Saturday, May 22, 2010

BBC: Roger Harrabin about types of AGW skeptics

Roger Harrabin wrote a pretty interesting BBC report from the fourth Heartland climate conference in Chicago:
Climate sceptics rally to expose 'myth'
You shouldn't be shocked that the text is far from impartial. The myth is written in the quotation marks while Harrabin himself complains that the vegetarians have been underrepresented, among other bizarre attempts to attack the skeptics.

But otherwise, he offers some meaningful insights into the sociology of climate change - and to the internal diversity of the climate realists in particular. You should see
Bob Carter's report which is even more sensible
but I will stay with Harrabin's text.

First, he has correctly figured out that "left and right wing thinkers are uniting over climate change skepticism" (it's the description of the audio box). Of course, skeptics are correct and their arguments are supported by impartial objective evidence rather than political dogmas.

So it shouldn't be shocking that you will find left-wingers as well as right-wingers among climate skeptics.

But the difference between these two groups can't disappear, anyway. Steve McIntyre turned out to be a key example of a "climate pacifist". Many people in the audience were disappointed to hear that Steve McIntyre doesn't want the hockey stick graph to be described as "fraud" and the players in the ClimateGate should only be treated as people who are wrong about something, not as evil people who did something bad.

Needless to say, a vast majority of participants disagreed with this statement much like I did (although they were almost certainly more surprised than I was because they don't follow every detail of these events in the same detail as your humble correspondent: Steve has been consistent about these attitudes at least for a few years, although arguably not from the beginning). But McIntyre has also offered the political explanation of his attitudes:
As a Canadian, he said, he was brought up to believe that governments should govern on behalf of the people - so if CO2 were reckoned to be dangerous, it would be the duty of politicians to make laws to cut emissions.
I completely disagree with this "straightforward" conclusion, too. Even if CO2 were found to be dangerous for the global mean temperature, a rational comparison of costs and benefits would still have to take place, and a competition between possible ways how to attack the problem would have to follow.

In my opinion, it is extremely unlikely that the result of this analysis would be that there should exist laws to cut the production of CO2. Even if one CO2 doubling led to 5 °C of warming, as the insane upper ends of the IPCC intervals suggest, it would still be counterproductive for the industry to be regulated away in the coming decades. The problems caused by this warming would still be smaller than the costs of the elimination of the appropriate portion of the industries.

Moreover, there would almost certainly exist geoengineering methods to compensate for the impact of CO2 that would be vastly cheaper than the CO2 regulation. And a task for sane governments would be to help these methods to materialize - and to fight against anti-civilization tendencies that want to undermine the economy and the sources of income for the government itself.

In this sense the debate is not a "left vs right" debate. The suppression of the industry would be a bad decision for the capitalist economies much like the socialist economies - and all the grey hybrids in between. This is about a careful evaluation of costs and benefits and an impartial comparison of the alternatives - and Steve McIntyre is simply not doing that.

Because of all these reasons, Steve may be viewed as a part of the irrational and pro-government problem who just happened to discover that something is seriously wrong with the basic pillars of the system but who failed to deduce the appropriate conclusions. His not-so-right-wing politics is arguably the main cause behind this failure.

Needless to say, Steve wasn't the only person with similar political leanings. For example,
Sonia Boehmer Christiansen, the British-based climate agnostic (her term), brought to a juddering halt an impassioned anti-government breakfast discussion with a warning to libertarians that they would never win the policy argument on climate unless they could carry people from the Left with them.
Oh, really?

Do people from the Left possess a universal veto power? Is it really them who ultimately decides - or should decide - about every policymaking question? We've had this arrangement for 40 years and thank you very much, I don't want it anymore. I prefer to execute anyone who represents a credible threat of a return to these "good old times" when the left-wingers may decide about everything.

Whether some policies will reflect the libertarian thinking or not will depend on the results of political competition which are a priori unclear, not on predetermined assumptions that the leftists can decide about anything and everything. One doesn't have to "carry people from the Left with us". It's enough to convince voters that the left-wing attitude to most of these policy questions is wrong.

At any rate, Christiansen's statement helps to show the vast pre-existing bias and arrogance of the leftists - and she's just an "agnostic". Be sure that the typical left-wing AGW alarmists are even more self-confident about the assumption that the eternal power belongs to them.

She also said:
Governments needed taxes, she said - and energy taxes - were an efficient way of gathering them.
Oh, really?

It's a sensible law in many civilized countries that the taxation of all sectors has to be fair - i.e. the tax rate should be uniform. And how important energy consumption is in this big picture? In the U.S., energy consumption represents about 14 percent of the GDP and the figure was close to 6 percent in 1999. So energy taxes are not an important source of taxes. On the other hand, attempts to suppress energy production could be devastating for all other sectors that are the main sources of the government money.

The energy sector has been reduced to a small fraction of the GDP because of technological progress and it's important for the modern society that it is so. There are many other sectors whose importance has dropped, if counted as the percentage of GDP. Food is important but it's a small part of GDP in the developed countries simply because people may be expected to do much more than just to survive and because only a small part of the people have to work in agriculture and the food industry. In the same way, the Internet connectivity is extremely important for the modern society - but it's relatively cheap, too. You don't want to artificially make any of these things expensive.

In the Czech Republic, the social democratic party distributed billboards that promise to confiscate the money of ČEZ, the main electric utility that may be considered very profitable these days, and use them for 13th or 14th pensions. Well, believe me, you can't get too far with these policies. As Margaret Thatcher said, the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money. The Czech Republic may eventually face some genuine problems after these socialist scumbags win the parliamentary elections that will take place in a week. Let's hope that the victory won't be enough for them to form the government.

Roy Spencer is both a sensible guy and a guy who doesn't share most of these left-wing preconceptions. He's also a Christian, so quite naturally, many of us might disagree about some of his ideas concerning the origin of life. ;-)

But I agree with many other statements by Roy Spencer. For example, many climate auditors would criticize the CRU data of Phil Jones for their being disorganized. Roy Spencer said that he could have similar problems with presenting the data he was using or producing 20 years ago - and I could probably say the same thing.

However, billions of dollars have gone into this or similar climate research and it's just bad that much of the basic data have been lost or became unusable. In some sense, it's the fault of the politicians and managers who were generously distributing money into the climate research. They have just donated the money to the wrong people. They should have given a much higher fraction to honest workers and their IT support who would guarantee that the basic straightforward data and calculations are kept and calculated properly and that they may be available whenever they're needed.

There are good reasons to think that this hasn't been a mistake but a part of the design.

Roy Spencer also said that the UAH and CRU recent temperature data broadly agree and one is unlikely to gain much by "auditing" just one of them. I agree with this, too. I don't understand the point of many of these "audits". The key questions are not whether 1934 was by 0.02 °C or 0.05 °C warmer in the U.S. than 1998. The key question is whether these approximately known effects - warming rates comparable to 0.8 °C per century whose non-negligible portion is due to CO2 - matter for the society. And it's primarily a political question so the main reason why people disagree about this question is that their political attitudes differ.

Various climate scientists explicitly said that they didn't come to the conference because they were afraid of the pressure from their home institutions and of isolation. That's how it works - the AGW alarmists de facto control the thinking and travel plans of many/most people in these institutions in the same way as the Orwellian totalitarian regimes did in the past.

Richard Lindzen has declared that the MIT is looking forward to his retirement - the retirement of someone who is arguably the best Earth scientist at the MIT. This fact itself proves how much the institution has been contaminated by people who care about very different things than quality science.

At the end of the article, Harrabin discusses the talk of Christopher Monckton who is, according to Harrabin, "not a scientist at all". I actually disagree with this proposition. He may have gotten into the discipline through less conventional channels but these days, despite some occasional imperfections, he's almost surely a better scientist than the average AGW alarmists who are paid as climatologists.

He's learned a lot, he understands the basic principles of science as well as the big picture and many (although not all) details, and he is incredibly skillful in the art of organizing the insights. Lord Monckton also has some political attitudes and they may be inconvenient for many people, namely the leftists, but he knows how to separate these issues. And Monckton's inconvenient politics simply can't reduce the value of his scientific conclusions and propositions, even though there is probably a "political consensus" in the Academia that his political opinions are not welcome.

This "consensus" says much about the Academia and it is not pretty.


  1. Well said lumo although living in a different part of the world I agree with most of your post.

  2. "it would be the duty of politicians to make laws to cut emissions."
    McIntyre didn't actually say this. RH has misrepresented his answer.

    Steve doesn't actually advocate for any particular policy.

    What he said:
    "...Governments should be allowed to govern."
    "If it's important to have a climate policy, then people should be able, one way or the other,
    be able to figure out how to do it."
    "I'd rather have good policies than bad policies."
    "In a Canadian sense, it just doesn't make any sense to contest the rights of government to do so. And I actually don't think it's a very helpful line of argument for the united States either."

  3. Any publicity about the ICCC conference is good, even the attacks in a way, since it give the rightfully impression that climate skeptics are an impressive bunch of very smart people with credentials.

    But the attacks have to be subtle and can't be to direct because every lecture and following QandA is taped and released in's video section. And I think that is done on purpose so that everything that is said during the conference is recorded and defends the attendees from any made up facts in disputes.

    I have watched all the videos released yet and can't wait for the final ones. And I have to say. I feel a great comfort to see my initial gut feeling as a skeptic backed up by an impressive bunch of unafraid open minded and free thinkers.

    Hell yeah I'm on the right side. And I'll take the skeptic lineup over the warmists anytime. If not just for the facts but for the lively positive people.

  4. I love history and have always been able to entertain the notion that history happened in local packets of striving and struggling. For instance, "Distant Mirror" and the history of the Black Plague.

    But now history happens on a globe-wide stage; the local packets almost don't matter anymore. IPCC and CRU and AGW fascinate me, but follow the story long enough and a world wracked by global conspiracies and interconnected power plays dwarfs the cozy scale of incipient East Anglia's academia.

    Someone(s) do indeed think globally and act locally. Alarmed, locals fight the local manifestations. winning some and losing some. Maybe I'm watching too much Glenn Beck and Crime Inc, but truly momentous currents of change writhe around us.

    I do fight locally the evil that manifests itself around me: I keep informed, I vote, I write and I argue. I also harbor a strong and persistent sense of dread that something large and evil readies itself to swallow history whole.