Tinfoil hats

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.

120 thoughts on “Tinfoil hats

  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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. @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. ” 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. 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”.

  10. @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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. @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.

  15. @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.”

  16. @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.

  17. @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.)

  18. 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.

  19. @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.

  20. @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’.

  21. @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?

  22. @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.

  23. @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.

  24. @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.

  25. 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.

  26. @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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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?

  29. 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.

  30. “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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. (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.

  34. @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.

  35. @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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. @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.

  39. @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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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?

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