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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. Angus Cameron
    September 17th, 2013 at 11:08 | #1

    @BilB
    I’m sorry: you really are thick. I am reminded of the description of a witness who my QC friend found baffling to cross-examine because he always seemed to be able to slide out of responsiveness to the point. You haven’t even grasped that my simple budgetary point all along has been that the science is pretty well irrelevant to policy made in Australia’s interests.

    You therefore won’t have even grasped that I concede the possibility that others factor in what can, with reasonable accuracy, be called moral premises which, though I am conscious of them and the possibility of adopting variants of them, I simply don’t treat as part of the reasoning which leads to my conclusions about what Australia should do and spend in the next few years.

  2. Nick
    September 17th, 2013 at 11:14 | #2

    @Angus Cameron
    For some back ground on the Holocene and the so-called ‘warm periods’ [which the evidence points to being asynchronous at a global scale,and in some cases restricted to high NH latitudes] you need to see multi-proxy studies like Marcott et al 2013, and this article by Dr Stefan Rahmstorf at Real Climate.

  3. Fran Barlow
    September 17th, 2013 at 11:18 | #3

    @Angus Cameron

    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.

    Indeed. Tim over at Deltoid has done an excellent job in his War on Science. series.

  4. BilB
    September 17th, 2013 at 11:29 | #4

    Angus Cameron,

    “my simple budgetary point all along has been that the science is pretty well irrelevant to policy made in Australia’s interests”

    …..so are you saying that the science should be relevent to policy or that it should not be relevent?

  5. John Quiggin
    September 17th, 2013 at 11:36 | #5

    @Angus Cameron

    I’m sorry: you really are thick.

    Angus, you’ve entertained us long enough, and ignored previous hints regarding civilised discussion. Nothing more from you, please.

  6. Nick
    September 17th, 2013 at 11:52 | #6

    @Angus Cameron
    “the science is pretty well irrelevant to policy made in Australia’s interest”…if so, then Australia’s interests are not being served adequately. And they are not being served adequately because undisputable environmental costs are discounted by those who strongly influence policy from outside government.

    I can assure you that your faith in the ability of The Australian’s journalists is utterly misplaced. The evidence for their problems is documented and is overwhelming. The reasons they can get away with misleading and sub-standard work are several: their editors encourage ‘teach the controversy’ framing , News Ltd let go its science-degreed journalists several years ago, and media self-regulation is toothless, time-consuming and action in response to rulings is optional. Mainstream media failure to adequately cover science-based issues or research discussions is common, and not exclusive to News Ltd, but as the analytical work of Tim Lambert and Robert Manne have shown, they are by far the worst offenders in the production of deceptions.

    Throughout your post you have made reference to opinions and articles that are lacking in quality, which cannot be regarded as primary source material. Oddly, though you reference this material,you often claim to not be disposed towards familiarising yourself with it. Your mischaracterisation of several points [e.g. Svensmark's GCR/cloud cover theory] reveals your knowledge of background science and events to be inadequate for the weight you give your opinions.

    I think you need to crack an IPCC report and read WG1 material to get familiar with what they actually do, with what they actually know [e.g. about ACO2 origin,and CO2 atmospheric residence time,and the larger carbon cycle]. These reports are information directories with thorough referencing…you need to use them, whether you are personally disposed,or not, towards any suggested findings or policy outcomes. Stop projecting, and get up to speed.

  7. Fran Barlow
    September 17th, 2013 at 12:12 | #7

    @Nick

    Stop projecting, and get up to speed.

    Or he could simply stop asserting/speaking as if he were up to speed.

  8. may
    September 17th, 2013 at 12:30 | #8

    this comment column is why i come to JQs’ blog.

    (why he puts up with me is still a mystery)

    angus angst in action has (to me)the look of being the result of a group of paid people to apply

    the techniques of argument to destroy any factual position in an area where profit interests see a

    commercial advantage under threat.

    tobacco,agricultural/domestic poisons,free and unpatented seeds,asbestos.

    we quite probably don’t know a fraction of the picture.

    if the “market were seen as a person,in my mind,the individual comes across as a psychopathic manic depressive,on self righteous anger overdrive,ranting at maximum decibels about “rational self interest”,”success is what you can get away with” ,”tomorrow never comes”, “get out of my way”,”snatch the money and run” while cringing from any kind of oversight suggestion or that they pay for the damage they cause.
    either to people,bio systems or law.

    thank you all for the response here to the particular aspect of this ideology.

    i love when people who know what they are talking about actually articulate it.

    and i actually learn stuff.

    ta.

  9. Angus Cameron
    September 17th, 2013 at 12:33 | #9

    Deleted, as advised above. In fairness, no further replies to Angus, please

  10. Angus Cameron
    September 17th, 2013 at 12:36 | #10

    Deleted, as advised above. In fairness, no further replies to Angus, please

  11. may
    September 17th, 2013 at 12:37 | #11

    i left out unrestricted marketing of antibiotics in the meat sector,without which feedlot operations would not be profitable.
    at least (i think) the use of hormone to speed up growth has ceased.

  12. September 17th, 2013 at 14:18 | #12

    On the original two-step topic, I have to say that there was an awful lot of it on the subject of peak oil. So much so that it appeared to me that a large segment of the internet using American population appears convinced that their fellow citizens would rather see civilisation collapse around them, and possibly large scale cannibalism, than accept the adoption of European style fuel efficiency standards.

  13. rog
    September 17th, 2013 at 16:04 | #13

    @Ronald Brak It may take a while, but they will come around.

    I was talking to a driver from Tennessee who said that when he first bought a Datsun he was almost run out of town. Now the roads are full of Subarus Hondas etc and the state of Kentucky praised their luck that they had a Toyota plant. I am surprised at the number of Prius on the road.

    The downsizing was driven by the last oil shock yet despite fuel prices dropping the smaller imported cars remain popular.

    US July sales figures

  14. rog
    September 17th, 2013 at 16:07 | #14

    It may take a while, but they will come around.

    I was talking to a driver from Tennessee who said that when he first bought a Datsun he was almost run out of town. Now the roads are full of Subarus Hondas etc and the state of Kentucky praised their luck that they had a Toyota plant. I am surprised at the number of Prius on the road.

    The downsizing was driven by the last oil shock yet despite fuel prices dropping the smaller imported cars remain popular.

    US sales figures July

  15. BilB
    September 17th, 2013 at 16:32 | #15

    And now for something really scary,….Mr AC may have actually been on the Liberal Party ticket for Senate

    http://www.mypolitician.com.au/federal/candidate/angus-cameron

  16. September 17th, 2013 at 16:35 | #16

    Well, Rog, there seems to have been a large decline in American peak oil doomsters on the internet followed by a rise in the number of Americans who believe that the US is self-sufficient in oil and “has more oil than Saudi Arabia”. I would predict a swing back to doomsterism once US tight oil becomes tighter and Russia and other exporters fail to maintain production, but the improving car efficiency you mentioned and the electrification of transport may mute that.

  17. John Quiggin
    September 17th, 2013 at 16:39 | #17

    Peak oil was one of the examples I had in mind. Nuclear boosterism like that of Brave New Climate was another.

  18. BilB
  19. September 17th, 2013 at 17:39 | #19

    Have the nuclear boosters fallen below the threshold where we can officially file them with the flat earthers yet? Japan currently has all its reactors switched off without any decline in their ability to fend off Godzilla and France is planning to close 24 reactors over the next 12 years. But I suppose we can’t completely dismiss them while the mirage of Hinkley C being built still shimmers over the UK fens, beckoning the weak minded. But eventually even that false hope will be gone and they’ll be left with what? A belief that nuclear power will soon burst out of China with the power of a thousand exploding suns? Never mind the fact that China has scaled back its nuclear program. I reckon we’ll hear from them one more time in Australia as they once more try to get nuclear power back on the national stage and they will be laughed at and then forgotten.

  20. September 17th, 2013 at 17:54 | #20

    Oh gward, I’ve just opened a can of mutant worms, haven’t I? If anyone wants me I’ll be in the sandpit where this sort of thing belongs.

  21. BilB
    September 17th, 2013 at 18:08 | #21

    Bad Ronald, indeed you have particularly as I have just learned that Dennis Jensens purpose for being there is to kick off nuclear power in Australia.

  22. rog
    September 17th, 2013 at 19:10 | #22

    @BilB He sounded more like a young Lib ie he drives daddy’s Rangie

  23. John Quiggin
    September 18th, 2013 at 08:47 | #23

    It was my fault. I typed the n-word. But please take any further discussion of that topic to the sandpit, which I will open shortly

  24. Nathan
    September 18th, 2013 at 12:12 | #24

    Although I realise that there are to be no more replies to the particular commenter who mentioned it, maybe I can just throw in some links to discussion about the Lindzen and Choi (I presumed it was Lindzen and Choi GRL, 36 (16) 2009) paper. In particular it was shown to be flawed in no less than 4 different peer-reviewed publications. Roughly, the criticisms were:

    The papers conclusion is completely changed if one simply chooses different start and end points for the data series [1].
    The paper attempts to draw conclusions about global climate sensitivity from only tropical data. This was shown to be highly susceptible to heat transport in and out of the tropics [2].
    The same analysis done with global data produces entirely different results[3].
    The calculation of Earth’s energy budget seems thermodynamically inconsistent and some of the parameters used in the calculation are off by an order of magnitude[4].

    [1] Trenberth et al, GRL, 37 (3) 2010
    [2] Murphy, GRL, 37, (9) 2010
    [3] Chung et al, GRL, 37, (10) 2010
    [4] Dessler, GRL, 38, (19) 2011

  25. Angus Cameron
    September 18th, 2013 at 14:56 | #25

    @Nathan
    Thanks and I tried to post a deadly admission by Lindzen himself…..

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