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Weekend reflections

November 21st, 2009

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language please.

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  1. Rationalist
    November 21st, 2009 at 15:08 | #1

    Rightio.

    Warren Buffet invests big in US Coal infrastructure. This man knows a good investment when he sees it, his wealth proves this :) .

  2. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 21st, 2009 at 15:10 | #2

    ClimateGate makes for interesting reading. Some people really don’t like the guys at ClimateAudit:-

    http://www.anelegantchaos.org/cru/emails.php?eid=793

  3. Rationalist
    November 21st, 2009 at 15:19 | #3

    “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t”

  4. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 21st, 2009 at 15:22 | #4

    Apparently Climate Scientists don’t mind dodging taxes:-

    http://www.anelegantchaos.org/cru/emails.php?eid=1

  5. November 21st, 2009 at 16:38 | #5

    New Post: Of State Borders, Wars and Refugees:
    Refugee debate at Left Focus

    In our latest post at Left Focus Lev Lafayette ( a founder of ‘Labor for Refugees’) considers the history of refugees with a critique ranging from Europe to Africa, and Australia and beyond. His is a passionate plea for the rights of refugees – as against to nationalist populism and opportunism. Well worth a read.

    See: http://www.facebook.com/l/e7f48;leftfocus.blogspot.com/2009/11/of-state-borders-wars-and-refugees.html

  6. Glenn Tamblyn
    November 21st, 2009 at 18:33 | #6

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    This is going to be a fun little ride. ‘Climategate’ indeed. The denialosphere is going to go into meltdown. Like a certain Mr Pavlov’s dogs, and somebody just rang the bell long and hard. Maybe it will keep them all amused for a while.

    Because you can be certain that none of them will comment on how mundane the ordinary tone of the communications is. Far moore important to go on a wild cherry hunt.

    This link at RealClimate has a good discussion about it as well. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack/

    And within 2 days it’s generated hundreds of comments. And this from the white hats.

  7. Alice
    November 21st, 2009 at 19:15 | #7

    Here is a local piece from the beaches.

    Surfwatch (experienced firm) was going to enter a tender to fly helicopters and do shark spotting but the bad old State Government (NSW)n wrote a nice little piece in the contract saying Surfwatch couldnt contact the media about its shark sightings (thats right – no news at all – no contact whatsoever with the media – not even the Manly Daily).

    Given how long it would take the State Government to respond to a shark feeding frenzy at Palm Beach, Surwatch has now declined the tender saying “we reported lots of shark activity in the past that the State Government suppressed it”. NIce one.

    What point in having a helicopter shark watch if it cant be reported by something a hell of a lot faster than 5 tiers in the organisational hierarchy of the State Government and only on Monday and only after its been signed off as not “damaging” to NSW labour – if at all?

    Everyone has gone home from the beach by then, hopefully in one piece.

    Great. There is seriously an argument here to go back to the good old days of publicly funded shark watches.

  8. Alice
    November 21st, 2009 at 19:17 | #8

    Or maybe go back to the good old days of a publicly funded State government?

  9. Alice
    November 21st, 2009 at 19:41 | #9

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Well Terje… the climate scientists perhaps need some advice from the Myer Family and TPG and Hoges or Vizard. Doesnt sound like they are very good at dodging their taxes, given the paltry amount? On a scale of one to ten for a stir up Terje? .00015 is all Id give that link.

  10. nanks
    November 21st, 2009 at 21:04 | #10

    @Alice

    Alice :
    Or maybe go back to the good old days of a publicly funded State government?

    LOL

  11. Donald Oats
    November 21st, 2009 at 22:04 | #11

    I was wondering a bit about the manner in which the CRU emails/data/code tarball was constructed – were the CRU staff in the middle of collecting the material specific to an individual FOI, hence discussions about what to delete from it (many people have assumed that Jones’ comments on deleting the communications specific to AR4 meant destroying the actual original emails themselves; I’ll hold judgement on that until someone demonstrates Jones’ wasn’t referring to the *.txt versions of saved and copied emails, copied into the working directory from which the tarball was formed). If this is the situation – creating a tarball for answering an FOI – then the hacker(s) had an easy time getting a copy of the tarball off of the server.
    On the other hand, if the tarball is in fact the total construction of the hacker(s), it means that he/she had to go to the trouble of looking through multiple mail server mailboxes and archives (the tarballed email copies go back as far as 1996) to build up the final tarball. Not to mention trawling individual …/home/ dirs to extract data, code, etc. This seems fairly improbable to me: there would be timestamps all over the place and bugger deleting syslogs, that won’t cover their tracks adequately. Furthermore, if this scenario is accurate then it would most likely be the work of an extremely knowledgable insider. I doubt this scenario though.

    In the first scenario of a tarball sitting on the server, ready for answering an FOI demand, then either an insider or a kiddy-hacker could be in and out in seconds, although the transfer might take about a minute to two minutes. I wonder if we’ll ever know who did it?

    This event is good example of why even with scientific sources that I trust, I still like to read any scientific articles and background papers for myself, and that includes articles that they believe are wrong, weak, or rotten. Another good cross-check of a scientific article that has been published at least a year or so earlier, is to check for citations – both the number and the scientist (groups) citing it. If the paper is any good, their should be a number of citations from scientists not connected to the original authors. Of course, the reasons for citing are sometimes negative and that needs to be checked as well.

    I do this with biomedical articles because of the rampant seeding by pharmaceutical companies – finding demonstrably independent researchers is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Pharma funding doesn’t necessarily imply that researchers are compromised, of course, but I prefer to be conservative on this.

    Finally, the timing of the CRU tarball leak just strikes me as too close to Copenhagen to be a coincidence. Perhaps it is but my gut says otherwise – of course, my gut has been known to be spectacularly wrong on occasion. In any case, Senator Inhofe made some “prescient” remarks concerning vindication of the skeptics, and coincidently this dropped in his lap very soon afterwards. The Australian Liberal party has the material IALTB – although I doubt any minister will directly see it – and I expect a big week in parliament this week!

  12. November 21st, 2009 at 22:07 | #12

    Have I missed it or has JQ commented yet on the QCU commissioned report by Bob Walker?

    Would be of interest …….

  13. mitchell porter
    November 21st, 2009 at 22:50 | #13

    Donald, the contraband zipfile comes in two parts. One part contains several thousand emails going back to the mid-1990s, but mostly from the last few years. The other half contains heaps of datasets in formats I can’t currently read, along with terse readme files explaining their contents. There’s also some C code.

    It’s an interesting forensic question – what can be inferred about the manner of the material’s acquisition. I don’t believe your FOI scenario – some of the emails are quite random. I could believe in a scenario where you have a hacker using a known exploit, and a lay skeptic looking over their shoulder, telling them which directories to copy (e.g. anything with ‘tree’ in the title). One thing which will be indicative of whether the hacker or leaker knew what they were doing is whether any of the datasets and code were already in the public domain or had otherwise been made available to the skeptics. If that is so, that will strengthen the grab-and-run theory.

    The emails are something else. Sent by many people over many years, and with no single person always present as sender or receiver, I don’t yet have any sense of where and how they were located and organized before being copied. Maybe a security hole in a departmental mail server? But how many people keep a 13-year-old email in their current set of mail folders? I’d expect a document that old, if it was still around, to be saved separately and privately as a text file. The emails may have been obtained in several ways and on several occasions.

  14. Peter T
    November 21st, 2009 at 22:51 | #14

    A quick skim through the comments on the stolen e-mails at RealClimate suggests that, if nothing else, the episode should be useful to Professor Quiggins book on macroeconomics – they conclusively refute any assumption of general human rationality.

    I used to think “too stupid to live” was just an idiom.

  15. jquiggin
    November 21st, 2009 at 22:52 | #15

    @Kitchenslut
    Watch this space …

  16. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 05:44 | #16

    It is not uncommon for a mailserver to store all email in one database that is in turn essentially one large file. Nick the file and you have all the email to manipulate at will.

  17. TerjeP (say tay-a)
  18. jquiggin
    November 22nd, 2009 at 07:18 | #18

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Indeed it is unbelievable that the delusionosphere has fallen, yet again, for this week’s silly talking point. Last week, it was “court case proves global warming is a religion”, now it’s “leaked emails contain phraseology that is embarrassing to the senders”.

    Honestly, it’s hard to be polite about people who fall for this kind of thing, week after week, for years on end. Look back at the collection here (mostly old ones that you don’t here so much anymore, but might be revived at any time) and you really start to wonder what kind of thought processes are going on.

  19. iain
    November 22nd, 2009 at 07:55 | #19

    lol at terje linking Delingpole as “unbelievable” (presumably without any trace of irony)

  20. Alice
    November 22nd, 2009 at 08:17 | #20

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    Terjeeeeee ( “unbelievable”??… a shocker!) -from your own link..an example of ummmmm evidence against climate scientists (shh..dont want to wake up u know who name ends in G).

    “Next time I see Pat Michaels at a scientific meeting, I’ll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted.”

    Watch out Terje you big stirrer. Some of us here might be so tempted LOL.

  21. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 22nd, 2009 at 08:24 | #21

    John, one must sympathise with Turnbull for putting up with the neo-conservative illywackers who are trying to create dissention and undermine his authority. Furthermore, by rejecting the Government’s emissions trading legislation to avoid a party rift is absurd and nonsensical. Maybe it’s time Turnbull really puts his foot down.

  22. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 22nd, 2009 at 09:06 | #22

    John, there are officials who argue that negotiations in Copenhagen will still yield a political outcome containing emissions targets which would form the core basis of a new treaty next year even though negotiators will have their plate full debating on how best to channel investments to reduce emissions, develop carbon-free energy sources and give aid to poor nations to adapt to the effects of global warming.

  23. Alice
    November 22nd, 2009 at 09:41 | #23

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    Moshie….you mean Turnbull should do a Rees?

  24. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 22nd, 2009 at 10:15 | #24

    Alice, aside from Turnbull there is no credible leader within the Liberal Party. As for doing a Rees time will tell.

  25. observa
    November 22nd, 2009 at 10:16 | #25

    ‘Indeed it is unbelievable that the delusionosphere has fallen, yet again, for this week’s silly talking point.’
    No John, from the University of East Anglia’s FOI policy they all should have been acutely aware of the policy-

    “5 key facts that all staff should know about Freedom of Information

    The Act gives everyone both in and outside UEA a right of access to ANY recorded information held by UEA

    A request for information must be answered within 20 working days
    If you receive a request for information which mentions FOI, is not information you routinely provide, is unusual, or you are unsure of, you should pass the request to your FOIA contact or the Information Policy and Compliance Manager

    You should ensure that UEA records are well maintained and accessible to other staff, so that they can locate information needed to answer a request when you are not there
    As all documents and emails could potentially be released under the Act, you should ensure that those you create are clear and professional ”

    As it stands currently these emails and their contents have not been refuted and any cursory examination that delves beyond the usual camaraderie of research teams reveals this is not a good look from the point of view of purely objective science. They hint most strongly at attempts to massage and hide data that’s even mildly problematic for a comprehensive AGW theory, as well as political overtones and a well understood conduit to the public teat. These are the very points the ‘fruit loops’ have been banging on about and now it would appear they’ve been given enormous traction. As the policy said- “As all documents and emails could potentially be released under the Act, you should ensure that those you create are clear and professional ” The question now remains- How clear are they and how professional?

    Now that this whistle has been blown I can forsee an inevitable outcome. There will be a demand from scientists of all persuasions everywhere for full and free access to all raw data collection and methodology of anything to do with AGW and no objections will be countenanced. The scientific community in general have their reputations on the line with the public now and they’ll know it. If UEA and other climate change centres think otherwise, they’re in for a rude awakening.

  26. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 11:10 | #26

    now it’s “leaked emails contain phraseology that is embarrassing to the senders”.

    Not to mention references to tax dodging and FOI dodging. And you’re right that it makes for an interesting talking point.

  27. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 11:34 | #27

    old ones that you don’t here so much anymore

    Just because arguments are old and you don’t hear them repeated every five minutes does not mean that they are without merit. I’m sure that you would agree that many of the arguments in favour of evolution (a theory we agree on) are old and not mentioned every five minutes. That does not diminish them.

  28. Ken
    November 22nd, 2009 at 11:40 | #28

    I note the hacker didn’t release the personal emails from people at orgs like Heartland. If this results in more delay on dealing with climate change we are all the losers from this sordid effort to smear. Rather than proving the lack of integrity of climate scientist it clearly proves the lack of integrity of climate denialists.
    TerjeP, do you support the tax office, for example, having full access to everyone’s emails to check for anything incriminating?

  29. jquiggin
    November 22nd, 2009 at 12:26 | #29

    Honestly, Terje go and take a look at the list, and the refutations. This isn’t science or even political discussion, it’s bad high school debating.

    I’m sorry to say this, but the point I made a little while ago, that, under current circumstances, a commitment to libertarianism or conservatism actively makes people stupid is being exemplified by this talking point, and by your reaction to it.

  30. Donald Oats
    November 22nd, 2009 at 12:50 | #30

    @mitchell porter
    Interesting, Mitchell. One thing is now clear. Email correspondence in a research institution reads much like blog correspondence, only slightly more polite :-) A few of the in-crowd are now probably realising they’re part of the out-crowd. Ouch!

    The fact of the older emails does make me suspect this is part of an attempt to answer an FOI request. Perhaps the hacker grabbed more of the emails than was ever intended to go into the FOI tarball.

    BTW Terje, or anyone really, how does the FOI “request” work? I would have guessed that some scope rules must come into it, otherwise one email – to take an example – could through the sender and recipient lists suck up an all-time mother of a graph (DAG in this case, IIRC). That is probably not the intent of FOI, otherwise everything including the burp contest record holder in the post-grad quarters should be online instantaneously…

    The problem with an over-reaching FOI is that rather than provide the public with more knowledge it will inhibit the affected research scientists from carrying out truly exploratory trials on new data, perhaps even on simulated data, or on an existing method that they aren’t particularly familiar with using, any crazy thinking aloud thought that probably won’t work, yet has something to it that is attractive, will get trashed. Imagine how a researcher would feel if six months of failures has to be stored away along with the final, successful version of a new algorithm they were developing, purely in case of an FOI. The failures are merely a sideshow that goes with the territory of trying out a new idea for an algorithm, say a faster parallel nonlinear equation solver or something. Who but the researcher cares about the failed attempts? Release this stuff and as the delusorati blogs in the current climate demonstrates, I wager claims of fraud (eg only published one successful case out of months of failures), or incompetence (eg took six months to stop failing all the time, get someone who can do it right the first time), or not using the “scientific method” (eg should have made observations, collected data, made hypothesis about whether this version of algorithm would work, against not working as null, run on data, recorded failure(s)). Yeah, right!

    As is also indicated, there is a dollar cost to responding to FOI. On one of the other blogs (sorry, not sure which one) it was claimed that CRU staff were into double figures on answering FOI requests, and someone(s) well known had issued a few of them. Researchers need to delay other duties in order to fit these in, whether they are well-intentioned FOI requests or capricious ones, it doesn’t matter.

    Has a blogger here had to go through the process of responding to an FOI request? Want to elaborate a bit?

  31. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 13:27 | #31

    Donald – I’m not fixed on the ethics of this leak. I merely questioned your assertion that it was immoral with some counter points (eg ASIO stealing information and information having been stolen from big tabacco). I think it is in very grey territory.

    I do however think that people that publish acadamic papers should make available to critics their underlying data and methods. Those that are wedded to the scientific method rather than a particular hypothesis ought to be keen to have any hypothesis subject to robust scrutiny. This is the best way to keep conclusions robust. For conclusions that effect public policy this is even more signficant.

    There seems to be clear evidence from this leak that many academics put a lot of effort into obstructing any release of their underlying data or methods and also into obstructing any FOI request that might otherwise liberate their data or methods into the public domain. And that they conspired with others in the profession to obstruction the FOI process with potential criminal behaviour. None of this seems to be in the spirit of open enquiry that science ought to be about or in line with the law. Surely you are not so biased in this debate as to be indifferent to such revelations.

  32. Alice
    November 22nd, 2009 at 13:28 | #32

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje…re the committment to lower income taxes and no redistribution by governments by the ALS (and small government fanatics) you may be interested to know that for the past 60 years most Aussies have gained from income tax redistribution. Up to 1964 only the top decile lost share because of it. Then hey presto – the 9th lost share and the top lost less share (but they jointly provided all income for redistribution) to 1976. By 1976 the 8th started losing some share as well. Meanwhile the top is winning by contributing a lower percentage of their share to redistribution (?shoving some of their rightful burden down on to the 9th and 8th deciles?). So if you want lower taxes Terje – reverse the trend where the rich have been shoving the burden on to others and gettinh away with it. Dont attack the government – attack the people who really are avoiding their responsibilities and contributing to growing inequality. To be precise – Decile number ten of tax income individuals (then add companies as well).

  33. Alice
    November 22nd, 2009 at 13:34 | #33

    I know that was a derail – but in terms of the ALS – they spend half their time denying AGW because they want lower taxes but they dont have their tax/government arguments right either.

  34. stockingrate
    November 22nd, 2009 at 14:01 | #34

    “The argument that Australia is already overpopulated is nonsense…….. Bangladesh is roughly twice the size of Tasmania, and home to about seven times the population of Australia.” – Lindsay Tanner Min for Finance and Deregulation addressing the Property Council of Australia (lobbyists who pay money to Libs and ALP) .

    When the story was reported a week ago I was following the post about the Liberal fruitloops so that word came to mind (about the idea not the person), however Bob Carr has provided in the SMH a more considered and useful word, estrangement.

    “Some Australians must have felt similar estrangement when they read federal Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner’s defence of Australia’s runaway immigration targets, playfully comparing our population densities with those of Bangladesh”

  35. Donald Oats
    November 22nd, 2009 at 14:46 | #35

    TerjeP (say tay-a) :Donald – I’m not fixed on the ethics of this leak. I merely questioned your assertion that it was immoral with some counter points (eg ASIO stealing information and information having been stolen from big tabacco). I think it is in very grey territory.

    I thought I was making the point that there are two main possibilities for the specific case of CRU, namely a leak/whistleblower or a break-in/hack. Both cases are illegal under the law. In the first case, a whistleblower knows something about the situation because they are on the inside, usually a party to some of what they want to bring to the attention of the authorities. If instead they just release it to everyone via the internet, I fail to see how they are acting legally or even ethically, with the possible exception of the information being so important for the public to know, yet is somehow not the result of illegal dealings, that it needs to be made public. On the other hand, if they release it to the authorities in order to demonstrate potentially criminal behaviour of other staff, then I think they have behaved appropriately. Whether they face prosecution for the release is dependent upon many specific factors, as I’ve answered in previous posts on this thread.
    I do agree with you that it is a very grey area.

    I do however think that people that publish acadamic papers should make available to critics their underlying data and methods. Those that are wedded to the scientific method rather than a particular hypothesis ought to be keen to have any hypothesis subject to robust scrutiny. This is the best way to keep conclusions robust. For conclusions that effect public policy this is even more signficant.

    I agree with you that methods should be made available, in adequate detail that a competent expert could reproduce it and apply it. For mathematical topics the method is probably enough. For non-mathematical, eg biological sample prepping for a novel technique, it might require an expert to visit the lab and to see how it is done first hand. These days that could be achieved through the cheap alternative of a movie file, saving a physical visit. It would reduce misunderstandings.
    Data is the tricky one. I myself have run into the problems of ownership, and it isn’t a simple one to overcome. Some data is protected by patent, which means that in principle it is available (via the Patent Office database of patents), some data is part of an application for patent, in which case it cannot be released, some data is synthetic, ie created purely for purposes of demonstration or testing in a situation with known structure, and so on. Whenever data is processed by a commercial software application, only the input data and the resultant data are available for release – if the CSA license doesn’t encumber it in some way. Then there is the question of what is relevant data anyway? In the case of field data, say 3336m of ice core from Vostok or something, the data starts with physical observation of the core itself. There is only so many samples of core that may be taken. Still, some kind of protocol could be worked out I suppose. At the moment it is mainly the journals that dictate what data should be available – from their site usually – and what is unnecessary.

    There seems to be clear evidence from this leak that many academics put a lot of effort into obstructing any release of their underlying data or methods and also into obstructing any FOI request that might otherwise liberate their data or methods into the public domain. And that they conspired with others in the profession to obstruction the FOI process with potential criminal behaviour. None of this seems to be in the spirit of open enquiry that science ought to be about or in line with the law. Surely you are not so biased in this debate as to be indifferent to such revelations.

    The US and UK academics have various responsibilities towards the financial providers of the grants. These may range to making everything within reason (methods, data, statistical preprocessing steps + reasoning, outlier identification + reasoning, etc) available as a condition of publication (eg NIH with pubmed database, numerous OAJs, etc) through to minimal result data (eg some big pharma grants where proprietary company data was used in part of the research), etc.
    And to answer the highlighted part of your question in the above quote, I don’t believe that I am particularly biased in this case. In fact, if there is actionable evidence of criminal transgressions with respect to the relevant FOIA, then they should be procescuted – the due proces of the Law should apply, as I said in a previous post on this thread. We’ll see.

  36. Donald Oats
    November 22nd, 2009 at 15:03 | #36

    @Donald Oats
    PS: by a “competent expert” I mean an expert in the field who has the specific knowledge (competency) to understand the method and to perform it.

    Cheers,

    Don.

  37. Donald Oats
    November 22nd, 2009 at 15:19 | #37

    One thing that does get up my craw concerning this whole climate witch burning debate is that some of the most libellious parties, and sneaky individuals keep on rolling on, earning big bucks for every appearance for various contrarian causes – smoking doesn’t cause cancer, DDT is safe as houses, CFCs don’t harm ozone and we can’t find a replacement anyway, CO2 emissions by humans don’t contribute to climate change, which isn’t or is happening, take your pick, lead in exhaust smoke isn’t a problem and besides there is no replacement, and many more causes. The common theme for most of these is that it originates in the US and then spreads out via the tireless campaigning of a well paid group of consultant-lobbyists. They seem to be bullet-proof because they do not generally publish in the scientific literature, they are not active pre-retirement age academics, and so escape the responsibilities of academic enquiry, and they push their client’s position through opinion piece articles in national newspapers. Since what they say is opinion, it doesn’t need to be the truth, of the scientific kind or any other kind.

    Bulletproof.

  38. iain
    November 22nd, 2009 at 16:04 | #38

    terje your assertion that there is “clear evidence” of obstructing an FOI request is interesting news. Can you show us the clear evidence? Keep in mind slander and libel laws that you have (potentially) breached, already, by making statements along these lines.

    Also keep in mind as Gvin Schmidt has made repeatedly at RC:
    “It possibly has something to do with the fact that CRU has recieved dozens of vexatious FOI requests from people who are trying to score points rather than do any science” and that a poor request from Phil Jones to delete emails may (potentially) have had nothing to do with an FOI, and, almost certainly, nothing to do with deleting actual data.

    If you don’t have any evidence (other than one stolen email with wording that could mean any of the above) – then you aren’t, obviously, making a substantial argument. Do you have any substantial discussion points to raise?

  39. Fran Barlow
    November 22nd, 2009 at 16:24 | #39

    @Michael of Summer Hill

    one must sympathise with Turnbull for putting up with the neo-conservative illywackers who are trying to create dissention and undermine his authority

    Why must one sympathise? He can simply call what they say by an apt descriptor: unadulterated tosh. After all, he’s as entitled to an opinion as any of them.

    If he is, as the revolting members of the coalition partyy room claim, party to the greatest fraud in history, I can’t see that those saying this are entitled to be bothered. He needs to lay down what the is on message, insist upon it, and sack anyone who breaks ranks, and challenge the dissenters to roll him.

  40. Fran Barlow
    November 22nd, 2009 at 16:59 | #40

    In an average year, about 300-400 Chinese coal miners die in mine accidents, though in recent years, the number has been drifting down as some of the smaller unauthorised mines have been closed. In some years figures have been as high as 3000 dead. In the years since Chernobyl nearly 20,000 Chinese miners have died and we are not even counting those coal miners who die from other causes associated with mining — like black lung disease. But I digress …

    China coal mine blast death toll jumps to 87

    Rescuers worked in frigid cold to reach 21 miners trapped underground Sunday as the death toll from a huge gas explosion in a northern Chinese mine jumped to 87 — the deadliest blast to hit the beleaguered industry in nearly two years.

    The government has cracked down on unregulated mining operations, which account for almost 80 percent of the country’s 16,000 mines. It says the closure of about 1,000 dangerous small mines last year has helped it cut fatalities.

    Quite apart from CO2 mitigation, there is a case for closing all but those mines needed to produce coal for steel production.

  41. Fran Barlow
    November 22nd, 2009 at 17:12 | #41

    To put the above into some perspective, precise figures are hard to come by. This source puts a much higher figure on Chinese mine deaths

    Safety Challenges in China’s Coal Mining Industry

    Even India, a sizable developing country with a notoriously poor past safety record was able to reduce this rate to less than 9% of China’s current rate [3]. With such high fatality rates, China alone accounts for approximately 80% of the total deaths in coal mine accidents worldwide (China Daily, November 13, 2004). Much like its coal production statistics, the safety record of China’s coal industry is full of controversy (China Brief, October 25, 2006). The official coal mine fatality statistics range from 5,602 to 6,995 deaths annually in the last decade, though independent experts state that China’s actual death toll is much higher, as mine owners routinely falsify death counts in order to avoid mine closures or fines

    [...]

    In table 2-4 of Huang Shengchu & et al., The Environmental Impacts Analysis of Coal Development and Utilization in China (2003), the estimated coal mine fatality in 1997 by independent experts was 9,512, in comparison, the official statistics cited only 6,141. Moreover, according to Guo Guozheng & et al., Coal Mine Safety Technology and Management (2006), p. iii-iv, China’s annual coal mine fatality statistics during the early 1950s, 1980s and 1990s were approximately 70,000, 40,000 and 10,000 deaths, respectively. The aforementioned independent sources suggest that China’s cumulative coal mine fatalities since 1949 should be significantly higher than the official statistics available at footnote 1.

    This would put deaths since Chernobyl at a lot more than 20,000.

  42. Alice
    November 22nd, 2009 at 17:13 | #42

    @Donald Oats
    Don – EXACTLY
    “The common theme for most of these is that it originates in the US and then spreads out via the tireless campaigning of a well paid group of consultant-lobbyists. They seem to be bullet-proof because they do not generally publish in the scientific literature, they are not active pre-retirement age academics, and so escape the responsibilities of academic enquiry, and they push their client’s position through opinion piece articles in national newspapers.”

    They put serious donated monies into setting up their very own BS publishing houses and pay their very own “scab” ex academics!. Thats what gets me. They take the average voter (punter) for fools and sometimes they get lucky at their campaigns…

  43. Peter T
    November 22nd, 2009 at 17:13 | #43

    I dealt with a few FOI requests in my days as a bureaucrat. Couple of points:

    FOI requests are often very broadly framed (“all material relating to ….”) and a discussion on what exactly the request is seeking is often part of the process. With most people you can clarify fairly informally, but serial requesters are often difficult to deal with, so then one just does one’s best.

    FOI requests usually have end dates. An e-mail after this date is not part of the request – and unless specified, is not part of the topic unless the request is not about a topic but about a process. Even then, a formal process can leave a lot out – most documents go through multiple drafts.

    E-Mail formats (long strings, often with several branches) are difficult to deal with. Which is the definitive one? And often the strings stray off into areas not part of the request or, if released, would infringe on other people’s privacy – and permission from all parties must be sought before release. So, again, total open-ness is often not possible.

    Where someone has sought material under FOI that follows on from a previous request, or covers slightly different grounds, you have to pick over the previous material, check possible new material, and go through the permissions process again.

    So it’s very tiome-consuming, often driven by a desire to find something that isn’t there (so reluctant to beleive there is no relevant material, or that all there is has been provided) and there is latitude for interpretation of what is being asked for. When multiple requests from one person are involved, it’s more like an extended conversation that a simple ask and response.

    I have not read the e-mails involved but, having been there, I would not put too much weight on them unless the whole context was included – including the previous history of the requester.

    On the issue of open data – all the basic data is out there. This is endlessly repeated, and as endlessly met by requests for greater open-ness. Open-ness on process confuses the science: a conclusion is made more robust if it can be derived in multiple ways, so it’s usually better to limit the detail on process until it becomes an issue.

  44. Louis Hissink
    November 22nd, 2009 at 18:36 | #44

    John Quiggin

    “’m sorry to say this, but the point I made a little while ago, that, under current circumstances, a commitment to libertarianism or conservatism actively makes people stupid is being exemplified by this talking point, and by your reaction to it.”

    To which one then might note that having become stupid, they then take up socialism.

  45. Alice
    November 22nd, 2009 at 18:43 | #45

    @Louis Hissink
    Which they should have done three and a half decades ago.

  46. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 20:45 | #46

    Alice :@TerjeP (say tay-a) Terje…re the committment to lower income taxes and no redistribution by governments by the ALS (and small government fanatics) you may be interested to know that for the past 60 years most Aussies have gained from income tax redistribution. Up to 1964 only the top decile lost share because of it. Then hey presto – the 9th lost share and the top lost less share (but they jointly provided all income for redistribution) to 1976. By 1976 the 8th started losing some share as well. Meanwhile the top is winning by contributing a lower percentage of their share to redistribution (?shoving some of their rightful burden down on to the 9th and 8th deciles?). So if you want lower taxes Terje – reverse the trend where the rich have been shoving the burden on to others and gettinh away with it. Dont attack the government – attack the people who really are avoiding their responsibilities and contributing to growing inequality. To be precise – Decile number ten of tax income individuals (then add companies as well).

    Alice – Interesting that you seek dialogue whilst also referring to your opponents as fanatics. I’ll let it pass because I’m a good natured sort of guy however you might want to work on your manners. If you must use a descriptor then I’m happy to be refereed to as “radical”.

    Firstly some perspective. To make it into the top decile you need to earn about $73000 per annum. However this hardly represents the obscenely rich. It’s the sort of salary many school teachers earn. It is just over twice the median income. If you want to soak the rich I think you should choose something other than the top decile as your target. Consider perhaps the top centile.

    http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs@.nsf/7d12b0f6763c78caca257061001cc588/5f4bb49c975c64c9ca256d6b00827adb!OpenDocument

    A huge amount of the income taxes we pay amounts to churn. It comes back to the same people that pay it except now with strings attached. We could cut taxes dramatically by reducing churn, although I think some churn is probably inevitable in a simplified tax system.

    Leaving aside churn we have redistribution. Your concern seems to be that the system is less progressive than it used to be (ie entails less redistribution from the top to the bottom) . However there is no conflict between making the system more progressive whilst lowering taxes. I’ve said this ad nausium so I can only guess that you have not previously paid attention. So please pay attention.

    Let us assume we have three objectives:-

    1. No reduction in per real per capita government spending.
    2. Reduced rates or income tax.
    3. A more progressive tax system.

    There is no incompatibility between these three objectives. I’ve outlined previously that we could slash all income tax rates in half within a decade and still achive objectives one and two simply by focusing all real per capita revenue growth (driven by economic growth) on tax rate reductions.

    http://blog.libertarian.org.au/2009/08/18/halve-income-tax-rates-by-2020/

    However if you want a more progressive tax system at the same time (ie objectives one, two and three) then you simply focus all revenue growth on the task of increasing the tax free threshold. Or on some similar such progressive tax cut.

    Personally I don’t see any reason what so ever why people on median income ($35000 p.a) should pay any income tax at all. We should have a tax free threshold above this amount. And if we focused all revenue growth on increasing the tax free threshold it would not make many years to elliminate income tax for all Australians on median income.

    Having said that I also think we should abolish income tax for someone on the salary of a classroom teacher. This takes us up to the top decile. If we can all agree to abolish income tax up to this point then we can quibble about what we do beyond that level some time later.

  47. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 20:53 | #47

    I agree with you that methods should be made available, in adequate detail that a competent expert could reproduce it and apply it. For mathematical topics the method is probably enough.

    Donald – obstructing the release of methods is what the leaked emails point to. JQ may think this is a mere talking point but I think it is a corrosive revelation. If the truth is important then such obstruction should not occur.

  48. iain
    November 22nd, 2009 at 21:01 | #48

    Terje – again, I’ll ask you. What obstruction do you think is being done? What evidence are you using for your allegations/slander?

  49. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 21:01 | #49

    iain :terje your assertion that there is “clear evidence” of obstructing an FOI request is interesting news. Can you show us the clear evidence? Keep in mind slander and libel laws that you have (potentially) breached, already, by making statements along these lines.

    Iain – you have ommitted the word “seems”. I said that within the leaked emails “there seems to be clear evidence”. This is a blog not a court of law. If tomorrow we find out this whole thing is a hoax then I’ll be happy to say that “it seems like I got it wrong”. Until then stop being so pedantic.

  50. iain
    November 22nd, 2009 at 21:05 | #50

    “seems to be clear”?

    On your opaqueness metre – how clear is “seems to be clear”? mildly clear? muddy clear?

    For the third time, what evidence do you provide for your “clarity”?

  51. iain
    November 22nd, 2009 at 21:10 | #51

    If you are going to slander scientists with their “seems to be clear evidence” of obstructing an FOI – then you need to tell others to stop being pedantic and start explaining yourself.

  52. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 21:20 | #52

    then you need to tell others to stop being pedantic and start explaining yourself

    I’ve already done both. I’ve told you to stop being pedantic. And I’ve explained myself by saying that if the leak represents real emails then it seems there is clear evidence.

  53. iain
    November 22nd, 2009 at 21:28 | #53

    What “clear” evidence?

    It is clear, and well reported, that Phil Jones has been subject to numerous FOI requests from conspiracy theorists. It has also been clearly reported (over the last 5 years, at least) that Phil Jones (rightly) views these conspiracy theorists with a large degree of contempt, and has complained in the press many times about the barrage of FOI that he receives.
    It is also clear that he did not believe he was obliged to pass on private body IPCC emails – particularly when he was well aware that every word in these emails would be attempted to be twisted against him by conspiracy theorists.

    Please show me your evidence that clearly demonstrates anything other than the above. You have not provided any evidence whatsoever. Quite clearly. Yet you continue to slander.

  54. observa
    November 22nd, 2009 at 21:52 | #54

    Take your general points about FOI requests Peter T but you might like to read the actual FOI response letter here- http://camirror.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/test/
    I’d have to say that doesn’t gel with your statement- ‘On the issue of open data – all the basic data is out there.’ It has all the hallmarks of an in house boys club keeping secrets among themselves, secrets I might add that are really data publicly paid for and should rightly be in the public domain. When it’s pointed out that earlier data was treated as such then it’s um, err we made an honest mistake and have to ‘protect our sources’ so to speak.

    As I said above this is not a good look and along with the accompanying emails which aren’t being refuted and what looks like some hasty electronic ‘shredding’ going down, this could well be an Abhu Graib moment that will give many in the science community the shock horrors. Certainly not fatal to the AGW beacon of light cause, but nevertheless extremely unhelpful. AGW fans ought to be very circumspect about pooh poohing this as just a storm in a teacup. ‘Tricks’ with data and ‘tricksy’ answers to pertinent questions and reasonable requests don’t go down well with Joe Public either, as an SA Premier is finding out to his regret right now. I’d caution against defending the indefensible here and grimace and bear the fallout from the fleas of association. There’s a whistle blower at work here and it’s time we all had a good hard look at what’s being whistled about.

  55. Ken Miles
    November 22nd, 2009 at 22:04 | #55

    TerjeP (say tay-a) :
    I do however think that people that publish acadamic papers should make available to critics their underlying data and methods. Those that are wedded to the scientific method rather than a particular hypothesis ought to be keen to have any hypothesis subject to robust scrutiny. This is the best way to keep conclusions robust. For conclusions that effect public policy this is even more signficant.

    In principle, I agree.

    But….. in many cases, it is clear that the requests for data are simply a political weapon to attack scientists, not an honest attempt to understand the work. For example, Steven McIntyre’s request for Briffa’s Yamal data.

    And… many of requests for data and methods aren’t simple requests for data and methods. They include demands for all of the working etc. As somebody who comes from a synthetic chemistry/material science background where the level of detail in reported data and methods is very often far far less, these demands strike me as completely over the top.

  56. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 22:17 | #56

    For example, Steven McIntyre’s request for Briffa’s Yamal data.

    McIntryre eventually got the methods and data he spent so long requesting and was subsequently very critical of the conclusions that Briffa made. He did not launch a personalised attach on Briffa (although clearly many of the commenters on his blog attempted to). Rather he spend his time analysing the data and methods used and exposing weaknesses.

    If methods and data are not to be shared with people who are keen to detect weaknesses then it is a very limited form of sharing. Not exactly robust. A bit like only being willing to debate people that already agree with you.

  57. iain
    November 22nd, 2009 at 22:24 | #57

    The underlying data for climate change is in the public domain. Obviously some IP related data isn’t, but this has nothing to do with Terje’s strawman critique, nor with disproving climate change.

  58. iain
    November 22nd, 2009 at 22:36 | #58

    Terje – if you can point to any underlying data that is missing (from the public domain) in explaining the latest IPCC report and any of its recommendations – can you please highlight this. thanks.

  59. Ken Miles
    November 22nd, 2009 at 22:42 | #59

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    Sorry Terje, but McIntyre has played you like a pack of cards.

    After Mc asked for the data, he was told that it was the property of the Russians who collected it. The Russian’s supply him the data in 2004. Rather than doing something with this data, he has been playing his stupid game of demanding the data from Briffa despite knowing a) that Briffa can’t give it too him without violating an agreement with the owner and b) already has a copy.

    It’s this sort of dishonest game playing that makes me stop paying attention to anything Mc says that isn’t published in the peer reviewed literature.

  60. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 22:45 | #60

    Iain – this is what I said earlier.

    There seems to be clear evidence from this leak that many academics put a lot of effort into obstructing any release of their underlying data or methods and also into obstructing any FOI request that might otherwise liberate their data or methods into the public domain.

    Now if the leaked emails are accurate then I think my above statement is supported by the following leaked email:-

    At 09:41 AM 2/2/2005, Phil Jones wrote:

    Mike, I presume congratulations are in order – so congrats etc !

    Just sent loads of station data to Scott. Make sure he documents everything better this time ! And don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites – you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it.We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it – thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that. IPR should be relevant here, but I can see me getting into an argument with someone at UEA who’ll say we must adhere to it !

  61. Freelander
    November 22nd, 2009 at 22:54 | #61

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    Surely a serious scientist doesn’t have to bother with every request, especially from someone who starts with his conclusion rather than using evidence to arrive at the conclusion. I imagine that serious scientists are rather busy dealing with requests from other serious scientists, and requests from AGW deniers are not at the top of their to do list. Probably, researchers who study evolution do not drop everything when they get a request from a creationist (or intelligent designer) and historians studying the holocaust do not rush to answer requests from people like David Irving.

    Should they be criticized as well?

  62. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 23:05 | #62

    Ken Miles :@TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Sorry Terje, but McIntyre has played you like a pack of cards.
    After Mc asked for the data, he was told that it was the property of the Russians who collected it. The Russian’s supply him the data in 2004. Rather than doing something with this data, he has been playing his stupid game of demanding the data from Briffa despite knowing a) that Briffa can’t give it too him without violating an agreement with the owner and b) already has a copy.
    It’s this sort of dishonest game playing that makes me stop paying attention to anything Mc says that isn’t published in the peer reviewed literature.

    So if Briffa could not release the data how come Briffa eventally released the data?

    In any case I think you are misreprenting the situation. The question was always about how Briffa got the results he got from the Yamal data set. Obviously it entailed selective use of the data. However until the exact data used by Briffa in his temperature reconstruction was released there was no ability to examine his selection process.

    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=7142

  63. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 22nd, 2009 at 23:07 | #63

    Freelander – there is a difference between not having the time or inclination to help a sceptic and willfully taking time out to obstruct a sceptic and to ask others to help in the endeavour.

  64. Ken Miles
    November 22nd, 2009 at 23:14 | #64

    He didn’t. He published another paper with the owner of the data as a co-author. The data was officially released then. Of course, Mc already had that data for the previous five years – he just lead you to believe that he didn’t have it.

    Looking forward to reading Mc’s peer reviewed paper showing us how Yamal should be done. Should be good, seeing he has had five years to write it.

  65. Damian
    November 22nd, 2009 at 23:41 | #65

    Hey guys,

    Just read some interesting emails. Good luck with the climate tax.

  66. Socrates
    November 23rd, 2009 at 07:11 | #66

    I have a question for JQ or others here who are familiar with the ETS. There is an Age article about the ETS by Ken Davidson, critical of it because it claims it will be ineffectual:
    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/this-etslite-deserves-to-be-rejected-20091122-isr0.html

    The main thrust is that the ETS relies on trading of CDM permits which are themselves poorly audited. Hence an ETS does not require us to actually reduce emissions (we can just expand and buy more permits) while the permits don’t guarantee any reduction/genuine credit.

    If so I find this a major concern. I am not a CC skeptic and agree something needs to be done. At first I would have preferred a simple carbon tax and the money used to fund needed investment. But I was persuaded by arguments of JQ and others that a carbon tax does not guarantee any reduction in emissions whereas an ETS does. However it does seem logical that, if the creedit auditing is inadequate, an ETS doesn’t guarantee a reeduction either, and there is not even any new investmetn in the required alternative technology. What are others views?

    I have had one final concern about an ETS for some time – do gooders. I have sometimes suspected that designers of an ETS were motivated by solving two problems – climate change and third world poverty. Credits to CDM schemes in poor countries could help with both. But I am wary of such intents. Poor countries are invariably the most corrupt and attempts to externally reform them are often failures. Meanwhile we may compromise the CC response. Is this concern valid?

    Finally, can anyone who has read it confirm that, unde the proposed Australian ETS, the amount of Australian emissions will be capped to the stated levels? I would be most concerned if the coal industry could expand any further here.

  67. Donald Oats
    November 23rd, 2009 at 07:12 | #67

    @Peter T

    Thanks Peter T, that’s pretty much as I thought – there has to be some judgement made by the parties as to what may be in scope and what isn’t.

    As an aside, it has been pointed out that the CRU staff in question are not government employees – I haven’t as yet verified that.

    In general, it appears that some of the earliest emails doing the rounds have been trimmed by the copiers, the Phil Jones one concerning “hiding the decline” in particular. Over at RealClimate the post by Llama Chees has the details. I cannot verify what Llama Cheese says because I’m not going to stick my head and neck into that can of worms to check, to mix a metaphor. No doubt someone else here can verify or shoot down.

  68. Donald Oats
    November 23rd, 2009 at 07:17 | #68

    @Donald Oats
    Should be “Llama Cheese”, and I sincerely hope that is a pseudonym.

  69. Alice
    November 23rd, 2009 at 07:26 | #69

    @Donald Oats
    To Don and others who are now here trying to shake some sense into the fruit loops that want to take this hack beat up and run with it…much like the Telegraph (and we know how much real news they are interested in – the news about the hack is placed next to a double page spread on girl fights in town)
    I have a suggestion. Give the fruit loops less O2 and more of what they want. CO2. Especially Terje who appears to have fallen victim to monumental hyperbolic overreaction last night.

  70. Socrates
    November 23rd, 2009 at 07:36 | #70

    Don

    Thanks for that excellent link. Llama Cheese does an excellent job debunking the stolen emails scam. Personally though, I have not had any doubts about the CC science for 15 years. I tink inability to accept it is a sign of declining mental flexibility on the part of the critics, most of whom are old men.

  71. Fran Barlow
    November 23rd, 2009 at 08:40 | #71

    @Socrates

    I have sometimes suspected that designers of an ETS were motivated by solving two problems – climate change and third world poverty. Credits to CDM schemes in poor countries could help with both. But I am wary of such intents. Poor countries are invariably the most corrupt and attempts to externally reform them are often failures. Meanwhile we may compromise the CC response. Is this concern valid?

    1. I don’t think intent is measurable and in the end what is salient is whether the measures produce adequate public goods to form rational policy.

    In theory, the objection is valid, but in practice it depends on how CDM schemes are measured, against what caps, and in what specific programs. A program that for example, used local labour to erect a wind turbine, solar panels, solar cookers, and small scale pumped hydro in a village and which allows the village to stop burning cow dung in their huts and to pump and purify water, using largely local labour and materiel delivers benefits in kind, regardless of whether the village chief is corrupt.

  72. John Mashey
    November 23rd, 2009 at 09:12 | #72

    1) People might study the Data Quality Act, and how it is employed to make it as difficult as possible to pass environmental regulations by allowing demands for so much paperwork that it is hrd to get anything reasonable done. Imagine that in law:

    a) There was no bond on the number of appeals.
    b) It was effectively free to demand masses of expensie work on every appeal.

    2) This is the same tactic, but used versus a few indiviual researchers.

    Some people seem to think that is it required and appropriate for a Canadian mining guy to set the research agendas and workloads for researchers in the UK and USA. Maye he can be3 convinced to chase CSIRO the same way, and I’m sure people inOzwiul lbe pleased to spend more money to satisfy every demand.

  73. observa
    November 23rd, 2009 at 09:25 | #73

    A very good question Socrates #16. I’m agnostic on AGW but not on our need to address peak oil and the ability of fossil fuels to convert our natural environment to our wants. However I like the people and articles Davidson refers to am an avowed skeptic of ETS to address any of these problems and if the exposure of EAU climate change ‘scientists’ scuppers an ETS, so much the better for mine. Basically ETS is theoretically cute but a can of practical worms. Hasn’t worked so far and is really just more derivatives credit creation rocket fuel for the Goldman Sachs of the world to drive a bus through.

    The killer for me is-
    “Offsets are an imaginary commodity created by deducing what you hope happens from what you guess would have happened.”
    It’s easily seen in the companies that come around and change your light globes and shower heads (electric HWS only) do a quick average calc of the CO2 thereby ‘saved’ and nick off with an instant REC forever more. The homeowner can change the shower heads back the next day and fill the ceilings with downlights but that property right remains to be traded forever more. Same with solar to grid schemes and RECS. They calc average power/CO2 saved. In my case of a 2.1kw maxm system it’s about 10kw average per day over the year’s seasons, but on a wet overcast day it might only put out 150-200W at midday. What’s my brown coal power station up to then and in waiting mode you may well ask. Then there’s the counterproductive incentive of schemes palm oil for diesel and corn for ethanol, etc, as well as counting all the CO2 credit creation that would have occurred anyway eg Hydro and methane from rubbish tips, etc.

    In summary I guess I’d ask you to answer the question to ETS or not to ETS like this- Knowing what you know now about all the water under the bridge with the MDB, would you vote yes today for public servants and pollies to hand out and police the right amount of water rights to get the balance between environmental and human use just right? My answer is in their dreams I would, but I can easily see how resource taxing that water a few cents a kilolitre could achieve exactly that today. As far as I’m concerned you tax the things you want less use of (eg resources and natural environment) and don’t tax things you want more of(eg human labour and ingenuity) with as administratively clear, simple and neutral means as possible. To do that you can start from first principles with the premise that if AGW is THE greatest threat of all, you have that means to raise ALL appropriate taxation. It is the maximum price effect you can have with negligible admin. Then you ask yourself – Is or should THAT be it?

    Notice that Oz ETS fans can’t even begin to get their heads around such a maximum theoretical price effect. They’re too busy ringing up Goldman Sachs or checking the Aussie dollar for you. Bah, humbug!

  74. Socrates
    November 23rd, 2009 at 09:28 | #74

    Fran

    I don’t mean to imply an objection to helping the third world. But my concern is that I often think that policy makers who try to solve two problems at once wind up failing to fix either. My concern is not only theoretical. Apart from Davidson’s article I have read several reports by environmental groups concerned about the CDM initiative and its poor administration. Thus your example is what we would all like to see. But if the village chief also is ripping down all the local rain forest to sell off to a logging company and the net effect is not counted, then neither we nor the village are better off. Hence in practice it matters a lot whether or not the village chief is corrupt.

    A global CPRS would vastly increase the sums being traded for carbon credits. It therefore also increases the potential (ill-gotten) gains from such corruption. In my view it would be niave to think we will be better at regulating a carbon market than we have been regulating financial markets. A market failure comparable in size to that which has recently occurred in Wall Street would leave us in a perilous position. For a global carbon market to work, we need a global carbon regulator with teeth and the motivation to act with integrity. (I was never a fan of that self-regulating markets garbage.)

    Aternatively I am becoming increasingly skeptical of the view that it is too hard to regulate a carbon tax system. Why can’t we just set GHG reduction targets for each country, leave them to tax and reduce their emissions internally, and assess progress and place tariffs on those who fail to do so? In effect it could work similarly to how the WTO works now.

    I admit I am not expert on these things so happy to be proven wrong if someone has links to a good analysis of the options that shows why an ETS works best.

  75. Donald Oats
    November 23rd, 2009 at 09:59 | #75

    @John Mashey

    Thanks for reminding me of it, John; I had forgotten about it after the change of President in the USA. It would be instructive to see just how much time is consumed in addressing the FOI requests of McIntyre et al, and even more instructive to discover which financial donors ended up effectively paying for the cost of doing it. Did the UEA have to cover the cost?

    The most frustrating thing is once again climate science takes a backseat to politics.

    On a different note, some time ago I posted here that I thought the various delusorati were hooking up and getting more coordinated. Carter, Plimer, McKinninmonth, Evans, Nova, McLean, Moore, and several others I’m too tired to chase up, seem to hit the newspaper letters pages straight away when there is a big story or an opinion piece by one of the so-called sceptics. Furthermore, Carter and Plimer seem to have the travelbug, giving speeches to all and sundry, here and O/S. They are nowhere near as ad-hoc in their pronouncements as they were three or four years ago.

  76. Alice
    November 23rd, 2009 at 10:15 | #76

    Oh yes Don – some of the delusorati are clearly being handsomely rewarded either by their unseemly organisations or by a sensation hungry or complicit media or both. It is tiring.

  77. Freelander
    November 23rd, 2009 at 10:15 | #77

    Donald Oats :
    …various delusorati were hooking up and getting more coordinated. Carter, Plimer, McKinninmonth, Evans, Nova, McLean, Moore, and several others I’m too tired to chase up, seem to hit the newspaper letters pages straight away when there is a big story or an opinion piece by one of the so-called sceptics. Furthermore, Carter and Plimer seem to have the travelbug, giving speeches to all and sundry, here and O/S. They are nowhere near as ad-hoc in their pronouncements as they were three or four years ago.

    Clearly, they are being funded to spread the ‘truth’. I don’t doubt they believe their nonsense but someone is sprinkling funds over them. Candidates would be looney ‘think tanks’, wealthy deniers, and corporate interests.

  78. Socrates
    November 23rd, 2009 at 10:27 | #78

    Regarding the delusorati (I like that term) it was pointed out that Plimer is still a director of several mining companies and recieves director’s fees from them. I don’t know if anyone is paying him directly to do his crusade for anti-science, but he definitely has a financial interest via the directorships.

    I also agree though, that the current anti-climate science campaign appears to be funded if not organised. A round of travel, lectures, hiring halls and media releases all costs money. The hacking of a university server required someone to know where the server was, have the skill to hack it, time to search the stolen material, and then connections to distribute the selected emails. Who has the time and resources to do that on their own?

  79. Alan
    November 23rd, 2009 at 10:32 | #79

    When I was at school, my maths teacher told the story of the schoolboy who was asked to add up the numbers 1 to 100. The rest of the class started 1+2+3+4+… but the smart kid said 100+1=101, 99+2=101, 98+3=101, “Hey this is easy”

    My maths teacher described it as “a trick”. Practitioners of maths and science often use the expression “a trick” to describe an ingenious way to save time and effort.

    I am very disappointed to learn that this terminology has invalidated both the rules of elementary arithmetic and the law of conservation of energy.

  80. Freelander
    November 23rd, 2009 at 11:12 | #80

    Socrates :Regarding the delusorati (I like that term) it was pointed out that Plimer is still a director of several mining companies and recieves director’s fees from them.

    Humm, money… Director fees… Even better, money for nothing. Where do I sign up to become part of the delusorati?

  81. Fran Barlow
    November 23rd, 2009 at 11:22 | #81

    @Socrates

    I perfectly well take your point. As someone who has in past years, been involved in development projects in Africa, I have something of a sense of these things. An issue has arisen for example over the treatment of “flaring”. Oil wells are not supposed to flare gases such as CH4 which are by-products of oil harvest. This best-practice standard predates the CDM, but now it seems that capturing the CH4 and using it to generate power will fit the criteria for CDM.

    While this makes sense, in a way it really is rewarding the company for something it should do as a matter of social responsibility bearing the full cost itself and being assessed for its footprint in the same way as any organisation should rather than double-dipping.

    Consistent and rational accounting practice will be necessary if we are to get this right. If good mitigation can also serve social equity then this is especially good and so I don’t mind if the cost of doing things this way is a little greater than a more tightly focused GHG program. Fairly obviously, the bulk of the existing problem is the consequence of the disproportionate exploitation of the commons by the developed world, which is self-evidently a beneficiary of this practice, which, until now, has encouraged the developing world to ape its excesses. We can afford to pay because we benefited from causing the problem and those who are less able to pay are already disadvantaged. Finally, we pay lipservice to equity and if the biosphere is protected we first worlders benefit too.

    Aternatively I am becoming increasingly skeptical of the view that it is too hard to regulate a carbon tax system. Why can’t we just set GHG reduction targets for each country, leave them to tax and reduce their emissions internally, and assess progress and place tariffs on those who fail to do so? In effect it could work similarly to how the WTO works now.

    In theory, it is perfectly possible to regulate a carbon tax system effectively. In practice, all tax systems are prey to political porkbarrelling, and the kinds of NTB malarkey one sees attached to trade agreements. If you look at the current ETS negotiations, and imagine what they’d be like every election and on a world scale, you can get a sense of this. Creating a tradeable asset restrains fiddling with the system because powerful interest holders have a stake in the system not being rorted that they don’t have when all that is being discussed is taxes and rebates. If you have overpurchased emissions certificates, you won’t want anything being done to lessen their value — including allowing a regime that allows polluters to get sweetheart deals. You’d prefer stiffer targets that you can meet with the certificates you hold but your business rivals don’t. And if you can trade these certificates offshore, then they become even more valuable. You can’t do that with taxes.

    In essence, a good ETS wedges business and since business contains the bulk of the enemies of mitigation, this is a good group to wedge.

    One need not conclude a cross-jurisdictional ETS with a sovereign power of course. Conceivably, companies and organisations could trade these certificates privately if they fell within a structure recognised by an issuing authority, operating perhaps, within WTO guidelines. Again, this is not something easily done through a tax regime.

  82. Freelander
    November 23rd, 2009 at 11:30 | #82

    One attractive feature of the ‘property right’ approach of ETS is that rights holders would not like non-rights holders to be cheating, that is, infringing on their rights. Although there can be the same problem with non-tax paying, the attitude doesn’t seem the same.

  83. Socrates
    November 23rd, 2009 at 11:38 | #83

    Fran

    Thanks very much for your reply. Your point about the susceptibility of tax systems to distortion is sadly true. In that case there is no alternative not open to manipulation by the corrupt. As you say, whatever system is put in place will require monitoring and auditing and that is not a valid criticism of an ETS, unless you plan to do nothing (and I don’t).

    Also your comment that we don’t have to enter into an ETS with any particular country is useful. Obviously this can become a stick/carrott to encourage compliance.

  84. Fran Barlow
    November 23rd, 2009 at 12:12 | #84

    @Freelander

    Although there can be the same problem with non-tax paying, the attitude doesn’t seem the same.

    The reason being that the cost of free riders in any system is borne by the entire class on paying riders so each person cheated only bears a small portion of the cost, whereas the cost of subverting assets is borne heavily by property holders. That is of course the very reason why we have seen such a determined campaign by the big polluters to stymie action that would subvert the value of their assets by imposing a cost on their emission of its post-combustion effluent.

    Imagine if someone proposed to relieve the current deficit by printing $AUS30 billion dollars. Everyone holding Aussie dollars or who had given credit to someone who would pay them in Aussie dollars would be scandalised, because suddenly, each would be worth less.

    Everyone holding the currency asset has a stake in fiscal rectitude by the issuing authority. It’s exactly the same with real property and stocks and other assets.

  85. Freelander
    November 23rd, 2009 at 12:20 | #85

    @Fran Barlow

    That’s true although if you are not paying an emission tax as well as there being a cost to all other taxpayers there is a special penalty to emitters paying their emission tax because you are competing with them, in this way it is relatively similar to the property rights case but not seen as similar by the poluters.

  86. Donald Oats
    November 23rd, 2009 at 12:49 | #86

    @Alan
    Indeed: Over on RealClimate I’ve made the point here andhere that it is used in active research as well, as have several others. The MSM prefer the dictionary definition of trick, unfortunately.

    This actually brings up a serious point, concerning climate science “glasnost”. If all emails are open to scrutiny of anyone with 10pounds (AFAIK) and a properly filled FOI form, there is a big problem with both the mis-interpretation of the intended meaning of English words that are part of the scientific language, and with handy stock-in-trade expressions/words. The word “trick” is one such example, and there will be oodles of other cases. I guess taking each case at a time and demonstrating its definition in a relevant place – eg medical science dictionary for medical terms, or showing that its use is widespread in the relevant scientific literature.

    My prediction is that affected scientists are going to need to either drop such ambiguous terms from email and other FOI-able documents, or draw a line in the sand and say this is not good enough. Get the grant bodies and financiers involved – after all, its their money being spent; surely they want the scientists to work efficiently, without being weighed down by future concern over the interpretation of common science-community-words and the like.

  87. Socrates
    November 23rd, 2009 at 13:00 | #87

    Thinking about the delusorati and their typical political profile, here is one political voice on climate change they will find hard to deny. Margaret Thatcher was a chemistry graduate before law and politics. She recognised the danger of global warming due to CO2 and other gases in 1988!! Here is a link to her speech to the Royal Society at the time:
    http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=107346

    I like this quote on eliminating airborne pollution:
    “Even though this kind of action may cost a lot, I believe it to be money well and necessarily spent because the health of the economy and the health of our environment are totally dependent upon each other.”

  88. Fran Barlow
    November 23rd, 2009 at 13:23 | #88

    @Socrates

    [Thatcher quote]

    That’s true enough, and I accept tjhe reasoning, but

    Thatcher’s motivation was twofold:

    1. Trident, and the need for Pu239 for those warheads which could only come through nuclear power
    2. 1974 and the humiliation for Heath and the need to smash the powerful coal miners union by retooling with nuclear.

    As a former Secretary of Education, Margaret (“milk snatcher”) Thatcher felt that having a scientific concern could lift her standing abroad, at least, that’s how Crispin Tickell, a UK Ambassador to the UN who was personally, as far as can be told, genuinely sold on AGW (see for example: Climatic Change and World Affairs, 1977, sold it to her. She was the one who set up the Hadley Centre.

    As bureaucratic intrigue goes, Tickell’s salemanship is probably one of the unsung stories, since these days he hardly rates a mention in dispatches and yet probably did as much as any single person who is currently not a celebrity to put the world on the path to doing something effective to deal with the problem — and that with the most unlikely of all figures to work with — possibly the most reactionary PM in the history of 20th century Britain. Big ups to him, as Ali G would say.

    I kind of like it that he was involved with the Gaia Society, not because I endorse such metaphysical nonsense but because it annoys the hell out of the filth merchants that the vehicle for gaia was their hero, Thatcher herself. Years later, (1992) she backpedalled furiously, moaning about environmentalism in much the terms that Minchin did in the “fruit loops” thread, which served only to complete her ignominous departure from politics.

  89. Fran Barlow
    November 23rd, 2009 at 13:26 | #89

    Slight amendment:

    Trident, and the need for Pu239 for those warheads which could only come through nuclear power

    A dedicated reactor would be a cheaper and quicker route to this, but nuclear power also served objective 2, which was at least as important to her, given the events of 1984-5.

  90. Socrates
    November 23rd, 2009 at 13:39 | #90

    Fran

    I am absolutely NOT a fan of Thatcher, but I think that is too harsh, and presupposes motives that don’t fit chronologically. By 1988 the coal miner’s strike had ended three years earlier (1985) with victory to Thatcher. Thatcher also was concerned about CFCs, pushed for signing of the Montreal protocol, and increased environmental funding generally. By all means follow the link and read the whole text.

  91. Socrates
    November 23rd, 2009 at 13:42 | #91

    Further to the above, if there was a political motive for Thatcher, I think it suited her psychologically to look down her nose at Labor as “luddites” who were ignorant of science. She liked being a snob.

  92. Fran Barlow
    November 23rd, 2009 at 14:04 | #92

    @Socrates

    That’s true but the fact remains that she had alreadey decided, in 1981, to augment UK nuclear capacity and Trident and by 1988 she had a cause to which she could attach it.

  93. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 23rd, 2009 at 14:23 | #93

    Donald – the Phil Jones email in which he talks of hiding the decline is embarrassing and good for headlines but not the most concerning revelation in this saga. The deliberate attempts to obstruct, as opposed to ignore, sceptics is the most concerning thing. If nothing else this saga should lead to greater transparency and openness. Those that support science should have nothing to fear from either.

    On a slightly separate note I’m surprised to see those that suddenly think FOI is a bad idea.

  94. iain
    November 23rd, 2009 at 15:32 | #94

    Terje has gone from “seemingly clear evidence” of obstructing an FOI — to “deliberate attempts to obstruct skeptics”.

    He got a Fail on the first point, the only evidence he provided was of an email that expressed frustration at FOI and a “thought” about deleting files.

    I really thought he would post the actual email requesting deleting files. The emails requested to be deleted were private body IPCC related emails (which Phil Jones went out of his way to clarify with the FOI office that they were not part of FOI). Either way Terje’s claim for “seemingly clear evidence of obstructing an FOI” is zero (Fail).

    His second point: “deliberate attempts to obstruct skeptics” obviously gets a Pass.

    He also gets a Pass for making the observation “I do however think that people that publish acadamic papers should make available to critics their underlying data and methods.”

    I note, however, that he failed to answer the question:

    “Terje – if you can point to any underlying data that is missing (from the public domain) in explaining the latest IPCC report and any of its recommendations – can you please highlight this. thanks.”

    Well done Terje. Keep throwing up obvious points. Keep making slanderous allegations without any evidence whatsoever. Keep avoiding questions. Keep adding to the “debate”.

  95. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 23rd, 2009 at 16:19 | #95

    Iain – sorry for being such a failure. It must be hard for you having to slum it with the likes of me. I’ll try and breath less of your air.

  96. iain
    November 23rd, 2009 at 16:37 | #96

    Terje – what “clear evidence” do you provide for your slander?

    You haven’t provided any clear evidence that shows obstruction of an FOI. Yet you will slander scientists based on stolen emails. I’m sorry if you get defensive about me pointing out the logical flaws in your comments.

    If you can’t provide reasoned logic and thinking (other than cutting and pasting an email that, quite honestly, doesn’t prove anything), then how can we have a discussion with you?

    What section of the email, that you provided, do you think allows you to slander the scientist concerned?

  97. nanks
    November 23rd, 2009 at 17:03 | #97

    In my view Terje has no evidence iain – but perhaps he cannot realise that, in which case arguing is a waste of time. Alternatively he does realise that – and arguing is still a waste of time. This is the general conclusion I have reached about most of the ‘self-styled’ skeptics who continue with their endless rehashes of obvious and proven rubbish. I believe that once you realise someone is going round and round without ever understanding or acknowledging clear argument it is time to move on to other issues. Blogs all over the net have been hijacked by this sort of shenanigans which to me are of a kind with vexatious applications for FOI

  98. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    November 23rd, 2009 at 17:12 | #98

    Iain – If you wish to ignore or twist what I have stated already or if you wish to insist that black is white then I’m not sure how I can help you in terms of logic. What I have stated is on record in the comments above and I don’t feel any need to amend anything I’ve said. You have to make up your own mind which you seem to have done.

    The public display of the content of these emails is what is damaging to reputations, not my commentary on them. If you don’t see these emails as damaging peoples reputations then I have done no harm in quoting them to you. You are free to make your own judgements. I don’t feel obligated to convince you.

  99. iain
    November 23rd, 2009 at 17:19 | #99

    The email expresses frustration at FOI and a “thought” about deleting files.

    This is completely different to “evidence for obstructing an FOI”.

    I understand any written threat or instruction to delete an email is cringe-worthy. But how can someone slander someone (as obstructing FOI) with such little evidence? I honestly don’t understand it. I just obstructing FOI is such a big call – you really do need to have your legal and evidential ducks in a row to make it. And, so far, Terje’s ducks aren’t lined up.

  100. nanks
    November 23rd, 2009 at 17:32 | #100

    note iain how terje has changed his complaint – it appears he is now just saying the emails damage people’s reputations – quite different, and milder, than the earlier claim of “deliberate attempts to obstruct”. Is this tactic deliberate or something else? I do not know, however I have seen this tactic used many times before on the web.

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