Niall Ferguson (or as close as I can recall) on Civilisation: Is the West History?:
“What you have to remember that in those days racism was cutting edge and was bought into just as readily as some people today buy into the theory of man-made climate change.”
According to Wikipedia science is “...is an enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world.”
So, what has climate science come up with that is testable, has been tested and not failed the test? There seem to be plenty of things that are not currently testable eg disaster in the future and a few things that have been tested and failed eg a new ice age, snow becoming an increasingly rare event. There are also statements eg that next year will be much the same as this year which have been tested, haven’t failed but at the same time are indistinguishable from the null hypothesis.
I seem to remember that from time to time a warmist will pop up and say if we don’t sort things out in the next five years or whatever we’re doomed. Presumably, some of these deadlines have by now run out. Have the warmists involved turned round and said: “It’s all over, disaster is assured there’s no point in doing anything now it’s far too late.”? It might not prove global warming but it would prove (or, rather, not disprove) warmist integrity.
I must thank Bishop Hill for posting a link to the 1990 Channel 4 documentary The Global Warming Conspiracy. Watching this first time round all those years ago was the watershed moment for me on climate change. Before I tended to believe, afterwards I never did.
It seems to me that despite being 20 years old now it is rather better than the more recent The Great Global Warming Swindle. Have TV documentaries gone backwards in that time?
It is also annoying that (unless I am very much mistaken) the presenter, Hilary Lawson, is and was thick with the ex-Revolutionary Communist Party crowd.
In no particular order:
- Recycling bins, containers and collections
- Car recycling laws
- The ban on incandescent light bulbs (incidentally, I will say one good thing for energy-saving ones: they start off dark which is really good when your eyes need time to adjust)
- Wind farms
- High-speed rail schemes
- Some of the fuel duty
- The law that demands that energy info is displayed on white goods. (That’s the law not the actual display which I suspect is actually quite useful)
- Carbon trading
- All those academics living high off the AGW hog
- Toyota Piouses
Can anyone think of any others?
I hate arguments. Especially political ones. They almost invariably end up in a slanging match. Lots of heat and very little light. Which is why, when I get the opportunity - which is becoming increasingly rare these days - I like to ask the question: “What would change your mind?” Because it gets to the point. If the guy I am arguing with can come up with some reasonably plausible answer to this then I know he’s being rational. If not then it’s a religious belief and there’s no point in continuing.
However, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If I demand rationality in everybody else then I have to demand it of myself.
So, let’s try it out. What would change my mind when it comes to Climate Change?
What is my mind for that matter?
I think I am neutral. I really have no idea whether climate change is happening or not, if it is whether it is caused by man or not or even if it’s a bad thing. And I have no real way of finding out. I don’t know enough about the physics, the measurements, the models or the statistics.
I am not, however, neutral on the politics. The idea that state violence - for that is what it is being proposed - is going to succeed here when it has failed everywhere else, is absurd.
And the fact that I have such a downer on state violence tends to colour my opinions on the science. Most of that - at least the warmist stuff - is funded by the government. So I have two problems. First, that it’s not independent (just imagine what would happen to their funding if they came out saying that everything is just fine). Second, that it’s done by the state (effectively) so it probably isn’t being done very well - something that the Harry_Read_Me.txt file would appear to confirm. [Hmm, climate science: the Austin Allegro of our age. Heh!]
So, there are almost no circumstances in which I would believe the output of government scientists, statisticians and modellers. However, if it were being done by people with no particular axe to grind and little or no political or profit motive then that would be a different story. If Steve Macintyre or this guy going through the code or, possibly, Bishop Hill came out and said: “I think it’s happening.” then I might well start to change my opinion.
Lots of people have been pointing to George Monbiot’s oh-my-god-this-is-really-awful article. And why not? Who wouldn’t want to see Moonbat’s mouth full of humble pie?
However, to my mind much more interesting is the second part of the article:
The greatest tragedy here is that despite many years of outright fabrication, fraud and deceit on the part of the climate change denial industry, documented in James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore’s brilliant new book Climate Cover-up, it is now the climate scientists who look bad. By comparison to his opponents, Phil Jones is pure as the driven snow. Hoggan and Littlemore have shown how fossil fuel industries have employed “experts” to lie, cheat and manipulate on their behalf. The revelations in their book (as well as in Heat and in Ross Gelbspan’s book The Heat Is On) are 100 times graver than anything contained in these emails.
In other words: “OK, so we’re a bunch of lying shits but our opponents are even worse.” I am going to guess that this is the fall back position. The defence line at Kharkov to ClimateGate’s Stalingrad. And I think we’re going to hear a lot more of it.
Which got me thinking. Does it really matter if the warmo-sceptics are a bunch of lying shits?
Let’s look at the case for Copenhagen:
1. Humans are changing the content of the atmosphere.
2. The climate is changing
3. This change is for the worse
4. The change in the climate is caused by the change in the atmosphere
5. We can model to a reasonable degree of accuracy both the change in the atmosphere and its effect.
6. The model shows that this change to the climate, if unchecked, will be catastrophic
7. The only solution is stop humans changing the content of the atmosphere.
8. The only way to do that is by the introduction of global socialist economic polices enforced by a global government.
You will notice that 7 and 8 (which are pretty dubious in and of themselves) are entirely dependent on 5 and 6. But 5 and 6 have (surely?) been blown out of the water. Hey, they weren’t looking great before the leak but now it is difficult to see how anyone can give them the slightest credence. And none of this has anything to do with warmo-sceptics. In other words warmo-sceptics can have been as shitty as you like and it won’t have mattered a bit.
So, George, I’d abandon Kharkov as quickly as you can. The next stop for you is Berlin.
If memory serves it was exposed as a forgery fairly early on but that didn't stop people believing it for decades afterwards. With results we all know about.
Let's just hope that history does not repeat itself.
Update. Thought I'd do some fact checking at Wikipedia. It appears I am slightly out on the title - it should be The Protocols of the Elders of Zion - and the date - it was early 20th Century. Oh and some people still believe in it.
Libertarians know lots about economics.
The Climate Change debate is made up of two parts: a scientific one - is it happening? if so, what’s causing it? etc - and an economic one - what should be done about it?
So, why is it that libertarians spend their entire time talking about the science and not the economics?
Let me put me like this. If you could prove that all the statements about the science - that it is happening, that it is caused by humans, that it’s going to be truly catastrophic etc, - were true, wouldn’t that demand a heavy-duty libertarian approach? Wouldn’t that demand a huge increase in human productivity and wouldn’t that in turn demand a massive scaling down of the unproductive/state-directed parts of the economy?
Frankly, if people were really taking climate change seriously can you imagine that such brakes on human progress such as the welfare state, the NHS, state education and the whole panoply of labour market regulations would last five minutes?
I see there is some uncertainty over whether the Chancellor’s “green” taxes are really green taxes - designed to prevent or mitigate environmental damage - or bad old non-green taxes dressed up in green clothes.
There is a simple enough test. Will the money raised be used to compensate the victims or not? Because if it is you’ve got yourself a green tax and if it isn’t you don’t.
OK, there may be no victims as yet (just when is Tuvalu going to sink under the waves for heaven’s sake?) but that’s no reason not to put the money into a fund for a non-rainy day.
How to deal with Global Warming
Many readers will have seen the reports on the news yesterday about the banning of good, old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs and their replacement with these new-fangled, all-the-mercury-you-can-eat low-energy ones.
But, as Philip Stott points out3 there’s more to it than that:
- They can’t be used with all sorts of light fittings
- There are all sorts of people who won’t be able to use them
- Councils don’t know how to dispose of them1
- In terms of life-cycle costs they may not even reduce energy consumption2
- This all comes from the EU
1. So, how come they can deal with traditional fluorescent tubes then?
2. Mind you, if we go all-nuclear then this won’t be a problem. But then, why ban incandescent bulbs at all? Lobbying perhaps?
3. On Apple’s evil blogging system
At the Berlin conference last weekend Ernst Beck gave a talk on the history of CO2. In essence what he said was that it was a crock. CO2 concentrations haven’t gone up at all and there’s nothing to worry about.
I’ve heard this sort of thing before. There are all sorts of dissenting scientific viewpoints out there stretching from “There is no global warming” to “There is global warming and it’ll be a good thing”. And then the economists get going with the debate over prevention versus adaptation. It all leaves me a bit cold. My problem is that libertarians spend much too much time trying to deny global warming rather than engaging on the level of “What if it’s true...” It smacks of running away from the debate which to my mind is a sure-fire way of losing it.
So, on the level of conclusions, I wasn’t all that hot on Beck’s talk. But it did make me think. It was how he went about his research. He pointed out that:
- the leading proponent of the increased CO2 concentration argument carried out his research on a volcano
- many of the early measurements were carried out incorrectly
- much data has been ignored
- CO2 concentrations vary both by time of day and by lunar cycle
- there are doubts about the accuracy of the ice core record
There were probably a few other problems with the CO2 argument that I have since forgotten.
What struck me was that it seemed that will never be able to pin this stuff down. And this is in only one tiny part of the case. If there are doubts here then there are bound to be similar doubts in all the other areas.
For some time I have been arguing that global warming is something that could be dealt with by the courts but I am beginning to doubt if even they would be able to come to any firm conclusions.
I notice that not a few bloggers have taken a look at the gargantuan emissions associated with Al Gore’s house, air travel etc and accused the climate change campaigner of hypocrisy.
Now, much as this is fun, knockabout stuff and helps silence a man who could benefit from a few moments of quiet reflection, there’s just one small teensy-weensy problem with it.
It’s not hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy means saying one thing and doing another. But that is not what the former Senator is doing. What Gore is saying is that emissions should in the future be cut by the use of coercive measures such as tax and regulation. Presumably, he would be happy to accept the consequences of such measures even if they affected him personally. Judging by the energy consumption of his house this could end up being quite expensive. But seeing as those measures are still some way in the future he can hardly be accused of hypocrisy in the here and now.
Now, if he were to be, in some way, opposing emission controls on the quiet or seeking to avoid having to personally pay the price, then he would, indeed, be a hypocrite - but to the best of my knowledge he is doing neither of these things and I have no reason to think that he is.
Frankly, Al Gore, in this case at least, is no more of a hypocrite than I am for using the NHS or state-regulated trains.
Update. Brian makes the point, albeit in a roundabout, you’ve-got-to-follow-the-link kind of way, that Gore is not quite as white (or should that be green?) as all that. Gore talks about dealing with climate change as a “moral imperative”, and therefore an individual responsibility. So, he’s guilty as charged and I take it all back.
I don’t think I’ve ever used one of these round-ups to link to Samizdata before. My guess is that anyone who comes here also goes there. And also because - for various technical reasons - Samizdata articles tend to slip through the net, round-up wise.
But I think there is a principle here. If this is to be any good as a round-up I should be giving space to articles I like even if every single reader has already read them. This is where to find the best articles in the Blogosphere, n’importe quoi.
Anyway, Samizdata is always good but this week I particularly liked:
...as people get richer and no longer have to rely on big families to support parents in their dotage, birth rates fall. It seems to happen pretty much everywhere, including in those countries with very different religious and cultural traditions.
Right, enough of Samizdata. Now for what has been going on elsewhere:
- Adriana doesn’t think much of television:
I stopped watching TV a few years back soon after I started blogging on Samizdata.net [did I speak too soon?]. These days when I switch it on for whatever reason, it feels oddly one-way and restrictive. You can’t choose what and when you are watching something you are interested in, the controls are pathetic compared to what I am used to online.
That’s exactly how I feel about television these days. Who else one wonders?
- Christopher Hitchens writes on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and “bogus equivalences”.
- Douglas Murray reviews Nick Cohen’s new book and picks out this gem:
I feel like a class traitor when I say it but the first lesson from the “heroic” age of the Left in the Thirties is that it never works like that in a conflict in which your own society is involved. You can be a critical friend of one side or another, a very critical friend as often as not, but you have to choose which side you are on, and those who don’t usually end up as the biggest villains of all.
- And finally… Latvia: they do things differently there
I see Channel 4’s going to broadcasting an Equinox special on Thursday challenging the consensus over global warming. I also see that leading dark age economics campaigner, George Monbiot, has been getting in his retaliation first. Somehow, I doubt if he’ll be alone. The really stinging criticism (from my point of view, at least) is that the producer of the programme is mixed up in the Spiked (formerly known as the Revolutionary Communist Party) crowd.
Might be an idea for libertarians not to nail their colours too firmly to this particular mast.
For other reasons too. Although I am a global warming sceptic (largely, ahem, as a consequence of a 1991 Equinox documentary), I have the attitude of “Never say never”. It could be happening. It could be a bad thing - it’s bound to be bad for somebody. It could be caused by humans. Not that I think that’s a problem.
Update 9/3/07 Brian Micklethwait says something very similar but better.