company owns the process not the gene.

      Reply
  • Frugal Strudel October 8, 2014, 1:06 am

    I like that the dude from Alabama got your mojo workin’ – I also like the fact that you respect his “fuck you” attitude. It’s what I love about America and Americans. For every uptight dick head, there’s a bunch of dickheads that don’t give a shit what others think and I find that healthy and refreshing – very punk rock.

    As far as the topic, lately I’ve had a hard time getting worked up over the climate debate.
    That’s not to say I haven’t seen things change over my life time – hotter summers, larger and more severe storm systems and colder winters. Who hasn’t see the strange pictures of melting glaciers and polar bears trying to figure out where the fucking ice and snow has gone? Change is real.

    And yet I am a skeptic…not skeptical about the changes, but what’s causing them. And then there’s the fatalistic reality that if global warming is truly man made then we’re probably doomed. I base that on the assumption that while North America and Europe MAY change their evil oil ways, the 3rd world developing nations – with billions and billions of people – will surely increase oil production and usage exponentially. There’s not much we can do about that right?

    And here’s another thought…there are so many urgent problems that are confronting the developed nations today I would put global warming about 15th on my list of things I care about, but can’t do shit about. When it comes right down to it, it seems the only problems I CAN do anything about are using less water (Calif), using less electricity (we like the dark) and drinking at least one glass of wine a day (doctor’s orders).

    When I was a little younger the media told me that the world was completely fucked because of war, pollution, corruption, poverty and endless other problems. As I got older I noticed that the wars ended, people who got educated and worked hard got out of poverty and most of the politicians were actually honest public servants. I also noticed that not only was the world not fucked, but people’s lives got infinitely better over the past 30 years. That damn media lied to me – they had been crying wolf since forever. Eventually I stopped listening or believing anything the media has to say.

    Ipso facto – my climate change skepticism.

    Reply
    • Kevin October 11, 2014, 12:37 pm

      Yeah, that pollution thing was totally overblown. Glad we never tried to make any changes in how we do things. I still throw my batteries and used motor oil in the stream behind my house — as far as I can tell it never hurt anybody. And wars, what the heck?! Nobody ever dropped a bomb on me or mine, so that must be a lot of hoo-haw! Water shortages? Hey, it’s raining right now where I live. They must be lying!

      Reply
  • Sparkie October 8, 2014, 1:31 am

    Dear oh dear. If you look at the science of climate change, you’ll see it has always changed. We have been coming out of an ice age, so obviously, you’d expect it to be getting warmer. The problem with the issue today, is ‘scientists’ trying to make a case that as CO2 increases, temperature increases. And then, because humans are increasing the CO2, we are responsible, so let’s tax you to stop it.

    Problem is, of all the CO2 put into the atmosphere, humans only contribute 3%. Second problem, is the empirical data (not the models) shows a big increase in CO2 over the last 2o years, yet measured temperatures globally haven’t risen for 17 years now.

    So if you believe in science MMM, then surely you believe the data of what has actually happened, rather than a model that has been shown to be wrong? Anthropogenic climate change is a theory put forward, that has shown to be incorrect by the evidence.

    It is politically driven. In Australia, the government run Bureau of Meteorology has altered the historic temperature record downwards, giving a relative rise today. Why? Pretty hard to claim good science regarding temperatures ‘since records began’ if you’re allowed to change the records to suit.

    Reply
  • Jess October 8, 2014, 4:03 am

    I’m a long-time reader and am finally de-lurking to say THANK YOU for this post. As a scientist it infuriates me to see people display such willful ignorance and hostility toward science. It can get disheartening to constantly come up against these sorts of views, not least because they have real and damaging effects (measles anyone?), so it’s refreshing to see your excellent response. Keep up the bad-ass work! :)

    Reply
  • Matt October 8, 2014, 7:31 am

    Life is about tradeoffs, and the more objectively and scientifically you can look at these things the better and happier you’ll be. At the end of the day if you start to fight tooth and nail against something that can be broken down logically to facts versus rhetoric you’ll end up fighting a loosing fight.

    Reply
  • David October 8, 2014, 8:00 am

    While I generally agree with the conclusions of the article regarding the usefulness of scientific thinking when pursuing a goal of financial independence the arguments present are incomplete. The climate change example is a poor choice although relevant to the original email being responded too. This reinforces the missing piece of the argument. You do not discuss the philosophy of science which is central to the climate change debate.

    Specific to your climate change example, their are no valid statistical tests which can prove or disprove climate change with the current amount of data available with any reasonable degree of certainty, this is a scientific fact and is stated in every major climate research project including those which are the primary support for the position that climate change as defined in the studies is real. This is why all the climate models fail to predict the rate and direction of change, they are incomplete. Making a conclusion or calling something settled science based on clearly incomplete data is poor science and should not be encouraged. The climate change exists hypothesis being true relies heavily on rationalism which is one of the weakest forms of science where lack of empirical data results in a rational assumption not grounded in the available data. Climate change is an incredibly complex system which involves a huge number of variables, in any multivariate problem with a large number of variables you need an incredible amount of data to make any relevant conclusions, this data is simply not available.

    Which brings us back around to the articles main point. Using scientific thinking and the results of previous scientific experiments can improve your life. However, people must understand that scientific decisions require quality data and often that data is not represented by their personal experience and is not always easy to access. The internet is both a wonderful resource and curse in this area, quality data is available to more people than ever before but at the same time poor data is also available in greater quantities than before. A scientific thought process requires you to be comfortable with advising your hypothesis in the case that you cannot conclusively prove your hypothesis using valid scientific tests. The entire climate change debate on both sides fails to do this and is not a good example for using science to improve your life.

    Now what to do in the case of incomplete data, which we have with climate change and is present in many other important decisions, is a far more difficult question and in my opinion should be based on an individuals own association with one of the philosophies of science. As a statistician myself I most closely associate with Bayesian Inference which attempts to assign a probability to the likelihood of each hypothesis being true but is also one of the most data intensive philosophies.

    Reply
    • doc tim October 9, 2014, 8:40 pm

      “Making correct predictions is difficult, especially about the future.”

      Reply
  • Mike October 8, 2014, 8:12 am

    I’ve always thought that it was incredibly arrogant to believe that humans have more power over Earth’s climate than the sun and the oceans.

    The Earth works in its natural cycles. I have seen the data and I do believe that the Earth is now getting warmer, just like I believe that the Earth started becoming cooler 400 or so years ago. I just do not believe that we have caused it. Everything we do is a drop in the bucket compared to the immense power of the natural universe.

    Reply
    • LennStar October 8, 2014, 1:49 pm

      And I always thought it was incredibly arrogant to not believe your eyes because you think humans can not do this.

      Just a month ago for the first time the Aral lake was water free in the eastern part
      http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Aralsea_tmo_2014231_lrg.jpg
      It was once the 4th biggest lake in the world.
      Ever looked at rainforst 50 years ago and now? Or for forests, compared roman times and now?
      Ever looked at the list of living beeings that have died out in the last century because of the unimportant humans?
      Ever heard about the problems of the fishing indutry? 50 years ago everyone thought humans could never fish the sea empty. Then we invented the factory ship. It took only 2-3 decades to empty a big part of the sea. Just ask Iceland. You know why they did so much banking (and crashed with this)? Because the 600.000 Icelandic people fished their huge ocean empty and fishery crashed in the 90s.

      Reply
      • Sciencegeek October 9, 2014, 2:48 pm

        Thank you.

        It seems to me that the impassioned debate over human-caused climate change has eclipsed the topics of human-caused pollution, species extinction, rapid depletion of resources and overall fouling of the wondrous planet we inhabit. There is plenty we can and must do about all of that. Arguing about climate change is a smokescreen, and often a reason to not take action to clean up the air and water, conserve resources and sustainably manage croplands, fisheries and domesticated animals.

        Reply
  • Bando October 8, 2014, 8:32 am

    Are the glaciers melting? Yes. In fact, the 2-mile thick glacier that once covered the norther half of my home state of Ohio has melted entirely. Did humans start this melting? Probably not. Will we have another ice age? Probably. When will it start? We don’t know. What is the right time scale for modeling global temperatures. My guess would be tens of thousands of years, if not hundreds of thousands of years or millions of years. For what time period do we have robust data to feed into statistical models that will predict global temperature changes. Tens of years. Is carbon dioxide produced by humans a factor that can increase global temperature. Yes. Do we know with great certainty the relative importance of carbon dioxide emission by humans in causing climate change compared to other factors that have instigated glacial and interglacial periods for hundreds of thousands of years when data for that time period is limited. I don’t see how we possibly could.

    My problem with the climate change debate is in how absolutely certain everybody is that humans are causing climate change. Statistical models are only as good as the data you put into them. I don’t see how the data that we are putting into climate models could possibly be good enough to justify that level of certainty. The situation reminds me of how nearly every expert was oh-so-sure 20 years ago that replacing fat with carbs is the key to long life, health and vitality. I don’t have any problem with science as I am a scientist by trade. My problem is with how many scientists (and non-scientists) act so smug about what the they think they know.

    For me personally, whether or not humans cause climate change is irrelevant since I think we should be living more lightly on the earth anyway, which is why I love/read MMM. I don’t need to be scared into it by climate change.

    Reply
  • Victor October 8, 2014, 9:02 am

    I would want to argue that we cannot prove or disprove that we are influencing the global warming or climate change, unless it is a very direct chain reaction that we are setting off like the case was with the ozon layer. I do think as a society we can and should change our behaviour to make more sense ecologically, but I don’t like the tone of the science behind climate change either. Although admittedly I should read into it more.

    The models we use for climate modelling are only as good as the model itself. If you forget to take into account an important factor, like the ocean warming, the model will fire off wrong predictions. Simply put, we haven’t had a long enough period of measuring effects of a warmer climate, a higher CO2, risen sea levels, etcetera etcetera to confirm what a system as complex as a global climate would do. Furthermore, going back to the double blind tests, we can’t double blind test this, especially considering the complexity of the system. We just don’t have a second earth or a second chance.

    If we cannot predict even the weather accurately for a longer term than a week, if we cannot predict whether this tropical storm will evolve or dissipate, or what path they will follow with a great accuracy, how can we hope to predict how the climate will change? We can observe, and notice trends, but in order to predict, you definitely need an extremely robust model. A model which I would expect to also be able accurately to predict the average global temperatures for next year, and the year after. All in all, there are many more things that we don’t know than what we do know.

    That said, I do think as a global society, we have a responsibility to reduce our impact on the environment. Simply put, although I do not think we can prove global warming and the accompanied doomsday scenarios without a doubt, I also do not think we can disprove global warming and the accompanied doomsday scenarios. I wouldn’t want to take that chance playing russian roulette with the earth. As a humorous reference see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7i-K3nw5mo Of course, these arguments only are valid if the threat is real, which in the case of climate change I think there is enough evidence to accept the threat as real. (For example, you could make the same arguments for building a Thingy-Ma-Dingy against alien invasion …)

    All in all said, I’m still undecided. I would have to study more on the exact models behind climate change, and I agree it’s an endeavour we should monitor as humanity and further study.

    Reply
  • galaxton October 8, 2014, 10:02 am

    Even if you don’t believe in climate change what about the millions of other ways humans are affecting the world? Pollution and biodiversity are two provable issues that are directly affecting human health. Theses two issues alone will take a huge monetary toll on your wallet in terms of wellness. That alone should be it’s own red flag as to why every living person should care about fossil fuel usage and the world at large.

    Reply
  • scott October 8, 2014, 11:20 am

    “Science is your friend. It is the most useful thing humans have ever developed, and there is absolutely no downside to it.”

    I suppose this is correct but I wonder if you have considered an alternative perspective. N. Taleb suggests that probability is of a higher pecking order than science. In particular, he argues that new knowledge and technological advances are more often generated by “tinkering” than by the formal academic research that we know as “science”.

    I am asking because I certainly think of MMM as a tinkerer and you seem to embody Taleb’s concept of “anti-fragile”

    Reply
  • Syed October 8, 2014, 11:41 am

    While the commentator sounded a little trollish, there are many people who hold the view of using as many resources as you want because, damn it it’s my right as an American. We all have different thresholds of comfort, and it seems that in general, if you’re level is higher, you can generally save a lot of money.

    Reply
  • Miss Fit October 8, 2014, 11:57 am

    Great post! Especially love this: “Science is not about ideology, or trying to cover the truth, or trying to manipulate people. That is what politics are generally about, and Science is exactly the opposite of that.” Of course there are some “scientists” who are about ideology, but far fewer than the general population. Thanks MMM, keep up the great work!

    Reply
  • RapmasterD October 8, 2014, 11:58 am

    I’m going to be pretty unscientific here, and pretty f’ing annoying too. Here goes. I don’t CARE whether there is global warming or not. I’m just going to use some common sense. Man made pollutants spewing into our air and our waterways is clearly not beneficial to our planet. On the contrary.

    So these days I do what LITTLE THINGS I can do to make a difference. This includes what I call “conscientious driving,” meaning….as little as possible….like 50-80 miles per week MAX, and often less. It means much more walking and biking. It means much more conscientious trash disposal. This winter, when I’m in my house all by my ER loneliness, it will mean turning down the thermostat to 65 degrees WITH MY BARE HANDS (and not a NEST thermostat). It means not idling in my fucking car for more than 30 seconds…EVER!

    So I’m sorry I don’t care to get into the debate. I just do what very little things I can. Imagine if far more people did the same thing….WOW!

    P.S. That dude is seriously extreme. I’ve had family in South Florida for decades. It is a rare person who ever cools her house down below 74 degrees at any time.

    Reply
  • Greg October 8, 2014, 12:14 pm

    * Puts on sunglasses & watches the fireworks fly.

    I don’t think I’ve seen as active and argumentative comments section in a MMM post in quite some time. So many pertinent topics related to the epistemology of science floating to the surface here. Read Laboratory Life (http://amzn.to/1v2H6K9) for an interesting analysis of scientific practice — right or wrong, it should get you thinking.

    Reply
  • zenyata October 8, 2014, 1:56 pm

    Here’s where all that global warming “hiatus” is accounted for – courtesy of those dummies over at JPL (those same dummies who currently have a couple rovers running around on Mars and have or soon will have a couple probes OUT of the solar system):

    http://news.discovery.com/earth/global-warming/ocean-warming-may-be-drastically-underestimated-141007.htm

    Surficial temp increases have diminished over the last decade. That also happens to be largely irrelevant since the oceans are much more significant heat sinks than the land masses and the conditions on land are, to a large extent, at the mercy of what occurs in the oceans.

    The thing I think that gets lost a bit in this conversation regarding climate change is that there’s a potentially very dangerous combination of our arrogance regarding our ability of “human ingenuity / technology” to conquer the natural world and this notion of our “infinite” adaptability. Some may very well be able to adapt – but despite the story we often try to convince ourselves of – as a COLLECTIVE – we currently exist in a society that operates within relatively tight tolerances. It’s not going to be a case where the wheat crop is devastated by climatic impacts (heat / drought) so “oh we’ll just move it north by 500 miles..” total B.S. – we have completely optimized (to our benefit during STABLE times) our production of all sorts of crops and processes and the infrastructure that supports them. It is highly unlikely we’ll be able to just turn things on a dime to our benefit. In the vast realm of climatic conditions found in the natural world, both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial, we pretty much suck at surviving beyond a narrow, cozy range of temperatures, pressures, atmospheric concentrations etc. As someone has pointed out (to paraphrase) “we are conducting a gigantic uncontrolled experiment on a closed system and fundamentally altering the chemical properties of the planet…”

    Reply
    • Frugal Strudel October 9, 2014, 11:06 am

      Fortunately we haven’t really had to test our ability to relocate and survive catastrophic threats to our existence, but I find it hard to believe that should we have to do such a thing that we wouldn’t be able to do it.
      Granted, based on the theories of evolution we would lose a large percentage of the population in the process, but on the bright side real estate would be more reasonable in certain areas.

      Reply
  • Mario October 8, 2014, 2:54 pm

    Wow, didn’t expect to read this when I woke up this morning. I’m impressed with how seamlessly you’re able to write with impact across topics. Furthermore, I agree with you; the best way to make money or succeed at anything is to take all the information that’s available and use it to make the smartest decision you can.

    What’s bothersome is that this isn’t just ignorance — which is totally forgivable — and it’s not just willful ignorance; it’s pride at that ignorance…and obstinance when others are doing all they can to drag you away from that ignorance.

    Reply
  • Heath October 8, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Nice riposte, MMM!

    I live in Phoenix AZ (Tempe, really) and keep my thermostat set to 83 during the summer days and 81 in the evenings. For about 6 months a year (Oct – Mar), I keep the thermostat off completely, and just wear some warm clothes inside. 6 months of $30 monthly electric bills are a beautiful thing :)

    As for climate change; it blows my mind how many relatively intelligent people can doubt the consensus of a diverse group of people whose entire profession is the study of natural systems. When most of the scientists say we’re fucking shit up, I believe them. Then again, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I work with a bunch of programmers (LOGICAL PEOPLE!) who actually believe that getting the flu vaccine will cause you to become ill… Sigh. I just keep getting my shots, keep riding my bike, keep generally defying their expectations, and hope they pick up some of it through osmosis.

    Reply
    • Carl M October 8, 2014, 7:40 pm

      83 degrees is cool if the relative humidity is low. Alabama is hot a humid.

      Reply
  • GrahaminHats October 8, 2014, 3:25 pm

    The beginning of you article hit the nail on the head. Strong emotions can well override good sense. One of the strongest is our survival drive which, for some, is initiated by anything which threatens to intrude upon their chosen lifestyle.

    There are various causes for the knee jerk reactions to Climate Care. It might be that we need to understand and have stratagems to calm them all in order to make more rapid progress.

    Interesting article. :-)

    Reply
  • Druid October 8, 2014, 3:27 pm

    I am wondering if the global warming skeptics can at least agree that we should be cutting down air pollution emissions? I can see why a person might believe that global warming is being caused by a natural cycle, but its scary to think that people also believe that we can use unlimited amounts of dirty energy without consequence. I guess I assumed that there were the people who cared and the people who didn’t. It truly scares me that people might actually feel passionately that our impact is so small that we can use all of the coal and oil we want.

    Reply
  • the idiot October 8, 2014, 3:58 pm

    I got a good laugh out of this one. It’s like those clowns that proudly tell you they turn on all their appliances and lights during earth hour.

    Nothing like hurting yourself to prove a point.

    Reply
  • David October 8, 2014, 4:14 pm

    The premise of this article is great and I agree that scientific thinking is a great tool towards building your financial independence. The global warming issue greatly detracted from the main topic but brought up an interesting problem with the main point of the article. To use scientific thinking to your advantage you must first understand it and then rigorously apply it. This is difficult with emotionally charged issues, like money and the environment. Many of the comments here fall prey to the emotional trap and are not very scientific.

    The scientists that are being referred to in support of the global warming hypothesis specifically state that they cannot statistically conclude with any certainty that their hypothesis is true while at the same time they cannot reject the null hypothesis. This situation is often reported as a confirmation of the hypothesis, in scientific thinking it is valid to conclude that in this scenario and in the absence of a better hypothesis, the current one should function as our best guess and be the basis for further research. It is therefore very unscientific to state that climate change is “settled science” or that people who question the current conclusions are unscientific (at the same time conspiracy theories are even more unscientific.)

    Now to tie this back into money and financial independence I’ll look at a different topic which parallels climate science, the stock market. MMM rightly states often that based on our current science we should expect long term growth in the stock market. So far in our experience this has been true, we have a significant amount of statistical certainty that over any 5 year period the stock market will increase and that certainty only grows when we extend the time period, additionally we have no data to support the null hypothesis. However, there are many scientific explanations for short term stock market performance which are often disproved, these explanations or theories generally fall into the category of climate science; we don’t have the data to support the hypothesis with certainty but cannot reject the null hypothesis either. I don’t think many people on these forums are interested in any of these scientific theories on short term stock performance even though they are technically valid.

    Science is a powerful tool but it can be misused and often is. Hedge funds, predatory lenders, oil companies, environmentalists, etc all use valid scientific explanations to convince you of their position and it is your responsibility to determine if you are comfortable enough with the statistical likelihood that they are wrong to act on that information.

    Reply
  • Dmitri L October 8, 2014, 4:43 pm

    While the science is important to confirm our opinions, it really does nothing to convince “skeptics”. An emotional / personal argument is much more effective for this purpose.

    One of my favorite mediums that does this very well, without clobbering anyone over the head with political agenda, is a film called Chasing Ice. http://www.chasingice.com/

    One man’s story and struggle – but very powerful stuff! Highly recommended if people have not seen it. Also good for showing to relatives, friends, coworkers.

    Happy sciencing!
    D

    PS – http://xkcd.com/552

    Reply
  • Carl M October 8, 2014, 7:36 pm

    The Alabama skeptic may be greener than you think. Air conditioning is a pretty efficient process. Doing a bit of rounding, 70 degrees is about 530 Rankine. Suppose we need the cold coils on the AC to be 55 degrees and the hot side to be 110 degrees on a hot day. Efficiency is (110+460) / (110-55) = 570/55 or a bit over a factor of 10. If the power plant is running 25% efficiency (including line losses) we still have a factor of 2.5 vs the efficiency of burning coal or gas directly for heat. (OK, I have not figured in the energy used to condense out the water in the air. I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader, or perhaps a follow on comment if there is interest.)

    If it is 100 degrees outside and you keep it 70 inside, that’s a mere 30 degree difference. That’s the same as keeping it 50 degrees inside when it is 20 outside — not counting solar heating. (Throw in a bunch of south facing windows and heating gets easier and cooling gets harder.)

    Still, living in Alabama and running the A/C aggressively is less energy intensive than living in a cold climate and keeping it warmer than 60 in the winter — unless you get very serious with the passive solar.

    Furthermore, the American southeast has some pretty cheap housing stock. I bought a 3200 square foot house on a one acre lot in eastern NC for 205K a few years back. Yes, it needed work, but I didn’t need to raise the roof like you did for your 240K house. You can buy a lot of air conditioning for the difference in housing costs between the Southeast and where you live. And there is plenty of water, so no-flush toilets and no-wash washing machines don’t make much sense here.

    All that said, I personally do not set my A/C down to 69. I like summer. I like opening the windows and wearing shorts. On the other hand, I don’t like wearing long johns inside and so I do heat my house in the winter, but at least a good chunk of the time I can do the heating with a heat pump.

    There are downsides to living in the Southeast: humid summers, mosquitos, etc. Living where you do is a luxury — a luxury that is perhaps more expensive than cranking up the A/C when it’s 93 degrees with 80 percent humidity outside.

    Reply
  • Gronk October 8, 2014, 9:02 pm

    I majored in physics, I think that I do have a scientific way of viewing things. I do disagree that science can only be for good. Nuclear weapons, biological warfare and spandex clothing are scientific creations that can hardly be called “good”.

    I have also worked with high levels of government and observed how lobbying works first hand.

    This is all about politics. Both sides. Both have high financial stakes. Fortunes will be made by the winner of this debate. No question.

    The only thing that is certain is that the fortune that they will acquire will come from you and me, the little guys.

    We are just the pawns, the dupes. If you want to look at history, this is something that repeats, over and over.

    So I stay out of it. They can’t predict the weather for the week ahead, yet they now say they are 97.635243% certain they can predict it a decade ahead. So I say they are full of B.S. – especially when you can often trace that they are heavily funded to say it.

    The guys on the other side are funded by oil and other energy. Not wanting anyone to turn off their massive money taps. That part is even more obvious.

    So I go about my business. And try to be a decent human being, walking as lightly as possible on the earth, leaving and conserving as much as I can for future generations. Conservation and frugality go hand in hand. And I have no problem if our rulers seek to make our whole society become more that way. But they are clearly hypocrites, the very same guy tells you we must absolutely impose new carbon taxes to fight climate change and then the next day tells us we must all recklessly spend, spend, spend on consumer goods to grow our economy!

    I just turn off the radio, trying my best not to be one of the many, many sheep, black or white.

    As a history buff, I am beginning to think that politics and religion are incredibly similar and are probably two of the greatest evils ever imposed on humanity. They both operate precisely the same way, elites try to create hysteria in the masses to make them do what they want. To herd the sheep for their own benefit. This AGW issue is the classic spinmaster creation, combining the two. Each side say either one must be a “believer”, or a “non-believer”, and that one word is the obvious giveaway.

    The word believe (L. credo) is generally defined as having faith in something without having absolute knowledge that it is true. Why do they constantly use this word in context of either the pro or the con of this so-called “scientific” argument? Belief is a religious word.

    If this argument is really about science, then I say that science is corrupt. Religion and science never mixed that well, go ask Galileo.

    Reply
  • Lawk October 8, 2014, 9:19 pm

    Imagine one day without industry or cars. Wait, you don’t have to imagine it;
    http://www.amusingplanet.com/2014/10/yom-kippur-day-when-israel-goes-car-free.html

    What if this applied to every city in the world?

    Reply
  • Posted On October 8, 2014, 9:33 pm

    I think Jared (the OP :-) is trying to find ways to justify why he works.
    He thinks work is required, so he may as well spend the money he makes however he wants.
    Good for him.

    Personally, I’d rather save the $50 (or whatever amount it would be) by not running my A/C because it means I don’t have to report to a job for the amount of time required to make the $50 (or whatever). The snowball effect is, the more areas of my life that I can reduce (or eliminate) my spending, the less time I have to be at a job – and the more time I get to enjoy my life doing what I want! Surviving without A/C is easy compared to getting up everyday and going to a job.

    I suspect MMM would have been much better off taking this tack versus the science idea, if only because this blog is all about living “more comfortably” than it is about science.

    Reply
  • Soon to be Underwater October 8, 2014, 10:31 pm

    The oceans are rising, this is a measurable fact. Miami Beach (and a huge number of other coastal cities) will be inundated with seawater by the year 2100 if the rise in sea level continues at its current pace. CO2 in the atmosphere holds causes solar radiation to be retained, thereby causing more heating. Ok, maybe this is a theory, but it is a very strong theory, based on scientific experimentation. Is there any disagreement that the flooding of many populous regions with seawater is a bad thing? I sure hope not. So, if there is a strong possibility that limiting CO2 emissions will help to delay the flooding of these populous areas, wouldn’t it be our moral duty to try and do something about that, since we care what happens to our great grandchildren?

    I just have a very hard time understanding why this is such a hard concept for some people to accept? Perhaps it is difficult to admit that we may be contributing to some future dire consequences and that makes us feel guilty? Perhaps we are afraid that if we work to reduce CO2 emissions it will somehow harm our economy or our current way of life? Perhaps we are just in general afraid of change.

    Reply
  • CT October 8, 2014, 11:11 pm

    Didn’t come to this site for politics or religion or saving the planet or even science. I came to grow my stashe.But, if MMM thinks any of these can grow my stashe then I am listening.
    Climate change— I am all about going green–however, most of the hype with going green is about companies getting gr$$n. So for me, going green depends on me saving money (or at least breaking even) and gaining other benefits like better health or learning a new skill.
    I doubt that my using a stainless steel water bottle has impacted the world–but it sure saves me a bundle and is way healthier than soda. Making my own household cleaners may not save an endangered species, but I don’t have to worry about toxic residues or “cleaning out my wallet” (see MMM’s past post).
    I don’t have much of a science background–but I was a history major which means I know how to research & how to weed out nonsense, shotty studies, and run of the mill BS.
    Thanks for another great article & helping me grow my stashe a little thicker.

    Reply
  • Zoltan October 9, 2014, 12:59 am

    Air-conditioning is really bad. If you’re stuck in a poorly constructed house I understand that you may not have too many options, especially in hot climate. Alabama does not seem to be a overly hot climate, rather a mild one. Perhaps Jared should lose some weight and work on his heat tolerance. People like Jared would deserve a proper, long electricity outage. They take everything for granted.

    Reply

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