161Joined Aug 2022


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I think my point should have been phrased less as "people will definitely not take you seriously" and more as "people might not take you seriously".  If I was looking for a reason to toss something, the sort of errors here would provide excellent ammo. 

More broadly, I'm glad that you guys are trying to address this.  I do think that defense is particularly tricky, for reasons I'm still trying to write up, but I also don't have the expertise to critique other areas.

Wait.  OpenPhil gave money to Toon and Robock?  Wow.  If I'd know that, I would have written a very sharp criticism of that particular decision.  

>Indeed, most of the research ever published on nuclear winter has been published in the last few years, using the latest climate modelling.

The problem isn't climate modeling.  The problem is that one of the inputs to the model is wrong by, conservatively, a factor of 50. 

>The most recent papers are getting published in Nature. I would disagree that theres a "reliance on papers that have a number of obvious flaws".

Peer review is a useful process, but not perfect, hence the existence of the replication crisis.  In this case, there's a couple of papers that keep popping up in more recent literature as the source for soot estimates that are extremely bad.  But a typical peer reviewer for nature would have no reason to critique those papers, and doesn't have the expertise to realize how bonkers some of the assumptions in them are.

I was perhaps unclear in my original comment.  I wrote up a long explanation the many, many errors those two have made in their nuclear winter models at, which I assumed that Henry had read.  A quick glance at the paper in question turns up that they're using the very models of soot production I critique.  My expertise in agriculture is quite limited, so I can't say anything about how a given amount of soot will affect crop production.  I can say that they're relying on a model so terrible that I genuinely don't think a good-faith effort would produce anything that bad.  It's pretty hard to explain how the models get worse at exactly the rate that arsenals shrink, so the nuclear war situation stays the same otherwise.  The stuff in the 80s was probably exaggerated somewhat, but it's clear nonsense with arsenals an order of magnitude smaller today.

>Sorry, but the nuclear  threat has not meaningfully changed since the day I was born in 1952.

This simply isn't true.  Even if we take your claim that it would only take 50 nukes to destroy America's largest cities at face value and that that in turn would be enough to destroy the US, in 1952, the Soviets had only 50 nukes total, and very limited capability to deliver them to targets in US.  Most would instead be going to Europe, and a lot of them wouldn't go off because the planes carrying them would be shot down.  And this is pre-H-bomb, so you're going to need more than 50 bombs to do the same destruction that you could do with 50 today.  (And to be clear, I don't accept that 50 bombs is nearly enough to pose an X-risk to America.)  

>As example, North Korea will soon have enough nukes to demolish America.  They just need to get the long range delivery systems working.

China has cut them off at six missiles, which are aimed at cities where US decision-makers and their families live.  

Robock is second author, Toon is also on the author's list.  It's the same people who have been poisoning this particular well for decades, so I'd toss it right there.  I have no reason to trust them to actually be doing science, and lots of reason to believe that they're being driven by ideology.

In retrospect, I should have been more clear in my claim on submarine invulnerability, which was mostly meant to apply to the sort of thing you could reliably do during an attempt to preemptively take out a nuclear arsenal.  And yes, obviously more to the US than elsewhere.  But note that the link you provide is to an SSN, not an SSBN, and MAD is not a new technology.  The first deployment of that I'm aware of was to guard the Straits of Gibraltar in WWII, and if anything it's being phased out these days.  

I would strongly disagree that nuclear weapons are any sort of existential risk.  There aren't nearly enough to wipe out humanity directly, and haven't ever been, and nuclear winter risk is massively overblown, for reasons I explain in the link I just added to the post.

"You know, the nuclear weapons threat has not meaningfully changed since the day I was born in 1952."

This, I would disagree with quite strongly. The nuclear threat has changed several times since then.  At that point, arsenals were quite limited.  By the late 50s, the US had a huge arsenal, but delivery was by bombers only.  The arrival of the ICBM meant that warning times dropped from hours to minutes, which had all sorts of impacts, but the early ICBMs took a while to launch.  At about the same time, you see SSBNs, which make it a lot harder to squish the enemy's deterrent.  And since the end of the Cold War, you see a massive decrease in arsenals worldwide.