Home > Economic policy, Environment > Truth gets in the way

Truth gets in the way

July 7th, 2011

That’s the title of my column in today’s Fin

Truth gets in the way

Confronted with the fact that not a single Australian economist could be found to support his policy of ‘direct action’ (a phrase redolent of the Trotskyists he fought in his days as a student politician), Tony Abbott came back with the retort “Maybe that’s a comment on the quality of our economists.’’

That remark might be interpreted as a suggestion that the problem is with the local profession, and that he would have more support overseas. Sadly, for Abbott, US and European economists are every bit as hostile as their Australian counterparts to his idea of a ‘command and control’ response to climate change.

The most obvious manifestation of this is the Pigou Club, established by Greg Mankiw, chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, as “an elite group of economists and pundits with the good sense to have publicly advocated higher Pigovian taxes, such as carbon taxes.”

Mankiw’s club includes Nobel prize winners from across the political spectrum from Chicago’s Gary Becker to Princeton’s Paul Krugman, as well as luminaries likeWilliam Nordhaus, Kenneth Rogoff, and Larry Summers. A rival ‘No Pigou’ club, proposed by Terence Corcoran, editor of the Financial Post, was stillborn due to the absence of any serious economists willing to join it.

Until recently, Abbott could have found support among likeminded thinkers in the government of China, where central planning is still fashionable. But even the Communist Party of China is ahead of him now. The 12th Five Year Plan, covering the period from 2011 to 2015, includes the phasing in of market mechanisms to promote low carbon growth.

Of course, economists aren’t alone in being dismissed by Abbott and his supporters. Most of his supporters are believers in the absurd conspiracy theories of people like Lord Monckton. The enthusiastic reception of this charlatan is a sad reflection on the gullibility and credulity that now prevails on the political right.

Unlike the case with economists, the deniers can produce a handful of qualified scientists to back their case. Mostly older and male, and with obvious ideological axes to grind, these ‘sceptics’ display the classic symptoms of what is cruelly known within the academy as ‘emeritus disease’. With their days of research activity well in the past, they are now willing to make authoritative statements on topics of which they know nothing.

Ian Plimer’s error-riddled, Heaven and Earth, is a classic example of the genre. Kurt Lambeck, president of the Australian Academy of Science, correctly described it as “not a work of science, it is an opinion of an author who happens to be a scientist.” But even after having absurd errors pointed out to him, Plimer repeats them time and time again. Errors knowingly repeated are, quite simply, lies.

It’s not necessary to go to university level to find examples of know-nothingism in the anti-science right. Even basic arithmetic is too much for them. Take the claims, repeated most recently by Greg Sheridan in The Australian, that whatever Australia does will have no effect on the problem of climate change. His source appears to be radio commentator Alan Jones, who produced the precise sounding claim that Australia produces .000018 per.cent of the carbon dioxide.

Anyone with basic numeracy might observe that Australia is responsible for about 2 per cent of human emissions, and that those emissions have raised atmospheric CO2 concentrations by around 30 per cent, so Australia must be responsible for around 0.6 per cent of total CO2 (the correct figure is about 0.45 per cent).

But no one on the political right does care about such things. While the lies and errors of people like Jones, Plimer and Sheridan are egregious, even supposed experts produce obviously wrong numbers. Last year, economist Terry McCrann claimed that a carbon tax would double the retail price of electricity, on the basis of a calculation about the wholesale price. His numbers, out by a factor of two, were duly repeated by Tony Abbott. Even when the error was exposed, neither McCrann nor Abbott bothered to correct it (Abbott’s free pass on power claims, AFR 5/8/10). A few months later, Greg Hunt made similar claims, this time out by a factor of five.

There are some obvious short-term political benefits in being able to make patently absurd claims with a straight face. Perhaps this disregard for the truth will exact a price from Abbott and his political allies before the next election. If not, Australia will surely pay a price for electing a government based entirely on lies.

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

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  1. Doug
    July 7th, 2011 at 18:33 | #1

    Public debate is now poisoned in a second stage outcome – because general suspicion has been thrown on specialists contributing to the public debate the suspicion lingers around to poison future public policy debates even though it is the politicians avoiding reality that are at fault.

  2. Freelander
    July 7th, 2011 at 19:56 | #2

    It is a continuing disgrace that none of the media and few of those who write opinion pieces have attacked Abbott for not providing any detail whatsoever of his Magic Pudding Economics of direct action on climate change.

    The media continue to let Abbott away with his small target strategy of no detail of what his government would do, except for claims that it would be so much better.

    Even advertising of consumer products is regulated when it comes to outrageously false claims but apparently any wild claim is fine in politics.

  3. stockingrate
    July 7th, 2011 at 20:00 | #3

    PR Q,
    Could you please not dignify the direct action, anti-Pigovians with the unelaborateds phrase “political right”. There must be a better descriptor, perhaps ” pseudo right” or “antipinkos”, or “the anglophone non-conservatives”.

    Or, and perhaps this was implied,” “political right” as opposed to”economic right”"

    It is a serious matter as, IIRC, you acknowledge that the some on the right are concerned about climate change.

  4. Ikonoclast
    July 7th, 2011 at 20:33 | #4

    It is not accurate to characterise Tony Abbott as an advocate for or as having any ideas of “a ‘command and control’ response to climate change”. Tony Abbott is a denier of the validity of climate science. Tony Abbott is an advocate of denying and doing nothing about climate change and AGW dangers.

    In a democracy, there is nothing inherently wrong with a “command and control” approach to a very significant number of broad issues of governance including environmental issues; especially issues involving social equity, negative externalities and chronic market failure. In the democratic context, the “command and control” approach to any problem of society is in fact synonomous with the social democratic approach. The notion that the market should rule and decide, especially a market dominated by corporate capitalism and the vested interests of small group of capitalists, is spurious and dangerous nonsense.

    The last forty years of inaction on carbon pollution and climate change is the direct result of letting the “free market” of corporate capitalism exert its command and control over our future. The current foot-dragging, delays and watered down, inadequate responses are the result of continuing to let the dead hand of corporate capital continue to stifle broad social democratic demand for action on climate change.

    The error of continuing to believe that a market system created by and for the interests of corporate capital is suited to having “command and control” over crucial issues like AGW is egregious in the extreme. Forty years plus of evidence of the environmentally destructive nature of corporate capital should be enough empirical evidence for anyone. A well-regulated market that is “free within bounds” is certainly a necessary tool of a free and open society but this market, its regulation and its effect on social justice and environmental sustainability must always be under the rule and regulation of all the people (not just the limited corporate vested interests) by means of full social democratic command and control.

    Here endeth the lesson.

  5. July 7th, 2011 at 20:40 | #5

    Pr Q said:

    It’s not necessary to go to university level to find examples of know-nothingism in the anti-science right. Even basic arithmetic is too much for them…But no one on the political right does care about such things. While the lies and errors of people like Jones, Plimer and Sheridan are egregious, even supposed experts produce obviously wrong numbers.

    AUS’s ideological Right has gone on intellectual death-spiral since JWH has left the scene – a case of missing adult supervision. And yet its electoral prospects have improved. This is a sorry comment on the constituency for populist Right-wing views.

    The world needs a cognizant, competent and conscientious Right-wing movement to represent the interests of higher-status people by conserving civilized values. At the moment the Anglo Right is carrying on like a gang of desperadoes on a spree.

    The results speak for themselves – a series of unparalleled disasters: WMD goose-chase in Iraq, GFC boondoggles from Wall Street and the Beltway and the slow-motion trainwreck of AGW which will certainly not conserve the world as we know it. This has inflicted irreparable damage on Wall Street and the Pentagon – how does this help the higher-status?

    The Right used to like the environment – it was a nice place to go huntin’, fishin’ and shootin’. Does anyone remember that it was Theodore Roosevelt – a Republican – who established the US National Parks?

    And of course the Anglo Right’s stupid obsessions with the lending money to people who can’t pay it back and liberating countries that are only too interested in pay-back means that they took their eye off the ball on the crucial issue of conserving cultural identity, thereby betraying the interests of its core constituency – the respectable middle-class. Instead the Anglo Right has drunk deeply from the Left-liberal Kool Aid in this department. (JWH somewhat excepted.)

    Even if one opposes the Right on dogmatic ideological grounds one would still want the Right to be part of the reality-based community. It seems that you need some kind of aristocracy to maintain a civilized Right. Where are the WASPs when you need them?

  6. Donald Oats
    July 7th, 2011 at 21:10 | #6

    If Tony Abbott and his fellow Monckton-worshippers (“Moncks”?) were to form a music band, I’d call it “Abbot and the Moncks” … boom, boom!

  7. Don
    July 7th, 2011 at 21:37 | #7

    And how much will the global temperature drop after 12 months of this hocus pocus redistributive tax on Australia’s competitive advantage kicking in?

    Shame we can’t export warm inner glow

    The real alternative to the ALP watered down sop to the Watermelons is the do nothing option and this option still makes more sense under Garnauts fraudulent modeling than the tax on air

  8. Ikonoclast
    July 7th, 2011 at 22:05 | #8

    @Jack Strocchi

    Jack, you mention “the crucial issue of conserving cultural identity”, the “respectable middle class” and “it seems you need some kind of aristocracy to maintain a civilized right”. You hanker after some form of traditional Conservative values but are looking in the wrong place for them.

    I would agree if you put forward as important conservative values those of constitutional democracy, the rule of law, equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, and the provision of free, compulsory and secular public education. The best part of our conservative cultural identity inheres in these principles. In Australia, a tradition of egalitarianism replaces (for the better I think) the principle of aristocrat and commoner. The Australian Right needs educated, scientifically and philosophically literate thinkers in the mold created by Hume and Burke. Howard was not of this ilk. Fraser only became one in old age. Abbott is a very disturbing mix of chauvinist bully, religious fundamentalist, crass populist and rank opportunist.

  9. Sam
    July 7th, 2011 at 22:13 | #9

    I’m naturally very sympathetic to Pigovian taxes in general, and this carbon tax in particular. It’s clear Abbot’s method will have a much higher abatement cost, and that abatement cost is the main thing we should care about.

    The most convincing advocate for a direct action model that I’ve heard is Bjorn Lomburg. He argues that the best emissions pay-off at the moment is from engineering research into making alternative energy more affordable. This could potentially encourage many people in the rest of the world into green energy sources.

    What do people think of this alternative? Has anyone looked at the marginal emissions reduction each extra alternative energy researcher provides? How would this stack up against a carbon tax in terms of CO2 abatement cost?

  10. Flann O’B
    July 7th, 2011 at 22:24 | #10

    The occasional Liberal penchant for Trotksyist terminology is amusing. Not only “Direct Action”. Back in the 90s, the term “Fightback” had similar associtions/origins.

  11. James Lindley
    July 7th, 2011 at 23:33 | #11

    Truth gets in the way – as do sub-editors sometimes. When I was scanning the opinion pages of the fin today I saw you column (though not your byline) and, after reading:

    “There are short-term political benefits in patently absurd environmental claims but there must surely be some costs in the long run.”

    I assumed it was archetypical denial piece.

  12. Freelander
    July 8th, 2011 at 01:04 | #12

    @Flann O’B

    Its interesting how many ideas the loony right has taken from the loony left, or from the left generally – not simply one or two slogans like “Direct Action’. Of course, Tony would have had excellent training. After all the word propaganda came from the roman catholic church and originally meant to propagate (the truth or the faith), but lost that meaning amongst the laity after repeated misuse by the vatican.

  13. rog
    July 8th, 2011 at 05:49 | #13

    Being a competetive athlete Abbott approaches politics like a contact sport, he puts his head down and works hard to gain an advantage over his opposition. He isn’t interested in facts, they are just obstacles to be overcome or avoided. If he wins he will be victorious, if he loses he gave it his best shot. It is the game that he enjoys the most.

  14. Freelander
    July 8th, 2011 at 08:49 | #14

    @rog

    If Mr Hairy Chest Budgie Smugglers played contact sport the way he ‘plays’ politics he would be sent off and quickly score himself a life ban. In politics, he isn’t interested in right or wrong and has a philosophy of win at all costs. That’s the sort of philosophy capable of destroying sports and politics.

  15. adelady
    July 8th, 2011 at 10:03 | #15

    Sam, the problem with Lomborg’s approach is that he ignores where he doesn’t deny the advantages of investing in and developing current technologies. If we followed his logic, domestic solar PV would still be horrendously expensive rather than just the same cost as an airconditioning system.

    He seems not to have noticed how mobile telephones and computer chips (and many other items) have simply plummeted in price with the experience gained from actually producing the things. He seems to want a world where technologies spring from the laboratory with all economies of scale fully implemented.

    We know that not everything will follow the same price reduction path as computers, we just don’t know which ones will succeed and which ones will fail in this. It’s just simpler to implement what we’ve got – hopefully with the subsidies to old-fashioned technologies like coal reduced or removed – and see how well the items improve both in technical terms and in price.

  16. Hermit
    July 8th, 2011 at 10:15 | #16

    Gillard is proposing a form of direct action if she heavily subsidises the conversion of two coal burning power stations to gas fired. These are Playford in South Australia and the much bigger Loy Yang in Victoria. This kind of technology switch was supposed to happen on its own driven solely by the carbon price, not a capital assist.

    Admittedly details are sketchy but presumably more will be forthcoming on Sunday. What I suspect is that after a year or so of carbon pricing results on the ground will disappoint. If to speed things along there is more Federal cash towards upfront project costs in my view that is direct action.

  17. Robert (not from UK)
    July 8th, 2011 at 10:55 | #17

    I liked Jack Strocchi’s description of the post-Howard Australian neocon-Right as “a case of missing adult supervision.”

    Mr Strocchi also asks: ” Does anyone remember that it was Theodore Roosevelt – a Republican – who established the US National Parks?”

    True, and in the 1960s and 1970s Australia’s environmentalist movement included genuine conservatives (i.e. people who wanted to conserve things) such as Sir Garfield Barwick and Sir Walter Crocker. Barwick and Crocker – whether or not one agrees with everything they wrote – bear the same relation to our age’s Abbotts and Bolts which a Haydn symphony bears to gangsta rap. One of the first and most vocal champions of the tragically short-lived photographer and conservationist Olegas Truchanas was … none other than James McAuley.

  18. BilB
    July 8th, 2011 at 11:07 | #18

    I suspect that Abbott has another “forget what I have said in the past, the past is over, all that matters is what happens in the future and I (Abbott) am the only one who can get that right” moment coming up in the next few months. This next time I doubt that there will be so much “smiling and nodding” from his colleagues.

  19. Tim Macknay
    July 8th, 2011 at 11:13 | #19

    The Right used to like the environment – it was a nice place to go huntin’, fishin’ and shootin’. Does anyone remember that it was Theodore Roosevelt – a Republican – who established the US National Parks?

    Jack, linking Theodore Roosevelt to the political right of today is completely ahistorical. Roosevelt was a reforming liberal democrat, a “progessivist”, to use his own terminology, who supported unionist’s claims for shorter hours and passed antitrust legislation and laws regulating food and drug labelling. Those initiatives would be bitterly opposed by today’s Republican Right.

  20. Sam
    July 8th, 2011 at 11:51 | #20

    @adelady
    I don’t deny this. If the rest of the world were only doing green R&D, further research wouldn’t make sense. I also agree that simply expanding renewable installation would spur more research on it’s own. My only concern is to enact the scheme with the lowest likely abatement cost given i) domestic funding constraints and ii) current world levels of technology and green investment.

    I do wonder though, given Australia’s available level of investment and present under-utilisation of science and engineering talent, which scheme would provide this? The world presently spends very little of its available research resources on green R&D. On the one hand, a carbon tax that displaces other taxes and spends the balance on useful things actually costs the economy very little. On the other hand, even small reductions in cost of these technologies can spur very large changes in global renewable consumption. Maybe the cheapest thing to do would be just to get every available scientist and engineer working to make these things cheaper.

    This is me just musing qualitatively. It’s possible that while researching would have a lower abatement cost, we would quickly run out of available “researching capacity” and this program would be unable to scale up to the same level as a carbon tax. Has anyone actually tried to get numbers on this?

  21. Tim Macknay
    July 8th, 2011 at 13:04 | #21

    @Sam
    The trouble I have with Lomborg’s approach is that he assumes that the severity and economic cost of the impacts of global warming will be relatively low and that we have time to wait until clean energy technologies become economically competitive before making serious efforts to reduce emissions. I don’t think his assumptions in that regard are consistent with the current scientific assessment of the probable impacts.

  22. may
    July 8th, 2011 at 13:05 | #22

    my word,

    gregory is miffed!

    also

    very funny–

  23. Robert (not from UK)
    July 8th, 2011 at 13:26 | #23

    Mr Strocchi, I omitted to ask earlier: have you considered writing a whole article about the neocon Right’s post-Howard infantilism? I suspect that at least one magazine editor in the States would be interested in a report from you on that general topic. You’ve been published previously in The American Conservative, if I recall correctly.

  24. Sam
    July 8th, 2011 at 13:51 | #24

    @Tim Macknay
    Oh yes, let me be clear, I don’t share those views of Lomburg’s. I also wouldn’t suggest that a large country do this, because they would quickly max out useful discoveries, without “doing their bit” to curb emissions.

    Here’s what *may* be the case.

    There is a lot of high hanging fruit to be picked in the form of Abbot style direct action. There is a lot of much lower hanging fruit in the form of carbon pricing. There may be just a few very low hanging pieces in the form of green technology research. No matter what Australia decides, we will only pick a few pieces of fruit. Clearly the rest of the world can’t all pick just those small pieces – there isn’t enough to go around – but if no one else tries, we may as well.

    Lomburg says both i) there are lot’s of pieces to be picked low down in the form of new technology, and ii) the world doesn’t really need more fruit than is available on that lowest branch. I say that at least ii) is wrong.

  25. Savvas Tzionis
    July 8th, 2011 at 15:00 | #25

    Speaking of post Howard…..

    Have you noticed that the Australian media has FINALLY been Foxified? The Australian and numerous radio stations. Not to mention the ABC being ‘neutered’.

    Why so late? Well, in 1996 when FOX started in the States, Howard rose to power. There was no need for FOX news.

  26. Mike Smith
    July 8th, 2011 at 17:37 | #26

    Read a great book in this last week, “Idiot America”, that traverses the structure and nature of the climate change ‘debate’ and others in the US:

    “· Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units
    · Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough
    · Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it”

  27. Peter T
    July 8th, 2011 at 17:40 | #27

    Some forms of direct action make eminent sense, but I doubt Abbott would endorse them. For instance, the biggest single source of emissions is coal, so acting directly to shut down coal power stations and to raise the price of exported coal would really help. In the latter area, Australia possibly has enough market power to make a significant difference to global emissions.

  28. July 8th, 2011 at 18:58 | #28

    The key questions are:

    1. Why do people who respect science (most Americans do) disbelieve it? Creationism, climate, causes of autism…….etc etc

    2. Why do most people assume there is a major intellectual controversy over the issue of the central claims of climate science.

    Question 2 seems to me related to the “both sides” belong presented philosophy of the modern media while the first also seems to be related to the way information spreads in society. Claims that potentially can cause people discomfit – having to modify a comfortable lifestyle for example – create cognitive dissonance and people reach for the Plimers, Monktons and Singer’s of this world.

    We have a working democracy that is gradually spreading throughout the world. Economic and environmental issues are increasingly global. People need to make judgements about developments in science intelligently. Not to blindly believe but to accept science as a better alternative to making judgements about the world than ideology and God-talk.

    To achieve this we need to know why it is that people make foolish inferences. Its much more than an issue of identifying a few villains as liars even if they are.

  29. Freelander
    July 8th, 2011 at 19:15 | #29

    About time a concerted attack is made on News Corp. Advertisements should be pulled from all of its organs.

    News Corp, Murdoch Media, has been conducting a relentless attack on democracy in at least three countries – Australia, US and UK. With the recent revelations that there has been not only widespread (indeed, industrial scale) hacking of telephone accounts and interference with investigations, but the corrupting of police with bribes for information, people really should take this opportunity to stop the attacks on democracy while they can.

    The official reactions from News Corp. simply bring to mind the oft quoted “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?” In fact, so predictable you wonder why they bother moving their jaws, or journalists bother reporting the responses?

    The “I never knew” is now being topped by the totally cynical closing of News of the World. One sinister aspect of the closure is that a closed News of the World will make the investigation much harder to conduct. The staff of the publication will now be dispersed around the world, to places where they will be very difficult to interview let alone imprison. Computers will be wiped of their emails and other records, and then dispersed as well. Physical records will be destroyed with the closing of the paper, and those records retained will be difficult to access and locate with the paper, its employees, and the corporate knowledge all gone.

    An incredibly cynical and clever way to impede investigation, and otherwise attempt to stem the damage from revelations. Surely a better time to act against the relentless attack on democracy is unlikely to appear. We really need to act now.

  30. Freelander
    July 8th, 2011 at 19:19 | #30

    Sorry, meant to post that in Monday Message Board!

  31. Freelander
    July 8th, 2011 at 19:27 | #31

    @Savvas Tzionis

    The ABC in Australia is now worse than ‘neutered’, it has been totally Foxified. At time, listening to ABC NewRadio I now get the impression that it is a division of FoxNews. I am simply amazed at how quickly, in ten or eleven short years, Howard managed to pack the organisation with an army of drones, now all aping the Hard Right, leave no lie untold, Abbott loving line. The ABC is becoming worse that The Australian which is almost unbelievable!

  32. Fran Barlow
    July 8th, 2011 at 20:30 | #32

    @Freelander

    Hard to disagree about the general direction of #theirABC. There are still some dissident currents there of course — the recent “Leaky Boat” doco might be an example, but yes, these days it’s pretty much the #murdochracy’s echo-chamber.

    It’s actually quite useful to them because it can launder dogma that people would, if they saw it published within the official stable, raise more questions.

    I like the new phrase doing the rounds of social media sites on this getting away with murdoch. I just wish I’d thought of it.

  33. John Quiggin
    July 8th, 2011 at 20:50 | #33

    On this topic, I just saw Gwyn Prins, longstanding donothingist who is included on Inhofe’s list of 400 denialists, presented on the ABC News as an expert critic of the EU emissions trading scheme.

  34. Donald Oats
    July 8th, 2011 at 21:45 | #34

    @John Quiggin
    I also saw that, and nearly fell off me chair!

  35. Freelander
    July 9th, 2011 at 00:14 | #35

    Pielke, Jr, Roger and Prins, Gwyn and Rayner, Steve and Sarewitz, Daniel (2007) Climate change 2007: Lifting the taboo on adaptation. Nature, 445 (7128). pp. 597-598.

    Death is the ultimate adaptation.

    There seems to be an infinitely elastic supply of these crazy people. Too bad there isn’t any use for them.

  36. tiger
    July 9th, 2011 at 09:53 | #36

    all very labouresk really

  37. tiger
    July 9th, 2011 at 10:01 | #37

    Obviously put out by the Climate Change CONjurers..Why don’t you study the real facts….EG..this tax will not change one climate thing happening on this planet..now or ever..GET REAL..we used to be conned in by it, but now I and all my work friends have seen the realist side of the argument and as with most scams can’t believe we fell for this climate change CON> in the first place..

  38. Macondo
    July 9th, 2011 at 14:56 | #38

    tiger :
    Obviously put out by the Climate Change CONjurers..Why don’t you study the real facts….EG..this tax will not change one climate thing happening on this planet..now or ever..GET REAL..we used to be conned in by it, but now I and all my work friends have seen the realist side of the argument and as with most scams can’t believe we fell for this climate change CON> in the first place..

    Irony/satire? Or the Dunning-Kruger effect on steroids?

  39. Andy
    July 10th, 2011 at 12:53 | #39

    Australia is around 80% coal-generated electricity, I believe

    Since you are not going to go nuclear anytime soon, your options are extremely limited. The lack of mathematical reasoning that you attribute to the “anti-science” right is also apparent in those proposing a rapid transition to a “low-carbon” economy.

    Roger Pielke Jnr, in his book “The Climate Fix”, discusses these numbers for Australia in some detail. It would be helpful if a public debate was opened up on this. but it appears that the Greens/Labor are committed to de-industrialising the Australian economy and not bothering to tell anyone about this intention.

  40. Andy
    July 10th, 2011 at 18:29 | #40

    @hc
    Why do most people assume there is a major intellectual controversy over the issue of the central claims of climate science. ?

    Can you give me a constrained value for climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2, and explain why all the models assume a net positive feedback due to water vapour, when there is no empirical evidence to support this?

    Can you also explain why there has been no increase of global mean temperature over the last 10 years (this is not controversial), when CO2 emissions have been at their highest?

    Can you also explain why the Argo buoy network shows no increase in sea surface temperatures since their deployment?

    Can you also explain why sea level rise is showing no sign of accelerating or doing anything that is outside the behaviour we would expect in an interglacial period?

    Maybe, when you have done all that, you can tell me why there is a “consensus” by all government funded scientists why we need to urgently address the issue of climate change

    Thanks in advance

  41. Chris O’Neill
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:34 | #41

    @Andy

    Can you give me a constrained value for climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2,

    So you think if there is some chance a plane won’t crash, like there is some chance climate sensitivity is low, then you will ride in that plane. Please don’t force me to ride in that plane with you.

    and explain why all the models assume a net positive feedback due to water vapour, when there is no empirical evidence to support this?

    So which of the following empirical evidence are you denying:

    1. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas

    2. Water vapor increases as the atmosphere gets warmer.

    Can you also explain why there has been no increase of global mean temperature over the last 10 years (this is not controversial), when CO2 emissions have been at their highest?

    Global mean temperature trended down by 0.45 deg C in the 10 years from April 1941 to March 1951 while the CO2 level changed very little. So non-CO2 factors can easily overwhelm the effect of the CO2 rise in a period as short as 10 years. Denialists are short-sighted as we all know so think 10 years means something climatically.

  42. Andy
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:41 | #42

    @Chris O’Neill
    Chris O’Neill

    I think your answer to my water vapour question is rather simplistic.
    I could ask the same question of clouds, which produce a negative feedback effect.

    You write of “non-CO2 factors” that mask the effects of CO2. You are in fact admitting that natural climatic effects are masking the CO2 effects, yet you expect me to accept at the same time that CO2 is the major climate driver.

    Which one is it?

  43. Andy
    July 11th, 2011 at 12:01 | #43

    @Chris O’Neill
    In terms of your plane analogy, I think Mike Hulme made the comment “why should I get on a plane that had 10% chance of crashing?” in response to the uncertainties in climate change.

  44. Sam
    July 11th, 2011 at 12:27 | #44

    You write of “non-CO2 factors” that mask the effects of CO2. You are in fact admitting that natural climatic effects are masking the CO2 effects, yet you expect me to accept at the same time that CO2 is the major climate driver.

    Non CO2 factors dominate in the short term, but they oscillate about a mean. In the long term these noise variations cancel themselves out, and the structural drivers (CO2) dominate.

    From winter to summer, the temperature gradually gets warmer, but any given day is about as likely to be cooler than the preceding day as it is to be warmer.

    As to your belief that temperature hasn’t risen in the past 10 years (and that this is uncontroversial), I suggest that you don’t know what the term “statistical significance” means. What do you say to graphs like this?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Global_Temperature_Anomaly_1880-2010_(Fig.A).gif

    The trend is clear.

  45. Andy
    July 11th, 2011 at 12:37 | #45

    @Sam
    Sam, Yes I do know what the term “statistical significance means. I have a degree in Maths.

    This graph from Lucia Liljegren shows the trend over the last 10 years, plotted against IPCC projections.

    http://rankexploits.com/musings/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Since20011.jpg

    Notice that error bars are provided.

    Your graph shows a trend from 1880. This does show a long term warming trend.
    However, my point is that the warming has stalled in the last 10 years, and no one can come up with a reasonable explanation. (the aerosol argument is pretty weak in my view)

    The question, of course, is what will happen in the next couple of decades. Some say it will cool, but we just don’t know.

    Either way, it looks like real world data is tracking below IPCC projections.

  46. Chris O’Neill
    July 11th, 2011 at 16:36 | #46

    @Andy

    I think your answer to my water vapour question is rather simplistic.

    How, exactly?

    I could ask the same question of clouds,

    Then why didn’t you? You’re just moving the goalposts. Since you’re moving the goalposts, you’re effectively admitting you were wrong when you asserted there was no empirical evidence that water vapor produces a net positive feedback.

    which produce a negative feedback effect.

    Says you. It is very hard to determine whether cloud feedback is positive or negative but the climate scientists say it is most probably positive.

    You write of “non-CO2 factors” that mask the effects of CO2.

    Over short periods of time and to a limited degree, e.g. rarely more than 0.5 deg C.

    You are in fact admitting that natural

    non-CO2

    climatic effects are masking the CO2 effects,

    over a period of 10 years or less

    yet you expect me to accept at the same time that CO2 is the major climate driver

    over the long term, i.e. substantially longer than 10 years.

    Which one is it?

    Both, but I knew you were going to ignore the significance of time-scale. It’s a simple fact that CO2 level doesn’t change much in a short period but natural conditions can. Unfortunately, some people can’t accept simple facts.

  47. Chris O’Neill
    July 11th, 2011 at 16:40 | #47

    @Andy

    In terms of your plane analogy, I think Mike Hulme made the comment “why should I get on a plane that had 10% chance of crashing?” in response to the uncertainties in climate change.

    Exactly, if our actions have a 10% chance of “crashing” the earth’s climate, why should we continue with our actions?

  48. Andy
    July 11th, 2011 at 16:54 | #48

    @Chris O’Neill
    Probably pointless arguing with you Chris.

    I accept that 10 years is a short time for climate, but what is a long enough time? 30 years is generally considered the threshold for determining climatic significance.
    Since we are almost half way into this period, with no statistically significant warming, (despite Phil Jones’s protestations) and let’s say we get the same again for another 15 years, will the theory be then disproved?

  49. sam
    July 11th, 2011 at 17:18 | #49

    @Andy
    Ok then. My graph showed a clear upward trend over the last decade. Yours does not. It seems then we have a disagreement over primary sources. I haven’t been able to find any other data that backs up the claims made in your graph.

  50. Andy
  51. Chris O’Neill
    July 11th, 2011 at 17:53 | #51

    @Andy

    Probably pointless arguing with you Chris.

    Same to you.

    I accept that 10 years is a short time for climate,

    So why, then, did you make a point about 10 years?:

    Can you also explain why there has been no increase of global mean temperature over the last 10 years

    Doesn’t sound like the same tune as before.

    but what is a long enough time? 30 years is generally considered the threshold for determining climatic significance.
    Since we are almost half way into this period, with no statistically significant warming, (despite Phil Jones’s protestations)

    Don’t you mean because of Phil Jones’s statements? He was wrong anyway. It is possible to determine statistically significant global warming from 1995 to 2009 by removing exogenous factors.

    and let’s say we get the same again for another 15 years, will the theory be then disproved?

    And why, pray tell, do you ignore the previous 15 years? Adding that to the consideration will give us statistical significance in spades. Since you’re quite the mathematician, you should have no problem following Tamino’s take on the issue.

  52. Jim Birch
    July 12th, 2011 at 14:21 | #52

    @Andy
    Are you serious?

    If you really think you have detected some fundamental problems with climate theory write it up, get your paper peer-reviewed and published. Selecting a few data points that you think support your view and posting them on an economics blog is not science, it’s hubris. Even if you managed to get everyone here to agree with you it proves absolutely nothing in science; you’d have just demonstrated some rhetorical skill. And, you haven’t even done that.

  53. Andy
    July 12th, 2011 at 15:14 | #53

    @Jim Birch
    I haven’t detected a fundamental problem with climate theory.
    The issue of low climate sensitivity has already been published in peer-reviewed literature by Lindzen and Choi

    Thanks and have a nice day.

  54. Andy
    July 12th, 2011 at 15:18 | #54

    By the way, please do not give me links to “tamino”.

    I prefer peer-reviewed literature, thanks. Not Gavin’s attack puppy.

  55. Andy
    July 12th, 2011 at 15:23 | #55

    By the way, I am not “ignoring the previous 15 years”. Is it not a reasonable question to ask why GW has stopped for 10 years? Apparently, it is because China is burning coal.

    So Anthropogenic Global Cooling is counteracting Anthropogenic Global Warming to produce Anthropogenic Global No Warming.

    The fact that I get such a vituperative response to my queries indicate that I have stepped into another temple of warmism.

    You have the gall to use the words “anti-science” and “denier”. Look in the mirror.

  56. Andy
    July 12th, 2011 at 15:37 | #56

    Another thing, while I am on a roll.

    The title of this post is “The Truth Gets in the Way”

    I give two separate links to data showing no warming over the last 10 years. I get asked by Sam to back this up.

    Both links are from reputable sources. I have not made any assumptions or inferences from this. You can make up your own mind.

    I merely ask questions.

    I get given a link to Wikipedia. Do you think this is a valid source. Are you aware that one William Connelly has had his grubby paws all over Wikipedia?

    Besides, the Wikipedia graph is too coarse grained to see any detail over the last 10 years.

    Clearly, anyone questioning The Faith in any shape or form is a Denier, probably funded by Big Oil and the Koch Brothers, doesn’t think of the Cheeeldren, etc etc

    Same old script, over and over and over again.

  57. Fran Barlow
    July 12th, 2011 at 16:37 | #57

    PrQ

    Hasn’t the day arrived when those you’ve hitherto dubbed delusionists are no longer ensured here?

    I’d say so.

  58. Nick R
    July 12th, 2011 at 17:21 | #58

    @Andy
    Andy the reason why nobody is terribly persuaded by your data is that we are not climate scientists and hence are in no position to assess the validity of your claims. However we do know that those that are in a position to assess them (i.e. virtually every single scientific board with any authority over the subject matter) find them wholly unconvincing.

    Pretty much all these denialist arguments either boil down to either: (i) all the worlds experts are (innocently) mistaken and a group of amateurs with no experience or training in the area are correct, or (ii) tens of thousands of scientists across all walks of life have engaged in a massive evil conspiracy. A denialist has to weigh the probability of these bizarre and unlikely claims being correct against the possibility that the scientists are correct, and find for the former. Perhaps this will help you understand why they don’t receive a lot of respect here.

  59. Chris O’Neill
    July 12th, 2011 at 19:31 | #59

    @Andy

    I prefer

    lightly

    peer-reviewed literature, thanks.

    Such as the lightly-reviewed GRL, some of whose peer-”reviewed” papers turn out to be gravely flawed.

    On the other hand, perhaps you meant that you prefer media interviews.

    By the way, please spare us the ad-hom responses.

  60. Sam
    July 12th, 2011 at 20:44 | #60

    @Andy
    First, the wiki graph is not too coarse to show detail over the last 10 years. It shows 9 data points over that time period, and their short oscillations clearly correspond to ENSO. My graph showed an increasing 5 year trend over the last decade, though not with 95% confidence. For comparison, it was also useful to show data from the last century or so, to demonstrate a clear warming trend with occasional small downticks. It shows no signs of warming broadly leveling off over the last decade, directly contradicting what you allege.

    Second, the graph didn’t magically appear on Wikipedia. Like all things, it is sourced. The one I provided was originally from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Go there, it has lot’s of nice graphs all making the same point.

    There are many other data sources. The Berkely Earth Summary gave a pretty good meta-analysis of a few different large studies (HadCRU, NOAA, along with GISS), and also did their own survey of the available primary data. There were of course differences in the numbers but none qualitatively contradicted NASA’s research.

    The reason I asked you about your data sources is because they appear to conflict with the findings of many large-scale, reputable, disinterested bodies. It makes me suspicious of the reliability of your claims.

  61. Chris O’Neill
    July 12th, 2011 at 21:11 | #61

    @Andy

    By the way, I am not “ignoring the previous 15 years”.

    I’m going to be generous and assume you didn’t realize I meant the 15 years before 1995 when I said “the previous 15 years”.

    Is it not a reasonable question to ask why GW has stopped for 10 years?

    How could I imply it was not reasonable when I answered your question?

    The fact is that there isn’t much additional warming effect from CO2 over a period of 10 years (0.2 deg C) while other temporary influences can exceed this over 10 years. So while CO2 is only increasing as quickly as it is now, there will continue to be opportunities that give no warming over cherry-picked periods of 10 years. The cherry-pickers can look forward to ongoing opportunities for pushing their meme.

  62. Jim Birch
    July 13th, 2011 at 10:01 | #62

    @Andy
    Oh dear. Are you arguing that Linzen has been published therefore he’s some kind of perfect authority? Cherry picking is a useful rhetorical device but science doesn’t work like that, and for good reasons – it’s unreliable.

    Linzen has claimed that global warming has stopped on a number of occasions over the years, he just keeps changing the date. You can check this out. A number of other his key arguments have also been refuted by evidence. A reasonable assumption would be that he has an agenda and he’s groping for arguments to support it. For a summary of what he has got wrong, you could start your review here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/Lindzen_Illusions.htm. Then again, your seem to imply that climate science is some kind of incredible global conspiracy, so you might not.

    Be that as it may, Linzen holds extreme minority position among climate scientists. You are of course welcome to follow him but don’t expect to be taken seriously. I wouldn’t choose to fly in plane that the consensus of experts has declared unsafe even if some maverick aeronautical engineer had given it the ok, would you?

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