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Fruit loops

November 15th, 2009

It is I think, comparatively rare for a senior political figure to describe equally senior members of their own party as “fruit loops” and “f…wits”, going on to observe that “They don’t know how crazy they look, because crazy people never do”.

But that was exactly the reaction to last Monday’s Four Corner’s program in which Liberal Party Senate Leader Nick Minchin and others went on camera to spout delusionist conspiracy theories of the type Kevin Rudd had pre-emptively denounced only two days previously (i guess he had an idea what was going to be on Four Corners). Minchin described the scientific consensus view that human activity is driving climate change as the result of a communist plot, saying

For the extreme Left it provides the opportunity to do what they’ve always wanted to do, to sort of deindustrialise the Western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the Left, and … they embraced environmentalism as their new religion.

This is, of course, standard stuff on the political right – I had a string of people pointing me to the latest silly talking point in which a British unfair dismissal case was supposed to prove that global warming is a religion – but it was a big mistake to say it on Four Corners.

The real problem though is that Nick Minchin is not, in the ordinary sense of the term, a fruit loop or f…wit. Rather, he is a sharp and effective political operator, who doesn’t worry much about ideas and therefore takes his beliefs from the environment in which he moves. In the current state of the right that means his ideas on climate change, like those of most of the people with whom he mixes, are deeply delusional. So thoroughly embedded are delusionist assumptions and information sources on the right that, within the given cultural milieu, any psychologically normal person must necessarily, in exactly the same way as any psychologically normal member of an isolated tribal culture would accept the standard myths of that culture. The delusionist message is propounded by a parallel-universe of “scientists” (a handful of whom have relevant scientific qualifications), think tanks and bloggers, and continually reinforced by the distribution of talking points like the unfair dismissal case mentioned above.

This is bad enough as applied to climate change, which is one of the big problems facing the world. But the problem goes far beyond this, extending, for example to economic policy issues. It is unsurprising that advocates of market liberalism would like to downplay the implications of the global financial crisis for the theoretical foundations of their position such as the efficient markets hypothesis, and it ought to be possible to make a case that the current crisis does not provide sufficient evidence to abandon the EMH. But, thanks to the rightwing talking points machine, no one much feels the need to make such a case. Instead we get absurd claims that the near-collapse of global capitalism was brought about by the Community Reinvestment Act, a minor piece of 1970s legislation aimed at ensuring fair access to bank loans for credit-worthy borrowers in poor neighborhoods. This claim, silly on its face, has been comprehensively refuted, but people I would otherwise regard as sensible continue to put it forward.

And of course, the talking points machine was seen in full force before and during the Iraq war. The lionization of someone like Arthur Chrenkoff, who argued throughout 2003, 2004 and 2005 that the view of events in Iraq presented by the mainstream media was excessively gloomy and pessimistic (!) and presented a “Good News from Iraq” to explain how well things were going, was a typical instance. Chrenkoff ended up working for Liberal Senator Brett Mason, who is, unsurprisingly a prominent climate delusionist.

The fact is that the political right, at least in the US and among those sections of Australian opinion that take their lead from the US, has become utterly unhinged from reality, to the point where anyone who relies on rightwing sources for information is bound to be deluded. Even where individual pieces of evidence may be factually correct, they are selected to support delusional claims such as those cited above, with the often overwhelming evidence to the contrary being disregarded.

This raises an interesting question for those of my readers inclined to conservative or libertarian views but disinclined to joining the fruit loops. How should such a person form their views on current issues. My answer is that the only option is to ignore entirely everything written on “their” side of the debate and confine attention to factual evidence presented by reputable official and scientific sources and to critical analysis of the arguments of the “left:. Perhaps if enough people did this, they would be able to form the nucleus of a body of thought which would reclaim the ground once occupied by sane conservatives. But, at present, there is no sign of this happening.

Categories: Environment, Oz Politics Tags:
  1. Alice
    November 15th, 2009 at 20:25 | #1

    I dont know about your summarisation of Minchin being a sharp and effective politician. I watched him on the ABC last week for 5 minutes or less….and I thought he was a fruit loop…definitely….either that or he is sticking to a side of liberal policies he thinks is a winner. Bad choice …and therefore Minchin is probably one of the last fruit loops who will fall.

    This isnt a joke or a political play anymore (which is what Minchin is hoping – he has an easier life that way – to not have to convince the intellectually slow amongst us who take a while to convince). Enough people know already what climate change delusionism is about.

    The message of climate science denialism is out there and is recognised for what it is.

    Minchin is not a fool. He is just holding out for doing less work than more .

  2. SeanG
    November 15th, 2009 at 20:45 | #2

    Deliberate violation of comments policy deleted. You are permanently banned.

  3. paul walter
    November 15th, 2009 at 20:58 | #3

    Sean G, you obviously missed that seminal 4 Corners episode. Wasn’t just Minchin, but a whole bunch of that faction, currently engaged in an ideological struggle with more rational elements remaining in the Liberal party and twenty first century civilisation.
    Turnbull and others have tried to drag the coalition into the twentieth century (from the nineteenth), since the moment Howard left- remember Minchin and Abbott undercutting Turnbull’s first attempt for the leadership, which drifted instead to Nelson.
    No, the Hansonist faction can’t even work with the liberals anymore, its all or nothing for the evangelist types and if that means giving up the next election to put in place a De Maistrean theocratic form of government bound to be rejected by a modern public, then carry on they can, like dutiful Gadarene swine heading for the abyss.

    Not that Labor has been much better when it comes to the right factions weeding out secularists in favour of bush baptist types-probably why they can’t take ecology seriously, either. But that’s another story.

  4. Fran Barlow
    November 15th, 2009 at 21:02 | #4

    For the record JQ, that British court case merely held that what one did in response to the science was a matter of ethical conviction comnparable to a religious beleif, rather than the science itself.

    I share your view on Minchin. He is no fruit loop. Rather, he is a disingenuous political operator aiming to protect the interests of the big polluters who stand behind his party and more generally, he aims to advance his own cultural agenda, which is threatened by the more regulatory environment that an ETS serves up.

    There is some evidence that the delusionists are making headway, as apparently 60% of the British are now mistaken on the causes of climate change, if polls are to be believed. Some of this may reflect the unpopularity of British Labour of course, but still, the fact that so many are deluded does show that the tactics of the Big Lie and culture war/gish gallop/populism can work, if mapped onto the popular press.

  5. haroldsun
    November 15th, 2009 at 21:15 | #5

    John,

    It seems strange to suggest that libertarians are subject to biases that cause them to misinterpret the evidence is such a way that the case for government intervention is reduced, but to deny that you and other social democrats may have similar biases (perhaps about the magnitude of the problem, or the efficiency of government solutions).

    As for the quality of the left-wing media, I take it you haven’t been reading The Age’s editorials on parrallel book importation. The argument that these rules have no impact on Australian book prices is the intelectual equivilant of the argument that human greenhouse gas emissions have no impact on the climate. Even the language is similar: it’s just a theory, etc. I think you’re being a little bit selective.

  6. Donald Oats
    November 15th, 2009 at 21:19 | #6

    @SeanG

    Do you have the same attitude to university scientists as you seem to have towards university economic professors? If you do, then perhaps your rather – ahem – strong negative opinion, bluntly expressed, is a clue as to why you are rather sceptical of climate science and the whole AGW thing.

    I hope that’s not the case, so prove me wrong.

  7. Steven Hamilton
    November 15th, 2009 at 21:23 | #7

    I have right-leaning tendencies and I say you’re dead right (no pun intended). The behaviour seen on 4 Corners was beyond a joke. I still can’t see how, just because an individual has pro-market views, that such a person must deny the science. The only explanation I can think of is that conservatives are afraid of change. Indeed, delusion appears to be their safe haven. But not everyone on the right has such views, so I think it’s unfair to brand the entire ideological camp in this way.

  8. November 15th, 2009 at 22:02 | #8

    While we are on the subject of d?l?dere. The ‘consensus’ of the majority of the scientific community, is not science John and you are being ‘deluded’ by a majority of the scientific community, who tell you that it is.

    So why don’t you” confine attention to factual evidence”. JQ ‘consensus’ is not “factual evidence”.

    A ‘fact’ you are in denial about John is that if Australia cut emissions by 100%, carbon will still continue to increase in the atmosphere by 1.5 ppm per year regardless. (so stick your pissy ETS into my link)

    You and your kind are “fruit loops”. The greens are the new reds and if you are not careful people like me (middle Australian ) will bring back a Truman style purge.

  9. paul walter
    November 15th, 2009 at 22:17 | #9

    Fran Barlow, I would have concurred with you until watching that 4 Corners, esp them operating as shopfront for big business.
    But the whining zealotry expressed thru comments by some interviewed that they are beyongd mere lucre- they are also reactionary modernist, eg, they hate fear and feeluncomfortablein the current age, and the fear drives a sort of psychosis.
    I thought Minchin a shrewd operator, too.
    I accept he has loyalty to his Hansonist following- he willlead thembackinto the wildner ness, as the rationalists in the coalition will become dominant, in the wake of an election defeat created by ideologivally driven obstructionists.
    Which is not to say that, Turnbull, Pyne, McFarlane etc are any more likeable than Andrews or Fiorravanti Wells, or the eco rationalist hardheads of the ALP right, who currently have a strong grip on power thanks to the coalitions self indulgence. lackof patience and self discipline since the 2007 defeat.

  10. wilful
    November 15th, 2009 at 22:31 | #10

    ooooh, a Truman style purge!! scary stuff.

    Let me assure you Tony G, you do NOT represent middle Australia.

  11. silkworm
    November 15th, 2009 at 22:41 | #11

    I eat fruit loops for breakfast.

  12. SJ
    November 15th, 2009 at 22:43 | #12

    Let me assure you Tony G, you do NOT represent middle Australia.

    Curiously enough, Minchin et al seem to think that he does.

    Minchin’s problem is that he can’t see the wilderness for the, uh, wilderness.

  13. SJ
    November 15th, 2009 at 22:46 | #13

    Political wilderness, that it, in case that’s not obvious to our cognitively challenged resident wing-nuts.

  14. Jarrah
    November 15th, 2009 at 23:18 | #14

    “the near-collapse of global capitalism”

    LOL :-)

    “absurd claims … the Community Reinvestment Act ”

    The CRA is the weakest argument of those who say the government had a role in the GFC. You gain little by attacking it.

  15. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 02:14 | #15

    The climate change denialists are zombies of a kind. They are the thought undead. They walk, they talk, but real thinking ceased a long time ago. Just like other zombies, they tend to congregate in groups.

    Pity is that there are a number of them who have been throwing grit in the works at senior levels in the public service to stop anything effective being done about climate change. While they are in the public service, they don’t let people know their nutty denialist ideas publically. Publically they are very careful, but they are working vigorously against anything being done. They are the Kim Philbys and Donald Blunts of climate change policy. Until you have actually seen them, it is difficult for a rational person to believe they could even exist.

  16. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 02:19 | #16

    @SeanG

    Does this mean that you don’t respect yourself? Or is this another example of the Dunning-Kruger effect?

  17. paul walter
    November 16th, 2009 at 03:56 | #17

    Freelander, stay where you are!

  18. Hermit
    November 16th, 2009 at 05:44 | #18

    I wouldn’t reserve my anger just for Minchin and cronies. The latest CPRS change to half-exclude farming should make it clear the scheme is now fudged up beyond all recognition. If Rudd preens and poses at the Copenhagen conference I think I might burst a blood vessel. Remember the ETS was supposed to start July 2009, Australia remains one of the world’s biggest carbon pushers via coal exports and we have the highest per capita emissions. The Opposition did not block the renewable energy target (which cannot now be achieved) or cut solar subsidies. At least Minchin is not breaking any election promise.

  19. Fran Barlow
    November 16th, 2009 at 06:15 | #19

    @Hermit

    In political terms climate change politics is the gift that keeps on giving for the ALP, so why you’d be throwing the Opposition a bone to get the watered-down measures passed, in the process giving the public the impression of weakness in the face of Turnbull is hard to fathom. Surely the way to drive the wedge is to insist that the coalition is not negotiating in good faith, describe all their proposals as unworkable on economic and environmental grounds and go to Copenhagen with scope to grandstand about what you will do after the next election once the deniers are defeated.

    As a matter of practice of course, this measure doesn’t make the CPRS any worse, since

    a) it is already innocuous
    b) agriculture wasn’t in until 2015 AND
    c) in 2015 they’d almost certainly have decided it was too hard to include anyway, bearing in mind that they think it too hard now even when their position is impregnable.

    In essence, what they’ve given the Opposition is early announcement of what they’d have yielded in less favourable circumstances in 2015. And let’s face it, if you’re going to porkbarrell the major polluters, you might as well porkbarrell the not so major ones too.

    It’s disappointing of course, but this means that the question of what to do with transport and forestry is now even more important than it was before. It will be really important that agriculture pays the full cost of all energy inputs and all landclearing, but doubtless they will go to water there too.

    I’ve already begun apologising to the next generation for the failures of mine and begging off responsibility.

  20. November 16th, 2009 at 06:49 | #20

    All politicians should take off their ideological blinkers, reject tribalism and become informed on the issues. I think John’s analysis of Minchin is accurate.

    Remarks by Tony Abbott suggest that egotism also dominates good sense on occasion. Abbott argued that if the government wanted to pass the CPRS that the opposition should be treated with ‘politeness.’ This seems to me a screwy basis for deciding one’s position on climate change.

    I’ve been reading Abbott’s book “Batttlelines” and I get the same impressions. Appeals to a generally anti-environmentalist tribal view and an ego-based lack of depth. On climate change Abbott cites Plimer, notes that recent winters in North America and Europe have been cold and argues that the credentials of the Green movement are suspect because they do not endorse nuclear power. None of this deals with the central issues associated with climate change. It is discouraging.

  21. November 16th, 2009 at 06:50 | #21

    All politicians should take off their ideological blinkers, reject tribalism and become informed on the issues. I think John’s analysis of Minchin is accurate.

    Remarks by Tony Abbott suggest that egotism also dominates good sense on occasion. Abbott argued that if the government wanted to pass the CPRS that the opposition should be treated with ‘politeness.’ This seems to me a screwy basis for deciding one’s position on climate change.

    I’ve been reading Abbott’s book “Battlelines” and I get the same impressions. Appeals to a generally anti-environmentalist tribal view and an ego-based lack of depth. On climate change Abbott cites Plimer, notes that recent winters in North America and Europe have been cold and argues that the credentials of the Green movement are suspect because they do not endorse nuclear power. None of this deals with the central issues associated with climate change. It is discouraging.

  22. jquiggin
    November 16th, 2009 at 07:12 | #22

    @Jarrah

    Reread the post. I specifically stated that there were better arguments to be made. I merely pointed out that many rightwingers who should know better endorsed the CRA talking point, and none (AFAIK) refuted it.

    As regards near-collapse of capitalism, I’m relying on the claims made by Goldman Sachs and its representatives in the US Treasury and Fed. They said the system was on the verge of collapse in September 2008, and who I am I to gainsay them.

  23. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 07:16 | #23

    Tony might think that his climate change denial is a religious obligation because Pell has long been another vocal denier. One argument you sometimes here is “The arrogance of man thinking he could have such an impact on God’s creation.”

  24. jquiggin
    November 16th, 2009 at 08:09 | #24

    @haroldsun
    Of course, everyone is prone to wishful thinking and bad arguments. The problem is when it becomes institutionalised and immune to refutation, as has now happened on the right.

    On the parallel imports issue, what’s really striking is how exercised the free-market lobby has become on such a fourth-order issue, and not for the first time (see, for example, waterfront reform). They are stuck on the policy agenda of the 1970s and 1980s, focusing on symbolic trivia and with nothing to offer in response to the spectacular failure of the deregulated (or to be more precise, weakly controlled but publicly guaranteed) financial system that was a central element of that agenda.

  25. robert
    November 16th, 2009 at 09:28 | #25

    Freelander :
    Tony might think that his climate change denial is a religious obligation because Pell has long been another vocal denier. One argument you sometimes here is “The arrogance of man thinking he could have such an impact on God’s creation.”

    Hmmmm, Freelander, as a Catholic myself I think it’s only fair to point out that there is no single Catholic policy on the whole climate change issue. Neither rejecting AGW nor accepting it is a de fide issue for Catholics. The present Pope has made some public statements regarding the matter that would not, I imagine, altogether please Minchin:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/2421247/Pope-Benedict-XVI-urges-pilgrims-to-fight-climate-change-and-reject-consumerism.html

    Anybody know what Minchin’s religion (if any) is? I certainly don’t know.

  26. Jarrah
    November 16th, 2009 at 09:34 | #26

    @jquiggin
    I reread the post. Regarding the GFC, I cannot see any specific statement that there are better arguments to be made. Perhaps you were going to state that, but it got lost in editing?

    As for refutation, when people band together to oppose an argument, and some of their cohort resort to poor tactics, typically the rest will not point this out, in order to avoid diluting their message or casting doubt on the rest of their reasons that are solid. You can see this in the climate change debate. When was the last time you refuted Flannery’s hyperbole that is “silly on its face”, for example?

    Re near collapse of capitalism, AFAIK they were talking about the ‘collapse’ (meaning severe damage, but not annihilation) of the banking sector. And what did you expect lobbyists for the banking sector to say when pushing for public money to help them out?

  27. Michael
    November 16th, 2009 at 09:57 | #27

    Maybe Minchin is taking a bet that the public’s interest in dealing with climate change is likely to erode over time. Rigorous science by nature is often not accessible (in an intellectual sense) to the public and most scientists are not likely to take strong political positions or even bother countering the delusionalists. Contemplating changing ones lifestyle is also uncomfortable and frightening for a lot of people. There is also a lot of confusing about what action can be taken. That is why even a hobbled, half-arsed ETS is better than nothing in my opinion because it will help get people used to thinking in different ways about consumption and efficiency. That is what delusionalists fear most because it will be self reinforcing.

  28. November 16th, 2009 at 10:01 | #28

    Freelander, another very famous crazy socialist, the one who led the The National Socialist German Workers’ Party to oblivion, thought his actions were a “religious obligation”. Neo Reds (The Greens and The ALP Left) and that crazy Austrian Fenian seem to have more in common than you think.

  29. dave
    November 16th, 2009 at 10:05 | #29

    The interesting thing about Minchin is, as far as I can tell, he hasn’t worked in the private sector for any length of time. He went straight from university to the Liberal Party then into the Senate.

    Its amazing the number of ‘free market’ advocates who have spent their entire lives earning huge government salaries, and wouldn’t know a ‘free market’ if it bit them.

  30. November 16th, 2009 at 10:13 | #30

    Commrades

    “confine attention to factual evidence presented by reputable official and scientific sources and to critical analysis of the arguments of the “left:.”

    Sieg Heil

  31. November 16th, 2009 at 10:20 | #31

    Fran – I think your observation @4 points to happy coincidence for the right. They have linked an unpopular government with denialists claims and assert like Planet Janet, that the greens are conspiring with other unknowns to usurp the comfortable middle class reality of money unlimited and consumerism for ever.

    Jarah @26

    Re near collapse of capitalism, AFAIK they were talking about the ‘collapse’ (meaning severe damage, but not annihilation) of the banking sector. And what did you expect lobbyists for the banking sector to say when pushing for public money to help them out?

    You’re absolutely on the money here. The ends totally justify the means, survival of the corporate giants has no morality attached.

  32. rudy
    November 16th, 2009 at 10:24 | #32

    Tony G nails it again. AGW is all false, and the stupid morons who insisted on dying in the record heatwaves in Melbourne this year are just trying to trick us.

    These gutless cowards saw their chance, and deliberately snuffed it in the record breaking heat, just to trick us as part of their world-socialist-conspiracy.

    As the fires ravage, and the blood and corpses mount, I turn and salute Tony G on not getting sucked in to thinking that any of this has anything to do with AGW.

    The other great thing is the incredible feedback due the deniers! In 10 years with the results in people are going to say ‘hey look at this climate. Where are those deniers – I want to give them feedback about it!’.

  33. Roger Jones
    November 16th, 2009 at 10:29 | #33

    Tony G,

    in your rush to the Godwin, you missed the meaning of that sentence which was to engage in critical analysis of the arguments made by the left.

    Even though JQ’s sentence may have been a little ambiguous, I’d put that down to another example of cultural construction overcoming the capacity for critical analysis.

  34. Alice
    November 16th, 2009 at 10:36 | #34

    Oh hallelujah. Sean G ejected.

  35. wilful
    November 16th, 2009 at 10:45 | #35

    “Comrades” “Seig heil”

    C’mon, make up your mind, is he (are we) a communist or a fascist? Geez you’re all over the shop on this one.

  36. jquiggin
    November 16th, 2009 at 10:59 | #36

    @Jarrah

    Maybe you missed

    “it ought to be possible to make a case that the current crisis does not provide sufficient evidence to abandon the EMH.”

    On criticising silly arguments on “my” side of the debate, here’s my reaction to Jeremy Rifkin and David Suzuki

    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2004/04/26/fakes-and-fakirs/

  37. Michael
    November 16th, 2009 at 11:01 | #37

    Another problem is that the political and economic debates are still being framed by left vs right. I believe a growing number of people probably don’t fall neatly into either of these old paradigms. How many people work in large unionised factories or run businesses which experience what they perceive as extortion from unions? The politics of the Liberal and Labor parties are going to be increasingly confused with ever smaller numbers of true believers on both sides and more swinging voters in the next generation. It’s a pity we are still lumbered with these parties and their time-warped cold war era supporters. I accept the science and think it’s prudent to mitigate climate change, but I also believe in markets and price signals and the ability of the market to incentivise innovative solutions. The tradegy is that a generation of idealogues is holding progress to ransom with the culture wars whilst other economies have unleashed solutions already. Australia will just be relegated to importing the solutions.

  38. gianni
    November 16th, 2009 at 11:01 | #38

    One of the surprises for me from the Four Corners report was the shift in attitude from Ian MacFarlane from arch sceptic to grudging acceptance of the science and his scepticism towards the feasibility of industrial scale Carbon Capture and Storage.

    During the Howard government he was Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources from Nov 2001 to Dec 2007. While his views were reflective of those of Department, he gave the impression that he was a reflexive/ideological climate change sceptic along the lines of Nick Minchin and Cory Bernardi. Freed from ministerial briefing notes, he appears to have altered his views. It’s a pity that Carbon Capture isn’t as easy to do as Ministerial Capture.

  39. November 16th, 2009 at 11:04 | #39

    “As the fires ravage, and the blood and corpses mount, I turn and salute Tony G on not getting sucked in to thinking that any of this has anything to do with AGW.”

    Thats right it has to do with the scum that places the life of trees over and above that of humans. Please place fuel no closer than 3 metres from your house so that it burns better and no backburning please as I prefer the smell of burnt flesh.

    “C’mon, make up your mind, is he (are we) a communist or a fascist? Geez you’re all over the shop on this one.”

    Well you work it out Wilful,

    “confine attention to factual evidence presented by reputable official and scientific sources and to critical analysis of the arguments of the “left:.”

    And close your mind like our friend above from the Politburo wants.

  40. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 11:16 | #40

    dave :
    Its amazing the number of ‘free market’ advocates who have spent their entire lives earning huge government salaries, and wouldn’t know a ‘free market’ if it bit them.

    How true! A great example, is that source of policy truth, the Productivity Commission. For many in that place, it is straight from a publicly funded education at university, to a publicly funded life extolling the virtues of a private market they have no real knowledge of. All they seem to know is that every problem is magically solved in the unfettered market. With such a cloistered existence, they know little about the many imaginative ways that humans have invented to make money at the expense of efficiency and the general public good.

  41. wilful
    November 16th, 2009 at 11:19 | #41

    So definitely a communist then. Glad we’ve got that sorted.

    What a dill. I suspect that your knowledge of Victoria’s Native Vegetation Retention Framework, controlled buring regime, and patterns of settlements are as far away from reality as your understanding of the science behind anthropogenic climate change.

  42. robert
    November 16th, 2009 at 11:25 | #42

    Freelander has written: “With such a cloistered existence, they know little about the many imaginative ways that humans have invented to make money at the expense of efficiency and the general public good.”

    This is broadly true, but there is one government-controlled workforce sector which seems to have no appeal to them at all. That is the government-controlled workforce sector whose members run the risk of getting killed by glory-hungry Viet Cong guerrillas (as in 1965-72) or glory-hungry Afghan guerrillas (as in, like, now).

    It occurred to me recently that John Howard, who despite his deafness seems to be a pretty healthy sort of chap, was of exactly the right age to serve militarily in Vietnam against the communists whom he (rightly) deplored. Did he volunteer to defend his country in uniform? Funnily enough he did not. Nor did his (only slightly younger) old mate Gerard Henderson. (BTW, I was eligible neither on fitness grounds nor on age grounds. When Vietnam ended I was all of 11 years old, and later turned out to be physically unfit for service anyway.)

  43. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 11:51 | #43

    @robert

    But Howard was only too happy to send others to die for, what seems to me to have been, no other purpose than providing opportunities for him to appear statemanlike on the media. Many in the public like a good war, as long as they are not the ones fighting it and the ‘homeland’, that is they, are safe. Look at the Falklands. Thatcher did well out of that one.

  44. wilful
    November 16th, 2009 at 12:03 | #44

    Freelander, while Thatcher did well politically out of the Falklands, the alternative, to allow some petty despots to take over a bit of your land despite strong opposition from the actual locals, was not conscionable.

    Still, alls well that ends well, it was a major failure for the Generals, who subsequently lost power.

  45. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 12:17 | #45

    Britian must retain its empire, such as it is.

  46. wilful
    November 16th, 2009 at 12:22 | #46

    No, Britain must defend the rights of its citizens.

  47. November 16th, 2009 at 12:30 | #47

    On the politics, I imagine that the scenario that Rudd is trying for – one that leaves him on the verge of being incapacitated by uncontrollable drooling – is that the Wong/McFarlane talks come up with a compromise that Turnbull has to take to the party room, which rejects it by a large majority. The bill goes to the house, Turnbull and McFarlane and a few other Liberals vote with the government but the bulk of the party doesn’t, and Turnbull either steps down to let Minchin or Abbot become leader, is bounced to let Minchin or Abbot become leader, or goes to the election as a weakling who can’t speak for his party. All of these outcomes result in Labor winning a thumping majority and the right coming to power in the Liberal party, and thus explain the actions of both Rudd and Minchin.
    And the near-neutering of the bill isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

  48. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 13:55 | #48

    @wilful

    Throughout its empire on which the sun never sets.

  49. Alice
    November 16th, 2009 at 14:29 | #49

    @ChrisB
    says “Turnbull either steps down to let Minchin or Abbot become leader, is bounced to let Minchin or Abbot become leader”

    Chris you paint an apocalypse now scenario…

  50. Alice
    November 16th, 2009 at 14:30 | #50

    @ChrisB
    If we thought we were taken back to the 1950s with JH, these two would take us back to teh dark ages.

  51. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 15:30 | #51

    Now, not only do I have to check for Reds under the bed, but I have to check for Greens as well. Next it will be a Yellow peril?

  52. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 15:32 | #52

    That will be a full spectrum conspiratorial threat.

  53. wilful
    November 16th, 2009 at 15:32 | #53

    Freelander, this is a complete and trivial derail, but, to finish it, do you really think the Argentine aggression, totally unprovoked, againt the wishes of the island residents, should have been simply accepted? If you’re looking for a just war, you’d have to say the British had as good a one as you could get. Everyone complains that we didn’t intervene in East Timor, or West Papua, but the brits defending their own citizens is not OK?

    Oh, and excuse me but the British left their empire in a reasonably dignified way through the second half of the century, better than any other post-colonial power I can think of. To suggest that they defended the Falklands simply as a jingoistic nationalist response is a novel interpretation to me.

  54. Fran Barlow
    November 16th, 2009 at 15:43 | #54

    To suggest that they defended the Falklands simply as a jingoistic nationalist response is a novel interpretation to me.

    It may well be novel to you but it is at worst, a plausible piece of analysis. At great expense, it worked brilliantly. At a fraction of the financial and human cost, the islanders could have been evacuated to somewhere far nicer.

    None of this is to deny that the same dynamic was going on in Argentina of course.

  55. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 16:16 | #55

    And in Gibraltar and many places where previous empires are holding on to land that they ought to abandon. Thatcher actually thought she could hold on to Hong Kong.

  56. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 16:18 | #56

    I was told, some years ago, that by a Hong Kong Chinese that they have a word that they used for the British colonialists. The translation is “Filth”.

  57. Freelander
    November 16th, 2009 at 16:20 | #57

    And of course the Argintinian dictators did the whole thing for the same sorts of reasons, and because they probably expected more sensible behaviour from the Iron Lady.

  58. haroldsun
    November 16th, 2009 at 17:05 | #58

    @jquiggin

    No arguments here. I’m not sure how many books are directly affected by parallel book importation rules. Presumably there are some big name Australian authors with a small international profile, for whom substantial price discrimination might be worthwhile. But the internet and single book orders presumably limits this to an increasing extent. I think the ‘leftist’ response was also (and perhaps more) disproportionate to the issue (death of Australian writing, etc.). If the public is sometimes fixated on ‘fourth order’ issues, the opponents of ‘trivial reforms’ deserve their share of blame.

    “They are stuck on the policy agenda of the 1970s and 1980s, focusing on symbolic trivia and with nothing to offer in response to the spectacular failure of the deregulated (or to be more precise, weakly controlled but publicly guaranteed) financial system that was a central element of that agenda.”

    I think I prefer your more precise definition. I agree that if there are public guarantees, the case for extensive financial regulation becomes much stronger. (If I recall, that was your argument in Great Expectations.) Without having any expertise in the area, there would seem to be some areas where governments could remove implicit or explicit public guarantees to deal with excessive risk taking and ‘looting’. But I could be wrong.

  59. rudy
    November 16th, 2009 at 17:55 | #59

    Hi Tony – your comment here:
    “Thats right it has to do with the scum that places the life of trees over and above that of humans. Please place fuel no closer than 3 metres from your house so that it burns better and no backburning please as I prefer the smell of burnt flesh.”

    Even dumber than I thought. I was talking about the people who died in the Melbourne HEATWAVE which was before the bushfires and had nothing to do with burning off or fires – these people died in a HEATWAVE.

    The vicious heat you say is normal.

  60. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 16th, 2009 at 18:56 | #60

    John, some might argue that the departure of Howard & Costello has created a vacuum within the neo-conservative side of politics and what we are witnessing are the last remnants living in a fool’s paradise.

  61. November 16th, 2009 at 20:50 | #61

    Rudy you said “As the fires ravage, and the blood and corpses mount, Even dumber than I thought, I didn’t know you spell HEATWAVE “f-i-r-e-s ravage”….next you will be telling us some fraud like ‘the globe’ is getting warmer’ is spelt ‘climate change’.

  62. rudy
    November 16th, 2009 at 21:06 | #62

    Tony, I clearly referred to people dying in the heatwave.

    So please answer the question. The record breaking heatwave that killed hundreds of people in Melbourne was normal weather in your opinion……do please answer the question….

  63. Alice
    November 16th, 2009 at 21:23 | #63

    @rudy
    Rudy – I wouldnt bother. Tony G will only duck and weave. He wouldnt notice the rise in temperature in a Sauna.

  64. Peter T
    November 16th, 2009 at 21:34 | #64

    Minchin’s reaction – and that of the sizeable groups who refuse to accept global warming – may be less crazy (in the sense of abnormally weird) than it seems. It may be that Minchin has grasped what Rudd and many others have not – that global warming profoundly challenges so much of our current ways of thought that to accept it as fact (and the basic science is not that hard – roughly senior high school) is to perforce to have to go on to accept major changes in lots of areas. An example is that holding CO2 and the other greenhouse gases to acceptable levels means managing at least decades ahead (because that’s the lag time for ocean take-up or release, glacier stabilisation and much else), and managing within limits globally – with all that means in terms of acceptable distribution of many forms of consumption within a limit. I would put Des Moore of the Institute for Public Affairs in the same camp.

    There is a parallel with Darwin and natural selection here – that is not accepted by 50 per cent of the US population and substantial numbers in the UK, despite a century of education, evidence and even practical application in areas like medicine. The problem is, of course, that not believing in natural selection won’t have major consequences – but if you can’t swallow the gnat of the science, the camel of response is always going to be much too big. In one sense, Rudd is less sensible- he accepts the science (although I doubt he has tried to seriously understand it), but balks at effective action.

  65. gc
    November 16th, 2009 at 21:53 | #65

    Tony G said “Thats right it has to do with the scum that places the life of trees over and above that of humans. Please place fuel no closer than 3 metres from your house so that it burns better and no backburning please as I prefer the smell of burnt flesh.”

    What a comtemptible thing to say. Most of Kinglake bush had been burnt in fuel reduction burns a few months before the fire – I know. I was up there a fortnight before the fires visiting friends. Most of the rest of Kinglake is open fields and crop land – berry fruits and orchards. Fires still came over it.

    I don’t know if you’ve been up there since the fire. There are lone trees in the middle of paddocks where the top had been blasted but the bottom of the tree was untouched. It was a firestorm fueled by high winds, high temperatures and prolonged drought. Blaming the greenies for it, apart from being a vile slur, is yet another example of the Right’s complete separation from reality.

  66. Keith
    November 16th, 2009 at 22:31 | #66

    Since when is science about consensus ?

  67. observa
    November 16th, 2009 at 23:01 | #67

    With the whole debate on AGW I am often reminded that for the average punter there is very little to choose between morally ‘bad’ yet practical wars and morally ‘good’ yet impractical ones. Welcome to Afghanistan for the ‘long haul’ folks, ‘mission accomplished’ having faded from thinking persons’ vocabulary, naturally. It’s a bit like the Republican debate. Every thinking person should naturally be in favour of such enlightenment until the practical mechanics of electing the new President is trotted out, not to mention the inevitable Bill of Wrongs, strings attached. Minchin like so many smells a rat, but cannot articulate exactly where the smell is coming from. That’s because like so many of his ilk he cannot articulate a market green alternative. To do that requires a radical rethink of the inherited science of muddling through and rigorous analysis of just how various prices we observe today have resulted. They are simply the result of a particular constituted marketplace and a failing one at that given emerging realities. The one thing Minchin does know is that an ETS is just more of the same old same old and in that he has an increasing number of allies in unaccustomed places. Friends of the Earth and the Greens must be troubled with the new credit creation, one that has failed miserably so far where it has been attempted and now can be decimated cost wise by simple currency movements as our own Treasury point out. As if that’s not troubling enough, the high priest of AGW Al Gore comes out and admits CO2 is now scientifically only responsible for 40% of warming. Even more credit creation and derivatives will be needed to fuel the trading tables of the global financial sector it seems, but to be a skeptic about that is clearly delusional. Apparently the efficient public sector hypothesis will take care of it all, just as soon as they can all agree on what exactly it is they’re going to take care of.

  68. November 16th, 2009 at 23:12 | #68

    I didn’t see the Four Corners program, so the following refers to Professor Quiggins comments rather than Minchin’s.

    Saying that the fall of communism sent the Left on a quest for another anti-capitalist cause is not the same thing as saying there is a “communist plot”.

    A silly talking point (if it was) proves nothing, I’ll bet that for every one given by a skeptic I could find ten given by a warmist.

    Sharp and effective political operator’s who have no interest in the truth of their ideas tend to run with a majority pack rather than with a beleaguered minority.

    Beliefs are often derived from tribal myths (e.g. religious beliefs) but skepticism of the dangerous anthropogenic climate change orthodoxy is less likely to be derived this way than just about any belief I can think of – much less likely than the orthodoxy is.

    Tribal beliefs require proximate groupthink, e.g. within a church, university, or political party. Where is the skeptics’ church, university or party? Climate skeptics are conservatives, libertarians, Protestants, Catholics, atheists, ex-Greens, humanitarians, and etcetera(mostly they are just people of common sense); but every one of those “tribes” have warmists too. Any skeptics in the academic Left tribe?

    Being a climate skeptic in today’s culture requires confidence in ones independent judgment. Being an anthropogenic warming activist doesn’t, all it requires is conformity with the most publicized myth of our day: that urgent and costly government action is required to curb carbon “pollution” to avert a catastrophe.

  69. Ian Gould
    November 17th, 2009 at 00:45 | #69

    “I was told, some years ago, that by a Hong Kong Chinese that they have a word that they used for the British colonialists. The translation is “Filth”.”

    No translation is required.

    It’s an acronym.

    “Failed in London? Try Hong Kong.”

  70. Ian Gould
    November 17th, 2009 at 00:49 | #70

    “Being a climate skeptic in today’s culture requires confidence in ones independent judgment. ”

    As does being a supporter of NAMBLA.

    =

  71. Donald Oats
    November 17th, 2009 at 02:20 | #71

    Being a “tobacco causes lung cancer” sceptic – haaackk, cough, cough – in today’s culture requires confidence in ones (sic) independent judgement.
    Being a “CFCs affect the ozone layer” sceptic – ow, it burns! It burns! – in today’s culture requires confidence in ones (sic) independent judgement.
    Being a “Sulphur dioxide doesn’t cause Acid Rain” sceptic – funny lookin’ forrests – in today’s culture requires confidence in ones (sic) independent judgement.

    Independent judgement, as someone puts is, is not enough. There needs to be the independent analysis of the facts and theories first, upon which to base your independent judgement.

  72. November 17th, 2009 at 05:21 | #72

    Okay Ian and Donald, having confidence in his independent judgement (and analysis of the facts) doesn’t guarantee the skeptic is right, but it does guarantee that he’s not a delusional follower of a tribal myth – which was my point.

    What gives him the right to be skeptical is that the anthropogenic warmists’ arguments don’t add up logically into a sensible case. And that when challenged they demonize, try to shut down debate, and mount ever more hysterical scare campaigns.

  73. Alice
    November 17th, 2009 at 05:26 | #73

    @Donald Oats
    Im the ultimate skeptic Donald! Its the stork that really delivers babies!

  74. November 17th, 2009 at 05:44 | #74

    Pr Q says:

    The fact is that the political right, at least in the US and among those sections of Australian opinion that take their lead from the US, has become utterly unhinged from reality,

    This is obviously true for about the past 15 years, for the US New Right. The post-Gingrich Southern-based Right has opted for politics over policy in power, which has left its world view at the mercy of hacks, cranks & crooks on its side of politics.

    Yet AUS’s institutional (as opposed to intellectual) Right’s policy performance is much superior to its US counterpart. Very much so as far as deeds rather than words, but even in words as well.

    I put this down to the inherent good sense of AUS’s mainstream voters, who are in general more reality-grounded than comparable polities. We will not let our politicians get away with even minor bits of nonsense for too long. Americans get carried away.

    Under Howard’s reign the AUS political Right never succumbed to the US Right’s general delusionism. Nothing about Howard’s ministry was “unhinged from reality”, including and perhaps especially, the more objectionable aspects.

    This includes foot-dragging on ETS, AWB, Pacific Solution, Iraq-attack and Work Choices. All these policies, with the notable except of WC, were plausibly justifiable under the AUS’s national interest, or at least popular enough with the mainstream polity, who are no fools in this country. The L/NP only payed a political price for WC and even this was well in advance.

    And of course there were many laudable aspects of Howard’s ministry that were far more in-hinged with reality than the AUS Left, so far as sensible policy and mainstream politics were concerned. ETimor, counter-terrorism, border protection, the Intervention, national civic-culturalism, health centralism, the GST, gun control, vastly improved immigration regulation, reasonable fiscal/financial complementarity.

    Since Howard has left the L/NP have made further policy progress. Nelson ditched WC and Turnbull is making a fairly good pass at embracing ETS.

    Its true that Minchin et al are global warming delusionists. They are reflecting their more powerful constituents interests. The AUS mineral sector is bigger in relation to total GDP than counterparts in the US or UK.

    Of course most of AUS’s intellectual Right (press, think tanks, blogs) are genuinely “fruit loopy” or at least brazenly rejecting scientific discourse. They are after all paid to traffic in ideas and appear to believe the nonsense they trot out on AGW, Iraq and DDT. But they are only responding to their more vocal customers views.

    If they reject an ETS they will pay a penalty for oiling the sqeaky wheel at the next election. But that has yet to go through the formality of happening.

    My general conclusion is that AUS’s institutional Right is not so much “fruit loopy” as philistine. They are anti-intellectual because they have a (sometimes well-founded) suspicion of egg-heads in politics. They are not interested in ideas that appear to comfort their opponents or policies which they dont think will make much of a difference except to their pocketbooks.

    Basically AUS’s Right comes unstuck when it plays to its players rather than the Outer, or even the members grandstand. This gets even worse when it starts to follow games played away from home, eg the US.

  75. Michael
    November 17th, 2009 at 08:05 | #75

    Keith :
    Since when is science about consensus ?

    The answer to that is obviously never, but that is also irrelevant to the policy debate. That proper place for the ideas in science to be debated is through peer-reviewed journals by scientist using the scientific method.

    Whilst science shouldn’t rely on consensus, policy should. If the best science to date identifies a large and possibly catastrophic risk then the only defensible position is to look to mitigate it. Why run an experiment that has potentially catastrophic results if you don’t need to. This would be analogous to continuing to use a bridge that the majority of qualified civil engineers deemed to be unsafe. If you continued to allow it to be used on the basis that a couple of engineers who aren’t willing to publish their analysis say it is safe and too expensive to fix or replace.

  76. November 17th, 2009 at 08:23 | #76

    GC @ 15 (2) said;

    “Most of Kinglake bush had been burnt in fuel reduction burns a few months before the fire – I know. I was up there a fortnight before the fires visiting friends”

    GC you are either a liar (AGW fraudster) or blind, as this photo of The burnt out township of Kinglake clearly shows burnt out houses in amongst what is left of the fuel.

    A “contemptible thing” is the scum that places the life of trees over and above that of humans.

  77. Steve
    November 17th, 2009 at 08:49 | #77

    Science is completely about consensus, and I’m surprised that people don’t understand that. A scientific result isn’t of consequence until it is accepted (and perhaps even not until it is replicated) by peers.

    Scientific research in the top drawer, or in a magazine article or on a blog, is of little consequence. Not until it is published does it become a true contribution to science. It is through publishing, that results pass the initial litmus test of peer review, and then the wider and more rigorous process of having the ideas survive and propagate (or languish) under the scrutiny of the wider scientific community.

    Look at the past debates about whether light is a particle or a wave for example. Or the current debate about string theory.

    Science is a discussion similar to most other arguments/discussions. But where it is dissimilar, is that the primary currency of argument is observation, empirical evidence and rationality, not polemic and emotional trickery.

  78. Ian Gould
    November 17th, 2009 at 09:01 | #78

    “Okay Ian and Donald, having confidence in his independent judgement (and analysis of the facts) doesn’t guarantee the skeptic is right, but it does guarantee that he’s not a delusional follower of a tribal myth – which was my point.

    What gives him the right to be skeptical is that the anthropogenic warmists’ arguments don’t add up logically into a sensible case. And that when challenged they demonize, try to shut down debate, and mount ever more hysterical scare campaigns.”

    Or he’s simply a delusional follower of a different tribal myth.

    As for “ever more hysterical scare campaigns” how do you feel about Monckton’s claim that Copenhagen will usher in a global socialist dictatorship?

  79. Fran Barlow
    November 17th, 2009 at 09:05 | #79

    @Michael

    Quite right … the wiki discussion is germane.

    Certain domains, such as the approval of certain technologies for public consumption, can have vast and far-reaching political, economic, and human effects should things run awry of the predictions of scientists. One might observe though, that in so far as there is an expectation that policy in a given field reflect knowable and pertinent data, and well attested and accepted models of the relationships between observable phenomena, there is little good alternative for policy makers than to rely on so much of what may fairly be called ‘the scientific consensus’ in guiding policy design and implementation, at least in circumstances where the need for policy intervention is compelling. While science cannot supply ‘absolute truth’ (or even its complement ‘absolute error’) its utility is bound up with the capacity to guide policy in the direction of increased public good and away from public harm. Seen in this way, the demand that policy rely only on what is proven to be “scientific truth” would be a prescription for policy paralysis and amount in practice to advocacy of acceptance of all of the quantified and unquantified costs and risks associated with policy inaction.

    Such considerations informed the development of ‘the precautionary principle’ most famously as Principle 15 of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. This stated that lack of scientific certainty was no reason to postpone action to avoid potentially serious or irreversible harm to the environment. Those who oppose robust and ubiquitous action to mitigate what the IPCC-led consensus sees as driving climate change frequently cite ‘skepticism’ as at the heart of ‘true science’ in an attempt to imply that concepts such as ‘scientific consensus’ can have no standing and thus play no role in public policy. Yet where this argument is not simply an instantiation of special pleading for ‘business-as-usual’ policies one can argue that this simply makes a false amalgam between scientific methodology as an intellectual discipline and scientifically informed policy formation, which is the benchmark for rational public policy in all areas where debates about the quality and significance of measurable real-world phenomena are pertinent.

    No part of policy formation on the basis of the ostensible scientific consensus precludes persistent review either of the relevant scientific consensus or the tangible results of policy. Indeed, the same reasons that drove relying on the consensus drive evaluating this reliance over time—and adjusting policy as needed.

  80. November 17th, 2009 at 09:24 | #80

    Monckton didn’t “claim that Copenhagen will usher in a global socialist dictatorship”, that’s one of those “silly talking points Q?

  81. Michael
    November 17th, 2009 at 09:27 | #81

    Steve :
    Science is completely about consensus, and I’m surprised that people don’t understand that. A scientific result isn’t of consequence until it is accepted (and perhaps even not until it is replicated) by peers.

    Sure – replication is important, so consensus matters in that respect. I just meant that if someone publishes new research that establishes a new hypothesis, then because it is not in sync with a prior consensus is no reason to immediately discount it. Of course most of the sceptics don’t seem to be inclined to publish in relevant journals.

  82. November 17th, 2009 at 09:32 | #82

    Whoops. Monckton didn’t “claim that Copenhagen will usher in a global socialist dictatorship” Ian, that’s one of those “silly talking points” Quiggin refers to, he claimed that the (now shelved) Copenhagen treaty would sign away part of our sovereignity to an unelected world body, which it would.

  83. November 17th, 2009 at 09:41 | #83

    Michael @ 25 (2) said;

    “This would be analogous to continuing to use a bridge that the majority of qualified civil engineers deemed to be unsafe”

    No it would be analogous to continuing to use a bridge that the majority of qualified in “any” science or science of economics or science of politics…etc…etc…deemed to be unsafe.

    Science is about experiments that predict the outcome of a future observation. This is the “testing” part of science.

    Calculating the tensile strength of a material and the stress distribution in the body is well understood. Experiments can be conducted to predict the outcome of a future observation (i.e at what load the bridge would fail). Experiments in stress mechanics are repeated and verified independently all over the world every day.

    Climate science or AGW fraud cannot be tested and hence it is not scientific. There are no climate science experiments that predict the outcome of a future observation. There are no Climate science experiments that are repeatable in the laboratory and hence that prove the theory. There are not 2 containers with 1million parts of atmosphere, one with 313ppm of carbon and the other with 383ppm of carbon, demonstrating the change in the “net irradiance”. Until climate science or AGW fraud produce an experiment DEMONSTSRATING the change in the “net irradiance” STFU.

  84. Donald Oats
    November 17th, 2009 at 10:16 | #84

    @John Dawson

    To quote you first, John:

    What gives him the right to be skeptical is that the anthropogenic warmists’ arguments don’t add up logically into a sensible case. And that when challenged they demonize, try to shut down debate, and mount ever more hysterical scare campaigns.

    It isn’t a question of having a right to be sceptical or not. Scientific scepticism is a principle in which various scientists assess the work of others, especially results that would be advancements if true, and in which scientists drill down through the layers of earlier research, looking at the underpinnings with newer techniques and more technologically advanced instruments.
    Scepticism in the more popular sense is not scientific scepticism, as it does not necessarily entail any intent or actual activity to examine the claim more closely. Often this sort of scepticism is lacking in substance precisely because it isn’t about knowing, it is about any of a number of other things – which I’ll leave unspecified.

    I accept the theory of anthropogenic global warming within the scientifically determined limitations – not the media version, that’s for sure – and that is really a more nuanced theory subsumed to some degree by more the more general theories governing climate change prior to humanities experiment with industrialisation. A number of things might blunt AGW somewhat, if they prove to be well supported by evidence, and to survive scientific examination of the scientifically sceptical kind – not media or political scepticism.

    So, as someone who accepts AGW, allow me to demonstrate scepticism. I’m sceptical of the level of accuracy – I’ll explain it in this context shortly – claimed for the timing of atmospheric CO2 changes relative to temperature changes in the time series from ice cores in general. It isn’t that I think the current measurements are wrong as such; it is to do with the degree of smoothing which necessarily occurs due to the firnification process and the entrapment of the contempory air. I think that the errors which naturally occur in determining approximately annual cylinders in the cores is probably larger than currently thought. However, I have no experience of doing this sort of lab work, and so my scepticism may be merely a reflection of my ignorance. In other words, I am quite prepared for the possibility of future work to actually strengthen the claims of specific accuracy in various scientific papers, or to demonstrate that greater uncertainty, than currently recognised, exists for some ice core data in some circumstances. A complete overturning of all ice core annual counts, air bubble analysis, etc is, on the other hand, something I would be extremely sceptical about, for the simple reason that there are a number of independent markers which allow scientists to resychronise counts and the like at various parts of the timeline. I’m only concerned about a limited increase in uncertainty concerning data error, not unbounded uncertainty!

    My specific example of scientific scepticism – by a non-practitioner of the particular science – is about one aspect of one type of data for a limited number of cases. I’m open to corroboration or refutation, or a get more data and see, set of possibilities. That’s scientific advancement.

    Your scepticism John Dawson, seems to be about overturning an entire theory in one fell swoop. You will need to provide some significant evidence to challenge AGW, and the evidence must be limited to the relevant circumstances for which AGW theory applies.

  85. Michael
    November 17th, 2009 at 10:34 | #85

    Tony G :
    No it would be analogous to continuing to use a bridge that the majority of qualified in “any” science or science of economics or science of politics…etc…etc…deemed to be unsafe.
    Science is about experiments that predict the outcome of a future observation. This is the “testing” part of science.
    Calculating the tensile strength of a material and the stress distribution in the body is well understood. Experiments can be conducted to predict the outcome of a future observation (i.e at what load the bridge would fail). Experiments in stress mechanics are repeated and verified independently all over the world every day.

    Yet bridges still fail! “In 2001 a stress inspection was done and Minnesota Department of Transportation stated that the bridge “should not have any problems with fatigue cracking in the foreseeable future.”"

    http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Highway_bridge_in_Minneapolis,_Minnesota,_collapses

  86. iain
    November 17th, 2009 at 11:31 | #86

    lol at how unhinged Tony G sounds.

    “Climate science or AGW fraud cannot be tested and hence it is not scientific. There are no climate science experiments that predict the outcome of a future observation.”

    Climate science is tested all the time – refer realclimate.org

    The second sentence doesn’t make a lot of grammatical sense. However, climate science uses observation and experiments, and then makes future predictions, all the time – refer IPCC reports

  87. Freelander
    November 17th, 2009 at 12:08 | #87

    Denialists ultimate resource is that they have access to their own ‘facts’, but so do members of of NAMBLA.

  88. The Big Fella
    November 17th, 2009 at 13:20 | #88

    Minchin and Co wore their coal miners helmets for all to see. Turnbull has not embraced global warming he is looking after the special interest groups and founders of the liberal / National party. The argument is not about mitigating global warming but whom shall wear the costs consumers/householders or big business.

  89. MH
    November 17th, 2009 at 13:51 | #89

    JQ Repost from duplicate thread

    Could not agree more. The delusional line continues to receive substantial support from the commentariate who festoon the pages of the major papers and hence nullify the occasional minor report providing some sensible facts with which to do some serious thinking.

    One observation; common to the delusional mythology spouted by the likes of Barnaby, agriculture is not excluded from Carbon schemes (Solar credits, carbon sequestration permits etc), it is just not fully included and some of the accounting for a lot of these natural processes remains diffcult to quantify but it will be. Which also goes to show how hideously difficult the sell of the ETS, no matter what form, will be when it finally gets up, it is devilshly complex and difficult to work through. I have spent nearly three days working through layers of bureaucratic complexity to register for and properly have registered our small properties contribution to carbon reduction and sequestration programs. Explaining that process and providing easy access to many people who do not even understand the basic physics of how carbon dioxide is produced in the first place will be a very very hard task.

    Barnaby and the lunatic right continue to resist any attempt at making an energy efficient world and new ways of living and doing business, which qualifies them for the conservative tag but they do so based on a delusional paradigm and it would appear cretinist cupidity.

    Finally, cheers to Mike Carlton’s piece on Lord Monckton on Saturday in the SMH and please Rupert bring on those changes to internet delivery of news and information. The sooner the mainstream media is locked up behind a paywall where few will read their mad meanderings the better. Rupert bring on the paywall please!!

  90. MH
    November 17th, 2009 at 14:04 | #90

    JQ a rethink on Minchin’s line, with reflection I think he is engaged in a little bit of conservative ‘dog whistling’ , he is far too astute to believe such rubbish but paradoxically is also sufficiently intelllectually vacuous to probably not have any strong views about anything of any import but his own future, which would suggest as some already have done that is a core matter of political philosophy and there is therefore a push on to develop a core ‘article of faith’ battle line the libs using the ETS that comes along rarely in politics. Me thinks if this is not the issue then there will be another and the target is not the Labour Party but Turnbull who is generally not believed to be a true conservative or liberal either.

    All in all the whole episode has been a remarkably frank insight into the factions within Australian conservative politics at the moment and an indicator of how tenuous Turnbull’s hold of the Federal Parliamentary leadership is in reality. This rucous is but a foretaste of more to come.

  91. James
    November 17th, 2009 at 15:33 | #91

    John Dawson :Whoops. Monckton didn’t “claim that Copenhagen will usher in a global socialist dictatorship” Ian, that’s one of those “silly talking points” Quiggin refers to, he claimed that the (now shelved) Copenhagen treaty would sign away part of our sovereignity to an unelected world body, which it would.

    But John, to quote the Potty Peer:
    “So at last the communists who piled out of the Berlin Wall and into the environmental movement and took over Greenpeace so that my friends who funded it left within a year because they’d captured it. Now the apotheosis is at hand. They are about to impose a communist world government on the world. You have a president who has very strong sympathies with that point of view. He’s going to sign. He’ll sign anything. He’s a Nobel peace laureate. Of course he’ll sign it!”

    So John, in your assertion that Monckton wasn’t claiming Copenhagen would usher in a global socialist dictatorship (aka “a communist world government on the world”), did you bother to do any basic fact checking, or did were you just “confident in your independent judgement”?

    Stephen Colbert has a name for confident, independent judgement like that. Perhaps you could acquaint your confident, independent judgement with some basic science before posting about global warming again.

  92. James
    November 17th, 2009 at 15:43 | #92

    Tony G: Climate science or AGW fraud cannot be tested and hence it is not scientific. There are no climate science experiments that predict the outcome of a future observation. There are no Climate science experiments that are repeatable in the laboratory and hence that prove the theory. There are not 2 containers with 1million parts of atmosphere, one with 313ppm of carbon and the other with 383ppm of carbon, demonstrating the change in the “net irradiance”.

    To quote the American Institute of Physics History of Climate Change Science:

    “In 1859 John Tyndall, intrigued by the recently discovered ice ages, took to studying how gases may block heat radiation. Since the work of Joseph Fourier in the 1820s, scientists had understood that the atmosphere might hold in the Earth’s heat. The conventional view nevertheless was that gases were entirely transparent. Tyndall tried that out in his laboratory and confirmed it for the main atmospheric gases, oxygen and nitrogen, as well as hydrogen.
    He was ready to quit when he thought to try another gas that happened to be right at hand in his laboratory: coal-gas. This was a fuel used for lighting (and Bunsen burners), produced industrially by heating coal. It consisted of carbon monoxide (CO) mixed with a bit of the hydrocarbon methane (CH4) and more complex gases. Tyndall found that for heat rays, the gas was as opaque as a plank of wood. Thus the industrial revolution, intruding into Tyndall’s laboratory in the form of a gas-jet, declared its significance for the planet’s heat balance.
    Tyndall immediately went on to study other gases, finding that carbon dioxide gas (CO2) and water vapor in particular also block heat radiation. Tyndall figured that besides water and CO2, “an almost inappreciable mixture of any of the stronger hydrocarbon vapors” such as methane would change the climate.(1)”

    Refuted by a scientific paper 150 years old. Epic fail, Tony G. Epic fail.

  93. Lucas
    November 17th, 2009 at 15:45 | #93

    @Tony G,
    “Climate science or AGW fraud cannot be tested and hence it is not scientific. There are no climate science experiments that predict the outcome of a future observation. There are no Climate science experiments that are repeatable in the laboratory and hence that prove the theory. There are not 2 containers with 1million parts of atmosphere, one with 313ppm of carbon and the other with 383ppm of carbon, demonstrating the change in the “net irradiance”. Until climate science or AGW fraud produce an experiment DEMONSTSRATING the change in the “net irradiance” STFU.”
    Talking points, no matter how well crafted, can’t handle reality:
    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/
    http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/papers-on-earths-radiation-budget/
    http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/papers-on-carbon-dioxide-absorption-properties-in-atmosphere/
    http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/08/02/papers-on-changes-in-olr-due-to-ghgs/
    http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/papers-on-laboratory-measurements-of-co2-absorption-properties/

  94. Alice
    November 17th, 2009 at 16:12 | #94

    @James
    James – amazing. Reminds me of other epic fails that had their champions at the time. The world is not flat and the sun and other planets do not revolve around the earth.

  95. Glenn Tamblyn
    November 17th, 2009 at 16:15 | #95

    @Tony G

    “Science is about experiments that predict the outcome of a future observation. This is the “testing” part of science.

    Climate science or AGW fraud cannot be tested and hence it is not scientific. There are no climate science experiments that predict the outcome of a future observation. There are no Climate science experiments that are repeatable in the laboratory and hence that prove the theory. There are not 2 containers with 1million parts of atmosphere, one with 313ppm of carbon and the other with 383ppm of carbon, demonstrating the change in the “net irradiance”. Until climate science or AGW fraud produce an experiment DEMONSTSRATING the change in the “net irradiance”

    Ok, then lets take the basic theory of AGW and put it to some tests. The basic theory – CO2 levels in the atmosphere (ignoring the other GH gases for now) have increased due to human causes and will cause warming of the global environment

    CO2 has risen – Test. Compare current measurements with analysis of Ice Cores. Confirmed. Monitor current levels of CO2 and look for a rising trend. Confirmed

    CO2 is Anthropogenic. Test. Analyse the change in isotope ratios of Carbon 12, 13 & 14 in the atmosphere. If the extra CO2 is anthropogenic in origin then the change in these ratios the atmosphere will match the expected impact of the isotope makeup of fossil fuels since no other source of CO2 can have that impact on the ratios. Confirmed

    CO2 will cause an increase in the temperature. Atmosphere has warmed. Confirmed. Ice has melted. Confirmed. Oceans have warmed. Confirmed. Total Heat Content for the environment has increased since 1950 by around 2 x 10^23 Joules, most of it in the oceans. Thats about 3 Billion Hiroshima Bombs. So Heating from some source Confirmed. Could Total Solar Irradiance have increased as the source of this extra heat. No, satellite measurements for around 30 years rule this out. The Sun is going through its normal 11 year cycles but is not trending up. Direct measurement of Total Terrestrial Irradiance has been attempted but the results are inconclusive to date. However if net energy has increased and energy in has not, then energy out must have decreased. And plans are underway to launch new satellite missions that will be capable of simultaneous measurement of both sides of the balance sheet. So, the climate has warmed due to something other than changes in Solar output. Confirmed unless you feel we need to re-prove the Law of Conservation of Energy or the rules of arithmatic.

    Is the change in Terrestial Irradiance due to CO2 etc.

    Prediction. The radiation leaving the Earth will have increasing troughs in the frequencies where CO2 and the other GH gases absorb. Observed. Confirmed.

    Prediction. The radiation reaching the earth when we look up will have increasing peaks in the frequencies where CO2 and the other GH gases absorb, due to them re-emitting the radiation they have absorbed and emitting some of it back down to the surface of the planet. Observed. Confirmed.

    So there is definitely a change in Total Terestrial Irradiance. And an expected change in absorbtion/radiation behaviour in the frequencies of the GH gases has been observed. But we are not yet able to measure the TTI accurately enough yet to confirm the arithmatic precisely.

    Tony. Do you do jigsaw puzzles. Have you noticed that you can usually make out the picture in the puzzle even though the very last piece hasn’t been added yet.

    We haven’t been able to dot every i yet. But we certainly have enough confirmation to be getting on with business. And certainly no failures of confirmation.

    As for your statement that Science is about experimentation. It isn’t. Its about observation. Make predictions of one or more phenomena or events that you expect to observe under certain conditions then see if you actually do observe them under those conditions. Experiment is a subset of this where you are able to contrive the conditions. Put something in a test tube or a stress tester for example. Many areas of science make predictions where you are unable to contrive the conditions for the test but simply have to wait for them to come about. Einstein’s Relativity Theory predicted that light from a distant star would be bent around the Sun if it passed near to it. But nobody went out to put the Sun in a test tube in a lab. Rather you wait for a solar eclipse to happen, sail to the South Atlantic to observe it and make your observation. Theory confirmed. Controlled condition laboratory testing is only one part of how Science is carried out. Real world Science is a lot more complex than your average grade 10 Science class.

    And but your allegation of “AGW fraud ” suggest to me that you aren’t quite the impartial seeker after truth. Correct me if I am wrong about that.

  96. Alice
    November 17th, 2009 at 17:26 | #96

    @Glenn Tamblyn
    Glen – brilliant analysis – but such a waste on a dedicated fruit loop! (Expect the expected fruit loop response.)

  97. frankis
    November 17th, 2009 at 18:39 | #97

    Thank you Tony G for inspiring James and Glenn, theirs was great stuff!

  98. Ian Gould
    November 17th, 2009 at 18:47 | #98

    “Whoops. Monckton didn’t “claim that Copenhagen will usher in a global socialist dictatorship” Ian, that’s one of those “silly talking points” Quiggin refers to, he claimed that the (now shelved) Copenhagen treaty would sign away part of our sovereignity to an unelected world body, which it would.”

    http://bigironbegfish.blogspot.com/2009/10/just-wow.html

    Here’s a transcript of Monckton’s comments.

    ” At [the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in] Copenhagen, this December, weeks away, a treaty will be signed. Your president will sign it. Most of the third world countries will sign it, because they think they’re going to get money out of it. Most of the left-wing regime from the European Union will rubber stamp it. Virtually nobody won’t sign it.

    I read that treaty. And what it says is this, that a world government is going to be created. The word “government” actually appears as the first of three purposes of the new entity. The second purpose is the transfer of wealth from the countries of the West to third world countries, in satisfication of what is called, coyly, “climate debt” – because we’ve been burning CO2 and they haven’t. We’ve been screwing up the climate and they haven’t. And the third purpose of this new entity, this government, is enforcement.

    How many of you think that the word “election” or “democracy” or “vote” or “ballot” occurs anywhere in the 200 pages of that treaty? Quite right, it doesn’t appear once. So, at last, the communists who piled out of the Berlin Wall and into the environmental movement, who took over Greenpeace so that my friends who funded it left within a year, because [the communists] captured it – Now the apotheosis as at hand. They are about to impose a communist world government on the world. You have a president who has very strong sympathies with that point of view. He’s going to sign it. He’ll sign anything. He’s a Nobel Peace Prize [winner]; of course he’ll sign it.”

    You’re right he doesn’t say “social dictatorship” he says “communist world government.’

    And here’s the video:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/10/16/obama-poised-to-cede-us-sovereignty-in-copenhagen-claims-british-lord-monckton/

    Tell me again which of us is the gullible fool who believes whatever he’s told and which of us checks facts for himself.

  99. Freelander
    November 17th, 2009 at 18:50 | #99

    The most amusing conspiracy theory I have heard so far is that the whole AGW fraud was invented so that the extreme left could tax people heavily to pay for their stimulus packages. How prescient of these conspirators to have predicted the GFC and the need for stimulus packages (which we know were never really needed).

  100. Ian Gould
    November 17th, 2009 at 19:15 | #100

    Here’s level-headed nonhysterical climate denialist US Republican Senator David Vitter claiming the passage of climate change legislation will give Obama dictatorial powers.

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/Climate-bills-emergency-provision-gives-Obama-strong-man-powers–69646037.html

    And here’s the facts:

    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/11/10/the-emergency-powers-in-cap-and-trade/?print=1

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