Home > Environment, Science > Science and antiscience, part 2

Science and antiscience, part 2

January 2nd, 2008

All discussion threads eventually wander way off-topic if they are left to run long enough, and that’s certainly happened with my last post on the peppered moth controversy. At Crooked Timber, the debate was mainly about the role of experts and drifted into debate and meta-debate about Iraq and WMDs. On this blog, it’s got even odder, into a discussion of the well-known rightwing talking point “environmentalism is a religion”. A couple of links back to the original post have been missed though.

First up, it’s important to note that the “environmentalism is a religion” gambit is straight out of the creationist playbook. Creationists have long argued that evolution is not a scientific theory but part of a religion of “secular humanism”.

Second, the peppered moth controversy has an exact parallel in the global warming debate, the dispute over the hockey stick graph showing global temperatures at their warmest level for the past thousand years. As with the peppered moth

a striking, though minor, scientific finding, was used to illustrate a well-established scientific theory, and becomes the target of those opposed to the theory, and to science in general, for political or religious reasons. Minor errors in and procedural criticisms of the work supporting the finding are conflated into accusations of fraudulent conspiracy that are then used to attack the theory as a whole. Distorted versions of the whole story circulate around the parallel universe of antiscientific thinktanks, blogs and commentators, rapidly being taken as established fact.

Since it was first produced, the hockey stick finding has been repeatedly replicated, and supported by a study of the National Academy of Sciences. The remaining area of serious dispute concerns the degree of confidence in the reconstruction of medieval temperatures and the inference that the late 20th century was the warmest period in the last 1000 years. The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report calls this conclusion “likely” (66 to 90 per cent), while the National Academy of Sciences says “plausible” (around 66 per cent).

On the other side, the critics have followed the creationist strategy exactly, turning minor criticisms and quibbles into claims of fraud. They even held their own inquiry, set up by Republican Congressman Joe Barton, and run by statistician Edward Wegman. I had my say on Wegman’s silly attempt at social network analysis at the time.

If there was any remaining doubt about Wegman, it’s been removed by his signature on this open letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, which pushes an extreme delusionist point of view, including the claim that “there has been no net global warming since 1998″. As Tim Lambert points out, this is a disgraceful piece of cherrypicking, based on the fact that 1998 was an exceptionally warm El Nino year. Most of the signatories to the letter are sufficiently ignorant of statistics that they might not realise how ludicrous a claim this is, but Wegman has no such excuse . Clearly his statistical expertise goes out the window when he writes on this topic. And of course, any claim to independence he might have is shot to pieces now.

A mildly interesting fact about the letter is that while one of the leading hockey stick critics (Ross McKitrick) signed it, the other (Stephen McIntyre) did not. Maybe he wasn’t asked or doesn’t like open letters. But perhaps he realises that it is rather silly to hang your credibility on a claim which is unlikely to survive the next El Nino cycle.

Categories: Environment, Science Tags:
  1. mugwump
    January 3rd, 2008 at 00:55 | #1

    But perhaps he [McIntyre] realises that it is rather silly to hang your credibility on a claim which is unlikely to survive the next El Nino cycle.

    I think you’re probably right. As the one who thoroughly debunked the hockeystick, McIntyre’s credibility is very strong, much stronger than the realclimate charlatans heading up the IPCC.

    The remaining area of serious dispute concerns the degree of confidence in the reconstruction of medieval temperatures and the inference that the late 20th century was the warmest period in the last 1000 years.

    That was always the area of dispute, and it has now been definitively established that the hockeystick studies provide no such confidence, despite their being placed front and center by the IPCC and Al Gore. Google “divergence problem” hockeystick

    For someone who supposedly considers all skeptical argument settled and unworthy of debate, the lady sure doth keep protesting.

  2. Sinclair Davidson
    January 3rd, 2008 at 07:25 | #2

    the “environmentalism is a religion� gambit is straight out of the creationist playbook

    This is preaching to the choir. You don’t have to be a ‘creationists’ to think environmentalism has religious overtones. Some atheists think so too.

  3. January 3rd, 2008 at 07:50 | #3

    Sinclair is right John.

    Trying to label anyone a creationist simply because they may believe in global warming but refuse to believe the world will end in 2034 makes no sense.

    I would have thought it would be more appropriate to say “deep green environmentalism is a religion” is out of the sceptics playbook.

    The statement also overlooks the fact that many creationists are actually deep green themselves given the very nature of the creationist argument.

  4. January 3rd, 2008 at 08:29 | #4

    And the deep green environmentalists share with the deep Christian creationists a fascination with prophecies about human sin bringing disastrous end to the world.

  5. jquiggin
    January 3rd, 2008 at 11:52 | #5

    Of course, almost anything can be the subject of religious devotion and lots of things have been. The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats, I believe. But that doesn’t make cat-loving a religion. Similarly, even if some people worship the environment, that doesn’t make environmentalism, in the usual sense of the term, a religion.

    On the more general point, all forms of anti-science and pseudo-science, including creationism, AIDS reappraisal, passive smoking delusionism and global warming delusionism are essentially similar in their methodological approach (advocacy based on wishful thinking) and in their rhetorical strategies (cherry picking, quote mining, talking point whack-a-mole and so on). It just happens, that, in Australia, there’s not much wishful thinking about creationism. If there were the political right would have embraced it, as they have in the US.

  6. January 3rd, 2008 at 12:57 | #6

    You could have added socialism to that list. :-)

  7. January 3rd, 2008 at 13:01 | #7

    By the way John I read the Quadrant article by Henry Ergas (thanks to Catallaxy for the link) and he seems to have done what seems like a quite successful demolition on an argument of yours. However to be fair I would like to read the original paper by you. Is it available online anywhere?


  8. silkworm
    January 3rd, 2008 at 13:10 | #8

    “And the deep green environmentalists share with the deep Christian creationists a fascination with prophecies about human sin bringing disastrous end to the world.”

    Terje has told us he is an atheist, so while this little piece of anti-environmental propaganda appears to be anti-religiously motivated, it cannot be said to come straight out of the creationist playbook.

    But it is still cynically using religion as a talking point when no such point exists. It comes instead from the oil and coal companies’ playbook.

  9. January 3rd, 2008 at 13:15 | #9

    Sorry but I’m actually an entirely independent trouble maker. A third force if you like. Although on occasion I get together with God and the oil companies at the local pub and we trade war stories. ;-)

  10. silkworm
    January 3rd, 2008 at 13:25 | #10

    Terje, why make trouble at the expense of society and the environment? Are you a sociopath?

  11. jquiggin
    January 3rd, 2008 at 13:34 | #11

    #7 I’ll reply on this, with links, when I get a free moment.

  12. jquiggin
    January 3rd, 2008 at 13:42 | #12

    People can make religions about almost anything, and have done so about many things. The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats, I believe, but that doesn’t make cat-loving a religion. Similarly, the fact that some people make a religion out of the environment doesn’t make environmentalism a religion.

    I’ve dealt with a number of anti-science movements including creationism, passive smoking delusionism (largely motivated by what I’d regard as a mistaken libertarian analysis), global warming delusionism (ditto, plus coal and oil money until recently) and the DDT-as-banned-panacea push (started by unemployed tobacco hacks, but taken up by anti-environmentalists in general). They all have the same methodological approach, advocacy for a predetermined position based on wishful thinking. And they all use essentially the same methods including cherrypicking, quote mining, whack-a-mole talking points, and conspiracy theories about why the scientific establishment rejects their views.

  13. January 3rd, 2008 at 13:45 | #13

    Similarly, even if some people worship the environment, that doesn’t make environmentalism, in the usual sense of the term, a religion.

    It all hinges on what you mean by “usual sense of the term”. Of course the term religion can be applied in a petty manner and I’m probably sometimes guilty of doing so. However there is in my view no doubting that environmentalism is an organised system of beliefs and values. That does not mean that rational arguments and ideas don’t underpin some of the beliefs but like most such systems some people within it will at times become doctrinaire and dogmatic and sometimes just plain dopey. And if enough people do this then the movement as a whole suffers. The ism that I tend to tavel under sometimes suffers the same fault and sometimes recieves the same criticism.

    I do think that the environment is self evidently important because it is where we live. Likewise I do think that the environmental sciences are important. My frustration is more with the fashions, priorities and naive solutions that wash over the movement all too frequently.

    And whilst I don’t call myself a Christian I still value the notion of brotherly love, compassion and forgiveness. Plus I like some of the songs and stories.

    The definitions touted by some in regards to both Christ and Enviromentalist are broad enough that I could assume either label if I really wanted to. However we all pick and choose labels in order to build and project the identity that we think makes the clearest statement about which ideas we stand with and which ideas we stand apart from and unfortunately under every flag there are some good ideas and some less good ideas. I reject the Christian tag because I’m an athiest but I know athiests that are commited Christians. And I reject the Environmentalist tag because I find many within the leadership of the movement too authoritarian in their outlook.

  14. January 3rd, 2008 at 13:47 | #14

    p.s. By reject I mean I don’t apply them to myself.

  15. silkworm
    January 3rd, 2008 at 13:53 | #15

    “I know atheists that are committed Christians.”

    This is complete and utter balderdash.

  16. January 3rd, 2008 at 14:31 | #16

    No it is not. My father inlaw has been calling himself a Christian as long as I have known him, he went to church every week for years, played the organ frequently for the church and did not believe in any deity and frequently said so. For him a Christian is somebody that follows the teachings of Christ and lives within a community of Christians. And a lot of self described Christians take this view even if they are not the majority.

    I got married in a church (Uniting) and I had a private meeting with the minister several months before hand and I had a long detailed explicit discussion with him about my beliefs and he was fine with it and saw no incompatibility with his theology. God was not a keystone for him.

    However such people don’t generally assume the atheist tag for themselves. Even though they don’t believe in a deity. Most likely because in their mind the atheist tag imports other baggage and creates a wedge between them and other Christians.

    And just for fun a quick google throws up things like this:-


  17. mugwump
    January 3rd, 2008 at 14:59 | #17

    They all have the same methodological approach, advocacy for a predetermined position based on wishful thinking. And they all use essentially the same methods including cherrypicking, quote mining, whack-a-mole talking points, and conspiracy theories about why the scientific conservative establishment rejects their views.

    Sounds like the majority of your opinion pieces JQ.

  18. January 3rd, 2008 at 15:09 | #18

    Silkworms’s response, poor old Terje is apparently a sociopath, reminds me of American puritanical movements of the 17th century…perhaps Terje you should wear a Scarlet D for “denialist” on your shirt.

  19. Stephen L
    January 3rd, 2008 at 16:14 | #19

    Terje, your point about environmentalism being an organised system of belief and values whose supporters sometimes become dogmatic or dopey is fair enough.

    However, I’ve almost never seen it used like that. What one sees, over and over again, is people denying rigorous scientific evidence endorsed by the best scientists in the field on the basis that “environmentalism is a religion” and therefore anything supporting environmentalism can’t possibly be based on sound science.

  20. SJ
    January 3rd, 2008 at 16:38 | #20

    Terje Says:

    …I know athiests that are commited Christians

    The conventional term for this is the one John used: “secular humanist”. It’s a practical philosophy that doesn’t require an unsupportable belief in a supernatural deity.

    Denialism and libertarianism, on the other hand, require belief in things that can’t be proved, and in fact require that all contrary evidence be ignored. At least with religion, there’s no substantial body of evidence pointing to the non-existence of a god.

  21. January 3rd, 2008 at 17:17 | #21

    I accept the term secular humanist in this context but some people none the less prefer to call themselves Christians. I don’t share their view but I do observe it.

    You are in some ways right about libertarianism. Libertarianism is in a large part normative. In this regard it is not really something that can be proved or disproved but is merely an expression of a specific preference which is to have freedom and to be free. It is also typically an assertion of self ownership and an affirmation of the idea that others don’t have any claim upon your life or the fruits of your efforts without your consent and that you have no such claim on the lives of others. However the assertion that such individual freedom leads to X or Y or Z is a belief that can stand or fall based on evidence. However the belief that a society guided by libertarian principles can in general function and produce good results is not really lacking in evidence.

    Denial is a state of being. People who are in denial don’t believe they are in denial so I can’t see anybody adopting the term denialist for themselves and using it as a rallying point. I’m not expecting the Australian Denialist Society to spring into being any time soon.

  22. SJ
    January 3rd, 2008 at 18:37 | #22

    I’m not expecting the Australian Denialist Society to spring into being any time soon.

    Of course not. They’d call themselves something like, oh, let’s say the “Lavoisier Group”, rather than the more appropriate term “Kirwan Group”.

  23. SJ
    January 3rd, 2008 at 18:42 | #23

    However the belief that a society guided by libertarian principles can in general function and produce good results is not really lacking in evidence.

    This just gives me another opportunity to link to one of my most favorite blog posts ever:

    Now, everyone close your eyes and try to imagine a private, profit-making rights-enforcement organization which does not resemble the mafia, a street gang, those pesky fire-fighters/arsonists/looters who used to provide such “services” in old New York and Tokyo, medieval tax-farmers, or a Lendu militia. (In general, if thoughts of the Eastern Congo intrude, I suggest waving them away with the invisible hand and repeating “that’s anarcho-capitalism” several times.) Nothing’s happening but a buzzing noise, right?

    Now try it the wishful thinking way. Just wish that we might all live in a state of perfect liberty, free of taxation and intrusive government, and that we should all be wealthier as well as freer. Now wish that people should, despite that lack of any restraint on their actions such as might be formed by policemen, functioning law courts, the SEC, and so on, not spend all their time screwing each other in predictable ways ranging from ordinary rape, through the selling of fraudulent stocks in non-existent ventures, up to the wholesale dumping of mercury in the public water supplies. (I mean, the general stock of water from which people privately draw.) Awesome huh? But it gets better. Now wish that everyone had a pony.

  24. January 3rd, 2008 at 22:04 | #24

    I’m glad it brings you joy.

  25. observa
    January 4th, 2008 at 00:35 | #25

    Environmentalism becomes religion when you’re so evangelistic about latching on to GW for your impotence on past environmental sins, that you become blind to any rational sense of direction in the here and now. It’s more important, nay imperative, to root out sinners(continue making the community more aware)than it is to lead the flock on to the path of righteousness in any considered and sensible way. Hence the pomp, ceremony and trappings of signing Kyoto becomes more important than real moral leadership. The new crusaders with their bumper stickers, badges and banners, all singing halleleujah, whilst they go into complete denial about the effects of 60% reductions in fossil fuels, in a society built on crude. Only 1% of growth to be sacrificed because God is with us all now apparently. Well if not exactly God, then their new Moses, just as soon as Garnaut ascends the mount for their divine instructions.

  26. observa
    January 4th, 2008 at 01:16 | #26

    Meanwhile we can speculate while waiting for Garnaut-

    I am the Lord Gaia

    You shall have no other Gods before me

    You shall not make wrongful use of the name Gaia, nor uranium for that matter

    Remember Kyoto and keep it Holy

    Honour Father Gaia and Mother Earth

    You shall not kill whales

    You shall not commit adultery but a bit of pillow biting is OK

    You shall not steal emission permits

    You shall not bear false witness against GW

    You shall not covet your neighbours carbon offsets.

    You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife’s subsidised Prius

  27. melanie
    January 4th, 2008 at 10:09 | #27

    Forget environmentalism. There are plenty of Americans who think that science itself is just another form of religion. “belief” in the theory of evolution = “faith”.

    The American Enterprise Institute has just given our ex-Prime Minister an award for helping to blur the distinction between truth and fiction.

    Changing the subject slightly. An ‘atheist Christian’ is presumably somebody who refers to a wider cultural heritage rather than to an interpretation of a book or to any of the organized churches. Otherwise there is no sense in the notion. Given the large variety of christianities, however, one can’t help wondering if the cultural heritage in question actually derives from the religion or from something else entirely.

  28. Hal9000
    January 4th, 2008 at 11:08 | #28

    Terje @ #13… a thoughtful contribution. The sillier excesses of ‘environmentalism’ in my view arise at the intersection of environmental issues with other sets of beliefs or attitudes held by individuals who would call themselves environmentalists.

    For example, I recall how back in the drought of the 1980s the NT government initiated a program to cull, by aerial shooting, horses and other feral species. The animals concerned were starving and were clustered around remanining waterholes, making it possible to significantly reduce numbers by shooting. The program was halted by pressure from animal liberationists on the EU to stop importation of agricultural products from Australia on the grounds that shooting was cruel. A misleading video was cirulated showing dead horses and also incidents where animals required 2 shots to kill them. Of course, the NT government’s program was initiated for sound environmental reasons – horses cause massive environmental damage in the Territory’s tropical savannah and there is no practical alternative to shooting that would not also destroy native species, some of which face extinction from the damage caused inter alia by feral horses.

    My recollection is that, while some leaders of environmental lobby groups supported the NT government, most were silent – presumably on the pragmatic grounds that animal liberationists join in many environmental causes eg anti-whaling. This was a disappointing abandonment of consistency and principle, but the curious thing is that while such pragmatic compromise would be lauded by the opinion leaders of the right in a John Howard, it is seemingly unconscionable in environmentalists.

    Similarly, NIMBY-ism and environmentalism often walk hand-in-hand, but have no necessary connection. Nonetheless, I note the right is happy to embrace NIMBY causes it likes – such as opposition to construction of a mosque in western Sydney – but would be aghast at an local opposition to construction of a shopping mall, detention facility or aluminium refinery.

    Which brings us back to the environmentalism-as-religion debate. My point is that while ever the secular right is happy to embrace bizarre religious nuttery of the Christian Zionist/Rapture variety, the attack on environmentalism as religion is easily exposed as the arid union-night debating point it is. The real subtext of such attacks is an assault not on the irrationality of religious belief (because this would alienate much of the conservative electorate who treasure such beliefs) but instead a veiled attempt to discredit environmentalism as heresy against accepted dogma.

    The recent intrusions of the mediaeval throwback Cardinal Pell into the global warming debate are instructive here in terms of the intellectual underpinnings of anti-environmentalism.

  29. Simonjm
    January 4th, 2008 at 13:41 | #29

    Some time ago I thought all atheists would be environmentalists as the foundation of many of the key environmental concerns come from science. I was quickly corrected by Libertarian atheists who while they had great fun mocking the Creationist who ignored the scientific evidence, they couldn’t see that they themselves did the same for science that concerned anything regarding humanities detrimental impact on the global environment. Penn and Teller sum this sort of attitude up.
    While I have come across some moderate Libertarians who may acknowledge individual cases of environmental harm caused humanity e.g. the ozone hole, most seem to have trouble accepting the general concept of adverse global impacts by humanity.

    While I did at the time say to these atheist Libertarians that they were behaving just like Creationists I don’t see it because it is some sort of religion, rather it is a life stance that creates a cognitive bias /filter the excludes anything that contradicts that life-stance. They have set their confirmation bias bar way too high.
    Many extreme environmentalists probably suffer from the same problem, but given the scientific foundations for many of the general claims most are pretty well on the money.
    BTW an atheist Christian can be a religious humanist with no problems concerning contradictions.

  30. January 4th, 2008 at 18:13 | #30

    I’m an athiest libertarian. I accept the evidence of global warming. I accept that human activity is quite possibly the cause. I’m okay with a revenue neutral carbon tax as a risk mitigation strategy (and said so publicly as a senate candidate at the last election). I don’t generally call myself an environmentalist. I don’t think I’m anything like a creationist.

  31. January 4th, 2008 at 18:15 | #31

    p.s. Penn & Teller are brilliant. Watch them on Youtube frequently.

  32. SJ
    January 4th, 2008 at 23:43 | #32

    Terje, you apply labels to yourself and to others in ways that are meaningless.

    Just as you described your father in law as being simultaneously a “Christian” and an “atheist”, you describe yourself as being a “libertarian” who favors a “carbon tax”.

    These aren’t just minor inconsistencies, they’re major hurdles for anybody trying to understand what you’re saying.

    It’s a case of either:

    a) you don’t understand the things you talk about, or

    b) nothing you say can be trusted, because you deliberately use terms deceptively.

    I tend to think (a) is the case, but (b) can’t be discounted.

  33. January 5th, 2008 at 00:21 | #33

    There is nothing inconsistent with being a libertarian and favouring a carbon tax over income tax or as an alternative to the existing comparatively narrow fuel tax. Given two things that you don’t like you choose the one that you dislike the least. It does not entail any contradiction.

    The option you missed is:-

    c) you don’t understand the things I talk about.

    You might have a better chance if you engaged more often and disparaged less often.

  34. SJ
    January 5th, 2008 at 00:55 | #34

    Terje Says:

    The option you missed is:-

    c) you don’t understand the things I talk about.

    Well, no, see, I kinda explicitly stated that I (and possibly others) could not possibly understand what you’re saying, because of the simple fact that you don’t understand the commonly accepted meanings of the words you use.

    I’ve pointed out before that you don’t understand some pretty basic terms in electrical engineering, the only field you have a qualification in.

    There’s absolutely no reason for me to suppose that you have some higher understanding of fields that you aren’t qualified in.

  35. January 5th, 2008 at 01:39 | #35

    … because of the simple fact that you don’t understand the commonly accepted meanings of the words you use.

    In so far as you are referring to my comment about Atheist Christians if you go back and look you will see that I was NOT referring to “commonly accepted meanings”. I opened that comment by saying:-

    It all hinges on what you mean by “usual sense of the term�.

    And then went on to explain that words take on different meanings and import different notions for different audiences and that people pick and choose labels for themselves based on the meanings they subscribe to. The specific reference I made to Atheist Christians was:-

    I reject the Christian tag because I’m an atheist but I know atheists that are committed Christians.

    In other words in spite of identifying with aspects of Christian culture and Christian values I personally don’t call myself a Christian because I personally would find it at odds with the common understanding of the term and the fact that I am an Atheist. The fact that some people that are Atheists choose to use words in an “uncommon” way was the whole point I was making.

    In any case it seems that not everybody has such difficulty understanding me.

    Terje @ #13… a thoughtful contribution.

  36. mugwump
    January 5th, 2008 at 04:23 | #36

    I understood Terje. But then I am also an atheist libertarian.

  37. jquiggin
    January 5th, 2008 at 05:49 | #37

    Penn & Teller have been completely suckered (or are suckering their audience) on passive smoking, which is a pretty good litmus test. Anyone who seriously believes that cigarette smoke ceases to be dangerous because you’re getting it second hand must be a complete fool.

    The alternative, as noted above, is a way of thinking in which you demand an absurdly high standard of proof for any proposition you find inconvenient for political or religious reasons. So, it’s not that they actually believe the silly claim that passive smoking is different, but they want to disregard all the evidence on the effects of active smoking and start again with a presumption of innocence. Once you take this position, you can attack the evidence in the standard creationist fashion.

    As we saw here a while back, some deep greens do much the same on GM foods. But that doesn’t help Penn and Teller.

  38. January 5th, 2008 at 07:57 | #38


    Penn Jillette has publicly stated that they were wrong about passive smoking.


  39. observa
    January 5th, 2008 at 09:21 | #39

    Environmentalism becomes religion when you suspend rational policies and engage in ritual symbolism. The Rudd govt did that at Bali, with its backslapping and metoo support of failed Kyoto cap and trade, when it should have taken the opportunity to ask all countries to consider some form of level playing field carbon tax, to get the ball really rolling. Instead we now wait for Garnaut to rubber stamp C&T and the handing of blue sky taxation to big corporates and finacial sharps. In the meantime Iemma handballs his power assets, while in SA the govt introduce a solar feed-in scheme, on top of the Feds $8000 grants and REC credits. Basically, outsource the future whipping boy and hand out middle class welfare, all the while bemoaning the price of petrol for struggletown. Big Biz is ripping you off at the pump they cry, although the US Big 3 oil producers, suffered an 8.5% slump in profits for the first 3 quarters of 2007 and Caltex in Oz has downgraded its profit forecast for the year also. In Britain, Brown has recognised the writing on the wall and is now ramping up nukes, while in Oz we’re still waiting for Garnaut apparently. It’s the hypocrisy and middle class welfarism of the new environmental evangelists, that denotes religious fervour and the suspension of rational debate here. It’s more important to hunt down the last GW heretic than actually do anything half intelligent with an obvious mandate before them. Still stuck in ‘making the community more aware’ mode, to produce anything remotely rational or productive in terms of outcomes.

  40. melanie
    January 5th, 2008 at 12:22 | #40

    Simonjim @29, atheist Christian can be a religious humanist

    Not sure that I get this. ‘Christian’ has what precise meaning in this context?

  41. observa
    January 5th, 2008 at 23:13 | #41

    Yeah, this guy pretty well nails the New Mass

  42. observa
    January 6th, 2008 at 00:59 | #42

    Well I’ve come independently to exactly the same conclusion as Mr O’Brien, although being more clued up and closer to the problem, he was way ahead of me. This is the sort of scenario we will all have to adapt to by the looks of things
    which means as the Mogambo Guru is wont to say- ‘We’re all freaking doomed!’

  43. observa
    January 6th, 2008 at 01:39 | #43

    And in case you were all wondering who the hell the freaking Guru is and why he’s not remotely interested in any of this, well I’ll let him make his own apologies for being otherwise preoccupied-

  44. jquiggin
    January 6th, 2008 at 02:20 | #44

    Observa linking to a random sample of people who say something critical of Kyoto doesn’t help discussion here in any way, except to indicate that you’re grasping at straws, as you have been for a long time. If you want to debate the points raised in the post do so. Repeating, without adjustment, arguments that have already been refuted doesn’t work.

  45. observa
    January 6th, 2008 at 09:28 | #45

    I certainly believe Kyoto’s cap and trade ‘solution’ has been soundly refuted by now John, but that doesn’t seem to stop the religious converts. Do these Sustainabilty Commissions sprouting up everywhere, really believe they can cut ’2006 emission levels by 90% by 2050′ and the like? What would these state superintendents of schools and education revolutions do if the power companies don’t meet their targets? Say like the SAs in a heat wave, or the Marylands in a cold snap-
    Excuse me chaps, we’ve noticed you’ve exceeded your cap by 10% this month.
    Yeah well with this weather, it looks like we’ll do the same next month teach. What’s the fine so we can tack it on their bills, or failing that, which 20% of next month do you want us to shut down the turbines boofhead?

  46. Pinguthepenguin
    January 6th, 2008 at 09:54 | #46

    Terje at #7, the paper that Ergas was responding to was this one:

    I found when I read both side by side that Ergas’ main failing was that he couldn’t help but go “nya nya your mother wears army boots”…or something. The number of time he mentioned that the original article was “unclear” or that it called for MASSIVE government expansion just makes him look a bit hysterical. Or perhaps like he has a chip on his shoulder.

    Which is a pity because he made some very good points that I’d like to see JQ rebut.

  47. observa
    January 6th, 2008 at 22:48 | #47

    Apart from the gaming and general failure of Kyoto type C&T policy to date, here’s another key point the director of Open Europe, the London think tank makes-

    Neil O’Brien: Well, I mean one of the interesting things is you have all these different potential policy tools to try and reduce emissions. And the natural inclination of policymakers is to try a bit of everything, but you can’t really do that with cap and trade. I mean the whole point of it is that you are supposed to be letting the market operate in a free way with no distortions. The government are not trying to pick winners and you’re letting the market decide where the cost effective way to reduce the emissions are. Fair enough in theory. But, of course, what policymakers then do is they couple that with a whole bunch of other policies. But that’s just incoherent because if you’re subsidizing for example solar power or wind power or so on, and you also have a cap and trade system at the same time, then all you’re really doing is paying to reduce the cost of carbon in the system. Really you’re kind of pushing and pulling at the same time and you’re paying a lot of money, but not actually getting anywhere. So I think the policymakers and people who are sort of superficially attracted to cap and trade should think quite long and hard about what it really means. And you can’t coherently run it with all the other environmental policies that are currently in train.

    Now that’s exactly my point about the example of the SA Govt’s proposed solar feed-in scheme, where they will force power providers to pay 44c/kw hr for solar to the grid from domestic users Notice, not wind power from rural dwellers or solar from commercial/industrial users and you may well ask why not, as this Hansard exchange between the Labor Energy Minister Conlon and his Lib counterpart Williams elicits here
    Skip read the usual politicking and see the valid concerns Williams raises and how Conlon pooh poohs it all, basically to justify middle class welfare and pandering to the feel goods. But note O’Brien’s message, that the only way the SA Govt get away with it, is because they’re overlaying the cost transfer to struggletown’s bills, because of the Fed’s prior generosity with scarce taxes. Basically the $8000 solar rebate and RECs already being maximised and touted by the industry here
    Bear in mind here, my all electric household pays 7c/kwhr for off peak hot water(about 31% of the total) up to 16.75c/kwhr peak now. One years billing shows we used 9840kw at an average of 27kwhr/day at an average price of 15.3c/kwhr, $1504 in all. Solar is totally uneconomic, but with the Feds and SA govt overlay, I’ll be spending about $17k (as soon as the feed in law is ratified) to earn a riskless 10% return after tax effectively. Guess who subsidises my shiny new green credentials? As O’Brien points out, all this mish mash of feelgood, overlayed on C&T and very soon noone will know what’s what and just who’s paying the piper and whose fault will that be? Then on top of that the C&Ters will no doubt hand out, effectively blue sky taxing powers, to big biz and the financial sharps, because they’re too gutless to tell it like it is and have transparent, level playing field, carbon taxing, with tax cuts for low income earners if they so desire. Their religious fervour is blinding them to some very uncomfortable truths here, but have no fear, I will stick my snout into every middle class trough they dish up, with a wry shrug of the shoulders.

    Tell me John, do you really believe we should repeat the naive sins of our forebears and hand out those emission caps like MD water allocations? If you do you’ve lost me completely.

  48. observa
    January 6th, 2008 at 22:51 | #48

    Woops! For the Conlon/Williams exchange scroll down to Downloads and choose Hansard 26th Sept.

  49. Ian Gould
    January 6th, 2008 at 23:57 | #49

    “However there is in my view no doubting that environmentalism is an organised system of beliefs and values.”

    Riiight – that’s why it has no single doctrinal text and why the majority of the people who self-describe as environmentalists aren’t part of any environmentalist group.

  50. Ian Gould
    January 7th, 2008 at 00:03 | #50

    “Penn Jillette has publicly stated that they were wrong about passive smoking.”

    How about slandering the Dalai Lama, have they apologised for that?

  51. jquiggin
    January 7th, 2008 at 02:38 | #51

    Penn Jillette retraction – OK I won’t make this point against P&T again. I hope that, having seen through the antiscience spin on passive smoking they soon do the same regarding AGW.

    Observa, I’ve written on free handouts of emission caps in the past. My view is that the ideal policy would be auctioning all permits, but if the political economy requires some giveaways they should be
    (i) less than 50 per cent of previous emissions
    (ii) time-limited

  52. observa
    January 7th, 2008 at 07:54 | #52

    I must confess John to being confounded as to what C&T really consists of here, although by its effectiveness to date, not very much worth speaking of. Perhaps you’d like to post on your ideal for Australia for some light, because I have a strong feeling I’m not alone.

    You talk about auctioning permits and time limiting them, presumably for the information problem for the players as well as the ownership of the economic rent problem longer term. Wouldn’t those concerns be simply addressed by licensing reducing annual permits that are freely tradeable. ie a one tonne emission right that reduces by say 2% pa until it reduces to 0.4 tonne after 30 years. That leaves the annual licence fee in the hands of govt and it can be ramped up as the political economy requires, as you say. Basically all economic rent could ultimately be extracted over time, getting around the information problem and providing some planned certainty of price path for players. In that respect we all pay our driver’s licence or rego now with no guarantee as to what the price will be next renewal, albeit they’re not tradable, like taxi plates. Licensing our emission caps this way, also means we have no concern about the permits being traded offshore, as the economic rent stays at home in perpetuity, or am I missing something here? Whilst capping electricity emitters is simple, I’m fuzzy as to how it works with transport fuels. C&T for fuel refiners and distributors and importers or servos?

  53. Simonjm
    January 7th, 2008 at 12:43 | #53

    Melanie Simply put they follow the positive elements of Christianity, teachings etc without the supernatural elements.

    Terge I don’t think you are along the lines of a creationist but it does seems when the topic is discussed be it polar bears, corals, libertarians come out of the woodwork to argue otherwise.

  54. observa
    January 8th, 2008 at 01:36 | #54

    Here’s what I mean John-
    Have a listen to ‘mandate’ Richardson, former energy secretary with Clinton. At least Obama sets him straight.

  55. January 17th, 2008 at 15:09 | #55

    Simon – I never argue with polar bears. ;-)

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