Science vs the Right: state of play

I stopped arguing with self-described “skeptics” on the topic of global warming some time ago, and I don’t intend to start again. I am however interested both in trying to promote sensible policy outcomes and in considering the broader political and cultural implications of the debate. For this purpose, there is no need to argue about hockey sticks, global warming on Mars or any of the other talking points that chew up so much time on the Internets (for anyone who is actually in doubt on any of these points, this is a useful resources

I’ll start with some facts that are, if not indisputable, at least sufficiently clear that I don’t intend to engage in dispute about them
(i) All major scientific organisations in the world[1] endorse, in broad terms, the analysis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which states that the world is getting warmer and that, with high (> 90 per cent) probability, this warming is predominantly due to human action
(ii) Most prominent politicians[2], thinktanks, activists, commentators and bloggers on the political right in Australia, the US and Canada (along with a large section in the UK) reject, or express doubts about, this analysis. The uniformity of views is particularly notable among conservative thinktanks.

The dispute between mainstream science and the political right has now been going on for at least fifteen years, and has already had some profound impacts. At the beginning of this period, the right could plausibly present itself as the pro-science side of the “Science Wars” in which the enemies were the massed forces of leftwing postmodernism (a powerful force, given their near-total control over departments of English literature), sociologists of science and the wilder fringes of the environmental movement. However, this was always a storm in a teacup, ignored by the vast majority of scientists.

By contrast, the current war is being fought for high stakes, with the end result either a disastrous defeat for the institutions of mainstream science or the intellectual discrediting of the entire political right. There has been no significant convergence between the two sides. On the contrary, even as confidence in the mainstream scientific consensus was solidified be the released of the IPPP Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, the rightwing opponents of science were buoyed by the La Nina event of early 2008, which produced a sharp, but temporary drop in temperatures, particularly in the Pacific. Comparisons with the El Nino peak of 1998 enabled them to announce that global warming had stopped, a point which was amplified in vast numbers of opinion pieces, blog posts and public statements, though not, to my knowledge, defended by any peer-reviewed statistical analysis.

Even such an obvious fact as the melting of Arctic ice, confirmed in the most direct fashion possible by the announcement of regular shipping routes around the Pole, with associated territorial claims, has been the subject of endless quibbles (attempts to restate these quibbles in comments will be deleted).

Furthermore, unlike the endless culture war disputes where the debating tactics of the right have been developed, there is a fact of the matter regarding anthropogenic global warming, which will sooner or latter become undeniable. Either global warming will continue, finally confirming the mainstream scientific viewpoint, or it will not.

Given the accumulation of scientific evidence, the odds are pretty strongly in favour of the first outcome. Scientific conclusions supported by a diverse range of independent theory and evidence sometimes turn out to be wrong, but you wouldn’t want to bet on it. Even more rarely, non-scientists with an axe to grind turn out to be right where scientists are wrong, but you really wouldn’t want to bet on that.

This raises the question of why the right has been so keen to double down on this issue. Of course, there’s no organised process by which an anti-science viewpoint on climate change and other issues is agreed on as a central orthodoxy from which dissent is prohibited, but you only have to look at the output of the political right in the English speaking countries to see that this outcome has been realised.

There are many explanations, perhaps so many that the outcome was overdetermined – powerful economic interests such as ExxonMobil, the hubris associated with victories in economic policy and in the Cold War, tribal dislike of environmentalists which translated easily to scientists as a group, and the immunisation to unwelcome evidence associated with the construction of the rightwing intellectual apparatus of thinktanks, talk-radio, Fox News, blogs and so on.

The issue is not going to go away, regardless of the short-term success or failure of attempts to reach a global agreement to stabilise the climate. The more clearly the political right is identified with the anti-science side of this debate, the harder it will be to salvage any of its existing institutions.

In a two-party system, even total intellectual incoherence will not prevent a political party from winning office when its opponents fail. But I’m surprised at the extent to which supporters of free markets have been willing to tie their case to an obvious imposture.

fn1. The only partial exception of which I am aware is the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which takes an equivocal position
fn2. For reasons of political necessity, some rightwing politicians occasionally make statements endorsing mainstream science on global warming. But only a handful (John McCain being the most prominent) give more than a half-hearted assent, and many (Brendan Nelson is an archetypal example) give different positions depending on the audience and the way the political wind is blowing on the day.

143 thoughts on “Science vs the Right: state of play

  1. Ben #43 – agree that science is pure. Prof Q’s posting argues that the right is discrediting itself and threatening its own institutions as a result of its rejection of scientific evidence.

    Pure science is rare however as it exists in a political framework. The Howard Govt cut funding to the CSIRO for scientific investigation, when it wasn’t connected to an economic benefit. Much data hasn’t been collected to provide scientific evidence of climate change in Australia.

    The right’s approach to science is also seen in the science research conducted within universities. Research programs paid for by mining companies has meant that universities have lost much control over scientific research. The right likes to control (and limit) the knowledge base.

    Despite all of those efforts at control, freedom of speech has ensured that the science on climate change is well known – even if not well understood. Al Gore can take a great deal of the credit for making people think about the issue in the English speaking world.

    Tony G #45 does make one point (indirectly); the way that science undertakes its research is based on a set of values. He fails to acknowledge however that industry itself skews scientific studies. The tobacco and asbestos industries are good examples of government failing to involve itself in the science and allowing those with a vested interest to manage the “research” and its results. The free market at work.

    Thanks for the laugh BilB #35- all we need is an experiment to find out the type of toaster that mice have adapted to genetically so we can advertise all the other brands “guaranteed mice free”.

  2. Ender says “Have a look at your free market capitalism mates bailing out US companies and supplying them with 700 billion of welfare payments. All the people in welfare in Australia would be hard pressed to get through this amount in a century.”

    In 2005-06, the federal government spent $61 billion on direct cash payments. This does not include expenditure on other welfare services. And this figure has increased significantly since then.

    Even taking into consideration different exchange rates, I am sure you would find Australia’s welfare recipients would get through US$700 billion in a fraction of a century.

    If you take into account things like health and education also, then you’d probably struggle to fund the welfare state for a decade on this amount.

  3. Jill@51:

    I wasn’t trying to argue that research takes place in a vacuum. Scientists are fallible people subject biases and emotion just like everyone else, and research takes place according where society directs its resources, which is a political process. A lot of money is being splashed around on clean coal research and carbon sequestration at the moment and a negligible amount on something fairly obscure like hermeneutics, for example.

    Further, while the Howard Government might have cut CSIRO’s funding for fundamental research, I’m still waiting for the Rudd Government to restore it; something which I can’t see happening any time soon.

    I don’t see private investment in research at universities in hot button areas such as mining, biotech or IT as necessarily a problem, as there is nothing inherently immoral about self-interest. If private entities want to pay, let them.

    What the government really should be doing is funding fundamental research, which is where most scientific breakthroughs occur, but which take a long time for their value to be realised by society.

    As I said in earlier posts, ‘the right’ does not have a monolopoly on trying to control scientific findings that they find distasteful. Nobody likes being told they’re wrong, it’s human nature.

  4. Nick K – “In 2005-06, the federal government spent $61 billion on direct cash payments.”

    OK fair enough however are you saying that the recipients of the 700 billion deserved it more than the people on welfare in Australia? Also that figure, like other forms of welfare, is the tip of the iceberg when you consider the money spent in other countries as well.

    However I do concede that I did underestimate the amount of money spent on welfare in Australia.

  5. Then some people simply see earth’s climate politically with all the alarmist warmers on the left. But the big misconception here is that sunnyboy doesn’t go to the ballotbox and vote on anything.

    JQ is just using his piddling anthropocentric mindset.

  6. Oh Kieran….sigh. Ben stated back at #32
    Politrical rhetoric ” is dependent upon charisma, group-think, fallacious reasoning, and a priori assumptions which cannot be falsified”.

    To those relativities Id like to add the use of the catchphrase stereotype….as in “all those alarmist warmers on the left”.

  7. I could turn that around Keiran and say I object “to all those shonky sneaky right wing corporate execs who commission tweaked and twiddled research and hire “for sale” economists to write a blatantly erroneous economic analysis” which they then spread through the SMH,the errors in which a first year student could have detected, (as some poor sold out soul compiled for the coal industry a few years ago because they didnt want to pay any carbon tax).

    But I really dont want to go there.

  8. “So we are talking about pseudo-science and its probabilities, not REAL science that actually predicts a future outcome and can repeat its prediction successfully many times over.”

    Yeah none of that fake science like quantum mechanics for Tony.

  9. I wonder if Tony comprehends Ian’s comment, I doubt quantum mechanics is on the standard science skeptic’s study list.

    “God does not play dice with the universe.” — Albert Einstein.

  10. Ender says “OK fair enough however are you saying that the recipients of the 700 billion deserved it more than the people on welfare in Australia?”

    No, not really. But I think that a lot of this corporate welfare is really a logical extension of the social democratic state. The problem is that the more that government grows, and the more that the state is seen as being responsible for covering risks and providing for everyone’s needs, the more groups that will inevitably try to go to the government for special favours.

    We are rapidly creating a society where working hard, paying your way, and not being a burden on others is basically for suckers and old-fashioned squares, and everyone is encouraged to overplay their neediness and victim status. Basically a society where everyone is a rent-seeker.

    This is not to deny that there are a certain number of people who are genuinely needy and deserving, and that some safety nets are beneficial. But the perverse incentives and moral hazard have reached unsustainable levels, and so economic collapse will follow.

    The other point I would make is that the US$700 billion bailout is actually relatively small compared to how much it will cost taxpayers in future to cover unfunded liabilities of programs like Social Security and Medicare.

  11. Hey Tony, saw your comments.

    Look, you’ve convinced me that the warming is not happening. Whats annoyed me recently though is that the arctic ice has been melting itself to trick us.
    With that in mind, would you consider signing the below petition.

    The Arctic Ice
    North Pole

    Dear Arctic Ice,

    Please stop disappearing at once. Tony G, a commentator at John Quiggin’s site, has determined that global warming isn’t happening, and your self-melting is clearly a deliberate socialist trick. Stop it at once ice!!


    Tony G.

    Tony, do I have your permission to write to the ice above?

  12. What selfish nonsense all this AGW stuff is. As though The Earth cares what gas is pumped into its current atmosphere or which bits of its structure may be lost or gained. Consider the hellish broil from which all life sprang and perhaps we might understand that The Earth doesn’t give a shit. Fire, flood, gas or ice will come and go and as conditions flux some life forms will flourish and others die. Species swell, distort and fade – ‘twas ever thus.

    Stop trying to change the rules and deny the laws of natural selection. The Age of the Hominid is almost over and it’s time to give The Age of the Cockroach a fair go. Stop being so bloody self-centred.

  13. Happy new year Ian,

    Nice try. We have been over similar ground before and like the AGW theory, many Quantum Theories have a problem with deterministic causality, as Einstein is alluding to above.

    The use of the classical concepts is not the same in quantum mecahnics as in classical physics.

    It’s because of the imaginary quantities in quantum mechanics (where the commutation rule for canonically conjugate variable, p and q, introduces Planck’s constant into the formalism by pq ? qp = ih/2?) that quantum mechanics does not give us a ‘pictorial’ representation of the world. Neither does the theory of relativity

    The ?-function does not represent a new kind of reality. Instead, the square of the absolute value of the ?-function expresses a probability amplitude for the outcome of a measurement. Due to the fact that the wave equation involves an imaginary quantity this equation can have only a symbolic character, but the formalism may be used to predict the outcome of a measurement that establishes the conditions under which concepts like position, momentum, time and energy apply to the phenomena.

    Anyway as JQ says “Either global warming will continue, finally confirming the mainstream scientific viewpoint, or it will not.” As you guys have made a prediction the causation nexus question will be answered soon…. the knowledge to do the same for quantum theories my be a bit further out.(so it could be a while before we get a QT tax)

    Pseudo-Tony G might of convinced himself the ice is melting, but as you are not real its not really melting is it?

    Ender @ 46;
    The government supplies money, sets its cost, regulates it and the financial intermediaries. Obviously they weren’t doing their job properly and so we had a melt down. Now they are giving it($700b) away. They seem to be acting more like your “mates” around here.

    Bye the way, Godwin is a closet socialist living in denial and engaging in “negationism” A Socialist Workers’ Party is exactly what it says.

    Theo @ 48 sorry, it should of read Artificial selection not natural.

  14. Tony G, I’m curious as to how you would define a ‘socialist’? From your comments here it would appear to be anyone who doesn’t agree with you?

    Nazism took its cues from both extreme ends of the political spectrum, but when push came to shove, it aligned itself with fascist/militaristic regimes against the socialists in Europe. This is why political scientists have traditionally placed Nazism on the extreme right (although once you take any kind of ideology to lunar extremes, they all start looking curiously alike).

    Just because something calls itself ‘socialist’ doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.

  15. Tony G – “Nice try. We have been over similar ground before and like the AGW theory, many Quantum Theories have a problem with deterministic causality, as Einstein is alluding to above.”

    So are you attempting a straw man here or are you just dazzling us with your ‘knowledge’ of quantum theory?

    Nice try however the problem of climate change is risk assessment not quantum theory. We understand the science of climate enough to assess the risk of climate change. Nobody will ever ‘prove’ beforehand global warming leading to climate change nor could you expect anyone to. We can only talk of risks. Right now the leading scientists in the field of climate science are saying that there is a significant risk of climate change from anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases and land use changes.

    Some people disagree however the disagreement is based on far less science and has a minute amount of the agreement that agreement with the risk assessment has.

    To mitigate the risk to some degree we can lower the emissions of these greenhouse gases and also try to restore some of the carbon sinks that we have destroyed over the years. As this has been portrayed as getting in the way of people making money and feeding their families nothing that will have an effect has been done.

    The wedge tactics employed by the vested interests have worked exceedingly well with debate reduced to Nazis (in your case) and hockey sticks instead of the real issues.

    Finally Godwins law was devised to prevent the sort of degeneration of threads, such as happening here, by a troll invoking the Nazi Party whatever the thread is about to distract people from the point. As you seem to have completely missed this point I have taken pains to explain it to you and hopefully stop all future spurious discussion of Nazis in this thread.

    BTW I have just finished Quantum – Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality by Manjit Kumar. Really interesting book.

    Have a read as it does have some lessons for the current AGW debate including references to religion regarding the Copenhagen Interpretation.

  16. The debate is not between ‘science’ and ‘the political right’. What’s more, left/right analysis of climate change policy is unhelpfully circular. More insightful is the fourfold typology of cultural solidarities proposed by grid-group cultural theory. This suggests there are four worldviews which can be labelled hierarchist, egalitarian, individualist and fatalist. John Quiggin’s view is broadly egalitarian, whereas the view of the Murdoch media (and Quadrant, etc) is individualist. Egalitarians are sensitive to large-scale social threats (global warming, nuclear waste, global financial meltdown, war) because they lend strength to the argument that society needs to become more equal, more sharing, more frugal. For egalitarians, group coherence is all.
    Individualists, however, tend to deny the existence of such large-scale threats, since social change is always an opportunity for someone somewhere. The trick is to leverage your skill and hard work to benefit from inevitable change. As the former treasurer of NSW said, ‘climates change’. What to one worldview seems unbearably complacent, appears as plain common sense to another worldview.
    But the debate is far from two-sided. Hierarchists take a third line. for them the key global warming question is ‘Who’s in charge?’ The problem of climate change is essentially solved by creating a ministerial portfolio and making sure everyone knows its level of cabinet seniority. Furthermore, climate change is a great opportunity for funding more experts (eg the IPCC) and a more extensive bureaucratic apparatus. Finally, a fatalist approach holds that nature is entirely capricious. The best we can do is to duck and hope to get lucky. Climate change proponents prevail when they forge temporary alliances between the different world-views. They fail when they seek to go it alone. Climate change ‘believers’ have forged an alliance between egalitarian and hierarchist solidarities, epitomised by Kyoto and its successors. Meanwhile climate change ‘sceptics’ have bridged the gap between individualists and fatalists, as shown by Australia’s coal export policy ( ‘there’s nothing we can do about it except make a profit’). But these alliances are unstable and failure-prone, since they depend on the exclusion of at least one solidarity. Marco Verweij, Michael Thompson and others have termed the more inclusive alliances ‘clumsy solutions’. It’s an unfortunate label, perhaps, but contrasts nicely with the kind of elegant policy failure we see so often on the part of policy purists, left and right. More on this at Fourcultures.

  17. No Tony, the Arctic Ice is melting, see the latest US Government reports (unless they are lying).

    Now, obviously it can’t be global warming, so it must be something else – like a socialist conspiracy. So again, do I have your permission to write to it?

  18. Fourcultures, i like what Richard Feynman says ….
    “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

    These four cultures that you describe, simply find and fool themselves. Science is about discovery.

  19. Ben –

    you said

    “although once you take any kind of ideology to lunar extremes, they all start looking curiously alike”

    a truer word was never said.

  20. JQ- when considering the positions of ‘left’ versus ‘right’ over climate change, it is useful to consider past environmental battles in Australia. My conclusion is that over the past 30 years, the LEFT has always been RIGHT on issues such as:
    * the problems with use of DDT in agriculture
    * the uselessness of nuclear power as a baseload energy source, especially in Australia
    * GW- Greenpeace ran a campaign in 1992, well before IPCC 4
    * the need for proper funding/support for renewables (first payment for private wind generated electricity was in WA in 1982)
    * the link between nuclear power and nuclear proliferation (India/Pakistan, Iran/Israel…)
    * water use in Murray Darling
    * salinity in WA wheatbelt

    and on and on. The RIGHT has ALWAYS been wrong, and the latest defeat for their ideas is the global financial crisis flowing from 20 years of government deregulation and privatisation of our economy.

  21. I think the (qualify – extreme to far right – there are some very reasonable moderates) right has also been wrong on appropriate economic policy (not just the appropriate response to climate change). What is of interest is that these views dont belong to one particular party and exist in both. The Hawke ? keating government went way too far down the de-regulation road and Howard came along and consolidated it. Look at Costa and Roozendahl!! CXommonwealth Treasury completely abandoned unemployment as a policy target, concentrating on inflation and as a result unemployment has been allowed to grow to something like 6 to 10 times the rate of the three decades post ww2. State Treasury pursued privatisations, didnt fight for their own method of revenue raising (instead going for the easier to manage Commonwealth government grants). No one has fixed the vertical fiscal imbalance that has contributed to run down (parlous even) state government infrastructure. The idea of government as a source of jobs and demand has been abandoned also with the public sector denuded and stripped and whatever they thought would trickle down as a result of this foolishness clearly got jammed somewhere. This cannot go on without great cost to the Australian economy which has already suffered enough under false ideological economic policy advice. Many people dont want 15 flexible hours a week work or precarious casual positions where employees have no rights. They just want to do a decent weeks work and be decently treated and the ability to manage their family – that means real jobs now, not jobs in the future if they swallow a bitter pill now.

    Climate change initiatives look to be heading the same way. While the governments kowtow to fossil fuel industries and impose pathetic carbon taxes – they keep hauling out coal exports by the tonne and exporting it. Really what is the point of asking the small population of Australia to lower their carbon footprint when government and the fossil fuel industry acts like bigfoot?

  22. What strikes me about this debate is that,as Professor Quiggin observes,the self-declared Right has lined itself up against Science, or to be more precise, Reason. This is but the latest manifestation of a disturbing trend, in which a once respectable conservative tradition has degenerated into a sinister irrational and reactionnary rearguard seeking to twist issues of genuine and pressing importance into vehicles for pursuing a vainglorious culture war they have already lost. So determined are they to defend an imagined beach-head that they would deny already generally accepted truths. The ridiculous attempted diversion above by ‘Tony’ just provides further proof, if any more were needed, of their descent into the darkness. Even liberal pragmatists such as myself are shocked by this crude attempt at polarisation. God help us all if the Right remains divorced from Reason.

  23. Mr Denmore#74, I dont want to congratulate you too much in case one of those dark knights thinks accuses you of turning left (moderate is the new left), but very well said and I agree 100% as well.

  24. ‘The worldly mind is born in darkness, lives in darkness, dies in darkness’ – so says somebody in the Upanishads. In Western terms all concepts that are human-centric are either ‘selfish’ (at somebody else’s expense) or ‘un-selfish’ (beneficial to one and/or all). There is no left or right. There is the human heart, from which flows beneficience; and there is the human mind – which when motivated by self interest attracts the blessings of that great servant of mankind, Pain! Like attracts like.

    If in a group you have a preponderance of individuals who are more generally focused on the growth and expression of individuality then they are recognised as belonging to the ‘right’. If more generally focused on the collective and the environment they are recognised as ‘left’. Both groups are necessary; both can be as selfish or as unselfish as the other.

    The human heart has no experience of duality; the mind knows it too well!.

    How long did it take us to figure out where the rain comes from?

  25. Ben @ 66

    “Just because something calls itself ‘socialist’ doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.”

    Oh sorry, now I understand what you mean,‘socialist’ negationism. “Just because something gets called ‘AGW’ doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. (unfortunately, contrary to the doctrine the world mysteriously cooled recently, so now we have to call it ‘climate change’)

    Ender @ 67

    “Nobody will ever ‘prove’ beforehand global warming leading to climate change nor could you expect anyone to”

    Why not Stephen?

    We are not dealing with microphysical events that we can’t make the measurements of, that would allow us to make precise predictions of what is going to happen.
    When in the macrophysical environment as the proponents of AGW are, then they must be able to predict a future outcome. The reason they can’t demonstrate causal determinism is that there is no demonstrative nexus between anthropological activities and global temperature changes. (up or down)

    Anyway on AGW we will have to agree to disagree. The Quantum stuff is quite interesting as was some of the alternate energy and environmental stuff I use to read on your blog. Just because I am ultra sceptical about AGW and hate excessive government with its associated waste, doesn’t mean I can’t be a fan of renewable energy and other environmental issues.

    Re 69

    “the Arctic Ice is melting, see the latest US Government reports”

    No Richard Cranium or whatever your real name is, there is plenty of Arctic Ice see for yourself. In fact 2008 had the largest extent for many years.

  26. I think the Right chose the easy expedient of blaming the loudest voices – Left-Green voices – for AGW, not expecting strong scientific confirmation and are going to regret that quick and easy resort to pressing their followers buttons, if they aren’t already. Having gone to some effort to persuade people it’s all hype and nefarious manipulation of their political opponents, they are now left with an entrenched chunk of loyal supporters who aren’t going to be quick to accept that they’ve been duped by their own. Better to still believe that it’s a hoax, a conspiracy, an attack on Business and society at large than face that worst of political indignities – admissions of being wrong. The worst denialism may be expressions of loyalty to their side, by those who don’t understand or respect science and see everything through a filter of political ideologies- and the more outragious and unsupportable their statements the more loyal they are showing themselves to be. But with climate science failing to fall like the house of cards they’ve been claiming it is and more and more real world evidence undermining those claims, their position is untenable.

    I think that underlying all the denialist arguments is the unproven but widely accepted orthodoxy that nothing people do changes forces of nature such as climate and the appealling to that orthodoxy has been easier and more convenient than dealing with complex science.

    The Barnaby Joyce’s will be a big problem for the Right, but I don’t think this kind of denial is confined to the Right. The Left has it’s deniers too, mostly closet ones who will, like Rudd, talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. Shorter term expediency will continue to dominate political decision making, thus we get a 5% emissions reduction target onshore at the same time as we increase coal exports that contribute 30 times that to global emissions.

  27. “Just because I am ultra sceptical about AGW and hate excessive government with its associated waste”

    The fact that it’s natural for Tony G, and others, to link these two ideas, speaks volumes about the rightwing approach to science (one that used to be prevalent on the left, but has now just about disappeared, fortunately). Work out the correct political line, then formulate your opinions on scientific issues to suit.

  28. Tony G – “Why not Stephen?

    We are not dealing with microphysical events that we can’t make the measurements of, that would allow us to make precise predictions of what is going to happen.”

    Because we are dealing with a complex system that we understand imperfectly. However the understanding we have now we are perfectly able to assess risk. We know the science behind warming however the exact effects of this warming on our planet is not clear cut and predictable. That is why we reduce it to a risk assessment.

    As an analogy despite centuries of crime data and research into crime would you expect anyone to accurately predict the date when your house is going to be broken into. However very large companies manage to make a living out of assessing the relative risk and correctly pricing this risk to offer you home insurance.

  29. The real problem for the JQs in this world is that there resides in many people a will to truth driven by a curiosity as well as an altruism. i.e. The will to not allow ourselves to be deceived as well as the will not to deceive. Why should we allow some arrogant designer try to codify their domination politically by seeking to take these abilities from our lives?

    Rather than the very timid, lazeybrained, consensus types let’s try the much harder true achievement of human potential. In reference to these snug, smug playpens like alarmist AGW, let’s just dare to step out and take in the bigger picture EXPERIENCE because when we speak of “experience,” the “ex” refers to “external” or “outside,” which is what science is best at.

  30. Ender @ 82: I would also add onto that comment that we are transferring that risk to future generations.

    Keiran0 @83: I’m not sure what you mean by “timid, lazeybrained, consensus types”? Are you referring to climate scientists or the people who defer to their expertise?

  31. Ben @ 79
    Yes in the same way AGW is something else as well.

    JQ @ 81 said;

    “Work out the correct political line, then formulate your opinions on scientific issues to suit.”

    That seems right considering you have deleted “renewable energy and other environmental issues” of science from your linked ‘ideas’ quoted.

    Your blinkered view highlights the lefts ‘excessive’ approach of trying to control everything, even what I say. Also putting forward metaphysical ideas as an “approach to science” “speaks volumes” of the lefts definition of science.

    Ender 82 said;

    “We know the science behind warming however the exact effects of this warming on our planet is not clear cut and predictable. That is why we reduce it to a risk assessment.”

    You can not draw a parallel with quantum mechanics as that has the end result and works it way back into the ‘presently’ invisible. With AGW you do not have a result yet, when and if that happens you will be able to.

    Risk assessment is not science. Stephen as I said above, on AGW we will have to agree to disagree as it is an argument that begs the question.

  32. So Tony G, if I understand this correctly, you object to the word ‘anthropogenic’ being used, because in your mind, this in some way precludes other causes for the upward trend in global temperatures?

  33. Ben, much of what we do in life does revolve around consensus, the will of the social majority and the weight of numbers but with science no matter how aesthetically pleasing something is, or how prestigious its supporters are, or how many billions of dollars a certain “religious industry” has bet on it….. it will always come down to ….. does the theory over-ride the evidence? Honest science is all about discovery and the greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

    Applying consensus to science means there is no thought of reason, humility, free inquiry, dignity, participatory democracy or the true achievement of human potential, because it is this systematic manipulation free of discovery.
    Am I “referring to climate scientists or the people who defer to their expertise?” … yes … both, where it is not opinion verses opinion but show me the evidence.


  34. Keiran0 @ 88: Those are my thoughts exactly. Science is not a democracy and the term ‘consensus’ should never have even entered this debate.

    In the case of AGW (or any other scientific theory), it all comes down to weighing the evidence. In this instance, the absolutely vast bulk of evidence comes down for the affirmative and there is trivially small amount that does not.

    For example, I could give to our friend Tony G, an enormous list of peer reviewed papers demonstrating the consistent upward trend in global average temperatures over the past century and no doubt he could provide me with some saying the opposite. Now given that neither myself nor Tony G are professional climatologists (forgive me if I’m wrong here Tony) I must defer to what the experts say the evidence is.

    At this point I have two options; I can agree with the experts that the weight of evidence that they have presented for the affirmative is indeed convincing or I can propose an alternative hypothesis e.g. it’s the most secretive and stupendously well orchestrated conspiracy since the CIA destroyed the Twin Towers.

  35. I’m a strong believer in AGW and a stronger believer in free markets. Where does that place me?

  36. To give credit where it’s due: @ 65 Tong G says: Theo @ 48 sorry, it should of read Artificial selection not natural.

    I like people who aren’t afraid to acknowledge mistakes (albeit, a minor one in the case). Giddy up!

  37. mp @90 I think

    A free market solution to “AGW” makes you a Left-Right-Left. Me, well i think an environmentally friendly free market solution to sustainable energy (on a case by case basis)makes me a Right-Left-Right.

  38. Germany has been increasing its GDP whilst its poulation has not been increasing to the ame extent. How? They haved adopted sustainability in production. Houses are not connected to the electricity grid but rather are mostly on solar etc 30 years ago when I was in Germnay – you could dump your excess packaging at the supermarkets bin in front of the supermarket (the supermarket pressures the supplier to reduce packaging). No plastic bags etc and we are still struggling with this one issue in Australia 30 years later. We need to follow German iniatives for sustainability of production. Where are you Mr Garrett and what are you really doing? We need to get on with some werious policy – not a pathetic 5% carbon taz.

  39. Tony G – “Risk assessment is not science. Stephen as I said above, on AGW we will have to agree to disagree as it is an argument that begs the question.”

    Never said it was. The scientists have done their job and assessed the science relating to AGW. They have given us a set of risk assessments that as citizens and politians we can either ignore or accept.

    With AGW there is nothing to agree or disagree on. The science is clear cut and you either accept the science or not. It like asking me to agree or disagree on gravity or thermodynamics. The science of AGW is basic textbook stuff that is well accepted. You can’t deny converting energy from chemicals to electricity and motion releases fossil CO2 and you can’t deny the behaviour of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    The EFFECTS of AGW is a completely different thing and it is here we can disagree if you like. I am siding with the weight of work done with models that predict some degree of warming over the next century leading to sea level rises and changes in weather patterns on a global scale.

  40. Ender said

    “Releases fossil CO2 and you can’t deny the behaviour of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

    Nobody is denying it is the job of greenhouse gases to keep the planet warm, although it does seem to have been getting cooler over the last decade.

    According to the IPCC, one thirtieth of the amount of carbon that goes into the atmosphere every year is emitted by humans, nobody seems to be denying that either. Although you can’t deny that it is only a very small percentage of the total carbon go into the atmosphere each year.

    The amount of carbon in the atmosphere has gone from 0.030% to 0.038% over the last 150 years, which is said to be unusual, although it is only a very small fraction of 1 percentage of the atmosphere, nobody is denying that.

    Considering about 97% of the carbon going into the atmosphere comes from some where else, it is probable 3% doesn’t makes much difference. If you Look at it as 3% of 0.038% of the atmosphere, it definitely looks like sweet FA and it is highly probably to be doing nothing. Hence no causation, no reducing polar ice extents and no temperature rises. Now if the poles do start to recede or temperatures rise, then you can start to look for causes.

  41. Tony G clearly lives in a reality-free zone. It’s pointless to engage him, so he’s best ignored.

  42. Tony G:

    it does seem to have been getting cooler over the last decade

    None of the surface temperature records, Hadcrut3, NCDC, or GISS say it has been getting cooler over the last decade. None out of three sums up Tony G’s credibility.

  43. NCDC overview;

    “Many parts of the globe are inaccessible and therefore have no data…..Using the collected data available, the whole Earth long-term mean temperatures were calculated by interpolating … can CREATE….[I guess something that]…..approximates the temperature of the Earth….”
    …..I thought the left were against creationism, but then again the proponents of excessive government will say anything to promote their cause.

    My old maths teacher use to say that the PC is an improvement on the pocket calculator, but it wont think for you.

    Where I live the highest temperature over the last 150 years was back on the 14th of January 1939 and the highest minimum temperature was back on the 6th of February 1973, if it is getting warmer Greenhouse Gasner Millers..’why is it so’?

    What is ‘cataclysmic’ is how a 0.0000114 change to the composition of the atmosphere can result in the worlds biggest ever research grant.

  44. Tony G,

    I prefer these guys They probably know a bit more about it than D’Aleo. Have a read of what THEY think the data for 2008 sea-ice extent actually means when looked at in context.

    Have another look at the links Chris O’Neill provided.

    No warming trend ?! Artic sea ice is back to historical (2002) levels ?!

    Man … you are off with the fairies.

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