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A new two-step

September 13th, 2013

I’ve always been envious of John Holbo’s discovery of the two-step of terrific triviality, a manoeuvre we’d all seen, but never properly identified. I’d like to solicit names for a manoeuvre I run into all the time in debates over climate policy which goes along the following lines

A: The planet is doomed unless we abandon industrial civilization/adopt my WWII-scale emergency program

B (me): On the contrary,we could cut emissions by 50 per cent quickly and with minimal effects on living standards.[^1]

A: What about cars, methane from ag production, air travel etc?

B: (me) We could cut vehicle emissions in half just by switching to the most fuel-efficient cars now on the market, methane by eating chicken instead of beef, air travel by videoconferencing and taking one long holiday in place of two short ones. The same for most other sources of emissions.[^2]

A: That’s absurd. No one would ever stand for that.

So, does anyone have a name for this manoeuvre, or, alternatively, a defense of this kind of argumentation

[^1]: Actually, we need a 90 per cent reduction by 2050. That would be a bit harder, but once you accept the idea that we could greatly reduce emissions without harming living standards, we’re down to arguing about parameter values in economic models. All economic models yield the conclusion that we could decarbonize the economy over 40 years while still improving living standards greatly.
[^2]: I’ll leave aside the question of whether it’s better to bring this about using prices (eg a carbon tax) or direct controls. My preferred answer is a bit of both, but either will work for the purposes of this example.

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  1. Mick Peel
    September 13th, 2013 at 20:17 | #1

    The Lomborg Twist

  2. rog
    September 13th, 2013 at 20:35 | #2

    Re air travel, modern planes if full are relatively fuel efficient. Globally air travel emits about the same proportion (3%) of GHG as does the power needed to run the Internet. (I heard this via Robyn Wiiliams ABC)

  3. Robert in UK
    September 13th, 2013 at 20:55 | #3

    The “two-step of terrific triviality” reminds me of P.F. Strawson’s “non-sequitur of numbing-grossness”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bounds_of_Sense

  4. Ikonoclast
    September 13th, 2013 at 21:21 | #4

    “We could cut vehicle emissions in half just by switching to the most fuel-efficient cars now on the market, methane by eating chicken instead of beef, air travel by videoconferencing and taking one long holiday in place of two short ones. The same for most other sources of emissions.” – JQ.

    Yes, we could try that and one would hope it would be a first step. Crucially, you go on to admit in note 1 that it’s really not nearly enough. I think the changes needed to achieve the 90% reduction will never come about from the free market nor from emission trading schemes. They will indeed only come a dirigist program in every country.

    You say “All economic models yield the conclusion that we could decarbonize the economy over 40 years while still improving living standards greatly.” If that is the case, one wonders why it isn’t happening. The answer is that the current dominant market players are clearly reactionary rather than progressive in this regard. Those invested in fossil fuels and BAU generally are committed to BAU to avoid being stuck with stranded assets. A circuit breaker is needed and that circuit breaker is dirigist action.

    However with the election of very right wing governments again in Australia and elsewhere we can see the pendulum has swung even further away from the possibility of action. I can’t see any action happening until it’s too late. The trouble is the long lead time. By the time it is obvious to everyone, even the right wingers, that we are in serious trouble it will be far, far too late to do anything about it.

  5. alexinbogota
    September 13th, 2013 at 21:32 | #5

    Replacing all cars on the road in the world with the latest model and changing everyone from eating beef to chicken sounds a lot like a war-scale emergency program. Especially if you also consider that will only reduce emissions where they are but we also have to mobilise resources to make those the attractive public policy choices in China, Brazil, South Africa, India etc.

  6. Angus Cameron
    September 13th, 2013 at 21:39 | #6

    “We need” – who is the “We”? If you are saying, as I suppose you are, that the “we” is all the CO2 emitters of the world then you know that it won’t happen and what Australia should do and according to what reasoning, factoring in stated moral and scientific and economic/financial premises needs to be stated to avoid triviality so gross that it equates to irrelevance.

    You’ve probably got a bit of mathematical nous JQ so perhaps you could tell us why we should put any trust in the IPCC with its outrageously unsuitable president and its 23 models (I said 7 but a physicist friend told me it was 23) that clearly are only guesses cooked up after a coincidence between rising greenhouse gases and actual warming was perceived with tweaks from time to time to improve the ability of the models to retropredict that last 50 years or so in the climate variables they are interested in. I note that the makers of the 23 models (or 7) see the need for difference and that none of them have been able to account for such obviously expectable correlates as the rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere and the almost static (high level compared with the previous 100 years or so) average atmospheric temperatures for 10 years and more. (The leaked East Anglia emails made it clear that already the failure of temperatures to go on soaring was regarded as a problem for the warmists).

    I note too that several major problems haven’t been dealt with by that (mythical) 97 per cent of climate-consensus scientists. One is whether there is any and if so what positive feedback from the small temperature rises occasioned by the rise in CO2. This is of course critical though you write sometimes as if you don’t know that. Another is the failure to account convincingly for cloud formation and the effect of clouds on temperature. A third is the substantial failure to account for (or even to discover the important facts about) the movement of oceanic waters and the chemistry and temperatures therein. As the mass of the oceans is about 300 times that of the atmosphere and the CO2 in the oceans is also about 300 times that in the atmosphere it is hardly an unimportant point. Perhaps most telling if you want assurance that the models that worry us adequately take account of what nature does unaided by industry is the failure of the models to retropredict any of the major climatic catastrophes or just big changes in the past; e.g. the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods, the Little Ice Age, the drying up of the Great Lakes, the collapse of the first Indus civilisation, the collapse of the Egyptian Old Kingdom (and second major drying out of the Sahara during the Holocene), successive Indian famines at about 80 year intervals.

    We know the earth started warming with no help from CO2 about 250 years ago which is why the Little Ice Age ended? If we don’t understand how that happened and therefore can’t model its progress we can’t say anything much that is convincing about the latest phase of a warming which hasn’t been continuous anyway over the last century or so for reasons largely unknown though they seem to have a lot to do with oceanic oscillations.

    None of this means that there isn’t some contribution from CO2 emissions to the scale of warming experienced over the last 50 years (or at least since the great Pacific Climate Shift of 1976 – try the Chow Test on that John) and that it mightn’t be a good thing if we could accelerate the world’s move to renewables without huge opportunity costs (including externalities like blights caused by windfarms to historic gardens and landscapes).

  7. alexinbogota
    September 13th, 2013 at 21:47 | #7
  8. CJD
    September 13th, 2013 at 22:24 | #8

    I am pretty sure this ‘manoeuvre’ already has a title, that is, ‘The all or nothing principle’ way of thinking. Guess it could be up for re-naming though, if you want to add it to your C.V 😉

  9. iain
    September 13th, 2013 at 22:25 | #9

    “or, alternatively, a defense of this kind of argumentation”

    This “kind of argument” is basically “efficiency measures”, which has never worked globally (or even at a major economic national level). Ever.

  10. September 14th, 2013 at 00:48 | #10

    Having recently come back from exile for standing up to some pretty hard provocation, it’s good to see that the host is so tolerant of Angus and his interesting views.

    Free speech is obviously a subjective concept.

    On topic, however, I would add to Ikon’s contribution: “Free Public Transport”

    – No ticketing expenses
    – No cash-handling
    – No queues for tickets, policing or turnstiles
    – Much less congestion for drivers
    – Much less road building/maintenance/expansion
    – Much less GHG emissions per traveller
    – Massively reduced fossil fuel consumption…. oh, hang on that would upset the 1%. Aha, that is why this isn’t possible.

    We simply can’t have a viable planet AND an economic system run on eternal growth controlled by a small number of ‘Wall Street’ elites. That way lies doom.

  11. PeakVT
    September 14th, 2013 at 02:08 | #11

    I don’t have a snappy name for it, but it’s basically letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Eco-perfectionism or bust?

  12. Gliftor Draken
    September 14th, 2013 at 02:15 | #12

    In the USA, this sort of all-or-nothing argument is inevitable. “We” are opposed to the very idea of taking any action that subordinates “economic rights” to anything that can’t be spun as an immediate existential threat.

  13. September 14th, 2013 at 02:24 | #13

    “There is a conspiracy afoot, Holmes, and Angus is onto it.”

    The notion of industrial civilization creates in my mind a negative image,and not simply as smoke stacks. Civilization presupposes material and social technology, but to this point in human consciousness and development it has not included environmental sustainability. When this happens we will have qualitative, creative change, that is, “growth”.

    Most of the time reactionary argument represent a partial state of mind for many of us, but I suppose it could be permanent.

  14. rog
    September 14th, 2013 at 02:51 | #14

    In response to Angus’ unsupported assertions Pew research has the world putting climate change at the top of the list whereas in the US it is not a political priority, despite the science being accepted by a large majority.


  15. Salient Green
    September 14th, 2013 at 08:11 | #15

    “A: That’s absurd. No one would ever stand for that.”
    Treat it simply as another ill-informed assertion and refute it along the lines of “governments with bi-partisan support convince people to go along with all kinds of things, good and bad, smart and stupid” and give a few expmples. Some things governments do by a kind of stealth, such as neo-liberalism. Next.

    Climate change is not our greatest problem anyway, sustainability is, which I remember JQ has said before.

  16. Ikonoclast
    September 14th, 2013 at 08:13 | #16


    What people say is not important. What they do is all that counts. We continue to do CO2 emissions at high and ever increasing levels. That’s all that counts. Systems governed by physical laws are unaffected by human opinions and unacted intentions. They are only affected by real quantities of matter and energy.

    The road to climate change hell is paved with good intentions.

  17. Hermit
    September 14th, 2013 at 08:19 | #17

    Look up ‘technocopian’ in the Urban Dictionary. Where the salvation requires a degree of personal sacrifice that the speaker has not demonstrated I’d be inclined to use the term ‘bullsh**ter’. I’m always amused by what I’d call mouse-humps-elephant arguments. For example Australia generated 1.1% of its electricity with solar in 2012. Therefore it is a simple matter to get that to 90%.

    The collapse in the Greens vote may be explained by their disconnect from mainstream thinking on a range of issues. However if something really upsets people like coal ships on the GBR or World Heritage area logging then the Greens vote may be restored. People will ignore uncomfortable elements of the ideological package to send a message on key issues.

  18. Crispin Bennett
    September 14th, 2013 at 08:29 | #18

    Salient Green :
    Climate change is not our greatest problem anyway, sustainability is, which I remember JQ has said before.

    Exactly — climate change is one urgent manifestation of a more general problem. But that makes the situation less, not more, threatening, as the general issue isn’t manageable by technocratic means. If all we ‘fixed’ was climate change, we’d almost certainly still make our small planet unserviceable in the medium to long-term. I don’t know what social/political resources are needed to redirect the disastrous trajectory we’re on, but it’s become crystal clear that representative democracy doesn’t have them (at least not while corporations are allowed to rule the informational roost).

  19. Ken_L
    September 14th, 2013 at 09:24 | #19

    Not sure whether John is smiling at the predictability of it all, but already the comments have amply illustrated Ken’s Komments Kaos Theorem: regardless of the point of a blog post, 80% of commenters will use it as an excuse to talk about something else.

  20. Salient Green
    September 14th, 2013 at 09:36 | #20

    @Crispin Bennett
    I think some sort of disaster has to befall rich nations, like running out of coffee or chocolate.;)

  21. Greg vP
    September 14th, 2013 at 09:48 | #21

    Chicken Little’s sour grapes?

  22. Angus Cameron
    September 14th, 2013 at 09:51 | #22

    @ Ikonoclast @rog

    I didn’t expect to be agreeing with your terse and cynical statements but you’ve got the most important aspect of my reply to rog. Indeed that PEW research link has zero relevance to assessing the probabilities of Australian policies, words, expenditures, subsidies etc. being other than P**ing in the wind against the forces which may, or may not, affect Australia.

    BUT, rog, what are my “unsupported assertions” – whether or not they are the ones that inspired your citing of peripherally and minimally relevant PEW research? I’m happy to clobber you with support even if most of what I say is easily verified, common knowledge or common sense for those who have lived a few adult years in the company of human modern human beings.

  23. Angus Cameron
    September 14th, 2013 at 09:59 | #23

    @ Salient Green to Crispin Bennett

    That is a well attested truth that apply to the preservation of the environment. You mightn’t like my favourite example. That is the rescue of the New Zealand economy by Labour in the 1980s after a so-called conservative National Party government led by “Piggy” Muldoon which just kept on borrowing and spending to keep itself in office. It was of course just an extreme example of what politicians had been doing under the false banner of Keynesianism (the great JMK would not have countenanced it). I suppose you could count the Reagan-Volker rescue of the US economy in the early 80s as another example though Reagan’s spending on defence was a factor only possible in a more or less disaster proof country like the US. The Thatcher revolution had been made possible by “the winter of discontent” when the garbage piled up before the 1979 election though it wasn’t until after her second vicitory, assisted by the Argentinian junta, that she was really able to transform the economy. (Maybe the UK needs another disaster now).

  24. Ken_L
    September 14th, 2013 at 10:03 | #24

    Please rog, please, don’t do it. Just accept they used to grow grapes in England in King Alfred’s time – the local wine was so potent he burnt the cakes, you’ll recall – and let it go.

  25. Greg vP
    September 14th, 2013 at 10:51 | #25

    Not a defence, but an explanation: the argument arises from ignorance of the concept of incentives, or from disbelief in their operation. Without incentives, only compulsion and custom can guide behaviour. That’s why “no-one would stand for it” in the absence of compulsion.

    Greg Mankiw is right this far: everybody would benefit from learning this much economics.

    (And that almost all real markets are monopolistic, despite our best efforts; and about frictions. In macro, a thorough understanding of The Circular Flow of Income and the resulting “paradoxes” about covers it.)

    One can get it from Tim Harford’s books, if one is prepared to treat them as textbooks rather than entertainment.

  26. Greg vP
    September 14th, 2013 at 11:26 | #26

    Greg vP :Greg Mankiw is right this far: everybody would benefit from learning this much economics.

    And policymakers need to figure out how to counter rational ignorance. That’s the hard bit, I guess.

  27. John Quiggin
    September 14th, 2013 at 13:34 | #27


    Having recently come back from exile for standing up to some pretty hard provocation, it’s good to see that the host is so tolerant of Angus and his interesting views.

    Free speech is obviously a subjective concept.

    You are missing the point completely. Within very broad limits, and subject to not repeating the same point ad nauseam, commenters can express whatever views they like on this blog. Bans, enforced holidays etc are imposed on people who are abusive, or get into slanging matches with other commenters.

    My reasons for this is straightforward. I don’t think much of Angus’ ideas, but readers can just skip his comments, and the replies, unless they feel like reading them. By contrast, when commenters start abusing each other, I have to try and straighten things out or risk driving away the rest of the audience. I don’t have the time for careful adjudication, so I don’t allow provocation as a defence – I just tell everyone involved to stop, or else be banned.

    I’ve taken some time over this in the hope of settling the matter, but I’ll remind you that talking back to the ref (me) is also grounds for being sent off. So, please, no further discussion on this. Just keep clear of the commenter you’ve tangled with in the past, and don’t get into similar disputes with anyone else.

  28. Mel
    September 14th, 2013 at 14:03 | #28

    I’m impressed by your sensible take on AGW, PrQ.

  29. September 14th, 2013 at 14:57 | #29

    In an attempt to be strictly on topic, let me suggest.

    If B had responded by seeking clarification of A’s assertion, or by paraphasing it, the exchange of views and insights might have been more productive. Notwithstanding B’s response, A could have sought clarification. A could say, ” I am hearing what you are saying, but how quickly could the 50% reduction in emissions be achieved, because surely it possible that we will reach a unknown tipping point at which we will have no ability to influence outcomes. And then “What about . . .” I am not sure I can justify A’s final response, other than as an understandable emotional reaction. A could say, “I am feeling that you have not fully considered my premise that has more validity than you seem prepared to get it credit”.

    I would describe the process as a dead-end dialectic, and the responsibility rests with both parties because they attempting to apply logic without emphatic listening.

  30. iain
    September 14th, 2013 at 15:29 | #30

    ” the argument arises from ignorance of the concept of incentives, or from disbelief in their operation.”

    Belief in the ineffectiveness of disincentives, and an understanding that there is no precedent (ever) for the current proposed measures to work (even at a national level), would be an alternative view.

  31. may
    September 14th, 2013 at 15:31 | #31

    soundbite city strikes again.

    looking for that mental hook to trigger a cascade of info(already publcally available)?

    i wish you well JQ.


    the only way i can see to have everybody individually and collectively act in our own self interest,is a broadcasting media campaign along the lines of the one that delivered the treasury benches to the incoming claimants of some sort of “mandate”.

    (the medium doesn’t have to be the message)

    as for the “landslide”?

    more like a mudslide.

    they’d better watch out,a rash of non-aligned MPs definitely does make things unpredictable.

  32. QuentinR
    September 14th, 2013 at 16:56 | #32

    On topic: If you wish to use a label, I suggest the term is “Attempting to battle brains with bullshit” (a favourite expression of my father).

    My reasoning is that the final “rebuttal” from your provocateur (That’s absurd. No one would ever stand for that) is just a confusing nonsense.

    1. On the one hand, “No one would ever stand for that” could mean that “Not everyone would permit actions (pricing or other interventions) that would curtail their activities to that extent”. No-one is arguing that everyone must change their actions – rich people may indeed increase their consumption/emissions, just to show how rich they are. The point of pricing or interventions is to change the actions of society as a whole, not of every individual member in a society (which would be absurd). So you (JQ) and your provocateur are in agreement.

    2. On the other hand, “No one would ever stand for that” could mean that “No one person would permit actions (pricing or other interventions) that would curtail their individual activities to that extent”. This is a nonsensical argument, essentially claiming that price elasticity does not exist, or is insufficient to move consumption to the degree claimed (travel halved, chicken replace meat, etc). Some simple pricing studies could refute this claim/meaning, to show how absurd the position being put by your provocateur is.

    3. On the other other hand, “No one would ever stand for that” could mean that “No society would permit actions (pricing or other interventions) that would curtail their individual activities (in totality) to that extent, without voting them out of power at the next election by a party whose platform is to negate the pricing/intervention activities and resume normal emissions.” One could debate the possibility of this happening, weighing up an increasingly educated society versus society being increasingly biased by advertising. [Add/debate here a party offering different pricing/intervention activities, that would meet our international obligations while promising better outcomes … for voters.]

    I suggest seeking clarification from your (JQ) provocateur: 1 (an absurd thing to say, so you agree with your provocateur), 2 (an absurd thing for your provocateur to say) or 3 (something you could discuss)? Or do they mean something else? Regards.

  33. Nathan
    September 14th, 2013 at 17:16 | #33

    @Angus Cameron
    Angus, there is definitely a name for your manoeuvre. It’s called the “Gish Gallop”, in which an uninformed commentator attempts to throw out as many grossly incorrect claims as possible, hoping that no-one will be bothered to refute them all. I certainly can’t be bothered to go through all of them, but here’s a selection:
    *NB To save time I’ll be providing as many supporting references as you did (none) but everything I say can be easily verified by an honest person with Google access.

    1) “23 models” There are rather a lot of ways to model a system as complex as the climate, with broad categories including Ocean Atmosphere General Circulation Models for large scale effects and Regional Climate Models appropriate for smaller scale. Then there are a large number of different statistical methods for each, leading to a plethora of different models. You don’t seem to grasp that the large number of differing models and the strength of broad agreement between them regarding AGW is what makes the evidence so compelling. This point, fairly obvious to people who do science/modelling, often seems to confuse the uneducated.

    2) “only guesses cooked up after a coincidence between rising greenhouse gases and actual warming.. tweaks from time to time to improve the ability of the models to retropredict that last 50 years “. Nonsense. Although obviously being refined (by well motivated physics research), for years now the IPCC models have shown excellent agreement with the temperature record for the last 150 years. For example Hansen’s now ancient modelling from 1988 was extremely consistent with the past record and, more impressively, has successfully predicted temperatures to the current day.

    3) “whether there is any and if so what positive feedback from the small temperature rises occasioned by the rise in CO2″. This is probably my favourite in that only someone with literally no understanding of climate science could make this claim. This is because a roughly equivalent statement of the AGW hypothesis is precisely that there *is* such a feedback, and the nature of that feedback mechanism is one of the most intensively studied topics in the field.

    4) ” …the Little Ice Age ended? If we don’t understand how that happened and therefore can’t model its progress” The ending of the LIA is quite well understood, being extremely well explained by variation in solar activity.

  34. sunshine
    September 14th, 2013 at 22:19 | #34

    @Angus Cameron
    Help me Angus ; there is a scientific model(experiment) that shows light to be a particle and one that shows it to be a wave . It cant be both ,but its really hard to stop believing in light .
    And ,Quantum theory cant be reconciled with Relativity but my microwave oven still works ! Im confused .
    ;- It’s a process bro ,it’s the best we’ve got.

  35. Angus Cameron
    September 14th, 2013 at 22:36 | #35

    @ Nathan

    Well you may have satisfied Medieval debating standards by being able to find a name to apply but “Gish Gallop” won’t get you far because you couldn’t sustain what I take to be a pretty well accepted definition, namely, “the debating technique of drowning the opponent in such a torrent of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood in real time.” That could better be applied to your string of assertions but let’s get past that.

    Your point 3. shows best how self-satisfied arrogance can stumble. Indeed AGW does depend absolutely on the hypothesis that there is positive feedback (from additional water vapour from the oceans resulting from the oceans being warmed by additional net infra-red radiative forcing as a result of increases in atmospheric CO2.

    What do you think I meant by saying it was “critical”? You even affirm my point by asserting that “the nature of the feedback is one of the most intensively studied topics in the field! Now why would that be if the answers were clear?

    When Lindzen and Choi, with serious qualifications in whatever counts as “climate science” – unlike the mythical 97 per cent – publish a paper which suggests that, if anything, the feedback is negative, one is entitled, even if that paper is now 3 or 4 years old to regard them as pointing to a very big hole in the IPCC position (as it was anyway: there is some allegedly leaked info about its next report which I shall come to). If the doubts had been cleared up no doubt we would have heard. Instead we have seen a gradual backing down on many of the live issues.

    Your 4. You are of course right to note the importance of solar activity to the Little Ice Age but it iis not persuasive to merely assert that it is “extremely well explained” unless you explain just how those explanations give you a model of the natural causes (not all solar by any means) of the Little Ice Age and the exit from it. Then we could test that model to see how far it predicts continuing increases in average atmospheric temperature well after the Thames ceased to freeze over.

    And what do you say about all those great climatic events of the past I mentioned? To have any faith in current models which do a reasonable job, for some purposes anyway, on the last 100 years or so of temperatures, don’t you have to show an understanding of the causes and course of much greater climatic changes in the past, even confined to the Holocene? Karoly told me that the models did retropredict such events, but that was when he was on his feet and embarrassed, and he never followed up.

    The short answer to the suggestion that some measure of agreement amongst the many models makes “the evidence so compelling” is that it depends. It depends on how they went about creating the models, their starting points etc., and it depends on whether the models whose results one sees are only those that have found favour with editors, IPCC panels, funding bodies, governments etc. (You will have read I take it, unlike some of those who immediately provided adverse Amazon reviews, Donna LaFramboise’s “The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World”s Top Climate Expert”. I have waited well over a year since reading it to have it rebutted successfully. It basically leaves the IPCC looking disreputable thereby undermining the basis (the IPCC’s summaries for policy makers) on which 99 per cent of politicians who have decided that they must do something about climate change form their view). A quick search shows it still has 5 stars on Amazon and a typical warmism-as-religion response is, amusingly
    http://nittygrittyscience.com/2011/11/03/an-open-letter-to-donna-laframboise-or-you-have-got-to-be-f-kidding-me/ (another who even asserted that he hadn’t read the book).

    If you have faith in editors of journals, peer reviews etc. have a look at the sad state of medical research as exposed by Prof Ioannidis. For a good start on this see
    David Freedman has also been on the ABC

    And if you have faith in modelers of complex non-linear systems just consider the great contributions of the Chicago school and others to the understanding of economic events of the last 10 years. True, humans providing deliberate model beating feedback are even worse than volcanoes, asteroids, underwater eruptions of magma etc. but, on the other hand we know less about the motions of the oceans than we do about human beings en masse as consumers.

    Since I gave up physics a long time ago I have to resort to long tutorials with old physicist friends when I hear them scoff at the Hansens and others in the warmist camp. As I didn’t even know what the Standard Model is/was when I found myself at dinner with the winner of the Nobel Prize for it, I do my best at cross-examination of the expert witnesses I know so my all-round sceptical instincts can be satisfied, as far as practicable. What I am sure about is that they are applying their old standards as serious hard scientists with tenure at great universities and are totally uninfluenced by money or status or career. I can’t find the conference paper delivered somewhere in Europe anywher online but the following will give some of the flavour of my reasons with being unimpressed with your assertion that the IPCC modelers agreements give weight to the IPCC’s warmist conclusions. Just six of the IPCC’s preferred models are in the Table, which is why, I think I thought that was about the limit of its selection of models:

    Table 1
    Fossil Fuels Coal Oil Natural Gas Total
    Reserves in gigatonnes 847 190 129
    Contained carbon in gigatonnes 413 137 97 647

    If it is assumed, following the IPCC, that about half of the CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels are captured by the oceans and the continents then 324 gigatonnes of carbon would remain in the atmosphere.
    The present atmosphere has at a CO2 concentration of 380 ppm, some 800 gigatonnes of contained carbon. So if the fossil fuel reserves were exhausted this would only add another 154 ppm of CO2 thus taking the CO2 concentration to 534 ppm.

    Table 2 is a comparison of this limit with the 2100 endpoints for the IPCC scenarios.

    Table 2
    Scenario CO2 Maximum in 2100.
    Projected concentration
    ppm Shortfall of reserves to CO2 in
    projection ppm Radiat-ive forcing

    Wm-2 CO2 Shortfall
    Wm-2 Temperature increase from 2000 to 2100

    0C Temperature reduction from CO2 shortfall
    A1B 700 166 6 1.29 3.0 0.7
    A1FI 1000 466 9 2.98 4.5 2.1
    A1T 500 5 2.5
    A2 850 316 8 2.20 4.0 1.5
    B1 500 4 2.0
    B2 650 116 6 0.94 2.8 0.5

    The comparison in Table 2 would suggest that scenarios A1FI (where FI stands for Fuel Intensive) and A2 are not constrained by “external” limits and if the constraints were applied the temperature increase would be significantly reduced. The radiative forcing reductions have been estimated using Modtran where a doubling of CO2 and CH4 produces an incremental forcing of 3.7 Wm-2.

    Sorry, you’ll have to do a bit of Copy and Paste into Excel to see how clearly it shows amaqzing differences in the IPCC approved models. Hardly reason for the religious certainties of those wasting billions in Australia for no good result.


    And the aforesaid leak? Have a look at Matt Ridley’s Wall Street Journal article:


    According to the no-doubt-accurate leak he received on the forthcoming IPCC summary report it looks as though it is dialling back its projections considerably, though a bit coy about expressiing things so comparisons can be made with its previous reports, and it is well within the bounds of possibility,even the IPCC version, that the net effects of warming up to 2083 could be positive by whatever measure.

    It makes it clear that the existence of the necessary positive feedback is still far from established.

    Particularly interesting is the following:

    “The most significant of these [recent papers], published in Nature Geoscience by a team including 14 lead authors of the forthcoming IPCC scientific report, concluded that “the most likely value of equilibrium climate sensitivity based on the energy budget of the most recent decade is 2.0 degrees Celsius.”

    Two recent papers (one in the Journal of the American Meteorological Society, the other in the journal Earth System Dynamics) estimate that TCR is probably around 1.65 degrees Celsius. That’s uncannily close to the estimate of 1.67 degrees reached in 1938 by Guy Callendar, a British engineer and pioneer student of the greenhouse effect. A Canadian mathematician and blogger named Steve McIntyre has pointed out that Callendar’s model does a better job of forecasting the temperature of the world between 1938 and now than do modern models that “hindcast” the same data.

    The significance of this is that Callendar assumed that carbon dioxide acts alone, whereas the modern models all assume that its effect is amplified by water vapor. There is not much doubt about the amount of warming that carbon dioxide can cause. There is much more doubt about whether net amplification by water vapor happens in practice or is offset by precipitation and a cooling effect of clouds.”

    And this:

    “….the IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri has conceded that the “pause” already may have lasted for 17 years, depending on which data set you look at. A recent study in Nature Climate Change by Francis Zwiers and colleagues of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, found that models have overestimated warming by 100% over the past 20 years.

    Explaining this failure is now a cottage industry in climate science. At first, it was hoped that an underestimate of sulfate pollution from industry (which can cool the air by reflecting heat back into space) might explain the pause, but the science has gone the other way—reducing its estimate of sulfate cooling. Now a favorite explanation is that the heat is hiding in the deep ocean. Yet the data to support this thesis come from ocean buoys and deal in hundredths of a degree of temperature change, with a measurement error far larger than that. Moreover, ocean heat uptake has been slowing over the past eight years.

    The most plausible explanation of the pause is simply that climate sensitivity was overestimated in the models because of faulty assumptions about net amplification through water-vapor feedback. ”

    Now which of my ideas don’t you like JQ? How can an economist make a case for subsidising wind farms, solar power or indeed interfering with naked market forces other than to charge for proven externalities like air pollution. I haven’t followed the back and forth about alleged subsidies to fossil fuels in Oz but suppose it refers to some businesses not being charged the same excise as private motorists (e.g.) have to pay. That could be justified on all sorts of grounds given that we don’t have and don’t want a pure Ricardian comparative advantage world to put us to the test.

  36. Angus Cameron
    September 14th, 2013 at 22:48 | #36


    Oops! I hope I haven’t sent the last effusion twice. it’s only just come up.

    To you I say, please spell out your extremely vague chain of reasoning. “The best we’ve got” may simply be of no value for some important purposes and some detailed explanation needs to be given to show that it is worth pursuing any given process which is known to be very imperfect. And then to act on any tentative conclusions from where you’ve got to needs another lot of reasoning which may be difficult and open to rational doubt.

    And your examples are, frankly, nothing more than Reader’s Digest level guff. Equating a model to an experiment is nonsense. Treating the “model” of light as particle or wave is equally nonsensical since it has no bearing on the testing of the kind of climate models which make quantitative predictions and fail if the quantities are too far out. Likewise, the sense in which quantum mechanics or relativity is a model is of no relevance to the plain failure of complex dynamic non-linear models of climate to predict the future values of variable with acceptable accuracy.

    I’t OK: I remember bringing up Schroedinger’s uncertainty principle in a philosophy tutorial many ears ago. It was undergraduate guff. I was soon shown up as not knowing what I was talking about. Just put the brain in gear in future please.

  37. BilB
    September 15th, 2013 at 01:40 | #37

    I don’t think that there is a defence to the triviality. There are only better tactics.

    And the tactic here is the young smoker approach that worked on my brother and sister when I (youngest) dobbed (reportedly) them in for trying out cigarettes. They were forced to sit and smoke cigarettes for hours. They never touched another one.

    The equivalent to that would be to force Abbott to carry through with eliminating the carbon price. He needs to be forced to carry through his soil carbon direct action stupidity. He needs to be encouraged to subsidise petrol, and he needs to be allowed to run GM out of the country. He needs to be allowed to shut down solar programmes, even ban solar on rooftops.

    The BAU thinking needs to be shown to be bad and clearly the wrong direction. Yes people will suffer, but they need some pain to know what not to do. That is the human condition.

    We need an environmental 9/11 exacerbated by horrendously stupid government policy to force policy onto the war footing that Global Warming Action requires.

  38. BilB
    September 15th, 2013 at 03:05 | #38

    “Angus Cameron” metaphorically IS the triviality. The kid who is smoking behind the shed, who will grow to be the tobacco industry lawyer, the one who can only see that which supports his fixed view despite the reality of death all around. In a war he is the one to spy for the other side.

    There is no absolute solution to the triviality, all that can be hoped is for the main body of understanding to contain the triviality to a size of insignificant influence.

    The triviality has command of our economy at present. It needs to assisted to fail, however counter intuitive that may be.

    My best answer to the triviality is “there is only one climate reality. Opionion has nothing to do with it. It does not matter what you or I think or believe, winning an argument will not change the outcome, the environment is either heating or it isn’t, are you prepared to risk the consequences of being wrong?”

    What would help right now is a 3d graphical (google environment) presentation which allows the viewer to turn up and down the CO2 level in accelerated time to rotate and zoom to see the consequences of global warming. The connection between CO2 levels, ocean surface warming, thermohaline circulation/ocean currents, atmospheric moisture content, accelerated air circulation, the hadley circulation, and polar accelerated warming, all need to be visualisable. Scientists prefer not to get ahead of their proofs, and the upper atmosphere air movements are only now being studied in detail aided by high altitude long flight duration aircraft and soon UAV’s with flight endurances of years. With this knowledge the full picture can finally be assembled. I believe that this information will show that the upper atmosphere air flows are intensifying and are overflowing the Hadley Cell circulation to form a much more intense high pressure downflow over the poles which is forcing the cold surface air at the poles to move out of the polar air cells at an increasing rate, thus giving us the highly variable weather seen in the Northern Hemisphere (less so in the south as there is very little populated land mass near the antarctic) also giving the impression of cooling this being the cause of the supposed “warming hiatus” [see Roger Jones’ stepped warming model]. This all being driven by increased CO2 levels and consequent increased equatorial atmospheric moisture content.

    As I think about it now Google is the only Super Hero with sufficent vision and “super power” to “Save the Citizen” (Fn).

    Fn. You will need to watch Sky High…again…. to appreciate this.

  39. Angus Cameron
    September 15th, 2013 at 09:10 | #39

    @ BillB

    Your seeming-wise “My best answer to the triviality is “there is only one climate reality. Opionion has nothing to do with it. It does not matter what you or I think or believe, winning an argument will not change the outcome, the environment is either heating or it isn’t, are you prepared to risk the consequences of being wrong?” ” is vacuous. It omits all shades of difference, all degrees of wrongness. And of course omits the obvious fact that all those who voice firm opinions on the scientific or economic causes and effects are certainly wrong in many details and in greater or lesser degree.

    I’m not sure whether your contribution to arriving at optimum policy for this or any other country would be non-trivial but it would, on the evidence you provide, be unintelligent.

  40. BilB
    September 15th, 2013 at 09:44 | #40

    Well, Angus Cameron,

    I’ve just checked with the Maona Loa observatory, and your opinion has had absolutely no observable effect on Carbon Dioxide emissions. The atmospheric CO2 level continues to rise at an ever higher rate.

    I would therefore conclude that my proposition, far from being “unintelligent”, is rock solid.

    Try another opinion and we will check again. Perhaps this time you might try being only half of completely wrong, to see if that makes a difference.

    This is the scientific method in action. This is good!

  41. September 15th, 2013 at 11:56 | #41

    Angus, do you agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that human activity has increased its concentration in the atmosphere by over a third?

  42. sunshine
    September 15th, 2013 at 12:03 | #42

    Angus ; my point is that if you require certainty you wont find it in science anywhere . For the other 99% of non climate scientific opinion I bet you just trust the scientists and accept it in your daily life . If a plane had a 5% chance of crashing would you go on it ? Do you think there is a 5% chance the science is correct ? You want to zero in on the uncertainty to justify (non)action .

  43. Nathan
    September 15th, 2013 at 16:32 | #43

    I find it very telling that Angus doesn’t attempt to defend any of his specific (and wrong) claims that I pointed out earlier.

  44. Angus Cameron
    September 15th, 2013 at 17:36 | #44


    Wow, you sound important. “I’ve just checked with the Maona [sic] Loa observatory”…. Well, when I pick up the phone to the folks there I find they respond better if they realise I know it is the Mauna Loa observatory……

    I think I may confine my observations to ones that just, possibly, could affect the professorial master blogger if he has the capacity and open-mindedness one hope of one in his position. (Not that I expect much have reset my standards for professorial commentators by reading Keynes’s “Essays in Persuasion” and other miscellaneous writings of that great man (who was not a professor I note before someone thinks that an important thing to point out). Why? Well, in your case BilB the last straw was the thought of someone who makes a totally irrelevant remark such as your gratuitous reference to CO2 levels still rising. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with anything I have asserted or even hypothesised contrary to your clear implication. But I do note that emissions and rise in atmospheric CO2 are very different concepts with a disputed connection which most people are unaware of (though I don’t make anything of the outcome of the dispute one way or the other. It is merely interesting to me).

  45. Angus Cameron
    September 15th, 2013 at 17:58 | #45

    @ Ronald Brak

    Of course, I suspect that you have just glanced at what I have written and decided to see if I am just one of the nutters who could reasonably be spared one’s ear-space like Creationists. I think one third is about right and yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas though not nearly as potent as methane and not nearly as important for keeping the earth above its black body temperature as water vapour.

    Just how the manmade part works is interesting though I make nothing of any of the disputes about it one way or the other. It was interesting, however, to read a peer-reviewed paper about four years ago in which it a great deal of cogent evidence was presented for regarding the last 50 years of increase in atmospheric CO2 as being of oceanic origin. One of the reasons I am not disposed to regard that as critical to final judgment is that the physicists who propound the idea have never answered, to may satisfaction my key question. That is: given that there is an oceanic isotopic signature for the increases rather than a fossil fuel signature (it has to do with the C12 and C13 isotopes and their proportions) could it not result from absorption of fossil fuel emitted CO2 in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere where cold water, contrary to my memory of these things, dissolves CO2 more readily than warm tropical waters do. Then a slow mixture down to say 500 metres over a lengthy period would swamp the fossil fuel signature with the oceanic signature before the oceans then emitted the CO2 near the equator.

    You can see I am not a broad brush man on the science that I have been able to glean. On the economics however, absent any great moral urge to set examples to the rest of the world that the rest of the world won’t even notice (even if we are not shut out of the room as in Copenhagen), I don’t see why we should spend money in a way which a hard-nosed Treasury official wanting to maximise GDP and the growth rate thereof would not approve. Rich countries, like rich people, can solve their own and others’ problems better than those who are just getting by because they are, for example, giving a quarter of their income to the Holy Rollers.

  46. Angus Cameron
    September 15th, 2013 at 18:28 | #46

    @ sunshine

    I accept your obvious (indeed trivial) point that one will not find 100 per cent certainty in science.

    You approach relevance when you ask in effect what degree of certainty I require in my science related decisions. As it happens the important ones for me I always go into and question from a moderately serviceable science and maths and stats basis. Does one buy the enthusiasm for reshaping corneas that some eye specialists/surgeons spent time and money learning to do 25 years ago or listen to one’s friendly eye specialist who says that no one would give informed consent to such an operation and one should wait, as members of my family did, for the excimer laser treatment. Does one accept more up to date enthusiasm for multifocal intra-ocular lenses to deal with cataract in ones’ dominant eye or go for making sure one’s tennis ball hitting ability is maximised with a monocular lens? Does one buy the expensive fertiliser or try and study the evidence? Would you not expect counsel to push his expert witnesses beyond the mere ipse dixit that their expert status allows them, unlike non-experts, to utter as evidence.

    If a plane had a 5 per cent chance of crashing (during the flight I was about to go on) would I take it? You allow me by asking that more or less rhetorical question to give a short answer to the wider point you are seeking to make. It would of course depend. If the alternative was to be locked up by the government of the country I was in for 20 years I wouldn’t have a problem. If it was a plane fitted to take out my ailing child who desperately needed to go to a hospital elsewhere again I wouldn’t have a problem…. There are so many variable to take into account.

    In the case of AGW I am not sure whether I would advocate expensive, if useless, action by the Australian government even if I thought there was a 5 per cent chance of climate change caused by fossil fuel emitted CO2 (and feedback from water vapour) producing what most of us would regard as a disastrous effect on the amenity of civilised life in the lifetimes of our grandchildren. That too would require, at the least, a lot more nuanced assessment of probabilities of alternative outcomes. It is true that most of us would avoid disaster which was unlikely even at the expense of forgoing many more probable good or acceptable outcomes. That is a bit like acknowledging most people’s risk aversion as investors. We dislike losses more than we like gains. But that doesn’t take us far even without going into the preferences of those who actually like and thrive on risk.

  47. Angus Cameron
    September 15th, 2013 at 18:40 | #47

    @ Nathan

    Your latest piece is not “telling” of anything except that you are lazy if you are really trying to help anyone improve their thinking on and knowledge of an important subject.

    (a) I did answer several of your express or implied criticisms (which you would know if you applies some diligent intelligence to reading what I said: you don’t have to but please don’t pretend that you have);
    (b) you yourself have failed to deal at all with several of my points (e.g. the causes of major climate disasters in the past);
    (c) you could learn something by following up quite a few of the references I mentioned or at least help others to assess them with your self-assumed authority in the field (that I see very little evidence of. I have heard friends utter similar prejudices to yours and random factoids, very like you, and they are not fools but can’t follow through very well. Can you?)

  48. BilB
    September 15th, 2013 at 18:46 | #48

    Angus Cameron,

    This technique of aluding to superior knowledge in order to draw others into pointless lengthy explanations of the science for a lazy denialist’s shooting gallery, has been done to death here.

    If you have substantive knowledge to prove conclusively that the IPCC and all of the scientists who subscribe to its authenticity are wrong or missled, then lay it out, show the forum what you have with explanation and references.

    Else, as postulated above, you are a triviality. ie put up or shut up.

  49. September 15th, 2013 at 19:26 | #49

    Thank you for your reply Angus. Do you also agree with me that the rise in global temperatures is highly correlated with the human caused increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? Here’s a chart showing what I mean:


  50. Nathan
    September 15th, 2013 at 20:20 | #50

    @Angus Cameron
    At what number comment did you reply to me at all? The reason for my last post was that as far as I can see you haven’t responded

  51. Angus Cameron
    September 15th, 2013 at 23:10 | #51

    @ BilB

    The short answer to you is that you know b- all about the IPCC, its reports or its methodology. The idea that there are a large number, amounting presumably to something like 90 per cent of those who work as scientists in some field relevant to climate predictions to make sense of your loose way of expressing yourself, of scientists who “subscribe” to its “authenticity [sic]” are “wrong or missled [sic – spelling not so hot either?] is to show that you don’t know how the IPCC does its work or organises its reports. Have you read Donna LaFramboise’s book (op.cit. supra)? It only costs about $5 on Kindle and can be got through easily in three evenings. If you do read it you will learn a lot about the IPCC and its processes that you evidently don’t know and read some trenchant criticism of it which is very thoroughly researched and, as I mentioned, is still despite hysterical opponents given five stars in Amazon reviews.

    Who are the lazy people commenting here!?! I have taken the trouble to spend hours with physicists, marine biologists, mathematicians and others with superior highly relevant scientific knowledge to understand what the issues are and what the evidence is. You are so sloppy that you imply that I am a “denialist” which shows that you are too lazy to read what I have written – if it isn’t the simple truth that you are only being fashionable in your circles and don’t care about the issue – and, perhaps are so limited in your range of interests that you haven’t grasped the nature of the case I make which is independent of the science. If you want a high class source for that approach read Nigel (Lord) Lawson’s book “An Appeal to Reason: a Cool Look at Global Warming” only about a sixth of which deals with the science.

    I won’t ask you to put up or shut up because it is evident that you lack the wherewithal.

    I have just notice another of your absurdities. You demand that there be “conclusive proof” that all of a very ill-defined group of “scientists who subscribe to” some even more ill-defined propositions are “wrong or misled” [I’m not sure how where “misled” comes in if they are not “wrong”]. Even if you were referring to something with substantial and defined content your demand for conclusive proof in the context of the scientific issues involved in AGW must make even commenters on this wretched blog cringe. JQ? I’m sure you have considered the effect of running a blog at all may have on your reputation but I almost sympathise with the agony that it must give you to be host to such a lot of whackers. (And you at least know that my argument is quite clear and independent of the science which I nonetheless think, despite being put off saying so originally because it seemed rude, is subjected to warmist/catastrophist embrace as a kind of religion substitute by a lot of people with not even rudimentary capacity to explore the state of the several branches of science and maths touching the AGW issue. Some of them are and remain friends, like my theistic friends whose views my intellect cannot fathom).

  52. Angus Cameron
    September 15th, 2013 at 23:28 | #52

    @ Ronald Brak

    Yes, without looking at your chart I can agree. (I retain my slight theoretical interest in the question of the origins of the rise in CO2. I am willing to go along with common sense and accept that it is the fossil fuel generated CO2 emissions which are the main cause, though manmade forest fires would rank pretty high too. As it happens, while I was making a quick search for Dr T.W.Quirk’s fascinating paper in Energy and Environment about four years ago which refers to the C12 and C13 isotopes and their relation to the oceanic or fossil fuel signatures of CO2 I came across a submission to a parliamentary inquiry at
    which inter alia, makes a point that the government’s man Dr Will Steffen had greatly exaggerated the relation of fossil fuel emissions to the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere, allegedly having told the inquiry (the author of the submission calls it a lie) by saying that 100 per cent had remained in the atmosphere when in fact only 45 per cent of the emissions from 2000- 2008 had done so. Interesting but peripheral to my standpoint. By contrast I would regard it as the duty of fervent believers to master such material if they are serious about wanting Australian governments to put the use of taxpayers’ resources for combating Australia’s CO2 emissions high on their list of priorities).

    But, since correlation is not causation, where does that take you? Would you agree that over long periods of time – the odd million years or so – the rise in atmospheric CO2 has followed the warming of the atmosphere? Would you also agree that there has been a flourishing biosphere during periods when there has been vastly more CO2 in the atmosphere than there is now? Such questons I pose simply to remind you that, if you are hoping to engage in a subtle cross-examination, I understand the procedure too well for it to get you as far as you would get by displaying your real knowledge and address the judge or jury.

  53. Angus Cameron
    September 15th, 2013 at 23:40 | #53

    @ Nathan

    Ah another sloppy waffler. First you criticise my alleged lack of defence of allegedly false claims that you claim to have identified. Now it is lack of “reply” or indeed “response” – it is the fact that I haven’t (as far as you can see) “responded” that caused you to make your penulitmate comment. Well, if you want to use words like Humpty Dumpty feel free to amuse yourself. At least you haven’t done it wordily. But how you can honestly say or believe that I didn’t “respond” to your points beats me. Now if you want to nominate your central points on which you would like my further response to focus then you might get back on track….. not that I encourage you to try – except to practise in private.

    You could start by dealing with some of my points that I am now beginning to infer you find a bit embarrassing. E.g. how good the current models are at encompassing all substantial natural factors in the light of their inability to retropredict the big climate changes of the past that I referred to. Oh, and, a little more than BTW, did you even bother to look at the Table I provided which showed how six of the models relied on by the IPCC had given hugely different results? So much for your alleging non-response without even reading what has been provided.

  54. Nick
    September 16th, 2013 at 00:20 | #54

    @Angus Cameron
    Your link to Tim Curtin’s attack on Professor Will Steffen’s presentation reveals that Curtin is in error. Curtin reproduces a Steffen slide, which he proceeds to misread in mounting his ‘criticism’.

    Steffen’s slide notes that 305Gt pf CO2 was emitted by human activity between 2000-2009. Curtin accuses Steffen of saying all this remained in the atmosphere. The slide says no such thing. It is a stupid error on Curtin’s part,and more unpleasantly, Curtin claims that Steffen is Goebbell’s “intellectual forebear” in making the claim that he in fact did not…this is pretty crazy stuff, completely uncalled for.

    You need better material, surely your case deserves it….

  55. Angus Cameron
    September 16th, 2013 at 00:41 | #55

    Thanks Nick. I shouldn’t be surprised. I have myself written criticism of work published by Tim Curtin. As so often, save me from my friends! (Not that I know Curtin at all, only someone who says he tried to put him right on some things and had trouble with that).

  56. Angus Cameron
    September 16th, 2013 at 00:48 | #56

    @Angus Cameron
    But the question of what happens to emitted CO2, wherever emitted from, is one that mildly interests me, peripheral though it may be to my stance on AGW related issues. I have read variously of CO2 remaining in the atmosphere for centuries and, in other places for about 8 or 20 or whatever years on average. The seasonal takeup of CO2, especially in the Northern Hemisphere is huge. No doubt its a matter of distinguishing apples and oranges. The relevant figure would appear to be how long it would take to get atmospheric CO2 down to an acceptable level if it was shown that a certain level was too high and some lower level was OK. My friend who looks forward to developing a marina on the Siberian coast of the Arctic Ocean can’t wait to find out how quickly the CO2 level can be increased and positive feedback guaranteed….

  57. September 16th, 2013 at 00:49 | #57

    Angus, thanks again for your replies. So to sum up, you think CO2 is a greenhouse gas, you accept that human activity has greatly increased its concentration in the atmosphere, and you appear to accept that global temperatures have increased at exactly the same time that human activity has increased CO2 levels. So do you think that the increase in greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere is sufficent to account for all or a large portion of the approximately one degree celcius increase in global temperature since the start of the 20th century?

  58. JKUU
    September 16th, 2013 at 01:21 | #58

    @Angus Cameron
    “Schroedinger’s uncertainty principle”? Don’t you mean the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which states that two complementary variables cannot be simultaneously known to arbitrarily high precision? Maybe you’re thinking of the Robertson–Schrödinger uncertainty relations, which are particular ways to express the Uncertainty Principle mathematically.

    Getting back to Sunshine’s uncertainty (no pun) about the wave – particle duality of light (or EM radiation in general) in the context of climate change, let’s think about satellite measurements and the Uncertainty Principle. A satellite in orbit acquires a given amount of EM radiation, or photon bundles, in a given amount of time (“dwell time”) from an area controlled by the sensor’s instantaneous field of view (IFOV). If the sensor has been engineered to provide high spatial resolution, or a small IFOV, it must acquire sufficient energy from the ground to overcome the “noise’ inherent in the detector system. This means acquiring EM radiation, or photon bundles, over a broad range in wavelength, enough to rise above the system’s “noise floor”. Thus a high spatial resolution satellite system has relatively poor resolution in the wavelength or frequency of the received radiation (and vice versa). The product of spatial resolution and frequency resolution for the sensor must exceed a minimum value. I have now explained the Uncertainty Principle as it applies to measurements of radiation by orbiting satellites, which are used to make observations useful for climate change studies.

    I sympathize, Angus, that you were called out those many years ago for spouting “guff” about the Uncertainty Principle in your Philosophy class. But from your posts, I fear you have yet to outgrow the tendency.

  59. Angus Cameron
    September 16th, 2013 at 02:44 | #59

    @ Ronald Brak

    I guess it could explain about half the rise or a little more. That’s a very tentative view that I would find hard to justify in detail without looking up a few dozen articles I have read which would tend to support it. Just from memory I recall that there were a couple of downward movements (though not as large as the upward movement of temperatures from about 1976 to 1997 which according the the scientists I trust most just because I know they have no axe to grind and are highly competent physicists is particularly significant because of the Great Pacific Climate Shift of 1976**) each covering about 30 years of the late 19th – early and middle 20th century. The real take off of CO2 emissions was from about 1950 and it wasn’t until about 1976 that the temperature rise became very noticeable. Do you remember the predictions being made in the early 70s that we were threatened with another Ice Age? Apart from better understanding and modeling of the effects of clouds and ocean circulation (never forgetting that the oceans have several hundred times the mass of the atmosphere and several hundred times as much CO2 – and that’s apart from the CO2 which as been taken up and stored by or as rocks in the ocean) the modeling of feedback (positive, negative or negligible) is so far from settled that an authority like Bill Kininmonth can say with considerable credibility that CO2’s own contribution will raise temperatures by about half a degree C sometime after 2050. It looks as though the forthcoming IPCC report may well reduce the maximum likely rise to about 2 degrees (that’s from the Matt Ridley article in the WSJ – he’s better at science than banking I think, and hope).

    **Interestingly one of them admitted he had only recently added the Chow Test to his armoury – pretty important as it is regarded, I gather, as providing a good test of whether there is a break in a trend such as to make it statistically valid to regard the time series as two separate ones rather than a single one – particularly relevant to the what I gather is accepted as the Great Pacific Climate Shift of the late 70s.

    So, given that no one has given reason to suppose that the natural forces which brought us out of the Little Ice Age had ceased to operate by 1900, and given the absence of any strong correlation between CO2 rise and temperature rise before the 1976 – 1997 period (or 1950 to 1997 if you don’t apply the Chow Test and ignore the climate shift of the late 70s) I think “about half” or a bit more would be a fair estimate. Curiously I would think most scientists wouldn’t be able to do better and those that could would have to do a lot of careful detailed work to make their case convincingly. Certainly I have never heard as far as comes to mind any scientist giving a good knock down answer on any such precise and complex matter.

  60. Angus Cameron
    September 16th, 2013 at 02:55 | #60

    @ JKUU – thank you for reminding me it was the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle with which I made a fool of myself by trying to use something I then didn’t understand in a context to which it had no relevance that I could explain. However I would have used the correct name!

    You are quite wrong in supposing I retain any strong tendency to make the same kind of misstep many years on. I am extremely aware of what I know and how justified I am in thinking I know it: I happily adopt the tag given me by another of a Sceptic’s Sceptic but one who realises that decision making in conditions of uncertainty is an important part of real life – almost a justification for some professionals from specialist areas doing a well structured MBA course.

    You sound as though you know what you are talking about in relation to the Heisenberg principle’s application to measurements that have relevance to climate studies. But you don’t seem to have much sense of relevance. That, as a great judge of my acquaintance said many years ago was the chief requirement of effective counsel, that is ” a sense of relevance”. A lot of people go on about things they know about because, well, they know about them (and almost by definition find them interesting quite apart from any opportunities their knowledge affords them to show off). And others, including myself, go off at tangents to the main argument because they are enjoying the train of thought, especially if it has just come to them, or just because it is interesting to them or satisfying to try and work out exactly what they think about the subject. (Almost on the “I don’t know what I think until I hear what I say” principle!). You seem to have done that. And good luck to you. I think JQ can afford the ink and newsprint.

  61. September 16th, 2013 at 06:53 | #61

    Q: Does anyone have a name for this manoeuvre?

    A: Futilism.

    NOTE When updated in the course of argument, neo-futilism.

  62. John Quiggin
    September 16th, 2013 at 08:09 | #62

    @Angus Cameron

    “Ah another sloppy waffler.” Angus, I’m tolerating your comments, although they are totally wrong, because you’ve mostly been polite. But any further personal attacks on other commenters will lead to a ban.

  63. kevin1
    September 16th, 2013 at 10:43 | #63

    Greg vP :
    Not a defence, but an explanation: the argument arises from ignorance of the concept of incentives, or from disbelief in their operation

    For example, carbon pricing is “another big tax”, not a deterrent to polluting behaviour; and offshore processing a means to punish refugees not deter entry by boat (the projected 100% increase in humanitarian resettlement since the expert panel inquiry is ignored) by interring them in “hellholes”.

    And policymakers need to figure out how to counter rational ignorance.

    On a related matter, the cynical response of the media to an expansion of democratic involvement in a decrepit political structure (whatever the merits of the new ALP leadership selection process) is telling: more devolution and distribution of social power potentially challenges ruling class control if it emboldens the masses. Perhaps rationality increases in the absence of fear and with greater self-confidence, so keep ’em inactive, and fearful of their jobs – “don’t frighten the horses.”

    The ALP debate about what it stands for and its likely opposition to Abbott’s repeal of the carbon tax may force it into a stronger representative, communication and mobilising role. A concerted defence of rationality would be a great investment in a better future for society as well as renovating the party and mobilising intellectuals.

  64. kevin1
    September 16th, 2013 at 10:46 | #64

    Apologies for my bad formatting: Greg vP’s quotes are the first and third paras above, other comments are mine.

  65. JamesH
    September 16th, 2013 at 11:04 | #65

    I’m pretty sure it already has a name, “Conservative Liberal Obstruction” or “the Present Measure argument”, thanks to Cornford’s Microcosmographia academica. A’s final “that’s absurd” is pretty close to the use of the Conservative Liberal wedge.

    “The following are the main types of argument suitable for the Conservative Liberal.

    ‘The present measure would block the way for a far more sweeping reform’. The reform in question ought always to be one which was favoured by a few extremists in 1881, and which by this time is quite impracticable and not even desired by any one. This argument may safely be combined with the Wedge argument: ‘If we grant this, it will be impossible to stop short’. It is a singular fact that all measures are always opposed on both these grounds. The apparent discrepancy is happily reconciled when it comes to voting.”

    Source: http://www.cs.kent.ac.uk/people/staff/iau/cornford/cornford8.html

  66. September 16th, 2013 at 11:31 | #66

    Angus, so to sum up your position, you believe in human caused global warming. I presume you are in favour of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

  67. Fran Barlow
    September 16th, 2013 at 11:33 | #67

    @Angus Cameron

    On the question of “how long CO2 remains in the atmosphere”, you should have regard to the detailed scientific work done on “the long tail of CO2”.

    It’s the perturbation to the entire ecosystem from the desequestration of hitherto sequestered carbon that is the problem, rather than the residence of any CO2 molecule, that is the larger problem. Carbon cycles and is re-released (unless it is securely sequestered (eg through silicate weathering)

    Studies suggest that the ‘long tail’ may be 50kyr long and that the carbon we are freeing from the fossil reserves will continue to cycle between the active sinks at the surface — (marine, water; vegetation; the atmosphere; the soil) for that long sionce this is the time scale for siliate weathering.

    That may be unduly pessimistic, since we can’t know that some technology from securing carbon at the scale required will not be developed and deployed far earlier than that, but that again underlines the need for caution in desequestering carbon from its comparatively secure stores beneath the Earth’s surface.

  68. Angus Cameron
    September 16th, 2013 at 11:34 | #68

    @ John Quiggin

    Apologies for calling a spade a spade (or, as the expression goes, a bloody shovel). It is in a way reassuring that you don’t seem to have been reading what your little ones have aimed at me! But only “in a way” because your broad brush “[your] comments are totally wrong” is extremely disheartening given that I used sometimes to read your pieces in the AFR and think you knew something useful to have expressed by an expert in such a forum.

    Just give a glimpse of your reasons please. How can it be “totally wrong” to make an argument that, absent any adequate evidence that action taken by Australia will make any difference to our climatic outcomes we should base our spending decisions on proper consideration of opportunity costs and make sure we are not giving up the possibility of doing good with our money in myriad ways for nothing in return. And as you have committed yourself to “totally” how about justifying the model making which can’t guarantee that it has all the natural forces accounted for which gave us the past climatic disasters that I mentioned. How can I be totally wrong about that? Equally, what have you to say about the application of the Chow Test to the temperature times series of the last 70 years and the finding of a break about 1976? Or of the relevance of work done on whether the emissions have an oceanic or fossil fuel signature (though I have not described them as important to the central questions)?

    Now we have, this morning in The Australian, the following:

    We got it wrong on warming, says IPCC

    Graham Lloyd, Environment editor, The Australian, September 16, 2013

    THE Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest assessment reportedly admits its computer drastically overestimated rising temperatures, and over the past 60 years the world has in fact been warming at half the rate claimed in the previous IPCC report in 2007.

    More importantly, according to reports in British and US media, the draft report appears to suggest global temperatures were less sensitive to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide than was previously thought.

    The 2007 assessment report said the planet was warming at a rate of 0.2C every decade, but according to Britain’s The Daily Mail the draft update report says the true figure since 1951 has been 0.12C.

    Last week, the IPCC was forced to deny it was locked in crisis talks as reports intensified that scientists were preparing to revise down the speed at which climate change is happening and its likely impact.

    It is believed the IPCC draft report will still conclude there is now greater confidence that climate change is real, humans are having a major impact and that the world will continue to warm catastrophically unless drastic action is taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

    The impacts would include big rises in the sea level, floods, droughts and the disappearance of the Arctic icecap.

    But claimed contradictions in the report have led to calls for the IPCC report process to be scrapped.

    Professor Judith Curry, head of climate science at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, told The Daily Mail the leaked summary showed “the science is clearly not settled, and is in a state of flux”.

    The Wall Street Journal said the updated report, due out on September 27, would show “the temperature rise we can expect as a result of manmade emissions of carbon dioxide is lower than the IPCC thought in 2007”.

    The WSJ report said the change was small but “it is significant because it points to the very real possibility that, over the next several generations, the overall effect of climate change will be positive for humankind and the planet”.

    After several leaks and reports on how climate scientists would deal with a slowdown in the rate of average global surface temperatures over the past decade, the IPCC was last week forced to deny it had called for crisis talks.

    “Contrary to the articles the IPCC is not holding any crisis meeting,” it said in a statement.

    The IPCC said more than 1800 comments had been received on the final draft of the “summary for policymakers” to be considered at a meeting in Stockholm before the release of the final report. It did not comment on the latest report, which said scientists accepted their forecast computers may have exaggerated the effect of increased carbon emissions on world temperatures and not taken enough notice of natural variability.

    According to The Daily Mail, the draft report recognised the global warming “pause”, with average temperatures not showing any statistically significant increase since 1997.

    Scientists admitted large parts of the world had been as warm as they were now for decades at a time between 950 and 1250, centuries before the Industrial Revolution.

    And, The Daily Mail said, a forecast in the 2007 report that hurricanes would become more intense had been dropped.

    Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Matt Ridley said the draft report had revised downwards the “equilibrium climate sensitivity”, a measure of eventual warming induced by a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It had also revised down the Transient Climate Response, the actual climate change expected from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide about 70 years from now.

    Ridley said most experts believed that warming of less than 2C from pre-industrial levels would result in no net economic and ecological damage. “Therefore, the new report is effectively saying (based on the middle of the range of the IPCC’s emissions scenarios) that there is a better than 50-50 chance that by 2083 the benefits of climate change will still outweigh the harm,” he said.


    Even the Oz’s editorial waffle has got round to backing off its support for the main AGW disaster thesis and action by Australia. Will you mount your steed or allow Sancho Panza to restrain you?

  69. Angus Cameron
    September 16th, 2013 at 11:42 | #69

    @ Ronald Brak

    I would never “sum up” something important in such simple unqualified terms. However I am in favour of reducing CO2 emissions and therefore “efforts being made” to that end by someone somewhere, if the cost isn’t too great compared with the reasonably anticipated outcome. Thus I think there is a lot to be said for investing in better technology, and research intended to provide such better technology, so as to reduce emissions from fossil fuel burning and part of my reason for that, as for most things I support, is that there is more than one benefit likely to flow from such technological improvements: particularly reduction in air pollution (I don’t mean pollution in the Humpty Dumpty sense which includes CO2!).

  70. Angus Cameron
    September 16th, 2013 at 11:44 | #70

    @ Fran Barlow

    Thanks for your elaboration. I haven’t time to read or discuss it in detail but I think it adds something substantial to my tentative understanding and approach that time in the atmosphere isn’t a simple concept.

  71. JamesH
    September 16th, 2013 at 12:16 | #71

    @Angus Cameron
    What do you mean “even the Oz is backing off”? The Oz is Australia’s leading publisher of denialist memes! Check out Tim Lambert’s “The Australian’s War on Science” series.

  72. Nathan
    September 16th, 2013 at 12:21 | #72

    @Angus Cameron
    If you were paying attention, you would have seen that you’re reply to my comment hadn’t appeared as of last night. Unfortunately this is an occupational hazard on this site when posting many links. The possibility that you’re comment might be stuck in moderation what precisely what prompted the “as far as I can see” caveat. You might like to consider being a little more observant and a little less rude next time.

  73. September 16th, 2013 at 12:21 | #73

    Angus, I summarise things simply all the time. I find it very helpful for getting a handle on things. So to sum things up simply once again, you believe in human caused global warming and you think efforts should be made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So, some quibbles not withstanding, broadly speaking you are in agreement with everyone on this thread.

  74. September 16th, 2013 at 12:21 | #74

    Angus Cameron appears to have provided a complete, verbose and extremely tedious illustration of the two-step (I can’t be sure as each time I started reading one of his contributions I fcould feel the will to live slipping away). We’re still no closer to a catchy name for it (although Mick Peel’s suggestion @ 1 of the Lomborg Twist is pretty good).

  75. Nathan
    September 16th, 2013 at 12:36 | #75

    That said, in the interests of being civil, let me add that I completely and cheerfully withdraw my claim of your failure to respond. It’s also quite polite, so props for that. I’ll endeavour to respond later, but briefly, although I don’t set too much store by appeals to peripheral authority one way or the other, I’ve got to respond to your continued practice of referring to your “physicist friends”. As a professional theoretical physicist, I spend my life around other physicists and so I can reliably inform you that there is a great regard for the cautious and diligent research undertaken by so many groups in climate science. In particular, citing something like Lindzen and Choi (one of the most famously flawed papers in the field) would tend to get you laughed out of most physics department tearooms.

  76. JamesH
    September 16th, 2013 at 13:20 | #76

    @David Irving (no relation)
    Itoldya, it’s called the “Conservative Liberal Present Measure argument”, or “Present Measure” for short.

  77. Nick
    September 16th, 2013 at 13:59 | #77

    @Angus Cameron
    The article you reproduce from The Australian is in error.

    The UK journalist David Rose made several errors and false claims, which Graeme Lloyd has obediently passed on to lucky Australia.

    The IPCC AR4 2007 in fact observed that warming had proceeded at 0.13C/decade , not the 0.2C claimed in the article. The 0.2C/decade figure was the IPCC’s projected rate for two decades post-2007 Rose must correct this.

    Rose/Lloyd has also claimed the IPCC were ‘forced to deny’ they had scheduled a crisis meeting….when in fact Rose has been forced to retract his false claim of a ‘crisis meeting’ because the IPCC corrected him!

    Please do not dump tabloid garbage uncritically, Angus.

  78. Angus Cameron
    September 16th, 2013 at 14:04 | #78

    @ Nathan

    At last, someone who should know what he’s talking about. I take on trust that you are a theoretical physicist and, if you tell me you have done work on aspects of climate science I will find such work very interesting. Otherwise, I would still give you credit beyond the accepting what other scientists they know or know at only one remove do because we, the great and good, would be appalled at bad science or badly motivated scientists. In other words I would give you credit beyond what I give to some of the great and good in the medical science world who have decided to go into bat (disregarding economics of course) on what they conceive as climate science.

    But have you worked for hours and days putting together papers on the subject? Or are you entirely depending on others whom for various good or bad or indifferent reasons you trust?

    I have heard the Lindzen and Choi paper dismissed and it did seem even to me with no adequate ability to dissect the paper beyond the abstract somewhat unconvincing in so far as it might form the basis of firm opinions rather than doubts. So, please, give me chapter and verse on the follow up to that paper. As you noted (and I accept) that absolutely critical question of the nature and extent of the feedback from additional water vapour has had much work done on it and it is still ongoing. Where are we at? And with what probability that we know the answer? By the way Svensmark’s theory about the sun’s magnetic influence (not the usual solar explanation) on the way cosmic radiation from well outside the solar system affects cloud formation has been rubbished too. Again I have only read and heard dismissive assertion so would be pleased to know where that theory is at. It is difficult to get people enthusiastic enough to blog to understand that my solidly based (in logic anyway, if not morality) stance about what Australia should do independently of what “the science” has, supposedly, settled really does excuse me from keeping up with the latest research on all the main AGW related areas of science. And if I therefore raise as questions which are nonetheless interesting, and potentially reassuring if one can conclude that the AGW disaster scenario is at worst extremely unlikely, that is surely permissible especially when there really are common errors and gaps that are widespread in non-scientific circles, and, in the case of gaps, in scientific circles. E.g. I still haven’t heard that anyone has modeled climate so as to accurately retropredict past disasters and thereby give some confidence that all the major natural influences on climate have been accounted for.

    How careful I have been not to assert a belief that scientists in early or mid career who depend for the forseeable future on research into presumed dangerous AGW being rewarded with accolades, promotions and research funds are quite as suspect (intellectually as much as or more than morally) as any businessman, lawyer depending on Legal Aid or …. millions of others of us who do not belong to priestly castes (oh, dear, their don’t seem to be any priestly castes which automatically inspire thoughts of purity these days. Even the peace-loving Buddhists have taken to persecuting Muslims in Sri Lanka, Burmay and Thailand: is there nothing one can hold up as permanently admirable and sacred?)

  79. Angus Cameron
    September 16th, 2013 at 14:16 | #79

    @ Nick

    I would thank you for providing relevant corrections (assuming they are relevant and significant overall) if it were not for your sloppy indifference which allows you to refer to that as “tabloid” garbage. It is of course from the established Environment Editor (or Correspondent or whatever) of our major broadsheet. Most people don’t buy or read The Australian (indeed I only had the article because it was forwarded to me and others by a former head of a major federal government department who has taken a special interest in climate matters). So I provided it as a minor service.

    Now I look back at what you have written and I suspect, without the time to check, that you have only cherry picked a few nits which don’t much affect the substance of what the article conveyed.

  80. may
    September 16th, 2013 at 15:10 | #80

    where’s turgid?

    could it be he is being spelled by another?


    the hope that catchy word play will open the sluice gates of reason ,is ,while not impossible,highly improbable.

    after all,every body knows half of all advertising is a waste of money but know one knows which half.

    maybe the way to get wide spread attention is to concentrate on who benefits from the denial.
    follow the money and hammer it.

    look at the technique being followed by angus.
    he’s all over the place.
    inconsistency is not a problem.
    long windedness is not a problem.
    being really irritating is not a problem.
    and digressive argument?
    very useful against people who are used to reason.

    the facts are in.
    it’s not about facts it’s about feeling.

    follow the money and hammer it.
    you are economists.
    following the money is your job.

  81. Nick
    September 16th, 2013 at 15:13 | #81

    @Angus Cameron
    I thought you liked to call a spade a spade? That article is garbage. And Rose’s error, transmitted by Lloyd, is no ‘nit’, it crushes the core of his claim that the IPCC ‘admitted’ they had overestimated the warming by half … please, take the time to check. I did.

    Don’t fall for News Ltd tabloidism: the use of ‘admit’, ‘forced’ and other loaded words is a red flag. The IPCC meeting was scheduled anyway, as can be confirmed at their website. WG1 is scheduled to meet end September to present their SPM for member government approval. News Ltd have been spinning their view from leaked incomplete drafts.

  82. Nick
    September 16th, 2013 at 15:28 | #82

    @Angus Cameron
    Further to the disinformation from News Ltd This response from the Science Media Centre

  83. Fran Barlow
    September 16th, 2013 at 15:51 | #83

    @Angus Cameron

    It is of course from the established Environment Editor (or Correspondent or whatever) of our major broadsheet.

    Whose ‘contributions’ to this area of policy over a number of years have been shown to have been utterly lacking in intellectual integrity, in a paper that has had no integrity in any area of policy, in a stable of papers that have just run an utterly partisan and frivolous election campaign to secure the regime of preference of the head of NewsCorp.

    So poor is the output of this paper, that one really is better served assuming that every claim not plainly confirmed independently of them is wrong rather than right and to look for the nefarious motive underlying the claim.

  84. September 16th, 2013 at 16:00 | #84

    Angus, taking up Ronald’s question to you

    To clarify your position on climate change, are you saying that policies of adaptation and accommodation will be sufficient and cost effective without carbon emissions reduction?

    If so, could the engineering adaptations, such as the storm walls to protect NY from the occurrence of other Cyclone Sandy’s be designed without climate modelling? How much are overall adaptation costs reduced by carbon emission reductions? Of course, the answer may be it is a question of science and not economics.

  85. Donald Oats
    September 16th, 2013 at 16:13 | #85

    @Fran Barlow
    Man, we’ve been in total agreement several times now…

  86. jon frankis
    September 16th, 2013 at 22:15 | #86

    I’ll offer “Argument from Personal Incredulity” as a candidate answer to your original question John.

  87. September 16th, 2013 at 22:53 | #87

    Angus Cameron, you can’t seriously take our national tabloid seriously on global warming! Talk about gullible.

  88. September 16th, 2013 at 22:55 | #88

    And maybe the term you are looking for Professor Q is “defeatism”.

  89. Quibble
    September 16th, 2013 at 23:26 | #89

    Lord have mercy, I feel sorry for Angus’ keyboard.


    There is no scientifically proven link between smoking and lung cancer. In fact, “scientists” in the ’40s and ’50s clearly demonstrated that cigarette smoking was very healthful (if only from a weight-loss standpoint). I have seen the advertisements supporting my contention (but I will not cite them directly, as what I have to say is obviously true, based on self-assessment of my own intellect). In light of that, those who are exposed the second-hand smoke should be thankful for the smokers who have unselfishly done them such a favor in exposing them to this healthful non-pollutant.

    The alleged link between smoking and lung cancer is based on bad science.

    Cigarette smoking cannot be stopped by ridiculous laws, higher taxes, or public education. The mere fact that cigarettes exist is proof that they are a part of our natural system, and, as such, cannot be effectively regulated.

    Smoke ’em, if ya’ got ’em.

  90. BilB
    September 16th, 2013 at 23:47 | #90

    Angus Cameron,

    I’ve had a look at your underpinning Tim Curtin “technical document”, and, frankly it is a load of twaddle, particularly his “peer reviewed” paper. Of that paper he puts forward an argument (as far as I can deduce) that rather than focus on reducing emissions, he suggests growing more food to increase the CO2 absorption from the atmosphere from the natural 4 to 6 gigaton CO2 to something else. The problem with that of course is that human CO2 output is now 25 gigaton and the notion to absorb any significant part of that through growing plant matter on the earth’s 1 fifth surface area is totally absurd particularly as that area for plant growth is steadily being eroded by human activity and the destructive effects of global warming.

    Curtin attempts to add credibility to his arguments by throwing in several chemical equations claiming some kind of conspiracy to suppress these supposed environmental balancing effects. From what I can tell he is deluded in his conclusion.

    But the real issue with all of the denialist arguments is the failure to recognise that as the earth warms atmospheric moisture content increases. This is generally not denied, but what is not appreciated is that this moisture uptake which represents a massive increase in atmospheric energy content also suppresses temperature. So the argued “cooling” is in fact continued heating as more moisture is packed into the air. Further it is this moisture content that drives the ever increasing destuctive climate events of both flooding and counter intuitively heating, fires and freezing.

    So, Cameron, it is good that you are interested in these things, but you really do need to study harder and actually think about the information. Otherwise you continue to be a very verbose part of the Triviality.

    Some reading


  91. Angus Cameron
    September 17th, 2013 at 00:02 | #91

    @ Quibble

    Don’t you use voice recognition?

    I think you are probably unfamiliar with the progress of proof on tobacco related matters. Initially quite respectable scientists could point to the fact that there was a merely statistical connection between between cigarette smoking and lung cancer but it is surely at least 40 years since physiological mechanisms were adequate described and proven.

    I have recently read some suggestion that the benefit protecting people from second hand smoke is small in most circumstances, indeed so small that it is hard to justify some of the bans in public places. I wouldn’t risk even my most ill-bred dog in that fight which doesn’t interest me. I don’t want to smell again 99 per cent of the second hand smoke that has ever been emitted in my presence.

  92. Angus Cameron
    September 17th, 2013 at 00:11 | #92

    BilB – Before trying the patronising mode consider first whether you might be taking on a master (if he bothers with you) and, to start with, don’t show yourself up as someone who doesn’t take care to read what he criticises Someone else has already controverted what Curtin said (I suppose that is so anyway because I didn’t toss in the reference to Curtin with any implication that it was right or critically important because I had merely come across it BTW and hadn’t studied it.) I didn’t identify Curtin as a nutter, but I did say, which you ignore:

    “Thanks Nick. I shouldn’t be surprised [that Curtin got it wrong] . I have myself written criticism of work published by Tim Curtin. As so often, save me from my friends! (Not that I know Curtin at all, only someone who says he tried to put him right on some things and had trouble with that).”

  93. Angus Cameron
    September 17th, 2013 at 00:19 | #93

    @John Brookes
    @ John Brookes

    And what do you read when you want to “take global warming seriously”? And what counts as taking it serously? One wouldn’t read this blog in order to “take global warming seriously” after all, or would you? If so, you must allow that there are a lot of ways of raising an issue just as you wouldn’t, if civilised, cut off a layman asking about something he/she had heard a supposed expert say on a program or in a context you didn’t think canonical and you wouldn’t treat what was quoted as unworthy of reply because of the origing of the quote. Unfortunately for your argument you need to come to terms with the fact that the author of The Australian article knows quite a lot about the AGW issue, probably having done a lot more reading than anyone on this blog and in my case I thought it worth passing on to others for detailed refutaton (if justified) rather than fatuous broad brush abuse because of the distinguished former public servant who posted it.

  94. Angus Cameron
    September 17th, 2013 at 00:31 | #94

    @ Bilb

    I’ve just had a look at your link. I’m not sure what you think is new or surprising about it or has any relevance to where Australian money ought to be spent in the near future.

    What puzzles me is why you think you are making a contribution towards having the positive feedback effect treated as huge and hugely important by citing something with date September 18, 2007. Don’t try to pretend that you are more than an interested amateur with opinions beyond your personal competence if you can’t do better than that. As others have asserted positive feedback is just about the hottest topic for AGW research and you cite some kind of news release from six years ago!

  95. Angus Cameron
    September 17th, 2013 at 00:48 | #95

    @ Fran Barlow

    I have to refrain from comment on News Corp papers as the only one I get is the Weekend Australian and I don’t see any of the others regularly. How painful it must be to feel compelled to read such trash and demonstrate and document its failings.

  96. Quibble
    September 17th, 2013 at 02:38 | #96


    Tiziz wut eye git wit boyce recoznigtion.

    Obviozly meye con pootr haz bean dreen king.

  97. BilB
    September 17th, 2013 at 04:31 | #97

    Again, Angus, you haven’t understood the information, so here is some more to help you.


    The important aspect here for the hardened denialist is that humidity supresses temperature rise and rearranges energy flows in the atmosphere. The denialist is hanging his hat on the short term variations in the general air temperature rise failing to understand the integrated (not the feedback) process of temperature and energy flow cycle in the global atmosphere.

    Here, Angus, you dive headlong into the triviality

    “But, since correlation is not causation, where does that take you? Would you agree that over long periods of time – the odd million years or so – the rise in atmospheric CO2 has followed the warming of the atmosphere?”

    Well as you have put the proposition, here are those millions of years relative to the present


    and having

    “taken the trouble to spend hours with physicists, marine biologists, mathematicians and others with superior highly relevant scientific knowledge to understand what the issues are and what the evidence is”

    demonstrate how your theory of CO2 following temperature works?

  98. BilB
    September 17th, 2013 at 09:19 | #98

    I’m sorry, JQ. Please ban me for life.

    My head is spinning after falling into the trap of reading all of Angus Cameron’s 2.28 comment. Here is a person who must run his brain in a blender once a week, just to mix things up a little, before pooring it back into his head to carry on blogging.

    Why ever did he turn up here? Has he been banned from everywhere else!!?

  99. Angus Cameron
    September 17th, 2013 at 09:45 | #99

    @ BilB

    Thanks for the links which are interesting enough though I don’t see why you think they have value in an argument with me. Of course the rise in temperature of ocean and land from any cause is, cet. par., going to produce more water vapour in the atmosphere and that can act as primarily an additional greenhouse factor (depending I suppose on lots of variables such as where in the world it concentrates if it does, at what heights, how far it forms reflective clouds etc.) and/or as a source of more rain, bigger hurricanes etc etc. But whether there are models which appear to encompass all natural and manmade variables and have been validated by outcomes over many years to at least the 2 sd (95%) standard is another matter. Clearly the East Anglian lot whose emails were leaked were worried. They didn’t say, as is now so often blandly said, that a high plateau of temperatures doesn’t shed a doubt on the modeling but is just well within the range of natural variation. They apparently accepted what everyday commonsense scepticism proffered which was that the AGW is going to be disastrous thesis did depend, not least for its acceptance, on people seeing that a rise in CO2 was followed pretty reliably and soon by an increase in global temperatures because more greenhouse gas had trapped more heat and so on…. (I have to repeat because you and others don’t get it. This is barely relevant to what I think Australian policy should be but can I hope be another contribution to reducing believers tension levels).

    I think it is time for me to sign off in relation to someone who passionately asserts the irrelevant (i.e. to my posts that you purport to reply to). If you took any care, you could, at least I trust you could, see that your first quote from me was a particular response to someone whose questions about correlations I could not see going anywhere helpful to him or me. What you incorrectly call my [“your”] “theory” of CO2 following temperature seems important to some – and it may be: it is certainly something to take notice of – but I have never thought it more than something that needs explanation though it is quite compatible with the idea that there might be thresholds in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and different relatonships at different overall average temperatures, and so on. I will admit to believing that anyone seeking to prove that we are facing CO2 mediated disaster needs to add to his persuasive armoury an explanation of such past phenomena, though, to my mind the events of the Holocene are much more important. (Would you care to point me to explanations for the major climatic events of the Holocene that I have pointed to? There were about 8 I think…..).

  100. BilB
    September 17th, 2013 at 10:46 | #100

    Angus Cameron,

    You really do exemplify John Holbo’s two step triviality.

    Events such as flooding of entire countries, massive fire storms, polar meltdown, glacial disappearence, and global temperature altering CO2 emissions are interesting, but climate change thousands of years ago arefar more important to the Australian Federal budget.

    There has got to be some sort of prize for that kind of bizarre thinking. It would probably be called the “Lord Lithgow Award”, and be proudly kept beside one’s Darwin Award.

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