Home > Boneheaded stupidity > Tinfoil hats

Tinfoil hats

October 1st, 2014

The Oz has been running a string of articles accusing the Bureau of Meteorology of a conspiracy to falsify temperature data to promote the theory of global warming. The latest (no link) is by Maurice Newman, chair of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council.

The ultimate source of this nonsense is Jennifer Marohasy, formerly a Senior Fellow at the IPA, well known to long term readers here. She has pushed all kinds of anti-science nonsense on her blog, even running to attacks on the Big Bang theory. Her material got so crazy that even the IPA had to let her go.

Newman’s tinfoil hat antics have attracted a lot of attention and criticism, given his prominent role in advising the Abbott government. It’s obvious enough that this kind of delusional thinking can’t be confined to one topic.

The problem is that this kind of lunacy is the rule, not the exception on the political right, and particularly in the Newman demographic (conservative older males). The more “hardheaded” they imagine themselves to be, the more prone they are to idiotic self-delusion. Examples such as Nick Minchin, Alan Oxley, Don Aitkin, Peter Walsh, and Dick Warburton come to mind .

In fact, I can’t immediately think of anyone fitting this profile (60+ politically active conservative male) who isn’t a member of the tinfoil hat brigade. It’s little wonder that the Abbott government is so disconnected from economic reality, when its thinking is informed by people like this.

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  1. conrad
    October 1st, 2014 at 09:11 | #1

    No Big Bang Rebuttal Part II? I’m disappointed (although struggling to tell the difference between reality and satire).

    I think Malcolm Fraser might fit your conservative but normal definition, although that’s probably why they don’t like him anymore.

  2. Fran Barlow
    October 1st, 2014 at 09:24 | #2

    I thought this was amusing:

    I had great hopes for the planned collaboration between the IPA and University of Queensland on evidence-based environmentalism but the University proved too timid and conservative – at least for me.

    I wonder if she managed to get her ‘dystopian Rand-style novel about an environmental campaign in a remote Indonesian fishing village gone awry published?

    Clearly, her descent into unremitting stupidity has continued since 2009.

  3. Pete Moran
    October 1st, 2014 at 10:05 | #3

    Martin Ferguson is another example you can use JQ.

    I used to think it was generational, but having met quite a few young libs now, basically hanging themselves on the same shibboleths with extra ‘liberatarian’, I can’t see it ‘working through’.

    The only solution is to out-compete them with ideas, but apart from a few exception I can’t see where it comes from just now. Progressives are losing the race by constanting letting the Right set the agenda on ideas.

  4. Matt
    October 1st, 2014 at 10:23 | #4

    60+ politically active conservative male

    Turnbull will be one later this month. Or is he not conservative enough? I don’t agree with him on that many issues but I’d hardly call him tinfoil hat material.

  5. October 1st, 2014 at 11:22 | #5

    The adjusting of temperature data by BOM is interesting. If you go to Jo Nova’s web site (don’t) you will see them talk about this endlessly.

    The BEST (Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature) project is run by Richard Muller, a physicist who, like any good physicist, didn’t believe that the climate scientists were doing it properly. So his team did it themselves. They used every bit of raw temperature data they could get their hands on, and used an algorithm to assign it a weight that was then used in calculating the temperature.

    So their results are “untouched by human hands”. And what do they find? That the existing temperature records were just fine thank you. BEST was given the seal of approval by Anthony Watts (runs a climate denial website), until they actually released their results, and then was rather suddenly excommunicated.

    Anyway, so one could ask Newman how the BEST temperature records for Australia compare with the BOM temperature records. But he might find that embarrassing.

  6. Ikonoclast
    October 1st, 2014 at 11:26 | #6

    The question I want to pose is this. When does the economic and scientific delusionism of the right become so obviously maladaptive, dangerous and out of step with reality that there is an effective broad-based progressive push against it? At some point it must become glaringly obvious to every sane person that;

    (a) climate change is real;
    (b) mass species extinctions and envirionemental decline are real;
    (c) limits to growth are real; and
    (c) counter-cyclical economic austerity destroys economies and ruins lives.

    I don’t particularly want to be long-lived unless I can retain good mental faculties and stay physically active. I do however want to live long enough to see the ignominous defeat of these idiotic and damaging delusionists on the right. They are criminals. They commit the most egregious crimes against both humanity and the natural world. I want to read the trenchant and fully deserved condemnations of them in the the first histories written at the end of the delusionist era. My schadenfreude whilst regarding them in their disgrace and oblivion will be long and deep but tempered by the salutary natural, biological and human disasters that must perforce occur to change the world political and economic paradigm. These disasters sadly are already almost certainly baked into the cake that these delusionists have cooked up.

  7. Nick
    October 1st, 2014 at 11:28 | #7

    @Pete Moran

    Progressives are losing the race by constanting letting the Right set the agenda on ideas.

    It’s not a case of ‘letting’ or allowing the Right to set agendas. The Right have the advantage of political incumbency and a far-reaching platform at Murdoch’s…they simply have the microphone, and every one of their excruciating ‘ideas’ and every rhetorical nonsense gets heard. In the process some of their madness gets normalised in the minds of the time-poor and less critical. For the rest of us it’s black comedy. We do all the right things in response, from detailed takedowns to mockery, but the rational world does not have incumbency at the moment.

    Newman is really the worst example of the perils of privilege and privileged access. It matters not that his arguments are specious and boringly self-interested, they will always be issued from the bully pulpit provided to him. There is no pushback from within the Australian conservative sector.
    And you cannot even blame an ill-educated electorate: they are not to anticipate every nutcase who hitches a ride with a new government. Certainly though we must expect Labor to mount a much better campaign next time with the copious material Newman and his audacious ratbag companions are providing.

  8. calyptorhynchus
    October 1st, 2014 at 11:46 | #8

    ” I can’t immediately think of anyone fitting this profile (60+ politically active conservative male) who isn’t a member of the tinfoil hat brigade.”

    Tony Windsor is an exception, though sadly retired.

  9. October 1st, 2014 at 11:51 | #9

    @calyptorhynchus

    Although it must be said that all “good” conservatives would not view him as one of their number.

  10. Pete Moran
    October 1st, 2014 at 12:05 | #10

    Nick :
    every one of their excruciating ‘ideas’ and every rhetorical nonsense gets heard

    I agree with you, but I think it’s worse than that. Every one of their excruciating ideas is not just heard, but it is responded to in rebutal. Progressives need to get the “Right” responding to progressive ideas.

    For example, what is the progressive alternative to the filthy-Libs cutting the ABC budget? We currently just say “don’t do it” “you promised no cuts” etc. A progressive alternative would be “the ABC is vital, we would replace $1 of cuts with $2 of funding boost”.

  11. Fran Barlow
    October 1st, 2014 at 12:31 | #11

    @calyptorhynchus

    Really, Windsor is an old-fashioned conservative, whereas our current conservatives are really just reactionaries.

  12. David Irving (no relation)
    October 1st, 2014 at 13:01 | #12

    @Fran Barlow
    I would class them of the radical right.

  13. Nick
    October 1st, 2014 at 13:05 | #13

    @Pete Moran
    In the context of the current situation—where Julie Bishop can simply assert without evidence, and despite explicit contradiction, that the ABC has not met its contractual obligations re the Australia News Network— proposing alternative ideas is moot.

    The Right has the mic…and has turned off its hearing aid. And yanked the tinfoil hat down hard.

  14. John Goss
    October 1st, 2014 at 13:14 | #14

    It is hard to think of 60 plus conservative males who are not tinfoil hats. Ian Harper, Henry Ergas and Ross Fitzgerald though spring to mind.
    Can we now put Graham Richardson in the ‘conservative’ column? He’s not tinfoil hat.

  15. Fran Barlow
    October 1st, 2014 at 13:46 | #15

    Geoff Cousins? He’d qualify, surely?

  16. Nevil Kingston-Brown
    October 1st, 2014 at 14:45 | #16

    I think Henry Ergas just wears tinfoil hats of a subtler cut. He is very fond of pushing meme-de-jours, eg “plain packaging didn’t reduce smoking” or “government borrowing during a world recession crowds out private investment”, which are frequently contrary to evidence, logic, or common sense, and frequently reverses his arguments in order to parrot whatever Joe Hockey has just said.
    My favourite Marohasyisms are still “socratic irony” about the heat of the earth’s core, and the claim that if global warming was derivable from basic physics, then basic physics would have to be revised.

  17. John Quiggin
    October 1st, 2014 at 14:49 | #17

    I don’t think Geoff Cousins counts as conservative, but I don’t know that much about him.

    Unless Ross Fitzgerald has changed radically, he’s left rather than right

    I’d be disappointed to find out that Ian Harper was a tinfoil hat type. I don’t think he’s over 60, so if he is pro-science he wouldn’t be a counterexample to my claim.

    Henry Ergas is now full-tinfoil.

  18. jungney
    October 1st, 2014 at 15:53 | #18

    @Ikonoclast
    Well, yes, that question occupies me as well. I cannot see an event or a movement on the horizon of sufficient magnitude to bring change. We are either in the early stages of global change for the better or the late stages of global change for the much worse. In relation to the latter scenario it looks to me that we are well and truly in a period of corporatist governance only degrees away from outright fascism. How we play our cards right now, with an emphasis on peaceful action, is critical in order to avoid being treated as agents of terrorism. There are plenty of nincompoops in the Libs and the Nats who are already using that language.

    I like the notion of the tin foil hat brigade. They do appear to be barking mad. In the near future we should be able to hunt these people out of public life.

  19. Ken Lovell
    October 1st, 2014 at 16:17 | #19

    @Ikonoclast

    “At some point it must become glaringly obvious to every sane person …”

    The obvious is only what we believe to be true. I don’t accept that all the denialists of a certain age are lying, or stupid, or insane (although some may well fall into one or more of those categories). Certainly I don’t regard most of them as bad people. Climate change and the challenge of responding undermines the fundamental mental model of the world that has guided elderly conservatives all their adult lives. It’s too much; they can’t cope with having to admit some of their core beliefs were wrong because it means they would have to start again, and their psyches won’t allow it. So what might be obvious to you and me is not obvious to them at all. On the contrary, it is genuinely obvious to them that climate change is a hoax.

    Imagine that scientific evidence accumulates that children of gay couples are seriously disadvantaged in life. I am sure that no matter how persuasive the evidence became, many progressives would desperately look for ways to challenge the science, meanwhile refusing to alter their commitment to gay marriage. It’s the same kind of phenomenon. Or to use a different example – how many people refuse to believe certain scientific findings about the links between something and health? They don’t say “I’m going to keep smoking even though I believe it’s bad for my health”, they say (and sincerely believe) “I’m going to keep smoking because doctors don’t know what they’re talking about.”

  20. John Quiggin
    October 1st, 2014 at 16:24 | #20

    @Ken Lovell

    I think this is too charitable. There’s a big element of doublethink going on here, as there is in the case of smokers. At one level, people honestly believe things because they would like them to be true. At another level, they know that these are beliefs they shouldn’t test too closely against the evidence.

  21. David Irving (no relation)
    October 1st, 2014 at 17:08 | #21

    @Ken Lovell
    I think you’re right about some progressive people being a bit selective about the science they choose. I’m thinking particularly about opposition to Frankencrops (which have been shown to be pretty safe by the people who’ve spent their lives studying such things). I used to be one of them, until an Actual Scientist explained a few things to me.

    So, it is possible for a rational person, even one in his 60s, to change his mind when confronted with evidence. It just doesn’t happen all that often, unfortunately. (I guess I’m not all that conservative, either.)

  22. Ernestine Gross
    October 1st, 2014 at 17:21 | #22

    Apparently, numeracy is not a requirement for the head of a financial infrastructure corporation to introduce computerised trading. Obvious, when one thinks about it. The head employs less highly valued heads, known as engineers and IT specialists, to do the thinking.

  23. Ernestine Gross
    October 1st, 2014 at 17:34 | #23

    @Ken Lovell

    Quote: They don’t say “I’m going to keep smoking even though I believe it’s bad for my health”, they say (and sincerely believe) “I’m going to keep smoking because doctors don’t know what they’re talking about.”

    Ken Lovell. Nicotine is physically addictive. Smokers (and doctors) know that. This can result in people saying (again hypothetically) something to the effect: “I do not doubt doctors know what they are talking about. I try to reduce smoking and I sometimes succeed. Unfortunately, the stuff is addictive. Wish doctors had known what they know now 40 years ago.”

    Going back to the tin foil people. No idea what is going on in their heads. Let them smoke as much as they like.

  24. Hal9000
    October 1st, 2014 at 17:36 | #24

    @John Quiggin
    I was at school with Ian Harper. He’s graduating class of ’73 and so has at least a year to go before he hits 60.

    Ross Fitzgerald jumped the shark with his series of ‘the Gillard Government is the worst government in Australian history’ articles a couple of years back. I’m sure they were the price of continued publication in Mitchell’s Oz. It is however impossible to respect as an historian or describe as ‘of the left’ someone who could overlook the almost endless procession of venal and hubristic Australian conservative-reactionary leaders from the Rum Corps to Billy Hughes to Stanley Melbourne Bruce to Billy McMahon, Robin Askin and our own Johannes Bjelke-Petersen – each of whom would easily be more qualified than Gillard to accept the title ‘worst’.

  25. Luke Elford
    October 1st, 2014 at 17:49 | #25

    @Ken Lovell

    I don’t think your examples work very well.

    Gay marriage isn’t the same thing as allowing gay people to have children. And ‘children of social group x are seriously disadvantaged in life’ isn’t a reason applied generally by society for not allowing members of certain groups (e.g. the poor) to have children.

    As for smoking, in contrast with elderly conservatives, who won’t be around to suffer the longer term impacts of climate change, smokers are doing something against their own direct interests. As a result I think it’s easier to believe that their anti-scientific views are truly delusional beliefs, although as Professor Quiggin says, they’re probably mostly engaged in doublethink.

    Why not use actual examples of left-wing anti-science, as David Irving did?

    Plenty of bad things have been done by people who presumably believed in the rightness of their cause at least as much as prominent and powerful climate change deniers who greatly influence or even control government policy. How bad do these things have to be before they’re reasonably described as bad people?

  26. Ken Lovell
    October 1st, 2014 at 17:59 | #26

    @John Quiggin

    John I knew a sweet old lady once who used to feed the native birds. One day there was a great article in one of the weekend supplements by a scientist from the Australian Museum, explaining why feeding native birds was very bad for them. My neighbour read it conscientiously and at the end said “Oh I don’t think that’s right”.

    So it’s not a matter of wishful thinking or knowing “that these are beliefs they shouldn’t test too closely against the evidence”. It’s more that adults learn by fitting new information within their life experience. If something isn’t what they regard as “common sense”, they simply don’t believe it.

    My observations are about the proverbial man or woman in the street. I know there are professional denialists who have made a lucrative career out of their nonsense, and they are beneath contempt. And there are many others who meet your description. But I don’t think we should condemn all denialists as acting in bad faith or even “criminals”, as Ikonoklast did.

  27. John Quiggin
    October 1st, 2014 at 19:11 | #27

    @Ken Lovell

    One illustration of doublethink is that people will vehemently maintain a tribal shibboleth in ideological context, but will ignore it in practice. For example, Young Earth Creationists will make strenuous efforts to have flood geology taught in schools, but would never invest in an oil company using that idea. Lots of people (judging by what I read) use astrology for gardening, but I’ve never heard of a serious commercial farmer doing so. And so on.

  28. Salient Green
    October 1st, 2014 at 19:26 | #28

    @Ken Lovell
    Ken, I didn’t read Ikonoklast as condemning all denialists as acting in bad faith or even criminals. I believe that part of his post as referring to those denialist types with power and influence, whose decisions, when sullied by denialism have a noticeable effect.
    In any case, these fools in their tinfoil hats and massive egos will get rolled soon enough. If anyone starts to lose hope I can recommend Paul Gilding’s website. He has a way of reading trends and getting it right that I find soothing.

  29. Megan
    October 1st, 2014 at 19:52 | #29

    I’m going to take issue with this analogy as well:

    They don’t say “I’m going to keep smoking even though I believe it’s bad for my health”,..

    Yes, they do.

    I know quite a few smokers and have not met one in, say, the last decade who doesn’t accept that it is bad for their health (and is expensive, smelly, decreasingly acceptable socially etc….).

    A few years ago on this site I pondered why the “pro” fossil fuel crowd doesn’t publicly adopt exactly that position (ie: “Yes, we know it is causing climate change but were going to keep doing it anyway”).

    They occasionally touch on it as one of their many talking points (eg: “We can’t destroy the economy”) but never embrace it head on.

    My guess is that there are a good percentage in that category but they don’t “come out” simply because they know that to do so would be a bad look. The other weakness in the analogy is that, apart from passive smoking, the smokers aren’t killing everybody else as well.

  30. Ikonoclast
    October 1st, 2014 at 19:54 | #30

    @Salient Green

    I hope you and Gilding are right. I might get my Schadenfreude moment sooner than I hoped. Actually, it won’t be a moment. When the Big Carbon oligarchs (along with big media) crash hard I will be wallowing in my Schadenfreude for weeks, months, probably even years!

    I hope to see key fossil fuel oligarchs tried at the Hague as climate criminals or at the very least sued in massive class actions for climate change damages.

  31. Megan
    October 1st, 2014 at 19:54 | #31

    Borked the quotes:

    I’m going to take issue with this analogy as well:

    They don’t say “I’m going to keep smoking even though I believe it’s bad for my health”,..

    Yes, they do.

    I know quite a few smokers and have not met one in, say, the last decade who doesn’t accept that it is bad for their health (and is expensive, smelly, decreasingly acceptable socially etc….).

    A few years ago on this site I pondered why the “pro” fossil fuel crowd doesn’t publicly adopt exactly that position (ie: “Yes, we know it is causing climate change but were going to keep doing it anyway”).

    They occasionally touch on it as one of their many talking points (eg: “We can’t destroy the economy”) but never embrace it head on.

    My guess is that there are a good percentage in that category but they don’t “come out” simply because they know that to do so would be a bad look. The other weakness in the analogy is that, apart from passive smoking, the smokers aren’t killing everybody else as well.

  32. Ikonoclast
  33. ZM
    October 1st, 2014 at 20:40 | #33

    There is a sustainability and climate change conference at uni happening and I just went to a talk on what was supposed to be about sustainable management of sedimentary basins – but happened mostly to be about how to ‘harmonize’ regulations and exploit resources in a ‘compatible’ manner.

    One panelist said climate change was mostly caused by deforestation as opposed to emissions from energy productions or other fields – and then maintained CSIRO scientist Graham Pearman has researched that if we increase photosynthesis in Australia by 5% we can offset all Australia’s GHG emissions – mentioning we can sequester all this photosynthesised emissions through the proven technology of burying tree roots.

    I have never heard of this wonderfully easy solution to climate change before. Surely this is misinformation ? And surely the university should not be putting on conferences spreading such great misinformation?

  34. Robert
    October 1st, 2014 at 21:18 | #34

    What about Jim Allan? He’s at least 50+, and while he is against renewables, action on warming etc, he couches it all in pseudo-economic arguments, not scientific denialism.

  35. October 1st, 2014 at 23:19 | #35

    “It’s little wonder that the Abbott government is so disconnected from economic reality, when its thinking is informed by people like this.”
    Thinking? Informed? A strange choice of words.

  36. Sancho
    October 1st, 2014 at 23:42 | #36

    I think a large part of the conservative lunacy over climate change is driven by fear. We see daily just how easily they freak out over threats that are statistically insignificant, like terrorist attacks, so it’s difficult to imagine the mind-bending terror they suffer when thinking of the earth’s whole ecosystem malfunctioning.

    For conservatives, the world is always about to end any moment, so their goal is to block it out by insisting there’s nothing they can do about it and reminding themselves Jesus is waiting for them in heaven. The conservative culture of short-sightedness is something Corey Robin wrote about recently.

  37. ZM
    October 1st, 2014 at 23:52 | #37

    I will fact check the assertions from the panelist from the uni conference now I am home (although it is a great waste of my time – “I have measured out my life in irritating-fact-checking-of-people-who-know-better’s-misleading-claims”)

    Panelist’s Misleading Assertion 1 :
    According to natural science 20,000 billion tonnes of carbon emissions are because they “were driven out of the landscape” by humans over the last 10,000 years; this figure is in comparison to a mere 400 billion tonnes of carbon emissions by humans burning fossil fuels since the industrial revolution.

    Fact Check of Assertion 1 :

    Question – did anthropogenic climate change begin 10,000 years ago when humans began significant land use changes?
    Answer – No, anthropogenic climate change relating to the effects of human activity on Earth’s climate begins with the industrial revolution in the 1700s and increased significantly in the 20th C
    Source: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html

    Question – Are the relative contributions to carbon emissions for land uses 20,000 billion tonnes and for burning of fossil fuels 400 billion tonnes?
    Answer – No. As anthropogenic climate change did not start 10,000 years ago we will not count emissions over a 10,000 year period – just since 1750. Since 1750 carbon emissions are attributable to: 673Gt from coal ; 496Gt from oil; 202Gt from Gas : 1Gt = 1,000,000,000 or 1 billion tonnes , therefore altogether this equals 1371 billion tonnes from burning fossil fuels since 1750. So – How does this compare to emissions from land use since 1750? – we find fossil fuel emissions are much higher because the IPCC says land uses since 1750 contributed 590Gt or 590 billion tonnes which is significantly less than the 20,000 billion tonnes figure the man on the panel asserted. (Cement contributed another 36Gt)
    Source IPCC 2007 cited at http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/carbon-emissions-and-sinks
    (NB I cannot find a figure for land use carbon emissions over the past 10,000 year period. Since the man was so inaccurate with his numbers of fossil fuel emissions I doubt he has any sort of decent source for this 10,000 years of carbon emissions by land use figure)

    Panelist’s misleading assertion #2
    CSIRO and Monash University scientist Graham Pearman’s research has found that all of Australia’s emissions can be offset through a 5% increase in photosynthesis in Australia which will sequester all our emissions in tree roots which will forever stay underground sequestering these emissions.

    Question – has Graham Pearman or anybody else written a paper about this easy way of fixing up climate change?
    Answer – Google has no record of this great quick and simple fix for climate change by a 5% increase in photosynthesis and then the plants happily sequestering carbon in perpetuity in tree roots.

    The CSIRO does have research on the potential of carbon in soil (if that was what the man was getting at with his photosynthesis and tree roots notions) – but putting carbon in soil is limited in how much you can put in. the CSIRO certainly does not say anywhere all of Australia’s emissions can be offset through this carbon in soil method. “The legacy clearing of native lands for agriculture has typically depleted soil organic carbon levels by 40-60 per cent of pre-clearing levels releasing at least 150 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. …Improved crop management practices have resulted in a relative gain on average of 0.2-0.3 tonnes carbon per hectare per year….Pasture improvements have generally resulted in relative gains of 0.1–0.3 tonnes carbon per hectare per year…. Soil carbon improvements are greatest in the first 5-10 years and then diminish over time… ”

    The CEO from the Climate Change Authority was also there on a different panel and it was very disappointing that she supported nuclear energy (in at least some foreign places if not Australia), and she said technology would be sure to do the trick because now we have iPhones and we never would have imagined it when we were young. Except this is not true because mobile phones were in 1980s teen movies I watched as a child and Maxwell Smart in Get Smart from so long ago as the 1960s had a mobile phone in his shoe.

    Also, with regard to promises of technological solutions becoming practicable and ducking in in time to rescue everything – everybody my age still wonders where all our jet packs and the other marvels Beyond 2000 promised us are.

  38. ZM
    October 1st, 2014 at 23:57 | #38

    (Try without links to see if that works…)

    I will fact check the assertions from the panelist from the uni conference now I am home (although it is a great waste of my time – “I have measured out my life in irritating-fact-checking-of-people-who-know-better’s-misleading-claims”)

    Panelist’s Misleading Assertion 1 :
    According to natural science 20,000 billion tonnes of carbon emissions are because they “were driven out of the landscape” by humans over the last 10,000 years; this figure is in comparison to a mere 400 billion tonnes of carbon emissions by humans burning fossil fuels since the industrial revolution.
    Fact Check of Assertion 1 :
    Question – did anthropogenic climate change begin 10,000 years ago when humans began significant land use changes?
    Answer – No, anthropogenic climate change relating to the effects of human activity on Earth’s climate begins with the industrial revolution in the 1700s and increased significantly in the 20th C

    Question – Are the relative contributions to carbon emissions for land uses 20,000 billion tonnes and for burning of fossil fuels 400 billion tonnes?
    Answer – No. As anthropogenic climate change did not start 10,000 years ago we will not count emissions over a 10,000 year period – just since 1750. Since 1750 carbon emissions are attributable to: 673Gt from coal ; 496Gt from oil; 202Gt from Gas : 1Gt = 1,000,000,000 or 1 billion tonnes , therefore altogether this equals 1371 billion tonnes from burning fossil fuels since 1750. So – How does this compare to emissions from land use since 1750? – we find fossil fuel emissions are much higher because the IPCC says land uses since 1750 contributed 590Gt or 590 billion tonnes which is significantly less than the 20,000 billion tonnes figure the man on the panel asserted. (Cement contributed another 36Gt)
    (NB I cannot find a figure for land use carbon emissions over the past 10,000 year period. Since the man was so inaccurate with his numbers of fossil fuel emissions I doubt he has any sort of decent source for this 20,000 billion tonnes of carbon emissions by 10,000 years of human land use figure)

    Panelist’s misleading assertion #2
    CSIRO and Monash University scientist Graham Pearman’s research has found that all of Australia’s emissions can be offset through a 5% increase in photosynthesis in Australia which will sequester all our emissions in tree roots which will forever stay underground sequestering these emissions.

    Question – has Graham Pearman or anybody else written a paper about this easy way of fixing up climate change?
    Answer – Google has no record of this great quick and simple fix for climate change by a 5% increase in photosynthesis and then the plants happily sequestering carbon in perpetuity in tree roots.

    The CSIRO does have research on the potential of carbon in soil (if that was what the man was getting at with his photosynthesis and tree roots notions) – but putting carbon in soil is limited in how much you can put in. the CSIRO certainly does not say anywhere all of Australia’s emissions can be offset through this carbon in soil method. “The legacy clearing of native lands for agriculture has typically depleted soil organic carbon levels by 40-60 per cent of pre-clearing levels releasing at least 150 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. …Improved crop management practices have resulted in a relative gain on average of 0.2-0.3 tonnes carbon per hectare per year….Pasture improvements have generally resulted in relative gains of 0.1–0.3 tonnes carbon per hectare per year…. Soil carbon improvements are greatest in the first 5-10 years and then diminish over time… ”

    The CEO from the Climate Change Authority was also there on a different panel and it was very disappointing that she supported nuclear energy (in at least some foreign places if not Australia), and she said technology would be sure to do the trick because now we have iPhones and we never would have imagined it when we were young. Except this is not true because mobile phones were in 1980s teen movies I watched as a child and Maxwell Smart in Get Smart from so long ago as the 1960s had a mobile phone in his shoe.

    Also, with regard to promises of technological solutions becoming practicable and ducking in in time to rescue everything – everybody my age still wonders where all our jet packs and the other marvels Beyond 2000 promised us are.

  39. rog
    October 2nd, 2014 at 04:39 | #39

    @Ernestine Gross “I’m going to keep smoking because doctors don’t know..

    More like I’m going to keep smoking because it’s my choice, my life and nobody is going to tell me what to do

    Unfortunately the spurned advice from the doctors will eventually come back to haunt them, smokers can be reasonably assured of a premature death from a condition linked to tobacco.

    Their life, their choice.

  40. rog
    October 2nd, 2014 at 04:42 | #40

    @John Quiggin Perhaps not astrology more moon cycles. There are significant events linked with tides ie lunar cycles- one being that in the northern hemisphere timber harvested in full moon during winter has the least % of moisture.

  41. rog
    October 2nd, 2014 at 04:55 | #41

    It seems fairly obvious, at least from the polls, that going to war has been good for Abbott. This is more remarkable considering that the failure of the last one was instrumental in creating this one.

    So it seems that opinions trump evidence and offensive trumps defensive. Abbott has always been on the offensive and the alp, who chose to let the facts speak for themselves, are in total disarray.

    Tinfoils need to be aggressively discouraged before they become a fashion statement.

  42. John Quiggin
    October 2nd, 2014 at 05:17 | #42
  43. Robert
    October 2nd, 2014 at 06:17 | #43

    @John Quiggin Yikes! I hadn’t seen that one. (Though I like the admission that many economists favour a carbon tax. I bet he’s walked that back.)

  44. Paul Norton
    October 2nd, 2014 at 06:38 | #44

    One of the ironies here is that in embracing steady-state cosmology Jennifer Marohasy is on a unity ticket with Soviet-era Stalinism, as I alluded to here.

  45. Paul Norton
    October 2nd, 2014 at 06:51 | #45

    The most obvious example of double-think is that the boardrooms and AGMs of Canadian corporations that are investing in resources projects in the Arctic are full of people that will insist, in other forums, that the thawing out which is enabling those investments isn’t happening.

  46. Salient Green
    October 2nd, 2014 at 07:20 | #46

    @ZM
    Tim Flannery refers to Bill Ruddiman extensively in The Weather Makers where he asserts that humans did begin to change the climate 8,000 years ago. There are no figures of the emissions released but if you do a search for ‘THE ANTHROPOGENIC GREENHOUSE ERA
    BEGAN THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO Bill Ruddiman there may be some actual figures. Sorry I haven’t time to do it myself. I agree though that 20,000 billion tonnes even over 8000 years sounds a bit rich.

  47. Ikonoclast
    October 2nd, 2014 at 08:18 | #47

    @Sancho

    There are so many books I “should read one day”. I will have to add Corey Robin’s book “The Reactionary Mind” to the list.

    A blurb promoting the book says:

    “Tracing conservatism back to its roots in the reaction against the French Revolution, Robin argues that the right is fundamentally inspired by a hostility to emancipating the lower orders. Some conservatives endorse the free market, others oppose it. Some criticize the state, others celebrate it. Underlying these differences is the impulse to defend power and privilege against movements demanding freedom and equality. Despite their opposition to these movements, conservatives favor a dynamic conception of politics and society–one that involves self-transformation, violence, and war. They are also highly adaptive to new challenges and circumstances. This partiality to violence and capacity for reinvention has been critical to their success.

    Written by a keen, highly regarded observer of the contemporary political scene, The Reactionary Mind ranges widely, from Edmund Burke to Antonin Scalia, from John C. Calhoun to Ayn Rand. It advances the notion that all rightwing ideologies, from the eighteenth century through today, are historical improvisations on a theme: the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.”

    This quintessentially sums up the right for me;

    a. exploitation and hatred of the weak and unfortunate;
    b. defending power and privilege;
    c. love of violence;
    d. holding on to power at all costs (to others).

    Greed generates exploitation. Exploitation generates contempt and hatred for the exploited. The weak are held in contempt for being weak enough to be exploited. The right’s hatred towards the exploited is a reaction against nascent feelings of sympathy and mercy for the exploited. In feeling sympathy and mercy for the exploited, the exploiter begins to experience fellow-feeling. But fellow-feeling for the weak is threatening as it implies weakness or vulnerability inside the self. This is ruthlessly expunged by directing the sense of fear and vulnerability outwards as anger and violence against the weak.

    I am always struck by the world of fear in which the right live. They are extraordinarily paranoid and fearful people. But their fears bear no relation to a rational assessment of dangers. They are often extraordinarily fearful of highly improbable threats and blind to the most obvious near and likely dangers. One only has to look at the statistical tables for most likely causes of death for well-off westerners to see that this is the case.

  48. ZM
    October 2nd, 2014 at 09:23 | #48

    Salient Green,

    “There are no figures of the emissions released but if you do a search for ‘THE ANTHROPOGENIC GREENHOUSE ERA BEGAN THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO Bill Ruddiman there may be some actual fIgures”

    Thank you! – I had not heard of that. It appears that Bill Ruddiman’s hypothesis is controversial – there is a thread devoted to looking at bill ruddiman’s papers and other disagreeing papers at Real Climate (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/12/early-anthropocene-hyppothesis/ ) but the discussion is quite science-y. Apparently his idea is without climate change from agricultural land uses starting around 8-7,000 years ago we would be in some sort of ice age now – but others have said the ice age would be expected later not right now and so on with other disagreements going back and forth.

    I found a paper by him which does try to quantify the emissions prior to industrialisation –

    “The first step is to establish as a ‘target’ the cumulative carbon emissions between 8000 and 2000 yrs BP needed to satisfy the anthropogenic hypothesis. Based on the above estimate that the pre-industrial carbon emission totaled ?320 Gt, and the observation that ?80% of the measured CO2 rise had occurred by 2000 yrs BP, this target value is ?250 GtC (0.8 × 320 GtC).

    Although these estimates of land clearance and carbon emissions are obviously just rough first-approximations, direct evidence from one region confirms that early clearance occurred on a very large scale. In 1086 AD, William the Conqueror ordered the Domesday survey of England’s resources. The survey found less than 5% of the natural forest cover remaining over lowland regions, and less than 15% across the entire country (Rackam, 1980).
    ..,
    Historical records provide a plausible mechanism. The mortality rates of 25 to 40% during the major plague pandemics caused widespread abandonment of farms and rural villages. Huge amounts of carbon could then be rapidly extracted from the atmosphere and sequestered in new forests growing on the abandoned farmland. Land-use modelers note that abandoned cropland and pasture reverts to full-forest carbon levels in 50 years or less (Houghton, 1999). Later, as people returned to the farms and cut back the newly grown forests, the temporarily sequestered carbon would have been restored to the atmosphere.

    Finally, Lamb (1977) has argued that cooler Little Ice Age climates caused famine and depopulation, as well as increased incidence of disease. This study comes to nearly the opposite conclusion: plague outbreaks caused major population reductions and at the same time contributed significantly to cooler climates.”
    Source:THE ANTHROPOGENIC GREENHOUSE ERA BEGAN THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO
    WILLIAM F.

    So – all together before industrialisation Ruddiman estimates there were just 320Gt of carbon emissions – mostly from between 8000 and 2000 years ago.
    If we follow Ruddiman (I am not sure if we should b/c he is controversial – but let’s do so for the sake of the argument) we have 320 Gt before the industrial revolution plus the 590Gt of land use related emissions since 1750 = 910 billion tonnes. This is far less than the panelists assertion of 20,000 billion tonnes, as everyone can see.

    910 billion tonnes from land use related emissions is also less than 1371 billion tonnes from bending fossil fuel related emissions.

    If Ruddiman’s thesis is right – it would however point to the size of our task ahead in undoing 8,000 years of land use practices that have contributed to climate change.

  49. October 2nd, 2014 at 13:05 | #49

    Hi John,
    I met Warren Entsch the other day. I reckon he’d be 60+, conservative and, AFAICT from our discussion and some googling on other issues, doesn’t seem to wear one of those hats. Could he be a contender?

  50. October 2nd, 2014 at 13:06 | #50

    He’s even a Queenslander!

  51. 2 tanners
    October 2nd, 2014 at 16:44 | #51

    @ Roderick

    Quote attributed to Warren Entsch:

    “Greenland was settled by Vikings and by the 1100s there were more than 3,000 settlements. As the Little Ice Age advanced so the Greenland settlements were disbanded and the last was known to have perished about 1550AD, a century before the coldest of the Little Ice Age.

    “For 300 years Earth has been recovering from the Little Ice Age. Mountain glaciers have retreated and high mountain passes of the Alps have opened. Archaeologists have identified artefacts from various eras corresponding with warming and cooling, and retreat and advance of mountain glaciers.

    “The arguments of the IPCC rely on an unchanging temperature record prior to industrialisation (that is, no Greco Roman warm period, no cold of the Dark Ages, no Medieval Warm Period and no Little Ice Age) to support their storyline of anthropogenic global warming. They claim that the warming of the past 100 years is unprecedented and therefore must be due to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide.

    “The data from Greenland shows a different outcome.”

  52. John Goss
    October 2nd, 2014 at 17:11 | #52

    Speaking of Queenslanders, Bob Katter and Clive Palmer are both over 60. Bob may well be hiding a tin foil hat under his cowboy hat. I think we need a different sort of hat for Clive. A warlock’s hat?
    Former Senator Robert Hill as far as I know has not put on the tin foil hat.

  53. Fran Barlow
    October 2nd, 2014 at 17:11 | #53

    @2 tanners

    I’m not sure whether, by ‘tinfoil hat’, PrQ meant to describe all climate science contrarians or merely those who assert one or other of the various conspiracy accounts attached to denialist accounts of the provenance of contemporary climatology or carbon abatement policy.

    Certainly, it seems Entsch is a climate science denier and implicitly someone claiming that the climate science community is in some sort of conspiracy or possessed of so e sort of borg mind. That is arguably good enough for ‘tinfoil hat’ status.

    Still, it’s not the full Monckton.

  54. jungney
    October 2nd, 2014 at 17:33 | #54

    @2 tanners
    Yep, that’s Tin Foil Hat country right there for Entsch. And not your cheap, thin tin foil made in the Glorious People’s Republic of Han Ethnocentrism either, but good quality stuff made by ALCOA, back in the good old days when we made stuff here in Australia, of sufficient strength and durability to really stop ALL the voices almost all of the time. Proper Team Australia foil that was hand shaped by retired RM Williams staff. This new Hanfoil is actually a plot. The foil doesn’t stop the microwaves traveling through the phlogiston, it actually acts as an aerial for Kim Chee dictates I’ll be having a look right now for where Bill Heffernan hides out on the issue. Sheeeit, I reckon he was born in a foil hat just from the shape of his head.

  55. John Quiggin
    October 2nd, 2014 at 19:08 | #55

    @Paul Norton

    I was planning to move on to precisely that example.

  56. John Quiggin
    October 2nd, 2014 at 19:11 | #56

    @Fran Barlow

    I don’t think it’s possible to be a climate science denier without, at least implicitly, adopting a conspiracy theory or a megalomaniac fantasy. Either you think that all the scientists in the world are deliberately lying or you believe that your half-remembered high school science and 1950s-era knowledge of stats is sufficient to see an error that is invisible to all of them

    All “sceptics” are fools or liars (to themselves, in particular). Most are both.

  57. October 2nd, 2014 at 22:11 | #57

    @ 2 Tanners et al. OK, maybe I didn’t look hard enough!

  58. John Goss
    October 2nd, 2014 at 23:16 | #58

    Quiggin said in #5 ‘I don’t think it’s possible to be a climate science denier without, at least implicitly, adopting a conspiracy theory or a megalomaniac fantasy. ‘
    I can’t agree with this sentence John, because climate science denial has become mainstream among the right, and not all of them are conspiracy theorists or megalomaniacs. They are in the right wing echo chamber, and the erroneous beliefs are reinforced at every turn. For most of them its not because they have a tendency to conspiracy. They’re sheep following the rest of the flock (and also often marching in the direction of their self-interest).
    If you’re talking about the leaders of the flock, then maybe there is more validity to your point, but you have not fully explained in your second sentence why some competent scientists like Ian Pilmer are full scale deniers and Matt Ridley is a semi-denier.

  59. rog
    October 3rd, 2014 at 04:05 | #59

    @John Goss In my opinion no explanation is required, Ian Plimers competence does not include climate science.

    Put simply -you go to a butcher for your meat, a baker for bread, a mechanic to fix your car. If you are happy having the local hairdresser fix your plumbing problems then go for it.

  60. Fran Barlow
    October 3rd, 2014 at 06:18 | #60

    @John Quiggin

    Oh I agree. You do need to part company with observable and measurable reality, at least in your public claims, whatever you really think privately. In a place like this, those who make arguments in bad faith are called trolls, and I accept that some of the tinfoil hat brigade may simply be putting on a show. I suspect it’s a little like excessive resort to taking mood-altering drugs Sooner or later it will destroy most people. Compartmentalisation is cognitively demanding.

    I would note though that when I first heard the term ‘tinfoil hat’ — about 1977, when I was doing one of my first jobs (as a trainee nurse at Rydalmere Psychiatric and Retardation Hospital) — the term described people who believed that external agencies were capable of monitoring their thoughts and manipulating their behaviour, typically with evil intent. The term quickly morphed into a more general term describing those who were pre-possessed by the notion that powerful forces were in a constant self-serving conspiracy to manipulate the perceptions of reality of the broader public in order to protect some overarching and often nebulous interest of the conspirators. With this in mind, I was defining tinfoil hattery as just these kinds of folk, rather than those merely asserting palpable nonsense to serve their own perceived interests. There is, after all, a dichotomy to be drawn between the purveyors of self-interested tosh who know that it is tosh and carefully avoid questions of provenance, or who are simply uttering thoughts that could not withstand more than superficial inspection before collapsing, and those who have really collapsed into a new delusional universe that few others can share.

    I suspect that’s where folk like Monckton are. Since we can’t really interrogate the minds of people like Bolt and Mahorasy or Jo Nova and that crowd we have to assume that that’s where they are. Certainly, in Bolt’s case, he gives insistent evidence of suffering from high level megalomaniacal narcissism, which makes it easier to believe that he’s no longer, if he ever was, simply rendering service to Murdoch.

  61. Paul Norton
    October 3rd, 2014 at 07:56 | #61
  62. Ken Fabian
    October 3rd, 2014 at 08:18 | #62

    Isn’t the most significant thing here the complete absence of disapproval for Mr Newman’s slandering of the Bureau of Meteorology and climate science from the Prime Minister? Is Mr Newman in truth expressing a variation of the opinions that Mr Abbott holds in private? Are those opinions, that Mr Abbott refuses to confirm publicly but routinely hints at, underpinning Australia’s climate/emissions/energy policy? And is Mr Newman – along with others – acting with Mr Abbott’s prior knowledge and approval as an indirect and deniable means of making his views known and strengthen public support for them?

    Elsewhere Ikonoclast said it’s better to lose with the truth than win with lies. And I said I absolutely agreed. On reflection I need to retract the absolutely part – or at least add some caveats; the existence of an existential threat where the seriousness of the consequences of losing are too great, with unanimity within essential organs and expert advisers of government (Security and Intelligence, Judiciary, Military, relevant Scientific experts)and an inability to unite and mobilise the nation by other means and most of all absolute requirement for sound judgment – to be right – would seem to be prerequisites to such a drastic course.

    Yet I think we are seeing such an approach being played out by Abbott and team with respect to climate/emissions/energy, underpinned by a depth of conviction, certainty and fervor of ideologues who are so sure they are right they can dismiss all contrary views, including considered expert opinions coming out of our society’s essential institutions. Even if they are acting out of conviction it is not, in truth, a reluctant last resort in the face of desperate need, in the face of a grave existential threat, it’s by choice, because it’s the easiest, most expedient political course to impose their convictions on the nation.

    There is an element of quasi-religious conviction within climate politics but it’s most fervent practitioners are seen in the mirrors of Abbott’s network of climate science deniers and climate action obstructionists.

  63. Troy Prideaux
    October 3rd, 2014 at 09:35 | #63

    Ken Fabian :
    Isn’t the most significant thing here the complete absence of disapproval for Mr Newman’s slandering of the Bureau of Meteorology and climate science from the Prime Minister? Is Mr Newman in truth expressing a variation of the opinions that Mr Abbott holds in private?

    Not sure what you mean by “the most significant thing”? It’s about as far removed from a revelation as you can get.
    My uninformed hunch is: with the mining boom on the downward slope and manufacturing decimated by decades of trade policy and education looking less likely to take up some of the slack, the gov is going to lengths to protect the petrochem income and of course vested interest energy sectors.

  64. Ikonoclast
    October 3rd, 2014 at 10:24 | #64

    @John Quiggin

    Quote: “… or you believe that your half-remembered high school science and 1950s-era knowledge of stats is sufficient to see an error that is invisible to all of them.”

    That too is strange. My half-remembered high school science (and a couple of semester units of 1st year Uni science) all done 40 years ago or more are sufficient to see the climate scientists are correct. At least, this level of science knowledge is sufficient for me to conclude they are correct in broad brush terms. Then the clear empirical record clinches it, especially the rise in ocean temperatures and retreat of sea ice.

    Denialists show a strange split into scepticism and credulity. On the one hand, they are sceptical of the peer reviewed science of 1,000s of the world’s top Ph.D. climate scientists. On the other hand, they believe every word coming from Andrew Bolt, a journalist chap who didn’t finish first year university in science or anything else. So far as I can see, Bolt and his ilk appeal to pre-existing prejudice, wishful thinking and general credulity. I know that’s vague.

    It seems to be easy for people to believe something that is (a) simple and (b) matches what they want to believe anyway. Climate science is complex and it is giving us uncomfortable answers about our entire economic-industrial system and its likely future if it continues on its present path (mostly fossil fuels and a few token renewables).

    At the individual level, the sceptic takes too small a slice of individual “anecdote” data. He will stand outside in the eastern states of the US or eastern provinces of Canada in Jan/Feb of 2014 and note the frigid and blizzard conditions of a very cold winter. “Look it’s nearly a record cold winter. Global warming is not happening.” I was there (Quebec and Ontario) in that winter. But I also travelled west and north to the Yukon at that time where the wave of the polar vortex bent back the other way. I experienced a day of +6 C max in Whitehorse in the middle of winter.

    It is easy for demagogues to appeal to limited anecdotal data and simplistic commonsense. As in, “north-east America experienced its coldest winter in years therefore global warming is not happening”. What gets lost is all the other from other areas and more importantly the higher level picture which in this case shows a strenghening polar vortex which will push cold fronts further down one half of the North American continent and send warm fronts up to the Arctic in the other half of the continent. This polar vortex is strengthening (greater wave amplitude) and slowing in its eastward rotation. Higher amplitude waves travel slower. Thus with global warming, weather patterns governed by the polar vortex are showing a tendency to get stuck in one place for longer periods. Blizzards stay longer in one state. Droughts stay longer. Flooding rains stay longer. Damaging extremes linger.

  65. John Goss
    October 3rd, 2014 at 10:47 | #65

    I am interested in how and why it is that people move to tinfoil hat positions.
    I met Jo Nova when she lived in Canberra 20 years and read her blog which at the time was focussed on things like Kurzweil life extension stuff. Her work was as a science communicator. There was no sign of her current conspiracy theory approach where every fact is twisted to suit her climate change denial position. But she is scientifically literate, as is her husband David Evans who has a PhD and did do modelling on carbon inventories for the Greenhouse Office. He may not be a climate scientist but he does have (or at least did have) a scientific approach to the world, and the ability to assess scientific evidence in a rational way. So why have they turned to what is essentially a post-modern, ideological, irrational view of the world. They have views that are now immune to reason like the Ted Trainers of this world, and like the creationists who Ian Pilmer still presumably opposes. Its all very well to say that Pilmer is not a climate scientist so therefore his views on climate science don’t carry much weight. But that misses the point. I am trying to understand why scientists like Pilmer, Nova and Evans now adopt an unscientific approach to assessing evidence. Their current positions are a betrayal of the scientific faith from which they came. Why?

  66. Megan
    October 3rd, 2014 at 11:15 | #66

    I’ve previously referenced a great essay by Alex Carey from 1976 “Pragmatism and Propaganda”, and this extract bears repeating as perhaps an explanation for the “Why?”:

    “Dewey similarly holds that beliefs should be distinguished as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, not as `true’ and ‘false’. Beliefs are good if believing them has beneficial consequences.[5] ‘Facts’ do not exist for Dewey, Bertrand Russell observes, ‘in the sense that “facts” are stubborn and cannot be manipulated’.[6] For Dewey proposed to replace the notion of truth with the notion of ‘warranted assertibility’.[7] Any belief which can be claimed to bring useful consequences may acquire ‘warranted assertibility’ on that ground alone.”

    “There is a remarkable correspondence in attitude to truth between pragmatists and propagandists. Both justify the promotion of false beliefs wherever it is supposed that false beliefs have socially useful consequences. Indeed the principal difference between them consists perhaps in this: the ordinary propagandist may know that he is telling lies, but the pragmatist-propagandist, having redefined truth to make it indistinguishable from propaganda, is likely to become inescapably trapped in the supposedly ‘useful’ deceptions and illusions he approves as ‘warranted assertibilities’.”

    Apart from the outright liars, most of them seem to fit the ‘pragmatist-propagandist’ description.

  67. patrickb
    October 3rd, 2014 at 11:57 | #67

    @rog
    It’s a bit of an aside but I heard the governments armchair warmonger Maj. Gen. Moyland characterise the last two wars as ‘assisting’ the Iraqis. In fact the only reason, according to Jim, that we are going back in to violently assist them again is because the Iraqis vandalised the Eden like state that our assistance delivered to them. Something definitely happens when a certain type of man reaches a certain age. I’m turning 50 soon so I’ll have to keep an eye out for warning signs …

  68. Ikonoclast
    October 3rd, 2014 at 12:52 | #68

    @John Goss

    “Their current positions are a betrayal of the scientific faith from which they came. Why?”

    Well, properly speaking science isn’t a faith. (I know you were writing quickly.) Science is not a faith but a process and method for seeking an objective reality. Instead of science being a belief system it is a confidence system. A belief system holds things to be true or not true based on assertions, dogma and received word. On the other hand “science is over time self-policing; competing scientists have a strong incentive to corroborate and build on the findings of others; but equally, they have a strong incentive to prove other scientists wrong by means that can be duplicated by others.”

    Saying science is a confidence system means that we can develop a high degree of confidence in certain explanations and predictions because of repeated corroborating evidence and repeated successful predictions. Popper called it the progressive movement towards truths by the continuous elimination of errors IIRC.

    Those people, who like Pilmer, Nova and Evans who have forsaken science and scientific explanations (in some or all fields) must fit one or more of the categories below.

    (1) They sold out. They are prepared to knowingly tell lies for money.
    (2) They are speaking out of their area of expetise (with a bit of 3 and 4 added in).
    (3) They have emeritus disease.
    (4) They never properly understood science in the first place at the levels of formal scientific method and the reasons for it including the philosophy of science and epistemology.

    A fundamental gap in the modern scientific and humanist education is the distinct lack of philosophy and logic subjects in many cases. To my mind, a scientist is not a scientist if he or she does not have included in his or her education the history and philosophy of science; the latter from at least Bacon and Hume to Kuhn and Popper.

    With people like Nova and Evans, their scientific education was clearly a thin varnish with no substantial binding substrate to it. One bump against the real world with its complexities, temptations and ambiguties and their scientific education flaked off. Either their education was insubstantial or they themselves are insubstantial. I think it is probably both.

  69. David Irving (no relation)
    October 3rd, 2014 at 12:53 | #69

    @patrickb
    Don’t worry too much – I’m 63 and I like to think I still have the mental flexibility to respond to evidence that contradicts a long-held conviction. (Unless I’ve ossified and I’m deluding myself.)

  70. Calyptorhynchus
    October 3rd, 2014 at 13:27 | #70

    Of course, another aspect to this is in having someone linked to the government criticise the BOM it continues the ongoing campaign of devaluing and downplaying government-run agencies prior to privatising them.

  71. John Goss
    October 3rd, 2014 at 14:03 | #71

    Megan, I like your quote from Carey, but I’m not sure it explains why people change their beliefs to beliefs which obviously do not fit the evidence.
    And Ikonoclast, I quite deliberately used the words ‘betrayal of the scientific faith’.
    The scientific world view is a belief system. It is a belief system of great functionality, but it is still a belief system. And you reveal one of the beliefs of the scientific world view in your sentence.
    ‘Science is not a faith but a process and method for seeking an objective reality’.
    You and I (and science) have the belief that there is an objective reality to be sought. Many others do not hold that belief.
    So I still do not fully understand why Pilmer, Evans and Nova changed their scientific belief system to a post-modern, irrational, non-evidence based view of the world.
    The 4 points you make Ikonoclast explain a bit, but I suspect not very much.
    I’m sure David Evans and Jo Nova see themselves as crusaders for truth. I can’t imagine that they are in it for the money. But they have somehow moved to what I consider to be an irrational position. One must be wary of course of arguing from particular cases. Someone like Bolt is pretty easy to explain. We come across that sort of personality disorder all the time in public life. But others, like the ones we are discussing, are not so clear.
    Presumably there is some sort of psychological/sociological study that has been done that explains the why of belief changes to tin foil hat views on climate change in a more scientific fashion than what we are doing here.

  72. John Quiggin
    October 3rd, 2014 at 14:55 | #72
  73. October 3rd, 2014 at 15:13 | #73

    @John Goss

    David Evans gave a talk at UWA last year, where he pulled apart the predictions of climate models. Showing that there were inconsistencies with reality here and there. The professor who invited him said in response, “We all know that these models don’t work all that well, but just because a model is not perfect doesn’t mean that CO2 is not causing problems”.

    Of course the one thing about the models, from the very simplest to the most sophisticated, is that they all predict warming as CO2 levels increase. Adding in more and more components to the models doesn’t tend to change this basic prediction very much. Which is lucky, because if it did, then you would have to doubt if any model was right.

  74. Donald Oats
    October 3rd, 2014 at 16:57 | #74

    @Fran Barlow
    The tin foil hats are as you describe it Fran, they are hooked into a delusional world in which they are under surveillance, even having their thoughts read via any nearby antennae or radio receivers–hence the tin foil hat to block the emanations…in essence, the provenance of tin foil hat is from the reaction of schizophrenics who have paranoid delusions. I have met a couple of people in my life who have had the full blown paranoia and man, is it depressing to see someone struggling to deal with that state.

    Those who speak as if there is a conspiracy but know that there isn’t, well they are bullshitters in the classic philosophy sense of the word. They speak bull and simply don’t care whether it is true or not, so long as it gets the result they want. Monckton gives a damn good impression of being in the first category, although I think he is actually just a BS merchant for hire. Everyone needs a vocation…

  75. chrisl
    October 3rd, 2014 at 17:39 | #75

    @John Goss
    Why don’t you ask Jo Nova yourself at her blog?
    She seems very friendly!

  76. John Goss
    October 3rd, 2014 at 17:59 | #76

    Thanks John for reminding us of your taxonomy. Now we just have to work out why people end up in each of these categories.

  77. Royce Arriso
    October 3rd, 2014 at 19:21 | #77

    Jungney, your comment on Entsch’s tinfoil hat propensities the funniest thing I’ve read in ages. This fellow, as Henry 8th said of Thomas Cromwell, hath the right sow by the ear…….

  78. Ikonoclast
    October 3rd, 2014 at 20:43 | #78

    @John Goss

    Unless I can change your mind, we will have to agree to disagree. Science (applied and pure) and especially the scientific method itself is not a belief system. An overall scientific world view on the other hand might well entail some aspects of a belief system. The two things are rather different.

    Let me approach it this way. Is house painting a craft or a belief system? It would sound distinctly odd to call house painting a belief system. This is because one would be making a category mistake. “A category mistake, or category error, is a semantic or ontological error in which things belonging to a particular category are presented as if they belong to a different category.” House painting belongs to the category of crafts not to the category of belief systems.

    In like manner, the scientific method is a craft not a belief system. It employs materials, implements and techniques (in the hands of trained pactitioners) in pursuit of a goal. The goal in the case of house painting involves both technical requirements (protection, durability) and aesthetic requirements (colour, coordination of elements, neatness and evenness.). The ultimate goal in the case of the scientific method is to find dependable laws of nature (running from physics to chemistry to biology and so on).

    The issue of “objective reality” is not really an issue of objective material reality. The idea of simple or classical objective material reality received a heavy knock from quantum theory. But simple materialism has been attacked for a long time, for example in Berkeley’s idealist philosophy. The issue of “objective reality” is really the issue of observable and dependable laws which link perceived and measured phenomena.

    It is these observable and dependable laws which science seeks to elucidate, for which it has a method of enquiry (the scientific method) and about which it has success in terms of consistent explanatory power, predictive power and practical application.

    Berkeley’s ingenious idealist philosophy yielded many spin-off results. He deduced from first principles the necessity of all motion being relative motion and did this 150 years before Einstein. However, his core thesis is redundant. The core thesis was that material did not exist only spirit. God’s spirit acts on human spirits to give our spirits impressions which we percieve as (material) sensations.

    I hold that whether or not this is true is irrelevant. (Whilst also holding that I doubt it is true.) We have no way of determining whether it is true or not. Thus our sensations may be materially or immaterially mediated, we cannot know. What we do know are the regularities of these impressions and our demonstrated capability to discover dependable laws relating various phenomena (be these phenomena of material origin or not).

    It is the order, dependability and operation of discovered laws (and probabilities) which we perceive, in both the everyday sense and in the scientific sense, as dependable objective reality.

    Accepting the specious argument that “science is just another belief system” is to kick an own goal for the superstitious and sophistical opposition. Science is a not a belief system. Properly exercised as scientific method it starts out without specific assumptions and beliefs about an unexplained phenomenon (that this or that is true about it) but with hypotheses (this or that might be true about it) and tests them against discovered and discoverable objective reality (as an ordered set of dependable laws).

    I cannot think of what group(s) you reference when you refer to those who do not believe that there is an objective reality to be sought. You cannot be referring to scientific humanists or monotheists. You might be referring to a few obscure philosophers, pyrrhonists and the like, some minority mystics in various religions and cults and possibly to a portion of adherents to Buddhism.

    Certainly, I hold that objective reality exists and that everything also is illusion and absurdity for humans at a more existential level. It is possible to hold both those pictures. But to hold that objective reality cannot exist as sets of ordered relations independent of humans* is to be profoundly solipsistic and goes against all the extant evidence.

    * Note: What is a human? The body or the bundle of perceptions or the bundle of cogitations about the perceptions?

  79. rog
    October 4th, 2014 at 01:39 | #79

    On the subject of why? – in France laws on banning smoking in the workplace has resulted in an increase, not decrease in tobacco use. One theory is that it is a good excuse to go outside and gossip and non smokers are missing out on the social action. Data indicate the the increase has been significant among women and you now see young(ish) girls puffing away on e-fags, which are supposed to help those that want to give up the nicotine but are unable. It would appear awareness is not an issue, smokers appear to be willing to chance morbidity and/or mortality in later life in exchange for immediate pleasure. Certainly it would seem that despite the obvious facts many people have social requirements that overwhelm any concern for their personal health and safety.

  80. Ikonoclast
    October 4th, 2014 at 04:18 | #80

    @rog

    Smoking is a great way to goof off. People love to goof off. As a non-smoking coffee drinker I cannot be too judgemental. Coffee drinking is also a way to goof off.

    However, correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Are the two linked or are there other factors? One issue is definitional also. Is using e-cigs smoking? It is nicotine use but I would argue it is not smoking. There is no combustion apparently, only vaporization. This is a significant point as there are no combustion products (including tar) in the inhaled vapour. This is not the same as saying there are no health risks to “vaping”.

    “While propylene glycol and other chemicals commonly used as solvents or carrier compounds in e-cigarettes liquids are generally recognized as safe, they have not been used before in vaporized form over long periods of time. The risks, especially to the lungs, are not fully understood…” – Wikipedia.

  81. rog
    October 4th, 2014 at 05:22 | #81

    @Ikonoclast I think that e-gaspers are for those who want to give up but can’t shake it. I was surprised to see girls using e-fags, perhaps it is a new fashion statement? I know the medicos are keen to break the trend and are willing to support any viable alternative, e-tabac show are springing up in Paris. But for the moment tobacco is seen as a legitimate social tool.

  82. rog
    October 4th, 2014 at 05:23 | #82

    Shops

  83. Paul Norton
    October 4th, 2014 at 07:58 | #83

    In this morning’s news, the political tribalists have been flummoxed because TEH ZIONISTS that the ultra-left hates are agreeing with TEH GREENIES that the Right hates.

  84. John Quiggin
    October 4th, 2014 at 11:29 | #84

    @Ikonoclast

    “Smoking is a great way to goof off”.

    Not that long ago, chain-smoking at your desk was a signal of how incredibly hard-working you were.

  85. Megan
    October 4th, 2014 at 11:38 | #85

    @Paul Norton

    Can’t see the “Zionist” angle in that story.

    I’m critical of, for example, Israel’s ongoing treatment of Palestinians under the illegal occupation – but that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with research on the reef.

    If the angle is BDS, I’d say ‘it would be a shame if the actions causing the BDS meant that such research was hampered, but that may be the price to pay’. Once South Africa halted apartheid the BDS stopped and everyone got back to playing sport etc…

  86. Ikonoclast
    October 4th, 2014 at 12:27 | #86

    @John Quiggin

    I am old enough to remember those days. I was never convinced that chain smokers were hard workers. They spent a lot of dragging, looking up at the ceiling and blowing smoke.

  87. October 4th, 2014 at 12:38 | #87

    @John Quiggin

    I had the misfortune to sit near a chain smoker for a while. There was always a cigarette smouldering on her desk. I went home stinking of smoke. But she was a hard worker!

  88. sunshine
    October 4th, 2014 at 14:29 | #88

    I like to start with the belief that there may be a world (objective reality) independent of our minds and whatever they think of it ,but, that as all such statements must be in one language or another ,and all languages (including science) are belief systems, we cant say anything truly objective about it. All languages have histories and generate meaning only within their own terms ,I think there is nothing thinkable that is independent of belief systems. The term ‘objective reality ‘ suggests there are things that are so no matter who ,or what language, describes them . Making statements that have no particular viewpoint but encompass all viewpoints is difficult .

    In every day life I normally act as if none of the above is true. None of the above prevents belief or action on climate issues. The language of science strives to minimise subjectivity and thats OK.

  89. lw
    October 5th, 2014 at 00:35 | #89

    Honestly I would have thought it was simple. crazy old white guys that have nothing better to do than to listen to other old conservative old white guys about how the world should work. Thats not to say that one should not replace tinfoil coggers with the Illuminati.

  90. Newtownian
    October 5th, 2014 at 10:09 | #90

    !@#$%^&*() Jennifer Marohasy !@#$%^&*()

    Wow John. I thought Plimer was a bit out there in his self serving mangling of climate science to fit his viewpoints. But to his credit he largely works within the standard methods and knowledge – but this person!! Ad hoc reinventing of physics/science or giving credit to that approach!!

    Tks for the link – an excellent addition to my file of crapola.

    This weirdo who she is referencing and assigning credibility reminded me of a 3rd form friend in high school who used a similar approach to ‘refuting Einstein’.

    Basically he was outraged that he couldnt go faster than the speed of light. At the time (age 14) I couldnt fault him. Such is the great power ignorance can confer on a person. His interest and inquiry was laudable but unfortunately his conceptualizing framework was flawed like your beloved Jennifer aka – if a theory is hard to graps or doesnt concur with a bunch of childhood prejudices, assumptions etc. the idea must be wrong, not one’s narcissistic view of the universe.

    [For those who arent scientists the flaw was this – He like Jenny didnt understand that all Einstein Newton et al. did was make a bunch of observations (Apples falling) and develop really elegant models (inverse square law) that captured the essence of what was happening ideally in a mathematical form from which useful predictions could be made (earth and celestial mechanics predicting the tides providing the basis for British empire and here we are). These and experiments provides the tests/reality checks.

    i.e. They did not operate in the manner of Luther the Pope and innumerable theologians.

    Unfortunately science is still usually sold (i.e. people are educated) especially to the young as though it was another religion of givens – because its difficult to talk about its concepts and insights without having a basic vocabulary in the first instance. If you do a research science degree you need to unlearn this approach. Unfortunately a lot of ‘scientists’ never move beyond ‘faith based’ wrote/scientism and Jenny looks like one of the more unfortunate exemplars.

    Put another way you do science by a combination of Kuhnian paradigm development reduced to its basics using parsimony and cast if possible in a mathematical (algorithmic and probablistic) format (empirical curve fitting or elegant mechanistic) which is then tested via falsification directly or by events perhaps in completely different fields – unless of course you are an neoclassical economic cheerperson – in which case you use something akin to Jenny’s method and dress the empirical result up as though it was based on insight into mechanisms on par with Newton/Einstein and confirm this by conferring Ersatz Nobels on neoliberal theologians.

    Another indicator of how pathetic she is, is her reproduction of such an article with all its misspellings intact – (Hubbell ?!) – reflecting lousy editting]

  91. Newtownian
    October 5th, 2014 at 10:14 | #91

    @Ikonoclast

    Apologies – I didnt see your efforts to explain science and why it is different to other forms of knowledge before I stuck up my post.

  92. October 6th, 2014 at 18:21 | #92

    Using the term”Tinfoil Hats” is resorting to the losing debating tactic of attacking the messenger because the message cannot be attacked; this is a clear demonstration that AGW and its CONsensus is pure pseudo-science.

    The message is loud and clear:

    The raw historical temperature records published by the BOM speaks for itself. It unequivocally shows cooling since the late 1800s.

    Only after the BOM alter their raw historical temperature records by homogenising the data, that an artificial warming trend is created in the official temperature records for Australia.

    If the data showed warming they would not need to alter it.

  93. John Quiggin
    October 6th, 2014 at 19:15 | #93

    Thanks for that inspired piece of Marohasy madness, phoenix. Now, how about a refutation of relativity theory? Or, if you’re aiming at the Quadrant demographic (not so interested in physics), why evolution is only a theory

    https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/bill-muehlenberg/2009/07/rethinking-darwin/

  94. zoot
    October 6th, 2014 at 19:35 | #94

    @phoenix

    The raw historical temperature records published by the BOM speaks for itself. It unequivocally shows cooling since the late 1800s.

    Citation required.

  95. October 6th, 2014 at 19:43 | #95

    Second lame debating tactic changing the subject.

    Not that it is relevant to this debate, but do you have ESP and ‘know’ my views on relativity and evolution?

    Well one fact remains and you do not have a retort for it; BOM doctored the temperature records to suit the pseudo-science of climate change.

  96. October 6th, 2014 at 19:51 | #96

    @zoot
    Trewin, B. 2013, A daily homogenized temperature data set for Australia, International Journal of Climatology, Volume 33, see especially page 1524)

  97. sunshine
    October 6th, 2014 at 20:05 | #97

    All other things being equal, scientists prefer the mathematically simpler theory because it is more beautiful that way. I think that is a good example of faith in the scientific method. Also our Western Christian culture with its strong notion of guilt and original sin has given us Darwins cutthroat evolution ,Dawkins selfish gene, Freuds nasty Id, and Adam Smith etc.

  98. October 7th, 2014 at 08:45 | #98

    John Goss, I’ve told this story here before, but I think it is highly relevant to your question, so I hope our host will indulge.

    18 years ago a fellow student in the science communication course I was doing complained that, in order to get to a performance she was giving she was stuck for several hours in a car with Joanne Codling. Codling spent the whole time talking about “exciting new research” which “proved” that Black Americans’ lower performance on IQ tests etc were the result of genetic inferiority rather than social factors. This wasn’t racist apparently because she acknowledged that some black Americans could be highly intelligent, but claimed they were on average substantially less intelligent, and therefore all efforts to boost their position in society through Headstart, affirmative action etc were at best wasted, at worst counter productive.

    Unfortunately for Codling, my friend had done her Honours thesis on IQ testing, but Codling was utterly uninterested in listening to someone who might know what she was talking about. She knew, just knew, that the stuff she had read was right.

    This was not an isolated incident. The following year Codling changed her name to Nova.

    A few years after that she got heavily into promoting theories that any expansion of the monetary base would automatically turn a country into the Weimar Republic, or maybe Zimbabwe.

    My point? This is not a case of someone committed to science and evidence turning against, it is someone who has always been willing to believe and promote whatever crackpot theory could be used to justify low taxes, kicking the poor in the guts etc.

  99. Newtownian
    October 7th, 2014 at 10:08 | #99

    sunshine :
    All other things being equal, scientists prefer the mathematically simpler theory because it is more beautiful that way. I think that is a good example of faith in the scientific method. Also our Western Christian culture with its strong notion of guilt and original sin has given us Darwins cutthroat evolution ,Dawkins selfish gene, Freuds nasty Id, and Adam Smith etc.

    You raise some interesting points Sunshine here and above – a pity though there is also a lot of confusion in your understanding which indicates you still need to learn much about science as a whole.

    I note above your reference to Scientific faith and belief above. It is an important issue. But it does not mean that ‘all things are equal’. You seem to be saying in a selectively post modern way that hard science is just another relative set of beliefs or faith if you like. So but its not. One aspect is as follows.

    In recent years the ‘Belief’ aspect of science through has been highlighted by the wider introduction and application of Bayes Theorem and application in the form of Bayesian Belief Nets. In exploring this for work which provides serious hard tests of what Bayes implies one nice thing that has emerged for me is better understanding of how science differs from monotheistic religion (e.g. catholicism, Islam) and ideology/social science (e.g. Marxism, neoliberalism, Deep Ecology).

    The exploration and development of religion and ideology have not been useless. Far from it. They are in effect interesting postulates arising during humanities quest for knowledge from need or musings or whatever. If you like they are hypotheses.

    Where they fail though is in not being tested – or where they are tested by experiment or collection of further relevant observations their supporters deny the result.This is in contrast to modern science.

    So you seldom hear the devoutly religious admit – yeah well we were wrong all that stuff about flat earths, Lepers and devils really was just Bronze Age superstition. They cant because it raises the question of how much else in their basic texts is dodgy. Similarly today you see the neo-liberal growth economy ad infinitum ideology which flies in the face of a finite planet.

    Meanwhile science adapts and changes via a combination of paradigm development and shifts, hypothesis development and testing.

    I think difference this is critical and this is why I am currently having a love affair with Bayesian Belief Nets. The latter formalize how you can take prior knowledge and then work to improve insight, probabilities etc. by linking this prior information to posterior information – if you like the new emerging data. Hard science does this routinely and understands everything is linked in a network of cause and effect. Sadly social sciences, ideology and religion seem so much in love with their narratives that they can break free – at least that is the pattern of application.

    As a result religion and ideology start with ideas fixe and rationalize their positions through such tools rhetoric and shooting the messenger figuratively or literally as sadly you seem to be trying to do. A good illustration of this is your focus not on the ordinary thousands of routine science examples where the method works like a dream but on a few emotionally confronting issues that are clearly challenging your (Christian) worldview. But at least you are trying to understand the issues so as John Lennon said …”I hope some day you will join us”.

  100. October 7th, 2014 at 10:59 | #100

    Having looked at the reference you provide Phoenix, I cannot see anything to support your case. Quite the opposite.

    I’m looking online so I can’t see which bit is the page you mention, but looking at figure 9 it looks as though the number of adjustments up and down are almost identical, while the systematic factors make only a small difference. Consequently, I can’t see how the raw data could show a falling trend when the adjusted data the BOM releases shows a substantial rise.

    Moreover, according to this piece http://theconversation.com/no-the-bureau-of-meteorology-is-not-fiddling-its-weather-data-31009, “Our data on extreme temperature trends show that the warming trend across the whole of Australia looks bigger when you don’t homogenise the data than when you do. For example, the adjusted data set (the lower image below) shows a cooling trend over parts of northwest Australia, which isn’t seen in the raw data.”

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