Climategate revisited

Now that the main charges of scientific misconduct arising from the hacking of the University of East Anglia email system have been proven false, it’s possible to get a reasonably clear idea of what actually happened here. For once the widely used “X-gate” terminology is appropriate. As with Watergate, the central incident was a “third-rate burglary” conducted as part of a campaign of overt and covert harassment directed against political opponents and rewarded (at least in the short run) with political success.

The core of the campaign is a network of professional lobbyists, rightwing activists and politicians, tame journalists and a handful of scientists (including some at the University of East Anglia itself) who present themselves as independent seekers after truth, but are actually in regular contact to co-ordinate their actions and talking points. The main mechanism of harassment was the misuse of Freedom of Information requests in an effort to disrupt the work of scientists, trap them into failures of compliance, and extract information that could be misrepresented as evidence of scientific misconduct. This is a long-standing tactic in the rightwing War on Science, reflected in such Orwellian pieces of legislation as the US “Data Quality Act”.

The hacking was almost certainly done by someone within the campaign, but in a way that maintained (in Watergate terminology) “plausible deniability” for the principals. Regardless of what they knew (and when they knew it) about the actual theft, the leading figures in the campaign worked together to maximize the impact of the stolen emails, and to co-ordinate the bogus claims of scientific misconduct based on the sinister interpretations placed on such phrases as “trick” and “hide the decline”.

The final group of actors in all this were the mass audience of self-described “sceptics”. With few exceptions (in fact, none of whom I am aware), members of this group have lost their moral bearings sufficiently that they were not worried at all by the crime of dishonesty involved in the hacking attack. Equally importantly, they have lost their intellectual bearings to the point where they did not reflect that the kind of person who would mount such an attack, or seek to benefit from it, would not scruple to deceive a gullible audience as to the content of the material they had stolen. The members of this group swallowed and regurgitated the claims of fraud centred on words like “trick”. By the time the imposture was exposed, they had moved on to the next spurious talking point fed to them by the rightwing spin machine.

To keep all this short and comprehensible, I haven’t given lots of links. Most of the points above are have been on the public record for some time (there’s a timeline here), but a few have only come to light more recently. These Guardian story brings us up to date, and names quite a few of the key players (see also here). For the role of allegedly independent journalists in all this, see Tim Lambert’s Deltoid site (search for “Rosegate” and “Leakegate”).

Update I should have mentioned that much the same team had their first outing in the controversy over the Mann et al “hockey stick” graph. All the same elements were there – supposedly disinterested citizen researchers who were in fact paid rightwing operatives, misuse of accountability procedures, and exceptional gullibility on the part of the “sceptical” mass audience. Details are here (h/t John Mashey). Note in particular the role of Edward Wegman, who had the great appeal of being an apparent cleanskin without the kind of paper trail associated with the majority of delusionist “experts”. Here are my comments on Wegman’s silly and dishonest critique of Mann.. It was obvious at the time that Wegman had agreed in advance to do a hatchet job, a fact confirmed by his later appearance on delusionist petitions. But until now we didn’t have the details of the connection.

152 thoughts on “Climategate revisited

  1. …………..and Professor Jones said “that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming”.

  2. Paul Williams, better to let the man speak for himself rather than the cherry-picked non-quotes fromt eh journo at the top of the article.

  3. @Paul Williams
    For risk management, given the likely consequences versus the best estimate costs of adaptation? I’m sure someone more qualified than me can give a precise answer, but it would be definitely less than 50%.

  4. @wilful

    So you’re prepared to accept that the world is warming based on the trend from 1995 – 2009 being more likely due to random chance than to warming.

    Amazing.

  5. @Paul Williams

    You are getting a bit too excited over a tabloid spin on Jones remarks.

    Jones did not say he “departed from this consensus”, this was the tabloid.

    In this context Jones appears to have said

    ‘There is much debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period was global in extent or not. The MWP is most clearly expressed in parts of North America, the North Atlantic and Europe and parts of Asia.

    ‘For it to be global in extent, the MWP would need to be seen clearly in more records from the tropical regions and the Southern hemisphere. There are very few palaeoclimatic records for these latter two regions [and so on].

    This is the context – not the earlier tabloid confusion Paul Williams selected.

    Using tabloids for climate change science and scholarly honesty is like using tarot cards to cure cancer.

  6. Paul, you need to learn some statistics before commenting further on this topic. Wilful is exactly right, and I’ve made the same point before. Roughly speaking, 95 per cent significance means that there is only a 5 per cent chance that this trend would have been observed if the true situation was one of random variation about a constant mean. This criterion is met for the warming trend observed over any period longer than 15 years.

    The other feature of this is, of course, that Jones is being punished for being honest. It needs to be recognised that everyone prominent on the anti-science side of this debate is dishonest (the rank and file are merely deluded) and will twist any and all words out of context.

    See original post on “trick” and “hide the decline”. A useful test is that anyone who has used these words to suggest scientific dishonesty is either dishonest or deluded.

  7. @jquiggin

    John, I have only a laymans understanding of statistics, having somehow passed an undergraduate course over thirty years ago.

    I expect that you, as an economist, have a far deeper grasp of statistics.

    Therefore I am surprised that you appear not to understand that the 95% confidence interval is considered a weak level of confidence, statistically speaking. The 99% confidence interval is the usual standard in assessing significance.

    Jones admits that the temperature trend since 1995 is NOT statistically significant, even by the apparently low standards of climatology.

    The useful test that I apply in these discussions is that anyone who imputes a base motive to my opinions, or calls me a “denier” doesn’t deserve a respectful reply. (“Delusionist” is quite cute, though.)

    I think Jones’ punishment is yet to come.

  8. Paul

    Good to know that your statistical training from decades past has stuck with you to the extent of knowing that 99 is greater than 95.

    In terms of Jones’ comments about warming post-95, exactly how many observations is he using to reach his conclusions about statistical significance?

  9. Paul, if you had been paying attention, you would know that 30 observations is usually considered the minimum required for standard tests of significance to be of much use. Obviously, there are only 15 annual observations since 1995, or 14 if the data set hasn’t yet been updated to include 1999, which was one of hte warmest on record. Of course, we have considerably more than 30 years of data – the instrumental temperature record goes back over 100 years, and the upward trend is highly significant, particularly over the last 30-40 years. So, the question of what is the shortest data set to show a trend at some particular level of significance is academic in the most pejorative sense of the term.

    But what is the use of this? You have admitted that you have only the most tenuous grasp of basic statistics, you get your information from silly blogs and tabloid newspapers, and yet you are confident in your own ability to outthink scientists with years of training who have spent their entire careers working on these issues. That is delusionism in a nutshell.

  10. I don’t think anybody seriously disputes the notion that over the last 100 years the world has got a little warmer. It’s certainly not a point I’ve ever disputes.

  11. @jquiggin

    Thanks for the verballing, John. If you’ve got that out of your system, you might notice that it is Phil Jones who says, and I will quote it again since you missed it the first time,

    “B – Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

    Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level.”

    And further, you should tell Jones, not me, that 30 years of data are required before applying a significance test, since he supplies trends and assigns significance to periods of 21, 31, 24 and 35 years respectively.

    “A – Do you agree that according to the global temperature record used by the IPCC, the rates of global warming from 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 were identical?

    An initial point to make is that in the responses to these questions I’ve assumed that when you talk about the global temperature record, you mean the record that combines the estimates from land regions with those from the marine regions of the world. CRU produces the land component, with the Met Office Hadley Centre producing the marine component.

    Temperature data for the period 1860-1880 are more uncertain, because of sparser coverage, than for later periods in the 20th Century. The 1860-1880 period is also only 21 years in length. As for the two periods 1910-40 and 1975-1998 the warming rates are not statistically significantly different (see numbers below).

    I have also included the trend over the period 1975 to 2009, which has a very similar trend to the period 1975-1998.

    So, in answer to the question, the warming rates for all 4 periods are similar and not statistically significantly different from each other.

    Here are the trends and significances for each period:

    Period Length Trend(Degrees C per decade) Significance
    1860-1880 21 0.163 Yes
    1910-1940 31 0.15 Yes
    1975-1998 24 0.166 Yes
    1975-2009 35 0.161 Yes ”

    And in case you want to verbal me again, I’m not disputing that the world has warmed over the last 100 years, nor am I saying that the world is currently cooling.

  12. As I say, it’s pointless. You’re quote-mining material you don’t understand, in a manner typical of creationists, tobacco advocates and climate delusionists.

    Jones was naive to respond honestly to dishonest and loaded questions, but then he has been under a lot of pressure due to the vicious attacks on him by people who, as I pointed out above, have long since lost any notion of morality. Given the final sentence of your comment before this, I’m including you among them and banning you forthwith.

  13. @Paul Williams

    Do you realise that you can have similar rates, but vastly different outcomes.

    The outcomes do the damage.

    Is your only source a tabloid?

    What happens if the 1975-2009 trend is in fact a 1975-2020 trend (or longer)? Would it make any sense to note that the rate of warming was the same as 1860-1880?

    If you look at the CO2 concentration data you will see that the rate of increase is in fact also increasing.

  14. The basic problem with the questions is that the data periods have been cherry-picked, ex post, in a way that makes assessments of statistical significance meaningless. The warming of the last 30-40 years is significant precisely because the hypothesis of global warming was put forward in advance – the IPCC was established to examine the issue in the late 1980s, and there has been a lot of statistically significant warming since then.

    There is a genuine issue regarding the mid-century cooling, but this is already well understood to arise from aerosol emissions – the geo-engineering proposals that some anti-mitigation types like are essentially the suggestion that we should repeat this exercise.

  15. JQ

    Calling people names (shooting the messenger because you cant shoot the message)”creationists, tobacco advocates and climate delusionists” and banning them because YOU disagree with them, is not helpful in the AGW debate considering how unsettled the science now is. These tactics indicate AGW proponents have something to hide.

    Jones’ latest 15 years of 0.12C is significantly less than the 0.15 & 0.16 from the earlier periods.

  16. Did Paul get banned for saying “I think Jones’ punishment is yet to come”?

    If so I’m not sure why this remark evoked such a response.

  17. Tony G – I don’t think the science is any less settled than a year ago. What is now less settled is the integrity of several alarmists (including significant sections of the IPCC) and the prism through which the science is viewed. Personally I’m still satisfied that our CO2 emissions are probably warming the earth somewhat. I do think the media is at last starting to take the job of asking critical questions a little more seriously.

  18. Terje, if punishment fell where it was due, those who undertook the theft, dissemination and misrepresentation of the CRU emails, and who cheered on the criminals involved, would be getting it. Williams is clearly one of the last group and he is not welcome here.

  19. What’s settled, Terje, is the lack of integrity of certain climate delusionals and economic alarmists, you sadly being among one or both groups – I do mean “sadly” btw – and the nastiness of all of Paul Williams’ otherwise empty, ignorant comments I saw on this blog. These things appear to be settled, good riddance to Paul Williams.

  20. So @Tony G what is the purpose of climate denial?

    Is it to show us better science? or

    Is it to protect the short-range expectations of business?

    Where is your risk analysis?

    There are two possibilities:

    A: If climate scientists are completely wrong – what are the consequences?

    B: If climate deniers are completely wrong – what are the consequences?

    The cost of A is much less than the catastrophe of B. There is more happiness give A, than if we have B.

    So A is more logical, productive, efficient, and moral.

    The only thing we need is a bit more co-operation from our greedy businesses and their ideologues within the community.

  21. What’s settled, Terje, is the lack of integrity of certain climate delusionals and economic alarmists, you sadly being among one or both groups

    Frankis – I am not a climate delusionist. Nor am I an economic alarmist. And I whilst I’m far from perfect I’m not generally lacking in integrity. Perhaps you imagined these things.

    I’ve stated several times that I think the AGW theory is probably broadly correct (ie CO2 emissions are warming the planet). I’ve advocated a revenue neutral carbon tax and nuclear power as an efficient combination of solutions. I don’t think the ETS will take us back to the stone age or anything so dire but I would prefer to be without it. And I think that Phil Jones should be sacked. You don’t have to agree with me but calling me a delusionist that lacks integrity is a bit unkind. Why not just call me a bastard or something a little bit more endearing.

  22. Chris,

    “Is it to show us better science?”
    No, science isn’t perfect, so scepticism is healthy.

    “Is it to protect the short-range expectations of business?”
    I hate big business nearly as much as big government, so I am not rooting (Americanism) for either of them. In fact, I would be happy if someone invented a renewable energy solution that everybody could use at home, deleting big government and big business from a large sector of the energy market, regardless of whether AGW exists or not.

    Re A & B;

    The answer is probably some where between A & B; although the cost being proposed for A is to high, because as a general rule most predictions about the future are usually wrong.

  23. @Tony G

    To quote from the article “The total cost, $500,000, was paid for in part with a $250,000 grant from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities”

    I don’t think a system that costs 500000USD per home is really going to be the answer. But, hey, prove me wrong. Put one in your place and tell me about its cost effectiveness.

  24. Tony G :
    Chris,
    … although the cost being proposed for A is to high, because as a general rule most predictions about the future are usually wrong.

    How is the cost too high?

    How many predictions of the future, based on refereed scientific consensus, have been wrong? What are examples?

    Where is your risk analysis?

  25. “How many predictions of the future, based on refereed scientific consensus, have been wrong? What are examples?”

    More favourites loose than win.

    There is a “scientific consensus” that horse 2 is going to win race 4 this Saturday at Randwick, based on its ‘statistically significant’ form. The problem with ‘statistically significant’ form as well as most predictions about the future, is they have a ‘statistically significant’ chance of being wrong.

    Wilful,

    I know it is not cost effective at present, but it does demonstrate how much it would cost a family to become nearly carbon neutral and maintain all the modern comforts. I was just using it as an example that it is possible to get rid of bowsers and to get off the grid totally. Maybe many years in the future when fossil fuels run out and they improve the cost and technology, it might become feasible.

  26. Tony G :

    I hate big business nearly as much as big government, so I am not rooting (Americanism) for either of them. In fact, I would be happy if someone invented a renewable energy solution that everybody could use at home.

    Don’t let Austin Williams from the LM group hear you say that or he’ll be on a lecture tour of Australia telling us how solar panels are destroying the fabric of society.

  27. Tony G :

    There is a “scientific consensus” that horse 2 is going to win race 4 this Saturday at Randwick, based on its ‘statistically significant’ form. The problem with ‘statistically significant’ form as well as most predictions about the future, is they have a ‘statistically significant’ chance of being wrong.

    Sorry TonyG but no-one believes you.

    You are making this stuff up.

    But then you have to.

  28. Tony G :
    Wilful,
    I know it is not cost effective at present, but it does demonstrate how much it would cost a family to become nearly carbon neutral and maintain all the modern comforts. I was just using it as an example that it is possible to get rid of bowsers and to get off the grid totally. Maybe many years in the future when fossil fuels run out and they improve the cost and technology, it might become feasible.

    Not really Tony G,

    I’m no paragon of virtue, I live a very normal comfortably well-off life with wife and two kids, yet my family can ‘get by’ on about a quarter of the average electricity consumption of australian households. To achieve this requires very little effort, very little expenditure. There is a lot of low-hanging fruit in residential efficiency, but only if there was a decent price signal to push people – like an ETS or tax. A 50% reduction in that sector, based on my own experience, would be piss-easy.

  29. “You are making this stuff up.”

    That s what scientists do when they can not do a controlled experiment to predict a future outcome to prove their theory; they call it a general agreement (consensus)

    Wilful, if you can persuade 50% of the population to live in the dark, we can cut GHG’s by 50% also.

  30. Wilful, if you can persuade 50% of the population to live in the dark, we can cut GHG’s by 50% also.

    See, that’s where you come across as a complete idiot again. I’ve just told you I live a normal suburban existence on 25% of the average electricity consumption…

  31. @wilful
    Perhaps you and Tony G can reach a compromise where 62.5% of the population (allocated by random) live in darkness. That would be more sensible than pricing carbon and letting people make up their own minds about what approach they want to take to reduce their energy consumption. That kind of thing is just totalitarianism dressed up in market drag.

    *Just so as know one chooses to take the above literally read it in the context of “satire”……

  32. wilful :
    There is a lot of low-hanging fruit in residential efficiency, but only if there was a decent price signal to push people – like an ETS or tax. A 50% reduction in that sector, based on my own experience, would be piss-easy.

    Very true. I have done the same as you but eventually you run out of low hanging fruit. There are many more potential cheap solutions if a large market of informed people existed to make use of them. I am forever seeing great solutions to improving housing efficiency that are not available in this country presumably because of lack of interest. We also have electricity so cheap that most people aren’t particularly interested in where it is being wasted.

  33. In the name of god do not believe a whitewash. Read the Climategate emails yourself and you will see a massive conspiracy to hide or destroy data. Always go to the primary source rather than press comments.

  34. John, a lot of people see what they want to see, which may explain why you see a ‘massive conspiracy’ where nobody else who reads in an impartial manner sees anything except a few lines taken out of context (incidentally I am happy to disqualify myself as an unbiased observer too so please don’t be offended).

    If you have concerns about climate policy being used as a cover for other political objectives (bigger govt, etc) then this is a reasonable position. I disagree with it, but it is at least respectable. However when you need to invoke massive conspiracies to explain your position (which is what is required to be a non-scientific AGW ‘skeptic’) you look silly and quite rightly get ignored.

  35. Nick r

    “If you have concerns about climate policy being used as a cover for other political objectives (bigger govt, etc) then this is a reasonable position. I disagree with it, but it is at least respectable”

    If Australia cut its emissions by 100% it is not going to stop carbon increasing in the atmosphere at the rate 1.5ppm per year. It would have no measurable effect on the environment.

    So, considering how introducing an ets would have no measurable effect on the environment, please explain to us how introducing an ets is anything but “political objectives (bigger govt, etc)”?

  36. If for sake of a hypothetical, we took the science to be correct concerning AGW and that climate sensitivity was about 3C per doubling of CO2-equivalent in the atmosphere, what policy responses would you be okay with, Tony G? I’m genuinely curious here. What should Australia do, and what should the rest of the World do, policy-wise? The only criteria are that the policy should be feasible, and should be capable of implementation by a democratic government (in Australia – at the global level who knows what is best).

    Not looking for a fight just curious if any solutions exist that you could live with, if AGW was true.

  37. Well Don I do not even believe they have been able to measure average global temperatures over a sufficient time frame or to a tolerance or a decree of accuracy, that would enable any meaningful scientific conclusions to be drawn from there data. So when it comes to whether an anthropological effect on climate sensitivity exists or can even be measured, my view is even more sceptical of the science. n.b. science isn’t perfect and it is prudent to be sceptical of it. Science has been shown in the past to get many simple things wrong at first and AGW is very complex.

    I will agree there is strong evidence that carbon is increasing in the atmosphere at the rate of about 1.5ppm per year.

    Whether this carbon increase is caused by the burning fossil fuels, deforestation or just natural fluctuations; is something still yet to be scientifically determined beyond a reasonable doubt; Also if this increase in carbon is having any effect whatsoever, is still yet to be scientifically determined beyond doubt.

    Anyway, lets take the hypothetical view that the increase in carbon is caused by the burning of fossil fuels and it causes global warming.

    (1) “What should Australia do?”
    Australian emissions are about 1.5% of the world’s total emissions, so as stated above, if Australia cut emissions by 100% it would have no measurable impact on stopping carbon from increasing in the atmosphere at the rate of about 1.5ppm per year.

    So, if we have a carbon tax, an ets or turned everything off, it will have no measurable impact on stopping carbon from increasing in the atmosphere at the rate of about 1.5ppm per year.

    Answers to question (1); we are dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t; as nothing will be achieved either way, the precautionary principle dictates we do nothing.

    (2) “What should the rest of the World do?”
    There is ‘scientific proof’ that the globe’s atmosphere has been cooling at the rate of about 20°C every billion years; and has done so for the last 4 billion years. (4 billion years ago the earth’s atmosphere dropped below100°C for the first time, water vapour condensed, as was evidenced by the formation of the first sedimentary rocks). Global temperatures are now at about 20°C and if the long term global cooling continues unabated at the same rate, the globe will soon freeze over, having serious and deadly consequences for humanity.

    “At the global level who knows what is best”; but in the UNLIKELY event that humanity does possess the means to warm the planet, weighed against the ‘scientifically proven’ long term cooling rate and its deadly consequences, the precautionary principle dictates we should try to warm the planet.

    Answers to question (2); If putting carbon in the atmosphere is proved to warm the planet? We should be putting more carbon in the atmosphere.

  38. Tony G :
    Well Don I do not even believe they have been able to measure average global temperatures over a sufficient time frame or to a tolerance or a decree of accuracy, that would enable any meaningful scientific conclusions to be drawn from there data.

    But you have no particular skills in this area, and the qualified professionals can, and have, drawn the scientific conclusions.

    … my view is even more sceptical of the science. n.b. science isn’t perfect and it is prudent to be sceptical of it. Science has been shown in the past to get many simple things wrong at first

    And of course, so-called self advertising skeptics get many more things wrong – and, unlike science, have no methodology for correcting their mistakes.

    Unscientific skeptics are living in a fools paradise.

    Whether this carbon increase is caused by the burning fossil fuels, deforestation or just natural fluctuations; is something still yet to be scientifically determined beyond a reasonable doubt;

    This has been done, but deniers are now seeking for it to be scientifically determined beyond unreasonable doubt. This is a political quest.

    if Australia cut emissions by 100% it would have no measurable impact on stopping carbon from increasing in the atmosphere at the rate of about 1.5ppm per year.

    This is a drug dealers’ argument. If I control only 1% of the drug market then society should not waste resources gaoling me, because it will have no measurable impact on stopping cocaine from increasing in the social atmosphere at the rate of 1.5 kilodeaths per year.

    So finally the drug dealer, or slave owner, or child employer would conclude:

    the precautionary principle dictates we do nothing.

    Another trick by deniers.

    There is ‘scientific proof’ that the globe’s atmosphere has been cooling at the rate of about 20°C every billion years; and has done so for the last 4 billion years. (4 billion years ago the earth’s atmosphere dropped below100°C for the first time, water vapour condensed, as was evidenced by the formation of the first sedimentary rocks). Global temperatures are now at about 20°C and if the long term global cooling continues unabated at the same rate, the globe will soon freeze over, having serious and deadly consequences for humanity.

    Billion year trends are not relevant for decade and century-based phenonema.

    And now for the final, madness:

    If putting carbon in the atmosphere is proved to warm the planet? We should be putting more carbon in the atmosphere.

    Gawd – Give me strength.

  39. @Tony G

    There is a “scientific consensus” that horse 2 is going to win race 4 this Saturday at Randwick, based on its ‘statistically significant’ form

    This is a good example of the kinds of problem that arise when people not conversant with science try their hand at constructing analogies.

    The fact that Number 2 in race 4 at Randwick is the favourite just before the horses jump is not a “scientific consensus”. It’s a best guess — a model — with a very large error bar. The horse may be starting at 5/2 just ahead of one starting at 3/1 and another at 7/2. What that means is that our “scientists” (bookmakers) have taken the best data vailable and are guessing that the favourite has a 60% chance of not winning. The next most likely has a 66% chance of not winning and the one after that a 72% chance of not winning. The chance of none of them winning, though much worse than even is still substantial.

    This consensus fall well short of 90% confidence, as well it might. There are considerable areas of uncertainty. The system is dynamic as one horse can greatly affect the pertformance of another by falling or nudging them into an unfavourable part of the track. Perhaps the jockey will fall or make a poor choice which greatly affects his horse’s progress.

    The scientific consensus on climate change refers to events that have already taken place. To continue the analogy, it wouild be a consensus about how particualr horses perform over given distances under certain track conditions, carrying a certain weight with a certain jockey after a certain amount of post-spell fitness has been attained.

    The modelling of future impacts is much more cautious and has error bars on both sides, like race prediction. Unlike race prediction, which is a lot more like predicting weather than climate, the focus is on features of the system that behave reasonably predictable under certain conditions — ice mass balance, SST, thermal inertia, albedo, snowpack etc …

  40. Chris, Fran, I know I am guilty of this too, but how much patience does Tony G deserve? Seriously, we have all, mostly politely, and mostly very clearly, explained to him just how demonstrably wrong his statements are many many times, yet he unduobtedly still believes that he has bested all of us. So, forget him, his agnotology (thanks for the word Fran) is pure and untouchable.

  41. Yes I get sucked in too. Still the deliberate fuzziness of the claim that the basic science is in some way in dispute which relies on blurring the lines between long term impacts and regional climate on the one hand and past recorded climate change and its drivers on the other deserves a discussion, even if Tony G will ignore it.

  42. Tony G, what you describe in 43 is a prisoner’s dilemma. Every country would be better off if carbon emissions were reduced, however each country (individually) would also be better off to argue that it alone is too small to make a significant difference and therefore should be exempt, while the costs should be met by others.

    Unfortunately we can divide the global pie into so many small pieces that any individual can argue that their contribution is too small to be significant and therefore they should be able to free ride.

    This can be thought of as a form of market failure. If each agent (country/state/person etc) acts in his or her own self interest (i.e. not reducing emissions) a suboptimal equilibrium is reached where nobody has the incentive to reduce emissions. The solution is for a collective agreement to be made between the agents with some sort of enforceable top-down contracts to prevent arguments like the one you just made from applying.

    It is failures of this sort that make the extreme libertarian position difficult to justify.

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