The relative rationality of Malcolm Roberts
Among other interesting results, the recent election gave a Senate seat to One Nation member Malcolm Roberts. Roberts is notable for his expressed belief that global warming is a fraud produced by a global conspiracy of bankers seeking to establish a worldwide government through the United Nations.
Unsurprisingly, Roberts has copped a lot of flak for these statements. But his position seems to me to be more credible than that of the average “sceptic”.
I’ll take, Don Aitkin as an example of the kind of sceptic generally seen as more credible than conspiracy theorists like Roberts. Among other indicators of credibility, Aitkin has an AO, he’s a former Vice-Chancellor, and was Chairman of the Australian Research Grants Committee (predecessor of the Australian Research Council) and a member of the Australian Science and Technology Council. His own academic background was in history and political science. As far as I can tell he has no training or research background in either statistics or natural science of any kind.
Given his background, you’d expect Aitkin to be aware of the years of training required to become an academic expert in any field, and the ease with which amateurs can get things badly wrong. But in his writing on climate change he expresses supreme confidence in his own ability to assess the work of thousands of scientists and pronounce it wanting. As he says
here wasn’t much abstruse science in the global warming issue. A bit of radiative physics, a bit of solar physics, a lot of data of various kinds, large GCMs — global circulation models — and a good deal of extrapolation
All in an afternoon’s work for a retired academic administrator, it seems. No wonder VCs are so highly paid!
Unsurprisingly, we discover that what Aitkin actually disliked was
the message: a set of policies about curbing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the use of fossil fuels.
So, according to Aitkin, the entire discipline of climate science, backed up by every major scientific organization in the world,
is engaged in a transparent fraud, has, in the service a political agenda, published false research, easily seen through by a retired political scientist and his circle of emeritus colleagues. They have succeeded in persuading every national government in the world to sign on to agreements based on this fraud misrepresentation of the facts. And to what end? To change the way we generate electricity, or maybe to shift a few research grants from one field to another. The disproportion between effort and goal is akin to using a nuclear-powered piledriver to crack a peanut.
And the same, more or less, is true of most of the relativel respectable “sceptics”. There simply isn’t enough payoff to explain the gigantic effort that’s gone into constructing the global scientific consensus on climate science.
By contrast, once you accept Malcolm Roberts’ premises, the rest makes sense. Suppose there is a gigantic conspiracy to establish a world government. Then suborning a few thousand scientists and dozens of scientific academies, all the weather bureaus in the world and the entire mass media (except for the Murdoch press) would be child’s play. The only question is when the black helicopters will land.