10 October, 2017

Abbott’s Address to the GWPF, “Daring to Doubt”

Hon. Tony Abbott’s Address to the Global Warming Policy Foundation in Westminster, London, on 9 October, 2017:


I want to thank you for giving me the same platform that you’ve previously given to fellow Australians John Howard and George Pell.  I will strive to be worthy of their example and their friendship; to offer a common sense way through the climate conflict; and, also, to place this particular issue in the broader search for practical wisdom now taking place across the Western world.
It would be wrong to underestimate the strengths of the contemporary West.  By objective standards, people have never had better lives.  Yet our phenomenal wealth and our scientific and technological achievements rest on values and principles that have rarely been more widely challenged.
To a greater or lesser extent, in most Western countries, we can’t keep our borders secure; we can’t keep our industries intact; and we can’t preserve a moral order once taken for granted.  Eventually, something will crystalize out of this age of disruption but in the meantime we could be entering a period of national and even civilizational decline.
In Australia, we’ve had ten years of disappointing government.  It’s not just the churn of prime ministers that now rivals Italy’s, the internal divisions and the policy confusion that followed a quarter century of strong government under both Bob Hawke and John Howard.  It’s the institutional malaise.  We have the world’s most powerful upper house:  a Senate where good government can almost never secure a majority.  Our businesses campaign for same sex marriage but not for economic reform.  Our biggest company, BHP, the world’s premier miner, lives off the coal industry that it now wants to disown.  And our oldest university, Sydney, now boasts that its mission is “unlearning”.
Of course, to be an Australian is still to have won the lottery of life, and there’s yet no better place to live and work.  But there’s a nagging sense that we’re letting ourselves down and failing to reach anything like our full potential.
We are not alone in this.  The Trump ascendancy, however it works out, was a popular revolt against politics-as-usual.  Brexit was a rejection of the British as well as of the European establishments.  Yes, the centrist, Macron, won in France but only by sidelining the parties that had ruled from the start of the Fifth Republic.  And while the German chancellor was re-elected, seemingly it’s at the head of an unstable coalition after losing a quarter of her vote.
Everywhere, there’s a breakdown of public trust between voters and their leaders for misdiagnosing problems, for making excuses about who’s to blame, and for denying the damage that’s been done.
Since the Global Financial Crisis, at least in the West, growth has been slow, wages stagnant, opportunities limited, and economic and cultural disruption unprecedented.  Within countries and between them, old pecking orders are changing.  Civilizational self-doubt is everywhere; we believe in everyone but ourselves; and everything is taken seriously except that which used to be.
Just a few years ago, history was supposed to have ended in the triumph of the Western liberal order.  Yet far from becoming universal, Western values are less and less accepted even in the West itself.  We still more or less accept that every human being is born with innate dignity; with rights, certainly, but we’re less sure about the corresponding duties.
We still accept the golden rule of human conduct:  to treat others as we would have them treat us—or to use the Gospel formula to “love your neighbour as you love yourself”—but we’re running on empty.
In Britain and Australia, scarcely 50% describe themselves as Christian, down from 90% a generation back.  For decades, we’ve been losing our religious faith but we’re fast losing our religious knowledge too.  We’re less a post-Christian society than a non-Christian, or even an anti-Christian one.  It hasn’t left us less susceptible to dogma, though, because we still need things to believe in and causes to fight for; it’s just that believers can now be found for almost anything and everything.
Climate change is by no means the sole or even the most significant symptom of the changing interests and values of the West.  Still, only societies with high levels of cultural amnesia—that have forgotten the scriptures about man created “in the image and likeness of God” and charged with “subduing the earth and all its creatures”—could have made such a religion out of it.
There’s no certain way to regain cultural self-confidence.  The heart of any recovery, though, has to be an honest facing of facts and an insistence upon intellectual rigour.  More than ever, the challenge of leadership is to say what you mean and do what you say.  The lesson I’ve taken from being in government, and then out of it, is simply to speak my mind.  The risk, when people know where you stand, is losing their support.  The certainty, when people don’t know where you stand, is losing their respect.
Of course, we’re all nostalgic for the days when governments and oppositions could agree on the big issues; but pleading for bi-partisanship won’t create it.  As my government shewed on border protection policy, the only way to create a new consensus is to argue the case, to make a decision, and then to let the subsequent facts speak for themselves.
The modern world, after all, is not the product of a successful search for consensus.  It’s what’s emerged from centuries of critical enquiry and hard clash.  Without the constant curiosity and endless questioning that has driven our scientists and engineers, and the constant striving for improvement that’s long guided our planners and policy makers, there’d be no cures for disease, no labour-saving appliances, no sanitation, no urban improvement, no votes for women, no respect for minorities; in other words, no modern world.
That may not actually bother some green activists whose ideal is an Amish existence, only without reference to God.  But it should bother anyone and everyone who wants longer, safer, more comfortable and more prosperous lives.
Beware the pronouncement, “the science is settled”.  It’s the spirit of the Inquisition, the thought-police down the ages.  Almost as bad is the claim that “99% of scientists believe” as if scientific truth [were] determined by votes rather than facts.
There are laws of physics; there are objective facts; there are moral and ethical truths.  But there is almost nothing important where no further enquiry is needed.  What the “science is settled” brigade want is to close down investigation by equating questioning with superstition.  It’s an aspect of the wider weakening of the Western mind which poses such dangers to the world’s future.
Physics suggests, all other things being equal, that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide would indeed warm the planet.  Even so, the atmosphere is an almost infinitely complex mechanism that’s far from fully understood.
Palaeontology indicates that over millions of years there have been warmer periods and cooler periods that don’t correlate with carbon dioxide concentrations.  The Jurassic warm period and the ice ages occurred without any human contribution at all.  The medieval warm period when crops were grown in Greenland and the mini-ice age when the Thames froze over occurred well before industrial activities added to atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Prudence and respect for the planet would suggest taking care not lightly to increase carbon dioxide emissions; but the evidence suggests that other factors such as sun spot cycles and oscillations in the Earth’s orbit are at least as important for climate change as this trace gas—which, far from being pollution, is actually essential for life to exist.
Certainly, no big change has accompanied the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration over the past century from roughly 300 to roughly 400 parts per million or from 0.03 to 0.04%.
Contrary to the breathless assertions that climate change is behind every weather event, in Australia, the floods are not bigger, the bushfires are not worse, the droughts are not deeper or longer, and the cyclones are not more severe than they were in the 1800s.  Sometimes, they do more damage but that’s because there’s more to destroy, not because their intensity has increased.  More than one hundred years of photography at Manly Beach in my electorate does not suggest that sea levels have risen despite frequent reports from climate alarmists that this is imminent.
It may be that a tipping point will be reached soon and that the world might start to warm rapidly but so far reality has stubbornly refused to conform to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s computer modelling.  Even the high-priests of climate change now seem to concede that there was a pause in warming between the 1990s and 2014.
So far, though, there’s no concession that their models might require revision even though unadjusted data suggests that the 1930s were actually the warmest decade in the United States and that temperatures in Australia have only increased by 0.3 degrees over the past century, not the one degree usually claimed.
The growing evidence that records have been adjusted, that the impact of urban heat islands has been downplayed, and that data sets have been slanted in order to fit the theory of dangerous anthropogenic global warming does not make it false; but it should produce much caution about basing drastic action upon it.
Then there’s the evidence that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide (which is a plant food after all) are actually greening the planet and helping to lift agricultural yields.  In most countries, far more people die in cold snaps than in heat waves, so a gradual lift in global temperatures, especially if it [be] accompanied by more prosperity and more capacity to adapt to change, might even be beneficial.
In what might be described as Ridley’s paradox, after the distinguished British commentator:  at least so far, it’s climate change policy that’s doing harm; climate change itself is probably doing good; or at least, more good than harm.
Australia, for instance, has the world’s largest readily available supplies of coal, gas and uranium, yet thanks to a decade of policy based more on green ideology than common sense, we can’t be sure of keeping the lights on this summer; and, in the policy-induced shift from having the world’s lowest power prices to amongst the highest, our manufacturing industry has lost its one, big comparative economic advantage.
About 20 years ago, in Australia, limiting carbon dioxide emissions first became a goal of public policy.  It was the Howard government, back in 1997, that originally introduced the Renewable Energy Target, a stealth carbon tax, requiring energy suppliers to source a percentage of their power from new renewable generation.  But in those far off days, it was just two per cent.
During the energy discussions around the Howard cabinet table, I recall thinking “why not encourage more solar hot water systems to reduce power use” and “why not incentivise the installation of solar panels to help power people’s homes”?
Way back in the 1980s, in my final provost’s collection at The Queen’s College, Lord Blake had observed:  “Mr Abbott needs to temper his robust common sense with a certain philosophic doubt”.  If only more of us had realised sooner how easy it was with renewable power to have too much of a good thing!
Unsurprisingly, a conservative cabinet did indeed respond to farmers’ worries about the drought then gripping eastern Australia; and the public’s then eagerness to support environmental gestures with other people’s money.  We thought we could reduce emissions, or at least limit their increase, without much disruption to everyday life, hence these gestures to the zeitgeist.  Where the subsidy was modest and the impact on the power system minimal, our thinking ran, why not accommodate the feel-good urge to be “responsible global citizens”?
In its last few months, the Howard government even agreed in-principle to support an emissions trading scheme.  But Howard was shrewd enough to know how the most important consequences of any policy were often the unintended ones.  His government’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto climate change treaty, even though we’d secured a good deal for Australia, shewed his caution about the impact of emissions reduction on power prices and the wider economy.
For the incoming Labor Prime Minister after 2007, though, climate change was nothing less than the “greatest moral challenge of our time”.  The Rudd-Gillard government believed in an emissions trading scheme, no ifs, no buts, and in a ten-fold increase in the mandatory use of renewables.
For a while, the Liberal-National opposition was inclined to go along with it.  My own leaning for the first year or so was not to oppose it; but my doubts about the theory of climate change were growing and my sense that an ETS would turn out to be a “great big new tax on everything” was hardening.
To a party audience in country Victoria in October 2009, I observed that the so-called settled science of climate change was “absolute crap”; and after winning the opposition leadership had a secret party room ballot to oppose an ETS because it was not our job to enter into weak compromises with a bad government.
As it happened, the 2010 election was more about power prices than about saving the planet.  Under great political pressure, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, declared “there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead”.  But early in 2011, as part of her minority government’s deal with the Greens, she committed to a carbon tax that would put wholesale power prices up by 40%.
The 2013 election was a referendum on Labor’s carbon tax—as well as Labor’s complete loss of control over our maritime borders—with a thumping win to the Liberal-National Coalition.
In July 2014, the Abbott government abolished the carbon tax, saving the average household about $500 a year.  In early 2015, we reduced the Renewable Energy Target from 28 to 23%.  It wasn’t enough, but it was the best that we could get through the Senate.  My cabinet always had some ministers focussed on jobs and cost of living; and others more concerned with emissions reduction, even though our contribution to global emissions was barely one per cent.
Inevitably, our Paris agreement to a 26 to 28% emissions reduction was a compromise based on the advice that we could achieve it largely through efficiencies, without additional environmental imposts, using the highly successful emissions reduction fund; because, as I said at the time, “the last thing we want to do is strengthen the environment (but) damage our economy”.
At last year’s election, the government chose not to campaign on power prices even though Labor was promising a 50% Renewable Energy Target (requiring a $50 [thousand million] over-build of wind farms) and a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030 (requiring a new carbon tax).  After a net gain of twenty-five seats at the previous two elections, when we had campaigned on power prices, we had a net loss of fourteen when we didn’t.
And subsequent events have made the politics of power once more the central battleground between and within the two main parties.  Although manufacturing, agriculture and transport are also large carbon dioxide emitters, the politics of emissions reduction has always focussed on power generation because shifting to renewables has always been more saleable to voters than closing down industry, giving up cars and not eating beef.
As a badge of environmental virtue, the South Australian state Labor government had been boasting that, on average, almost 50% of its power was wind-generated—although at any moment it could vary from almost zero to almost 100%.  It had even ostentatiously blown up its one coal-fired power station.
In September last year, though, the wind blew so hard that the turbines had to shut down—and the inter-connector with Victoria and its reliable coal-fired power failed too.  For twenty-four hours, there was a State-wide blackout.  For nearly two million people, the lights were off, cash registers didn’t work, traffic lights went down, lifts stopped, and patients were sent home from hospitals.
Throughout last summer, there were further blackouts and brownouts across eastern Australia requiring hundreds of millions in repairs to the plant of energy-intensive industries.  Despite this, in a display of virtue signalling, to flaunt its environmental credentials (and to boost prices for its other coal-fired plants), last March the French-government part-owned multinational, Engie, closed down the giant Hazelwood coal-fired station that had supplied a quarter of Victoria’s power.
The Australian Energy Market Operator is now sufficiently alarmed to have just issued an official warning of further blackouts this summer in Victoria and South Australia and severe medium term power shortfalls.  But in yet more virtue-signalling, energy giant AGL is still threatening to close the massive Liddell coal-fired power station in NSW and replace it with a subsidised solar farm and a much smaller gas-fired power station relying on gas supplies that don’t currently exist.
Were it not rational behaviour based on irrational government policy, this deliberate elimination of an essential service could only be described as a form of economic self-harm.
Hydro aside, renewable energy should properly be referred to as intermittent and unreliable power.  When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the power doesn’t flow.  Wind and solar power are like sailing ships; cheaper than powered boats, to be sure, but we’ve stopped using sail for transport because it couldn’t be trusted to turn up on time.
Because the weather is unpredictable, you never really know when renewable power is going to work.  Its marginal cost is low but so is its reliability, so in the absence of industrial scale batteries, it always needs matching capacity from dependable coal, gas, hydro, or nuclear energy.  This should always have been obvious.
Also now apparent is the system instability and the perverse economics that subsidised renewables on a large scale have injected into our power supply.  Not only is demand variable but there’s a vast and unpredictable difference between potential and dispatch-able capacity at any one time.  Having to turn coal fired power stations up or down as the wind changes makes them much less profitable even though coal remains by far the cheapest source of reliable power.
A market that’s driven by subsidies rather than by economics always fails.  Subsidy begets subsidy until the system collapses into absurdity.  In Australia’s case, having subsidised renewables, allegedly to save the planet; we’re now faced with subsidising coal, just to keep the lights on.
We have got ourselves into this mess because successive federal governments have tried to reduce emissions rather than to ensure reliable and affordable power; because, rather than give farmers a fairer return, state governments have given in to green lobbyists and banned or heavily restricted gas exploration and extraction; and because shareholder activists have scared power companies out of new investment in fossil fuel power generation, even though you can’t run a modern economy without it.
In the short term, to avoid blackouts, we have to get mothballed or under-utilised gas back into the system.
In the medium term, there must be—first—no subsidies, none, for new intermittent power (and a freeze on the RET should be no problem if renewables are as economic as the boosters claim); second, given the nervousness of private investors, there must be a government-built coal-fired power station to overcome political risk; third, the gas bans must go; and fourth, the ban on nuclear power must go too in case a dry country ever needs base load power with zero emissions.
The government is now suggesting that there might not be a new Clean Energy Target after all.  There must not be—and we still need to deal with what’s yet to come under the existing target.
In the longer term, we need less theology and more common sense about emissions reduction.  It matters but not more than everything else.  As Clive James has suggested in a celebrated recent essay, we need to get back to evidence based policy rather than “policy based evidence”.
Even if reducing emissions really [were] necessary to save the planet, our effort, however Herculean, is barely-better-than-futile; because Australia’s total annual emissions are exceeded by just the annual increase in China’s.
There’s a veneer of rational calculation to emissions reduction but underneath it’s about “doing the right thing”.  Environmentalism has managed to combine a post-socialist instinct for big government with a post-Christian nostalgia for making sacrifices in a good cause.  Primitive people once killed goats to appease the volcano gods.  We’re more sophisticated now but are still sacrificing our industries and our living standards to the climate gods to little more effect.
So far, climate change policy has generated new taxes, new subsidies and new restrictions in rich countries; and new demands for more aid from poor countries.  But for the really big emitters, China and India, it’s a first world problem.  Between them, they’re building or planning more than 800 new coal-fired power stations—often using Australian coal—with emissions, on average, 30% lower than from our own ageing generators.
Unsurprisingly, the recipients of climate change subsidies and climate change research grants think action is very urgent indeed.  As for the general public, of course saving the planet counts—until the bills come in and then the humbug detector is switched on.
Should Australia close down its steel industry; watch passively while its aluminium industry moves offshore to places less concerned about emissions; export coal, but not use it ourselves; and deliberately increase power prices for people who can’t install their own solar panels and batteries?  Of course not, but these are the inevitable consequences of continuing current policies.
That’s the reality no one has wanted to face for a long time:  that we couldn’t reduce emissions without also hurting the economy; that’s the inconvenient truth that can now no longer be avoided.
The only rational choice is to put Australian jobs and Australia’s standard of living first; to get emissions down but only as far as we can without putting prices up.  After two decades’ experience of the very modest reality of climate change but the increasingly dire consequences of the policy to deal with it, anything else would be a dereliction of duty as well as a political death wish.
I congratulate the Global Warming Policy Foundation for your commitment to rational inquiry; your insistence that the theory must be made to fit the facts, rather than the other way round; your concern to do good, rather than just to seem good; and for the hope I share with you:  that, in the end, the best policy will turn out to be the best politics.
I’m reminded of the story of a man randomly throwing pieces of paper from the window of a train.  Eventually his companion asked him why he did it.  “It keeps the elephants down,” he said.  “But there are no elephants here”, his companion replied.  “Precisely; it’s a very successful method”.
A tendency to fear catastrophe is ingrained in the human psyche.  Looking at the climate record over millions of years, one day it will probably come; whatever we do today won’t stop it, and when it comes, it will have little to do with the carbon dioxide emissions of mankind.

09 December, 2014

Blaming Climate Change Yet Again

As this year comes to a close the usual suspects—within the media and among the most corrupt of the alleged scientists peddling the scare of CAGW—are already declaring 2014 the hottest year ever.  The cause?  Climate Change.  Yes, climate change causes climate change!  Elsewhere, according to Doyle Rice in USA Today) some scientists who have actually looked at evidence blame California’s persistent drought on natural variability:
Natural weather patterns and climate variability, not man-made global warming, are causing the historic drought that’s parching California, says a study out today from federal scientists.
“It’s important to note that California’s drought, while extreme, is not an uncommon occurrence for the state,” said Richard Seager, report lead author and professor with Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.  The report, “Causes and Predictability of the 2011-14 California Drought,” was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The report did not appear in a [pre-publication] peer-reviewed journal, but was reviewed by other NOAA scientists.
“In fact, multi-year droughts appear regularly in the state’s climate record, and it’s a safe bet that a similar event will happen again,” he said.
The persistent weather pattern over the past several years has featured a warm, dry ridge of high pressure over the eastern North Pacific Ocean and western North America. Such high-pressure ridges prevent clouds from forming and precipitation from falling.
The current study notes that this ridge—which has resulted in decreased rain and snowfall since 2011—is almost opposite to what computer models predict will result from human-induced climate change.
Naturally, a serial liar, and one of the world’s prominent propagandists for the pseudo-scientific conjecture of CAGW, the rather vexatious Michael Mann, had to express denial:
“The authors of the new report would really have us believe that is merely a coincidence and has nothing to do with the impact of human-caused climate change?” Penn State meteorologist Michael Mann wrote in the Huffington Post Monday.
“Frankly, I don’t find that even remotely plausible.”
It could be interesting, one day, to list all all things which that fraudulent fellow does find plausible—the survival of the Loch Ness monster and the sway of reptilian aliens among us, a fair observed might expect—versus all the facts, verities, truths and the concept of the null hypothesis which he indubitably regards as implausible.
Mann cites the fact that the NOAA report focuses primarily on the lack of precipitation, not the unusually high temperatures that have been measured in the oceans as well as across the state of California. […]
Peer-reviewed studies are divided on whether the drought can be blamed on climate change.
Ah, yes, we cannot be certain whether climate change could be blamed on climate change—for, after all, droughts may lead to droughts!  Perhaps the rather silly but lucripetous Dr. Mann ought to have paid more attention to The Hockey Schtick rather than to his own thoroughly worn comfort-object, the spurious hockey stick:
A paper published in Living Reviews of Solar Physics finds from 2 cosmogenic isotope proxies that solar activity at the end of the 20th century was at the highest levels of the past 1200 years.  Many other papers also confirm that solar activity reached a Grand Solar Maximum at the end of the 20th century.  However, according to the IPCC, this has nothing to do with 0.7C of global warming since the end of the Little Ice Age in 1850.

13 August, 2014

Things Not Caused by Climate Change

The list of the deleterious and not so deleterious effects of supposed anthropogenic global warming (such as more and fewer bushfires, greater and lesser droughts, increasing warmth and increasing coolth, angrier sharks, and such softer sea-shells by a susurrant sea shore) ever grows—alarmingly!—continually!—exponentially!CATASTROPHICALLY!—so we thought it might be more advantageous to compile a list of all the things which, currently, according to the consensus of “climate scientists”, are NOT caused by climate change (though, of course, we must keep an eye on future editions of “peer-reviewed” pseudo-scientific journals):

Things Not Caused by AGW:
the Elder Futharc;
La Gelée d’Oranges à l’Anglaise;
heliocentric theory;
the hortatory subjunctive;
knowledge, the wing wherewith we fly to heaven;
leather knapsacks;
most paper cuts;
signet rings;
some asteroid strikes;
tyromancy; &

See also “Unsettled Science”.

14 February, 2014

Time’s Up

Back in 2012 my father and I attended a “conversation” on climate change which was held in Hobart.  The four main speakers spouting the pseudo-scientific bullshit that night were Prof. Tim Flannery, Prof. Will Steffen, Prof. Lesley Hughes and some slow, boring economist, Mr. Roger Beale.
After the forum had concluded, I managed to approach Prof. Flannery; I asked him when Brisbane would run out of water, and Flannery kindly professed:  “Within the next couple of years.”
Now, “a couple of years”, surely, means “two years” and it has now been two years since our colloquy.  Has Brisbane run out of water?   I checked the figures here and here; it appears that Brisbane’s dams average over 89% capacity, with several over 96%.
It seems to me, if dams average an 89% capacity, with none at all anywhere near empty, that Brisbane will not run out of water even within the next couple of years.

23 October, 2013

“Why the Global Warming Agenda Is Wrong”

UPDATE (October 27):  “Ten Tests to Determine Whether You Should Be Concerned about Global Warming”:

22 May, 2013

John Cook et Alii Willfully Lie

The lucripetous and deceitful John Cook (an unscrupulous and shameless propagandist for the silly, pseudo-scientific conjecture of anthropogenic global warming) continues to lie in order to convince the gullible that, if a plurality of supposed experts suggest that anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide cause global warming, then everyone else must believe that any resultant warming will be catastrophic for the entire planet.  He and his overpaid collabarators falsely and fallaciously claim that “among papers expressing a position on human-caused global warming, over 97% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.”
See “97% Study Falsely Classifies Scientists Papers, according to the scientists that published them” at Popular Technology:
The paper, Cook et al. (2013) “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature” searched the Web of Science for the phrases “global warming” and “global climate change” then categorizing these results to their alleged level of endorsement of AGW.  These results were then used to allege a 97% consensus on human-caused global warming.
To get to the truth, I emailed a sample of scientists whose papers were used in the study and asked them if the categorization by Cook et al. (2013) were an accurate representation of their paper.  Their responses are eye opening and evidence that the Cook et al. (2013) team falsely classified scientists’ papers as “endorsing AGW”, apparently believing to know more about the papers than their authors.
What does a study of 20 years of abstracts tell us about the global climate?  Nothing.  But it says quite a lot about the way government funding influences the scientific process. John Cook, a blogger who runs the site with the ambush title “SkepticalScience” (which unskeptically defends the mainstream position), has tried to revive the put-down and smear strategy against the thousands of scientists who disagree.  The new paper confounds climate research with financial forces, is based on the wrong assumptions, uses fallacious reasoning, wasn’t independent, and confuses a consensus of climate scientists for a scientific consensus, not that a consensus proves anything anyway, if it existed.
From WUWT:

UPDATE I:  the demented Prof. Stephan Lewandowsky, one of John Cook’s accomplices, also lies in order to enrich himself.  See “The Lewandowsky Papers”, by Ben Pile:
A culture of intransigence has developed in the shadow of the compact between politics and science, which can be seen in the Lewandowsky affair in microcosm.  Lewandowsky’s work unwittingly demonstrates that what is passed off as peer-reviewed and published ‘science’, even in today’s world, is no more scientific than the worst ramblings of the least qualified and nuttiest climate change denier on the internet.  It looks like science, certainly, but the product survives only a superficial inspection.  The only difference being the institutional muscle that Lewandowsky has access to, but which unhinged climate change deniers do not.  The object of the Professor’s study is really his own refusal to debate with his lessers.
By “climate change denier”, a pejorative term employed by dishonest awarmists, Ben Pile evidently means “sceptics of AGW”.

UPDATE II:  see, also at WUWT, “The Collapsing ‘Consensus’”, by Christopher Monckton of Brenchley: 
Environmental Research Letters ought to have known better than to publish the latest anti-scientific propaganda paper by John Cook of the dubiously-named Skeptical Science website.  Here are just a few of the solecisms that should have led any competent editor or reviewer to reject the paper:
  • It did not discuss, still less refute, the principle that the scientific method is not in any way informed by argument from consensus, which thinkers from Aristotle via Alhazen to Huxley and Popper have rejected as logically fallacious. 
  • Its definition of the “consensus” it claimed to have found was imprecise: that “human activity is very likely causing most of the current anthropogenic global warming”. 
  • It did not put a quantitative value on the term “very likely”, and it did not define what it meant by “current” warming.  There has been none for at least 18 years. 
  • It cited as authoritative the unscientifically-sampled surveys of “consensus” by Doran & Zimmerman (2009) and Anderegg et al. (2010). 
  • It inaccurately represented the views of scientists whose abstracts it analysed. 
  • It disregarded two-thirds of the 12,000 abstracts it examined, on the unscientific ground that those abstracts had expressed no opinion on Man’s climatic influence. 
  • It declared that the one-third of all papers alleged to have endorsed the “consensus” really amounted to 97% of the sample, not 33%. 
  • It suggested that the “consensus” that most recent warming is man-made is equivalent to the distinct and far less widely-supported notion that urgent action to prevent future warming is essential to avert catastrophe.  [President] Obama fell for this, twittering that 97% found global warming not only real and manmade but also dangerous. 
Yet the most remarkable conclusion to be drawn from Cook’s strange paper is that the “consensus”—far from growing—is actually collapsing. 
UPDATE III (28 May):  it seems that Cook et al. are unable to search academic literature databases competently; see ‘Landmark consensus study’ is incomplete”, by Shub Niggurath:
The Cook et al. numbers are somewhat replicable, only if search [were] limited to the Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index databases in Web of Science.  Presumably, this made the job of classification easier.  Contrary to claims, however, this makes their literature search incomplete.  It is neither ‘comprehensive’ nor produces the largest’ possible data set.  The finding of incomplete search has further implications as it affects all conclusions drawn in the paper.
UPDATE IV (11 June):  see Shub Niggurath’s “Why the Cook paper is bunk: Part I”:
Cook and co-authors rationalize the decrease in the proportion of papers supporting the consensus, via a convoluted theory, as evidence for a high degree of consensus.  They contend the decrease implies more papers have accepted the consensus and therefore don’t need to talk about it.  At the same time, they take the increase in absolute numbers of orthodox position papers as evidence for ‘increasing consensus’.
UPDATE V (17 June):  Shub Niggurath’s “Why the Cook paper is bunk: Part II” is now available:
Now, Cook and colleagues have spread the message wide that 97% of a ‘large number of scientific abstracts’ support anthropogenic global warming […]. From the University of Queensland’s press release:
About 97 per cent of 4000 international scientific papers analysed in a University of Queensland-led study were rated as endorsing human-caused global warming.
How this happened is known:  a large number of papers not stating a position on AGW were classified as ‘implicitly’ accepting the orthodox climate position.  […]
The ‘implicit endorse’ category Cook’s group invented, illustrates devilish intricacies that can arise in classification studies.  Papers were added to the category merely because a predetermined rating system suggested it to volunteers, who then went looking for it.  It serves as a paradigm that illustrates how researchers can imprint methodological and observer biases on material they set out to study.

14 May, 2013

The Philospher’s Preferred Instrument of Change: Tax

On ABC’s Lateline, last night, Emma Alberici interviewed Prof. Michael Sandel (the text is that of Lateline’s own transcription):

EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER:  Our guest tonight is the famed Harvard University professor of Government, Michael Sandel.  Newsweek calls him the most relevant living philosopher.
Well, if Newsweek praise him—
EMMA ALBERICI:  Which takes me to the dangerous political territory which you traverse in the book around climate change.  Now, you talk about this market in buying and selling the right to pollute in a way that clearly demonstrates that you’re not a fan.
What she means, by “the right to pollute”, is the lawful, industrial emitting of carbon dioxide—the trace gas which is essential for life on earth—as a byproduct, for example, of generating affordable power.
MICHAEL SANDEL: Well, I think the best way to reduce carbon emissions would be a carbon tax, which is terribly unpopular, certainly in my country and elsewhere.
This, of course, is assuming that “carbon emissions” need to be reduced on the further supposition that they cause global warming.  Strangely, for a supposed philosopher, Mandel neglects to question those pseudo-scientific assumptions.  Not so strangely, for an awarmist presenter on the awarmist ABC, Emma Alberici doesn’t bother asking her guest for evidence to support his assertions.
Some international agreements on global warming have included provisions, often at the insistence of the US, to allow countries to meet their obligations either by reducing their own emissions or by paying other countries to reduce theirs.  The worry, it seems to me, my worry, is that if we’re trying to generate a global ethic on the environment, on climate change, we're going to have to cultivate a sense that we are all in this together.  And if we allow rich countries to buy their way out of shared sacrifice, I’m concerned that this could erode the attitudes, the sense of common commitment and shared sacrifice that we will need truly to tackle the long-term challenge of reducing emissions.  So attitudes matter.  And sometimes monetary incentives can damage or erode or even corrupt attitudes that we need to support a shared public, in this case global, ethic.
So, if richer countries were to transfer more wealth to poorer countries, it would be bad because that sacrificing of money wouldn’t be as sacrificing as losing wealth by making energy less affordable for the less affluent.  Why, pray, do we even need a “global ethic”?  If global warming were truly endangering us all would not prudent, cost-effective action be more important than possibly protracted attempts to alter ethics?  Would Prof. Sandel prefer that ethical positions be shared on, say, the evils of slavery or the wickedness of the use of torture in police investigations, ere such practices be banned?
EMMA ALBERICI:  But isn’t that problem equally levelled around the carbon tax in so far as if only one country does it – the whole idea of an emissions trading scheme was that everyone was going to be doing it together, wasn’t it?  I mean, the carbon tax will only apply in one territory.
MICHAEL SANDEL:  Well ideally I think the major countries should try to get together and agree on – to enact carbon taxes, but I think if the major economies begin to do so, I think that can have a desirable effect for others.  I’m all in favour of anything we can do internationally to create a sense of shared responsibility to tackle climate change and global warming.  My worry was that simply relying on tradeable pollution permits, giving rich countries the right essentially to buy their way out of shared sacrifice would undermine the global cooperation, the shared ethic we need as citizens of this planet to do something serious about climate change.
Right, and that “something serious” to “tackle climate change” is to ruin the economies of wealthier countries.
EMMA ALBERICI:  What are your attitudes towards the compensation element?  I mean, in this country we have a carbon tax and then in some circumstances households were overcompensated for the effect of the tax on their particular household budgets.  And we see the same thing with big corporations being compensated for the harmful effect of such a tax.
By “overcompensated” Alberici means that people have been assigned slightly more funds—taken from taxpayers—than the Government has calculated—using, too often, imagined figures—might be the average burden foisted on ordinary taxpayers by various rises in costs after the imposition of the “carbon” tax, without taking into account the deleterious effect on the economy generally.
MICHAEL SANDEL:  Well I think that trying to offset the regressive aspects of a tax, helping those who are least able to bear it, is a good way of making a carbon tax politically acceptable without putting the greatest burden on those who can least afford it.  I’m not familiar with the way the compensation works with regard to companies. But I wish that we in this country would adopt a carbon tax and helping alleviate the burden on those who can’t afford it.  Because I think it would begin to change habits and change attitudes as well as practices and the emissions themselves with regard to one of the biggest challenges long term that we face.
Well, there you go:  a philosopher, and promoter of global ethics, wants to change others’ habits, beliefs and practices; he therefore advocates that governments impose additional taxes on them in order to force the changes he supports.  How philosophical and ethical!