Hand it back

The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed 35 economists and found 30 of them favored carbon price (tax, ETS or some mixture) over Direct Action. It quotes Chris Caton as saying “Any economist who didn’t opt for emissions trading “should hand his degree back”, says Chris Caton.

I’d take that a step further.

Anyone with a natural science degree in any field will find plenty of examples of denialist lies on everything from basic physics to bushfires. More generally, denialists have attacked the entire scientific enterprise with absurd conspiracy theories. No-one who endorses these attacks, explicitly or tacitly, deserves to call themselves a scientist.

Similarly, anyone with a degree that includes even minimal exposure to statistics should understand that denialists were misusing the concept of statistical significance when they claimed, a few years back there had been no significant warming since 1995. Subsequent hacks have had to move the goalposts forward to 1997. And that’s just one example of the cherrypicking dishonesty rife on the denialist side of the debate. So, anyone who claims to be a sceptic and hasn’t distanced themselves from claims like these should send back their math/stat degree.

Then there are those with university degrees, but without the training in science, maths or economics to assess the key issues independently. Anyone with a university education ought to be able to recognise the limits of their own expertise, and to be able to distinguish between bogus sources of information and the products of genuine peer-reviewed research. If they prefer the kind of nonsense circulated on denialist websites to the conclusions of scientific research, they should hand in their degrees and instead obtain one of the many qualifications available, for a modest fee and no work, on internet sites like those listed here.

103 thoughts on “Hand it back

  1. @Hermit
    I am not sure that people would all agree if we did all understand what we were all doing (I think Fran Barlow puts too much emphasis on a consensus which I think would take a long time after winning small battles to achieve – and I don’t think these small battles would necessarily ever stop) – *but* OTOH I am not sure a lot of people do actually understand what we are doing.

    I think this is largely a failure of public discourse – which is created by what is spoken by public actors/subjects in the public sphere – addressing their communications to what they deem either appropriate to or expected by other public actors/subjects and what, to some degree, (in the age of mass communications) is the audience ( not completely passive, but also not the main players in public discourse).

    When I took an intro economics subject for example, I found it was very difficult to actually be able to say things you might want to say using the frames and language expected of you – and the more heterodox economics text books say on environmental understandings were beyond my level of understanding to follow more than the gist of them. But I found that they seemed to be saying things that you can say frankly in private discourse and asides, but is difficult to even orient public discourse around to talking about without making vocal objections to what one could gather were a lot of implicit assumptions.

    While 100% consensus is unlikely I think, I would appreciate it if experts were more frank, and tried to convey complicated things in plain language to the *general public* who have to vote on things, and work out whether to attend protests (such as the upcoming climate change one on the 17 Nov) without spending all their lives studying these intricate matters.

    A lot of people may not want to make sacrifices, but a lot of people want to have children as well. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is in some cases like stealing candy from a baby.

  2. The LDCs (least developed countries) are apparently now prepared to cut ghg emissions, if the DCs make a firm commitment. Source:


    The idea that development plans of LDCs necessarily imply growth in ghg emissions makes sense if one assumes their development paths will follow those of the Europe-North America-Australia. But, as is evidenced in the IT app area, development paths (in terms of quality of life) can jump one or several historically given development stages. Classifying countries into ‘developed’, ‘developing’, and ‘least developed’ is a bit old-fashioned. The currently fashionable term is ’emerging markets’, which clearly does not apply to China.

    The point I am getting at is this, renewable energy is taken up in many of the so-called developing countries at a rate that is said to outstrip that of many DCs.

    There is another little observation which goes to optimism about the future. Young people are much less interested in driving cars than their parents and grandparents.

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