Windows, Linux, and the Kyoto Climate Protocols

Windows, Linux, and the Kyoto Climate Protocols

Summary: If you look at the Kyoto climate debate you can see the complete triumph of politics and greed over reality - and if you look at the Windows vs. Linux debate you can see the same forces getting the same result.


I read a blog, yesterday, by one Randall Hoven, titled "Kyoto Schmyoto" which started with this:

One would think that countries that committed to the Kyoto treaty are doing a better job of curtailing carbon emissions. One would also think that the United States, the only country that does not even intend to ratify, keeps on emitting carbon dioxide at growth levels much higher than those who signed.

And one would be wrong.

The Kyoto treaty was agreed upon in late 1997 and countries started signing and ratifying it in 1998. A list of countries and their carbon dioxide emissions due to consumption of fossil fuels is available from the U.S. government. If we look at that data and compare 2004 (latest year for which data is available) to 1997 (last year before the Kyoto treaty was signed), we find the following.

  • Emissions worldwide increased 18.0%.
  • Emissions from countries that signed the treaty increased 21.1%.
  • Emissions from non-signers increased 10.0%.
  • Emissions from the U.S. increased 6.6%.

Since that's the exact opposite of what widely quoted experts, including some prominent Americans, are saying about U.S. performance I tried to confirm the numbers - and it turns out they're about right. During that process, however, I was struck by the similarities between what most people think they know about climate change and the Kyoto treaties on the one side and what most people think they know about the Linux vs Windows debate on the other.

What's going on in both cases is that what people believe has little to do with facts and everything to do with individual decisions to value conformance to perceived majority opinion over conformance to objective reality. On the climate side what this means is that otherwise sane scientists and science administrators willingly pander to the media bandwagon on human responsibility for climate change while knowing perfectly well that the parallel to effects visible on other planets in our solar system prove human causation a non issue.

On the IT side this means that some of my friends willingly continue their allegiance to Microsoft while knowing perfectly well that the Microsoft client-server architecture does not work and cannot be made to work while all three of the major Unix groups: the BSDs, Linux, and Solaris, offer alternatives that are both demonstrably effective and theoretically supported.

In that same vein I've suffered the frustrations - and I'm sure you have too - of talking to people who seem perfectly sensible in real life but repeatedly react to IT failure by repeating what they did to create it. That's classical insanity, but I know one guy, a person I'm happy to call a friend, who has upgraded his personal Wintel gear roughly every 12 to 15 months since the early nineties, now has Vista on a brand new quad core of some kind, still loses Word and outlook files, isn't doing anything today he couldn't do with a MacAV in 1991/2, and has yet to understand that spending money will never make him the instant master of the information universe he yearns to be.

( After SP1, I think I'll suggest he try the the upgrade to dual core and XP. :) )

One of the weird things about this is that he's consulted me prior to each upgrade - with every evidence of sincerity. In each case, furthermore, I've given him the same advice: just get a Mac - and fourteen times now he's agreed that the Mac's better but decided against buying it because Apple's just about to go under.

The behavior looks utterly irrational - and really is inexplicable unless of course, you look at the climate change issue for a parallel because it's pretty clear there that the movement leaders are in it for reasons having nothing to do with climate - and most of the followers are desperate to believe for political reasons having nothing to do with climate either. Apply that to the Windows vs Linux debate and you can see why the fact that Unix does more than Windows with one third the lines of code and less than one percent of the failure rate simply doesn't matter.

So, bottom line, what's it mean? That arguing Unix vs Windows on the facts is silly - and perhaps even counter-productive because the factual argument favoring any Unix over Windows is so overwhelming that the media, and most customers, have simply tuned out in favor of continuing uninformed opinions they've been led to believe lots of other people hold too.

Topics: Linux, Open Source, Windows

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  • Ah the zombies

    Nice report from Bali:
    Richard Flude
    • Thanks!

      Not only is that a valuable pointer, but I was beginning to think everyone had gone somewhere for holidays already...

      Speaking of which: Merry Christmass!
      • Merry Christmas to you as well

        Enjoy the holidays. I look forward to reading more next year.
        Richard Flude
  • Hmm, Windows v. Linux AND Global Warming?

    All in one post? You must really need hits :)
    • Sure, but if I really wanted hits...

      "Wintel causes Global Warming" (Mcnealy) - see

      "Windows insanely great" says former Linux developer now working for Microsoft.

      (hey, I bet I could find one :) )


      "Intel to mfg AMD's 32nm products" - national Inquirer"

      or - a fav - speaking of the inquirer...
      Gates fathers Edward's love child !!! (Says windows made him do it.)

      now those would draw hits !
  • Parallel world?

    Obviously a dimensional rift has opened up and swallowed you Rudy. A world where MS client server doesn't work and Unix is all powerful.

    Open your eyes Rudy. 92% of the world is working away well with advanced technology. If you could only appreciate that the world isn't made up of call centers and database apps. Oh and apparently in this world emissions are caused by third world countries and those concerned about climate change not the USA, which appears to be the biggest problem in my reality.

    Oh and I loved the stats - how hard did you have to trawl for those?
    • He hasn't opened them yet

      I doubt he will anytime soon.
  • Care to qualify this?

    [i]"...the fact that Unix does more than Windows with [b]one third the lines of code[/b] and [b]less than one percent of the failure rate[/b] simply doesn?t matter."[/i]

  • The evidence says what you want it to

    Using Windows for a server does indeed seem to be the wrong choice, based on the evidence (such as it is).

    I'm dubious of your example of climate change, though: those emission percentages are so high level as to be meaningless. 6.6% of a lot (the US being the world's biggest per-capita emitter) is overall worse than 21% of less. It seems like those values were tailored to support the point of view being argued. Sure there's objective reality, but it can be spun any way you like when interpreting it.

    It seems that only scientists are truly objective, due to the vicious peer-review system that would tear them apart if they were found to be faking or misinterpreting their results. Alas in IT, even entirely accurate attacks are usually written off as misinformation from nay-sayers.
    Jason Etheridge
    • Umm.. no - nice try - but no

      1) if you follow the link given, you'll see that the source article links to a table showing absolute values.

      2) on CO2 per dollar of economic value produced the U.S. isn't remotely close to big time polluters like China. That's the right measure, not per capita tonnages.

      3) click on the google link provided and check some of those results. You'll see that there's no evidence to support human causation - and therefore that while it always makes sense to reduce pollution, doing so has nothing to do with climate change.

      • The last of the denialists

        So, just to be absolutely clear, your point (3) indicates that you do NOT believe that increased CO2 in the atmosphere is the leading contributor to global warming. That the observed increase in average temperature is a natural cycle, and nothing to do with our civilisation.

        In other words, you are saying that the IPCC is wrong, and that the activism calling for reduction in CO2 emissions are wasting their time.

        Jason Etheridge
        • Not close to being the last

          "So, just to be absolutely clear, your point (3) indicates that you do NOT believe
          that increased CO2 in the atmosphere is the leading contributor to global

          Murph isn't close to being the last.

          "In other words, you are saying that the IPCC is wrong, and that the activism calling
          for reduction in CO2 emissions are wasting their time."

          Yes. The IPCC report is a joke of epic fanboyism. It marks the end of the age of
          science (which has been declining since the 50s), to looney activism.
          Richard Flude
          • How timely

            "Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced
            significant objections to major aspects of the so-called "consensus" on man-made
            global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants
            in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate
            claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore. "

            Oh how we will gloat when the hysteria moves onto another target.
            Richard Flude
          • Hope

            I truly hope that the denialists are right. Given that the inertia will never be overcome in terms of doing anything to actually affect the way the IPCC think things are going, we'll all eventually find out whether they were indeed hysterical in their foretelling of doom.

            Regarding the article, giving a mouthpiece to the minority who disagree with the consensus view (tens of thousands of scientists) doesn't change the fact that the scientific consensus is clear.
            Jason Etheridge
          • a funding consensus != a concensus on issues

            1 - CLick on the that google mars link in the blog - and then think.

            2 - I don't believe you can find a single scientist anywhere who genuinely believes in the human causation argument. Pandering to a media concensus wins money and prestige,but in private most of these guys think the whole co2 idea laughable.
        • Yes.


          And, by the way, so does every serious scientist out there when not in the presence of a funding officer.
    • re: Climtate change: What the cause is is irrelevant.

      I have a different view on Climate change than most. The enbtire argument seems to be over something that is completely irrelevant - who or what is causing climate change.

      If the cause is natural, then there is nothing we can do about it.
      If the cause is humans' CO2 emissions, then I still contend there is [b]nothing we can do about it[/b]. Only rich countries can even begin to afford the changes needed to make a meaningful difference is CO2 emissions, and those countries only produce a fraction of the total industrial CO2 emissions in the world.

      The thing we should be arguing over is what do about the people who will be affected by rising sea levels.
      • We don't have to do anything

        because sea levels aren't rising.

        I know gore says so.. but use google, get the numbers, and see for yourself.
        • Then why are some islands disappering?

        • Ok I googled it.

          Every source I could find confirms that Sea Levels have been rising for the past 100 years.

          You are f-ing nuts Murph.