Climate Change Activism's Wreck of a Train

Observationally, they have nothing to show to support their claims of upcoming climate disasters. Scientifically, they got it mixed up and regularly distort what Science is and is not showing. In practice, they are using persuasion tools developed to save pandas and the Hudson river, and those are the wrong ones because Anthropogenic Global Warming is not a species in peril now or a river polluted at the present, but a risk for the end of the century.

No wonder then, Climate Change activists have been fighting a mostly political battle for at least two decades. And the main objective appears time and again to force their solutions upon us, and to stifle all forms of dissent.

In desperation, what else have they got?

Keeping Cool about President Obama's Climate Change Policies

Recently Anthony Watts posted his concerns about Barack Obama’s energy (and therefore climate, or vice-versa) expected policies and their consequences.

Personally, I am not too worried. Of course, President Obama will talk about climate change, push for some kind of Kyoto-like committment, embrace world leaders at the 2009 Copenhagen Conference, etc etc. That is, he’s bound to go through the motions.

But then what? I contend that the AGW message (“Humanity is to blame!“) is incompatible with the Obama message (“Change we can believe in!“).

First of all, one cannot be positive about humanity’s capacity for change and negative about humanity’s role in the planet’s well-being.

Furthermore, Climate Change has been explicitly presented time and again as “THE challenge for the present generation” by the likes of Al Gore. Well, Barack Obama’s “Change” is enough of a generational challenge in itself, much bigger than Climate Change and perfectly capable to outlive it.

In all likelihood, it’ll be the President’s outlook on political life that will carry the day. If that’s the case, AGW as we know it will slowly wither away, ironically under an AGWer President just as it kept on growing during the 8 years of an anti-AGW White House Resident.

Doomsayers' Big Advantage

Something that may apply as well to climate as to stumbling financial markets…from Michael M. Grynbaum ‘s “Forecasters race to call the bottom to the market“, IHT, Oct 27, 2008:

[…] Even in normal times, forecasters have a strong incentive to make extreme predictions, which is why those “Dow 1,000!” reports persist. “It’s eye-popping. It’s relevant. It seems exciting,” Lamont said. Such predictions attract publicity, name recognition and a bigger client base in a business where investors pay thousands, if not millions, for stock advice and investment guidance.

And even if a forecast is off-base, there are few repercussions because they are almost always quickly forgotten […]

Even the guys forecasting in 1999 that the Dow would soon reach 36,000, are still well employed.

I have a feeling, there is something deep inside human nature that makes wild claims, especially wildly gloomy claims, simply too good news and marketing material.

Pity on us then if signs of worldwide cooling accumulate…the smart climatologist will simply extrapolate into upcoming billions of ice-encases deaths.

WWF's Weak Warming Foundations

All hail the WWF’s “Climate change: faster, stronger, sooner – A European update on climate science” report, released “just in time” as the EU discussed ratification of the economy-busting, climatically-inconsequential 20-20-20 Plan?

Not so fast.

Report compiler Dr Tina Tin sets out to show that “important aspects of climate change seem to have been underestimated and the impacts are being felt sooner“, in order to justify the WWF’s call for “an emission reduction target of at least 30% below 1990 levels by 2020” in the EU.

What does Dr Tin mention to support her case?

(a) “The Arctic Ocean is losing sea ice 30 or more years ahead of the projections presented in the Fourth Assessment Report“.

This is a rather weak point. All it takes to refute it is a couple of years of increasing sea ice. Note that 2008’s minimum was higher than 2007’s, and the recovery in the past month has been impressive.

(b) “Floating tide-water glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula are losing ice faster and are making a greater contribution to global sea level rise than reported“.

It is another weak argument. The Antarctic Peninsula is a peculiar place where lots is happening that is not happening anywhere else. The more the Peninsula behaves “strangely”, the less it may mean for the warming of the whole planet.

(c) “Since 1990, global sea level has been rising one and a half times faster than forecast in…2001“.

This is a simplification. As reported in Accuweather’s Global Warming blog, the rise has been “far from uniform” and great parts of the ocean have seen almost no change at all.

(d) “Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released as a consequence of human activity have been accelerating“.

This is no change in climate per se. And with CO2’s intrinsic global warming effect growing with the logarithm of the concentration, it may be quite inconsequential.

(e) “A re-examination of the climate impacts reported in the Fourth Assessment Report indicates that 80% cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are needed by 2050 to keep global average temperature rise below 2°C“.

That’s where Dr Tin starts with the abuse of future predictions. These have by definition little to do with any climate change impact being already felt. For the same reason, I’ll skip most of the “Climate Change Tomorrow” list (everything that doesn’t deal with the past and present).

(g) “The analysis of 542 plant and 19 animal species across 19 European countries demonstrates without doubt that the timing of activities of plants and animals, especially in spring and in autumn […] have changed following national warming trends (Menzel et al 2006)“.

This is a an incorrect statement built upon a less-than-solid paper. Menzel at al can be read in full here. They write: “The pattern of observed change in spring efficiently matches measured national warming across 19 European countries“. Note: in spring. Also “The autumn signal was vague“.

(I won’t even start dealing with Menzel et al’s underlying issue, their assumption that changes are always linear)

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The impression is that in “Climate change: faster, stronger, sooner – A European update on climate science” report, as in much else concerning climate change and global warming, the politics has preceded the science.

That’d be perfectly fine, and I won’t ask to curtail WWF’s political activities: but why oh why can’t they just trying to be more sincere in their aims? Do they have such a weak political (and economical, and ethical) case for CO2 emission reduction, they are forced to write quasi-scientific reports?

UPDATE: read also on Climate Skeptic, “Global Warming … Accelerating?

EU's 20-20-20: Travesty or Scam?

A few interesting facts about the European Union “Climate Pact”, aka “20-20-20“:

(1) EU’s current CO2 emissions are 14% of the world’s

(2) 20-20-20 will reduce that by 20%. Even if everybody else’s emissions don’t grow in the next 12 years, the overall reduction will be 14×0.2=2.8%. Therefore, instead of emitting 100, in the best circumstances the world will emit 97.2

(3) Given the logarithmic nature of the greenhouse effect, log(97.2)/log(100)=99.38

(4) The EU is therefore planning to spend 0.66% of its PIL for 12 years (total: 7.92% of a single year’s PIL) to ameliorate the world’s temperature by 100%-99.38%=6.2 tenths of a percent.

(5) Think about the efficiency: a grand total of 8 hundredths of a percent of cooling for each % of PIL.

Still wondering why not everybody is enthusiastic about “20-20-20”?

The Tragedy of The Conformist Scientist

Sadly, great comments are lost in millions of blogs, simply because they can only be found by scrolling down (=wasting time) through giant lists of other comments. Here’s an example of something that I am not sure many people will spot.

It’s from Willis Eschenbach, posted in Climate Audit, and it’s an appeal to all scientists that have seen their work twisted in the name of Climate Change, and still cannot be bothered to make the point clear.

Perhaps believing that it is right to the say the wrong thing for the right reason.

[…] IF you feel that Mann is mis-using your datasets, you have a scientific obligation to make that fact known. […] science is not built upon agreement. It is built upon falsification, and for science to work, somebody has to be the bearer of the bad news. Somebody has to speak up, to post notice each and every time the Emperor is more than threadbare, to point out when in fact he’s buck naked.

This, to me, is the most discouraging part of climate science in general, and dendroclimatology in particular. You guys rarely seem to find a single fault in even the most egregious examples of your compatriots’ work. Observing the silence of all of you lambs, I’m left with two choices for an explanation of the pervading stillness:

1) Climate science is in such an advanced state that nobody is making any mistakes, or

2) Climate science is in such a pathetic state because nobody is making any waves.

Don’t you guys care that your chosen scientific field is becoming the butt of jokes? Don’t you care when someone makes unsustainable claims based on the data you worked so hard to acquire and analyze? Don’t any of you folks care that Michael Mann is dragging the good name of paleoclimatology through the mud?

I keep waiting for someone in the field, anyone, to have the balls stand up and publicly say something like “Linah Abaneh’s thesis reveals a deep problem with the Graybill proxies, and possibly with proxy data collection in general,” or “Mann is using the Brown proxies upside down”, or anything but the deafening silence […]

science is a blood sport, it is built on proving that the other guy is wrong. If you don’t have the stomach to stand up for your principles, if you don’t have the balls to name names and dissect fraudulent claims, then go be an auto mechanic or something.

Because a man who won’t speak out to keep his own scientific backyard clean, a man who is unwilling to point out both scientific mistakes and scientific malfeasance in a clear loud voice, is only pretending to be a scientist. […]

You do not gain points by silence in the position that you are in. You do not gain points by ignoring the errors of your fellow scientists. […]

Climate science is sick, and dendroclimatology is moribund. That’s the problem, and no amount of golden silence will be enough to cover that up. It’s time for you guys […] to take on the task of cleaning out the Augean Stables that have sprung up in your very own backyard.

Linking "Depleting Earth" Worries to AGW

Yesterday I explained why Climate Change is “just” a tool in the quest to “improve” Energy supply.

There is a curious addendum to the above. Check out what environmentalists were asking themselves some time ago, to deal with the problem of a “depleting Earth” (from Bryan Johnson, “The Risks of Development“, February 5, 1972, The New York Times):

What is the prospect for third world leaders opting for new, and environmentally aware, development objectives?

Isn’t it funny how Climate Change, 36 years later, the above is exactly what third world leaders are being told to do?

And some have even been convinced to be the ones asking for those “development objectives“.

You say "Climate", I say "Energy"

Which one is true? (a) Energy Production is one of the issues around Climate Change, or (b) Climate Change is one of the issue around Energy Production…

That is not an idle question, because we are usually presented with (a), whilst there is some strong indication that the underlying situation is (b): in other words, that the panicking about Climate Change is one of the strongest levers in an overall strategy to shift economies away from their reliance on fossil fuels.

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We can start from the recent curious decision by the UK Government to bring together Climate and Energy in a single “Department” (=Ministry). The new Department is being sold as the best way to handle the often-opposing forces towards a “cleaner” country, and the provision of the necessary amounts of energy.

Following the same logic, what’s next? A “Department of Land Use” taking care of transportation and rural affairs at the same time? Why have all those departments then, since everything can be concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister?

The BBC itself noticed how peculiar the whole arrangement looks, but did not examine it fully in too-short an article by Roger Harrabin. In any case, the marriage of “Energy” and “Climate Change” (usually in the shape of “Environment”) is taking place elsewhere as well.

On The New York Times, a “new blog on energy and the environment” has just been inaugurated. The European Climate Foundation has recently launched a survey on “Energy and Climate Change”. The IPCC has just decided to publish its own study on “Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation” (at this rate, by the way, there will soon be an omnicomprehensive IPCC-pedia with the Panel’s view on everything…).

But in truth, “mitigating, preventing and/or adapting to Climate Change” (just as “protecting the Environment”) is much more than just switching from one energy source to another. And energy policy cannot simply be dictated by climate change concerns.

So if Energy and Climate Change are forced together, which one gives?

Consider Thomas L Friedman sudden summer interest in everything Climate Change:

  1. On May 28, 2008: “Truth or Consequences“, decrying the lack of a good “energy policy for the long-term economic health and security of our country” and advocating high prices for gasoline, forever. “We need to make a structural shift in our energy economy“.
  2. On July 20: “9/11 and 4/11“, denouncing President Bush’s decision to “lift the executive orders banning drilling for oil and natural gas off the country’s shoreline“. Once again we are told the energy crisis should be used “to summon the country to a great nation-building project focused on clean energy” to solve a “multifaceted, multigenerational energy/environment/geopolitical problem“.
  3. On Aug 3: “The Iceman Cometh“, about flying to a remote scientific outpost in Greenland researching climate history in ice cores. Results seem to indicate that “our climate system has the ability to make very abrupt changes all by itself“, hence “the last thing that mankind should be doing is adding its own forcing actions
  4. On Aug 5: “Learning to Speak Climate“, talking about his “very strong opinion” that “our kids are likely going to spend a good part of their adulthood, maybe all of it, just dealing with the climate implications of our profligacy“. Cue stories about a warming Greenland.
  5. On Aug 10: “Flush With Energy“, applauding bicycles in Denmark and the notion that the 1973 oil crisis made that country become energy-independent. Local Prime Minister confirms: “The cure is not to reduce the price, but, on the contrary, to raise it even higher to break our addiction to oil“.
  6. On Aug 12: “Eight Strikes and You’re Out“, denouncing Sen. John McCain absence from every vote on renewable energy legislation. Without public financing, there cannot be “investments by many players in solar and wind so these technologies can quickly move down the learning curve and become competitive with coal and oil“.

What is Friedman’s overall concern? I think it is not climate change, rather moving energy production away from oil and all other fossil fuels.

“Climate Change” plays a secondary role, because the thrust is all concentrated on “breaking the addiction to oil”.

Friedman of course has a new book just coming out now: “Hot, Flat, and Crowded“, where he talks of being not in the year 2008, but in ““1 E.C.E.,” the first year of the “Energy-Climate Era””. Friedman makes the case that everybody wants to reach American levels of consumerism, and that is unsustainable: because of the excessive demands in energy, bring about Climate Change and other environmental bad news (such as the loss of biodiversity). And the solution? From the NYT review of the book:

What’s needed is the presidential leadership of an Abraham Lincoln or a Franklin Roosevelt to command enough authority to face down the fossil fuel lobbies and create a single, national system that would instantly release the pent-up innovation and creativity that is ready to get to work, cleaning up America’s energy supply and reducing its demand. Once the United States has done that, and shown that there’s money to be made from the new industry of “greening,” the rest of the world will, as a matter of self-interest, follow suit. In the process, America will have discovered a national mission for itself once more.

The central point is energy production, not changes to the climate. And therefore: when we hear commentators and politicans mention “Climate Change”, it’s “Energy” what they mean but cannot confirm in public.

Climate Change is “just” a tool in the quest to “improve” Energy supply.

'Taxing' Farts and Burps

Hey, it’s the BBC, I am just quoting

‘Taxing’ farts and burps
Committed to the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand promised to cut its emissions to 1990 levels. The country’s biggest source is methane from cattle, and as Stephen Evans discovers, the issue is raising a stink among local farmers.

I am seriously worried about the amount of fun people in the XXIII century are going to make, about us and our asinine (or shall I say, bovine) XXI century implementation of “targets”.

IPCC Confirms Its Status as a Political Organization

Well, sort of…after all, they just had their “elections“. And the individual countries’ did push hard to get the best seats for next round of reporting:

Each round of the IPCC assessment process kicks off with an election, where national delegations vote for the panel’s chairman, the co-chairs of its three working groups —which respectively deal with climate science, impacts and adaptation, and mitigation — and an array of vice-chairs.

But after last year’s glory, this time countries eagerly sought seats on the prestigious panel. According to Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology in California and new co-chair of Working Group II, nations stake “a flag in the ground” when they commit a big-name expert — and corequisite staff and funding, in the case of wealthy nations — to support the panel.

If that’s not a series of political machinations, then what is? Like in politics, one doesn’t have to be competent to get the top jobs. In fact, there is now at least one Working Group chaired by two people that are officially not experts in the field:

Some were surprised, however, that Working Group II will be led by two physical scientists — Chris Field and Vicente Barros, a University of Buenos Aires hydrologist — rather than by a social scientist or economist. Field, known for his research on carbon cycles, “is very much a natural scientist,” says Colin Prentice, a geoscientist at the University of Bristol, UK. “It’s a big change for him.”

Working Group II’s remit is about “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability“.

The good thing is that whenever their fifth report comes out, I’ll be able to claim to know about the subject as much as the IPCC’s own Working Group Chairmen!

Greenpeace Trial: Why the UK Government Wanted to Lose

From Nature’s Climate Feedback: “Shock climate change verdict acquits Hansen’s heroes

Criminal damage in the name of climate change is not a criminal offence, according to a shock ruling from a British court…Eco-warriors’ UK paper of choice The Independent says the verdict “will have shocked ministers and energy companies”. In the Guardian, veteran environment correspondent Jon Videl says it will “embarrass the government and lead to more direct action protests against energy companies”.

From Greenpeace’s website (via Anthony Watt’s blog):

The Nasa scientist who first drew attention to global warming 20 years ago appeared in a British court yesterday as a key witness in support of climate change activists charged with damaging a power station…Yesterday, Prof Hansen…said Britain had a responsibility to take a lead on limiting climate change because it was responsible – owing to its long industrial past – for much of the CO2 already in the atmosphere. Phasing out coal-burning power stations was crucial in tackling global warming, he told the court. “Somebody needs to stand up and take a leadership role,” Prof Hansen said. […]

The so-called “Kingsnorth case” was a trial-by-jury. Given the verdict, it means that Hansen and the defence team in general have convinced the jury that it is a bad idea to build coal-based power stations: bad enough for a certain class of criminal damages to be considered necessary.

And why so bad? Because burning coal is linked to global warming and unimaginable future disasters.

The verdict also means that the prosecution was unable to convince the jury otherwise. But wait! What could have the prosecution done?

Could they have dared to demonstrate that burning coal is not linked to global warming?

Had that happened, the entire “Anthropogenic Global Warming is real” construct of successive UK Governments would have collapsed. No more Kyoto, no more dreams of “carbon taxes” and “carbon allowances”. Instead now, since the “phasing out” of “coal-burning power stations” has been shown as “crucial” in a court of law, either lights will starting going off in the Sceptred Isle _or_ nuclear power will be given a very high priority.

And so in hindsight one can rest assured that under no circumstance could the UK Government afford to win the “Kingsnorth case”. And as a matter of fact, it lost it. After all, this is a crucial year for the future of Britain’s power supply. Look at another note from the Greenpeace’s article:

Before travelling to Kent, Prof Hansen met the David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, who is thought to be unhappy about the plan for Kingsnorth, which is being promoted by John Hutton, the Business Secretary. Mr Brown will have the final say later this year.

Greenpeace 1 – Coal power 0? More like Miliband 1 – Hutton 0…

ps It was a silly trial anyway…couldn’t they leave the giant “Gordon” written on the chimneys? And what energy company sees £15,000 as more than a grain of dust?

With Millions Under Climate Threat, Gayoom (and Oxfam) Are Unethical

Today’s IHT sported what may be the most absurd climate-related speech by a politician. In a sentence, we are lectured on human rights by somebody that has been President of his country since November 1978.

That’s not all:

  • President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is officially the Dictator of the Maldives
  • He has been re-elected since 1978 five times, every time by 90%+ of the votes (as sole candidate for the job)
  • He is Head of Government, Head of State, Commander-in-Chief (well, George W Bush is that too) but has also been for a very long time Defence Minister and Finance Minister before being ridiculed about it
  • having been forced towards democratic reforms, President Gayoom is working hard to get himself re-elected under a Presidential system (for a change)
  • as recently as 2003, he was still imposing “severe restrictions on freedom of the press, and political parties were unable to function.” according to Amnesty International
  • as recently as August 13, 2004, responded to popular protests by declaring a State of Emergency, sending the police to rough up unarmed civilians, and arrested parliamentarians and members of the opposition
  • despite all his earlier promises, President Gayoom has just rescheduled to an unspecified date the first multi-party Presidential elections expected for 10 October

Wouldn’t the above recommend to thread carefully on the subject of human rights, if only to avoid the risk of being called a hypocrite, coming out in the open so clearly picking up only the “human rights” of one’s convenience?

Of course not.

See “With millions under threat, inaction is unethical” by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

And that’s still not all: apparently, President Gayoom has teamed up with Oxfam, and he specifically mentions the upcoming “Climate Wrongs and Human Rights” Oxfam report. Too bad that report contains a lie.

Oh well…what’s a little untruth when there is a chance to prop up a ruler of three decades, by lucky chance exactly during his election campaign?

Oxfam should be more than ashamed by this.

Oxfam's Climate Lie

As a student of international law, and a longtime supporter of human rights everywhere, I can only condemn the cavalier use of facts and truth by Oxfam in its pursuit of an AGW-based agenda.

From Oxfam’s “Climate Wrongs and Human Rights: Putting people at the heart of climate-change policy“:

In the opening remarks, the present tense:

In failing to tackle climate change with urgency, rich countries are effectively violating the human rights of millions of the world’s poorest people. Continued excessive greenhouse-gas emissions primarily from industrialised nations are – with scientific certainty – creating floods, droughts, hurricanes, sea-level rise, and seasonal unpredictability. The result is failed harvests, disappearing islands, destroyed homes, water scarcity, and deepening health crises, which are undermining millions of peoples’ rights to life, security, food, water, health, shelter, and culture

In Chapter 1, “How climate change undermines human rights“, the future tense.

Look for example at table 2 “Current and projected impacts of climate change upon human rights“.

I simply cannot find any “current impact” listed in there. Since Oxfam can only talk about “future impacts“, there is no climate-related violation of human rights at present.

The statement in the opening remarks is wrong. In fact, it’s a lie.

I have done a fair bit of work with Amnesty International in the past, and I do remember how important it was (and still is) to stick to facts and ascertained truths, as every lie and every fantasy, even if based on good intent, would inevitably bite back, discrediting the organization and its causes.

And so: if Oxfam is truly worried about future impacts on human rights, it should talk about future impacts on human rights. The fact that it feels compelled to masquerade them instead as present impacts shows that Oxfam doesn’t have a strong enough case to present.

Psychosociological Reasons for AGW Belief

From the BBC, no less, in an article explaining the popularity of catastrophisms of all kind:

[…] cultural historian Paul S Boyer, author of When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture [says]: “It is deeply appealing at a psychological level because the idea of meaninglessness is deeply threatening. Human societies have always tried to create some kind of framework of meaning to give history and our own personal lives some kind of significance.” […]

thinking about the ways the world might end, or the timing, may be fulfilling a basic human need.  “It comes down to an issue of power,” says Michael Molcher, editor of the magazine The End is Nigh. “What you get during times of particular discontent or war or famine or during general bad times is a rise in apocalyptic preaching and ideas. It is a way for people to control the way their world works. The one thing we can never predict is the time and manner of our own deaths.

Cue ominously dangerous ideas of geoengineering

From Chicken and Egg, to CO2 and Fuel

Which one came first…the push to consume less fuel, or the worry that CO2 could be near dangerous, climate-tipping levels?

Who knows? For certain, some statements by EU officials do make one wonder…

We do see reports of a significant change in the types of cars people are buying, but I’ve been mostly surprised at the lack of a reaction,” [towards meeting emissions control targets] said Peder Jensen, a transportation expert at the European Environment Agency, an arm of the European Union in Copenhagen. “One had hoped that these prices would deter driving, but people have coped better than we hoped they would.”

Enough With the Prostitution of Science

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick takes advantage of the publication of two new books on the lies behind much of the anti-AIDS campaigns to make a strong point about the dangerous coupling of political interests with experts’ high-minded society-changing goals:

in a 1996 commentary on the British AIDS campaign […] journalist Mark Lawson accepted that the public had been misled over the threat of AIDS, but argued that the end of promoting sexual restraint (especially among the young) justified the means (exaggerating the risk of HIV infection): as he put it, ‘the government has lied and I am glad’.

This sort of opportunism is not confined to AIDS: in other areas where experts are broadly in sympathy with government policy – such as passive smoking, obesity and climate change – they have been similarly complicit in the prostitution of science to propaganda.

A few details that may or may not sound quite close to contemporary AGW campaigning:

  • the AIDS bureaucracy [is] a ‘byzantine’ world…in which ‘money eclipses truth’.
  • the British AIDS story is an example of a ‘glorious myth’ – a tale that is ‘gloriously or nobly false’, but told ‘for a good cause’.
  • ‘estimates and projections are “cooked” or made up’.
  • [they were] manipulating statistics to maximise their scare value
  • exaggerated claims for the scale of the HIV epidemic (and the risks of wider spread) […] enable authorities to claim the credit for subsequently lower figures, as they ‘ride to glory’ on curves showing declining incidence
  • the main problem of the mendacity […] is that it leads to misdirected, ineffective and wasteful campaigns […] while the real problems […] are neglected
  • over the past decade, mainstream AIDS scientists, including most infectious disease epidemiologists, have virtually all uncritically accepted the many “glorious” myths and misconceptions UNAIDS and AIDS activists continue to perpetuate’

Introducing John P. Holdren, Harvard Authoritarian

In supreme case of Irony with capital “I”, and as a fitting tribute to Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s courage as a free thinker, the following articles have appeared almost at the same time:

First, selected quotes from Holdren’s raging philippic on the dangers of “unfounded skepticism about the disruption of global climate” (Holdren is “professor at the Kennedy School of Government and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard and the director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts”):

The few climate-change “skeptics” with any sort of scientific credentials […] muddying of the waters of public discourse […] parroting of these arguments by […] amateur skeptics […] climate-change skeptics […] infest talk shows, Internet blogs, letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, and cocktail-party conversations […] the denier fringe […]

The extent of unfounded skepticism about the disruption of global climate by human-produced greenhouse gases is not just regrettable, it is dangerous. It has delayed – and continues to delay – the development of the political consensus that will be needed if society is to embrace remedies commensurate with the challenge. The science of climate change is telling us that we need to get going. Those who still think this is all a mistake or a hoax need to think again.

Presumably, Holdren means climate change skeptics need a good bit of re-education until they change their minds. After all, the danger they cause is because for Holdren, the only way to tackle “the challenge” is by developing an all-encompassing, literally unanimous “political consensus”.

People should just defer to the experts, and just shut up if any one of those “dangerous ideas” pop up in their heads.

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Compare the above with what The Economist has to say about Democracy, and the one aspect about which Solzhenitsyn “was wrong”:

Democracies produce a cacophony, in which each voice complains that its own urgent message is being drowned in a sea of pap. […] The cacophony is the lesser evil. Ideas should not be suppressed, but nor should they be worshipped. […] There is no sure defence against bad ideas, but one place to start is with a well-educated and sceptical citizenry that is free to listen to the notions of the intellectuals but is not in thrall to them—and, yes, may prefer the sports channel instead. The patrician in Solzhenitsyn hated this lack of deference in the West. That is one respect in which the great man was wrong

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Holdren’s “unanimous political consensus” is not a solution for climate change. It is an evil, a much larger evil than Democracy, and skepticism, will ever be: because it would mean having no defence against what could potentially be very bad ideas indeed (such as giving climate control precedence over development or fighting disease).

Hansenspeak: Will Everyone Else Please Shut Up?

Is Jim Hansen evolving to become the worst enemy of AGW policies?

His “Trip Report” published on Aug 4 (from Accuweather’s Global Warming blog) shows the guy is so full of himself, if more people heard him and his style no AGW policy would ever see the light of the day.

Forget pages 1 to 13. Go to page 14 where a “pipe-dream” statement opens up a long foray into paternalism.

Notice how Richard Feynman is described as “leader” and “physics giant” (no prize to understand who should we compare Feynman to).

Grand finale on page 16, with a shameful tirade against “contrarians” (“befogged“, “keeping the public confused“, “were once scientists but now…lawyers“, “special interests“). And of course, ordinary people criticizing Hansen are just “parroting” the “contrarians“.

Who can talk then? Why, the “people who know what they are talking about“. The Pravda editors would have approved.

ps does Dr Hansen realize that the “people who know what they are talking about” statement disqualifies the first 10 pages of his “Trip Report”?

The Impossible Impartiality of the BBC

I have devised a simple model explaining why the BBC is biased towards reporting pro-AGW stuff. And it does not involve a government conspiracy.

Simply, the BBC cannot report impartially on climate change or a lot of any other issues for that matters.

They will never, ever open a news bulletin by stating “Polar Ice is perfectly fine” or “There’s peace in Malawi”. The BBC journalists are bound by the way of their profession to go hunting for “bad news”: the only way global warming is going to disappear from their reports is for global cooling to kick off in some spectacular way.

I am still waiting for a news item reporting that the summer 2005 drought in the UK has finished. They (the journalists, and editors) are simply physically unable to say a word about that. And if you want an example that is completely unrelated, just look at how house prices were spoken about when they were going up (”rising property values have priced many potential first-time buyers out of the housing market”) and now that they are going down (”thousands of Britons […] have lost their homes amid spiralling repossessions by mortgage lenders”).

Even if a report mentions whale numbers are on the up, the title is “Mixed fortunes for world’s whales“. Or if a species of bird is found to be thriving under changed climate conditions, there goes in the comment “other species are likely to fare much worse than great tits as temperatures riseother species are likely to fare much worse than great tits as temperatures rise” 

“Normality” is not news and nobody will ever write about “normality”. If it gets on the BBC, it has to be bad.

Why Climate Change is Unbearably Naked

What do I find so impossibly sloppy to bear, about Climate Change in its contemporary definition, as the result of human activities (also known as “Anthopogenic Global Warming” or AGW, and usually associated to CO2 emissions caused by humans)?

Yesterday’s incredible (counter-)discovery by Anthony Watts on CO2 measurements getting corrected upwards after having gone downwards “for the first time in history” provides an opportunity for a non-exhaustive list (I may add links to each point next week) of all that depaupers Climate Change of actual meaning:

  • Climate models are all based on forcings, something that cannot be measured. The tool has become the cause.
  • Those same models are demonstrably “right” whatever happens, either warming or cooling (once again, as all they show is that forcings are supposed to do)
  • Proponents are fixated on negativities (not just the newsmedia and the Stern Report…I have some interesting findings about a recent book on Climate Change, and I will publish them this week or next)
  • Climate change is improbably comprehensive in its effects, and yet “Attribution”, the ability to pinpoint a particular change as having something to do with Climate Change, is still up in the air
  • The IPCC itself cannot see much evidence for change in 2/3 (two-thirds!) of the planet
  • The “truth” is that temperatures are going up but if one looks at actual measurements, they are continuously adapted and adjusted. Measurement stations are not increasing in the number, and locations are far from perfect.
  • And now of course, on-the-fly upward adjustments of CO2 data appear just as values begin to go “the wrong way”.

I personally agree with Watts when he writes: “While nefarious motives may not be there, its just damn sloppy IMHO, and given this is the crown jewel for CO2 data I expect far better“.

And please don’t get me wrong…I am perfectly aware that such generalized sloppiness is part-and-parcel of modern Science, with genetists looking for Mendelian transmission of what is not Mendelian and a whole generation of Cosmologists trained on calling 96% of the Universe as “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”, two names for the same thing (“Total Ignorance”).

“Institutionalized Science” is of course 80% rubbish, as per the famous 80/20 rule.

But the whole Climate debate is much more than Science. And for that, there is still so much it needs to be dressed with, before it can be shown as properly thought of, and ready for being a solid basis for a revolution in societal mores.

If I read about “scientists demonstrating that train travel is impossible” I may get a laugh, as people at the time surely did. But when I see all the massive propaganda machine put in place to convince people to turn carbon-free by way of guilt, there isn’t much to be amused of.

If the keys to absolute gullibility are ever found, we may as well all turn back to live up the trees.

Review, Peer Review and the APS Debacle

With their over-the-top reaction to the publication on one of their newsletter of Monckton’s ideas on climate sensitivity, the APS leaders have shown themselves not stupid…

…because a “stupid” is somebody that damages others without a gain for himself: whilst the APS has only damaged itself.

Look at the “peer-reviewed” issue. Monckton is likely to be behind a wildly-exaggerated press release by the SPPI

Mathematical proof that there is no “climate crisis” appears today in a major, peer-reviewed paper in Physics and Society, a learned journal of the 46,000-strong American Physical Society, SPPI reports.

Should have been child’s play to issue a counter-release explaining that there cannot be any mathematical proof in a scientific field (outside of mathematics, that is); that “Physics and Society” is a newsletter, and not a “learned journal”; and that Monckton’s invited article was only part of the beginning of a debate.

Look what’s happened instead: Monckton is now perfectly in the right to state that he’s been unfairly, and uncourteously treated. He’s been invited to write an article that has been published, that then caused APS to undergo all sorts of fits, including a series of unwarranted put-downs plastered all over the place in apparent panic.

In fact: at this very moment both Monckton’s article and the IPCC-consensus piece by Hafemeister and Schwarz sport on top the following statement in black ink (my emphasis) (this is similar to what appeared in red ink on Monckton’s article alone):

The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review, since that is not normal procedure for American Physical Society newsletters. The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007: “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”

Something similar has materialized at the beginning of the FPS July 2008 issue’s web page:

The Forum on Physics and Society is a place for discussion and disagreement on scientific and policy matters. Our newsletter publishes a combination of non- peer- reviewed technical articles, policy analyses, and opinion. All articles and editorials published in the newsletter solely represent the views of their authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Forum Executive Committee 

But that is not the way the FPS is presented:

Physics and Society is the quarterly of the Forum on Physics and Society, a division of the American Physical Society. It presents letters, commentary, book reviews and reviewed articles on the relations of physics and the physics community to government and society.

Now..what is the difference between peer-reviewed and reviewed?

Is there such a thing in scientific circles as an article reviewed but not by peers?

Has anybody ever heard of an inferior-reviewed article? Or of a superior-reviewed article? Who knows?

Looks like at the APS they have been cavalier with the issue of reviewing, until now. But if they need to sort out their own house, it should be for the future, and not for the past (unless they want to go against the principle of cause and effect).

And so Monckton on one thing is certainly right: for all intents and purposes, maybe the wrong way, maybe without thinking at the consequence, but Monckton’s article has been peer-reviewed indeed.

A Glass Half Full: UK Ofcom's Global Swindle Ruling

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? About the UK media regulator Ofcom’s ruling on the broadcasting by Channel 4 of the documentary “Great Global Warming Swindle”, the BBC writes in the new home page, under “Latest”:

LATEST: A Channel 4 film on global warming broke Ofcom rules on impartiality and fairness, the regulator says.

The link goes to an article by Richard Black, titled “Climate documentary ‘broke rules’” summarised as “A controversial Channel 4 film on global warming broke Ofcom rules, the media regulator says.” Still, it “did not mislead audiences”.

It depends on what rules, one imagines. Much better then, to try to understand what the Ofcom actually says, is to go to their website: “Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin issue number 114” dated July 21, 2008, where one can learn:

  • Channel 4 breached Rule 7.1: “Broadcasters must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes”, specifically regarding Sir David King and Professor Carl Wunsch
  • In part 5 (final) of the documentary, Channel 4 breached Rule 5.11 about “due impartiality” and Rule 5.12 about including an “appropriately wide range of significant views“; those rules apply because the topic can be included among the “matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy
  • Parts 1 to 4 (final) of the documentary were exempt from Rules 5.11 and 5.12
  • Channel 4 did not breach Rule 2.2 of the Broadcasting Code, about materially misleading the public

Looks like all they would have had to do to pass with full marks, was to provide an opportunity of comment for King and Wunsch, and to mention the full gamut of climate-change-related political opinions…

Enough for now, apart from a link to the 86-page bulletin, 17 of which dedicated to Channel 4 and the Swindle documentary.

ADDENDUM

Quotes from the Ofcom bulletin…there are several interesting points. And lots of meaty stuff hidden behind the statement about “not materially misleading the public”:

[…] Ofcom received 265 complaints about the programme from members of the public. Ofcom also received a substantial complaint 176 pages long from a group of complainants, some of whom were scientists (“the Group Complaint”).

[…] Ofcom is not a fact-finding tribunal and its obligation in this case was to reach a fair and reasonable decision on whether The Great Global Warming Swindle breached the requirements of the Code. Given the ambit of Ofcom’s obligation as regards adjudicating on the complaints, however it was in Ofcom’s opinion impractical and inappropriate for it to examine in detail all of the multifarious alleged examples of factual inaccuracy set out in the complaints

[…] Ofcom therefore chose four particular aspects of the programme to examine as part of its overall assessment of whether the programme materially misled the audience. These were:

the use of graphs;
the alleged “distortion” of the science of climate modelling;
presentation of the argument that the theory of man-made global warming is promoted as a means to limit economic growth;
and, not giving an accurate and fair presentation of the expertise and credibility of various contributors.

These particular areas were selected because they featured in a large number of the complaints, and in Ofcom’s opinion were reasonably illustrative of the key issues and different types of alleged factual
inaccuracy in the programme

[…] (regarding due impartiality) Channel 4 said the programme must be considered within the context of the ubiquitous media coverage of the global warming issue and so, in addressing the question of due impartiality, Channel 4 presented an extensive list of programmes over recent years across all the main channels, including Channel 4, which accepted the view that the principal cause of global warming is man-made emissions of carbon dioxide. […] Programmes referred to included, on Channel 4: Channel 4 Year of the Environment, 2007; A World Without Water; and The Year the Earth Went Wild. On ITV, Climate Change – Make A Difference and on Discovery Channel Global Warming: What You Need to Know

[…] Ofcom considers it of paramount importance that broadcasters, such as Channel 4, continue to explore controversial subject matter. While such programmes can polarise opinion, they are essential to our understanding of the world around us and are amongst the most important content that broadcasters produce. It is inevitable such programmes will have a high profile and may lead to a large number of complaints.

[…] In dealing with an issue such as the theory of anthropogenic global warming, which is the subject of scientific controversy, those involved in the debate will – by definition – disagree over the factual accuracy of each others’ claims. Therefore, it is to some extent inevitable that in a polemical programme such as The Great Global Warming both sides of the argument will violently disagree about the ‘facts’.

[…] The anthropogenic global warming theory is extremely well represented in the
mainstream media. […] it is reasonable for the programme makers to assume that the likely audience would have a basic understanding of the mainstream man-made global warming theory […] the programme was clearly trailed and its authorship was clearly identified […] At no point did the programme state that the theories it contained were the mainstream or majority view

[…] Ofcom is of the view that the audience of this programme was not materially misled in a manner that would have led to actual or potential harm. […] Regardless of whether viewers were in fact persuaded by the arguments contained in the programme, Ofcom does not believe that they could have been materially misled as to the existence and substance of these alternative theories and
opinions, or misled as to the weight which is given to these opinions in the scientific community

[…] Ofcom considered it highly unlikely that the programme could have caused actual harm. As to potential harm some complainants had considered that the programme’s questioning of the theory of man-made global warming would create doubt and confusion in viewers’ minds about the need to take action against global warming. Ofcom considers that, although the programme may have caused
viewers to challenge the consensus view that human activity is the main cause of global warming, there is no evidence that the programme in itself did, or would, cause appreciable potential harm to members of the public

[…] (regarding the graphs) Ofcom did not consider the inaccuracy to be of such significance as to have been materially misleading so as to cause harm and offence in breach of Rule 2.2

[…] (regarding the reliability of climate models) Ofcom noted that, although the complainants disagreed with the points made by the contributors in the programme, they did not suggest that the overall statements about climate models were factually inaccurate […] Overall however Ofcom’s view was that the passages complained of were not materially misleading so as to cause harm and offence.

[…] (regarding the suggestion that some environmentalists are trying to reverse economic growth) In line with the right to freedom of expression, Ofcom considers that the broadcaster has the right to transmit such views and the audience would understand the context in which such comments were made. The content was therefore not misleading

[…] (regarding the contributors to the programme) The decisions by the programme makers not to include all the qualifications of contributors, and not to include more background on them (some of which is strongly disputed), were editorial decisions which overall did not in Ofcom’s view result in the audience being materially misled.

[…] Although this programme was intentionally designed as a polemic, [some of the] comments were so sweeping and intemperate that they risked to some degree undermining the fact that overall the programme very aggressively challenged the mainstream scientific consensus on man’s contribution to global warming, without concluding that the mainstream scientific theory was completely without merit

[…] Ofcom considers there is a difference between presenting an opinion which attacks an established, mainstream and well understood view, such as in this programme, and criticising a view which is much more widely disputed and contentious […] In the context of this particular programme, given the number of scientific theories and politico-economic arguments dealt with in The Great Global Warming Swindle, it was not materially misleading overall to have omitted certain opposing views or represented them only in commentary

[…] while unfairness to participants has been found (failures to give an adequate opportunity to respond and the unfair presentation of views), Ofcom does not consider that, overall, these failures led to material being transmitted which was so misleading that harm would have been caused to viewers.

[…] for most of its 90 minute duration the requirements of due impartiality did not apply to The Great Global Warming Swindle. This is because for the first four of its five parts the programme did not deal with a matter of political or industrial controversy or matter relating to current public policy. However, in Part Five of the programme Ofcom noted that the discussion moved away from the scientific debate about the causes of global warming, to consider the policies alleged to result from the mainstream scientific theory being adopted by UN and Western governments and their consequences

[…] Ofcom also had regard to the fact that, both domestically and on a worldwide level, the political debate had largely moved on from questioning the causes of climate change to attempting to find solutions to deal with it. Therefore, in the political arena at least, there was a very broad consensus of opinion which accepted the scientific theory of man-made global warming. In this respect it could be said that the discussion about the causes of global warming was to a very great extent settled by the date of broadcast (8 March 2007).

[…] by simple virtue of the fact that one small group of people may disagree with a strongly prevailing
consensus on an issue does not automatically make that issue a matter of controversy as defined in legislation and the Code and therefore a matter requiring due impartiality to be preserved

[…] (in part five) These issues are matters of major political controversy and are major matters relating to current public policy as defined by the Code. During this section no alternative views on this issue were presented […] Part Five of the programme therefore breached Rules 5.11 and 5.12.

[…] (regarding Sir David King) The (Fairness) Committee found that the views attributed to him and the manner in which they were expressed, amounted to a significant allegation about his scientific views and credibility. The Committee found that Sir David had not been offered an opportunity to respond to the contributor’s criticism. In the circumstances the Committee concluded that the broadcast of the comments, without an offer being made to Sir David to respond, resulted in unfairness to him in the programme as broadcast

[…] The Committee acknowledged that while there is a broad consensus amongst scientists, governments and the public that global warming is directly related to anthropogenic causes, this is still a topic of debate. There continues to be discussion about the different methods of measuring change in the climate, the best way these changes should be analysed, and what predictions, if any, can be made from the data. Indeed such discussion and debate are essential for the formulation of robust,
scientifically sound theories, projections and conclusions. Global warming is clearly a legitimate and important subject for programme makers and it is not Ofcom’s role to adjudicate on whether global warming is a man-made phenomenon or on the validity of particular scientific views

[…] (regarding the IPCC) The Committee found that the programme broadcast a number of comments by contributors that amounted to serious allegations about the IPCC […] The Committee found that the IPCC had not been provided with a proper opportunity to respond to these allegations. Therefore, the broadcast of the allegations had been unfair.

[…] Channel 4 maintained that the IPCC had been offered an appropriate opportunity to respond. Channel 4 said the right to reply letter had been sent to the IPCC press officer nine days before the programme was broadcast, excluding the weekend which fell in between. Channel 4 said nine days was an appropriate and acceptable time period in which right of reply requests are sent and responses are expected to be received. Channel 4 said that no response was received whatsoever, not even to request more time for the IPCC’s response.

[…] the Committee considered that it was unreasonable for the programme makers to have expected the IPCC to understand that its response was required in a matter of days, and that it was not reasonable to expect the IPCC to be able to provide a response within the one day of being advised of the deadline. The Committee therefore found that the opportunity to respond had not been offered in a timely way.

[…] In the Committee’s opinion, it was not unreasonable to describe the consequences of the changes predicted in the FAR (1990) report as being disastrous, especially for those most likely to be directly affected […] The Committee did not uphold this part of the IPCC’s complaint

[…] the Committee considered that the programme maker’s had provided sufficient information for the
IPCC to understand the nature of Professor Reiter’s criticisms in relation to malaria […] the Committee concluded that the IPCC was not afforded a timely opportunity to respond to the allegation that the statements by the IPCC in relation to the spread of malaria were alarmist, untrue and based on poor scientific literature.

[…] the Committee concluded that the IPCC was not afforded an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the allegation regarding the statements by the IPCC in relation to the IPCC’s handling of Professor Reiter’s resignation or the compilation of its author’s lists

[…] the Committee found that the IPCC had not been provided with an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the re-broadcast of Professor Seitz’s reported criticisms

[…] the Committee considered that Professor Wunsch was not provided with adequate information to enable him to give informed consent for his participation. The Committee found this caused unfairness to Professor Wunsch in the programme as broadcast in that his contribution had been used in a programme

[…] In the Committee’s view Professor Wunsch made clear in his full unedited interview that he largely accepted this consensus and the seriousness of the threat of global warming (albeit with caveats about proof) and therefore found that the presentation of Professor Wunsch’s views, within the wider context of the programme, resulted in unfairness to him.

[…] the Committee therefore found that the programme maker’s editing of Professor Wunsch’s comments about the presence of CO2 in the ocean did not result in unfairness in the programme as broadcast. Accordingly the Committee did not uphold this part of Professor Wunsch’s complaint

G8 and Climate Change: the "Sad" Truth

There’s nothing like a G8 meeting to showcase what next “broken promise” might be

G8 vows to halve greenhouse gases
World leaders have agreed to set a global target of cutting carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2050 in an effort to tackle global warming…

Africa’s broken promises
Both the leaders of the industrialised world – the G8 – and the presidents of Africa are failing to keep the promises they made at Gleneagles summit in Scotland in 2005…

If I were a climate change campaigner I’d be particularly angry at the result. Richard Black at the BBC sounds particularly pessimistic

So far, then, this G8 summit has confused the issue rather than clarifying it.

The lasting impression is that unless there is something big happening that can be linked to global warming, Governments will simply and slowly drift away from it.

Hansen's "Desperation 350" – And Still They Travel

Full-page ad on the IHT on June 23 by the Taellberg Forum:

<350

Remember this number for the rest of your life

It is left to the reader’s imagination to hear music like in an old Bela Lugosi movie…

Anyway: such an effort is apparently linked to the 20th anniversary of Hansen’s warning to the US Congress about global warming.

We are told, CO2 concentration at the time was 350 ppm, and now it’s 385. We are also told that “Science says” the worst effects happen above the level of 450ppm.

Looks like it’s not too much of a worry then? Don’t even think about it.

For unfathomable reasons (=otherwise a lot of people would become inconsequential), the ad says that we have to go back to levels lower than 350ppm anyway (and yes, there is no scientific basis at all for choosing the value “350”) “peacefully and deliberately, with all possible speed” (rather ominous words if you ask me…): because “<350 is essential to maintain human and planetary well-being

(planetary???)

Why then “350”? Perhaps as a celebratory level for Hansen’s true guidance. But with planetary temperatures refusing to go up, I do expect lots more of this stuff in the near future

I have a small question though: if they believe in what the ad says then…why are they still travelling so much? For example, to the Taellberg Forum, june 26-29 in Sweden.

Spare a Thought for IATA

They emit very very little CO2 compared to everything else, they have set up a “4-pillar strategy to address climate change”, they have been hardly hit by gigantic fuel prices.

They have also been plagued for decades and decades by poor managerial and cost-control skills, resulting in a multitude of bankruptcies and often disappearance of once-thriving companies.

Still, that’s not enough for the miserabilists at the EU trying to force emission trading schemes on anything that moves. And so today, IATA, the International Air Transport Association, decided to pay for a full-page ad on the International Herald Tribune, detailing their perfectly mainstream ideas about climate change.

Much has been said about coercing evil Big Oil and Big Energy companies into emission trading schemes. Let’s see if airlines will be treated any better: one fears not, as the underlying goal is not so much actual emissions, rather the removal of whatever can provide fun

What Have VP Dick Cheney and Activist AGWers Got in Common?

What have VP Dick Cheney and activist AGWers got in common?

They all subscribe to a version of the One per Cent Doctrine, a kind of Precautionary Principle.

As reported by Jeremy Waldron on the London Review of Books commenting “Worst-Case Scenarios” by Cass Sunstein, according to Ron Suskind’s “The One Per Cent Doctrine” (2006) this is what the US Vice-president has to say on how to deal with potential nuclear threats:

If there’s a one per cent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaida build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response . . . It’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence. It’s about our response.

It’s way too easy to read in there one of the favorite AGW lines:

If there’s a one per cent chance that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are tipping the planet towards an environmental catastrophe, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response . . . It’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence. It’s about our response.

Readers of this blog may already know that I find all Precautionary Principles as literally abominable, a refusal of what makes us human. All proponents of Precaution as a Principle should just curl up on the floor and happily wait for life eventually to end, without fear of any danger of course.

=========

Still, as acknowledged by Waldron, there exists the issue of how to deal with unlikely-but-catastrophic problems. On this, I do not think anybody’s got a clear answer yet. The only sure thing is, Precautionary Principles won’t help, as explained by Waldron:

The trouble with the One Per Cent Doctrine, for example, is that it does not say enough about the costs that may be involved in our response […] we rely on regulatory regimes to investigate the consequences of the introduction of the new product. But the regulatory process takes time, and time may produce its own catastrophes. Many people believe, Sunstein says, that prohibitions on genetic modification or its over-regulation ‘might well result in many deaths’, presumably from hunger in developing countries which the stronger crops might have helped alleviate. […] The point is to alert us to ‘substitute risks’: ‘hazards that materialise, or are increased, as a result of regulation’. If governments take responsibility for avoiding catastrophic outcomes, they must also take responsibility for the catastrophes that attend their efforts at avoiding these outcomes, including other catastrophes that are not addressed because of the expense of addressing this one. […]

Interestingly, Waldron ends his review lamenting Sunstein’s “failure to devote more sustained attention to issues of rich and poor, advantaged and disadvantaged. […] Worst-Case Scenarios […] would have been a better book had it spent more time on the issues of distributive and corrective justice that attend the prevention of catastrophic harm“.

Because as things stand at the moment, AGW policies mostly hit the poor

 

Consistently Working to Make Us All Poor

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard talks in his blog about a recent Goldman Sachs meeting about climate change. In particular, this is what Lord Nicholas Stern had to say after declaring that we have a 50% “chance of destroying civilization within the life-span of people already born, unless drastic action is taken to slow CO2 emissions“:

[We] will have to cut from 6 tonnes of carbon per capita to 2 tonnes

The above means a 90% cut in emissions for the USA, a figure that becomes “only” 83% for Europe. How can that be achieved?

=========

Well, we should acknowledge Stern’s consistency. He wants people’s activities to emit less carbon than at present; and he knows that the poorer people are, the less carbon they emit.

Hence his single-mindedness on getting everybody as indigent as possible, starting with a dent of 1.5 to 2.5% of world GDP “for insurance purposes“.

Actually, if only we were as destitute as the poorest landless peasant in Bangladesh or Zambia, there would be no reason to worry about the Earth’s climate.

Welcome (for how long?) to the Circus of Carbon Trading!

The BBC World Service’s Mark Gregory has reportedly uncovered

“[…] serious flaws in the multi-billion dollar global market for carbon credits […] in some cases, carbon credits are paid to projects that would have been realised without external funding.

The BBC World Service investigation found examples of projects in India where this appeared to be the case. Arguably, this defeats the whole point of the CDM scheme, set up under the Kyoto climate change protocol, as these projects are getting money for nothing.

The findings reinforce doubts that the CDM is leading to real emission cuts, which is not good news for the effort to combat climate change […]”

Notably, the Economist has talked about these issues less than a month ago. And with the Kyoto Treaty soon expiring plus an ever-increasing control bureaucracy for the CDM:

a banker with an interest in the future of the clean development mechanism (CDM) […] foresees either buoyant growth or terminal decline for the arrangement designed to encourage financial transfers from long

I wonder if people will ask for their money back, if the whole CDM business will be shown ineffective (or if global climate turns colder…)

Discounting the Future: Economics 1 – AGW 0

How can we evaluate future costs against present ones? Could it be right to apply a discount factor, so that $1 of today is equivalent to, say, $37 in the year 2100 (rate=4%), and to base on that, for example, climate change policy ?

The answer (“yes it may well be right!“) is buried deep among the dozens of comments to RealClimate’s quick rebuttal of Freeman Dyson’s ideas on global warming. And it is written in clear and concise explanations by a “card-carrying economist” signing as “Bob Murphy” (and no, I don’t think he considers himself as an “AGW skeptic”).

I report Murphy’s comments below (for my own convenience, mostly). Nothing against RealClimate here: there are plenty of blogs with hundreds and hundreds of replies by readers, and who knows how much truly insightful stuff is simply lost in the crowd.

One thing to note is that the reactions to Murphy’s perfectly reasonable remarks clearly show what the political and ethical slants of the RealClimate scientists are. Gavin’s conclusion is that “ethics are not discountable [so] there is no reason to think that [we should use] the same discounting rate that applies to today’s monetary investment decisions“. I am sure those are not the last words on this subject.

Bob Murphy Says:
25 May 2008 at 3:04 PM

Like Lou above, I also am a card-carrying economist, so you may want to discount what I say (ha ha)…

For the people who think economists have nothing to contribute to this issue, I guess all I can do is remind them that the various solutions being proposed to tackle climate change involve things economic. E.g., a tax on carbon or a cap-and-trade program. The hard sciences alone don’t tell us how many dollars per ton a carbon tax should be, just as it would be ridiculous for an economist to try to calculate that figure without asking help from the climatologists.

As far as discounting for future generations: You need to use a discount rate to make sure you’re helping them as much as possible. It seems that some posters here are objecting not to the discounting per se, but to the conversion of everything to dollars and cents. I have no problem with that objection.

However, if we’re going to quantify future damages from climate change into dollar terms, then we need to discount those numbers to sensibly determine how much it’s worth spending today to try to mitigate those damages. The reason is simple: We could take the money and invest it, giving a larger inheritance to future generations. Discounting makes sense even if the recipient isn’t alive yet. Presumably our grandkids would rather get something worth more than something worth less. And so that’s why it would be silly, say, to spend $900 today to avert $1000 in damages in the year 2100. It would make more sense to take that $900 and buy T-bills, and keep rolling them over for our descendants.

Again, if that talk sounds crazy to you, because “you can’t put a number on climate damage!” OK fair enough. But your problem isn’t with the discounting per se.

[Response: My problem is with discounting over long time frames, longer than a human lifetime. What if the ancient Greeks two thousand years ago had come up fossil energy, allowing them to thrive for a couple of hundred years? Would we thank them for leaving us a degraded world? Or do you think there would be some bank account somewhere where we could get all the invested money back, with interest, in compensation? David]

Bob Murphy Says:
25 May 2008 at 8:47 PM
David wrote:

My problem is with discounting over long time frames, longer than a human lifetime. What if the ancient Greeks two thousand years ago had come up fossil energy, allowing them to thrive for a couple of hundred years? Would we thank them for leaving us a degraded world? Or do you think there would be some bank account somewhere where we could get all the invested money back, with interest, in compensation?

If the ancient Greeks had attained our current level of technology, then right now I think we would all be thousands of times wealthier than we currently are. If the Earth were a bit warmer than it is right now, that would definitely be worth the extra wealth; everyone would turn up the AC in his or her hovercraft on the way to his or her 10-hour-per-week job.

Yes this is a fanciful scenario, but only because you gave me a fanciful assumption and asked about its implications.

There are billions of people who right now lack basic utilities like clean drinking water and dependable electricity. If they are encouraged (forced?) to try to leapfrog over fossil fuels and go right to solar or whatever, their development will be hindered. And hence their grandchildren will be much poorer than under the business-as-usual case.

I used the T-bill example just to make the point, but it doesn’t rely on direct lineage. E.g. you and I benefit right now from the capital accumulation of earlier generations. When people work with tools and equipment, their labor is much more productive than if we all had to start from scratch with just nature and our bare hands.

Obviously, if you think that business-as-usual will lead to catastrophic damages, then a rational response would be to limit GHG emissions in the present, notwithstanding the high cost. But I’m just saying, the way to handle this in economic terms is to realize that the future damages are so high (measured in $$) that, even with discounting, they are still higher than the present costs of mitigation.

One other point: I want to second the statement of a previous poster, that yes Stern actually does discount future climate damages. This is because of the small probability that those generations won’t exist to enjoy the fruits of our current, costly mitigation efforts. E.g. there could be nuclear war, an asteroid could blow up the world in 2025, etc.

But Stern does not allow a “pure” discount rate, where the utility of future generations is discounted simply because of its futurity. So that’s why his overall discount rate is lower than Nordhaus’, who bases his on the market’s observed discount rate.

Bob Murphy Says:
25 May 2008 at 8:53 PM
David Benson wrote:

Lamont (48 ) wrote “Why can’t mitigating climate change and GHGs produce economic stimulus, rather than be a drag on the economy?” It can. I opine that it largely will be, due to ingenuity and innovation.

I agree that human ingenuity will always find ways to make a given situation better. But the point is, requiring a reduction in CO2 emissions takes away our range of options. Other things equal, it necessarily makes us poorer.

Now of course, most posters here would say other things aren’t equal. They would say the costs of mitigation are outweighed by the avoided damages of further global warming.

I’m not arguing that point right now. I’m merely saying that it’s not correct to, say, count up the “green jobs” as a benefit of a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program. This is because you would have to then include all the jobs that were destroyed (in SUV manufacturing, coal-fired power plants, etc.) by those measures.

If the government passed a law forbidding the production of anything that was yellow, that could only make us poorer. By the same token, if the government says industry has to reduce its carbon emissions by x% next year, in and of itself that makes us poorer.

Bob Murphy Says:
26 May 2008 at 9:26 AM

The real problem with doing nothing now will be the cost in lives not air conditioning later. That means you, your kids and the rest.

But this is also the “real problem” with severe restrictions on the use of fossil fuels. As I said earlier, there are billions of people who don’t have what we consider to be necessities of life. They really are dying every day in ways directly traceable to this lack.

So if your criterion is, “Minimize the number of premature deaths over the next 200 years” or something like that, it doesn’t automatically follow that a massive carbon tax now is the answer. It could be the answer, but it is an empirical question. Many posters here are acting as if altruism for others necessarily implies support for radical curbs on carbon emissions, when it doesn’t. You would have to (a) care about future generations, and (b) agree with some of the more catastrophic predictions, in order to support radical measures today.

On the issue of discounting, I agree that on the face of it, it sounds crazy to even ask, “How many future people are worth one person today?” But as I tried to get across (obviously not very persuasively) in earlier posts, the fact is that the price of current purchasing power is higher than (right now) the price of purchasing power in the year 2100. So there needs to be some discount rate (and people can argue about how high it should be) to make sure present mitigation efforts are as effective as they can be.

One final note: I am not saying that the psychological motivation of most “deniers” is concern for people dying of dysentery in Africa today. Of course not. But even so, it is a fact that there are people we know are dying today from poverty. Their efforts to climb out of poverty will be hampered by mitigation proposals. So it’s not simply a matter of, “Do you value human lives?” It’s an empirical an ethical issue of, “Is allowing x more people to die for sure over the next 20 years, counterbalanced by models that lead us to believe we will thus save x+y people over the next 200 years?”

Incidentally I am not being sarcastic in writing the above. The answer may very well be “yes, it is worth it.” I’m only trying to show that it is a question of balance, to quote Nordhaus. It’s not simply, “Do I value my SUV more than 80 kids 100 years from now?”

Bob Murphy Says:
26 May 2008 at 1:25 PM
In response to post #70, raypierre wrote:

The two points you make have been quite thoroughly addressed, but you weren’t paying attention….Besides [Nordhaus’ dubious model], there’s the highly questionable issue of the discount rate assumed by Nordhaus and many other economists. David addressed that specifically in his post.

Hang on a second. The following is David’s addressing of the issue of discount rates:

I personally can get my head around the concept of discounting if the time span is short enough that it’s the same person on either end of the transaction, but when the time scales start to reach hundreds and thousands of years, the people who pay in the future are not the same as the ones who benefit now.

There’s no polite way I can say this, but the above is honestly analogous to me (an economist) criticizing the IPCC at a website like WeHateGore.org and saying, “Personally, I don’t see why we should put any faith in these models. They can’t even tell me if it’s going to rain next week, so when the time scale goes to hundreds or thousands of years…!”

So whatever your thoughts on discounting, David’s expression of personal confusion over the practice of economists hardly counts as a thorough disposal of the practice.

And yes, some people pointed to Weitzman’s work, and the RFF paper. Again, this is analogous to me pointing to Lindzen and saying, “Look, even an MIT expert on this stuff agrees with me! These models are bunk!”

It’s hard to keep the different objections separate on this thread. As I keep pointing out, a lot of people here don’t like the idea of using dollar measurements in the first place, in which case the discussion of discounting is superfluous.

But if you are prepared to accept that a cost/benefit test of proposed mitigation measures isn’t absurd, then the next step is to ask whether future costs and benefits should be given equal weight to present ones.

And I’m saying the answer is no, because whether we agree with it or not, the market right now undervalues future dollars. So we can achieve our aims more cheaply by recognizing this basic fact, rather than declaring it immoral.

I’ll try one more analogy to get the point across. Suppose there is a homeowner trying to decide whether to spend $1000 renovating the insulation in his house, in order to save $100 on utility bills per year. Should he do it or not?

If David is right, then before we can answer that question, we need to know how old the homeowner is. After all, if he’s going to die in two years, then clearly the expenditure isn’t worth it, right?

(The standard answer of course is no, the age of the homeowner is irrelevant, assuming he wants to pass on as much wealth as possible to his heirs. They will reap the benefits of the efficient purchase of insulation. They would rather get the insulated home, and $800 less in cash, than the non-insulated home, and $800 more in cash. [The $200 comes from the two years of life left in the homeowner, in which he lowers his utility bills from the new insulation.])

[Response: There is a real difference between assessing a discount rate for dollar investments for which clear alternatives are available (i.e. why bother to invest in something special if the bank interest rate is higher than the expected return), and assessing the worth of non-economic goods (’the social discount rate’). Confusing the two concepts is at the heart of most of the noise surrounding this issue. To give an extreme example for clarity, if someone uses a bomb to blow up someone today, that is surely just as heinous as if they bury the bomb and set it to blow up tomorrow (or next week or next year). It is equally unethical to set the timer for a day in the future as for a hundred years, yet any substantial social discounting would downgrade the crime to a misdemeanor given a long enough lead time. There is a difference and pretending that only the economically illiterate think so, is not constructive. It is however an ethical decision, and can’t be proven one way or another using economics alone. – gavin]

Bob Murphy Says:
26 May 2008 at 1:28 PM
One final comment, and then I think I should quit while I’m ahead (or not too far behind): Nordhaus is actually on “your” side in this. He has been one of the most vocal economists on the importance of climate change.

If you think he is unduly activist, it might be because, as a professional economist, he sees costs of your personally favored policies that you aren’t considering.

Bob Murphy Says:
26 May 2008 at 1:52 PM
Whoops–typo: I meant above to say that if you think Nordhaus’ isn’t activist enough, then it might be because he is worrying about drawbacks to mitigation policies that you aren’t taking seriously. I.e. there seems to be a sense here that because he’s skeptical of some approaches, he must not care about the environment as much as Gore (or Stern) does. And I don’t think that’s it at all. Believe me, I have been a critic of Nordhaus on this very issue, so it’s odd that I’m defending him here.

Bob Murphy Says:
26 May 2008 at 2:54 PM
Well shoot, I said I was done pestering you guys, but then Gavin goes and makes a great analogy that I hope will really clarify our different positions on this. So if you’ll forgive me for one more attempt:

There is a real difference between assessing a discount rate for dollar investments for which clear alternatives are available (i.e. why bother to invest in something special if the bank interest rate is higher than the expected return), and assessing the worth of non-economic goods (’the social discount rate’). Confusing the two concepts is at the heart of most of the noise surrounding this issue. To give an extreme example for clarity, if someone uses a bomb to blow up someone today, that is surely just as heinous as if they bury the bomb and set it to blow up tomorrow (or next week or next year). It is equally unethical to set the timer for a day in the future as for a hundred years, yet any substantial social discounting would downgrade the crime to a misdemeanor given a long enough lead time.

OK thanks, as I said this really crystallized our differences on this. Note that we’re actually closer to agreement than you seem to think; all along I have said, “If you don’t want to put a dollar value on lives or the environment, that’s fine. But if you do then you need to discount.” I think we’re both agreed, then, that the basic problem with Nordhaus is his attempt to monetize everything, rather than his application of a discount rate to those monetary values.

But anyway, back to your example: First of all, under the law you will get a lighter sentence (today) for planting a bomb set to go off in one year, than if you planted one that went off two minutes ago. And the difference of course is that you haven’t actually killed anybody with the first bomb. This is relevant to the climate discussion, because those future harms might not actually occur. And I don’t even mean, maybe carbon-munching trees will be developed. As I said, Stern discounts the future because of the possibility that those people won’t exist (asteroid, nuclear war, etc.).

(Now in fairness, you could say, “OK, if the bomb is set to go off in one week, versus one year.” I don’t know what the legal treatment of these cases would be, but in either case you would not be charged with murder, because no one is yet dead.)

But now let’s make your bomb scenario a little closer to the climate change one, and hopefully you’ll see why I keep insisting that discounting is important. Suppose that instead of just an outright government crackdown on bomb-planting, the government capitulates to the bomb lobbyists and only imposes a $35 tax on every bomb planted. (Maybe most citizens view bomb planting as essential to their way of life.)

Now in that case, it really would be crazy to not discount the fine based on the timer setting, because otherwise the same crime would be penalized at different levels. E.g. someone today plants a bomb set to go off in one year, and he gets fined $35. Then next year, someone plants a bomb to go off in 24 hours, and he also gets fined $35.

Both bombers killed one person in the year 2009. But the first bomber paid a higher fine, because he had to pay $35 in 2008, while the second guy had to pay it in 2009. During his trial, the first guy in 2008 could have said, “Hang on a second! Don’t make me pay it now, make me pay the $35 when it actually kills someone.” And naturally he would prefer that outcome, because he could set aside less than $35 today (in 2008 when he’s convicted), and let it roll over to $35 in 2009 when his bomb actually causes damage.

So that’s one way of seeing why, if you’re going to bring monetary incentives into it, which plenty of environmentalists want to do, then it matters that “current money” is more expensive than “future money.”

To insist that monetary fees (carbon taxes, prices for cap-and-trade permits, etc.) reflect the prevailing exchange rate between present and future dollars, is no crazier than saying a carbon tax expressed in Japanese yen has to be higher per ton than a carbon tax expressed in US dollars.

To push the bomb analogy even further, yes it certainly would be better if the bomb planters could be persuaded to set their timers farther into the future, even if we’re solely concerned about minimizing the damages from their actions. This is because we have more time to adapt to the bombs. People in the vicinity can move away, they can buy armor for their cars, etc.

Obviously I’ve carried the analogy a bit far, but I’m just trying to show that the closer you make it to the actual situation of carbon emissions causing future damages, and especially where the government’s response is to inflict monetary fines on the parties doing the damaging, then you need to use discounting. Otherwise you end up with an outcome that is inferior from everyone’s viewpoint, to what would be achievable if discounting were used.

[Response: My point was only that ethics are not discountable. It is equally unethical to plant the bomb with a one day setting as with a century setting. Your extension to my analogy is really a stretch to make an ethical point into an economic point – I don’t see that any of your additional assumptions are necessarily valid. But nonetheless, there are clear uncertainties with future actions that mean that something that is almost certain to happen if I plan it for a day ahead, is less certain if I plan for a century ahead. Fine – some kind of allowance needs to be made for that (as Stern does). But there is no reason to think that it should be the same discounting rate that applies to today’s monetary investment decisions. – gavin]

Science a Side Issue in International Scientific Congress on Climate Change

Early birds at the University of Copenhagen, talking already about the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change scheduled for March 2009 (only 9 months to go…).

The Preliminary Programme is available and I cannot see anything to be optimistic about. First of all, the one all-science Parallel Session (#1: Exploring the Risks: Understanding Climate Change) shows little chance of understanding much apart from all that may go bad with climate change itself. Not a single topic on anything good that may come out of a warmer world, heaven forbid!!

Even more worrying, overall proper “Science” does not appear to be central to the conference. There are many topics that more properly fall under “Policy”, “Politics” and “Management”.

What are those doing in a meeting aiming “to provide a synthesis of existing and emerging scientific knowledge necessary“, is anybody’s guess: or a sign that too many AGW scientists really cannot extricate themselves from climate activism.

And that’s a way of debasing their own science.