Home > Environment > Pons asinorum – CIS edition

Pons asinorum – CIS edition

December 18th, 2007

The scientific debate regarding global warming has been over for some time, and the Australian policy debate has moved beyond the point where delusional pseudoscience has any impact. What remains of the scientific debate is a screening device in which individuals and institutions identify themselves as so lacking in intelligence, judgement or honesty as to cast doubt on their contributions on any topic. As with Euclid’s fifth proposition failure on this test distinguishes the donkeys.

The latest to self-identify as a donkey is Barry Maley of the Centre for Independent Studies whose latest piece in the Oz states, among other pieces of nonsense scooped up from teh intertubes

Beyond a relatively small concentration, the effect of additional carbon dioxide decreases logarithmically, almost to vanishing point.

As Wolfgang Pauli would have said, this is not even wrong, since “decreases logarithmically” is a contradiction in terms.

Maley identifies himself as a “former academic” and his CIS bio describes him as a former senior lecturer in Behavioural Science who has worked on family and social policy. It’s a safe bet that he wouldn’t know a logarithm if it bit him, and that the simple exercise in logarithmic differentiation required to convert the claim above into something that can be assessed and refuted (here’s a good post that covers several more of Maley’s talking points) would be utterly beyond him.

Clearly he’s scrambled together a bunch of nonsense from delusionist Internet sites, and published it along with his “research” on family issues. Since he invites us to treat the two as being equally credible, I’m happy to accept. And since the CIS invites us to treat Maley as a serious researcher, the same goes for them.

Since we’re on the CIS, a quick Google search finds Helen Hughes, in the course of defending detention camps for refugees, producing this gem:

If there is climate warming, in 50 years’ time, Northern India and Northern China will have such a favourable climate that their productivity will go up enormously and people may want to shift from Southern to Northern India and, particularly, from Southern to Northern China, where there is going to be an enormous shortage of labour, which is already emerging.

I’m reminded of Samuel Johnson’s famous jibe

Sir, your wife, under pretence of keeping a bawdy house, is a receiver of stolen goods

To promote global warming delusionism on the pretence defending authoritarian xenophobia is a similarly impressive feat.

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  1. Sinclair Davidson
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:08 | #1

    All ad hominem. Are we to believe that every comment you make is the position of your employer, or your financier? Surely not.

    In what way is describing Maley as a former academic false? Furthermore, the CIS is nowhere mentioned in Maley’s piece. Are people not allowed to have views an opinions different from that of their employer? Do you?

    This hit-piece is beneath you.

  2. SJ
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:14 | #2

    Maley Says:

    the effect of additional carbon dioxide decreases logarithmically, almost to vanishing point

    JQ Says:

    As Wolfgang Pauli would have said, this is not even wrong, since “decreases logarithmically� is a contradiction in terms.

    What Maley says is true if you parse it carefully, you know, the way Howard tried to avoid obvious outright lies.

    If we say that the effect of carbon dioxide is proportional to the log of carbon dioxide concentration, then it’s trivially true that the effect each additional bit of carbon dioxide decreases.

    If we increase the concentration from 10 to 11 (in whatever units), the effect goes from 2.3 to 2.4, a difference of 0.1. But if we increase from 1000 to 1001 the effect goes from 6.908 to 6.909, an increase of only 0.001. See, the the effect of additional carbon dioxide decreases logarithmically, almost to vanishing point. QED. :)

  3. Spiros
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:18 | #3

    Sinclair, by describing himself this way, Maley was giving the impression that he was an academic climatologist. He is no more that than he is the man on the moon.

    It would like a retired law lecturer writing an equally nonsensical piece on the clinical treatment of heart disease and describing himself as a retired academic.

  4. jquiggin
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:26 | #4

    Sinclair, I’m not suggesting that Maley’s description is false, just that it’s totally irrelevant, since his academic career obviously didn’t equip to write on this topic. And the CIS has published enough on global warming to make its anti-science line clear.

    SJ, you’re confusing the logarithmic function with its derivative – parsing doesn’t get around this.

  5. Neil
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:34 | #5

    Okay, Sinclair, I’ll bite. Rather than seeing the entry as *all* ad hominem, I can’t see *anything* ad hominem there. Instruct me.

    BTW, why do you ask whether JQ’s views reflect his institution? Heard of academic freedom?

  6. chrisl
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:37 | #6

    In the words of William Connolley “I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who tell me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis”
    The Cairns Conundrum “To fly or not to fly”

  7. SJ
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:40 | #7

    John, I’m not confusing anything, nor excusing Maley. I was attempting to explain the “logic” that leads to Maley’s conclusion.

    Perhaps I should have put a ;) rather than a :) at the end.

    If you’d like, I could write out a proof that the decrease in effect is exponential rather than logarithmic, but that kinda stuff is hard to write out in a blog comment.

  8. P
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:42 | #8

    The National Library of Australia shows he authored “Ethics & ecosystems: protecting human interests and environmental values” published by the Centre for Independent Studies in 1994

  9. jquiggin
    December 18th, 2007 at 21:45 | #9

    SJ, fair enough :-)

  10. jquiggin
    December 18th, 2007 at 22:03 | #10

    Shorter Chrisl

    That’s not an ad hominem argument! … THIS is an ad hominem argument

  11. Talisker
    December 18th, 2007 at 22:11 | #11

    JQ, this is one of the silliest things you have ever written. It seems you have turned into some sort of bigot and I once thought you were a fairly good economist, equipped to write on economic matters. Maley’s views are his own, surely, as yours are. And what does “the CIS has published enough on global warming to make its anti-science line clear” mean? Where? When? Galileo had better treatment than this drivel of yours insinuates. And Neil, academic freedom is only limited to people in publicly supported universities? If so, the whole concept as you describe it, is degraded. What a pathetic and dangerous debate.

  12. December 18th, 2007 at 22:23 | #12

    Back in August I looked at everything that the CIS had published on global warming. Every single one of the items argued either that it wasn’t happening, we weren’t causing it, or we shouldn’t do anything about it. Here’s the list.

  13. Neil
    December 18th, 2007 at 22:30 | #13

    Talisker, Sinclair asked whether JQ’s views reflected his institution. It was in that context that I asked whether he had heard of academic freedom. Given the norms of academic freedom (inter alia) there is no presumption that an academic’s views reflect their institution.

    But since you ask, academic freedom *is* is restricted to universities. See, it’s the word “academic” that is the clue here.

  14. Socrates
    December 18th, 2007 at 22:59 | #14

    JQ I also agree that Maley’s piece is polemic drivel. And I also tire of politicised hacks from “institutes” like CIS wrapping themselves in a veneer of intellectual credibility when they are not (current) academics, write articles that are not peer reviewed, and frequently comment “expertly” outside their field of expertise, as in this case. My question is whether it is worth wasting time dealing with these people? They will never admit they are wrong. Its like getting a tobacco farmer to acknowledge that smoking is harmful. (I tried that once in Mareeba; the response was not reasoned debate.)

    I have largely given up reading the Australian, and don’t miss it. Lets just stick to the debate on what to do about Climate Change, as in your other excellent pieces. Mr Maley’s implicit suggestion of doing nothing while referring it all to more scientific debate is obviously nonsense, that shouldn’t fool the average high school student.

  15. December 18th, 2007 at 23:11 | #15

    Lets just stick to the debate on what to do about Climate Change, as in your other excellent pieces.

    CIS published this suggestion on what to do in November:-

    http://www.cis.org.au/policy_monographs/pm80.pdf

  16. Ian Gould
    December 18th, 2007 at 23:35 | #16

    Terje, thank you for that link.

    I haven’t laughed that hard in ages.

  17. December 18th, 2007 at 23:47 | #17

    Terje your link states: “This paper does not take a position on the debate about whether the Australian government should do something about greenhouse gas emissions.”

    I suppose it’s different from all the other CIS pieces that all say we shouldn’t do anything about it.

  18. jquiggin
    December 19th, 2007 at 00:10 | #18

    Socrates, I guess you’re right. There was something about this piece that got my goat more than usual, but if we all ignore it, they’ll stop soon enough I suppose.

  19. Chris O’Neill
    December 19th, 2007 at 02:23 | #19

    SJ:

    I’m not confusing anything, nor excusing Maley. I was attempting to explain the “logic� that leads to Maley’s conclusion.

    I understand what “logic” with the quotes means (i.e. irony) but as JQ implied, what Maley said is wrong. The logarithm function increases, not decreases, with argument. (BTW, he should have said, at least, that the effect of additional carbon dioxide decreases inversely. Hence the effect of 1 kg of CO2 added to an atmosphere containing 560ppm CO2 is only half the effect of 1 kg of CO2 added to an atmosphere containing 280ppm CO2. Heaven help us if the atmosphere gets to 560ppm CO2.)

  20. rog
    December 19th, 2007 at 05:08 | #20

    Hmm, not being a mathematician I didnt have any problem with the phrase “decreases logarithmically” eg on the pH scale acidity decreases as activity of H increases as -log is part of the equation. Of course the rate of decrease is to the power of 10 which makes for a more not less unstable brew.

  21. Sinclair Davidson
    December 19th, 2007 at 05:56 | #21

    Heard of academic freedom?

    I have also heard of freedom of thought, and freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. Contrary to popular opinion, these freedoms are not limited to academics, current or former.

  22. December 19th, 2007 at 06:58 | #22

    Socrates’ “I have largely given up reading the Australian,”

    What is ‘the Australian’?

  23. December 19th, 2007 at 07:43 | #23

    what a lovely way to put a smile on my face on a rainy morning! so much more convenient than watching neighbors squabble over a fence.

    question: should the government do as little as possible, with a view to maintaining some economic advantage, or, should it actively ‘force’ transition to renewables, hoping to either profit from new technology, or to save the planet from venusification by action and example?

    if you choose ‘little as possible’, relax.

    if you choose ‘get cracking’, how to press a government that already looks like plan a.

  24. Neil
    December 19th, 2007 at 07:50 | #24

    Way to change the subject, Sinclair. The question was (recall) “why do you assume that JQ’s opinions should reflect his institution’s views”?

  25. December 19th, 2007 at 10:16 | #25

    The sophistry of the Maleys is interesting. And whether it is ‘intelligent design’ or AGW, it’s a little reassuring to note that their anti-science positions have to couched in scientific sounding terminology in the quest for credibility. An implicit admission of defeat.

  26. Ernestine Gross
    December 19th, 2007 at 10:42 | #26

    Terje,

    I read the Foreword by Robert Carling, Senior Fellow, CIS, of the article you referenced. I found:

    “As Humphreys points out, though, the purpose of a carbon tax should not be to raise additional tax revenue, nor even to reduce overall energy usage, but to use price signals to shift the composition of energy consumption in favour of ‘dirty’ rather than ‘clean’ forms.”

    I see, relative prices should change to favour coal and oil but not wind and solar. Neat!!

  27. Sinclair Davidson
    December 19th, 2007 at 11:29 | #27

    why do you assume that JQ’s opinions should reflect his institution’s views

    You may have read my original post.

    Are we to believe that every comment you make is the position of your employer, or your financier? Surely not.

  28. December 19th, 2007 at 11:35 | #28

    Ernestine,

    Sounds like a typo.

    The intent of a CO2e energy tax as outlined in the paper is to put a cost on emissions and thus favour energy sources (eg Wind, Solar, Geothermal, Gas etc) that either have no CO2e emissions or less CO2e emissions.

    In a nut shell the paper outlines a no regret tax reform that shifts consumption away from “dirty” forms of energy (eg coal) towards clearner alternatives (gas, oil, solar etc). No regret in the sense that it is a good reform intitative even if AGW is completely wrong.

    To be fair I think you should ignore the obvious typo and read the paper.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  29. December 19th, 2007 at 11:37 | #29

    p.s. I don’t know why Ian Gould is laughing. Perhaps he can explain.

  30. MH
    December 19th, 2007 at 11:43 | #30

    You do really wonder about the mental equilibrium of these people. It also shows how far the Australian has sunk, it seems to be festooned with loons, harpies, pseudo-intellectuals and ponces. I am never quite sure when I pick one up occasionally if it is really the Catholic Weekly or a cleverly constructed Media statement for the GOP.

    I gave up buying it several years ago. Thanks to JQ for reminding me what a dreadful publication it remains and became. Rupert should in all honesty fire the Editor(s) they certainly can’t distinquish between reporting and embellished fantasy and they certainly have taken the entertainment value of media to a new level.

  31. Hrvoje
    December 19th, 2007 at 11:48 | #31

    Hat tip to a myth buster!

  32. wilful
    December 19th, 2007 at 12:00 | #32

    Didn’t you promise a long time ago to not bother with delusionists any more?

  33. John Greenfield
    December 19th, 2007 at 12:13 | #33

    JQ

    With all due respect, have you been drinking?

    The scientific debate regarding global warming has been over for some time

    I do not claim to be an habitue of the scientific community, but Chris O’Neill very kindly pointed out some said community sites for me, and I can assure you debates over climate change are heated and many.

    And to link Helen Hughes’ eminently intuitively rational observation – while certainly contestable – about geographical variation on the earth, to a grotesque claim she is “defending authoritarian xenophobia” is not only a non sequitur, it is a cheap and nasty libel that Prof. Hughes does not deserve, and which you should be above!

  34. The Doctor
    December 19th, 2007 at 12:19 | #34

    As they a “little knowledge is a dangerous”!

  35. December 19th, 2007 at 12:41 | #35

    As far as I know, the CIS hasn’t given a view on climate change and has generally stayed away from commenting on climate change.

    It is absurd to suggest that an organisations endorses all the views of all of its contributors.

    This blog post smells of bigotry.

    The quote given by Ernestine is clearly a typo. The point of the carbon tax was to shift incentives so as to increase the speed of our transition to “cleaner” energy and away from “dirty” coal. This should have been relatively clear from the paper.

  36. jquiggin
    December 19th, 2007 at 12:57 | #36

    wilful, you’re right, and I should have stuck to this. This piece was just so silly, and I thought by now we were past it. But from now, no more delusionist education for me.

  37. Spiros
    December 19th, 2007 at 13:01 | #37

    Whether or not Maley’s piece discredits the CIS, it certainly discredits The Australian. Presumably they published it under the guise of getting a diversity of opinion on what we should do about climate change. But the problem with the piece isn’t Maley’s opinions, risible a they are, it’s his supposed factual material, which has been pulled straight out of someone’s arse.

    The Australian’s editors can of course publish whatever they like. But why do think it’s smart to turn a supposedly serious newspaper into a supermarket tabloid?

    Next, it’ll be “Aliens invaded my body and made me eat my baby”.

  38. Donald Oats
    December 19th, 2007 at 13:34 | #38

    The logarithmic statement made by Barry is IMHO a rather mangled attempt at stating that log(C(t)) and (some appropriate measure of) temperature are linearly related. Barry misses the usual qualifications, such as ‘all other things held constant’, and ‘without consideration of feedbacks’, when referring to this relationship.
    Even more importantly, when trying to assess economic costs of delayed action versus immediate actions, the reverse implication of this relation needs to be considered. If the CO2 concentration is really high, say due to more ‘business as usual’ for another 30 years or so, then we need to remove a large amount of CO2 from the atmosphere in order to achieve a small decrease in temperature – again with all the usual qualifications added. On the other hand, if we take strong action now, any improvement on CO2 levels will have a relatively larger impact on temperature than if we wait another 30 years or so.

    The rest of his opinion piece is just as bad.

    [Note: David J. Thomson (1997), Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol 94, pp. 8370-8377, August 1997, gives both a reference to radiation theory for CO2 vs Temp relation, and a strong argument as to why CO2 concentration explains much more of temperature changes (in 20th century) than solar irradiance does.]

  39. Ernestine Gross
    December 19th, 2007 at 13:52 | #39

    No, Humphreys, this blog does not smell of bigotry in my language. This blog deals with phenomena that is of great concern to many, within academia and outside.

    Your notion of a typo (typographical error) covers both the spelling of ‘black’ as, say ‘blak’ and the spelling of ‘black’ as ‘white’.

    Applying your notion of a ‘typo’, one could classify the Maley article as a piece of typo-literature.

    No, I won’t read the rest of your article because I don’t agree with your notion of ‘a typo’.

  40. Ken Miles
    December 19th, 2007 at 14:41 | #40

    Hmm, not being a mathematician I didnt have any problem with the phrase “decreases logarithmically� eg on the pH scale acidity decreases as activity of H increases as -log is part of the equation. Of course the rate of decrease is to the power of 10 which makes for a more not less unstable brew.

    The problem with this is that if this is Maley’s intrepretation then he knows even less about climate change than what this post gives him credit for.

    I suspect that it is simply a case of Maley not have the faintest clue about global warming and not have the sense to know this.

  41. December 19th, 2007 at 14:45 | #41

    Ernestine,

    That is a tragically narrow view of a typo. You’re dismissing a body of work merely because a third party (that wrote an introduction to the work) got the polarity of one statement the wrong way around. And the context of the document makes it plain that it is nothing more than a grammatical mistake. It seems somewhat petty.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  42. Ernestine Gross
    December 19th, 2007 at 16:48 | #42

    Terje,

    So far, you and Humphreys have ascribed first a ‘typo’ to Robert Carling’s forword to Humphrey’s CIS paper. Now you claim Carling has made a grammatical mistake. Robert Carling is a Senior Fellow, CIS. Maybe you and Humphreys first want to check with him.

    If a paper free of apparent contradictions is produced, I might read it.

  43. December 19th, 2007 at 17:12 | #43

    Typo/Grammatical mistake. Talk about splitting hairs. The statement is clearly wrong. I’ve agreed that it is wrong. Humphreys has agreed that it is wrong. However if it still causes such discontent then on reflection I don’t think I want you to discuss it with you because I’m sure it is not perfect. If agreeing that a singular statement in a body of work is wrong means any further consideration or discussion of that body of work ceases then I’d hate to think what might happen if you read it and then we were to encounter something we disagreed on.

  44. MH
    December 19th, 2007 at 17:48 | #44

    Maley’s piece again illustrates what happens when you mix up your logic and assume a scientific argument is a political proposition. It rates as another piece of pseudo science masking a political polemic. Check out the page at Real Climate where they have a special page devoted to the standard denialist arguments, says it all.

  45. Ender
    December 19th, 2007 at 18:26 | #45

    He could have just read these two articles from Spencer Weart that were posted on Real Climate.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/a-saturated-gassy-argument/
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/a-saturated-gassy-argument-part-ii/

    The reality of greenhouse energy absorption is not straightforward and is not a simple logarithmic relationship anyway. The articles are worth a read.

  46. rog
    December 19th, 2007 at 19:31 | #46

    Ken, as far as I know a logarithimic decrease can occur when zero is not the base line eg with pH 7 is the norm.

    All this aside, when I read Maleys piece thru JQs link I thought ‘another rant’ and turned off; normally I cant be bothered reading any rants whether they be left right or over under sideways down.

  47. Andrew Norton
    December 19th, 2007 at 19:37 | #47

    I’m coming late to this discussion, but as someone in an editorial capacity at the CIS:

    1) The CIS has not published any sceptic material for years, as Lambert’s own list shows, and has published very little at any point.
    2) It is not going to publish any in future.

  48. SJ
    December 19th, 2007 at 22:57 | #48

    SJ Says:

    …the decrease in effect is exponential rather than logarithmic…

    Dunno what I was thinking here. x^(-1) is a function involving exponents, but it’s obviously not properly described as an exponential function.

    I put it down to a brain fart. :)

    Chris O’Neill is correct when he states that the proper description, given Maley’s assumption that the effect is proportional to the log of concentration, would have been that the increase in effect per unit of concentration is inversely proportional to total concentration.

  49. December 20th, 2007 at 02:42 | #49

    I haven’t been up to anything lately, but what can I say? More or less nothing seems important. I can’t be bothered with anything these days, but shrug. Pfft. Today was a total loss. Not much on my mind to speak of.

  50. mugwump
    December 20th, 2007 at 19:34 | #50

    Beyond a relatively small concentration, the effect of additional carbon dioxide decreases logarithmically, almost to vanishing point.

    While technically incorrect, Maley’s statement succinctly conveys the correct impression.

    The supposed refutation linked in the OP, has that:

    There is no “plateau” where CO2 stops being important. Every time you double CO2, you get another 4 Watts per square meter of radiative forcing

    There is no “plateau”? What about the obvious one at 100%? Should we also guffaw at this technically false statement? Of course not.

    Mathematical statements lose a lot in translation. In a non-mathematical article a certain latitude is necessary in the interest of parsimony.

  51. SJ
    December 20th, 2007 at 20:22 | #51

    mugwump, there’s a plateau at 100%, but it’s not a “plateau where CO2 stops being important”. It’s a plateau where further increases are impossible, but not one where the effect is unimportant.

  52. December 20th, 2007 at 20:31 | #52

    As the concentration of CO2 approaches 100% the temperature of the planet becomes relatively unimportant and you stop taking notes.

  53. Ian Gould
    December 20th, 2007 at 23:28 | #53

    Carbon dioxide starts having toxic effects on humans (IIRC) when the atmospheric concentration exceeds something like 8,000 PPM.

  54. mugwump
    December 21st, 2007 at 04:19 | #54

    Given the second sentence – “Every time you double CO2, you get another 4 Watts per square meter of radiative forcing” – it is obvious from the context that what was meant in the RC article was “There is no plateau at which additional CO2 stops being important.”

    That is technically wrong (additional CO2 is impossible once you get to 100%), but, like Maley’s statement, it conveys the correct impression, so nothing to get excited about.

  55. Ken Miles
    December 21st, 2007 at 08:37 | #55

    There is no “plateau�? What about the obvious one at 100%? Should we also guffaw at this technically false statement? Of course not.

    There is still no plateau.

    CO2 is a gas. If you add more carbon dioxide to a 100% CO2 atmosphere, the pressure increases.

  56. Ken Miles
    December 21st, 2007 at 08:58 | #56

    And more to the point, given that Maley’s misunderstanding about CO2 forcing is followed by a totally incorrect statement about the IPCC only being recently aware of the logarithmic relationship it should be obvious to any sensible person that Maley doesn’t have the faintest clue about even the basics of global warming.

  57. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    December 21st, 2007 at 10:17 | #57

    Sinclair is not at all interested in refuting what JQ has to say. He just nit picks around the periphery.

    And he’s supposed to be one of the smart ones! Say it all.

  58. jquiggin
    December 21st, 2007 at 11:21 | #58

    Going back off-point, unless you remove the existing nitrogen and oxygen, you can’t reach 100 per cent by adding CO2.

  59. Ken Miles
    December 21st, 2007 at 12:15 | #59

    Going back off-point, unless you remove the existing nitrogen and oxygen, you can’t reach 100 per cent by adding CO2.

    Getting even further off-point, when burning carbon you are removing oxygen, so the O2 doesn’t have to be a problem in hypothetical world. The nitrogen still gets you.

  60. Sir Humphrey
    December 21st, 2007 at 12:47 | #60

    What’s more, air is about 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, so you can’t get anywhere near 100% even if you burn things until all the O2 is used up. Which is obviously completely irrelevant…

  61. jquiggin
    December 21st, 2007 at 15:33 | #61

    Coming right back on point, a logarithmic relationship means that with a doubling of CO2 concentrations, the marginal impact of additional units CO2 would be half the original value. Since emissions have much grown dramatically, and will continue to do so under business as usual, there’s no reason to expect the rate of warming to slow at all, let alone “almost to vanishing point” in any relevant timeframe unless we act to constrain emissions.

    As I said in the post, those making and defending this claim have either never learned how to differentiate a logarithmic function or have managed to forget.

  62. December 21st, 2007 at 16:50 | #62

    John

    Majority views should not always be assumed to be correct.

    Science is not about a popularity contest, but whether ideas are provable (or have not yet been disproven).

  63. Ian Gould
    December 21st, 2007 at 18:28 | #63

    Mikel,

    1. Perhaps you should explain this to the global warming denialists who excited announce that a whole 400 scientists (out of tens of million) agreed with them.

    2. As laypeople, unless there’s compelling reason to believe the majority of experts are incorrect, we should probably defer to them.

  64. Chris O’Neill
    December 22nd, 2007 at 03:08 | #64
    Beyond a relatively small concentration, the effect of additional carbon dioxide decreases logarithmically, almost to vanishing point.

    While technically incorrect, Maley’s statement succinctly conveys the correct

    misleading

    impression.

    The misleading impression being that we are getting close to this “vanishing point” when we’re actually only 27% down from the peak.

    In a non-mathematical article a certain latitude is necessary in the interest of parsimony

    and economy with the truth in this case.

  65. December 22nd, 2007 at 06:02 | #65

    (linkspam deleted)

  66. mugwump
    December 22nd, 2007 at 06:22 | #66

    1. Perhaps you should explain this to the global warming denialists who excited announce that a whole 400 scientists (out of tens of million) agreed with them.

    Tens of millions of climate scientists now? This thing is far more out of control than I realized.

  67. mugwump
    December 22nd, 2007 at 06:29 | #67

    Since emissions have much grown dramatically, and will continue to do so under business as usual, there’s no reason to expect the rate of warming to slow at all, let alone “almost to vanishing point� in any relevant timeframe unless we act to constrain emissions.

    I much don’t understand this.

    If you’re making a statement about the Earth’s temperature lagging the CO2 rise due to hysteresis in the climate system, then there’s much debate about how big that time constant is, but it’s not that long (otherwise how can we even attribute the recent temperature rise to human-generated CO2).

    Otherwise, if the Earth is close to equilibrium than it’s true that a new molecule of CO2 added today has logarithmically less influence than one added in 1870 (I know, I used the same broken language as Maley, but what’s the alternative? “inversely less influence”? Doesn’t parse for me.)

  68. Ian Gould
    December 22nd, 2007 at 07:39 | #68

    “Tens of millions of climate scientists now? This thing is far more out of control than I realized.”

    Virtually none of the 400 are climate scientists. Basically if you ever took a science class and ever said anything that could be interpreted as skeptic of AGW you make the list.

    If Inhofe can pull in mathematicians, geologists, horticulturalists and aeronautical engineers to bolster his side I figure its fair enough to do the same on the other side.

  69. John Greenfield
    December 22nd, 2007 at 08:06 | #69

    shorscada

    I could not agree more. Why, I was only yesterday saying exactly the same thing at my bridge club!

  70. Chris O’Neill
    December 23rd, 2007 at 03:59 | #70

    if the Earth is close to equilibrium than it’s true that a new molecule of CO2 added today has logarithmically less influence than one added in 1870

    280/385=0.73 of the influence. Couldn’t quite make out the logarithm function in that calculation.

    what’s the alternative?

    Something that’s not gibberish.

  71. observa
    December 24th, 2007 at 15:54 | #71

    “The scientific debate regarding global warming has been over for some time, and the Australian policy debate has moved beyond the point where delusional pseudoscience has any impact. What remains of the scientific debate is a screening device in which individuals and institutions identify themselves as so lacking in intelligence, judgement or honesty as to cast doubt on their contributions on any topic.”

    And we can’t have any of that now can we John?
    http://australianetwork.com/news/stories/asiapacific_stories_2124888.htm

  72. observa
    December 24th, 2007 at 23:21 | #72

    The silence is deafening isn’t it? But have no fear, our intrepid intellectual elites, those seekers of truth and scientific enquiry without fear or favour, are busy as I speak, organising their full page petitions in our national newspapers, to decry this jackboot of the new orthodoxy, crushing academic freedom. Have no fear mere mortals, that they will rally to the cause as they have done so bravely and forthrightly before.

  73. mugwump
    December 25th, 2007 at 03:08 | #73

    I said:

    if the Earth is close to equilibrium than it’s true that a new molecule of CO2 added today has logarithmically less influence than one added in 1870

    to which Chris O’Neil responded:

    280/385=0.73 of the influence. Couldn’t quite make out the logarithm function in that calculation.

    Then allow me to explain it to you Chris. All other things being equal (which they are not, but since the global hysteria is almost universally focused on CO2, we can ignore those “other things” for the purpose of this explanation), doubling CO2 adds a constant K per square meter of radiative forcing.

    This means the change in radiative forcing is given by

    F – F0 = K ln C/C0

    for some constant K and reference CO2 concentration C0. ln is natural log (easier to work with than log base 2, as we will see).

    So, suppose we add a molecule of CO2 in 1870. Then C0 = 280 and C = 280 + e where e is a really small number (the concentration increase due to one additional CO2 molecule). So

    F – F0 = K ln (280 + e)/280 = K ln (1 + e/280)

    Now, e is really tiny so we can use the linear approximation to ln(1 + x), which is just x (this is why we used natural log). So

    ΔF = Ke/280

    Current CO2 is C0=385ppm, so if we add one molecule of CO2 today C = 385 + e and the change in radiative forcing due to the extra molecule is

    F – F0 = K ln (385 + e)/385 = K ln (1 + e/385) = Ke/385

    So the difference in forcing increase is (Ke/385) / (Ke/280) = 280/385 = 0.73. That is, the CO2 molecule added today contributes only 73% of the additional radiative forcing than did a new CO2 molecule in 1870. It is true that the final ratio contains no logarithm, but the only way you get that answer is because CO2′s influence on radiative forcing is a logarithmic function of its concentration.

    I wouldn’t worry though Chris, 99.999% of the hysterical AGW advocates (Al Gore included, and probably Tim Flannery) don’t understand this stuff either.

  74. mugwump
    December 25th, 2007 at 03:18 | #74

    The CSIRO, the Australian Research Council and Cooperative Research Centres now have to have their media releases cleared by the PM’s office to make sure they reflect the new Federal Government’s key messages.

    The silence is indeed deafening, observa. Imagine how such a policy by the Howard government would have been received.

    I particularly enjoyed this bit:

    Mr Paterson says it is not an unusual move, and similar things happened under the previous government.

    So why the new directive if the policy was already in place?

    Labor never did shed their communist roots, did they? Unfortunately for them, they don’t control the internet, although they’ll no doubt try. Wait for the great firewall of Australia.

    Time to redouble climate-science debunking.

  75. Ian Gould
    December 25th, 2007 at 08:21 | #75

    “The silence is deafening isn’t it?”

    Yeah, it’s been a regular silent night.

    Personally, I’ve simply stopped wasting my time clicking on Observa’s links so I wasn’t aware of what caused the latest round of hysteria.

  76. observa
    December 26th, 2007 at 13:19 | #76

    Presumably the lack of hysteria is due to the impeccable timing of slipping it in under the Chrissy radar. No doubt our intellectual elites will not be fooled by such covert sleaze and will be organising their usual protests and full page petitions,etc, just as soon as they’re back at their desks.

  77. observa
    December 26th, 2007 at 13:44 | #77

    Or it may be mugwump, that quiet background gurgling sound now, is the jackboot of the new orthodoxy, thinly disguised as a Santa boot, ramming the sanctimonious prior utterings of the usual suspects, right back down their hypocritical throats. We’ll see from the response.

  78. Ian Gould
    December 26th, 2007 at 17:49 | #78

    “quiet background gurgling sound now, is the jackboot of the new orthodoxy, ”

    Yeah it’s back to torture chambers and government critics being disappeared in the middle of night – just like back during the Whitlam, Hawke and Keating years.

    Given your prominent role in opposing this tyranny, I’m surprised you haven’t fled the country yet.

    Or have you bravely decided to stay on waging a solitary battle for freedom even though it’ll inevitably lead to your torture and murder?

  79. Ian Gould
    December 26th, 2007 at 20:41 | #79

    Oh and Observa have you ever worked in as government Department.

    I worked in both Goss administrations; the Borbridge administration and the first two Beattie administrations.

    Every time there was an election – or even a reshuffle – there was a near-total revision of the government’s structural plan. Portfolios got shifted around willie-nillie. Departments got created, erged or absorbed.

    Hell even if the same Minister got re-appointed he or she would have a new commission from the Governor which required the re-issue of a pile of formal orders and delegations because the old commission was no longer valid.

    The internal structure of departments changed all the time too – senior positions got amalgamated, abaolished, downgraded etc.

    The one thing that remained constant was that ALL press releases from every Department and agency were vetted by the relevant Minister’s staff.

    So you can either keep fantasising about being a lone freedom fighter struggling under the jackboot of Garrett’s Gestapo (if you swing that way) or you can accept that this busy as normal.

    Oh and considering that the Howard government was supposedly (according ot the Murdoch media) forced to vet CSIRO press releases because of the radical green left propaganda constantly being spewed forthe by the crypt-Khmer Rouge Stalinist Gaaia-worshippers at CSIRO, you have to wonder why the current governemnt feels the need to do the same.

    Is it that the CSIRO bods aren’t extreme ENOUGH or is this going to be a repeat of the “Rudd hasn’t even STARTED handing our the cyanide pills yet so he can’t be serious about global warming” nonsense?

  80. observa
    December 26th, 2007 at 22:39 | #80

    “Oh and Observa have you ever worked in a government Department.”
    Certainly did for a couple of years after finishing an Eco degree and so I agree with your summation. I don’t have a strong objection to new Govts introducing their particular company line or flavour, but we need to be careful about all singing from the same hymn book, particularly where science and research are involved. For mine that was the simple gist of Barry Maley’s message and those who were so critical of what they saw as some apparent Howardian jackboot, would do well to heed it. In their rush to be free from their Howardian chains, they need to be mindful of not simply becoming Rudd’s poodles. They have certainly been shown the leash and collar now.

  81. mugwump
    December 27th, 2007 at 02:28 | #81

    Make all the excuses you like Ian Gould. They don’t change the hypocrisy. To quote the SMH:

    Under the old regime no such restrictions were placed on statutory organisations. Media releases were always sent to the relevant minister as a courtesy but never for vetting or approval, unless the minister in person was directly quoted.

    One former Liberal minister was taken aback when he heard of the directive. “They really are control freaks,” he said. He said it was not unusual in the past for the CSIRO, for example, to issue a release on climate change that “was contrary to our position … We just gritted out teeth and wore it.”

  82. Ken Miles
    December 27th, 2007 at 13:03 | #82

    I wouldn’t worry though Chris, 99.999% of the hysterical AGW advocates (Al Gore included, and probably Tim Flannery) don’t understand this stuff either.

    A bit rich coming from the person who didn’t realise that atmospheric carbon dioxide is a gas.

  83. Ender
    December 27th, 2007 at 18:57 | #83

    mugwump – “I wouldn’t worry though Chris, 99.999% of the hysterical AGW advocates (Al Gore included, and probably Tim Flannery) don’t understand this stuff either.”

    And neither do you properly. I suggest that you read Spencer Weart’s essays on the subject. It is not as obvious as this as the absorption of IR is dependent on pressure and water vapour content of the air.

  84. observa
    December 27th, 2007 at 22:53 | #84

    You lot didn’t appreciate just how much of a greenie I am now did you? http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,22978432-2682,00.html?from=public_rss
    Now if Ruddy can turn us all into public servants, preferably all in the PSU so we can all award ourselves those nice healthy ACT salaries, then we’ll have our Kyoto target licked in no time by the looks of things and not have to worry about food and petrol prices or housing affordability to boot. These things are all so simple when you sit down cooperatively and work them through together.

  85. mugwump
    December 28th, 2007 at 02:45 | #85

    Ken –

    A bit rich coming from the person who didn’t realise that atmospheric carbon dioxide is a gas

    What?

    And neither do you properly. I suggest that you read Spencer Weart’s essays on the subject. It is not as obvious as this as the absorption of IR is dependent on pressure and water vapour content of the air.

    Gee Ender, maybe that’s why I prefaced my calculation with “All other things being equal (which they are not, but since the global hysteria is almost universally focused on CO2, we can ignore those “other thingsâ€? for the purpose of this explanation)”.

    I find it interesting how greenies assume everyone else is at their IQ level.

  86. Ken Miles
    December 28th, 2007 at 15:21 | #86

    Mugs,

    The statement “There is no “plateauâ€?? What about the obvious one at 100%? Should we also guffaw at this technically false statement? Of course not.” is only true if you neglect that CO2 is a gas.

  87. mugwump
    December 28th, 2007 at 15:28 | #87

    Kenny,

    If we’re discussing what happens at 100% CO2 saturation, then you also have to consider extra leakage/ionization to space at higher pressures (or, equivalently, thicker atmosphere), and greater natural sequestration rates.

  88. Katz
    December 28th, 2007 at 15:40 | #88

    Surely the plateau is achieved when all the processes that make the compound CO2 stop.

    That stops when:

    1. the earth runs out of unfixed oxygen or carbon.

    or

    2. the processes that fix a carbon atom to two oxygen atoms cease.

    whichever comes first.

    A certain level of CO2 would kill all mammal life, including humans.

    At that point humans would stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere.

    At a certain point stromatolites would become the dominant terrestrial life form again, fixing carbon from the atmosphere and exhaling oxygen.

    The earth has seen this process before.

  89. Katz
    December 28th, 2007 at 15:46 | #89

    Should read:

    2. the processes that fix a carbon atom to two oxygen atoms cease to add CO2 to the atmosphere faster than it is broken down into its constituent parts–carbon and oxygen.

  90. Simonjm
    December 28th, 2007 at 16:33 | #90

    A Solar Grand Plan
    By 2050 solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions

    * A massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants could supply 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050.
    * A vast area of photovoltaic cells would have to be erected in the Southwest. Excess daytime energy would be stored as compressed air in underground caverns to be tapped during nighttime hours.
    * Large solar concentrator power plants would be built as well.
    * A new direct-current power transmission backbone would deliver solar electricity across the country.
    * But $420 billion in subsidies from 2011 to 2050 would be required to fund the infrastructure and make it cost-competitive.

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan

    Podcast
    http://www.sciam.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=F304542B-E7F2-70F7-E6CAEF1C8B401080

    With

    Solar cheaper than coal and falling
    New developments in solar power make ‘clean coal’ look even dumber

    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/12/23/2919/8613

    Now I wonder if we can think of a country that has plenty of open space with heaps of sunlight hitting it?

  91. observa
    December 30th, 2007 at 09:38 | #91

    Cheaper thin film CIGS solar panels sound great Simonjm, but I note there’s a fly in the ointment, particularly with the indium and gallium used http://www.science.org.au/nova/newscientist/027ns_005.htm

    Let’s talk about that other big fly in the ointment too. If we assume for one moment that the CFC air conditioned 10,000 at Bali had succeeded completely in turning the world into Al Gore disciples, the question for Australia is then how best to achieve our side of the bargain, assuming it’s that agreed nirvana of 60% reductions by 2050. MRETs and direct quantity controls aside for one moment, the broad brush solution (impetus) largely comes down to a choice between cap and trade, or a straight out carbon tax. In fact Kyoto signatories to date have largely relied on C&T and Australians are being cajoled into doing the same. Which should we choose?

    The carbon tax is easy. Do you fancy a new constitutional marketplace, where all taxation is based on carbon taxing? No more GST, payroll tax, stamp duties, income tax, etc, just pay as you emit(or more administratively sensibly as you extract at the mine or well head). That level of carbon taxing (ie the level needed to pay for all current govt expenditure purposes) is the maximum theoretical carbon tax we could pay. It can be easily quantified and the relative prices of such things as electricity and petrol calculated in the new constitutional marketplace it produces. In fact we should have done the sums by now, or certainly must for the Garnaut report. Well hang on a minute O meboy, that’s all a bit radical. We might be paying $5,6,7/litre for petrol and paying our electricity bills weekly like GST or PAYG tax and they could be pretty ugly, albeit we’d have our gross pay in our hands and prices of goods and services(not food) drop by one eleventh to compensate somewhat.

    So you think that’s all a bit drastic do you? Well if you do, you might have to consider that the alternative proposal of C&T might see you paying all of that to the new lucky corporate entities awarded the emission rights, plus the level of current taxation you already pay. The C&T fans can’t tell you what level of tax (actually economic rent) you’ll be paying to the China Investment Corps, or Macquarie Banks or whoever owns the emission rights in future. That’s because they don’t know what the theoretical maximum carbon price will be, when those caps are only 40% of what they are today. They’re really in blue sky country here, unlike any maximum theoretical carbon tax that you could pay to govt for the communal goodies you’ve come to expect. As such C&T is a potentially huge, unknown price gamble and should be rejected outright in preference to a finite carbon tax in the right hands. We should not give away the right to blue sky taxation to anyone other than our governments over whom we have democratic control. C&T is asking us to do just that and as such should be flatly rejected.

    As an aside here I should qualify the definition of C&T we’re talking about. It’s the giving away, or one off auction of emission caps to large emitters(although the latter will be a defacto carbon tax immediately). There is another way of overcoming that shortcoming (largely the information gap for players) and that is to have annual licensing of a reducing cap, which really becomes a tax anyway. It’s possible for the govt to issue a right to emit 1 tonne of CO2 pa, reducing by 2% pa over 30 years, which is tradeable between holders, but has an annual license fee attached, whereby the ownership effectively remains in communal hands. However it’s easy to see how this effectively becomes a carbon tax with an upper limit of the total need to fund the desired level of govt expenditure. It simply leads you back full circle to carbon taxing in the first place, presumably with offsetting tax cuts elsewhere

  92. Ken Miles
    December 30th, 2007 at 14:42 | #92

    If we’re discussing what happens at 100% CO2 saturation, then you also have to consider extra leakage/ionization to space at higher pressures (or, equivalently, thicker atmosphere), and greater natural sequestration rates.

    Nice try at weaseling out of your error.

    You do realise that your reasons are reasons why 100% CO2 saturation won’t be possible, not why real climate is wrong.

    I’m also guessing that you don’t realise that if you increase the pressure to the point where the change in leakage to space becomes important, then band broadening will increase the effect of CO2.

  93. mugwump
    December 30th, 2007 at 15:19 | #93

    No weasel or error here, Kenny. Realclimate stated that the radiative forcing increases by 4W per square meter for each doubling of CO2. That’s obviously wrong once you get enough CO2 in the atmosphere.

    It also doesn’t matter that their statement is wrong, because for all practical situations they are correct, just as Maley’s explanation is good enough for practical purposes.

  94. Ken Miles
    January 2nd, 2008 at 13:36 | #94

    For people who understand what a log is, Maley’s statement is mathematical gibberish. For people who don’t understand what a log is, it’s gibberish. Given that his next statement about the IPCC not realising this is completely false, the most charitably thing is to assume that Maley simply has no clue about what he is talking about.

  95. Chris O’Neill
    January 18th, 2008 at 23:20 | #95

    ΔF = Ke/280

    So the derivative of the logarithm function is the inverse function. I would never have known if mugwump hadn’t shown it. I still can’t see the logarithm function in 1/x. Maybe I should say that the linear function is actually quadratic. mugwump might even bless us with a lesson that the derivative of the quadratic is linear.

    “inversely less influence�? Doesn’t parse for me

    while apparently,

    logarithmically less influence

    does parse. Must be the “defending the indefensible” parsing machine.

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