Home > Environment > Duffy and Carter on Counterpoint (updated)

Duffy and Carter on Counterpoint (updated)

April 18th, 2005

Michael Duffy has run a second climate change show on Counterpoint, responding to critics of his SMH column and earlier show. His guest was Bob Carter, whom he described in his SMH column as an “environmental scientist”. The ABC site description is “Research Professor of Geology … geologist and environmental scientist, an adjunct research professor at James Cook University, and he specialises in climate change.” which is still an inaccurate description, as you can see here[1]. It would be more accurate to describe Carter as a prominent research geologist with a personal interest in the issue of climate change, and a strongly-held view that Kyoto is a bad idea.

As regards the major issues, I see little evidence to suggest that Carter is any better informed than I am. He claims, presumably relying on the increasingly absurd McKitrick and McIntyre, that “the hockey stick [showing rapidly rising temperatures over the last 100 years] is broken”, and then goes on to recycle long-exploded claims about urban heat islands and satellite data, all of which have been addressed in detail on this blog .

Duffy’s performance on this issue has been disgraceful. If he did the same thing pushing creationism[2] he would surely have been sacked, or at least pressured to put on some real experts.

Tim Lambert has more

fn1. A few of the papers listed for Carter are relevant to paleo-climate issues, and he’s well qualified to make the point, as he does in the show, that climate has varied over time. But since that’s not in dispute, it can only be used (as it is by Duffy) as a straw man to attack unnamed critics of his previous shows.

fn2. Fun Factoid: As I’ll argue in a bit more detail later on, the great majority of climate change sceptics, globally speaking, are also creationists – why doesn’t Duffy give them a go on his program?. Feel free to supply your own examples, counterexamples and statistical arguments in the meantime.

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  1. Peter McBurney
    April 14th, 2005 at 07:50 | #1

    I am stunned, John, by your statement that the majority of climate change sceptics are creationists. This is something I had never considered before, but I have no reason not to believe it. What both groups apparently share is a refusal to change their opinions in the light of evidence. It is odd to think that people who believe the earth was created only a few thousand years ago could also believe that it will go on just as it has for thousands of years more, without change.

    I wonder if most creationists are also believers in predeterminism. If so, then this would give them a theological basis for not worrying about climate change — whatever man does, the outcome has already been decided by God.

    — Peter

  2. David Milne
    April 14th, 2005 at 08:01 | #2

    I cannot disprove your claim that climate change sceptics are creationsists – my contribution to the statistics is that I am one of the former and not one of the latter. However, I think that the onus is firmly on Prof Q to prove his hypothesis. Put up or shut up.

  3. April 14th, 2005 at 09:33 | #3

    My impression of the climate change skeptics/creationist nexus is only anecdotal but I haven’t seen alot of it. Most of the time creationist whack climate change as a footnote to their main game. OTOH, I know many prominent folks on the mainstream Skeptic side who have a curiously kneejerk reaction to this issue. There was some discussion on Deltoid a while back about Penn and Teller, who do excellent work debunking pseudoscience, quakery and the paranormal in their Bullsh!t programme but also have a climate change skepticism straight out of the cato Institute playbook. Also, Ian Plimer, hard to imagine a greater scourge of creationists, also loathes Greenpeace and all who sail with them. From my involvement with the Aust Skeptics, there are alot of people there too who think the climate change threat is either nonexistent or way overblown. Incorrectly, in my view, but its a common attitude. I think at least some of the opposition comes from a general suspicion of doomsday scenarios and the more hysterical claims and activities of some green groups but I see far worse excesses on the other side these days. ie Stephen Milloy etc.

  4. Simon
    April 14th, 2005 at 09:37 | #4

    Confirmation Bias Confirmation Bias Confirmation Bias…………………….

    While I think both creationists and anti-environmentalists –which would include most GW sceptics- I think both have a severe case of confirmation bias but I would be surprised if most GW sceptics are also creationists. If you just look at the group that includes GW sceptics with some science backgrounds very few would be creationists. The last major study –sorry don’t have link- found most practicing scientists in the study didn’t believe in a personal ‘God’ with the least number being in the biological sciences.

    I would guess for the most consistently extreme cases, that they are predominately conservative, value business over the environment and if examined not very critical when it comes to examining their own views, the sources of their information or their biases.

    But having said at least the less extreme anti-environmental sceptics use similar reasons I use when making judgments on disciplines they have no qualifications or have all the current information to make an informed judgment when it goes against some of my foundational attitudes. When comparing them they are eerily similar.

    1. First distrust the intellectual/critical thinking honesty capacity of the other side esp their media

    2. That they suffer individual confirmation bias stemming from psychological attitudinal stances, such as business shouldn’t be interfered with vs the environment is more important than people or anti-capitalist so even with qualification there authority can be dismissed.

    3. That they are social/institutionally biased through common ideological attitudes or that they are so bound up in their discipline that they don’t see the forest for the trees, or with personal benefits that it helps their career
    GW science funding vs energy/business lobby money, leftie scientists vs hard right pro-business conservatives

    4.Or that institutions and society have had social/institutional bias in the past therefore it is possible that they are doing the same now. So even if you are in the extreme minority and seen to be in the wrong by the rest of society and mainstream institutions you could still end up being right!

    Do we all use bounded rationality and it is a hit or miss affair whether you foundational attitudes by chance put you on the side that ends up correct?
    BTW I have actually changed my mind on foundation attitudes and stances on things due to evidence in the past and given that I’m fully aware of confirmation bias is that enough to trust my judgment? I’m still not sure; how would one know that ones is under a confirmation bias or cognitive dissonance?

  5. Katz
    April 14th, 2005 at 09:45 | #5

    The search of the Right Wing Phillip Adams continues.

    Michael Duffy is the clown who wants to play Hamlet: a thinker who is so unfortunate as to be intelligent enough to recognise his own mediocrity.

    Is Duffy another example of Left-Wing bias at the ABC?

  6. Paul Norton
    April 14th, 2005 at 10:19 | #6

    I would be less irritated by the prominence given by the media to global warming sceptics and spoilers if the same indulgence were also extended to economists who contest the orthodox economic modellers’ predictions of economic doom and gloom from greenhouse response policies, and to economists and social scientists who contest the general mythology of “jobs versus environment” and “economic growth (at least in the short to medium term) versus the environment”.

    To open another window on the problem, if we assume that greenhouse response measures sufficient to stabilise the climate will have at least some costs for at least some people, there is an interesting task for our moral philosophers in debating the ethics of policies which certainly impose some short- to medium-term costs, the scale and distribution of which can be known with reasonable confidence, in order to avert medium- to long-term negative consequences which are probable but not certain, and whose scale, nature and distribution are even less certain but have a non-trivial probability of entailing far more severe costs than would be imposed by such preventative measures.

  7. James Farrell
    April 14th, 2005 at 10:26 | #7

    On the few occasions I listened to Counterpoint, I found it very different in approach from LNL. Adams doesn’t conceal his opinions, and the ratio of left to right wing guests is about two to one. But he listens to the latter with respect; his questions reflect an appreciation of, if not agreement with, their arguments; and he certainly lets them make their case. Duffy by contrast presents himself as a voice of calm independence and balance (Tim Blair comes across just the same way on radio). His parade of right wing guests are all presented as interesting characters with a fresh take on their particular speciality. One by one, they all just happen to come down on the right side of the issues in question. An uninitiated listener would figure out in half an hour where Adams was coming from, wheras with Duffy it might take four or five programs.

    Adams is hosting a public forum on ABC bias next month, in beautiful Parramatta. Duffy will be there, and David Marr too as I recall.

  8. michael.burgess
    April 14th, 2005 at 10:37 | #8

    I think Amanda has hit the nail on the head. A good deal of scepticism about greenhouse (including mine) has been driven by irritation with the constant end of the world is nigh/stop consuming you will go blind religious stye evangelism of most greenies. This includes many prominent academics (who along with Marxists and some free market economists and all post-modernists, etc, seem to think that professional responsibilities go out the window where environmental issues are concerned.

  9. April 14th, 2005 at 10:40 | #9

    I’ve never heard before the correlation between being a climate change skeptic and creationists. As Amanda points out, stalwart foes of creationist chicanery are also manning the intellectual battlements against climate-change.

    Given that positions on climate change have tended to split down the usual left v right political divide there may be a loose connection between being a creationist and climate change skeptic. Creationists have always tended to be from the relgious right but the opposition came from all different fronts. Howver I’m not convinced that being a climate change skeptic means that the person is likely to be or have creationist sympathies.

  10. michael.burgess
    April 14th, 2005 at 10:47 | #10

    Much of the criticism of the ABC is, of course, hypocritical given the right wing bias elsewhere in the media. However, while Phillip Adams is certainly often a terrific interviewer in that he allows everyone to put their views without interjections, he is getting more and more ridiculously anti-American in his old age. More generally, bias elsewhere does not excuse the ABC for their all too apparent soft-left biases (re the liberation of Iraq, etc). The ABC has also become a very conservative organisation in that it never tries anything new or radical – How about a play for example highlighting the hypocrisy of social progressives who criticise Christian fundamentalists and other aspects of their culture but stay silent when it comes to the failings of non-Anglo Saxon cultures. It did not surprise that the ABC refused to purchase the fantastic British series Shameless and left that to SBS.

  11. roberto
    April 14th, 2005 at 10:55 | #11

    “Fun Factoid: As I’ll argue in a bit more detail later on, the great majority of climate change sceptics, globally speaking, are also creationists”

    That is sensationalist nonsense. Its like arguing all people who beleive in ‘greenhouse’ are pantheists!

    I’m a sceptic, and not a creationist. Happy to be proven wrong by argument, but not by this sort of bigoted nonsense.

  12. Paul Norton
    April 14th, 2005 at 11:24 | #12

    I’ll be interested to see what evidence John puts forward for his claim that most greenhouse sceptics are creationists.

    For me, the main reason why this is not an unreasonable proposition is that the geographical and demographic centre of gravity of both groups of people is amongst US citizens of right-of-centre leanings and associations. I suspect that the association between the two might become weaker as one travels further from the US.

    Whilst this geo-demographic overlap may exist, it is questionable whether it shows a logical or psychological relationship between greenhouse scepticism and creationism. I think what may be at work is something similar to the 1970s phenomena (at least in Australia) whereby strong support for gay and lesbian rights was concentrated in political parties and factions of the left (ALP Socialist Left, Communist and Trotskyist parties, anarchist collectives, the Australian Union of Students, etc.) which were also the home of left-wing anti-zionism and support for maximalist Palestinian nationalism (i.e. which wanted a Palestinian state replacing Israel, rather than alongside it). As a result it may have been true that in the 1970s a majority of gay and lesbian rights supporters were also pro-PLO and anti-Israel. However it would not have followed that there was any necessary logical or psychological relationship between the two positions.

  13. James Farrell
    April 14th, 2005 at 11:25 | #13

    Talk about soccer, Michael. Your ideas on that are interesting and subtle.

  14. Juke Moran
    April 14th, 2005 at 11:29 | #14

    Quiggin didn’t say “the vast majority of publicly vocal c.c. skeptics are creationists”.
    “Globally speaking” the population stats are bound to be laid out that way, credulous easily-duped frightened people – believing whatever their “leaders” tell them – being unaccountably numerous these days. Say, you don’t suppose it has something to do with their being easily-led, do you?
    My guess is the publicly vocal skeptics are less stacked toward the creationist end of the graph,as it requires at least a better-than room-temperature IQ to take and maintain a position like that in public.
    What staggers the imagination is that this horseshit is still being discussed seriously by anyone.

  15. Simon
    April 14th, 2005 at 11:38 | #15

    Wow, greenhouse sceptics are also creationists! Those fundamentalist Christians again. Just like this guy –

    “James Watt, a former American secretary of the interior, told the US Congress: “After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.”

    Looking forward to your further amazing revelations of the conspiracy John.

  16. Paul Norton
    April 14th, 2005 at 11:42 | #16

    “A good deal of scepticism about greenhouse (including mine) has been driven by irritation. . .”

    In other words, by emotion rather than reason.

  17. April 14th, 2005 at 11:42 | #17

    What do Greenhouse deniers get out of their denial? If I dont believe in it its not true?!

  18. Dave Ricardo
    April 14th, 2005 at 11:47 | #18

    “The ABC has also become a very conservative organisation in that it never tries anything new or radical”

    What about that anti-abortion doco they showed last year?

  19. michael.burgess
    April 14th, 2005 at 11:53 | #19

    Paul, I am quite willing to concede that my past scepticism (I am not sure about my present position) was driven by emotion rather than reason. However, it does illustrate how extremists undermine the causes they seek to represent by alienating large sections of the public with their silliness – and when it comes to environmental issues the majority of environmentalists do hold some fairly extreme views. Tim Flannery, for example, is one of the most heralded environmental scientists in Australia yet he moronically argued that Australia could not support more than 10 million people. And, don’t start me on these very affluent environmentalists who like to lecture the average persons struggling to pay bills on the evils of consumerism.

  20. Dave Ricardo
    April 14th, 2005 at 12:05 | #20

    “it does illustrate how extremists undermine the causes they seek to represent by alienating large sections of the public with their silliness”

    Michael, aren’t you being a bit presumptuous by assuming that how you feel about things is how “large sections of the public” feel? For all you know, you could be in a minority of one.

    “majority of environmentalists do hold some fairly extreme views.”

    The key words here are “majority” and “extreme.”. Any evidence for this?

  21. April 14th, 2005 at 12:06 | #21

    My inclination is that even if the science is “inconclusive”, the basics strike me that its more of a risk not to do anything than to go with Kyoto. Culture wars won’t stop carbon dioxide being carbon dioxide.

  22. April 14th, 2005 at 12:07 | #22

    Any idea that climate change skeptics are creationists would only be coincedental. I have seen some stories on extreme Christian groups that believe in the ‘Rapture’ that are totally indifferent to saving the environment as they think that they are going to get a new Earth when the ‘Rapture’ occurs. This however is the view of an extremest Christian sect and not the view of most creationists or indeed most Christians.

    Most creationists I have talked to really believe what they are saying and that is great. Faith in a higher power does not mean that you are deluded or easily lead therefore you will be a climate change skeptic. I am not against creationism as long as it is taught as a religion not as a science. Creationism has no place in science.

    I think what is a more likely scenerio is that the hard core of paid skeptics recruit and teach in areas that they know can be manipulated by unscrupulous religious leaders that paint environmentalists as lefty godless greenies. So therefore environmentalism is equated with godlessness so the claims of environmentalists, global warming etc, are also against the teachings of god and are therefore false. The main people that these paid Global Warming skeptics, Singer et al, have targeted are the right wing, usually religious, people that lefty bashing strikes a chord with. The fact that some or all of these people also believe in creation is coincedental.

    I agree that some ‘Greenies’ over emphasise the disaster views. The result of Global Warming could range from nothing to significant climate change. No-one can predict what will happen. Greenies such as myself need to emphasise that climate change will more likely affect crop yields, housing design, energy uses and food and land availabilty rather than a super storm that will devour all that is before it. In short the effects of Climate Change will more likely to be a whimper rather than a bang.

  23. John Quiggin
    April 14th, 2005 at 12:16 | #23

    Paul Norton gets the prize for anticipating my argument. The centre of GW scepticism is the US, and scepticism is concentrated among Republicans, most of whom hold a similar position on evolution/creation – ranging from outright creationism to a ‘sceptical’ line that evolution is only a theory and other views should be given equal time.

    Of course, if you confine attention to scientists qualified in the relevant fields, we are talking about tiny minorities in both cases, and there isn’t much overlap. But the whole point of the Duffy position on climate science and the creationist position in evolution is that we shouldn’t pay attention to any notion of scientific consensus.

  24. James Farrell
    April 14th, 2005 at 12:31 | #24

    Ah, you might euqually have said that most global warming sceptics drive utes.

  25. Simon
    April 14th, 2005 at 12:36 | #25

    John, you get the prize for the best unfounded assumption / generalisation, for this –

    “The centre of GW scepticism is the US, and scepticism is concentrated among Republicans, most of whom hold a similar position on evolution/creation.”

  26. michael.burgess
    April 14th, 2005 at 12:55 | #26


    Are you serious when you ask where is the evidence that the majority of greenies hold extreme views. Well look at the books that sell David Suzuki, Paul Ehrlich etc. The left in general (as broadly defined) has got to get over its strong tendency towards extremism. I was just reading an article on French left intellectual Andre Glucksman. In the 1960s and later he was derided by the vast majority of the left for singing the praises of Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn. Several years prior to the mass murders by Serbs in Bosnia, he was again derided by the majority of the left for calling for intervention against the Serbs. In both cases he was right and the majority were wrong. Ditto his views on the liberation of Iraq. As for the greenhouse issue, the fact that many are sceptical of environmentalists current claims has a lot to do with the extremism of their past views and general silliness. They might turn out to be right on this issue just as Bush is on Iraq (albeit not necessarily for the right reasons.

  27. SimonJM
    April 14th, 2005 at 13:03 | #27

    Simon how about we use our last initials so no one will confuse our posts?

    BTW Simon?? which side of US politics is pushing for equal time for creation science in class room and GW scepticism?

  28. John Quiggin
    April 14th, 2005 at 13:12 | #28

    MB, who are the “vast majority of the left who opposed intervention against the Serbs”. This was an issue that cut across party lines. In particular, in the US, Republicans were either opposed or lukewarm regarding Clinton’s intervention

  29. Paul Norton
    April 14th, 2005 at 13:28 | #29

    “As for the greenhouse issue, the fact that many are sceptical of environmentalists current claims. . .”

    The recent Lowy Institute poll on Australian’s perceptions of global threats would suggest that not many are sceptical at all. The poll revealed that 70% of Australians are worried about global warming, including 46% “very worried”. A further 24% are “somewhat worried” and only 6% are not worried. Only the possibility of an unfriendly state acquiring nuclear weapons was rated as a more serious concern.

    Now the 6% who are “Not Worried” (i.e. sceptical) may be right, and they certainly have the right to their view, but they are not “many” when compared with the 94% who believe that global warming is something to be more or less worried about.

  30. Simon F
    April 14th, 2005 at 13:33 | #30

    SimonJM –

    Creationism – I think it’s really hard to make statements about what a huge section of the American population believes. For what it’s worth here is a poll that shows both Democrats and Republicans believe in Creationism, with the Republicans believing in it a bit more.


    Greenhouse scepticism – Same caveat goes. Both Bush and Kerry rejected Kyoto.

  31. John Quiggin
    April 14th, 2005 at 13:50 | #31

    Simon F, combine your poll showing most Republicans are creationists with this poll which shows that the great majority of those opposed to the McCain-Lieberman proposals for greenhouse mitigation are Republicans and my point is made.

  32. James Farrell
    April 14th, 2005 at 14:10 | #32

    If 60% of global warming sceptics are Republicans, and 60% of Republicans are creationists, then only 36% of global warming sceptics are Republican creationists. But it’s quite plausible that another 15% of global warming sceptics are non-Republican creationists. In any case, I think the original claim was intended more as poetry than as science.

  33. SimonJM
    April 14th, 2005 at 14:21 | #33

    SimonF noted one should be carefull of generalizations but it stills seems to hold up that you are more likely to believe CS and be a GW sceptic if you are Republican.

    >60 percent of Americans who call themselves Evangelical Christians, however, favor replacing evolution with creationism in schools altogether, as do 50 percent of those who attend religious services every week.

    Are Evangelicals now considered Republicans?

  34. Simon F
    April 14th, 2005 at 14:32 | #34


    What the 2 polls show (if polls, particularly Zogby polls commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation, are to be believed) is that Democrats and Republicans both believe in creationism and both believe in the reduction of greenhouse gases. On the Zogby poll the US is hardly the world centre of GW scepticism.

  35. grumpymatt
    April 14th, 2005 at 14:34 | #35

    I assume you mean Glucksman was right on Solzhenitsyn’s account of the Gulags, rather than on Solzhenitsyn’s advocacy of Moscow as the Third Rome, emphasis on Russian nationalism and moral supremacy, and all that other guff:

    ‘In presenting alternatives to the Soviet regime, Solzhenitsyn tended to reject Western emphases on democracy and individual freedom and instead favoured the formation of a benevolent authoritarian regime that would draw upon the resources of Russia’s traditional Christian values.’

    Still waiting for that stuff to come true; maybe then I will be able to get a decent job.

  36. John Quiggin
    April 14th, 2005 at 15:34 | #36

    The relevant figures are that 80 per cent of sceptics are Republicans (you can get this by working back) and 70 per cent of Republicans are creationists, as are about 50 per cent of non-Republicans Americans. Assuming conditional independence [which is generous], this gives us that at least 66 per cent of American climate change sceptics are creationists. Since, as shown above, climate scepticism is very rare outside the US [even in the US its almost entirely confined to Republicans] we have a fun factoid.

  37. Chris Burns
    April 14th, 2005 at 16:29 | #37

    in the late 1960s Glucksmann was a Parisian Maoist. His support for Solzhenitsyn comes from his Nouvelle philosophe times, circa 1979, long after my parent’s got their copy of The First Circle from the book club.

  38. Simon F
    April 14th, 2005 at 16:46 | #38


    I know it’s a “fun factoid” but I’m really not following your leaps of logic.

    I may be blind but I can’t find the information that shows that climate scepticism is rare outside the US – what about China and India ?

    Further you seem to be using the poll results to make broad generalisations about climate scepticism.

    The Zogby poll doesn’t prove anything about climate scepticism. It asks “Do you support a decrease in greenhouse gases ?”. I’m a sceptic and I support a decrease. I don’t know whether the GH effect is true, it could be, and as the poll doesn’t refer to the cost of doing this, I assume there is none. So, sure I support it. The poll also asks whether you support a piece of legislation.People could support legislation for a million reasons.

    You can cross correlate results from tinpot polls to come up with anything.

    What is worse is making inferences from those correlations.

    The “investor class” tends to support the reduction of GH gases less than non-investors in the Zogby poll. You say that “Creationists” are GH sceptical.Therefore people with shares are more likely to be creationists.Those dividend receiving fools.

    In any event, if the purpose of a fun factoid is simply to generate debate then you have accomplished that.

  39. Ian Gould
    April 14th, 2005 at 19:11 | #39

    I< >

    Michael, that really is an unfair stereotype of environmentalists.

    The 1990’s was the decade that the environmentalist movement woke up to economic reality.

    Take a look at the webpage of virtually any mainstream green group and their whole thrust is we can maintain the environment AND create more jobs AND improve living standards.

    As an environmentalist and an economist, its really quite fascinating to explain environmental externalities and hidden subsidies to environmentally harmful industries to old-school greenies and watch the light-bulb suddeny pop on in their heads.

  40. Iain
    April 14th, 2005 at 19:12 | #40


    You wrote – The left in general (as broadly defined) has got to get over its strong tendency towards extremism.

    Like the right has never held an extreme view? Not even once Michael? If Suzuki is an extremist, how do you categorise Bush? As a moderate?

    Checking in with reality is always the first step in any rehabilitation program you may wish to consider.

    David Suzuki is an extremist…I think I have heard it all now.

    What are you waiting for Michael – quick go get Johnny to slap a ban on him ever entering this country again.

  41. Ian Gould
    April 14th, 2005 at 19:14 | #41

    “What do Greenhouse deniers get out of their denial? If I dont believe in it its not true?”

    The peace of mind that they can go on with their current lifestyle forever?

    Actually I think many greenhouse skeptics are on the extreme libertarian right of politics. Rather than dmit there might be a problem out there which might not be soluble through unrestrained market capitalism, they prefer to simply deny its existence.

  42. Ian Gould
    April 14th, 2005 at 19:18 | #42

    Simon F: “On the Zogby poll the US is hardly the world centre of GW scepticism.”

    I don’t wish to get into the endless internet game of “Proveit” but I’d be surprised if the US WASN’T the centre of GW skepticism – after all it is one of only two developed countries which declined to ratify Kyoto.

  43. John Quiggin
    April 14th, 2005 at 20:49 | #43

    MB, part of the problem with a lot of your analysis is that you rarely distinguish between the left, interpreted as “everyone to the left of the Liberal Party” and the left, interpeted as “followers of Noam Chomsky”. A lot of the time you impute to the first group views that might be held by the second, and derive false conclusions as a result.

  44. Ejder Memis
    April 14th, 2005 at 21:04 | #44

    Global warming sceptics are like creationists? Strange, I thought the same for GW doomsayers.

    Remember the way the creationists ignored long established scientific evidence about the earth’s age and dinosour fossils and so on, and tried to prove that the Earth is a mere 6000 year old? Now it is the GW doomsayers that ignore similar geological evidence that show wild and mini climatic swings throughout the earth’s history. How about 4 degrees Celsius swing either way sound, if you thing 1 or 2 is too much?

    There is another ironical twist here. It was another geologist, the indomitable Ian Plimer, who waged a scientific crusade against the “creation scientists”. Bob Carter reminds me of Ian Plimer a little in his doggedness. Good on him!

    By the way, I really wonder what Ian Plimer thinks of all this.

  45. April 14th, 2005 at 21:10 | #45

    I too am trying to get the WA Greens to realise that Green policies have to be costed and based on sound economic principles.

    We still need an economy – a sustainable one.

    Perhaps we can compare notes

  46. April 14th, 2005 at 21:46 | #46

    John Quiggin Comment #23 14/4/2005 @ 12:16 pm

    The centre of GW scepticism is the US, and scepticism is concentrated among Republicans, most of whom hold a similar position on evolution/creation

    There is probably a systematic correlation between Greenhouse skepticism, Christian fideism and Republican partisanship. The common denominator is an ethico-logical (ie ideological or theological) attitude towards empirico-logical matters. Party solidarity trumps factual veracity.
    Or, to put it in colloquial terms, the US Republican Party’s motto is now
    Pas d’enemi vers la droit

  47. SimonJM
    April 14th, 2005 at 21:58 | #47

    Ian and JQ I once got into an argument with some atheist libertarians when they were outraged when I said that they had the same sort of confirmation bias regarding the environment as creation science advocates have with evolution. Many of these individual are happy to show their superiority in logical arguments and scientific evidence against CS but they turn around and deny the same scientific method and evidence when it comes to humans having an adverse impart on the environment. Rationalisation can take you anywhere if you let it.

    But its just not about GW, the same people like Duffy or Lomborg deny that there is any such detrimental effect. I have no problem with healthy scepticism that is in fact a part of science but with cases like Duffy Andrew Bolt and Lomborg that if you examine their arguments and evidence, their objectivity, balance and honesty is called into question. Is the left guilty of intellectual fraud? On occasions probably, but in this case I know whose side mainstream science is on.

    I no longer listen to ‘greenie’ groups but go to mainstream science publications and broadcasting and the consistently reported stance is that humans are having an adverse impact on the environment. So when these sceptics call into question the ‘greenie’ claims it really not the ‘greenies’ they are questioning but a broad swathe of scientists and scientific disciplines.

    Are we expected to believe that the scientists that make these claims are anti-capitalists or closet tree huggers or just do it to advance their careers? If sceptics think that then it would truly be a sad state of affairs and we might as well teach creationism in schools, because if our scientific institutions are so flawed it will do no harm for we are already truly stuffed.

  48. April 14th, 2005 at 22:53 | #48

    Pathetic. Once again JQ brings out the school yard argument: “I know somebody who agrees with you, and they’re dumb, therefore you’re dumb/wrong”.

    I remember debating the Iraq war with some right wingers a while ago and they rested their argument with “… but, but, but you agree with Philip Adams!”

    The idea is that once something has been associated with Philip Adams/Creationists (pick your poison) then it is irrelevant.

    Like I said — pathetic. Nearly as bad as the growing TimBlairesque JQ cheer squad. Put some of you people in a room together and you’ll have group-thinked the answer to everything. A less generous soul would draw an analogy with religious dogmatism…

    SimonJM “the same people like Duffy or Lomborg deny that there is any such detrimental effect”

    Lomborg doesn’t deny a detrimental effect from global warming. I guess nobody on the left cares about facts (intentional overstatement as parody of continues anti-right wing confirmation bias).

    SimonJM: “Is the left guilty of intellectual fraud? On occasions probably…”

    oh — you think? lol

  49. Brian Bahnisch
    April 14th, 2005 at 23:19 | #49

    Ejder Memis, a few years ago I heard an extended interview by Margaret Throsby with Ian Plimer on ABC FM.

    Ian thinks that water and dust are the most significant variable climate change elements in the atmosphere and that human activity was irrelevant. Along with the sun, wobbles in the earth’s orbit etc.

    That’s from memory, but I’m pretty sure that was the story.

    I think that there is an inherent problem in this global climate change issue in that a range of disciplines are necessary to come to a final conclusion about it.

    For example, James Hansen, Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies is presumably an astrophysicist. But what worries him most is the degradation of ice-sheets, which he thinks has been underestimated. Yet he admits he is no glaciologist and the glaciologists have not done the work he needs. At least he knows what he doesn’t know.

    I listened to Bob Carter with Michael Duffy. For a man who was casting doubt on scientists’ work he was very definite about things that turn out to be quite peripheral to his own work.

    He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

    I found a paper by Hans von Storch who hangs out at a Coastal studies institute on the coast in Germany. He works on climate change, and, like Hansen, strikes me as knowing what he doesn’t know. The media beat-ups upset him, but he expresses considerable distrust in the scenario-building of economists etc in forecasting how we are going to live, what technologies we are going to use and how extensive economic development is going to be. So he’s not sure, could never be sure, how the story is going to play out.

    On human vs natural influence on the climate, he thinks we would need time to sort it out ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ (my term), a long time in fact and it’s time we don’t have. So he makes a judgement on the evidence available and on balance thinks it’s a problem on which we must act. His big thing is that we must concentrate on adaptation as well as mitigation. I thought he picked his way through the maze pretty well.

    But there are some like Carter, who having through sweat and talent mounted the peaks of one field of knowledge (which they protect zealously) think it’s dead easy to leap onto the top of the next mountain and pronounce with authority. I’m sorry, but I suspect Ian Plimer is one of those.

    We need a whole mountain range of mountains with gurus atop them (or at least competent and cooperative scientists) to find a path out of the fix we’ve landed ourselves in.

  50. April 15th, 2005 at 00:12 | #50

    Actually, the Earth’s “natural” atmosphere is probably missing because of a freak occurrence during its formation. Without that it would all be more Venus-like. Perhaps we should all be congratulating the polluters for restoring the uninhabitable status quo ante, or is that too much like those ultra-greenies who favour humanity’s complete absence as a solution?

  51. Ejder Memis
    April 15th, 2005 at 03:20 | #51

    Brian Bahnisch, climate science is new, and yes, peripheral to geology but only to the extent that geology as a discipline can contribute to our knowledge of the earth’s climate in the past.

    Both Bob Carter and Ian Plimer are geologists and their descipline already has well established truths regarding the climate: that it swings wildly over time and has done so many, many times.

    So it is not that geologists are invading another discipline’s territory, but rather climate scientists are invading geologists’ field. They want the geologists to disregard a textbook fact in the field of earth sciences. Of course they’ll come out fighting, as Ian Plimer did with the creationists, and Bob Carter is now doing with Global Warming.

    I dearly hope even more geologists will come out and defend their science against this intrusion.

  52. John Quiggin
    April 15th, 2005 at 05:55 | #52

    John H, my point, amplified in the previous post is that Duffy uses the same arguments as creationists, and is guilty of the same kinds of misrepresentation. Would you like to respond to the substantive points rather than taking umbrage at the footnotes?

  53. Brian Bahnisch
    April 15th, 2005 at 06:55 | #53

    EM, the way I see it is that sure we rely on geologists to tell us what the climate was like in the last billion years or so. Indeed, I recall Ian Plimer saying that the first rain fell 3.8 billion years ago, when the atmosphere fell below 100 degrees for the first time.

    What they sometimes find hard to accept is that from the beginnings of the industrial age homo sapiens has been a new factor, to the extent, as James Hansen says (I hope he’s right) that further ice ages have been cancelled.

  54. John Quiggin
    April 15th, 2005 at 08:09 | #54

    Following up Brian, there’s a big difference between climate change over 100 years or so and the time scales geologists typically deal with. You see the same kind of fallacious reasoning in relation to timescales for species extinction. Of course, the vast majority of species that have ever existed have gone extinct, but the rate of extinction today is matched only by a handful of mass extinctions spread over the past three billion years.

    JH, in the pot-kettle department, would you like to distinguish your comparison of me with Tim Blair from my comparison of GW sceptics with evolution sceptics? I don’t think this kind of comparison is invalid as a rhetorical advice, though I’d challenge you to find any thread on Tim’s site which has the level of coherent and generally civilised debate found on this thread or most others here.

  55. michael.burgess
    April 15th, 2005 at 10:23 | #55

    Iain, in reply to my criticism of left extremism you state that ‘Like the right has never held an extreme view?’. I don’t recall ever suggesting that they don’t. In fact, my main reason for criticising the left so much is that the stupidity of many of the views expressed makes it so easy for the right to dominate. And, if you think that Suzuki is not a flaky extremist you have problems.

    JQ, you accuse me of overgeneralising about the failures of the left. Firstly, I am surprised that you, in particular, take this line. You were after all one of the very few people on the left in the Hawke/Keating years who offered up a rigorous criticism (in your impressive book on microeconomic reform, etc) of free market fundamentalism. That is, unlike the majority of people on the left (at least those not in economic departments) who seemed to think opposing change and calling someone an economic rationalist was all that was needed. Elsewhere, the majority of the left and not just Chomsky spent more time criticising the US than they did the Soviet Union in the Cold War years. More recently, most people on the left would rather criticise Bush, Howard and Blair and Israel than oppressive Islamic leaders or Islamic fascism. The fact that Chomsky, Moore etc books sell so well also suggests that these are not isolated views. Try finding Andre Glucksmann in a bookshop or, for that matter, George Orwell or Arthur Koestler all who have far more to offer left wing thinking than the odious and self-serving Moore.

  56. Ian Gould
    April 15th, 2005 at 10:31 | #56


    There’s a reason the left spent more tiem criticising America than the Soviet Union and today spends more tiem criticising Israel than, say, Syria.

    In both cases, the chosen target for criticism is more likely to respond in the way the critics seek.

  57. SimonJM
    April 15th, 2005 at 10:35 | #57

    John H wrote:
    Lomborg doesn’t deny a detrimental effect from global warming. I guess nobody on the left cares about facts (intentional overstatement as parody of continues anti-right wing confirmation bias).

    Read it again John the statement about Lomborg, follows directly after the preceding statement, that these types of individuals deny any adverse effect by humans on the environment going against the work of a whole swath of qualified scientists. Sorry if that wasn’t clear enough for you

    SimonJM: “Is the left guilty of intellectual fraud? On occasions probably…�
    oh—you think? lol

    Not like others I’ll call a spade a spade. When Greenpeace lied about the toxic danger of the North Sea oil rigs I condemned it as I did the climatologist that said he had to overemphasize the dangers to get media and public attention. BTW while it does happen on the left, people like Duffy, Bolt and Lomborg show it happens more frequently on the right. Bet you don’t call your spades a spade.

  58. Paul Norton
    April 15th, 2005 at 10:53 | #58

    “most people on the left would rather criticise Bush, Howard and Blair and Israel than oppressive Islamic leaders or Islamic fascism”

    Taking up Ian Gould’s response to this point from another angle, leftists who live in Australia or the United States will more frequently criticise Howard or Bush because of (a) the effects of their policies on the societies in which we live and (b) the possibility that such criticism will bring about a change in government policy or (better still) a change in government. It’s not a matter of preference but of context.

    Would anyone seriously criticise leftists in South Africa for spending more time in the 1980s condemning the apartheid regime than condemning the Jaruzelski regime in Poland? And would anyone condemn leftists in Solidarnosc in the same period for concentrating on Jaruzelski rather than Botha?

  59. Simon F
    April 15th, 2005 at 11:00 | #59

    Ian Gould and Paul Norton raise interesting points.
    On the other hand – what about intellectual consistency ?
    Also a lot of people used this argument regarding Indonesia and East Timor. I myself never thought that Indonesia would budge. But all of the people who (I thought) were futilely protesting should now take a bow.

  60. Ian Gould
    April 15th, 2005 at 11:43 | #60

    On the subject of East timor, I was studying Asian Studies at Griffith University in the late 1980’s.

    The general view amongst the faculty about East Timor could probably be summarised along these lines:

    1. The invasion and occupation of East Timor was immoral and involved criems agaisnt humanity and war crimes.

    2. The Australian and American governments probably could have done more in 1975 to prevent the invasion. Both the Whitlam and Fraser governments in Australia were at fault in this regard.

    3. Absent military action by the west, there was no realistic way in the short temr to end the occupation.

    4. The only realistic course of action was to maintain political pressure over the issue whilst hoping for democratic reform inside Indonesia.

    5. Engagement with Indonesia, including economic and military ties and encouraging non-governmental contact such as Indonesians study in Australia was more likely to be effective in promoting change inside Indonesia than sanctions.

    I beliwve that the subsequent course of events in East Timor has largely vindicated that view.

  61. Paul Norton
    April 15th, 2005 at 11:46 | #61

    A fair point Simon.

    I would argue that oppressive regimes of all ideological and religious stripes should be criticised, and that solidarity should be extended to their democratic opponents.

    The form in which this principle can be translated effectively into practice depends, amongst other things, on (a) constraints on one’s time and energy and (b) the concrete political situation in different countries and regions, what the possibilities for positive change are, and whether a proposed action or policy which would weaken or remove an oppressive regime is likely to lead to improvements in the situation or to make matters worse.

  62. Simon F
    April 15th, 2005 at 11:51 | #62

    It is at least refreshing to actually hear this argument put(and I think there is some validity to it).A lot of left wingers refuse to say this and instead tie themselves in knots trying to justify how the US is worse than say Iran.

    Of course the same obligations for consistency should be demanded of right wingers as well.

  63. Paul Norton
    April 15th, 2005 at 12:41 | #63

    Simon, also relevant to this point is a matter which is seldom mentioned in discussions of the significance of the Vietnam War. The fact that the anti-war movement in Australia and the US was able to change the policies of both countries can be seen as vindication of the substantially democratic nature of the political institutions of both societies, and of the fundamental decency of the citizens which those societies produced. For different reasons neither the Left nor the Right seem keen to acknowledge this.

    Likewise, when critics of Israel quote extensively from Israeli newspapers they seldom acknowledge that a country which allows the publication of such material about its government and its policies can’t be all bad. Similarly many supporters of Israel refuse to acknowledge that the newspaper reports (mostly written by Jewish journalists) might have a basis in fact and might not be motivated by anti-semitism.

  64. April 15th, 2005 at 14:03 | #64

    Paul Norton comment # 63 15/4/2005 @ 12:41 pm gives a rather flattering and amplified role to the anti VN war protest movement:

    The fact that the anti-war movement in Australia and the US was able to change the policies of both countries can be seen as vindication of the substantially democratic nature of the political institutions of both societies, and of the fundamental decency of the citizens which those societies produced.

    I would be careful about overplaying the role of the anti-VN war movement in ending the VN war, at least in the folk history of that era. The most effective constraint on the policies of the US and AUS govts was the nationalist populism of the NLF in the South and the statist power of the NVA in the North. The combination of these two political forces was the most effective constraint on the US’s attempt to maintain a pro-US, non-communist regime in South Vietnam.
    Even so, US forces were pretty effective in pursuing the objective of a non-communist regime in the South, so long as they were in the field in force and given a more or less free hand. The NLF were substantially destroyed by Phoenix Program and the Tet Offensive. Arc Light, Rolling Thunder and Line Backer were able to constrain the NVA’s attempt to regain the strategic initiative.
    The ARVN were able to resist the communist Easter offensive in 1972, when they repelled the.
    If the ARVN had as much US support as the NVA has USSR support it would probably have resisted the communist attack in 1975. This was the largest armoured assault since the battle of Kursk.
    The anti-VN War movements greatest poltical success occurred precisely at this moment, in the US Congress. Edward Kennedy, who was essentially the leader of the legislative branch, brought the war to an end by denying ARVN much needed US air support. The ARVN military resistance crumbled and the war ended ignominously for the anti-communist side.
    I think the the US should not have got involved in the VN war. It should not have been there in the first place and it waged the war with unnecessary brutality.
    I am not trying to defend or attck the decision to get into the VN war, just set the record straight. The VN anti-war movement had its most potent effect during the climactic moments of the ground war, rather than the heady days of protests.
    FWIW, IMHO, the VN was a geo-political mistake analogous to the IRAQ war in that the US in both cases mistook essentially regional ethnological conflicts (VN: Northern nationalists v Southern Catholics; IRAQ: Suunis v Shiites) for global ethico-logical conflicts (VN ideological: communist v non-communists; IRAQ theological: sectarian militants v secular moderates) that the US was simultaneously waging on other fronts. Blood is thicker than ideology.

  65. James Farrell
    April 15th, 2005 at 15:03 | #65

    Michael, how do you categorise people like John who mount a ‘rigorous critique’ of ‘free market fundamentalism’ but also opposed the Iraq war? Good left or bad left? (Perhaps opposing the war OK as long as you take care to disavow Chomsky.)

  66. michael.burgess
    April 15th, 2005 at 15:17 | #66

    James, very good economists but poor political scientists.

  67. ml
    April 15th, 2005 at 16:27 | #67

    Michael,what if the end of the world were nigh? Why is that automatically, self-evidently absurd?
    And separately, I’ll bet creationists are over-represented among denialists, if not a majority; also smokers, big meat-eaters, low exercisers. Isn’t it all about capacity to assess evidence, in this case about risks?

  68. April 15th, 2005 at 17:24 | #68

    JQ: “Would you like to respond to the substantive points rather than taking umbrage at the footnotes?”

    No — I’m not interested in defending Duffy. My complaint is with your inappropriate footnote.

    JQ: “JH, in the pot-kettle department, would you like to distinguish your comparison of me with Tim Blair from my comparison of GW sceptics with evolution sceptics?

    Again, I’ll have to decline your offer (to distinguish between the comparisons). Instead, I’ll admit that my comment* was similar to yours. You recognise that my comment was unhelpful and just a piece of rhetoric. Therefore… (apology accepted)

    (I note that I didn’t liken you to Blair, but instead likened the growing culture of group-think — but that’s not the point to the above discussion.)

  69. John Quiggin
    April 15th, 2005 at 18:26 | #69

    JH, I’m surprised by your groupthink assertion. I’d say that about half the participants in this thread are critics of the original post for one reason or another, and none has been howled down by a claque of loyalists in the manner you imply by your comparison.

  70. Mark Upcher
    April 15th, 2005 at 22:55 | #70

    Simon JM

    John Humphries is quite correct to take you to task about your misrepresentation of Lomborg. In fact he did not go far enough, because he allowed you scope to change your misrepresentation. Contrary to your response at 57, Lomborg does NOT deny the existence of man made global warming. For example, at page 317 in his book he says: “There is no doubt that mankind has influenced and is still increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and that this will influence temperature.” He then goes on to discuss the IPCC estimates of the likely increase in temperature, which are in the range 1.5 degrees C to 4.5 degress C (I think the top of the range may have moved out to 5.8 degrees C since he wrote the book).

  71. kyangadac
    April 16th, 2005 at 02:30 | #71

    What is truly frustrating about reading these 70 comments is that public discourse about climate change is still stuck in a grooove that ignores all the other related but distinct environmental issues. Michael Burgess and his ilk can put their head in the sand about the economic consequences of this impending doomsday. The current rash of conservatism and right wing governments is as much a psychological response to this impending disaster.

    It is a disaster because we are still caught in a race to secure the remaining renewable resources in the world before the wells runs dry.

    It’s boring to have to repeat all the damning statistics about water and soil and air pollution and the collapse of wild stocks of animals and plants etc etc etc.

    At the moment we are like putty in the hands of our government because we hope desperately that the collapse will not happen here. Meanwhile the barons busily secure their agri-business monopolies gobbling up the last of the small fry.

    Greenhouse gases will have the most serious effect on the variabilty of the climate – as in more storms/droughts etc. But as the resource base collapses the global economy will collapse as well . This economic collapse will achieve as much as any greenhouse laws do in terms of reducing the rate of emissions.

    The real problem though is not the US or it’s christian zeal but the growth of nationalism in Asia, which threatens to unleash a serious war.

    Both China and India have significant imbalances in their populations sex ratios. And IMHO the real issue is the counterproductive nature of patriarchal values, including the need to defend our turf in argument or in war.

  72. SimonJM
    April 16th, 2005 at 10:46 | #72

    …they turn around and deny the same scientific method and evidence when it comes to humans having an adverse impart on the environment…………………………………BUT ITS NOT JUST ABOUT GW, the same people like Duffy or Lomborg deny that there is any such detrimental effect -‘by humans on the general environment’.

    Mark U the only thing you have me for is rushing the text in between my work and not being clear enough. So pull your head in.

    A number of scientists point out that Lomborg misrepresents and picks and chooses the data on the environment, to show that things aren’t as bad as the scientists make out when the reverse is clearly the case. (Just like Bolt on the Murray River.)

    Lomborg would have made a good tobacco funded scientist,-no smoking doesn’t cause cancer- just as qualified as he is on the environment and just as dishonest.

  73. April 16th, 2005 at 11:00 | #73

    Well said. You have summed up the major and usually ignored issues very well.

    Not quite with you on the main problem being Asian Nationlism as this is narrowing the blame to one group. Fanatics and extremists of any persuasion are major problems. Greenie extremists are no better that right wing christian extremists whatever.

  74. April 16th, 2005 at 17:58 | #74

    To Paul Norton at 63 (and to a lesser extent, similar remarks apply to JQ at 69).

    You don’t measure a country’s merit by its willingness to allow futile free speech, as opposed to take direction and formulate an agenda from it (to be fairly accepted or rejected – begging the question of what fairly is). That’s no more than Frederick the Great’s enlightened despotism in stating “my people and I have an agreement; they can say what they like and I can do what I like”.

    That free speech makes the speakers a saving remnant, to use biblical language, and shows that you can’t make an anti-Irael position turn into antisemitism unless you mistake Israel for all Jews. But it doesn’t do one damned thing to make Israel any better. There’s a middle eastern folk tale about two birds watching a trapper lay out his nets. “See what a kind man he is”, said one bird, “he weeps to lay his traps”. “Never mind his eyes”, said the other bird, “watch his hands”.

  75. April 18th, 2005 at 14:15 | #75

    the majority of climate change sceptics are creationists……..
    Absolute and utter balderdash, without merit.

  76. John Quiggin
    April 18th, 2005 at 14:25 | #76

    “Absolute and utter balderdash, without merit.”

    A stunning refutation! Well done! Do you think a couple more adjectives would have made your argument even stronger?

  77. James Lane
    April 18th, 2005 at 17:04 | #77

    Well I’m a “climate sceptic”, but my politics are centrist and I have no truck with creationism.

    To be more specific, I have doubts that human activities have much to do with the observed warming, and I’m also sceptical about the degree and rate of warming promoted by GW advocates.

    I’m not a climate scientist, but I am a professional statistician. John refers to “the increasingly absurd McKitrick and McIntyre” in their criticism of Mann’s “hockey stick”. On this matter I’m well qualified to comment, and I’m satisfied that M&M 05 have completely demolished the hockey stick.

    For those unfamiliar with the debate, it’s worth pointing out that M&M are not so much concerned with refuting 20th century warming as restoring the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age in the historical record.

    The point is that recent warming is not unusual. The earth is always warming or cooling – there is a high degree of natural variability.

  78. John Quiggin
    April 18th, 2005 at 17:14 | #78

    James, I’d be interested in your defence of M&M. I note in particular, that you refer to M&M 05, and not to the quite different case put forward by M&M 03, which now seems to have been abandoned (M&M 03 relied on alleged errors in the data series, while M&M 05 are talking about the normalisation used in the principal components analysis).

    As for ‘increasingly absurd’, search this site for McKitrick and you’ll see what I mean.

  79. April 18th, 2005 at 17:46 | #79

    James Lane
    To discredit the Hockey Stick is not to discredit the idea of Global Warming.
    Have a look at these this link for an explanation of the hockey stick and its importance in the debate from one of the authors.

    And you are right the Earth has warmed and cooled in the past however this one is caused by human activity pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Past ones were caused by solar variation or super volcanoes or metorites. This one is ours.

  80. James Lane
    April 18th, 2005 at 17:53 | #80

    John, I’m happy to take you on regarding M&M vs Mann, as the statistical arguments are within my area of expertise.

    M&M 05 is a better statement of their case than M&M 03, so I prefer to talk about the former. It (05) is also peer-reviewed and in a prestigous journal.

    M&M’s case basically resolves into two issues:

    1) The de-centred Principal Components Analysis (PCA) employed in MBH98 is an innappropriate method for the data involved, and effectivly “mines the data” for hockey-shape results.

    My take: I would consider myself an expert in PCA, and I agree that the de-centered method is inappropriate for the data. This view has been backed up by von Storch and others.

    2) The “hockey stick” is entirely dependant on the inclusion of a series of North American bristle-cone pine (BCP) tree-rings. Take them out of the analysis, and there is no hockey-stick. Everyone (including Hughes of MBH) agrees that the anomolous growth in the NA bristle-cones in the 20th century is not due to temperature.

    MBH99 attempts to correct for the BCPs, but strangely corrects in the 19th century, but not in the 20th.

    Point (2) is to me the much more cogent – unfortunatly much of the M&M v Mann debate has focussed on the former.

  81. James Lane
    April 18th, 2005 at 18:01 | #81


    I’m well aware of real.climate. It’s true that the “hockey stick” is not the “be all or end all” of climate science. However, the “hockey stick” is something of a “poster child” of the GW movement and as such deserves scrutiny.

  82. John Quiggin
    April 18th, 2005 at 19:00 | #82

    A few points

    1. The hockey stick isn’t just MBH. Other studies have found the same result – not all as dramatic, but nearly all showing much more rapid warming in the late 20th century than elsewhere in the record.

    2. It’s my impression that the bristlecone pines criticism has been largely abandoned because Hughes is one of the top experts on this stuff and has accounted for the issues you raise.

    3. I don’t know enough about PCA to argue on this point. But I know enough about the track record of M&M not to trust anything that they put out – in particular what appear to be selected runs showing hockey sticks. Have you actually shown that the decentring method mines the data in the way described ?

  83. James Lane
    April 18th, 2005 at 19:43 | #83

    John, regarding your “few points”:

    1 The “other reconstructions” are basically from a mix of the same crew, and all rely on the controversial BCP series.

    2. Your impression notwithstanding, I’m not aware that anyone has abandoned the BCP criticism. Hughes himself concedes that the 20th century growth spurt is “a mystery”. The BCP data were collected by Graybill & Idso (1993), and while Graybill has passed on, Idso is in M&M’s camp.

    3. I haven’t personally replicated M&M’s runs, but I don’t need to to find them credible. In any case, the PCA argument is subordinate to the one about the BCPs. No BCPs, no hockeystick. Do you really believe that the world’s climate history should be dependant on a few disputed high altitude North American tree rings, that everyone agrees are anomalous in the 20th century?

  84. John Quiggin
    April 18th, 2005 at 19:52 | #84

    “I haven’t personally replicated M&M’s runs, but I don’t need to to find them credible.”

    Again, given McKitrick’s track record (e.g mixing up degrees and radians to produce an obviously implausible result that happened to suit his case) I don’t think this is wise. Can you point to a source that backs up their claim?

    Can you clarify what you mean by “basically the same crew”?

  85. April 19th, 2005 at 00:32 | #85

    You can see the various reconstructions here. Also listed are the various authors so you can see that James Lanes’ claim that they are all by the “same crew” is untrue. Nor is it true that they all depend on the BCP data. James’ claim that their algorithm mines for hockey sticks is also untrue. It actually doesn’t matter whether you do centred or uncentred PCA – it only makes a difference if you do uncentred and screw up like McI and McK did.

  86. benno
    April 19th, 2005 at 00:39 | #86

    ““Absolute and utter balderdash, without merit.â€?

    A stunning refutation! Well done! Do you think a couple more adjectives would have made your argument even stronger? ”

    Ha, Ha, Ha. And Now Benno says: “What is the psychological basis of religion?”

    Any antroes in the house?

  87. April 19th, 2005 at 10:07 | #87

    James Lane –
    “I’m well aware of real.climate. It’s true that the “hockey stickâ€? is not the “be all or end allâ€? of climate science. However, the “hockey stickâ€? is something of a “poster childâ€? of the GW movement and as such deserves scrutiny.”

    I am sure that you are aware of Real Climate however there are clear explanations of the PCA data there.

    Also you are quite mistaken the Hockey Stick is not a ‘poster child’ for the GW movement at all. It is more a poster child of the Global Skepic movement that seize on any uncertainty in the GW data as ‘proof’ that GW is a myth. Remember that the skeptics are running a fear, uncertainity, and doubt campaign so any perceived or otherwise faults in the global warming data are seized on. This is despite the fact that climate science is an uncertain discipline that does not have all the answers.

    What we do have is ample evidence that anthropogenic CO2 is causing some changes the global climate. The simple answer is to reduce CO2 emissions and see what happens. However it is unlikely that such a simple answer will ever be implemented.

  88. April 19th, 2005 at 12:41 | #88

    Hmm, Bob Carter’s getting a run on the Victorian Country Hour at the mo’…

  89. michael.burgess
    April 19th, 2005 at 13:45 | #89

    Kyangada, I have just read your comment that ‘Michael Burgess and his ilk can put their head in the sand about the economic consequences of this impending doomsday.’ You then go on to state, among other doom laden comments that ‘It is a disaster because we are still caught in a race to secure the remaining renewable resources in the world before the wells runs dry’. This is a perfect example of the nonsense I am talking about which has alienated so many people and rightly brought the environmental movement into disrepute. Have you ever heard of technological change? One does not need to be a naïve technological optimist to recognise that over the next 50 years or so many of the problems we now have will disappear with the advent of new technologies or the sensible use of old technologies, inlcuding nuclear power. We have not even scratched the surface, for example, of utilising a greater proportion of Sydney’s rainfall for our water use.

  90. AN Smith
    April 19th, 2005 at 14:37 | #90

    Ender: “The simple answer is to reduce CO2 emissions and see what happens. However it is unlikely that such a simple answer will ever be implemented.”

    As I have pointed out, Kytoto will do nothing to change global temps even if you believe the models. (For the record, I do not accept JQ’s argument that Kyoto will be close to economically neutral).

    The (original 98) hockey stick was rapidly and uncritically accepted by the IPCC and greens and hence WAS a “poster child” of the GW movement.

  91. April 19th, 2005 at 17:03 | #91

    JQ: I agree your comments section is far better than most. I note that you chose only to respond to the footnote of my most recent post. Touche.

    Ender: “The simple answer is to reduce CO2 emissions and see what happens. However it is unlikely that such a simple answer will ever be implemented.�

    That is a very simple answer… too simple. It is not sufficient to enact public policy on the basis of possible benefits without consideration of possible costs. Especially when the possible benefits are estimated to be near zero.

  92. April 19th, 2005 at 17:14 | #92

    AN Smith
    I am under no illusions that Kyoto will reduce global temps as we and the US made sure of that. However it is the only game in town and might with real political will lead to a agreement with real teeth that would produce the required CO2 emission reductions of 60%.

    John Humphries
    Have you estimated the costs of Climate Change?

  93. Ken Miles
    April 19th, 2005 at 17:42 | #93

    As I have pointed out, Kytoto will do nothing to change global temps even if you believe the models.


    However, the real benefit in Kyoto has to do with encouraging technological developments in low emission technologies.

    (For the record, I do not accept JQ’s argument that Kyoto will be close to economically neutral).

    That’s nice. Got any evidence to back it up?

    The (original 98) hockey stick was rapidly and uncritically accepted by the IPCC and greens and hence WAS a “poster child� of the GW movement.

    The main hockey stick in the IPCC report was the 1999 version. The 98 version is included simply for completeness.

    Contary to being accepted uncritically, underwent peer review.

  94. James Lane
    April 19th, 2005 at 23:27 | #94

    Tim Lambert: If you really believe there is no difference between uncentred PCA and orthodox PCA, I can only conclude that you don’t know much about Principal Components Analysis. And to assert that McIntyre “screwed up” his non-centrered analysis is simply a lie. I have been working with PCA for more than 20 years, and I know what I’m talking about.

    John Quiggan: There are a coterie of paleoclimatic researchers that are strongly represented in the alleged “replications” of MBH98 and illustrated in the “spaghetti chart” on the realclimate site. To save time, I’ll simply quote from M&M’s 05 E&E paper:

    -begin quote-

    Mann et al. [2003, 2004a, 2004b] argued that their results are similar to those of “independent� studies, such as Jones, Briffa et al. [1998], Crowley and Lowery [2000], Briffa, Jones et al [2001], Mann and Jones [2003] and Jones and Mann [2004], calculated with different proxies and different methods. This “similarity� is typically shown by “spaghetti� diagrams supposedly illustrating the similarity, rather than through detailed analysis. These studies are hardly “independent�. If all the authors in the multiproxy articles are listed, one sees much overlapping. Mann himself was a co-author of two supposedly “independent� studies; his sometime co-author (as well as Bradley’s sometime co-author) Jones was co-author of two of the others. Even Crowley and Lowery [2000],where there is no apparent overlap, stated that they used data supplied by Jones. This hardly amounts to “independence� in any conventional use of the term.

    -end quote-

    Ender: Although I don’t think M&M have made this point very clear, their concern is not so much with the “blade” of the HS, as with the shaft. The MBH98 representation depicts a long period of low climate variability contrasted with a rapid increase in the 20th century, denying the MWP and the Little Ice Age as being local phenomena.

    I believe that M&M have effectively debunked this position. The issue is not so much recent waming as the historical variability, which is something everyone in the debate should pause to consider.

    Finally, for JQ, if MciItrick screwed up on radians/degrees, it has nothing to do with McIntyre who has done all the statistical heavy lifting for M&M 05.

  95. April 20th, 2005 at 02:49 | #95

    I did not say that there was no difference between centred and uncentred I said that it made no difference. Look here. I gave you a link to 10 different reconstructions. Even generously using your definition of the “same crew” only five have Jones or Mann as an author. It is not true to say that all are by the same crew.

  96. April 20th, 2005 at 10:13 | #96

    James Lane – “Ender: Although I don’t think M&M have made this point very clear, their concern is not so much with the “bladeâ€? of the HS, as with the shaft. The MBH98 representation depicts a long period of low climate variability contrasted with a rapid increase in the 20th century, denying the MWP and the Little Ice Age as being local phenomena.”

    I have no problem with this. As I have said over and over climate science is not exact and does not have all the answers. However the blade is the bit that worries me.

  97. Michael Duffy
    April 20th, 2005 at 17:51 | #97

    After reading the comments above on the Naumann conference I went back to my source, who has checked and found the survey was reported at the conference but not conducted there. It seems he was misled by an ambiguous English translation of a German report of the conference. He apologises for the error and so do I. It doesn’t alter the fact that a survey of scientists (held in 2003, not 1996 as some have claimed above) shows about a quarter of those polled were dubious that global warming is caused by human activity. The surveyor was Dr Dennis Bray, a sociologist at the Institute for Coastal Research at GKSS Forschungszentrum, Geesthacht, Germany. The survey has just been put on the web at: http://w3g.gkss.de/G/Mitarbeiter/bray.html/BrayGKSSsite/BrayGKSS/surveyframe.html.

  98. James Lane
    April 20th, 2005 at 19:17 | #98

    Tim Lambert: “I did not say that there was no difference between centred and uncentred I said that it made no difference”

    Excuse me for failing to distinguish between “no difference” and “no difference”. Do you know the difference between PC1 and PC4?

  99. John Quiggin
    April 20th, 2005 at 20:16 | #99

    Michael the link you have put up is broken. Even with help from German-speaking reader Brian Bahnisch, I couldn’t determine whether the claimed results came from the 1996 or 2003 survey, but I’ll put a correction on the relevant post.

  100. April 20th, 2005 at 21:50 | #100

    There is an extra . at the end of the link to the survey. Here is a working link. The 2003 survey was an online one, so I would be suprised if the sample was representative.

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