Home > #NewsCorpFail, Boneheaded stupidity > Ignorant, out of touch, crazy

Ignorant, out of touch, crazy

July 29th, 2013

Those are the terms chosen by young American voters to describe climate change deniers in a poll conducted for the League of Conservation Voters. LCV is obviously pro-environment, but historically nonpartisan, and they used both a Democratic and a Republican pollster.

The fact that, to be accepted in Republican circles, its necessary to be ignorant, out of touch or crazy or, at the very least, deferential to the crazies who dominate that side of politics, is being recognised as a problem for the Republicans and an opportunity for the Democrats, going well beyond the specific issue of climate change.

The climate denial issue came up again in Andrew Bolt’s interview with Kevin Rudd, and I’ve been reminded of his repeated claim that I got estimates of the climate impact of the government’s emission target wrong. In fact, it was Bolt who was wrong, as on almost every topic he touches, in this case, out by a factor of 100.

Motes and beams (repost)

The Oz and Andrew Bolt have a tag team attack on me today (Google it if you want). Most of it consists of quotations, with lots of ellipses, that are meant to show me as a dangerous radical. I can’t say I’m too upset by that – from their perspective, it’s a fair assessment. But Bolt also repeats his claim that I made a factor-of-5 error in my estimate of the impact of Australia’s current 2020 target on global temperatures.

This is a striking piece of chutzpah, given that this estimate was made in the process of correcting a calculation by Bolt, which was out by two orders of magnitude. But it has finally provoked me to clear up some of the confusion on this. The starting point was this post by Bolt who used a calculation by Damon Matthews that each tonne of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere changes the equilibrium temperature by 0.000 000 000 0015 degrees, that is 1.5*10^-12 in scientific notation. Noting that the carbon price is expected to reduce emissions by 160 million tonnes per year by 2020, Bolt made the calculation that the emissions avoided in the year 2020 will reduce equilibrium temperature by 2.4*10^-4 or 0.00024 degrees, and treats this as an estimate of the impact of the policy.

This is an amazing howler on Bolt’s part. He’s only counted one year of emissions reductions for a policy that is supposed to permanently reduce emissions. I made the very quick calculation that, if the policy stays in place until 2100 and that the 2020 reduction in emissions was maintained over this period, the number used by Bolt would imply a reduction of 0.02 degrees. I did another rough calculation that came out the same way.

Bolt came back with a lower estimate by Roger Jones, who suggest that the policy would reduce temperature by only 0.004 degrees, lower by a factor of 5 than my estimate, but higher by a factor of 20 than Bolt’s silly calculation.

At this point I slipped up. As a result of a misunderstood conversation with Roger, I gave an incorrect explanation for the discrepancy. Roger subsequently advised that he had made his calculation using a standard modelling tool called MAGICC. I finally got around to downloading MAGICC, and trying it out, so I can now give an explanation for why our estimates differ. There are three main points

(1) The most important factor is that we are estimating two different things. MAGICC produces estimates of the temperature change by 2100, but the atmosphere takes a long time to reach equilibrium. For reductions in CO2 emissions spread out over the rest of this century, the change by 2100 is only about half the long run equilibrium change.

(2) Estimates of the sensitivity of the global climate to changes in CO2 concentrations vary. The most common measure is the equilibrium temperature change for a doubling in atmospheric CO2. Until recently MAGICC used 2.6 degrees as the default, on the low side of most estimates. I used 3.5, which gives a value around 30 per cent higher

(3) Finally, while it’s obviously silly to assume, like Bolt, that the policy is in effect for only one year, it’s not entirely clear how we should project its impact into the future. That depends on baseline projections of emissions from which to calculate percentage reductions. My simple estimate takes a constant reduction over 80 years, which is probably a bit on the high side. If you assumed that emissions were going to decline anyway over the second half of this century, the effect of the policy would be reduced, perhaps by half.

Those three factors, taken together, would account for the discrepancy in the two estimates. I don’t claim that I’ve got them exactly right and there may be points I’ve missed. But for someone like Bolt to pontificate on a subject like this, when he is incapable of avoiding or correcting even the most absurd errors, brings to mind Matthew 7:3-5.

A couple of minor points

First, Bolt’s behavior in crowing about a minor mistake on my part, while ignoring his own total absurdity, is par for the course among delusionists. A while back, there was a major scandal (it even got a “Gate”) over the fact that the thousand-page IPCC volume on the impact of climate change included an erroneous claim about Himalayan glaciers. But delusionists get away with far sillier stuff on a daily basis. For example, Christopher Monckton, until recently Bolt’s favorite source of scientific evidence[1] used Gavin Menzies 1421 to argue that the retreat of polar icecaps was nothing new, since the great Chinese fleet had taken the Arctic route on the return journey from discovering America.

Second, as Cut and Paste notes, I said when I took up the Climate Commission position that I’d try to refrain from polemics with people like Bolt. I haven’t stuck to that as well as I might have, and now I think it’s totally pointless. So, from now on, I plan to give as good as I get and, if possible, a bit more.

fn1. He was, after all, Thatcher’s science adviser, if only in bizarro world.

Categories: #NewsCorpFail, Boneheaded stupidity Tags:
  1. Hermit
    July 29th, 2013 at 16:35 | #1

    I’m troubled by the fact that the likely seat winner in my federal electorate is a climate change denier. I don’t really want an ignoramus as my local member.

  2. doug
    July 29th, 2013 at 16:39 | #2

    I guess you’ve seen the silly triumphalism in the latest Quadrant? I hasten to add, I didn’t buy it, just skim-read it at the newsagents!

  3. Fran Barlow
    July 29th, 2013 at 16:50 | #3

    He was, after all, Thatcher’s science adviser, if only in bizarro world.

    That claim too was apparently bogus too. He was some minor personal assistant, whom one presumes she ultimately ignored in concluding that action on climate change was indeed necessary.

  4. July 29th, 2013 at 17:03 | #4

    He everybody,

    “it’s not entirely clear how we should project its impact into the future.”

    Well you can guess that like they guess the average global temperature. (somewhere between 13 and 17 degrees Celsius depending how you measure it, according to the scientists).

    The great AGW fraud continues.

    Kind regards,

    phoenix

  5. TerjeP
    July 29th, 2013 at 17:58 | #5

    Those three factors, taken together, would account for the discrepancy in the two estimates. I don’t claim that I’ve got them exactly right and there may be points I’ve missed.

    Another way to compare a mitigation strategy with BAU is to calculate how many years warming is deferred by at the end of the century. Perhaps this is less messy than specifying a temperature difference.

    First, Bolt’s behavior in crowing about a minor mistake on my part, while ignoring his own total absurdity, is par for the course among delusionists.

    Perhaps but your rant about the “anti science” in the IPA 2009 paper by Alan Moran seemed totally absurd to me. He made a hyped remark about the history of civilisation but otherwise I could not locate any “anti science” in the paper. You did a lot of crowing with no substance. Anybody would swear it was election season.

  6. iain
    July 29th, 2013 at 18:37 | #6

    To be fair, “independent” and “commonsense” were ranked above “crazy”.

    A key thing is; 53% of republicans said “ignorant” or “out of touch” or “crazy”.

    If this was extrapolated to Australia, it would mean the majority of people, under 35, wanting to vote right wing, think (at some level) that Abbott is “ignorant” or “out of touch” or “crazy”.

    Hard to see how Rudd can lose, actually.

  7. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2013 at 19:58 | #7

    Rather than blaming vast right-wing conspiracies, use Google searches for “unemployment” and “global warming” as in http://www.voxeu.org/article/concern-environment-luxury-good-evidence-google-searches where Kahn and Kotchen’s find:

    • Recessions increase concerns about unemployment at the expense of public interest in climate change.
    • the decline in global-warming searches is larger in more Democratic leaning states.
    • An increase in a state’s unemployment rate decreases in the probability that Americans think global warming is happening, and reduces the certainty of those who think it is.

    As Geoff Brennan has argued, CO reduction actions will be limited to modest unilateral reductions of a largely token character.

    There are many expressive voting concerns that politicians must balance to stay in office and the environment is but one of these. Once climate change policies start to actually become costly, expressive voting support for these policies will fall.

    In January 2010, the Pew Research Center asked Americans to rank the importance of twenty-one issues. Climate change came in last. That ranking will rise back when the economy recovers to trend.

    p.s. there were 5 republican senators who would have voted for cap and trade in April 2010: Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown, and George LeMieux. Obama could have fought harder to get the House Bill though the Senate but he did not. Blame Obama, no one else. He is supposed to make change happen. He lacked the political skills to build coalitions even within his own party to deliver on action of global warming.

    p.p.s. The 2008 Republican Party presidential nominee supported cap-and-trade. McCain and many others soften or reversed positions on action on global warming as middle-of-the-road voter support waned as the great recession deepened.

  8. John Quiggin
    July 29th, 2013 at 20:09 | #8

    @TerjeP ‘rant about the “anti science” in the IPA 2009 paper by Alan Moran’

    This is a figment of your imagination. I never mentioned this paper. The IPA is anti-science on all issues, but that doesn’t mean every single thing they write is explicitly anti-science. Only some like this
    http://www.ipa.org.au/publications/523/smokescreen-%27passive-smoking%27-and-public-policy
    and this
    http://www.ipa.org.au/publications/1957/climate-change-the-facts
    and this
    http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/10801698?versionId=12611427

  9. July 29th, 2013 at 20:21 | #9

    @Hermit
    I looked at all current sitting members. If your member is a denier then he must be a conservative. http://uknowispeaksense.wordpress.com/election-2013/

  10. TerjeP
    July 29th, 2013 at 20:52 | #10

    This article:-

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/23/abbott-wind-turbines-health-effects

    which was written by you, expends a lot of energy linking everybody and everything to the IPA and talks about “anti-science alarmists”. Yet the only actual IPA paper that relates to the topic of renewable energy and is linked to in your article is this paper 2009 paper by Alan Moran:-

    http://www.ipa.org.au/library/publication/1248224976_document_the_costs_to_australia_of_renewable_energy-1.pdf

    Your article reads like a political hatchet job. Was that the intention?

  11. sunshine
    July 29th, 2013 at 21:13 | #11

    This is an issue like no other as it indicates massive ongoing market failures . It seems to fairly neatly divide people left and right politically. Im no scientist so I choose to believe the clear majority of experts on this issue as I do in hundreds of other ways every day. Australia is a democracy with a dash of post-modern culture (mainly allowed for the purpose of selling stuff) , but that doesnt mean public opinion necessarily = truth .

  12. Sancho
    July 29th, 2013 at 23:35 | #12

    Most of it consists of quotations, with lots of ellipses

    Oh, they love that stuff. The science stubbornly contradicts the claims of denialists, so the Oz simply reads the research, which it understands, then moves the words around so that the meaning is reversed.

  13. John Quiggin
    July 30th, 2013 at 04:41 | #13

    @Terje My apologies. That link was added in editing by the Guardian which is why I had no idea what you were talking about. But, the link merely pointed out the general claim of the IPA to base its position on rational economic analysis rather than the lunatic scaremongering the IPA promotes through front groups, or the general anti-science position it takes on climate chang. A better link for the latter purpose would be the Moran-edited volume I linked to here

    http://www.ipa.org.au/publications/1957/climate-change-the-facts

    Care to defend that?

  14. TerjeP
    July 30th, 2013 at 05:29 | #14

    That link was added in editing by the Guardian which is why I had no idea what you were talking about.

    Apology accepted. I’m glad you cleared that issue up. What a strange thing for an editor to do. Does the Guardian often do this? I feel like a mug for expending time checking sources if the editor is in the habit of inserting things the author did not intend. Plus I expended energy pursuing you for an answer. Naughty editor.

    However it does leave me wondering why your article about renewable energy technology spends so many words on the IPA being the hub of anti science but then offers nothing from the IPA on this topic of renewable energy that is anti science. You do mention other organisations besides the IPA but in fact the only quoted statements in your entire article are by those that support your position, or by members of the Liberal Party. So whilst the vibe of the article is clear there isn’t a lot of substance to the argument. At least not the argument as presented within the article. Perhaps you have anti science quotes that you chose not to include for some reason.

    I acknowledge the IPA paper you now offer in your comment above. It’s 144 pages. I have not read it yet. If you or anybody else wants to actually cite and quote some specific anti science statements from this paper that might expedite things.

  15. Fran Barlow
    July 30th, 2013 at 06:30 | #15

    @TerjeP

    If you or anybody else wants to actually cite and quote some specific anti science statements from this paper that might expedite things.

    The contribution list reads like a who’s who of dissemblers, disinformationists and spivs on this matter. All such an exercise could do would be to turn this topic into one giant delusionist <em<Gish Gallop.

    Nobody in their right mind would want that. The question has been asked. Do you endorse the tract in question? Yes it’s 140 pages, but browse a few pages. Are there any scientific claims in the piece about the provenance of the industrial era temperature trend that are scientifically robust?

  16. Jim Rose
    July 30th, 2013 at 06:38 | #16

    The IPA is anti-science on all issues,

    John, why be anti-science on issues where the science favours you?

    The contribution list reads like a who’s who of dissemblers, disinformationists and spivs on this matter.

    fran, is richard Tol a dissembler, disinformationist and spiv on this matter?

  17. Fran Barlow
    July 30th, 2013 at 07:34 | #17

    @Jim Rose

    Tol is not a climate scientist, but a policy advocate. He trivialises the costs of climate change as evidenced by his participation in the Lomborg-led Copenhagen Consensus which discounted the costs of suffering or poor people so as to minimise the value of abatement. Despite this radically anti-populist position, he punctuates his advocacy with populist memes — “climocrats”; “climate change as new religion” — and works alongside others impugning the underlying science.

    This conduct amply qualifies him for the descriptors I used.

  18. Hermit
    July 30th, 2013 at 07:46 | #18

    @Mike
    Currently ALP predicted to go to LNP.

  19. TerjeP
    July 30th, 2013 at 08:33 | #19

    Fran – I have now read the section by Ian Plimer. I couldn’t find any claim to fact that I could fault. However there was quite a bit of detail so I may have missed something. On the basis of that section alone I’d be inclined to say it seemed reasonable. There was no railing against science nor claims that were at odds with reasonable scientific opinion.

    If you can find a particular claim or set of claims that are anti-science or unscientific and which should lead me to conclude otherwise then please direct me accordingly. A quote along with a page number would be best.

  20. steve from brisbane
    July 30th, 2013 at 09:09 | #20

    @TerjeP
    Ha. Ian Plimer ends his section with:

    The notion that climate change is tied only to human activity with known atmospheric and ocean feedbacks is a simple and erroneous explanation of modern and ancient climates. To argue that modern climate is driven by slight changes in a trace gas in the atmosphere (CO 2 ) requires many non-scientific leaps of faith.

    You have no problem with such an obvious straw man/non sequitur argument (which is, in fact, what his entire chapter consists of: “Look!, the climate has always changed! That means we aren’t changing it now!”)?

  21. TerjeP
    July 30th, 2013 at 09:22 | #21

    Well a little rides on what you mean by “driven” but as I read it there is nothing I object to in the statement. I would say that accusing AGW advocates of making “non scientific leaps of faith” could be interpreted as bad form. It’s a bit like JQ accusing the other side of the debate as being “anti science” although JQ has chosen a harsher form of words in my view.

  22. July 30th, 2013 at 09:42 | #22

    Terje, when you’re in a deep hole, you should stop digging.

    Plimer is as delusional (at least on AGW, and probably a lot of other things) as any of the flat-earthers at the IPA. If you think there is nothing to object to in the statement steve from brisbane quotes above, then there’s no hope for you. (Hint: there are at least two Big Fat Lies in there. I leave finding them as an exercise for the reader.)

  23. Gabrielle of Brisbane
    July 30th, 2013 at 09:45 | #23

    Science is not subject to the post modernist notion that all points of view are equally valid. It is necessary to have verifiable evidence consisting of either experimental or observational data and theory grounded in a history of such evidence. It seems incredible that it should be necessary to constantly repeat this to people who seem otherwise intelligent but from this discussion it would appear to be necessary. Defending scientific method deniers like Plimer makes someone seem absurd from my perspective, although I don’t usually join in discussions like this. I decided give up discussing denialism with people I know because it is like believing in fairies. You want it to be true so it must be. It is a belief. It is not science. I deplore this infantilisation of our intellectual lives.

  24. Ikonoclast
    July 30th, 2013 at 09:56 | #24

    For Plimer to say;

    “To argue that modern climate is driven by slight changes in a trace gas in the atmosphere (CO2) requires many non-scientific leaps of faith.” is quite absurb.

    It illustrates he doesn’t understand basic thermodynamics, basic climatology and basic CO2 spectrometry. For a geologist to not understand spectrometry is bizarre. Does he really not understand or is he dissembling?

    And sure if a large volcano belches CO2 it can affect our climate. And we are belching many ordinary volcanos worth of CO2 right now. “Humans emit 100 times more CO2 than volcanoes.” – SkepticalScience.

  25. steve from brisbane
    July 30th, 2013 at 10:10 | #25

    In the (probably vain) hope that TerjeP might be persuaded that a lack of complete understanding of relatively brief short changes in climate in the past (such as Roman warm period) is no bar to making reasonable forecasts of what will happen long term to the climate now, I refer him to this article by the pretty conservative Texas State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon:

    The Strange Question of the Roman Warm Period

    I have always felt this post dealt with this line of argument (which, as I say, is at the core of Plimer’s approach) succinctly and well.

  26. Hal9000
    July 30th, 2013 at 10:19 | #26

    @David Irving (no relation)
    Challenge accepted!

    climate change is tied only to human activity with known atmospheric and ocean feedbacks is a simple and erroneous explanation of modern and ancient climates

    Straw man. And such a crude one that even someone ideologically blinkered but possessed of medium level logical skills should spot it. Climate science is about working out which of the myriad causal factors is the most significant at any point in time. Right here in 2013, it’s human activity. At other times, it’s been anything from the Earth’s angle of tilt to variations in solar radiation to cosmic bombardment to volcanic activity to continental drift etc etc. Plimer is being knowingly deceitful in peddling this mischaracterisation.

    slight changes in a trace gas

    Er, very large changes in a very important gas. Big Lie 1.

    requires many non-scientific leaps of faith

    Er, no. It merely requires a grade 10 level understanding of the physics as revealed over a century ago. Big Lie 2.
    A crude fallacy and two Big Lies in the two concluding sentences is a bit worse than bad form – more like bad faith.

  27. steve from brisbane
    July 30th, 2013 at 10:24 | #27

    Going back to the initial topic of JQ’s quote, and seeing the wall to wall anti-climate change action contents of Quadrant that doug referred to above, it is really remarkable how this issue has come to represent a major fracture line in the Right in the US and here. Turnbull cannot be made leader of the Coalition, and give them the best chance against Rudd, for example, because he is serious about climate change. (See the recent, hilarious, threads at Catallaxy on this topic.)

    Christie in the US will have the same problem with the Tea Party wing; although to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if health issues related to his weight turned out to the major reason why he can’t run.

  28. John Quiggin
    July 30th, 2013 at 10:35 | #28

    Tol was a commenter here, and was eventually banned for various forms of disruption, so I’d prefer we don’t discuss him.

    As regards Plimer, there’s a partial list of his ludicrous errors here

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/jul/09/george-monbiot-ian-plimer

  29. BilB
    July 30th, 2013 at 11:12 | #29

    Talking about “ignorant out of touch and crazy”, (that might have been me) it was David Caygill in your photo that I ran against in his electorate of St Albans in 1992. His campaign manager, who I still keep in touch with, Gary Moore later became the Mayor of Christchurch. It was not a serious attempt to get elected, more of a statement that even an individual could come up with more policies than the Labour party went to the pols with in that year with Mike Moore as leader on zero policies “trust us” ticket.

    I put forward a number of policies including a proposal for a carbon tax.

    As a small business operator running against an ex Minister of Finance in a safe Labour seat with a zero dollar budget campaign I did not get many votes, but I did make my point, it was registered.

    I hope to be able to make another point with an announcement of progress for GenIIPV shortly but we will see what happens in the next few days.

    His fellow running mate Richard Prebble earlier as minister for every thing including railways was responsible for firing more people from the rail company than there were constituents in his electorate. While minister for energy and resources I challenged his knowledge publicly on the carbon cycle with the question “a solid tree standing in a paddock where did its substance come from?” he did not know. This was the person making the decisions on new Zealands energy future and the management of its fossil fuel assets, which he sold to the lowest bidder. He also sold the railways for less than the value of its rolling stock having spent a billion dollars getting it ready for sale. The only saving grace being that he sold the optic fibre cable which ran the length of the country seperately.

    As I racall it to have been.

  30. frankis
    July 30th, 2013 at 11:38 | #30

    At first blush Terje sees nothing wrong, apparently, with Steve’s quote of Plimer from a text Terje has read. Have you Terje any thanks, now, to several commenters for their clear, high school level of comprehension refutations of what is undeniably anti-scientific nonsense from Plimer?

  31. Fran Barlow
    July 30th, 2013 at 11:38 | #31

    @Ikonoclast

    And sure if a large volcano belches CO2 it can affect our climate.

    True(ish). A perturbation in the climate will ensue, but, as it was weith Pinatubo a couple of decades back, it will be trivial and temporary. Volcanoes also emit SO2 which knocks gthe edge off the CO2 forcing.

    In the past — the pre-human past — the impact of volcanoes was relatively more significant, precisely because there was no anthropogenic forcing and there was a lower base from which to start.

    Strictly speaking, changes in climate are those that alter climate patterns over periods of 30 years or more, while the perturbation from Pinatubo lasted perhaps half a decade before being lost amongst other factors.

    One last point …

    If volcanoes were a significant variable in climate change, that would narrow our margin for error significantly, meaning more conservative targets would be needed, since, unlike human emissions, one could not reliably predict their eruptions. That’s something people like Plimer never acknowledge, for obvious reasons.

  32. July 30th, 2013 at 13:20 | #32

    I’ll start with page 1:

    We don’t believe ‘the science is settled’. As a think tank committed
    to the ideals of free and open enquiry and debate we are not afraid to
    stand against the mainstream of prevailing elite opinion. Time and time
    again, the mainstream of elite opinion has been proved wrong.

    Then page 2:

    The IPA has published this selection of ‘sceptical’ viewpoints in
    Climate Change: The Facts because there has been so little debate about
    the science of climate change

    Page 3 only has one word on it:

    CLIMATEGATE

    A chapter on “climategate” follows. The main thrust is that there is something wrong with “peer review” (if it tends to support climate change), here’s one excerpt:

    Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt asked ‘Is that the
    truth, or were you peer-reviewed?’ after yet another study predicted the disappearance of the Arctic ice cap…

    There’s a bit of Flannery bashing etc…

    Maybe I’ll come back later with more. Maybe I won’t, I had no idea that book was so bad. I never bothered with it when it came out.

  33. TerjeP
    July 30th, 2013 at 13:31 | #33

    As regards Plimer, there’s a partial list of his ludicrous errors here

    It seems to me we get a lot of bait and switch around here. First the IPA is anti science. Then a paper is offered that isn’t anti science nor unreasonable although obviously a number here disagree with the vibe and substance of it. Then we are referred elsewhere. It’s like wrestling with an eel.

  34. TerjeP
    July 30th, 2013 at 13:42 | #34

    Hal9000 – CO2 is mostly transparent to visible light and mostly opaque for infrared light. If you put more in the atmosphere it is like putting on a thicker blanket. We can calculate the warming effect using basic physics. It sounds to me that this is where your understanding of the AGW tale stops.

    The size of the raw CO2 warming effect is real but it is not substantial. To get a substantial effect the AGW tale requires some leaps of faith. I would not be so uncharitable as to call those leaps unscientific but they are a leap.

    Whilst it is uncharitable of Plimer to refer to these leaps as unscientific it is also uncharitable to call his position anti-science.

  35. Hal9000
    July 30th, 2013 at 14:11 | #35

    @TerjeP
    TerjeP, whatever leaps there are, they are reliant on science and not faith. Plimer knows this to be true, and so his denial of it is a lie and a slander. I would have thought telling deliberate falsehoods in order to diminish the reputation of others is rather more malicious than merely being ‘uncharitable’. I’d also have thought that being caught out doing this removes any shreds of credibility Plimer has in mounting an argumentum ad auctoritatem. At any event, denying evidence is surely the essence of anti-science.

  36. frankis
    July 30th, 2013 at 14:48 | #36

    So it seems the answer to my question about thanks from Terje to commenters for corrections would be “no”.

    If Ian Plimer has published effectively nothing in the literature of climate science, and has written shamelessly anti-scientific gibberish in books, to what extent is he a “climate scientist”?

    Am I correct in thinking Terje you’ve said here before that you’re an engineer? Would that imply that you’ve undertaken at least some maths and science in first year uni? Would you care to share with me the pithiest insight you may have into the nature of “science”?

  37. July 30th, 2013 at 15:03 | #37

    This one is from page 34:

    Or is the danger being oversold? Three indisputable facts point
    to the latter:
    1. Recent climate characteristics have been neither unusual nor unprecedented.
    2. Increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will have little
    additional impact on the Earth’s radiation characteristics (the so-
    called radiative forcing of climate).
    3. There are fundamental deficiencies in how computer models
    represent the climate system and these exaggerate the temperature
    predictions.

    “Indisputable factoids”.

  38. John Quiggin
    July 30th, 2013 at 15:14 | #38

    Arguing climate with Terje “It’s like wrestling with an eel.”

    Indeed

  39. rog
    July 30th, 2013 at 15:21 | #39

    In light of the Australian Coal Association’s admission that carbon emissions and climate change are linked it seems ludicrous that Terje, IPA and all the other hangers on maintain their unscientific position.

  40. July 30th, 2013 at 16:38 | #40

    There are some standouts, starting with this on page 57:

    Even accepting for the sake of argument that some significant
    degree of global warming may be observed in the future, it is certainly
    not the consensus of the majority of scientists that the actual impact
    on humans will be significant—or indeed that it will be detrimental.
    The bottom line here is that computer models have no provable skill
    at forecasting the change of regional and local climate even if we
    accept that they may say something sensible about global averages.
    In particular it may be that things like the continental, regional, and
    local averages of rainfall are inherently unpredictable. Therefore the
    models are in no position to tell us anything of the impact of climate
    change on any particular aspect of human endeavour. Instead, one
    must resort to all sorts of ‘what if ’ scenarios, virtually all of which
    have no justification other than that they are easy enough to sell as
    doomsday forecasts to politicians and to the public.

    Or this, in answer to the question “Why has the scientific community become so one-eyed on climate change?” (page 58):

    Perhaps more to the point, the story is complex enough to be virtually unarguable by anyone or anything other than a fully-fledged research institution
    specifically assigned to make that argument. Thus it is unlikely—not
    impossible, but unlikely—that an individual somewhere will produce
    a single scientific result powerful enough to blow the idea of disastrous
    global warming out of the water. It is even less likely that a national
    government would risk the anger of its scientific establishment by
    creating a research institution—it would have to be a very large research
    institution—designed solely to perform a large-scale critical audit of the
    scientific bases of the forecasts of climatic doom.

    There’s some great stuff in there, but surely that qualifies as “anti-science”?

  41. July 30th, 2013 at 16:49 | #41

    If you don’t believe in the PC-Police, Ferarri-driving, grant-thieving, Cult-Leader thesis – don’t turn to page 59:

    As to the ‘why’ of the business, there are a fair number of very strong
    forces at work to encourage the interpreters of climate science to
    overstate their case. To a large extent, the forces are at work also on the
    scientists themselves. As with all religions, woe betide those demented
    souls, scientists or not, who are so deluded as to question the beliefs
    of the politically correct.

    and

    There are a number of pragmatic reasons for a sub-conscious bias
    by the ordinary bench scientist towards the politically correct. Basically,
    they boil down to the need to eat. Fame and fortune in the research
    profession depend largely on artificial measures of success related to the
    quantity rather than the quality of research publications and of funding
    grants. Undoubtedly the system rewards conformity to the popular view
    when outcomes are determined by consensus rather than proof.

    Maybe someone could just find the bits that are NOT anti-science??

  42. BilB
    July 30th, 2013 at 17:02 | #42

    Terje, it is not about what you think, I think, or Plimer thinks, it is about what is actually happening.

    Hundreds of billions of dollars of publicly funded research is consistently quantifying a dramatic change to the Earth’s Climate. As it is our money paying for this research authorised by our government is it not reasonable, even responsible, to accept that there could be a risk, and to consider evasive action. In fact don’t Politicians have a duty of care to the public to consider such a threat seriously and take a precautionary course of action?

    If this were a military operation and these scientists were in fact inteligence agents reporting an imminent threat to the public, of perhaps a nuclear attack sufficient to destroy whole cities, do you think that it would be responsible for the government to override all of the advice from the military intelligence on the say so of a security guard working in the parliament building who declared “those military people are all fools and they don’t know anything about threats and risk”? As an aspiring politician would that be a responsible course of action for someone acting on the public’s behalf to take?

    It is quite interesting how many end of the line geologists have become instant experts on every thing to do with climate. Even more interesting how many politicians suddenly know more on Global Warming and future risk than the many thousands of professionals engaged by government to study and quantify these matters.

    Would you be one of those politicians who would ignore all of the intelligence and to risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people on a gamble, on the say so of a bystander, that the information was incorrect? and do so just to save the cost of an inconvenient search?

    Is that the sort of politician you would be, Terje?

    None of us here are qualified or even appropriately exposed to the full body of knowledge to make a conclusive absolutely certain safe judgement on the future course of climate over the next 60 years, and yet our opinions do have a bearing on what action is taken in anticipation of the calamatous consequences projected by those people who as a unified force are exposed to the most up to date Climate and Environment intelligence. But whereas it is forgiveable for any individual to have a contrary opinion to that of the force of knowledge, it is not acceptable for a politician to ignore the full body of scientific knowledge and act recklessly and put the public at risk particularly as this risk is projected to be permanent and for all imaginable future times.

    So if a completely preventable nuclear explosion occurred and action to prevent it was intentionally disrupted by politicians on the say so of and arbitrary individual, do you think that those politicians could or should avoid punishment for the hundreds of thousands of deaths?

    Of course if there was no explosion everyone would be inconvenienced, but …..alive….. to hear the outcome of the investigation.

    So it is acceptable for all of us to have various opinions and ultimately be right or wrong, but for our politicians, those people we pay to act on our behalf it is not acceptable for them to ignore the global body of knowledge and informed opinion and act unilaterally to save some money or protect the interests of some influential individuals.

    The projected consequences as determined by the body of scientific informed opinion is that Global Warming will, if no action is take to reduce its advance, cause hundreds of millions of deaths of humans and many other species, and cause global economic collapse sooner rather than at some distant time.

    Which course of action would you take, Terje…and for that matter anyone else, were you an elected official vested with acting for and on behalf of the public? Would you go with Mr Plimer’s individual opinion, or would you accept the amalgamated body of knowledge and take precautionary action? Just in case?

  43. TerjeP
    July 30th, 2013 at 19:39 | #43

    TerjeP, whatever leaps there are, they are reliant on science and not faith. Plimer knows this to be true, and so his denial of it is a lie and a slander. I would have thought telling deliberate falsehoods in order to diminish the reputation of others is rather more malicious than merely being ‘uncharitable’.

    Hal9000,

    There is a degree of faith in assuming the percentage of recent warming that can be attributed to the positive feedback process of AGW.

    As for the name calling of opponents I think Plimer and his ilk would be best off avoiding it. However the opposite side of the debate (your side) turned to nasty tactics long ago so I can’t really blame him much for sticking the boot in. JQ dismisses his opponents as “crazy” so insults just seem to be an unfortunate part of the scene.

  44. TerjeP
    July 30th, 2013 at 19:48 | #44

    BilB – I agree that a government is somewhat beholden to following orthodox expert opinion. However only to an extent. And even if a government takes as given the orthodox expert opinion on climate change they should then subject any policy response to a rigorous cost benefit analysis. In practice there are issues of cost and time preference that are ultimately political value judgements.

    As an example if an expert told us that the earth would split in two and disintegrate in the year 2150 unless we burn down every second house on the planet before this Christmas then science doesn’t tell us how we should respond. Personally I’d keep the houses and hope the expert was wrong. No doubt some people would reach for the matches.

  45. Michael
    July 30th, 2013 at 20:09 | #45

    re: IPA

    And the standard, hopelessly wrong, HS-bashing;

    “In spite of strenuous efforts to prevent the hockey stick data being
    scrutinised,”

    – no, it had been available for years.

    “the ‘hockey stick’ was a fictitious depiction of the climate trends over
    the past millennium—they showed the apparent anomalously rising
    temperature during the twentieth century was the outcome of the
    hockey stick model itself and that the same result emerged even when
    random data were fed into the model.”

    – no, they critiqued (incorrectly) a particular aspect of the statisitical methodology. Even when using their preferred method, the data still produces a HS, ie the HS is in the data, not in a specific stats approach.

    Then we have Plimer forgetting that there are these things called satellites;

    “Such calculations can be misleading since the
    distribution of observation points over land and ocean is uneven and
    there are large areas of the Earth that have few measurements.”

    And some silly stuff about grapes in England.

    It’s astonishingly bad.

    Try this nonsense from William Kininmonth

    “Two essential claims underpin these stories[AGW]:
    1. Climate was unvarying prior to industrialisation…”

    – really???

    “Increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will have little
    additional impact on the Earth’s radiation characteristics (the socalled
    radiative forcing of climate).”

    – !! Evidence provided for this assertion? – ZERO.

    “During much of the present Holocene period—the last 10,000
    years—temperatures were generally slightly warmer than now…”

    – now he’s just making stuff up.

    “The advocates of human-caused global warming claim that the
    Earth’s climate had been continually mild and equable over the past
    10,000 years before the onset of industrialisation.”

    – what! Who, where, when??

  46. Michael
    July 30th, 2013 at 20:13 | #46

    JQ dismisses his opponents as “crazy” so insults just seem to be an unfortunate part of the scene.

    – terje

    To be fair, this is what the survey reports.

    As an example if an expert told us that the earth would split in two and disintegrate in the year 2150 unless we burn down every second house on the planet before this Christmas then science doesn’t tell us how we should respond. Personally I’d keep the houses and hope the expert was wrong. No doubt some people would reach for the matches

    .
    Whta this babbling nonsense has to do with anything is a mystery.

  47. July 30th, 2013 at 20:14 | #47

    @TerjeP

    That’s an interestingly absurd example.

    Putting it back into the current context, what you are saying is:

    As an example if [all the science and experts] told us that the earth would [suffer extreme and deadly changes to its biosphere many of which will be felt well before] 2150 unless we [dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially those from fossil fuels, in the very near future] then science doesn’t tell us how we should respond. Personally I’d keep [burning as much and emitting as much as I wanted] and hope the expert was wrong. No doubt some people would [reduce emissions].

    I’m sure you would. That is the problem.

  48. frankis
    July 30th, 2013 at 20:38 | #48

    The adage about not wrestling pigs in the mud because you’ll get dirty and the pig likes that …

    it damages your own mind to argue too long for something undeniable like the merits of science and the scientific method with a person who has no understanding and – worse – consequently no respect for them. I’m thinking of course of bad characters like Andrew Bolt and Ian Plimer but also of those who follow their foolery, spreading the muck for them.

  49. TerjeP
    July 30th, 2013 at 20:57 | #49

    Megan – it’s my planet also. If you don’t like that I have a say in how we run the place well sorry but tough.

  50. July 30th, 2013 at 21:06 | #50

    Commit suicide by all means, but murder?

  51. BilB
    July 30th, 2013 at 21:16 | #51

    A couple of things there, Terje.

    The first is that Global warming is not subject to the notion of “Orthodoxy”. For something to be orthodox it is required to have been accepted for a considerable period. Secondly Orthodoxy refers to matters of faith not physical fact.

    As an example where someone says “Liar liar your pants are on fire” this can be an Orthodox concept where it refers to what people believe about someone. Tony Abbott for instance is accepted to be a habitual liar, and as he has been this way for his whole life people can accept that on faith to be an Orthodox belief even where they have never heard him tell a lie directly. For Julie Bishop to say no he always tells the absolute truth, this would be a heretical statement as well as an expression of gross gullibility.

    However if someone said to you personally “Liar Liar your pants are on fire” this is almost certainly a matter of fact, your pants are on fire and you had better sit in a bucket quickly.

    Global Warming fits this second category because a, this has been fully understood only recently, and b, it has been measured to be true and the degree to which it is true has been very accurately determined.

    So orthodox is indeed the wrong term completely, but that brings up the other issue and that is that you appear determined to accept “expert opinion” singular, and for such a grave matter as for the Earth splitting in two. With a fact checking regime of that thoroughness I can assume here that you quite likely own the Harbour Bridge and possibly the “real” Mona Lisa, too.

    Now you think that it is leap of faith to determine the degree of anthopogenic warming. Again we are dealing observable fact that you can verify yourself at home if you wish so simply with 2 soda water bottles. Empty one completely and the other to a third with the soda water. Fill the first to a third with plain water, put a thermometer in each, replace the caps loosely and place them on the ledge fully exposed to the sun and observe the rate of temperature rise in each.

    That is science, not faith. Fact, not fiction.

  52. frankis
    July 30th, 2013 at 21:18 | #52

    Engineers and woo:

    “An engineer is a professional trained in engineering: the design and construction of devices or other works. They put science into practice, designing the stuff that makes civilization.

    Most engineers are as sensible and reasonable as anyone. But engineers as a group have a noted tendency to pontificate on things well outside their area of expertise, to the point of actual fallacy. This phenomenon is so prevalent that users of talk.origins have come up with the Salem Hypothesis, which predicts that any creationist claiming scientific expertise or advanced degrees is likely to be an engineer.[2] Of course, this does not mean that engineers are likely to be creationists.”
    rationalwiki.org/wiki/Engineers_and_woo

    …..

    “The Salem Hypothesis is the observation of the apparent correlation between the engineering trade and creationist beliefs (possibly due to crank magnetism, this can also include climate change denial and other crackpot beliefs). It holds that people who claim science expertise, whilst advocating creationism, tend to be formally trained as engineers.”
    rationalwiki.org/wiki/Salem_Hypothesis

    Of course there are plenty of scientifically well-trained engineer exceptions, people like John Mashey for a notable example.

  53. July 30th, 2013 at 21:22 | #53

    I’ll try my own, less, absurd example:

    All humanity lives on one island. The trees grow at a rate such that one reaches full growth each year. We use trees for fuel and building material. Once we used less than a tree a year, then we increased that up to one per year and lately we’ve been felling full grown trees at the rate of two a year.

    Our experts tell us that we have to reduce our tree usage back to a level that can be sustained (in this case no more than one a year). The tree ‘industry’ refuses to accept that fact and insists that it should fell as many as it likes. It uses all sorts of tactics and arguments to achieve this goal, but it carries on felling trees at the rate of more than one a year.

    It denies the fact asserted by the experts about the trees.

    The trees run out. There are none left. No food, shelter, building material, fuel etc..

  54. Michael
    July 30th, 2013 at 22:32 | #54

    There is a rather bizarre piece of anti-science historical revisionism in that IPA garbage.

    And it’s one that is repeated by several of the chapter authors – they seem to think it’s a killer argument; that as part of the AGW theory, scientists are claiming that climate has always been stable.

    They then point to the vast scientific literature on past climate to attack their straw-man.

    The old orthodoxy was that the climate was stable, until enterprising scientists discovered evidence that this was very much mistaken. And of course that same body of scientific work that looked at past climate and understanding how it changed, eventually got to thinking about man’s influence, and found that we too could, and where, exerting an effect.

  55. July 31st, 2013 at 00:03 | #55

    @Megan
    You’ve just described Easter Island.

    I wonder what they all thought as the last tree came down.

  56. July 31st, 2013 at 00:37 | #56

    @David Irving (no relation)

    It was a deliberate allegory. Not a comparison or metaphor.

    The point is that people like Terje hold that they should be able to destroy my planet, because it belongs to them too.

    I suspect that Terje is actually a fascist.

  57. John Quiggin
    July 31st, 2013 at 06:02 | #57

    Responding to Terje, this isn’t a question of being charitable or otherwise. It’s common ground that one side of this debate is telling deliberate lies to advance political goal. The IPA says that the entire scientific community (with a handful of exceptions like Plimer) are lying, and the “Climategate” (which you’ve pushed in the past) is evidence of this. The supposed motives are many and various, but the main one seems to be to get grant money

    On the other hand, you’ve been pointed to vast quantities of evidence pointing out that Plimer, the IPA are consistently wrong on basic facts, have a clear financial and ideological interest in what they are doing, have been shown to be wrong about the Climategate claims by numerous official inquiriest etc

    If you were intellectually honest, you would admit that, although these guys are your political allies, they are a pack of liars and have been repeatedly shown to be so. Alternatively, if you think that all the scientists in the world are engaged in a giant conspiracy you should say so

    No matter how desperately you want one, there is no middle ground here

  58. TerjeP
    July 31st, 2013 at 06:23 | #58

    Of course there is a middle ground. That you can’t see it simply indicates how polarised the debate has become. And you seem as eager as any to polarise if further. Presumably believing that “your side” will win if only you can silence or isolate the critics. That at some point they will fade away. Good luck with that.

  59. Julie Thomas
    July 31st, 2013 at 07:28 | #59

    @TerjeP

    A middle ground between what?

    Between science and liars?

    Between a community of people with a commitment to following the scientific method and finding truth that way, and some ‘individuals’ who believe that they can see the truth more accurately because they are individuals who think ‘outside the box’.

  60. Michael
    July 31st, 2013 at 08:28 | #60

    TerjeP :Of course there is a middle ground. .

    Is this some kind of weird post-modern thing where there is no fact, only opinion, and the IPA style of ‘opinion’ is just as valid as scientific data??

  61. BilB
    July 31st, 2013 at 09:26 | #61

    I think that the only way forward here with you, Terje, is to examine your hold on reality. The first test of this is to determine your degree of objectivity.

    “Generally, objectivity means the state or quality of being true even outside of a subject’s individual feelings, imaginings, or interpretations. A proposition is generally considered to be objectively true (to have objective truth) when its truth conditions are met and are “mind-independent”—that is, existing freely or independently from a mind (from the thoughts, feelings, ideas, etc. of a sentient subject).”

    Straight away there is a problem as you continually reject hard evidence in favour of your personal belief system. You appear to be unable to accept real objects which create, in your case, disequilibrium in the form of financial disonance. The financial is your strongest cognition so you resolve your unease by grasping the nearest alternative cognition to block out or cast doubt on the real objects before you.

    Maybe it is a phase, and you will grow through it. Or maybe Climate Change with bring you to reality by obliterating the wealth structure that is so important to you in your current state.

    It is a watching brief.

  62. steve from brisbane
    July 31st, 2013 at 10:19 | #62

    Personally, I am of the view that there are valid grounds to be skeptical of economists’ analysis of the effects of climate change that extend decades ahead.

    But this does not work in favour of doing nothing: there are some circumstances where politicians and people should take a “just do it” approach regardless of what economics can suggest will happen in uncertain futures. I mean, if you wanted to take a purely economics based analysis of whether the US should have joined WW2, for example, there might have been an argument that a Nazi controlled Europe would be a pretty good trading partner for the States. (I’m know nothing of German economics in that period, but you get the point anyway if I am wrong!)

    I take the same view with AGW: the long term effects of it at even only 2 to 3 degrees are truly capable of changing the globe to such a dramatic degree that I doubt you can expect anyone to work out what it means economically; and there will be humanitarian and cultural issues (just how many ancient coastal cities do you want to see turned into uninhabitable versions of Venice?) that over-ride the importance of the economic questions anyway.

    So, I think it’s a case of not worrying about discount rates and reduced rates of GDP growth for already wealthy nations, and such like: the concentration should just be on realistic means to be move to the reductions of emissions that limit the range of consequences as far as possible. Economics can help on that; then “just do it…”

  63. Nick
    July 31st, 2013 at 12:14 | #63

    Yep, Megan, above. What ever happened to the fundamental libertarian creed of “only if it doesn’t affect others liberty”?

    “It’s my planet too. I should have a say in whether or not we risk destroying it for everyone” – may be admirably democratic, but it’s laughably un-libertarian.

    Terje, I don’t think you’re a fascist. On the contrary, I like the way you referred to “our planet”. It shows you intuitively (if not philosophically) understand it ain’t just all about private property.

  64. Tim Macknay
    July 31st, 2013 at 14:20 | #64

    You’ve just described Easter Island.

    I wonder what they all thought as the last tree came down.

    Well, one speculative account of Easter Island, popularised by Jared Diamond. Of course, there’s no actual consensus on when or how Easter Island was deforested, or what the impact was on the inhabitants.

  65. Jim Rose
    August 1st, 2013 at 17:34 | #65

    @John Quiggin

    The IPA says that the entire scientific community (with a handful of exceptions like Plimer) are lying, and the “Climategate” (which you’ve pushed in the past) is evidence of this.

    The supposed motives are many and various, but the main one seems to be to get grant money

    is there any grant money about for those that research global warming and find it is real.

  66. August 1st, 2013 at 19:10 | #66

    @Jim Rose

    You may have intended to put a “not” in your comment (?), but in any case I suggest looking up “Cook et al 2013 97% Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming”.

    There isn’t any serious argument that the warming is “real”.

  67. Jim Rose
    August 1st, 2013 at 21:38 | #67

    @Megan how many jobs in government and universities depend on global warming being real?

  68. August 1st, 2013 at 21:48 | #68

    @Jim Rose

    Stuffed if I know.

    How many firemen’s jobs depend on fire being real?

    To save time: do you think that global warming is not happening (ie: global average temperature isn’t rising)? Or do you think it is, but it has little to do with industrialised human activity?

  69. rog
    August 1st, 2013 at 22:15 | #69

    @Julie Thomas Another way of looking at it is that the so called “middle ground” is the curvy bendy one, lying between the flat earthers and the round ones. A banana shaped middle earth.

  70. rog
    August 1st, 2013 at 22:18 | #70

    @Megan Alternativity how many on the gravy train who are dependent on AGW being unreal?

  71. Fran Barlow
    August 1st, 2013 at 22:52 | #71

    @Jim Rose

    There’s grant money for salient competent research. Grants are not tied to scientific conclusions, obviously.

    They tend to go to people who can show competence in the field. Peer review in journals of record is one measure of competence.

    Nobody researching climate science has a vested future interest in “anthropogenic climate change being real”. Indeed, if any person could show that the IPCC consensus were flawed, they would almost certainly be heralded as one of the scientists of the age and could look out of their windows in expectation that trucks full of money from those holding fossil HC assets would soon pull up and start dumping their loads. It might be worth it to them to invest in a larger driveway and secure storage.

    All jokes aside though … most of the grant money is to pay researchers. Professors might get some relief from teaching and keep their incomes. They might be promoted. Yet whatever they got would be trifling compared with the kind of money had by just about any senior-executive of some fossil HC comany or some RW “think” tank.

  72. Mel
    August 1st, 2013 at 23:17 | #72

    FB:

    “They might be promoted. Yet whatever they got would be trifling compared with the kind of money had by just about any senior-executive of some fossil HC comany or some RW “think” tank.”

    For every dollar put up by corporations and RW think tanks for anti-AGW “science” at least $100 of government/uni/private etc money is put up by the other side.

    I don’t think the cantankerous old goats of denialism (nearly every prominent denialist scientist has one foot in the grave) are motivated by money. Cantankerous old goats have always been a feature of science, hence Planck’s famous quip about science progressing one funeral at a time.

  73. Fran Barlow
    August 1st, 2013 at 23:41 | #73

    @Mel

    For every dollar put up by corporations and RW think tanks for anti-AGW “science” at least $100 of government/uni/private etc money is put up by the other side.

    I’ve seen this claim made by the denialist crowd, but I’m yet to see anyone show that it is plausible. In any event, I wasn’t claiming that those working for Heartland or the Koch Bros are better paid than those working for credible research organisations (though I’d be surprised if the top folks there weren’t the better paid).

    I asserted that senior fossil HC execs personally earned much more than grant-receiving scientists.

    I don’t think the cantankerous old goats of denialism (nearly every prominent denialist scientist has one foot in the grave) are motivated by money.

    I won’t pretend to know what goes through their heads, because, I’m not privy to it, but one can guess. Some of them just seem profoundly troubled, or perhaps keen to continue seeming relevant after a life of being regarded as bright. Some are dogmatic reactionaries. All of them need a living though and there’s no doubt what the filth merchants want out of their kept men.

  74. Mel
    August 2nd, 2013 at 00:47 | #74

    FB:

    I would’ve thought my first point would be obvious to anyone who has followed the issue. Anyhow, now I’ve done some checking.

    The Obama administration alone budgeted US$2.7 billion for the U.S. Global Change Research Program for the 2014 financial year.

    Acccording to Greenpeace, the Koch Bros gave US$67 million to denialist groups from 1997 to 2011. The groups that got funded are mostly free enterprise, small government advocacy bodies for whom climate change denialism is but one of many activities. Even if we generously assume that 20% the allocated monies funds denialism, we end up with a figure of only $US0.9 million per year.

    By way of comparison, Greenpeace has an annual budget of about US$330 million per year while WWF, another major not-for-profit with a keen interest in AGW has a budget of well over US$100 million per year.

    The Heartland Institute is partly funded by the Koch Bros and has an annual budget of US$6 million.

    Based on my quick survey survey of the monies involved, I suspect my ballpark estimate of a 1 to 100 funding imbalance vastly overstates the funding made available by corporations etc for AGW denialism. The funding ratio is probably more like 1:500.

    Thanks for making me do the legwork, Fran 😉

  75. Julie Thomas
    August 2nd, 2013 at 06:34 | #75

    @rog

    I’m in ‘moral’ mode and in that shaped earth there is no middle ground; the choice is between a person who lies for profit and his own self-aggrandisement and the flawed search for truth that we call science.

    There is always doubt about the actuality of the situation but for me the choice that matters is, as Auden said, between the ethical light and the conservative dark.

    Fran and Mel, that old satan Phillip Adams did an interview – ponderous and full of old man pauses and sighs – on denialism and what motivates it in old cantankerous blokes like Pilmer who, Adams says was once was a good friend.

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/darwin-and-climage-change-denial/4852912

  76. John Quiggin
    August 2nd, 2013 at 08:58 | #76

    @Mel

    You’ve signed on to the conspiracy theory that all research on climate change is controlled by warmists? Do you think this was true even when the money was coming from Bush?

    Lindzen, Christy and (I think) Spencer have all received NSF funding for their work. The fact that the preponderance of research money goes to people who agree with the mainstream view is scarcely surprising – if most researchers didn’t agree with it, it wouldn’t be the mainstream view.

  77. John Quiggin
    August 2nd, 2013 at 08:59 | #77

    I ignored Jim Rose’s trolling on this, but my response applies to him too.

  78. Mel
    August 2nd, 2013 at 14:11 | #78

    PrQ,

    I’m still with the mainstream on AGW.

    My point is that money is not the major motivation for the cantankerous old goats who promote denialism. I’ve read a couple of history of science books and the cantankerous old goats are always there, telling the bright young things that they’ve got it all wrong.

    There is a thesis in geriatric psychology to be written on this.

  79. Tim Macknay
    August 2nd, 2013 at 14:27 | #79

    @Mel
    Mel, your analysis is a little unbalanced. You point out that the free-enterprise think-tanks funded by the Koch brothers are not exclusively focused on climate change denialism, but fail to point out that the more generously funded environmental groups are also not exclusively focused on climate change campaigning, nor is it necessarily the main focus of their activities (if 20% is a fair estimate for the RW thinktanks, I’d suggest its also fair for the environmental NGOs). So, assuming the dollar figures you’ve cited are correct, the funding asymmetry is still significantly lower than you’re suggesting.

  80. Mel
    August 2nd, 2013 at 15:16 | #80

    TM:

    “but fail to point out that the more generously funded environmental groups are also not exclusively focused on climate change campaigning … ”

    Sometimes I fail to point out the bleedingly obvious.

    I also failed to point out that many corporations want a green tinged image and thus fork out money for environmental issues including AGW.

    Back in 2008, private foundations, most of which are based on corporate wealth, put a lazy US$900 million into climate change funding. That alone is one thousand times more money than Kochtopus money put into denailism.

    My point remains. In fact I now think the ratio is more like 1:1,000.

  81. August 2nd, 2013 at 16:09 | #81

    @Mel

    Gosh, you that like it’s bad thing… 🙂

  82. August 2nd, 2013 at 16:20 | #82

    @Mel

    Conversely, even if it were true, you’d never know it from the way climate change gets covered in the (mainstream) media.

    What happens to the funding balance when you add Fox News, News Corp and the like on the side of the denialati?

    Also, how often does green tinge = green wash? In such cases, should that funding shift to the other side of the equation?

    So many questions, so little time.

  83. Fran Barlow
    August 2nd, 2013 at 16:23 | #83

    @Mel

    Perhaps you’re right about the balance of advocacy money. If we exclude money for actual science, the figures you cite suggest there still are probably more dollars going into policy advocacy. The AEI and other RW “think” tanks should also be included of course.

    It may be that because

    a) they are the rock throwers rather than the advocates of a position, their position is easier for the media to play when pretending to “balance”

    b) and the English-speaking mass media leans heavily to the right, the efforts of these RW rock throwers get a much more sympathetic hearing and extensive coverage than would be the case for anyone else with equal funding.

    Those pressing the case for anti-vaccination or anti-GM don’t get the benefit of “balance” in the media but rather, are treated as ratbags.

    Given that the anti-vaccination and anti-GM positions are no more flawed than those denying anthropogenic climate change (the anti-GM position perhaps somewhat less so)* it seems the main difference is that these positions (like mitigation of CO2 emissions) contradict established commercial interests (respectively Big Pharma and Agribusiness) meaning that the populist appeals against remote authority wouldn’t help the right in the long run.

    *NB I strongly support the standard vaccinations and know of no persuasive scientific reason to reject GM crops as a group. There may be a marketing need to restrict the roll out in some cases on other grounds (e.g. consumer choice)

  84. steve from brisbane
    August 2nd, 2013 at 16:29 | #84

    Not sure how the argument got into a question of who is or isn’t more likely motivated by money, but as an aside, AGW denialism is pretty much a child of the internet, isn’t it? Look at how ridiculously cheap and easy it is for Anthony Watts (TV weatherman with no undergraduate degree in anything), for example, to publish whatever guff he wants, and have it recycled via Andrew Bolt within 24 hours, turning up next morning on the Alan Jones show, and thereby convincing 50% of the Coalition that it is all crap and they have to replace their leader.

    If denialism was solely restricted to publication in magazines and newspapers, I find it hard to believe it could have achieved the political success that it has. It’s the cheap, self publishing, promotional power of the internet that has given it legs.

  85. Tim Macknay
    August 2nd, 2013 at 16:32 | #85

    Sometimes I fail to point out the bleedingly obvious.

    Well, it may have been bleedingly obvious, but the trouble is, you left it out of one side of your calculation, while including it in the other.

    I also failed to point out that many corporations want a green tinged image and thus fork out money for environmental issues including AGW.

    Back in 2008, private foundations, most of which are based on corporate wealth, put a lazy US$900 million into climate change funding. That alone is one thousand times more money than Kochtopus money put into denailism.

    Your argument’s starting to get a bit more dodgy at this point. Your link states that the $900 million in grants was for “addressing global warming”. In order to be compared directly to the Koch Bros. denialist funding, all that money would have to have been used exclusively for promotion/public relations/advertising of the climate change problem, and not for actual emissions reductions or low emissions technology development. Can you confirm that all of that $900 million was spent on promotion and campaigning? Personally, I doubt it.

    My point remains. In fact I now think the ratio is more like 1:1,000.

    I don’t dispute your general point. It seems very likely to me that significantly more money is spent on promoting awareness of climate change as an issue than is spent on promoting denialism. That’s why it’s surprising to me that you’re using sloppy reasoning and dodgy figures to support this view. There’s no need, so why do it?

  86. Jim Rose
    August 2nd, 2013 at 16:44 | #86

    @Fran Barlow the economics and sociology of science does not work in the way you seem to suggest. Why should climate scientists be expected to be cut from a finer moral timber than other scientists?

    Popper wrote that the growth of knowledge depends not on the ethics of the individual scientists but on the critical spirit to scientific community as a whole. The critical scrutiny of others policed the truth, testing ideas.

    Philosophers of science have repeatedly demonstrated that more than one theoretical construction can always be placed upon a given collection of data.

    Thomas Kuhn used a quote from Max Planck: “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it’.

    As Kuhn pointed out, in a paradigm shift, the transition between worldviews was neither instantaneous nor calm, and involves a protracted set of attacks, both with empirical data as well as rhetorical or philosophical arguments, by both sides.

    A field’s textbooks must be rewritten in the aftermath of a scientific revolution. Once rewritten, they inevitably disguise not only the role but the existence and significance of the revolutions that produced the current paradigm.

    Knowledge does not grow as though it was a match onwards and upwards to the light. It moves in zigs-and-zags and abrupt shifts.

    p.s. where would the department of climate change be but for climate alarmism?

  87. BilB
    August 2nd, 2013 at 16:57 | #87

    There is plenty on the Koch Bros and their programme of public manipulation

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_Brothers_Exposed

    Google articles on the Koch Bros secret meetings.

    Koch Bros don’t need to use their own money as they command a small army of 1 percentile aspitants who have access to corporate funds to divert. In an earlier secret meeting Murdoch was represented by one of his key executives.

    As is probably mentioned above denialist activites are not about scientific research, they are about misrepresentation of research mega amplified by the Murdoch slave media empire. Koch dollars go a long way when all they seek to do is cast doubt.

    The method is the “how many times do you beat your wife” tactic, timing and broad access to people who really do not care that much as they assume that their government is taking care of these big issues on the one hand and have a vote on the other.

    Mel, your “legwork” is pretty lame.

  88. Mel
    August 2nd, 2013 at 16:57 | #88

    TM:

    “That’s why it’s surprising to me that you’re using sloppy reasoning and dodgy figures to support this view. There’s no need, so why do it?”

    I acknowledge that I’ve done nothing more than a very rough back of the envelop ballpark thingie.

    I like to prick holes in dumb arguments made by the Left even though I consider myself a moderate Leftist and one of those dumb arguments is that Evil Corporations are putting vastly greater dollars into denialism than is spent by pro-AGW corps, foundations, private philanthropists, universities, governments etc..

    The fact that conservatives and libertarians ( even more so the better educated ones) are swayed by BS by denialists is a far more interesting story than the story about Evil Corporations. PrQ puts it mostly down to dishonesty and I’m sure some of it is, but I think what is more important is how all of us are effectively imprisoned by the ideologies we subscribe to.

    The same applies to Greens leader Christine Milne- no she isn’t lying- she really does believe in the horrors of frankenfoods and this is largely because of her ideological priors.

    I’m glad to see Fran has not swallowed the frankenfoods fable about GM food, but her priors are Marxist and Marxists have always tended to be techno-optimists.

  89. John Quiggin
    August 2nd, 2013 at 17:01 | #89

    My point is that money is not the major motivation for the cantankerous old goats who promote denialism.

    On the whole that’s correct. The movement relied for its start on corporate money of various kinds (Exxon and the anti-science foundations set up by the tobacco lobby), but now it’s become a self-sustaining piece of tribal identity for cantankerous old goats. At this point, most of the corporations would happily settle, but the goats won’t let them

    Still, as you said in another thread, a valid point is rarely helped by quoting dodgy numbers, and yours are thoroughly dodgy.

  90. John Quiggin
    August 2nd, 2013 at 17:03 | #90

    I see TM made my final point already

  91. Mel
    August 2nd, 2013 at 17:08 | #91

    BilB:

    “Mel, your “legwork” is pretty lame.”

    Well rather than mouth off, how about you show us your figures.

    You can start by detailing the anti-AGW funding provided by “1 percentile aspitants” (sic) you mention.

  92. Mel
    August 2nd, 2013 at 17:15 | #92

    PrQ:

    Still, as you said in another thread, a valid point is rarely helped by quoting dodgy numbers, and yours are thoroughly dodgy.

    I’m happy to accept that the numbers are a bit dodgy but they are nonetheless, I think, enough to dispel the myth that this is all about money.

    I think part of the collective conservative psych is to react against anything proposed by someone who is (at least nominally) progressive.

    Hence conservatives squawking madly about the dangers of Obamcare even though it is much the same as the Romneycare they didn’t oppose.

  93. August 2nd, 2013 at 19:01 | #93

    “This” (being climate change denial) is very much about money.

    In fact it is a little ironic that the keenest footsoldiers for the denialist obfuscation effort are unpaid, will never profit from their efforts and will suffer along with the rest of us to the extent that they succeed in delaying or preventing the scientifically ascertained reductions of CO2 required.

    The amounts of money involved are staggering. There is even a good argument that the entire economic system, as currently structured and controlled, is at stake.

    Actual traceable and reported figures on the amounts attributed as having been directly “spent” on denial are tiny when compared to the “in kind” (such as having the Murdoch machine tell lies dressed up as truth) contributions toward the goal – ie: delay indefinitely action.

  94. August 3rd, 2013 at 00:12 | #94

    On the topic of FF, here is that crazy greenie Fatih Birol from that loopy-out-there crank outfit IEA:

    About two-thirds of all proven reserves of oil, gas and coal will have to be left undeveloped if the world is to achieve the goal of limiting global warming at two degrees Celsius, according to the chief economist at the International Energy Agency.

    Addressing participants in the latest round of UN climate talks in Bonn, Fatih Birol said this should be an “eye-opener” for pension funds with significant investments in the energy sector – particularly in coal – as well as for ratings agencies.

    He predicted coal would be hardest hit in the “unburnable carbon” scenario, followed by oil and gas. “We cannot afford to burn all the fossil fuels we have. If we did that, it [average global surface temperature] would go higher than four degrees.

    Why are my fellow Australians so dead-set keen on being the laughing stock of the rest of the planet? I refuse to believe it is because they are simply stupid. Even blind partisan hackery doesn’t explain it.

    Anyone who isn’t a shill got any suggestions as to what is going on here?

  95. rog
    August 3rd, 2013 at 07:53 | #95

    Former Republican appointed EPA directors sign off on climate change.

  96. BilB
    August 3rd, 2013 at 11:11 | #96

    Mel, you would have to have been living in a rock cave in the Kimberlies somewhere for the last ten years to have said that “this” (your incredibly dodgey summation of climate change denier expenditure) is

    “enough to dispel the myth that this is all about money”

    What the…..?

    Australia’s No1 Climate Change Denier (denier of everything actually), Tony Abbott has roundly abused prime ABC television time in an attempt to claim that Climate Change does not exist and that any money spent addressing it is a total waste and a threat to the entire economy. And every Coalition redneck that I have spoken to believes this to be the case.

  97. Mel
    August 3rd, 2013 at 12:37 | #97

    Rog,

    Thanks for the link.

  98. Jim Rose
    August 3rd, 2013 at 15:15 | #98

    The conspiracy theory of ignorance which interprets ignorance not as a mere lack of knowledge but as the work of some sinister power, the source of impure and evil influences which pervert and poison our minds and instil in us the habit of resistance to knowledge. (Kark Popper Conjectures and Refutations)

    the truth is out there but for sinister forces excuses people from hard analysis and persuasion.

    The possibility that are ignorance is large in the dciences and many social consequences are unintended is not as an exciting an explanation.

    Milton Friedman argued that people agree on most objectives, but differ on the predicted outcomes of different policies and institutions.

    There is Christopher Robert and Richard Zeckhauser‘s taxonomy of disagreement:

    Positive disagreements can be over questions of:
    1. Scope: what elements of the world one is trying to understand
    2. Model: what mechanisms explain the behaviour of the world
    3. Estimate: what estimates of the model’s parameters are thought to obtain in particular contexts

    Values disagreements can be over questions of:
    1. Standing: who counts
    2. Criteria: what counts
    3. Weights: how much different individuals and criteria count

    Any positive analysis will tend to include elements of scope, model, and estimation, though often these elements intertwine; they frequently feature in an implicit or undifferentiated manner. Likewise, normative analysis will also include elements of standing, criteria, and weights, whether or not these distinctions are recognized.

  99. August 3rd, 2013 at 15:57 | #99
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