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104 responses to “I went to a circus and a science debate broke out”

  1. Tim Macknay

    I can answer your question about the 1976 weather control treaty, Mercurius. It’s called the “Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any other Hostile use of Environmental Modification techniques” or ENMOD for short, and has (I think) 49 state signatories. It may need to be modified if there is anver any need to use geoengineering methods to combat global warming.

  2. Tim Macknay

    That should read “ever any need”. Sorry.

    Great to hear the debate was civilised. Given the reports of previous similar debates, it’s actually quite remarkable.

  3. tigtog

    I’m glad you went along, Mercurius. I planned to but then my body decided that I wasn’t going anywhere today.

    I’m relieved that Jones et al played fair on this one.

  4. el oso

    To say I am surprised is a vast understatement. I had so clearly prejudged what the debate would be like, having seen an ad for it on A-PAC. Need to examine my prejudices perhaps! Seeing Alan Jones and Christopher Monckton on the same platform I assumed I knew what the outcome would be. Thanks for the chance to review my thinking. A-PAC advertised it for Saturday and Sunday night – can’t remember what time. Let’s hope some airspace is also given somewhere to the latest news on the authenticity of those proclaiming Climategate and the investigations published in The Guardian and other places which point to links with industry etc.

  5. dj

    Thanks for providing this report Mercurius. I watched some of it during my lunchbreak but I have too much on my plate at the moment to watch the whole thing.

  6. Duke of Windsor

    Excellent post.

    Perhaps this could be a template for future engagement with those folk?

  7. Fran Barlow

    Mercurious said:

    One gentleman attempted to suggest that, since a lot of the world’s carbon is in the oceans, it is water vapour evaporating from the oceans, and not fossil fuels, that is causing warming

    Laughable obviously, but there are two tangential salient points

    1. CO2 in the upper clines of the ocean diminishes the effectiveness of ocean sinks over time. In the long run, the relationship between human emissions and atmospheric concentrations depends on the sinks maintaining their rates of uptake.

    2. CO2 in the upper clines of the ocean works exactly as it does in the atmosphere in that it warms the upper clines by trapping heat. Higher rates of evaporation and warmer temperatures in the lower troposphere underpin higher humidity and thus work as an amplifier. So when that meme about water vapour being the most significant GHG is trotted out by the agnotologists, we ought to point out that more CO2 means more H20 in vapour form at any given time and thus even the warming one can attribute to water vapour is driven in part by elevated CO2.

  8. grace pettigrew

    Dr Tim Lambert deserves our thanks, over and over again. His blog has been my go-to place for debate updates and Bolt demolition for quite a while now. I don’t know how he keeps it up frankly.

  9. Peter

    Glad you went, however can’t agree with this:

    I think perhaps the most important thing that came out of the debate is that it takes a lot of wind out of denialist sails when they meet a real-life supporter of AGW science and realise that we are not trying to drag civilisation back to the stone age, prevent people from having babies, wreck the economy, keep the developing nations in poverty, or any of the other shibboleths that drive the denialist circus.

    You don’t have to venture far into LP or the Left to see that is exactly want a sizeable minority *do* want.

  10. Mercurius

    Peter, really? I don’t know anybody who lives up to your caricature. Dare I pull a Bolt on you, and ask you to “name 10”?

    But then, without an absurd caricature of baby-eating opponents, like I said, a lot of the huff and puff goes out of the denialist bandwagon. That’s what was so refreshing about today’s function. Instead of a bar fight, a civilised discussion broke out. It’s a shame you missed it. Maybe you can catch it on A-PAC if you donate to Murdoch via Foxtel? 😉

    There’s a lesson here in the depersonalising effects of blogs/internet-mediated discussion, that facilitates the dehumanising and demonising of opponents. But, thankfully, few have the stomach for such coarseness, up close and personal. The pitch of the discussion fell well short of the screech-fest that so often occurs online.

  11. Fine

    Good to know, Mercurius. I don’t envy you the experience.

  12. Peter

    Merc, you obviously don’t get out much do you? I could easily name 10 just on LP, but it would take a while and I seriously couldn’t be bothered.

  13. Ken Lovell

    Mercurius @ 10: ‘ But, thankfully, few have the stomach for such coarseness, up close and personal.’

    Regrettably, reports of all kinds of recent public meetings in the USA suggest you might be too sanguine.

    I suspect the venue had a chilling effect; I just can’t imagine anyone getting personally confrontational in such an archetypically corporate setting as the Hilton Grand bloody Ballroom. Maybe if they transferred it to The Domain, or even Parramatta Leagues Club, the outcome might have been different.

  14. Fran Barlow

    Peter said:

    I could easily name 10 just on LP, but it would take a while and I seriously couldn’t be bothered.

    That’s a testable claim. Please demonstrate it here and now or withdraw it as hyperbole before you look even sillier.

    Those on the agnotological side of this matter like making outlandish claims and I believe they should be called on them. If it is as easy as you say, then you should be able to knock the whole thing off in ten minutes.

  15. CMMC

    Were there LaRouchites outside the venue, spruiking their voodoo as I have read they were outside Melbourne’s Monkton pantomimes?

  16. David Irving (no relation)

    Peter @ 12 probably means me, Fran. Although I don’t want to drag us back to the stone age (I value modern dentistry), I often get sufficiently depressed to posit that as a possible outcome.

  17. Moz

    not trying to drag civilisation back to the stone age, prevent people from having babies, wreck the economy, keep the developing nations in poverty, or any of the other shibboleths that drive the denialist circus.

    I think there’s a few of us who would like at least one of those, depending on how they’re defined. Specifically, there’s some support for changing the economy away from “unending growth is critically important”. Which counts as a huge change and definitely a negative one.

    I am happy to be counted as saying that while we only have one planet we will inevitably reach a point where growth must stop, and I think we’ve exceeded the limits of currently foreseeable technology to support the currently foreseeable population. Arguably we’ve already passed that point, purely on the basis we can’t support everyone living at the minimum standard used in Australia.

  18. zoot

    OK we’ve got one (sort of). Who are the other 9 Peter?

  19. Chookie

    Is it acceptable to offer bribes so as to appear on Peter’s list?

  20. patrickg

    Good write up, Merc, and it’s actually quite heartening to hear accounts like this: the op-eds and blog comments can get you down after a while.

  21. Robert Merkel

    While the caricature is obviously just that, on the more mild claim that growth and environmental sustainability are incompatible, you may remember this post, which quoted a study whose title was “Growth isn’t Possible”, which argued that energy constraints represented a hard limit to growth.

  22. Mercurius

    @21 actually I missed that one Robert, but here’s the interesting thing:

    Monckton’s thesis, and concluding appeal to the audience, rested on a false dichotomy that either we do something to reduce carbon emissions or we allow the developing nations to lift the 2 billion people currently living in immiserated poverty into something resembling a decent standard of living, but that we can’t do both.

    So how does that square with the ‘hard limits to growth’ thesis? Do the people you cited in your comment and Mark’s post come round full circle to meet Monckton’s position that we face a choice between unlimited fossil fuel burning, or billions continuing to live in misery?

    Monckton’s argument was essentially the “white man’s burden” in 21st-century drag. We must, says Monckton, let developing countries burn as much fossil fuel as they need to provide the electricity needed to establish a life-sustaining infrastructure to increase life expectancy. The only thing missing from his theatrical presentation of this point was mournful violins over a picture of a starving African. Quite why this can only be achieved with fossil fuels, or why it’s an either-or choice, is not explained, but assumed. It reminds me of “white man’s burden” arguments that European powers used to explain why they must continue to occupy foreign lands, in order to help lift the poor people out their misery, you see.

    Current UN world population projections have us maxing out around 9 billion by 2050, and steadily declining from there as populations stabilise in developed regions. ie. there is no ‘unlimited growth’ future scenario: the world’s population is expected to stabilise, then retreat slightly. So there really is an upper finite ceiling on our projected resource demands upon the world – the solution to reaching this sustainably becomes essentially technological, economic and political, informed of course by basic science.

    Monckton opened his presentation with a rather mischievious chart that plotted a positive correlation between national average life expectancy, and per-capita carbon emissions. It’s a spurious correlation of course: I could plot a similar chart showing a positive correlation between life expectancy and income tax rates (look, the high-taxing countries have longer life expectancies! We should increase taxes to live longer!)

    To suggest, as you do that “growth and environmental sustainability are incompatible” is anything but a ‘mild claim’. Yes of course there are finite limits in the energy accounting of the planetary system, but beyond that we have all of human ingenuity and problem-solving to devote to that problem. The feeling I got in the room today is that nobody wants to trash the planet, and nobody wants us to return to the stone age, and that everybody wants all of humanity to live a decent dignified life, and that everybody wants our descendants to live on a climatically safe and habitable planet. We’re all on the same page, let’s not tear it to shreds, please.

  23. The Amazing Kim

    we are not trying to drag civilisation back to the stone age, prevent people from having babies, wreck the economy, keep the developing nations in poverty, or any of the other shibboleths that drive the denialist circus.

    You don’t have to venture far into LP or the Left to see that is exactly want a sizeable minority *do* want.

    I’d like to try and prevent people from having babies, just because it would be funny. What would it be – some sort of huge elastic device that tethers people just out of each others’ reach? Magnetic chastity belts that repel each other? Hiring old ladies to follow lustful young people around and hit them with wooden spoons if they make eye contact? Kittens for anyone who needs to satisfy their nurturing instincts? The possibilities are endful.

    I heard something in passing on the radio news about Mr. Monckton claiming that global warming activists had disrupted something today? Did I hear right?

  24. Moz

    To suggest, as you do that “growth and environmental sustainability are incompatible” is anything but a ‘mild claim’… all of human ingenuity and problem-solving to devote to that problem.

    I agree that everyone would like it solved. Ideally by someone else.

    I’m enough of a cynic to suggest that we have had enough food to feed the world for the last 50 years or more, but somehow a lot of people still experience famine. My hope for the future doesn’t stop me feeling that the outcome in Copenhagen was no surprise and without a significant change in approach we’re going to end up in the same position wrt AGW as we have with hunger, nuclear weapons, landmines and even whaling. How far down the scale do we have to go to find a sample solution that’s worked?

    It’s cliche tragedy of the commons stuff, where huge relative benefits flow to defecters and first movers accrue significant costs relative to late movers. The trick is coming up with a way to punish defecters, but that’s tricky when the major players are the biggest defecters. In that sense it’s more like the Palestine problem than Somalia or Timor (not that any of those have worked out terribly well anyway.

  25. The Amazing Kim

    And it was really hard to hear the questions, but I believe one lady asked that if sea levels were expected to rise, why do politicians still own waterfront property.

  26. Mercurius

    @25: Yaaas, not quite – The question was along the lines of “what do I tell my daughters…?” as in “if sea levels are expected to rise, where should I tell my daughters to buy land so that in the future they’ll be on the waterfront…” it was a non-serious question and received a non-serious answer.

  27. Gummo Trotsky

    Re Mercurius @ 22:

    if the issue is the “white man’s burden” then it falls to “white men” everywhere to accept major cuts in their carbon emissions, so that the rest of humanity can raise their standard of living at least to the point where good quality dentistry is available to all (DI (nr) @ 16).

  28. Peter

    I rest my case.

  29. Peter

    Moz @ 24 said:

    I’m enough of a cynic to suggest that we have had enough food to feed the world for the last 50 years or more, but somehow a lot of people still experience famine.

    You haven’t figured this out yet??????????? The answer is staring you in the face but you will not find it on LP – in fact you will find the cause.

  30. Mercurius

    @15 CMCC I didn’t notice any LaRouchites selling teh crazy outside the venue. There were a few of them inside the room, trying to ask questions and getting agitated. But Ken @13 may be onto something with the contention that the Hilton “atmosphere” may have a had a chilling effect. It’s difficult to carry on like a fruitcake when you’re surrounded by beige velour and ambient mood lighting.

    I had quite a diverting time just watching the audience. An awful lot of sour, sour, heavily-lined faces. A lot of hearing aids and some walking aids too. A lot of squinting and peering over eyeglasses. No napping or wandering off, at least – it was a very engaging discussion. The only ones cracking a wry crafty smile occasionally were some of the senior females. But the men, to a man, wore the dreadfully, dreadfully furrowed expression of the chronically constipated.
    The younger audience (about 1 in 20) were pretty much all denialist, and most had the same unfocused, glazed, boggle-eyed, mouth-breathing expression I’m more familiar with from attending Socialist Alternative rallies. I just maintained a warm friendly smile and relaxed demeanour, which seemed to make them even more nervous.

  31. wbb

    An awful lot of sour, sour, heavily-lined faces. A lot of hearing aids and some walking aids too. A lot of squinting and peering over eyeglasses.

    Oh well, at least you didn’t describe them as old, angry and white.

  32. Phillip W

    I was there at the Hilton too. I am a sceptic, but was impressed with both speakers and really appreciated the genuine debate on the science without the name-calling that so often occurs on blogs.

  33. wbb

    And what did you gain from the debate, Philip W?

  34. billy bob

    If the climate change proponents are stating that global warming is man- made, then by 2050 how does mother earth sustain a population of 10 Billion people? So in order to reduce the carbon footprint over the next 40 years will the extra 3.2 billion people be given bicycles for transportation, tents to sleep in and food scraps to live on. The bicycles will reduce air pollution, the tents will save on electricity and the food scraps will save the forests being destroyed for food production.

  35. Mercurius

    @wbb, that’s what I saw. A lot of sour faces and pained expressions. As it happens, they were actually old, angry and white, but I left that description out of the post because I knew it would get people’s backs up. But, sorry, it’s a fact. That was the audience – old, angry and white. Alan Jones listeners. Fact, not caricature, not perception. It’s an “inconvenient truth”, if I dare say so. I actually began to count the people in the room by age group, but gave up when I got to 95 consecutive “old, white” people, with nothing else. The ‘angry’ came from the questioning, the grumbling, and the pained expressions.

    They were also attentive, polite, listened in good faith, applauded both proponents in equal measure and, I think, witnessed possibly their first public science debate.

    ….aaaaand, thank you billy bob @34. Back to nonsense caricatures, and false dichotomies, I see. What scientific and engineering data tells you that reducing carbon footprints necessarily means compulsory bicycles, tents and food scraps? Oh, that’s right, it’s your fevered imagination, nothing more.

    Why can’t a mature discussion last longer than 5 posts on the internet? *sigh*

  36. Smithy

    It’s amusing and sad at the same time that the warmers are having kittens now because the “Science is NOT settled”. They now try and stereotype all rational thinkers as angry old and white. Do these warmers realize that in many (non industrialized) societies. The Elders would be giving the counseling and making the decisions that would affect the survival of the whole group? Just a thought.
    The warmers are getting jumpy because the climate is not co-operating with their scary bedtime story.

  37. Robert Merkel

    To suggest, as you do that “growth and environmental sustainability are incompatible” is anything but a ‘mild claim’. Yes of course there are finite limits in the energy accounting of the planetary system, but beyond that we have all of human ingenuity and problem-solving to devote to that problem.

    Perhaps I should have said “seemingly milder claim”. As you correctly perceive, it’s a very, very big claim.

    Anyway, to get back to Monckton’s thesis, his graph may be mostly spurious at the high end, but a minimally-decent standard of living with something approaching western life expectancies does require a certain minimum amount of energy use – refrigeration, sewers, garbage trucks, heating in cold climates, stoves that aren’t powered directly by the combustion of animal dung – that’s higher than the average energy consumption in rural sub-Saharan Africa, or India, and so on.

    If you accept the argument that this energy can only come from fossil fuels, and you want to reduce global consumption of them, that implies two possibilities – either that energy can’t be supplied to the third world (cue Monckton’s violins) or, alternatively, that consumption in the west must be reduced considerably – and, if you accept the direct linear correlation between CO2 emissions and living standards, considerably lower living standards in the rich countries.

    My guess is that while Monckton emphasises the first of those possibilities, what really bothers his audience is the second.

    You’ve correctly noted that the assumption that the energy required has to come from fossil fuels is utter tosh; secondly, beyond that minimum level, the correlation between emission levels and standard of living is not strong (compare, say, the United States and France), and energy usage could be radically cut in many areas with little or no impact on standards of living.

    As a simple matter of fairness, if we had no option but to cut living standards in the rich countries to allow poor countries the resources for a decent standard of living compatible with a sustainable environment, we’d have to make the argument for that. But regardless of the ethics of the position, it’s a much tougher political sell than the actual situation – while mitigating climate change is not going to be cost free, we can simultaneously maintain and improve standards of living in the rich world, lift the poor world out of poverty (or, at least, greenhouse emissions don’t represent a barrier to doing so), and stabilize the climate.

    It sounds like Lambert made that case well. I reckon it’s the key to taking the wind out of the denialist sails.

  38. Mercurius

    Thanks for clarifying, Robert. Without meaning to be bone-headedly simplistic about it, I’ve never seen an in-principle problem with a strategic choice that aims to develop non-carbon energy sources, with the goal of enabling billions more people to live a decent, dignified, life.

    Yes, it’s a vastly difficult technical and engineering challenge, but as a strategic choice, it looks like the best of all possible worlds to me – more people, living decent lives, on a climatically stabler, healthier planet. Who wouldn’t want that? Am I being rose-coloured? Yes, perhaps. But Shirley we can agree that we’d all prefer to get to that future than to the futures envisioned by the zero-sum, carbon-only thinking of Monckton, or Malthusian catastrophic thinking? Like Columbus, we gotta imagine there’s something over the horizon, point that way, and hope we don’t just sail off the edge…

  39. Dan

    “It sounds like Lambert made that case well. I reckon it’s the key to taking the wind out of the denialist sails.”

    I’m afraid I thought Tim Lambert was very weak. I desperately wanted him to take Monckton down a peg or two, but from a debating point of view I think he was extremely unpersuasive. Monckton is a showman with seemingly endless data at his fingertips (much of which is inaccurate). If he is to be given a platform, then he needs an opposition that can quickly pull apart his arguments and return the discussion to the most relevant points. Monckton’s position is well known, so preparation would help here. Lambert was left floundering on many occasions. His habit of slowly clarifying each question suggested he was really struggling and his summary was very poor (still available on smh video news).
    The IPCC need an Australian champion. Someone informed, charismatic and able to get the complex issues over to joe public. I had to remind myself yesterday that I don’t support the denialists. As far as the debate was concerned, I was won over.

    Thanks to Tim for having a go, but I would suggest that a stronger debater is needed.

  40. Robert Merkel

    Thanks for clarifying, Robert. Without meaning to be bone-headedly simplistic about it, I’ve never seen an in-principle problem with a strategic choice that aims to develop non-carbon energy sources, with the goal of enabling billions more people to live a decent, dignified, life.

    Sure, and I didn’t for a moment think you did!

    I was just suggesting that there are people – who (like Monckton) believe that no such strategic choice exists, (unlike Monckton) accept global warming, and make the implication that western living standards need to be sharply reduced as a consequence.

    There may well be other environmental issues where we can’t avoid sacrifices in living standards to solve. I think that providing typical western quantities of red meat to nine billion people is likely to prove environmentally impossible (unless we figure out how to grow meat in a vat).

  41. wbb

    I think that providing typical western quantities of red meat to nine billion people is likely to prove environmentally impossible


    Likewise impossible is providing to the other 6 billion of the world’s population:

    0.75 cars per person
    1.8 a/c units
    0.4 overseas trips per year
    1.3 interstate flights per year
    8000km car travel per year
    3 TVs, 3 computers; 2 fridges, 24*7 hot water; in every house
    a house per 2.2 people
    and basically all the other stuff that comprises $50,000 of economic activity per head per year.

    Unless we figure out how to make electricity from the sun!

    (All actual figures derived by the Monckton method.)

  42. Peter

    Fran?? You’ve gone rather quiet! I didn’t have to name 10, a few have already volunteered.

  43. PB

    I saw it streamed. Maybe perception is distorted by electronic viewing but I thought that AJ was just a bit too keen to throw his lot in with Monckton. It wasn’t as bad as it could be, but it was certainly there.

  44. Robert Merkel

    wbb: the energy to support all of those is doable in an environmentally sustainable way in the longer term. Even with present technology, the only real problem is storing the stuff, not extracting it from wind or the sun.

    The only one that’s problematic is plane travel. Even in that case, if governments have the collective gumption to put cost pressure on conventional plane travel, I’m pretty sure viable alternatives will show up in much shorter order than is usually assumed.

  45. Brian

    1. As Robert says, there is unlimited renewable energy available now. At some time in the future it will become available at acceptable cost everywhere in the world.

    2. To feed ourselves we may have to manufacture staple commodities from component chemicals as suggested by Lovelock, rather than covering the planet with monocultures.

    3. Population will be limited by educating and empowering women.

    4. Freshwater availability is a problem. Too complex for me to solve, but with energy as per 1 above desalination is one avenue, and with food as per 2 above, perhaps we need less of it for growing food. There is potential for rainwater harvesting in cities, more recycling and perhaps rainmaking technologies. Ultimately there is plenty of water in the air itself if we can extract it cheaply enough.

    5. Food production as per 2 above would be necessary if we are going to give other species on the planet reasonable living space.

    In sum, it’s all doable, but the trick is going to be getting there without completely stuffing the place on the way.

    My own view is that we need to take big-monied influence out of politics as a sine qua non. That might be the hardest part.

  46. Mercurius

    Peter, in case you’re too busy looking for your 10 boogeymen to notice, a positive and constructive discussion has again broken out, on this very thread, as encapsulated by Brian @ 45: that is, a plausible pro-human, pro-lifestyle, pro-environment, pro-climate stability position.

    But why would you care about that when….OOGA BOOGA! GREENIES!!!!!

  47. Brian

    Hey Merc, did you link to Tim Lambert’s post at Deltoid? Or did I miss it? I know you linkes to his blog in the post, but that item is not going to stay at the head of the list.

  48. Mark

    I was interested to read a review of Tony Giddens’ new book on the Politics of Climate Change at the Australian Book Review by Anthony Elliott (Prof of Sociology at Flinders, and someone who I have a lot of time for):


    He doesn’t go into specifics about what Giddens actually proposes, but I liked what was said about having a positive vision of what sort of world we want – and the point that necessity can sometimes mean we can do a lot of things that we think impossible if we adopt a ‘pragmatic’ or ‘realistic’ stance. There were a few resonances with what I’ve been arguing about utopianism and climate change.


    I’d also underline the point I made on another thread about the difficulty of assuming linear projections too far into the future, and give it a bit of a twist:


    What skeptics, denialists, conservatives, etc. don’t seem to get is that the world – and the economy, and most probably patterns of production, distribution and consumption *will* look very different in 2030, or 2050, or 2100, or whenever. That’s a truth, and an inevitability, but that doesn’t imply passivity, but rather that parts of the contingency that will shape the future world *are* amenable to collective human action which is willed.

  49. Mercurius

    Thanks Brian, link fixed

  50. anthony nolan

    Castro has a fair bit of baggage like locking up homosexuals and poets. I’ll admit that there are some poets who probably deserve weekend detention but accept that this is an extreme response to writing from which we could all have been saved if the author had done therapy prior to picking up the quill. Nonetheless, Cuba’s response to the energy and funding crisis after the collapse of the USSR offers a remarkable opportunity to study one way of responding to shortage. Only one way, not the only way and not necessarily the best way for anyone else but it is a fascinating example of feeding, clothing, housing and educating a population in chronic shortage.

    Mark as for Giddens, I really choked on “The Third Way”. In summary wiki-P offers this:

    “In the age of late and reflexive modernity and post scarcity economy the political science is being transformed. Giddens notes that there is a possibility that “life politics” (the politics of self-actualisation) may become more visible than “emancipatory politics” (the politics of inequality); that new social movements may lead to more social change than political parties; and that the reflexive project of the self and changes in gender and sexual relations may lead the way, via the “democratisation of democracy”, to a new era of Habermasian “dialogic democracy” in which differences are settled, and practices ordered, through discourse rather than violence or the commands of authority.

    Giddens, relying on his past familiar themes of reflexivity and system integration, which places people into new relations of trust and dependency with each other and their governments, argues that the political concepts of ‘left’ and ‘right’ are now breaking down, as a result of many factors, most centrally the absence of a clear alternative to capitalism and the eclipse of political opportunities based on the social class in favour of those based on lifestyle choices.”

    Last sentence: lifestyle choices as a mode of political action over collective mobilsation. Dream on, Anthony. I’ll read Elliot’s take but wouldn’t have a bar of one of the prime architects of Blairite neo-liberalism with a human face.

  51. Fran Barlow

    [email protected] said:

    Fran?? You’ve gone rather quiet! I didn’t have to name 10, a few have already volunteered.

    I hail from Sydney, and in my part of Sydney last night we had the mother of all electrical storms. My modem didn’t survive and I’m posting from a shopping centre internet point now …

    On the substantive point, none of the “volunteers” above accepted your caricature. They proposed variations on the “steady state economy” theme ala Spash and DI(NR) wondered out loud if he could get quality dentistry in the stone age (recent inquiry suggests otherwise) but I missed the part on stopping people having babies or flying in aircraft. So you have yet to start your case, and are in no position to rest it.

    For the record I’d be against stopping people having babies but I’d like to create a context in which they thought having them wasn’t self-evidently essential to their worth as human beings, an obvious lifestyle choice and least of all, their duty to their states or families. I’d like the question to be one of positive, adequately informed free choice by those concerned.

    And I’d say the same about aircraft usage. As to the question of growth itself, it overlaps with, but does not describe human progress or wellbeing. Some “growth” subtracts from human progress and wellbeing, as the last 100 years has amply shown.

  52. Quoll

    Are denialists/conservatives just stressed and depressed?

    Between the ever unfolding commentary around AGW (here and elsewhere), watching and hearing of another mockton moment in history and it’s frowning audience, and reading about recent psych research that found a correlation between attachement to familiar things or openess to novel things and circumstances being mood related.

    It seemed vaguely comforting to think that the blind ferver amongst some for ‘keeping everything exactly the way it was/is’ (even more than it was in the past), could possibly have a psychological or psycho-biological basis.
    Even if it contributes nothing to any possible strategy for how to deal with it.

    Given the breadth of stress and depressive mood present in Australian society, cultivated even more through the culture wars and mercenary social attitudes of the Howard years. It seems less surprising that conservatism seems to hold more sway psycholoigcally with a few people. Even in the face of (or because of?) significant real world crises to overcome. Though this is likely a poor response to actually dealing with what is to come. I have to agree with Mark, the only certainty is that things will change, deal with it in some way, or not.

    The researchers themselves suggests their work explains some of the apparent advantage conservatives or incumbents gain from fostering a negative even fearful space… if people are stressed or depressed, they fear novelty.
    Like much of modern science, it seems to me to largely provide a statistically established result for something that is either blindingly obvious or tacitly known by many through experience.

    Seems like some people have to get out of their funks in order to face the reality of having to develop a really sustainable way for humanity to survive on planet earth. It’s all in the mind really, aside from a few basics that needn’t be too energetically or ecologically expensive (food, water, shelter, transport biological wastes). What is necessary for a fulfilling human life is very broad and pretty arbitrary across everyone, but now defined more narrowly by implicit and explicit social laws/lores and norms.

    Feeling Blue? You’ll Shun the New
    February 9, 2010
    “The research helps us understand, too,” said Winkielman, “why incumbent politicians seeking re-election fuel a negative, apprehensive mood and then offer up such tried-and-true symbols as the flag and apple pie.”
    As predicted, saddened participants showed the classic preference for the familiar, even smiling at the sight of familiar patterns.

    A happy mood, however, eliminated the preference.

    “When you’re happy,” Winkielman said, “known things, familiar things lose their appeal. Novelty, on the other hand, becomes more attractive.”

  53. Mark

    @50 – yeah, Giddens’ moment in the sun as Blairite theorist was hardly his best. But I noted that Elliott noted that he’d moved on from that – so I’ll be giving the book as dispassionate a read as I can muster!

  54. Jane

    I saw an interesting program a day or two ago about lizards, in particular monitor lizards in Australia. The scientist, whose name escapes me, has observed that in the last 40 years since he began researching the lives of these fascinating reptiles, that the deserts they inhabit have been altering alarmingly, due to increased rainfall.

    He fears that we could lose many species of lizards as a result, something that makes me very sad-lizards are a particular favourite of mine. Frankly, I’d far rather see an increase in lizard populations than human, they’re far better for the environment than humans, the mega polluters.

    Rather than breeding like flies, we should be reducing our global population so that all creatures, with the notable exception of bloody flies of any stripe, mozzies and sodding Portuguese millipedes, can make a decent living.

  55. Flower

    I see little hope for the survival of the species – any species, while we plan futuristically and remain mute about the present.

    Collectively billions of tonnes of pollutants – (CO, PMs, NOx, PAHs, BTEX (benzene) formaldehyde, cyanide, hexane, Hyd. Acid, lead, mercury, SO2, VOCs etc) are dumped in ambient and tropospheric air, soil and water every year in Australia, with minimal regulatory restraint and little enforcement of the EP Act. Many of these chemicals burn to CO2.

    Optimists feel that technology and proper enforcement will ensure a sustainable planet in the future. However, from a doomsayer’s point of view, it was technology that got us into the mess in the first place and this technology continues on rampage in the present. Earlier observations of environmental damage in the 70s saw the emergence of the Environmental Protection Act in first world countries and what a joke that’s been.

    Australia it is said, feeds 60 million people a year seemingly oblivious to the grim realities of dying rivers and dryland salinity, particularly in WA where salinity continues to engulf the equivalent of 19 footie fields a day. Mass fish and bird mortalities in Australia are occurring, killed by polluted rivers and lakes. In addition, there is a drastic reduction in numbers of migratory shore birds in Australia.

    Several scientists have hypothesised on the Asian Brown Cloud and other anthropogenic brown clouds in first world countries (albeit with some uncertainty), suspecting that the ABC hovering over the north of Australia is responsible for additional rains. The down side is more global warming, less rain, crop damage, the dimming of major cities ( already occurring), depositions of black soot impacting on glaciers (already occurring) etc etc. Yet China I believe has lifted the one child ban, despite their worthy efforts at carbon mitigation so it’s one step forward and two back.

    All in together this foul weather.

  56. Ham&Eggs

    Watched some of the question session of the debate. Can’t agree that Alan Jones was a particularly fair moderator (don’t think he has it in him to be one). Truth is he was sneaking in snide remarks here and there, and strongly favouring Monckton with time and opportunity to respond to questions. Didn’t give Lambert the chance to put his side several times.

    But overall, a better outcome than I was expecting for such a debate.

  57. Jacques de Molay

    If you’ve got pay-TV this debate will be replayed on the A-pac channel on Sunday at 3:30pm EST & 10pm EST. Goes for about an hour and a half.

  58. kiwichick

    hi guys first post here

    just finished watching the debate on apac

    exxonmobil should be paying alan jones as well

    moncton’s assertion that we can raise the 3rd world out of poverty by burning fossil fuels is complete nonsence

    we face an oil supply shortage within 5 years

    the carrying capacity @ the standard of living the average aussie enjoys is between 500 million and 2 billion

    it has been estimated for example that 2 billion of us are being kept alive by the use of artifical nitrogen boosting plant growth

    so what? you may be asking

    artifical nitrogen is manufactured as a byproduct of natural gas; a finite and nonrenewable resource which we are rapidly depleting

    to flower no China has not lifted the one child policy; they have modified it in some cities to let couples who are both only children to have 2 children if they wish to

    for info on peak oil try peakoil.com

  59. Bud

    Why can’t a mature discussion last longer than 5 posts on the internet? *sigh*

    That would require at least 5 in every 6 people being mature. Good luck with that. :p

  60. Daniel J. Andrews

    Mercurius….just you wait until you are old and see if you can avoid the sour sour heavily lined face. :-) Things hurt, and what doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work, you can’t see or hear as well, your brain and body aren’t as agile, no-one will ever consider you handsome or beautiful again (unless their eyes are as bad as yours), and you’ve had 7 decades of watching the same screw-ups and the same lies from a bevy of different politicians who insult your intelligence by lying about what you have lived through.

    I say give ’em a little slack for being sour and angry. Even if they aren’t sour or perpetually constipated, time and gravity can make you look that way. And consider that when you’re that old you might have spent a few decades battling denialists who say the globe isn’t warming and now you and your grandchildren are paying the price for all the delay those nits caused. Bet you (and me too) will look a little sour and angry as well.


  61. anthony nolan

    Oh poor Mercurious – does a decent report and ends up being accused of elder abuse. Note my thanks for the report Mercurious. NB Daniel: elderly Buddhist monks don’t look sour and lined. I wonder why?

  62. Don Wigan

    Mercurius has a point, Daniel, and I don’t think there is intended ageism in it. I’m 67 myself, but sadly have seen a little of what Mercurius described.

    One passenger I take regularly (I’m a cabbie these days) is about my age – actually a couple of years younger. We get along very well, often conversing about cricket or classical music, which we both enjoy. But on AGW he is a confirmed sceptic and quite emotional about it. I have avoided getting into a debate with him because my views are too far apart, and when he last stated his views on how CC was all a natural thing over time, he actually became quite heated, even though I said nothing on the topic. (I found one thing ironic that he was a smoker, and thought of how the same PR lobbyists had run a doubt campaign on medical research on smoking a generation earlier.)

    I had the same experience when talking to my brother (two years older than me). He became very angry at my gentle challenging of his position. My brother’s reading is mostly confined to the sporting pages of the Herald-Sun. If he does venture to other issues in the paper occasionally, I fear it is to the Andrew Bolt columns, because he recites a lot of Bolt garbage.

    I think this is a bit of a concern and a bit sad. We were raised in an age when we believed that engineering and science could solved any problem – food, transport, poverty, health – and largely it did. Also with that belief was something like resources were unlimited. We could tame nature -whether it was climate or water supply. And we did make some deserts bloom. But we are now having to accept that there are limits and there are consequences to everything we do, and I suspect this contradicts our more youthful optimism. That may explain some of the anger and frustration.

    I just hope there are enough of us oldies left who can keep an open mind.

  63. Flower

    While the CRU team are being investigated and a preliminary enquiry has cleared Mann of wrongdoing, snake oil salesmen such as Monckton, claiming expertise on climate change, are travelling the globe, duping silly old men:

    Monckton: “The climate hasn’t warmed for 10 years; the climate hasn’t warmed for fifteen years, dog poop is more dangerous than global warming; (Monckton’s science advisor Bob Carter says there’s been no significant warming since the 40s); Jackie Kennedy killed 40 million Africans by banning DDT (DDT restrictions in the US only applied to food crops); bedwetting minnies are plotting a new world order etc.”

    In 2006, Monckton wrote to Congress, defending Exxon’s lobbying prowess. It is not difficult to see that all crooked roads lead to Exxon et al when the latest scandal reveals that big oil has been ghost writing reports for the USEPA for some 10 years.

    I can’t wait to see the day when someone, some government, some community commences a class action against this false prophet. Regulatory agencies go after dodgy salesmen but it seems that flogging off the planet to the fossil fuel grim reapers is a mere peccadillo in the eyes of the law.

  64. Paul Burns

    I like to think there are enough of us oldies keeping the flame alive. (Hi, btw.) I’ve aged pretty well -flaming white bushy beard, wrinkles seem the same – and until recently I was out there on the street carrying placards and abusing passing capitalists. :) Governments of every colour have been making me angry all my life (though the Libs are better at driving me into a rage.) No doubt I’ll lose my temper at the Greens one day. However, its the fight that keeps me young. Trouble with Lord Monckton’s audience, maybe they have given up fighting for a better world and just want go off into a corner, curl up and die. This is their last stand – “They’ve changed everything else – I’m NOT going to let these young’uns change the bloody weather!” sort of.

  65. Joe Veragio

    Having expected little more than a slag fest, I think you have to hand it to Lambert (despite his performance) for having the gumption to go head-to-head with Monckton in a real live debate, & expecting a hostile moderator & with a potentially hostile audience.

    He seems to have prepared well, but then relied on a stunt to steal the show and of course he was outperformed.

    But he had a fair go and he gave Monckton a fair go, what very view warmists have been prepared to, in this land of the fair go.

    Of course it will also give him endless material for his shamelessly, irreverent & insufferably hysterical blog, but it has shown there’s at least a little more to him than that.

  66. Flower

    “to flower no China has not lifted the one child policy; they have modified it in some cities to let couples who are both only children to have 2 children if they wish to.”

    Many thanks for the clarification Kiwichick, however, wouldn’t the majority of young people of child-bearing age in China, be an “only child”, bereft of siblings?

  67. Jane

    I really can’t understand how the deniers can seriously keep denying AGW, considering the environmental damage we humans have wreaked on the planet with pollutants we keep pouring into waterways and oceans, airborne pollutants, deforesting and destruction of fragile ecosystems world wide. Not to mention terrible land and water management, both fresh and salt.

    Why do they think we can keep going on our merry, uncaring, maxi-polluting way without any consequences?

  68. Peter

    Kiwichick @ 58

    Nitrogen fertilisers can be made without natural gas.

    To run a 9 billion pop world at the level of an advanced western country basically requires just a lot of energy – all the rest is irrelevant. With unlimited energy you can make as much fresh water as you like, pump it where it is needed, mine the poorest deposits, recycle everything, hell probably even synthesise elements in short supply if you really need to.

    Oh, it takes a bit of ‘can do’ attitude as well of course. Sadly lacking here.

    The energy will come from 4th gen reactors in case you are wondering.

  69. Lefty E

    Reading this post made me reflect: we’ve really got to get the message out that the only real threat to our lifestyles is posed by the do-nothing position.

    Those who support action on global warming are actually trying to protect the lifestyles we enjoy.

    Those who want business as usual will destroy it.

    As Prince Don Fabrizio Salina said: Things will have to change in order that they remain the same.

    Its that simple. Message ON!

  70. Eat The Rich

    Well said Lefty E!

  71. tigtog

    Of course it will also give him endless material for his shamelessly, irreverent & insufferably hysterical blog, but it has shown there’s at least a little more to him than that.

    @Joe Veragio, you write “shamelessly irreverent” like that’s a bad thing!

    Seriously, I suspect you typoed “irreverent” for an intended “irrelevant”, but if he’s so irrelevant then why are you slagging him over here on another blog?

  72. dk.au

    Mark, I’ve gotta say I was pretty disappointed with Giddens book. The ‘Giddens Paradox’ is either extraordinarily naive or disingenuous. No politics of climate change? People won’t understand the changes until it’s too late? What?? That’s been an absolutely central problem for advocates and policy makers since the 1980s at least. Giddens also seems to just blithely ignores some 20 years of sociological research on the topic, including the definitive 1998 three volume Human Choice and Climate Change edited by Steve Rayner and Elizabeth Malone. There’s also a respectable body of sociological research on the subtle and not-so-subtle ways American and EU led research has shaped the debate about policy solutions over the past few decades, but there’s no engagement with that nuance, either. So in the end, I fail to see what Giddens brings to the table that wasn’t already there.

    The point that green parties have failed to engage a positive vision of what society should look like is an important one, but it’s a big step to say it’s been lost on them up until now. So despite being a card carrying sociologist, I end up siding with Brian Davey on this one:

  73. Brian

    For the old guys:

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  74. Brian

    Further to Mark @ 48, it’s worth emphasising the unpredictability of the future. There’s an economist, Don Stammer, who used to comment on the sharemarket in the BRW, who kept on saying that each year the most important factor turned out to be something unforeseen.

    But, like Mark, I don’t think this implies passivity. We simply need flexible planning procedures and structures.

    I haven’t read Giddens’ book but found the Davey article interesting. (Thanks dk.au.)

    He’s definitely on the wrong track in suggesting a middle path, a ‘Goldilocks’ approach to risk. As Davey says, the problem is that the worst case outcomes can’t be ignored. As Davey says, if there is a 50% chance of at least two fatalities and a 1% chance of 100,000 fatalities, one definitely would have to look at the worst case scenario. Actually it’s worth scrolling down to the comment by Cyrus Bina, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Minnesota. He says the economy and the climate are both open systems, which don’t behave in linear ways, so the uncertainty is quite significant.

    There’s one glitch that stems from an error in one of Hansen’s pieces that keeps getting repeated by people who should know better.

    The last time the worlds temperature rose by six degrees Celsius 95% of all species became extinct.

    The last time the world’s temperature went up by 6 degrees was the socalled PETM incident. There were certainly extinctions but the ‘event’ stretched over perhaps 20,000 years and it doesn’t rate in the Big Five mass extinctions.

    The last (only?) time we lost 95% of species was during the Permian–Triassic extinction event 251mya.

    It’s not a ‘gotcha’ in the sense of changing the argument. The common view is that at 4C of warming the planet would be unrecognisable and that’s a mainstream probability this century with BAU.

    Giddens should school up on the concept of a “safe” climate.

  75. anthony nolan

    dk.au @72 thanks for the link to the Gidden’s review at Open democracy. The review and some of the comments really nail it.

  76. Eduardo

    Mercurius, I almost stopped reading when you began using the ad hominem “denialists” instead of “critic” or much better, “non gullibles”. So I had to force myself to keep reading what shows that you and other AGW believers are in a frantic damage control operation.

    I wish all you luck because Mother Nature is playing against you. As Huxley said: “Reality has the nasty habit of destroying the most beautiful theories.”

    Take care. Don’t let the A1H1N virus get you. Along with the AGW virus they make nasty bedfellows.

  77. Roger Jones


    denialism has a specific meaning. For example,

    A primitive–ego defense–mechanism by which a person unconsciously negates the existence of a disease or other stress-producing reality in his environment, by disavowing thoughts, feelings, wishes, needs, or external reality factors that are consciously intolerable. McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine

    is a definition from psychology. Denialism is being used as a term for both the conscious and unconscious denial of scientific paradigms, well-documented historical events and so on. There is a growing literature on this.

    There is a clear distinction between scepticism and dogmatic falsificationism. The denialist uses the fact that this is poorly understood in the general community, to engage in simple refutation of ‘unproveable’ facts.

    Your comments suggests you either don’t know this distinction, or do know it and exploit it. The term is not ad hominem if used to describe a group of self-identified individuals who campaign with the sole aim of refuting the only (currently) viable paradigm from beyond the scientific method .

    The only thing that will overturn AGW is a core theory that explains past and present climate without the role of radiative forcing by greenhouse gases, or why anthropogenically emitted gases would behave differently to radiatively forced gases or why climate sensitivity over the next few centuries will be vastly different to that in the past.

    To develop scientific theory, you have to first deconstruct the previous one and then develop a new one that explains more observable ‘facts’. Denial can only do half the job.

  78. Roger Jones

    There is a missing phrase in the above: or why anthropogenically emitted greenhouse gases would behave differently to radiatively forced greenhouse gases of natural origin

  79. Fine

    “As Prince Don Fabrizio Salina said: Things will have to change in order that they remain the same.”

    Your comment made me smile, Lefty E. Cue Burt Lancaster looking serene, melancholic and amused.

  80. David Irving (no relation)

    Eduardo, although Roger was too polite (but I’m not) to point this out, there’s a very good reason why people like you are compared with Holocaust deniers (implicitly and explicitly). It’s because you exhibit exactly the same kind of cognitive dissonance.

  81. Mark

    @72 – thanks for that, dk!

  82. Dave

    It does not matter what individuals who has previously had their minds made up about AGW say the outcome of the debate was.

    That is totally irrelavent.

    What needs to happen, especially after ClimateGate, is for the IPCC and other organisations to become totally transparent and release all the raw data and models for download on the Internet.

    After all, it is the future of the planet we are talking about and, one way or the other, the publication of the data and models will kill the debate once and for all.

    This hiding/deleting of information and attempts to bypass FOI requests are not doing this whole debate any good at all. If you have nothing to hide, whats the big deal?

  83. PatrickB

    “With unlimited energy”
    Oh goody, Peter’s got a perpetual motion machine, we’re saved!

  84. David Irving (no relation)

    Dave @ 82, the data and models have been available for years. That hasn’t shut the denialists up.

  85. Mercurius

    @82 global temperature data and climate models are publicly available and have been for months if not years. NASA, GIStemp, etc., they’re all publicly available, along with the source code used to interpret the data. Go look them up, they’re not hard to find. It’s called ‘Google’.

    Oh, what the heck: here’s a page where you can download all the data and source code you like. Look ma, no FOI required!


    If you have a couple of lazy decades to spare becoming adept in the mathematical and scientific procedures required to understand and interpret the data, you’re welcome to post here again once you’ve completed your studies.

    BTW, the IPCC don’t have any data or models – they’re just a clearing-house of previously published work. Your criticism of scientific institutions would have more credibility if you could demonstrate that you actually understand the role and purpose of the different organisations.

  86. Peter

    PatrickTB @ 83

    You *are* aware I hope, that a small handful of thorium could supply you with all ( as in *all* ) your energy requirements for your *entire* life, are you not? Instead of being a smart arse, why not educate yourself about why this is so.

  87. Peter

    Thorium in 16 Minutes. Luddites needn’t bother.

  88. wilful

    Peter, please don’t bother with the nuclear debate. It has been done to death here a large number of times.

  89. Roger Jones

    DI(nr) #80,

    yep, I’m one of those scientists, so I feel I have to be polite when defending real science!

    Just spent the past 6 weeks going deep into the philosophical literature to see whether there is a fundamental basis on which to confront the FUD that denialism seeks to promote. There is, but it’s not simple.

    So I am practising getting the lowdown on the philosophy of the scientific method out there. The more that the defenders of science have at their disposal to make their case, the better.

    The point that no theorem can be 100% proven is one denialists play merry hell with. Personal experience in the form of “This looks real”, “This feels real”, cannot be translated into certainty about science, yet people have the view that knowledge should work that way. On the other hand, refutation of some theory based on the interpretation of observation or experiment is not falsification, and anyone who suggests it is, should be given an F and sent back to do the job properly.

  90. Fran Barlow

    Peter said:

    You *are* aware I hope, that a small handful of thorium could supply you with all ( as in *all* ) your energy requirements for your *entire* life, are you not?

    Although I am a strong supporter of thorium and regard the LFTR as a good way to go, the IFR program is perhaps even more exciting and would actually subtract from high level waste, since its feedstock can be composed exclusively of existing hazmat. No new mining needs to take place, and some estimates suggest that there is enough existing fuel to power all of the world’s current stationary energy for 1000 years.

    So this is one of the rare issues on which I share your sentiment, but wilful is right. It has been discussed here a lot, especially by me.

  91. rossco

    I watched the debate on Sky News on Saturday (could have been a replay) but didn’t stay to watch the questions as I expected it would degenerate into a bunfight, esp with Jones as moderator. Pleased to hear it didn’t.

    Just some observations. I thought Lambert won the science but his presentation was very weak. Gave the appearance he was struggling to get his case across, even though he knows his stuff. Also the use of graphs/charts by both didn’t show up clearly on TV – may have worked better live.

    I got the impression the debate wasn’t going to change anyones opinion, just confirm what they already think.

    Has there been any comment in the media elsewhere? I haven’t seen any.

    BTW, I am 63 and a believer. Age might be a factor in the denialists camp, but it is not the only one.

  92. zoot

    Dave @82. Links to the data here
    Do you really think that’s going to shut up Monckton and his ilk?

  93. Brian

    Dave @ 82, if you want to expand your understanding of Climategate and the IPCC have a look here.

  94. David Irving (no relation)

    Roger, as a non-scientist (a computer scientist, so almost a mathematician) I’m acutely aware of the difference between mathematical proofs (which is what the denialists seem to be demanding of you and your colleagues) and what passes for proof of a scientific theory. It’s an interesting philosophical question.

    David Hume (one of my heroes) was dubious about causality (I think he was wrong), but how do you differentiate between causality and correlation? That’s what gives the fuckers all that wiggle room. It allows them to confuse the shit out of people with an unsophisticated understanding of the world.

  95. PatrickB

    “With unlimited energy”
    You’re not really very clever are you? I mean to make a statement like that you’d have to be coming up short on the brain cell count. Whatever method of energy production you choose is going to be limited. Here’s a couple of factors for a start: Supply of raw materials and disposing of the waste output. Why don’t you have a look at history from the being of the industrial revolution instead of trying to come up with miracle solutions. Honestly these deniers are religious fanatics.

  96. Razor

    One would expect errors to be random.

    In the case of the IPCC report errors, why is it that all the errors so far uncovered have been supportive of the AGW case?

    Random errors would produce both supportive and unsupportive reults. There is a bias in the IPCC report errors.


    If there was no bias wouldn’t we expect soon a flood of unsupportive errors?

  97. Zarquon

    One would expect errors to be random.

    No, one would not.

  98. Martin B

    why is it that all the errors so far uncovered have been supportive of the AGW case?

    Firstly, only one group of people is poring through the IPCC reports line-by-line checking for errors. It may well be that the bias is less in the error production but rather in the error discovery.

    Secondly the claim is not actually true. The error in regards to the Amazon rainforest, for example, was an error in referencing but the substantive claim was correct. Thus this error is neither supportive nor unsupportive of the substantial claim.

  99. David Irving (no relation)

    Additionally, Razor, with two (or is it three) errors discovered so far in a document the size of three telephone books, you don’t have a sufficiently large sample to even think about whether or not they’re random.

    I think you’ll find it’s reality that has a bias rather than the IPCC report.

  100. Mercurius

    Razor, with an army of strawman like that, my only option is to put a match to the whole darn lot. There’s so many circular propositions in your questions, you’ve left my head spinning.

    In the case of the IPCC report errors, why is it that all the errors so far uncovered have been supportive of the AGW case?

    In the case of the phone book, why is it that all the errors so far uncovered have involved names, address or phone numbers?

    In the case of the Journal of Marine Science, why is that all the errors so far uncovered have been about seawater?

    The reason that all (two, BTW, in a 3000 page report) of the errors in the IPCC report have been in matters supportive of AGW is because the IPCC is a clearing house report of climate science, in which the evidence is overwhelmingly supportive of the AGW hypothesis. So using your null hypothesis of ‘random’ error sampling, when 99.9% of peer-reviewed journalled papers find evidence that fits the AGW hypothesis, you shouldn’t be surprised to see any errors are 99.9% likely to be so.

    Two seconds of thought before you formulated your question could’ve told you that.

    Tell you what, why don’t you tell us what’s so “random” about the fact that every scientific proposition the denialists have attempted to put forward has been riddled with demonstrable errors of measurement, mathematics or physics, many of them embarrasingly elementary; whereas in a 3000-page 3-volume report, two errors of material fact have been spotted: a claim about the melting rate of the Himalayan Glaciers, and the % of Holland that is below sea level.

    The debate last Friday was a signature example: Monckton got up with his home-made mathematical theory and had it shot down in flames both by the researcher he based his work upon, and even by one of his own mathemetician buddies. That’s peer review at work. If Monckton had submitted his thesis to formal peer-review prior to publication, he could’ve had his error pointed out to him in private and had an opportunity to present something less embarrassing. Too bad he thinks peer-review is a waste of his time, so he wasted an afternoon of ours instead with erroneous calculations. I’m surprised the audience were so charitably disposed towards a man who’d got up in front of them, waved his arms around for 90 minutes, presented erroneous and misleading material and charged them $30 for the privilege of listening to error.

  101. Elise

    Smithy @36: “The Elders would be giving the counseling and making the decisions that would affect the survival of the whole group? Just a thought.”

    Now that is a very interesting idea to consider further, Smithy. A thought which has been much on my mind of late; especially since hearing that we are headed for double the number of retirees (age 60+) in the next 40 years. They are currently about 18% of the population, and thus will become about 36% (more than ONE-THIRD).

    In terms of VOTING population, retirees would presumably be an even higher proportion? Maybe 50% or more, of voters? That would have serious implications for the development of policy. Their concerns could dominate, for good or ill.

    So the question becomes: “Do the elderly make better decisions?”

    When we think of hunter/gatherer societies, where the maximum age was about 45 years or so, dementia and senility hadn’t had a chance to get going. The living conditions in those communities also changed very little over hundreds of generations.

    Those tribal Elders aged in their 40’s would have been in their mental prime, with a wealth of both learning and life-experience building bark huts, hunting sabre-tooth tigers, fighting rival tribes, etc. Furthermore, their experiences would still apply to the problems facing the younger generations. I reckon the opinions and advice of those hunter/gatherer Elders would have been worth hearing and considering, if you were an up-and-coming member of the tribe.

    What we have today is a world that is rapidly changing, and we are facing new problems. We are talking about a cohort with increasingly dated knowledge and experience, with increasing mental rigidity in a lot of cases. Some old folk remain open-minded, alert, engaged and willing to try new things. A lot don’t. As the Norwegian expression goes, they become “stiff-legged” in their thinking.

    These “grey-hair” people can be a wealth of crystallised knowledge in a company, because they have seen a lot of things tried and considered, and know where to find the background information for the new-comers.

    However, they can also be a total pain in the neck, because they often resist really new ideas and can’t/won’t recognise novel twists on old ideas. “It has never been tried, so it can’t/won’t work” and/or “We already tried that and it doesn’t work, so forget it”. Often they do not recognise the important differences in a situation or proposal, in their determination to defend their own position as the keeper of corporate knowledge.

    As people age, they seem to look increasingly backwards rather than forwards. People develop mental grooves, and are increasingly reluctant to endorse ideas which would take them out of their grooves. Climate change would be a case in point.

    People also get lazy about researching new ideas. R&D departments often have great examples of grey-beards still flogging away at the thing that made their name, buried in piles of dusty paperwork, years after the bulk of research has moved on to newer pastures.

    The old guard at the Australian Shareholders Association are another great example of a cohort who have become too lazy to personally investigate information on climate change, despite having the luxury of time and Google at their disposal. As Mercurius has noted, their notions on how things work can be so out of touch with current knowledge as to beggar belief.

    Returning to the question: Should we be allowing Elders to make decisions which affect the whole group? I reckon it depends on the matter being decided.

    It depends on whether the “counsel of the Elders” is relevant and well-considered for the matter at hand. Perhaps in many cases it may not be relevant, in today’s rapidly changing world, especially with Elders who are seriously elderly in their outlook or faculties?

  102. Fran Barlow

    Razor @ 96 asked

    In the case of the IPCC report errors, why is it that all the errors so far uncovered have been supportive of the AGW case?

    Gosh … how careless of you razor. You need to contact denier central urgently!

    The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t …

    Probably on the top 10 agnotologist “gotcha” quotes.

    For a discussion of this error and what it meant in context … see

    Understanding Trenberth’s travesty, Skeptical Science

  103. josh

    Razor @96, it’s simply not true that all errors have supported the AGW thesis.

    If we count the Himalayan projected rate of glacier melt and Dutch sea level as errors (and the second is disputed, and is basically dependent on your definition of sea level), NEITHER of these is supportive or unsupportive of the AGW thesis. The former is predicated on it and on observed melting (which is not in dispute), the latter simply a reference point for examining potential impacts.

    It’s also not true that all errors have overstated the potential impacts (which I presume is what you really meant). Sea level rise, for example, is now expected to be vastly faster than predicted in AR4, mainly because of a huge amount of caution on the part of the IPCC reviewers about the methodological robustness of the projections back in 2006. Those concerns have been resolved now.

    We’re also tracking emissions faster than the fastest growth scenario (called A1FI). This scenario was supposed to present an upper limit or worst-case scenario.

    I’m aware there are many other “errors” of under-estimation of projected impacts, as the science has developed.

    It cannot be stated often enough that AR4 was a very cautious report of the potential impacts of global warming.

  104. Brian

    josh is right, the AR4 was a conservative document and forecast changes are continually surprising scientists. There’s a fair chance that the prediction that Himalayan glaciers will last until 2350 is conservative too.

    The biggest stuff up by the IPCC IMO was their treatment of sea level change. See this post from June 2008.