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More conversions on global warming

May 26th, 2006

As CT commenters pointed out on my last post, there’s a rush of former sceptics announcing their change of views on global warming. Here’s Gregg Easterbrook and John Tierney. Ron Bailey, who changed his view on the science last year, has now taken the next step, observing that the economic costs of Kyoto are likely to be modest. Meanwhile, the Howard government’s push for nuclear power has turned a hitherto lukewarm endorsement of the science on global warming into positive enthusiasm on the topic.

But we haven’t seen much movement yet from the many local pundits who’ve spent the last few years denying the evidence on global warming and attacking those who presented that evidence.

For some, of course, credibility doesn’t matter. Like PP McGuinness, they’ll jump on to the nuclear bandwagon without ever admitting they were wrong about global warming. But I’d hope for something better from, say, Michael Duffy, who claims to be an advocate of reason, but has enthusiastically promoted climate contrarianism.

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  1. I love Paddy
    May 26th, 2006 at 17:48 | #1

    I love Paddy. And I love anagram generators. My favourite Paddy McGuiness anagram is SAD SCUM DYING PEN. I’d love to be able to write something witty and erudite, as you all do, but that’s the best you’ll get out of me. Long live Paddy McGuinness.

  2. Bill O’Slatter
    May 26th, 2006 at 19:18 | #2

    The most interesting part of Howard’s road to Damascus is how the right wing commentariat fall behind him lock step. The about turn on greenhouse doesn’t cause them to blink , and of course all hail the great genius. Yes nuclear power must be the solution without any discussion of a mix of technologies ( or funding for research into those technologies) Given Howard’s track record I suspect he has links to either the uranium mining companies or nuclear technology companies .

  3. May 26th, 2006 at 19:36 | #3

    Paddy McGuiness’ leap onto the neclear bandwagon without any admission that he was wrong about global warming may not be without precedent. I recall (if my memory is correct)reading in the early 1990s a number of articles which were published in The Australian in which he either doubted or denied the link between smoking and diseases such as lung cancer. A few years later he wrote an article in response to a suggestion that smokers should be denied treatment on the public health sytem on the grounds that smoking was an unhealthy lifestyle choice. His argument , as I recall was that the taxes and duties paid by smokers during their lifetimes exceeded the costs of the treatments they received as a consequence of their habit. I do not recall any intervening admission that his earlier viewpoint was incorrect or an admission that he had changed his views: to paraphrase Eric Segal perhaps being a right wing column writer never means having to say your sorry.

  4. May 26th, 2006 at 20:03 | #4

    Cpl says:

    “His [McGuinness's] argument, as I recall was that the taxes and duties paid by smokers during their lifetimes exceeded the costs of the treatments they received as a consequence of their habit.”

    The notion that taxes particularly penalise the working class chain-smoker and/or alcoholic (who is, we are asked to believe, devoid of all concepts of free will) is a common trope in what might be called the Ray Evans environment. Apparently it is totally OK to demoralise and indeed destroy the working class through zero tariffs, unlimited importation of non-unionised piece-work slave labour, ambulance-chasing divorce lawyers, etc.; but it is not, heaven forbid, OK to raise even slightly the taxes on his cigs and beer.

    The best response, I find, to this trope is something like “Good Lord, sunshine, this is the first time you’ve even pretended to give a hoot about the working class.”

    In about 1983 there was a chap called Ross Bates-Case who, if memory serves me, wrote about how asbestos was either harmless or actively Good For You. Is there any substance that couldn’t provide a junk-science lobby to champion its alleged blessings? Cyanide, perhaps? Taipan venom?

  5. Dogz
    May 26th, 2006 at 20:14 | #5

    Apparently credibility is also unimportant to you JQ, given that many of these sceptics are clearly neither dogmatic, ideologues, or paid-off.

  6. jquiggin
    May 26th, 2006 at 20:23 | #6

    Dogz, on the contrary, all those I’ve listed are well-known rightwingers (Easterbrook is a bit of a mixed bag, but he’s an ideologue and rightwing on environmental issues). In the US at least, even the ideologues (at least the smart ones) are jumping ship.

    Since I know you’re concerned with your credibility, I await your gracious retraction.

  7. Ernestine Gross
    May 26th, 2006 at 20:55 | #7

    “A few weeks ago, some of Australia’s largest companies, including Westpac, IAG, Visy, BP and Origin, called on the Federal Government to impose a price on carbon: yes, that’s right, business, powerful business, arguing for increased costs. ”

    Source: Paul Gilding, ‘Climate change causes backflips, 8 May 2006, cited on this thread.

    Whatever the ‘strategy’ underlying this reported move, it is one that calls on a non-market agent, the Federal Government, to influence market prices of ‘marketable commodities’ by means of an ‘imposed price’ on ‘carbon’. Presumably the ‘price on carbon’ is to be administered for carbon emissions that are a by-product of human activities; ie ‘an externality’. IMHO, this is an instance of progress in moving from ‘economic rationalism’ to ‘rational economics’.

  8. Dogz
    May 26th, 2006 at 21:09 | #8

    Attenborough is neither dogmatic, an ideologue or paid-off. Nor am I. I doubt many of the others are either.

    But I don’t await your gracious retraction – it seems hell will freeze over before we see that.

  9. Tom Davies
    May 26th, 2006 at 22:25 | #9

    I know that in the past you’ve linked to a paper which estimated the cost of Kyoto compliance as a modest % of GDP. That doesn’t give me a feel for what the effects would actually be.
    If Australia’s greenhouse emissions were reduced by imposing a Carbon tax, what would be the price of petrol and the price of electricity? Are the elasticities of those goods known precisely enough to make a good estimate?

  10. avaroo
    May 27th, 2006 at 05:48 | #10

    John Tierney’s pretty middle of the road, at least in the US. I wouldn’t think anyone could hang an idealogue label on him.

    I’m not sure Tierney’s column is a conversion, in fact, he called for a gas tax increase quite some time ago. I don’t think Tierney’s denied that global warming is real; he just seems to differ on appropriate response.

  11. May 27th, 2006 at 10:29 | #11

    Left or right wing, Gregg Easterbrook is a twit.

    In his writings about space exploration (not really an issue that divides straight down the left-right spectrum) he regularly makes all manner of howlers. In one article, he claimed that the reason why geostationary satellites appear to stay in the same place is because they’re the same distance from the Earth’s surface as the earth’s radius. If it’s not immediately obvious why this is wrong, consider that it is gravity that prevents satellites from flying off into space. The speed of the Earth’s rotation has nothing to do with it.

    Oh, and he claimed that the current space exploration plans are stupid because we should be building a space elevator. The material to build one (sheets of carbon nanotubes with 100 times the tensile strength of steel) does not yet exist and may never do so, but this doesn’t seem to bother Easterbrook. It’s the equivalent of saying that we should solve global warming by building fusion power plants.

    Why Easterbrook continues to be published in major media outlets puzzles me greatly.

  12. SJ
    May 27th, 2006 at 14:55 | #12

    Let’s not forget Easterbrook’s support for intelligent design

    Can Science Explain Everything?

    Intelligent design is a sophisticated theory now being argued out in the nation’s top universities. And though this idea assumes existence must have some higher component, it is not religious doctrine under the 1986 Supreme Court definition. Intelligent-design thinking does not propound any specific faith or even say that the higher power is divine. It simply holds that there must be an unseen intellect imbedded in the cosmos.

    The intelligent design theory may or may not be correct, but it’s a rich, absorbing hypothesis–the sort of thing that is fascinating to debate, and might get students excited about biology class to boot. But most kids won’t know the idea unless they are taught it, and in the aftermath of the Kansas votes, pro-evolution dogma continues to suggest that any alternative to natural selection must be kept quiet.

  13. Lee
    May 27th, 2006 at 14:59 | #13

    That some companies would support a tax on carbon comes as no surprise. When the tax on a necessary commodity increases, the profit on that commodity also increases. Henry George pointed this out a hundred years ago.

  14. Mork
    May 29th, 2006 at 09:50 | #14

    I thought that Gregg Easterbrook found his true calling writing about football for Slate.

  15. June 6th, 2006 at 11:59 | #15

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  16. June 7th, 2006 at 00:10 | #16

    Left or right wing, Gregg Easterbrook is a twit.

    In his writings about space exploration (not really an issue that divides straight down the left-right spectrum) he regularly makes all manner of howlers. In one article, he claimed that the reason why geostationary satellites appear to stay in the same place is because they’re the same distance from the Earth’s surface as the earth’s radius. If it’s not immediately obvious why this is wrong, consider that it is gravity that prevents satellites from flying off into space. The speed of the Earth’s rotation has nothing to do with it.

    Robert,

    Gregg Easterbrook may be a twit and he would indeed seem to be wrong about why geostationary satellites seem to stay in the same place (assuming you quote him correctly), however your sentence highlighted in bold above is also wrong.

    Imagine a satellite in a geostationary orbit 36000km up. Now suppose that the earth was to beging spinning faster. With no change in gravity the statellite would continue its orbit at the same speed and altitude. However it would no longer be a geostationary orbit as relative to an earth situated observer it would soon disappear over the horizon. To be geostationary a satellite would now need to be in a faster (and hence lower) orbit.

    Regards,
    Terje.

    P.S. Wikipedia has the maths. In the math the relevant term related to the speed of earths rotation is the time taken for a “sidereal day”. Change that number and the radius for a geostationary orbit changes:-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geostationary_orbit

  17. SJ
    June 7th, 2006 at 00:42 | #17

    You’ve misinterpreted what Robert Merkel said, Terje, and you’ve also demonstrated a lack of understanding of the physics.

    Merkel never claimed that the altitude of the geosynchronous orbit didn’t depend on the earth’s rotational speed.

  18. June 7th, 2006 at 10:46 | #18

    So…over the last two years, I’ve spent about $400 more on gasoline and natural gas.

    And you are saying I COULD have spent that money helping the U.S. to lower the global average temperature in 2100 by about 0.05 degree Celsius. (My share of that reduction would of course be about 1 billionth of 1 degree Celsius.)

    Hmmm…I think I’m glad I kept the $400.

  19. Simonjm
    June 7th, 2006 at 12:23 | #19

    The 4 Stages of Global Warming Denial
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/06/4_stages_denial.php

    Not as good as Tim’s GWS bingo but worth a post.

  20. June 9th, 2006 at 07:47 | #20

    “It’s the equivalent of saying that we should solve global warming by building fusion power plants.”

    Sounds reasonable to me. (That is, if we should be doing anything at all about global warming.)

  21. Dogz
    June 9th, 2006 at 09:43 | #21

    SimonJM: the conclusion to that link says it all:

    Conclusion: Global Warming is real and we have to deal with it. We can use this crisis as an opportunity to improve our society. The faster, the better.

    Let me guess, by “improve” you mean more socialist, bigger government, less individual freedom, and less wealth.

    As always, for the greenies this is never about the environmental issues. It’s about social engineering. I can understand where you are coming from, though: I mean Russia was such a standout economic success, easily creating far greater wealth and polluting far less than our evil, western capitalist system.

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