by Judith Curry
A year ago, who would have thought that 2021 would be crazier than 2020?
A quick post to end the year with some random reflection
The new normal (for me, anyway) is staying at home, not traveling. Greater ventilation, use of HEPA air cleaners (also a big help when the air quality in the American West is horrible due to wildfires), outdoor social events, face coverings. I’ve had triple flu (Moderna), haven’t even had a cold in the last two years, also drinking a complementary cocktail. My entire company is working from home now – surprisingly young employees don’t like this very much, but those with kids/dogs definitely love it. I’m fine with my new normal, although I realize this isn’t feasible or desirable for most people. God bless the internet. Principles of personal precaution in action, with clear and immediate goals – I really don’t want to get sick of a contagious disease.
Missed opportunities in 2021 to deal with Covid: scarcity of Covid tests in the US, failure to systematically investigate the purpose of repurposing existing drugs for treatment regimens. treatment of Covid and not rapidly approving and producing new drugs to treat it. Do not emphasize the need for better ventilation in buildings. Cover up fatigue by insisting on wearing a mask outside (school, etc.).
The death of expertise
“Follow the science” is almost like a joke at this point. Attempts to create and enforce various vivid ‘consensus’ statements about everything from origins, masks, infusion modes, treatments, etc. have mostly backfired. WHO and CDC (USA) have a lot of eggs on their faces.
The various Covid consensus failures have had a negative impact on the trust of experts and expertise in various fields.
‘Truth-checking’ in the media has been shown to be (mostly) an implementation of partisan/political dogma.
Scientists playing politics and politicians abusing science for political purposes have become endemic.
Deeper wounds to expertise are coming from within universities and dogmatic practice in many areas. Many scholars have left academia, some involuntarily because of such problems. Waking up kids and a frenzied focus on victimhood, difference, gender, and diversity at the expense of traditional academic values has left many colleges in disarray. dysfunctional and even scary places.
In politics and popular culture, cancel culture has also run amok. The heroine in all of this has to be JK Rowling to protect her sanity regarding gender and sexuality.
Lately, there’s been a growing backlash against such nonsense, which is especially bad in the US (doesn’t it seem so bad elsewhere?)
On the good news, the rush to develop a Covid vaccine has not only produced some innovative research, but also shows how quickly applied research to rollout can proceed. This seems to have spurred a spirit of innovation, turning to science and engineering to provide better solutions to our current problems. There is a lot of venture capital and money from billionaires revolving around these purposes (for various applications including climate change), which seems to have been invigorated by the Covid vaccine.
Covid has also spurred the development of new (and cheaper!) online meeting and conferencing platforms, workflows, and platforms that facilitate telework and meetings, as well as conferencing. IPCC AR6 managed to get its job done without many scientists traveling around the world; The huge loss in productivity due to a lot of travel is huge.
In the last few years, the audience for the mainstream media has dropped dramatically, for good reasons. In the US, the mainstream media no longer pretends to be objective or investigates the facts. Lots of partisan news outlets popped up, and the investigation happened randomly and was published on blogs or whatever.
About a year ago, a new framework for publishing was launched, called Substack. Substack has attracted a number of serious journalists to the platform, and many others from various fields have joined. One key to its success is that Substack figured out how its journalists can actually make a good living
I follow many writers on Substack and have about half a dozen paid subscriptions. The posts are mostly long-form (also podcasts), and the people I follow are writing some compelling essays, many on topics that aren’t trendy or overwhelming.
Tell me who your favorite writer is.
The Rise of Anarchism and Federalism
In addition to anarchy and redefining what is mainstream media, we are also seeing broader hints of anarchy in the United States. In the United States, we have seen the rise of federalism in terms of the power of individual states. In the past, I had mostly known about different levels of prosperity and different weather from different states. Covid and the Trumps highlight that individual countries manage their crises on their own, revealing different modes and styles of governance, different degrees of freedom, different priorities over the rule of law. and order, different energy and environmental policies, differences in abortion rights, different tax structures, and different cultures. Governors are getting more media attention than Biden. There has been a massive exodus out of California, Illinois and New York, and especially into Texas and Florida.
The US federal government seems powerless to do anything lately. In the Trump administration, this does not appear to be an error; In the Biden administration, this was certainly an error. The division of power from the federal government to the states has been characterized as anarchy; For me, there are very positive factors.
A few weeks ago, I discovered this quote:
“”Climate change” is just a mental tattoo – a phrase we use with an air of scientific sophistication to provide some sense of understanding about the unknowable.
That statement pretty much sums up the whole thing. Climate ‘science’ has become boring, mostly dot i and dot t (or worse, dot i and dot t). Even if we assume that the science is ‘stabilized’, the policy discussion is even more boring – the unlikely solutions that even successfully implemented could make them worse. It is worse than doing nothing (such as not having enough electricity and fuel to keep warm in winter).
How we can get out of this rut is the subject of a book I am working on. I’m about 70% done, hope to send it to my publisher by June. This is being published by an academic press, so the book needs to be academic. The challenge is to write it in a way that transcends academic aggregation while also being readable/interesting to a wider audience.
Biz weather and climate
My company, Climate forecasting application network, continues to occupy most of my time, while providing an endless source of interesting ideas and applications.
On the weather side of business, increased vulnerability to extreme weather events is spawning new insurance vehicles and Securities Linked Insurance funds. The insurance sector is a rapidly growing part of my company’s business.
Traditionally, energy companies have been the biggest consumers of private sector weather forecasting, natural gas trading and load management for power companies. The renewable energy boom (especially wind, to a lesser extent solar) is increasing the demand for wind and solar power forecasting.
The entire private sector weather business is becoming more competitive as more and more free information is available online and from apps that generate revenue from advertising or from inexpensive subscriptions. My company is focused on large enterprises that want custom forecasting products, innovative forecasting products, and analytics in predictive reporting.
A growing part of our business is in the climate sector. Up until a few years ago, requests I received involved interpreting climate model outputs and advising attorneys regarding litigation. After a bias-correcting and scale-down climate model simulation project, which I felt was a rather worthless exercise, I no longer accept such projects. Over the course of a few years, there has been a series of litigation cases that I am advising, but most of these have been mitigated over the years on procedural and jurisdictional issues.
Over the past few years I have received some of the more interesting projects related to renewable energy, potential insurance losses, scenario projections to 2050 and worst case scenario development for localities. Specifically. I have also been asked to provide fact checks on climate impact assessments provided by other groups. I doubt that this will become an ever-increasing part of the business.
Far and away the best book I’ve read this year (or in recent memory) is Dawn of all things – New history of mankind. From the suburbs:
“A dramatically new understanding of human history that challenges our most basic assumptions about social evolution — from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of states, sovereignty and inequality — and reveal new possibilities for human emancipation.“
This book immediately became a NYTimes Bestseller, with numerous reviews online. Overall, an engaging and exhilarating read that changed the way I think about the past, present, and future.
I can only aspire to accomplish something like this with my own book in the works.
Thank you to everyone who participated in Climate Etc. over the past year, especially guest bloggers. Between my books and running the company, blogging takes a big place. In principle, both should provide fodder for blog posts, but it takes time.
The blog has been sluggish, I think it’s too big. I’m going to pick up some old, unimportant articles to lighten the load a bit. Also, the moderation queue has gotten out of control. I think I fixed one of the problems, we’ll see.
I would like to send my best wishes to you for a happy, enjoyable and healthy new year.