Home > Economics - General > Doolittle and Delay

Doolittle and Delay

April 24th, 2009

My column in yesterday’s Fin was a riff on these marvellously named Republican opponents of environmental protection, and the prevalence of delusional conspiracy theories on the political right.

For many years in the US, any initiative to protect the environment had to run the gauntlet of Republican opposition led by Congressmen, Doolittle and DeLay. This aptly named duo cut their teeth opposing measures to protect the ozone layer from CFCs, and went on to fight the good fight for timber and oil interests before becoming entangled in the Abramoff corruption scandal, and being forced to resign.

Doolittle and DeLay may be gone, but their spirit pervades the conservative side of Australian politics. On climate change, in particular, the urge to ‘do little and delay’ is supplemented by a large dose of delusion.

The central delusion is the belief that the scientific evidence regarding climate change is the product of a concerted fraud, hoax or conspiracy involving the United Nations, all the world’s major scientific organisations (including, among many others, the Australian Academy of Science, CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology), the vast majority of scientists actually engaged in research on climate change, and even such conservative luminaries as Margaret Thatcher.

The supposed goals of this conspiracy vary from one theorist to another, ranging from the trivially venal (scientific alarmists drumming up grant money) to the absurdly grandiose (sinister UN bureaucrats seeking world domination).

All of these hypotheses and more were on view in Martin Durkin’s film The Great Global Warming Swindle, broadcast by the ABC in 2007. Swindle got the endorsement of most of Australia’s conservative commentariat, including the normally sensible Michael Duffy. However, Tony Jones’ questioning showed clearly that it was Durkin who was pulling a swindle, with dodgy graphs, and interviewees complaining of misrepresentation.

While most media outlets give at least some space to these conspiracy theorists, the central role has been played by The Australian. Not only its opinion columnists (with a handful of honorable exceptions) and its editorials, but even its news reporting is dominated by the idea that mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs, publishing their findings not in the peer-reviewed literature but through blogs, thinktanks and vanity presses.

More broadly, the climate conspiracy theory has the support of the major rightwing thinktanks, such as the Institute of Public Affairs and Centre for Independent Studies, and of a large segment of the Liberal and National parties. The most extreme is Western Australian MP Dennis Jensen, who compares mainstream scientists to the hirelings of Adolf Hitler, seeking to suppress Einstein-like dissidents such as himself. But supposed hardheads like Nick Minchin take much the same line, if in less colourful language.

Such extreme claims have little appeal except to those already committed to ‘do little and delay’ for reasons of ideology, interest or tribal loyalty. If mainstream science is correct, it will be necessary for governments to take substantial actions to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, including actions that have long been advocated by environmentalists. For those who are ideologically committed to resist all kinds of government intervention, or stand to lose from this particular policy, or who are simply hostile to environmentalists as a group, the only acceptable inference is that the scientists must be wrong.

The dominance of climate conspiracy theories on the conservative side of politics poses a range of serious problems. It is impossible to have a meaningful policy debate if advocates of claims like these are taken seriously. But their influence within the Opposition is such that ignoring them is like disregarding a large elephant in the living room. This contradiction is reflected in the vacillation and prevarication on the climate issue displayed successively by John Howard, Brendan Nelson and now Malcolm Turnbull.

Moreover, the maintenance of this viewpoint requires a high degree of insulation from reality. To provide this insulation, the conservative movement has developed a network of thinktanks, experts and news sources that amount to a complete alternate reality in which inconvenient truths like climate change can be ignored.

Once constructed, an alternative reality like this is hard to dismantle and can’t be confined to particular issues like climate change. Instead politics becomes a matter of wishful thinking, where reality is made to conform to the dictates of ideology, and factual evidence is replaced by talking points.

This tendency was very much in evidence in relation to Iraq and has shown up more recently in responses to the global financial crisis.

Until conservatives adopt a reality-based approach to climate change, as they have done in Europe and the UK, they cannot be taken seriously as an alternative government.

John Quiggin is an ARC Federation Fellow in Economics and Political Science at the University of Queensland.

Categories: Economics - General Tags:
  1. Hal9000
    April 24th, 2009 at 10:24 | #1

    I fear the delusionists are going to get a major boost from Prof Plimer’s latest tome. He came out with all elements of the ‘central delusion’ today on RN Breakfast, downloadable at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/breakfast/stories/2009/2551435.htm Charlie Vernon was up against him and made a fair fist of it, but Plimer has better meeja skills and the uninformed listener would probably have scored it as a draw. In this context, a draw is a clear win for the delusionists, since what they’re peddling is uncertainty and doubt. Vernon quoted some bits of the book that he was able to show were simply untrue – where does this leave Plimer’s standing even in his own field of mining geology, we must wonder?

  2. smiths
    April 24th, 2009 at 10:59 | #2

    i said that last week,
    this plimer book represents a surge by industry and The Australian, and the right wing morons to reclaim the public mind with thier ‘point of view’

    it needs to be rebutted thoroughly and quickly,

    i asked you about it john but you didnt respond

  3. Paul Norton
    April 24th, 2009 at 11:00 | #3

    By a remarkable coincidence, just as I was reading this post I downloaded in another window a journal article beginning with the following sentence:

    AT a reception honoring his service as the chairman of the House Science Committee in November 2006, retiring Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) quipped that Washington “is a town where people say they are for science-based decisionmaking until the overwhelming scientific consensus leads to a politically inconvenient conclusion.”

  4. Paul Norton
    April 24th, 2009 at 11:05 | #4

    Smiths #2, Tim Lambert does an impression job on Plimer in his latest Deltoid post. Harry Clarke’s recent post on the topic is also well worth reading.

  5. April 24th, 2009 at 11:49 | #5

    Pr Q says:

    Until conservatives adopt a reality-based approach to climate change, as they have done in Europe and the UK, they cannot be taken seriously as an alternative government.

    That is, until aspirant conservative governors take conservatism seriously they cannot take government seriously.

    I am a “self-hating” social-democrat (a la Micky Kaus). That means I support broad Centre-Left socio-economic policies. But I want a tough-minded Centre-Right alternative government to keep my side honest, supplying my self-hating alter ego with useful ammunition.

    That is not possible so long as the L/NP continues to entertain fantasy on the subject of climate change, financial fraud and the insidious military-industrial complex. Three crucial areas of government where traditional conservatives were always a good source of common sense, now sadly gone missing.

  6. Jim Birch
    April 24th, 2009 at 12:12 | #6

    What is it with geologists? There seem to be quite a few in the climate nutter category. I’d like to know what’s driving it emotionally. You don’t get (say) microbiologists claiming GW hoax in any numbers, or with such vehemence.

    Maybe it’s that they “invented” the climate record and don’t want any physicists moving in on their territory? Maybe you need to be more cowboy than scientist to head out into the never never to whack rocks with a hammer? It beats me.

    Then again, I suppose a large majority of geologists more-or-less accept the mainstream science.

  7. jquiggin
    April 24th, 2009 at 12:31 | #7

    On Plimer, I remember his involvement in debates with creationists in the late 1980s and 1990s. He took the right line on this question, but I read his book, Telling Lies for God (IIRC), and was very disappointed. It was a confused and confusing rant.

    My reaction was anticipated by this

    How not to argue with creationists

    Overall, I think Plimer is sincere, but not a clear thinker on matters outside his academic specialisation.

  8. April 24th, 2009 at 12:57 | #8

    Geologists think on different time-scales to ecologists, biologists and sociologists. They also have a much broader notion of “normal” thermal variation. To give an example, the first geological epoch is called “Hadean”, which began about 4.5 billion years ago, when things were getting pretty hot and heavy:

    Part of the young planet is theorized to have been disrupted by the impact which created the Moon,…The rock vapor would have condensed within two thousand years, leaving behind hot volatiles which probably resulted in a heavy carbon dioxide atmosphere with hydrogen and water vapor.

    Liquid water oceans existed despite the surface temperature of 230°C because of the atmospheric pressure of the heavy CO2 atmosphere. As cooling continued, subduction and dissolving in ocean water removed most CO2 from the atmosphere but levels oscillated wildly as new surface and mantle cycles appeared.

    Compared with this nightmarish scenario, a rise of a couple of deg C does not seem to be very intimidating prospect. Pilmer needs a good dose of myopia to regain touch with his fellow earth scientists.

  9. Tim Macknay (aka Tim M)
    April 24th, 2009 at 13:29 | #9

    Jim Birch, my take on it is that geologists’ habit of thinking in ‘deep time’ confuses them when it comes to climate change. They are used to dispassionately contemplating vast atmospheric and geological changes over enormous tracts of time, so they struggle to see any change of this kind as a problem, even when the specific change under discussion poses a threat to the wellbeing of the present generation of humans.

  10. jquiggin
    April 24th, 2009 at 13:40 | #10

    i agree with Tim M. The geologists who get confused about the issue are those who have trouble with the notion that, say, a 3 degree temperature change in 100 years is
    (i) highly unlikely to occur naturally (such changes have occurred, but the odds against them in any given 100 years are huge)
    (ii) highly damaging to humans, natural ecosystems and so on

    But, as noted above, while geologists are more prone to error on this than other scientists, only a tiny minority get it wrong.

  11. David Irving (no relation)
    April 24th, 2009 at 14:22 | #11

    Very interesting and informative, Prof Q, but I’m slightly bemused by your assertion that Michael Duffy is normally sensible. Admittedly, I’ve only ever heard him on Restoring the BalanceCounterpoint, but he’s struck me as being an idiot.

  12. gerard
    April 24th, 2009 at 14:42 | #12

    he’s struck me as being an idiot.

    except when you compare him to his show’s pathetic guests.

  13. paul walter
    April 24th, 2009 at 17:01 | #13

    Good to meet Paul Norton at a site where intereste parties are not scratched out, even for relevant on-topic comments, out of spite.
    Have welcomed you stuff on Ecological Vandalism in Australia and hope you keep punching.

  14. gerard
    April 24th, 2009 at 18:02 | #14

    The fact that the “Opposition Orifice” is breathlessly promoting Pilmer tells you all you need to know. apparently his book even dredges up the old DDT-ban hoax.

    it needs to be rebutted thoroughly and quickly,



  15. smiths
    April 24th, 2009 at 18:09 | #15

    thanks gerard, i had read deltoid this morning on paul nortons suggestion,
    i didnt feel that harry clarkes was as effective

  16. El Mono
    April 24th, 2009 at 18:11 | #16

    ANy decent conspirac ytheory would be able to link this to Israel somehow.

  17. paul walter
    April 24th, 2009 at 18:21 | #17

    I though El Quaida was the go for you lot, elmono.

  18. Donald Oats
    April 24th, 2009 at 22:41 | #18

    Once I can skive a copy, I’ll probably give Ian Plimer’s book a read. His claim that he has scientifically proven AGW to be false (“Case closed”, I think is how he put it on radio) is worth some scrutiny. Even though I’ve set a low bar for surprise, I doubt I will be.

    The more interesting question is why an emeritus professor is happily giving interviews left, right and centre, but seldom resorts to more than rhetoric in the “debate” about AGW. Some of his more recent claims about AGW and climate scientists are so outrageous that if I was a research geologist citing Plimer’s earlier geology papers, I’d be going back and re-examining them real careful like.

    Plimer has made the claim that he is applying scientific principles to his demolition of AGW, so it stands to reason that if he makes a series of incorrect statements and/or mis-represents other scientists’ views on climate science and AGW, he may have have done the same in previous unrelated work.

  19. Y2K
    April 24th, 2009 at 23:01 | #19

    Who is nominated to rebut Ian Plimer’s book?

    If his encounter with Vernon was a draw, then the next challenger to enter the lists must be better prepared. Perhaps even read the book?

  20. Skepticked
    April 25th, 2009 at 06:23 | #20

    The problem for AGW advocates is climate science is rampant with scientific fraud. Here is just the latest example to be uncovered: http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=5591#more-5591

    Summary: the science claimed to be behind the main scare-graph in Gore’s Convenient Lie was completely fabricated.

  21. April 25th, 2009 at 07:21 | #21

    The central delusion is the belief that the scientific evidence regarding climate change is the product of a concerted fraud, hoax or conspiracy involving the United Nations, all the world’s major scientific organisations (including, among many others, the Australian Academy of Science, CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology), the vast majority of scientists actually engaged in research on climate change, and even such conservative luminaries as Margaret Thatcher.

    You don’t need to believe in any of those things in order to be sceptical about aspects of AGW. However you probably do need to believe in something along those lines to dismiss AGW out of hand.

    For me the primary beliefs that cause me to remain skeptical are:-

    i) a belief in the general fallibility of new theories.
    ii) a belief that theories about todays climate can’t be validated to a satisfactory degree in short time frames.
    iii) a belief that models are not vindicated merely because they fit the past data.
    iv) a general skepticism, perhaps even cynicism, towards authority figures.

    I think if I ceased to hold any one of those four beliefs I’d probably become a rabid advocate for the AGW theory.

    Given the politics of AGW (which there is little doubt about) and given the fact the risk associated with the AGW theories actually being correct, I’m comfortable enough with the idea of a no regret revenue neutral carbon tax. However I’m not comfortable with all the other folly (eg council funded solar panels and the like).

  22. nigelmolesworth
    April 25th, 2009 at 07:52 | #22

    Jim Birch asked (#6) “What is it with geologists? ”

    I don’t know whether or not most geologists accept the mainstream science but for those like Plimer who don’t, I think we can find a simpler explanation for their, no doubt sincerely held, but irrational beliefs, than their unique perspective on space and time.

    Geologists, particularly mining geologists like Plimer are hardly disinterested. It’s their job to find coal, oil and the like. I’m not going to ask a beef farmer for his opinion on whether or not red meat causes bowel cancer. Similarly I’m not going to ask a mining geologist their opinion on global warming, particularly one like Plimer who is a director of a number of mining companies. Nothing wrong with that, and I’m sure he’s sincere in his beliefs, but he’s not an impartial commentator.

    Anyway, the reviews I’ve read say he’s recycled graphs from Martin Durkin. Durkin was forced to admit that his graphs had a large chunk of fabricated data in them and omitted the last twenty years. If Plimer’s book has to rely on such rubbish then I think we can safely assume he doesn’t have anything worth saying.

  23. Roger Jones
    April 25th, 2009 at 11:00 | #23

    On geologists (and this is an insider’s view, though now I work in the fuzzy regions between the biophysical and social sciences). In Earth Science departments there have traditionally been two groups: the hard-rock and the soft-rock types. The hard-rock types associate themselves with a muscular, masculine science that is full of hard facts, like the rocks they study. The discipline was traditionally able to work very well with mechanical models, there being few quantum phenomena at the rock-size scale. Feedbacks also are generally manageable, so linear causal models work very well. Soft rock types work with wuzzy soft rocks, unconsolidated sediments (shudder), systems and process (back Satan). Traditionally the hard scientists looked down on the soft scientists, and funding went that way. The hard rock geologists build wealth and contribute to progress; the soft rock geologists get into obstructive disciplines like geomorphology and environmental risk.

    In the modern era, these barriers should have been largely broken down but not all the dinosaurs are extinct. So every now and then you will come across a geologist who has a linear, mechanistic model of the world, deals only in hard facts, contributes to progress, looks down on process, does not understand feedback and sees biology as an impermanent smear on the planet, although one might find some useful coal, oil and silicified casts, shells and bones around the place.

    So the atmosphere should be treated like rocks and anything that does not fit into a simple cause and effect model is treated with suspicion, cannot readily be intrepreted as fact and is probably anti-progress.

  24. Skepticked
    April 25th, 2009 at 11:23 | #24

    So the atmosphere should be treated like rocks and anything that does not fit into a simple cause and effect model is treated with suspicion

    Roger, if the alarmist AGW camp has to throw out cause and effect in order to justify their position, they’re on even weaker scientific footing than believed by most skeptics.

  25. Roger Jones
    April 25th, 2009 at 11:26 | #25

    TerjeP #21,

    I await your conversion:

    (i)the greenhouse theory has been developed over the past 150 years, accumulating a great deal of evidence about the past and present, so is more developed than most.
    (ii) the integration of orbitally-forced climate with past and present greenhouse gas pulses and feedbacks, the most co-ordinated model testing and evaluation program on the planet isn’t good enough for you?
    (iii) hmmm, and I assume that you then eschew any and all economic models? Because the evidence that climate models did a good job on the Mt Pinatubo cooling, reproduce the current warming footprint showing it is different to an orbital forcing footprint, and that the same models are now being used for improved weather forecasting (so can be used for both weather and climate), and are so tightly embedded into Earth Systems Monitoring (the view from space), that we cannot understand global processes without them isn’t good enough?
    (iv) An excellent starting point for reviewing your stance on the first three points – and still the evidence isn’t good enough?

    It is possible to review climate science, and its models, and emerge with scientific scepticism intact. The weaknesses of both are openly described in the literature. That’s a good sign that it is on the level. You won’t get the same view from the medja and advocates, but one shouldn’t look there either.

    And if you hear scientists speaking about the need to act on climate change, it is because their science is being applied in (conceptual) models of risk. And any reputable climate scientist who so argues will still be comfortable outlining where the uncertainties in the science remain.

    More than one can say for Doolittle and Delay.

  26. Jill Rush
    April 25th, 2009 at 11:35 | #26

    “The supposed goals of this conspiracy vary from one theorist to another, ranging from the trivially venal (scientific alarmists drumming up grant money) to the absurdly grandiose (sinister UN bureaucrats seeking world domination).”

    The Anti – AGW group are an interesting lot. Plimer who has achieved a certain notoriety as a result of the launch of his book by Christopher Pearson this week has achieved two possible goals as a result.

    1. He has achieved a much higher level of book sales than would otherwise have been achieved without controversial views. Thus he could be described as a scientific alarmist drumming up business through book sales, appearance money and the like.

    2. His views support a grandiose view of his science (geology) and his own importance.

    Thus the delusionist claims about scientists concerned about climate change as only seeking personal benefit and in an overwhelming conspiracy are a mirror reflection of the people who make the claims. The delusional conspiracy that has resulted has marginalised the right who are seen as rabid people who believe they are born to rule, but are not too bright.

    For a geologist to look at AGW in geological terms is of little comfort to those of us who would like a working world with a plethora of life for many generations into the future. In geological terms humans and most life is just a small blip on the radar.

    The do-little and delay brigade are involved in a conspiracy to defraud the rest of us through their grand delusion and denials.

  27. Roger Jones
    April 25th, 2009 at 11:37 | #27


    I said simple cause and effect. Cause and effect is vital, but feedbacks and multiple drivers are also present. The climate is a complex system, and needs to be understood in that light.

  28. Kevin Cox
    April 25th, 2009 at 11:43 | #28

    Never fear once we get going on seriously building both solar and geothermal plants the arguments will be irrelevant. Renewables once built are much much cheaper to run than any form of energy production that requires fuel to burn. Get rid of finance charges and coal cannot compete.

    Finance charges are high because we insist on increasing the money supply by making loans. Increase the money supply by building renewable energy assets and there is no need for loans or repayments.

    The running cost of energy from a geothermal or solar thermal plant is about 1 cent per kwh. Given enough cheap energy we can even start to extract ghg from the atmosphere and make a profit in doing so.

    It can be done and it can be done quickly. Fix the financial system so it favours investment over consumption and the sceptics become irrelevant. It is easy to fix the financial system by increasing the money supply by building an asset first then releasing the money into the system instead of increasing the money supply, crossing ones fingers, and hoping the money will be spent building a new asset.

  29. Salient Green
    April 25th, 2009 at 11:46 | #29

    If anyone wishes to analyse Plimer further, ABC 891 interviewed him during the week and posted it here http://blogs.abc.net.au/sa/adelaide_mornings/index.html

    They are going to arrange a debate between Plimer and Donald Brook who is head of Adelaide University’s Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability.

    Donald is a better speaker than Vernon, IMO, so it should be interesting.

    I’ll say one thing for Plimer, he’s light on his feet and rolls away from the killer punches without embarassment. He fits into the catagory of people who live by ‘if you can’t blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit’. The BS being a construct to fit his fossil fuels ideology.

  30. jquiggin
    April 25th, 2009 at 11:49 | #30

    Y2K suggests reading the book, but apparently hasn’t even read the comments thread. The list of errors noted by Tim Lambert is startling, and confirms my view of Plimer from the creationism debate where he made a hash of things even with science on his side.

    I notice that he hasn’t made any attempt to publish this stuff in a peer-reviewed forum, which I assume is recognition, at some level, that it’s garbage. This suggests that high standards in his regular academic work can coexist with the kind of nonsense he is putting out on AGW.

  31. Salient Green
    April 25th, 2009 at 12:54 | #31

    While I believe in geothermal power and have shares in Geodynamics, the enormity of the effort required to replace our fossil fuel generation with it is daunting.
    Each well takes around six months to drill down to around 5km deep with a $30m rig, uses a few hundred tonnes of casing and a few more hundred tonnes of concrete.
    Very high pressures are encountered, 6,000psi and even higher to stimulate fractures, 10,000psi.
    Initially, each well will have 4Mw capacity rising to 7Mw with scale.
    Australia has 50Gw capacity and to replace even half with geothermal will require over 3500 wells to be drilled.
    Unfortunately, no matter how much money you throw at it, rigs and holes require a long time to build and drill. I don’t know how that is much different to the lead times for wind turbines but at least wind is happening.

    Perhaps the powers have been waiting for the ‘proof of concept’ and hopefully we will soon see some major progress with geothermal power.

  32. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 25th, 2009 at 15:24 | #32

    The likes of Geodynamics and Enviromission do suggest that at low capital costs fossil fuels are history (in the long term). However the current government is busy crowding out such investments with large scale borrowing. What other innovations are not getting commercialised because governments are soaking up capital?

  33. Salient Green
    April 25th, 2009 at 15:48 | #33

    Apologies for my mistake #29, should have been ‘Barry’ Brook. Here’s a link to his site for his response to Plimer’s book.

  34. gianni
    April 25th, 2009 at 16:25 | #34

    Charlie Vernon was up against him and made a fair fist of it, but Plimer has better meeja skills and the uninformed listener would probably have scored it as a draw.

    I thought Charlie Vernon did very well considering that he’d only been perusing the book for a hour. I found it surprising that the ABC thought it would be good radio to have one participant admit at the outset that he hadn’t read the book under discussion. Given his lack of preparation time, Mr Vernon should have declined the interview.

    Given the time constraints he was under, Mr Vernon took the sensible and honest approach which was to essentially restrict his comments to those sections that referenced areas in which he had expertise. I thought he very effectively rebutted Mr Plimer’s points.

    I don’t know how the uniformed listener would have reacted to Plimer’s early appeal to bias against him by the ABC and the media. Perhaps this is what others are referring to in terms of media skills. He certainly intimidated Fran Kelly who very weakly pushed back when he accused her, essentially, of being a left-wing hackette and a member of the conspiracy that was trying to silence him.

  35. Kevin Cox
    April 25th, 2009 at 17:18 | #35

    Salient Green,

    Remember that we will get much better at it the more we drill. Each doubling of capacity typically gives improvements of between 10 to 20%. Assume 10%. Geodynamics have drilled I think 3 so we can assume by the time they have drilled 3,500 it will take about 10 weeks not six months. Building a drilling rig is much easier than building a jumbo jet and the world builds about 1,000 large passenger aircraft each year.

    Australia could have 1,000 rigs operating full time within 5 years.

    The technology is relatively straight forward and it is similar for solar thermal. It can be done and it can be done quickly.

    The ONLY thing necessary for Australia to be zero emissions by 2020 is to direct investment to ways of reducing ghg emissions and to ways of taking green house gases out of the atmosphere.

  36. mitchell porter
    April 25th, 2009 at 18:07 | #36

    I find this to be a quietly effective column, all the more so for its crisp objective tone and lack of moralizing. Add a similarly objective description of the state of climate politics across the aisle, and we’d have a complete picture of where we stand.

  37. Salient Green
    April 25th, 2009 at 18:33 | #37

    Well put Kevin. I see that I can be much more optimistic. Petratherm expects it’s new rig by mid may and drilling to start mid June, a doubling of geothermal drilling capacity!

    Despite the UK being worse affected by the GFC than Australia, it has announced it will cut emissions by 34% of 1990 levels by 2020 compared with our sad little 4%. Can you make me more optimistic about our targets?

  38. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 26th, 2009 at 06:16 | #38

    Roger Jones,

    i) The greenhouse theory is well accepted. However greenhouse theory is not the theory of human induced global warming which is not 150 years old.

    ii) They are impressive but not validated by predictive success.

    iii) I’m skeptical about most economic models. Name a major variable (eg inflation, unemployment, GDP etc) that any economic model can predict 100 years ahead of time. None of them can because none of them are complete. My prefered model says that if we lower taxes we will have more prosperity but it does not quantify how much prosperity we will have 100 years from now. Likewise I accept that if we reduce CO2 emissions then we will likely have lower temperatures in 100 years time, however whether it is 0.0001 degrees lower or 3 degress lower decides whether such an endeavour is worth the cost. Although as I’ve said there are carbon tax scenerios that are no regret so I don’t get too hung up on such details.

    iv) It still isn’t good enough. Hopefully it will get better over time (hopefully the current theory is wrong and the planet isn’t going to heat up). I accept the risk argument however which is why I’m okay with a no regret revenue neutral carbon tax.

  39. Kevin Cox
    April 26th, 2009 at 06:49 | #39

    Salient Green,

    I made a submission to an ACT Legislative Committee last week http://stableproductivemoney.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/presentation-to-the-act-legislative-assembly/
    In summary it said we can reach any target the science says we need to reach if we put our mind to it. I suggested an initial target of target of zero by 2020 and then calculated how much the ACT needs to invest to reach the target. It is $1,500 per year until 2020 for each resident in the ACT.

    This is clearly achievable especially if we increase the money supply to fund the investment. Instead of increasing the money supply and giving the increase to those who say they have assets we give it to those who show constraint in their energy use. We require the money to be invested in ways of reducing ghg. This gives the funds for the investment without creating any loans and hence we will have zero finance charges.

    This will also stimulate the economy and give us cheaper energy.

    The proposal is met with disbelief until people think it through and get rid of this notion that we should increase the money supply by creating a loan. I think people also have difficulty with the idea because it seems too good to be true and if it is so easy then why hasn’t someone done it before? Of course we have done it before in various ways. Once it was called nation building. What is different now is that we have the technology to make it more efficient and to use markets to allocate the money and technology to distribute ownership efficiently.

    As a population we have been conditioned to the idea that we have to have money first before we can spend it or that we have to get the money from someone else via a loan and then spend it.

    Of course we do not have to do this when you realise that money is a symbol with two properties. The first is the idea of value and the second is the idea of ownership. When we increase the money supply someone gets ownership of it. One way to decide ownership is through a loan the other way is just to give it to them. Value comes because we know the money will be invested wisely and will generate more through profits than we invest.

    We use loans because we think this will make people more careful in how they will spend it but the other way to make sure it is spent wisely is to restrict how the money is spent. One good use of the increase in money supply are investments in ways of reducing greenhouse gas concentrations.

    In 2008 the M3 money supply in Australia increased by $170 billion dollars so $30 billion a year (1500 per person) of the increase invested in ghg emission reduction is easily achievable.

    We have designed a system (and have it half implemented) to distribute the money through what we are calling Energy Rewards. We now need the people who increase our money supply to use the system for about 20% of the increase and to direct its use to investments in ways of reducing green house gases in the atmosphere.

  40. Alice
    April 26th, 2009 at 09:44 | #40

    Paul Walter at 13#. Ill second your comment and extend it you both Pauls.

  41. El Mono
    April 26th, 2009 at 12:54 | #41

    at 17. Hahaha what is my lot? I am just comparing this conspiracy theory to all the others floaing around. I have nothing against Israel or have any doubt about global warming.

  42. Salient Green
    April 26th, 2009 at 18:20 | #42

    Kevin#39, I have read most of your posts on this subject but need some, perhaps many, step by step, real world examples of how it will play out before really understanding the concept.

    I’m just an orchardist with an engineering trade and can’t visualize how this would work for me as a householder, as a farmer, or perhaps even an inventor who wanted to start building unique wind turbines.

    I’m quite sure I have a higher IQ than many politicians (not saying much is it) so I imagine you would need to deliver specific examples to them also for the concept to soak in.

    The specific examples would have to refer to certain groups of voters and commercial interests they may fear or be captured by. Good luck with that one.

  43. Kevin Cox
    April 26th, 2009 at 19:42 | #43

    Salient Green,

    Imagine that there was a market place where you were free to use your frequent flyer points for purchasing any form of travel product. Each frequent flyer point has a nominal value and you can use it instead of and with money. That is you can use money plus frequent flyer points to purchase a room directly from a hotel. The hotel after it has provide your room goes with the frequent flyer points and asks for real money from the airline.

    If you can find a buyer for frequent flyer points you can sell them for whatever you can get.

    Instead of frequent flyer points think Energy Rewards. Instead of travel products think products and services that will reduce ghg emissions or will save energy or will produce emissions free energy.

    Instead of an airline issuing frequent flyer points think of the Reserve Bank issuing and redeeming Energy Rewards.

    Another way to think about it is to think Energy Vouchers instead of Rewards.

    Instead of the banks creating extra money by lending money they do not have (which is what they do at the moment) think the Reserve Bank issuing Rewards and distributing them to the population as the way for it to increase the money supply without creating a loan.

    It does not change the existing system very much and when it does change it is “in the background” and is part of the market place. For ordinary buyers and sellers things are the same as they are now.

    For some reason – which I do not understand – people think it can’t be that simple.

    When it gets introduced it will appear as a market place on the Internet where you can buy and sell – much like Amazon. You will have an online account like a bank account where your Rewards reside. Sellers will have an account where they receive Rewards. They will be allowed to transfer their Rewards to a regular bank account where it is treated like ordinary money.

  44. April 27th, 2009 at 11:41 | #44

    The CIS has only published one paper on climate change. It had nothing to do with the science and was a look different policy responses, concluding that a revenue-neutral carbon tax would be better than trading or picking winners.

  45. jquiggin
    April 27th, 2009 at 13:07 | #45

    John, you might have missed these. Quite a few are review articles rather than original pieces, but they confirm that the CIS gives uncritical praise to advocates of “do little and delay”, and supports the claim that the whole thing is an environmentalist fraud.


  46. frankis
    April 29th, 2009 at 20:23 | #46

    Not all the denialist rabble enabled by Chris Mitchell’s excellent lark The Oz are merely delusional. Some, like former non-scientist at the national climate centre Bill Kininmonth, are actual morons as well. How so?

    John Quiggin says (above)

    “While most media outlets give at least some space to these conspiracy theorists, the central role has been played by The Australian. Not only its opinion columnists (with a handful of honorable exceptions) and its editorials, but even its news reporting is dominated by the idea that mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs, publishing their findings not in the peer-reviewed literature but through blogs, thinktanks and vanity presses.”

    Nice jibe at Mitchell and the kids at the Oz you may be thinking, wonder what they’ll make of it? Here is the relevant part of Kininmonth’s ravings in The Oz, published today without smileys or witticism alerts of any kind:

    “Economist John Quiggin appears so concerned at the direction of events that he claims “mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs” (The Australian Financial Review, April 23).”

    Oh how I laughed with Kininmonth, the moron! If it were a serious matter you’d ask the editor to correct the record and censure the writer for intentional misrepresentation or obloquy, but this is only the Oz so – who cares? Probably funnier to just let it stand and grin at the prats who’ll fall for it without checking; there’ll be plenty of them. But, if you want more, the moron goes on to say

    Fundamental science has always identified that it is quixotic to attempt regulation of climate through management of carbon dioxide emissions. The pity is that community leaders have been beguiled by the mystery of powerful computers and have failed to critically assess the predictions within the context of Earth’s history.

    Plimer’s authoritative book provides the excuse and impetus to re-examine the scientific fundamentals and redress that failure.

    Seriously, I love the Oz and the morons Mitchell is publishing in it. Real life is funnier than fiction.

  47. jquiggin
    April 29th, 2009 at 20:29 | #47

    I have asked them for a correction, not so much because I care what’s in the Oz as because I want to give them the chance to correct themselves before I have a go at them. Knowing how opinion columns work, there’s very little fact checking, so at this stage the quote doctoring is down to Kininmonth alone. Back when Tom Switzer was running the show there, I did manage to get Janet A to correct a (fairly obvious) error in one of her columns, so you never know.

  48. Alice
    April 29th, 2009 at 20:57 | #48

    47# JA correction? Noooo!! Quite seriously impressive JQ.

  49. Alice
    April 29th, 2009 at 21:16 | #49

    The CIS and the IPA are the concentrated source of a media misinformation campaign (and well resourced to go with a dedicated team of paid writers and newspaper “snow” machines).
    Its wrong, its a disgrace, they work for the dirtiest industries and get funded by the ditiest industries. Its a con, a lie and its media manipulation by people who have the resources to do it. They convince only the stupid or the politically ambitious or the amitiously employed (by the dirtiest industries). These two organisations are a real blight on progress. Conservatives need to get off the delusional path (unfortunately some industries want and need the delusional path so climate change or environmental or ecological sustainable policies dont cost them lost profit – so they throw their weight behind conservatives).

    But you can fool some of the people etc…and the worse the environment and ecological damage gets, the less people you can fool.

    The conservatives need to stop pandering to special interests or risk becoming the party seem as completely “delusional.” Its happening now.

  50. Barry
    April 30th, 2009 at 07:07 | #50

    IMHO the obvious reason for a concentration of AGW denialism among geologists would be that geology is strongly linked with the oil and coal industries, who have funded serious junk science. Just as the right always finds economists to lie as needed.

    Follow the money.

  51. MH
    April 30th, 2009 at 07:56 | #51

    To provide this insulation, the conservative movement has developed a network of thinktanks, experts and news sources that amount to a complete alternate reality in which inconvenient truths like climate change can be ignored.

    That’s an excellent gesture towards a sociology of contemporary conservative knowledge.

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