An guide to white-anting climate science

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Cross-posted from The Conversation.

A recent headline – Failed doubters trust leaves taxpayers six-figure loss – marked the end of a four-year epic saga of secretly-funded climate denial, harassment of scientists and tying-up of valuable government resources in New Zealand.

It’s likely to be a familiar story to my scientist colleagues in Australia, the UK, USA and elsewhere around the world.

But if you’re not a scientist, and are genuinely trying to work out who to believe when it comes to climate change, then it’s a story you need to hear too. Because while the New Zealand fight over climate data appears finally to be over, it’s part of a much larger, ongoing war against evidence-based science.

From number crunching to controversy

In 1981 as part of my PhD work, I produced a seven-station New Zealand temperature series, known as 7SS, to monitor historic temperature trends and variations from Auckland to as far south as Dunedin in southern New Zealand.

A decade later, in 1991-92 while at the NZ Meteorological Service, I revised the 7SS using a new homogenisation approach to make New Zealand’s temperature records more accurate, such as adjusting for when temperature gauges were moved to new sites.

For example, in 1928 Wellington’s temperature gaugewas relocated from an inner suburb near sea level up into the hills at Kelburn, where – due to its higher, cooler location – it recorded much cooler temperatures for the city than before.

With statistical analysis, we could work out how much Wellington’s temperature has really gone up or down since the city’s temperature records began back in 1862, and how much of that change was simply due to the gauge being moved uphill. (You can read more about re-examining NZ temperatures here.)

So far, so uncontroversial.

But then in 2008, while working for a NZ government-owned research organisation, theNational Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), we updated the 7SS. And we found that at those seven stations across the country, from Auckland down to Dunedin, between 1909 and 2008 there was a warming trend of 0.91°C.

Soon after that, things started to get heated.

The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, linked to a global climate change denial group, the International Climate Science Coalition, began to question the adjustments I had made to the 7SS.

And rather than ever contacting me to ask for an explanation of the science, as I’ve tried to briefly cover above, the Coalition appeared determined to find a conspiracy.

“Shonky” claims

The attack on the science was led by then MP for the free market ACT New Zealand party, Rodney Hide, who claimed in the NZ Parliament in February 2010 that:

NIWA’s raw data for their official temperature graph shows no warming. But NIWA shifted the bulk of the temperature record pre-1950 downwards and the bulk of the data post-1950 upwards to produce a sharply rising trend… NIWA’s entire argument for warming was a result of adjustments to data which can’t be justified or checked. It’s shonky.

Mr Hide’s attack continued for 18 months, with more than 80 parliamentary questions being put to NIWA between February 2010 and July 2011, all of which required NIWA input for the answers.

The science minister asked NIWA to re-examine the temperature records, which required several months of science time. In December 2010, the results were in. After the methodology was reviewed and endorsed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, it was found that at the seven stations from Auckland to Dunedin, between 1909 and 2008 there was a warming trend of 0.91°C.

That is, the same result as before.

But in the meantime, before NIWA even had had time to produce that report, a new line of attack had been launched.

Off to court

In July 2010, a statement of claim against NIWA was filed in the High Court of New Zealand, under the guise of a new charitable trust: the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust (NZCSET). Its trustees were all members of the NZ Climate Science Coalition.

The NZCSET challenged the decision of NIWA to publish the adjusted 7SS, claiming that the “unscientific” methods used created an unrealistic indication of climate warming.

The Trust ignored the evidence in the Meteorological Service report I first authored, which stated a particular adjustment methodology had been used. The Trust incorrectly claimed this methodology should have been used but wasn’t.

In July 2011 the Trust produced a document that attempted to reproduce the Meteorological Service adjustments, but failed to, instead making lots of errors.

On September 7 2012, High Court Justice Geoffrey Venning delivered a 49-page ruling, finding that the NZCSET had not succeeded in any of its challenges against NIWA.

The judge was particularly critical about retired journalist and NZCSET Trustee Terry Dunleavy’s lack of scientific expertise.

Justice Venning described some of the Trust’s evidence as tediously lengthy and said “it is particularly unsuited to a satisfactory resolution of a difference of opinion on scientific matters”.

Taxpayers left to foot the bill

After an appeal that was withdrawn at the last minute, late last year the NZCSET was ordered to pay NIWA NZ$89,000 in costs from the original case, plus further costs from the appeal.

But just this month, we have learned that the people behind the NZCSET have sent it into liquidation as they cannot afford the fees, leaving the New Zealand taxpayer at a substantial, six-figure loss.

Commenting on the lost time and money involved with the case, NIWA’s chief executive John Morgan has said that:

On the surface it looks like the trust was purely for the purpose of taking action, which is not what one would consider the normal use of a charitable trust.

This has been an insidious saga. The Trust aggressively attacked the scientists, instead of engaging with them to understand the technical issues; they ignored evidence that didn’t suit their case; and they regularly misrepresented NIWA statements by taking them out of context.

Yet their attack has now been repeatedly rejected in Parliament, by scientists, and by the courts.

The end result of the antics by a few individuals and this Trust is probably going to be a six-figure bill for New Zealanders to pay.

My former colleagues have had valuable weeks tied up with wasted time in defending these manufactured allegations. That’s time that could have profitably been used investigating further what is happening with our climate.

But there is a bigger picture here too.

Merchants of doubt

Doubt-mongering is an old strategy. It is a strategy that has been pursued before to combat the ideas that cigarette smoking is harmful to your health, and it has been assiduously followed by climate deniers for the past 20 years.

One of the best known international proponents of such strategies is US think tank, the Heartland Institute.

Just to be clear: there is no evidence that the Heartland Institute helped fund the NZ court challenge. In 2012, one of the Trustees who brought the action against NIWA said Heartland had not donated anything to the case.

However, Heartland is known to have been active in NZ in the past, providing funding to theNZ Climate Science Coalition and a related International Coalition, as well as financially backing prominent climate “sceptic” campaigns in Australia.

The Heartland Institute also has a long record of working with tobacco companies, as the letter on the right illustrates. (You can read that letter and other industry documents in full here. Meanwhile, Heartland’s reply to critics of its tobacco and fossil fuel campaigns is here.)

Earlier this month, the news broke that major tobacco companies will finally admit they “deliberately deceived the American public”, in “corrective statements” that would run on prime-time TV, in newspapers and even on cigarette packs.

It’s taken a 15-year court battle with the US government to reach this point, and it shows that evidence can trump doubt-mongering in the long run.

A similar day may come for those who actively work to cast doubt on climate science.

Comments

    • If anyone is interested in “the other side of the story”:

      http://www.climateconversation.wordshine.co.nz/tag/nz-temperature-records/

      There IS “another side of the story”.

      Salinger is not spotless, having left NIWA under a cloud himself. But it would be dishonest of me to say this was anything to do with the veracity of his temperature data adjustments – it wasn’t.

      Similarly, it is dishonest to claim that the judgement in the NZ High Court actually vindicated Salinger. It is quite possible to “lose on technicalities” without the judge actually going into the scientific arguments.

      We also have a major problem in this day and age, with “judicial activism”. I can guess that judge’s ideological/political position without knowing anything about him, just as I can guess the ideological/political position of scientists based on what they think of CAGW. I know of no scientist who is a full-blown alarmist, who is a classical liberal, to put it mildly. Most scientists who know in their heart of hearts that the full-blown CAGW position is overdone, don’t have any problem with the policy consequences; that is, wealth redistribution both globally and nationally. They see “no harm done” and therefore no point risking tenure and income by stating their concerns.

      • dumb_non_economist

        Well done PB, slag the Judge while claiming not to be doing that. Is that out of the same manual?

        Your approach makes it impossible to refute, just another version of a conspiracy theory, no evidence needed.

      • Read the arguments from both sides, please, everyone. That is one of the things that the civilisation we belong to is all about.

  1. Intriguing that Salinger should pen this piece considering interest in his role in decrying the work and academic position of other scientists holding views he does not agree with – quite a scandal in NZ – even termed Climategate II.

    http://m.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10886282

    Heartland used some of Salinger’s own research to support a paper showing burning of fossil fuels did not have deleterious effect on climate. As you can imagine Salinger was livid.

    Salinger and his ilk would better serve their cause by developing hypotheses capable of bring independently tested rather than engaging in conspiracy theory.

    Let the (verifiable) science speak for itself. Then there is no need to deploy questionable at tactics to garner support!

    • Isn’t this post just an ad hominem, rather than replying to the actual content of this article / post?

    • quel surprise, 3d1k

      Lets not let those inconvenient scientists get in the way of lining your pockets.

    • Well that didn’t take long.

      Yes, let’s please let the science speak for itself, and when you see a known resources sector shill engaging in a bit of doubt-mongering use your f***ing brain to determine where the self interest lies. Is it with multi trillion dollar fossil fuel industry that has everything to lose, or is it a global conspiracy by a few thousand climate scientists whose motivation is … ummm … buggered if I know.

      Look its one thing for 3d1k to come here and spew his lies, misinformation and doubt, after all he represents a sector that has a lot to lose, but for ordinary citizens to swallow the same nonsense is so monumentally naive it beggars belief.

      • It’s a funny thing that the “fossil fuel industry” is always smeared as some kind of enemy of the common interest, when everyone I know willingly buys their product and would be quite gutted if they couldn’t get it any more.

        The industry doesn’t even make extraordinary profits for the level of investment and risk it takes.

      • The fossil fuel industry is the bedrock of our civilization. We are utterly reliant on it. Which begs the question why anyone would try to invent a problem that requires we stop using fossil fuels. What possible motivation could they have? Are these crazy scientists masochists or what?

        Knock yourself out Phil. Looking forward to hearing your nutty green-left conspiracy theories.

      • Glad you make that point, Lorax.

        If “the science” as alleged by Al Gore, Inc was true, we would have to do a LOT more than bring in a few carbon taxes, for which we are also anxiously providing subsidies and ameliorations so it doesn’t hurt too many households too much……!

        If “the science” as alleged by Al Gore, Inc was true, there would be a LOT more publicity given to arguments that yes indeed, we must give up a LOT more fossil fuel usage than we are even contemplating so far.

        This would of course have very severe effects on economies. Have you noticed the reports all over the place that Europe is backing down on CO2 commitments because their economy is what voters want attended to?

        I have also noted in the past, research from the LSE that finds that there have been unintended consequences from Kyoto policies so far, as industry has been shut down in developed countries and more has opened up in less developed countries where primitive technology means MORE emissions, not less.

        I have also noted that much public transport services are not more efficient than private cars at all.

        So I do indeed suspect that “the science” from Al Gore, Inc is merely a means to ends that are inherently desirable from a certain political point of view. Have you not noticed how impervious to evidence people from the Left are, on related matters such as real life transport system efficiency, and the unintended consequences of Kyoto policies? They are immovably committed intellectually, to the unintended consequences themselves. Even Rajendra Pachauri dismissed complaints about the Kyoto unintended consequences on the grounds that “who would complain about something that has caused a reduction in global inequality”?

        I would say that most scientists who know in their heart of hearts that the “science” is far weaker than claimed by Al Gore, Inc would stop assenting to the mitigation efforts if they ceased to believe that they achieved harmless, even worthy outcomes regardless of climate. But I doubt that obviously harmful policies that are actually sufficient under “the science” of Al Gore, Inc. will ever be enacted. The political trend in Europe tends to confirm this.

        I doubt the public fatigue and skepticism over alarmism can survive another decade of failed prophecies and hasty theory revisions, from Al Gore, Inc. These people weren’t saying 15 years ago that record high temperatures, record low temperatures; droughts, floods; heatwaves, cold snaps; glaciers melting, glaciers growing; ice mass loss, and ice mass growth were all evidence of “global warming”. We were sold a simple message: warming; melting, catastrophic ocean rise. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the certainty and arrogance of these people. Why should we believe them now that they say they “know” why they were wrong but there is still a catastrophe looming?

      • If “the science” as alleged by Al Gore, Inc […]

        Why do you keep talking about Al Gore in a discussion supposedly about science ?

    • General Disarray

      Ha! Just remember the 3d account claims to be agnostic on this issue.

      Reminds of the old “I’m not racist, but…”

    • Gents just where do you disagree with the comment I made? Surely suggesting it preferable climate scientists support their claims via solid evidence backed repeatable testable data rather than engaging in conspiratorial ‘blame the skeptics’ propaganda is desirable.

      Often it seems climate scientists are their own worst enemies persisting in alarmist claims, engaging in outlandish forecasts (many of which have already failed the test) and inculcating insidious name calling of any who question the ‘science’.

      Free open debate should be welcomed (including nuclear, real cost of alternatives, flaws in current models etc) rather than the current jackboot shutdown of discussion.

      • Umm, you want “evidence backed repeatable testable data”? That would be the science the article was describing. This series of comments kind of undermines the argument that there’s a shortage of discussion. So what do you want exactly? Someone to agree with you??

      • General Disarray

        Surely suggesting it preferable climate scientists support their claims via solid evidence backed repeatable testable data rather than engaging in conspiratorial ‘blame the skeptics’ propaganda is desirable.

        This is great example of white-anting. There is no control experiment possible so no matter what evidence is supplied another explanation can be put forward i.e. natural variability, the sun etc. I like to call it the “Parallel Universe Technique”, because without a parallel universe under identical parameters – apart from human greenhouse emissions – any claim can be white-anted.

        So please, 3d. Tell us what you would consider “solid evidence backed repeatable testable data” and also provide an example of where the “skeptics” have provided data that would pass the same tests. Given that we have trouble predicting the local weather a week from now this should be interesting.

    • Intriguing that Salinger should pen this piece considering interest in his role in decrying the work and academic position of other scientists holding views he does not agree with – quite a scandal in NZ – even termed Climategate II.

      Would this comparison not require “Climategate I” to have been an actual scandal, rather than just denialist bullshit ?

      Salinger and his ilk would better serve their cause by developing hypotheses capable of bring independently tested rather than engaging in conspiracy theory.

      Like they have been for decades, you mean ?

      Free open debate should be welcomed (including nuclear, real cost of alternatives, flaws in current models etc) rather than the current jackboot shutdown of discussion.

      The lie being promoted by this fallacy, of course, being that free and open debate is not welcomed.

      Note that just repeating the same questions and accusations over and over again, ignoring the responses, is not “free and open debate”. It’s filibustering.

      • What an INCREDIBLE comment.

        Climategate I was “not an actual scandal”?

        This sort of thing just loses the CAGW movement credibility with people who can read stuff for themselves.

        Climategate did not surprise me at all because the Wegman Report to Congress years before described a “cabal” in climate science that had disproportionate influence over the IPCC processes. Climategate merely put on display the communications from cabal members to one another, confirming their cabalistic nature.

        Hypotheses tested for decades? What, like against atmospheric temperature changes as opposed to surface data that is far more susceptible to being compromised?

        http://www.drroyspencer.com/2013/06/epic-fail-73-climate-models-vs-observations-for-tropical-tropospheric-temperature/

        And Smithy’s best howler of all:

        “…..The lie being promoted by this fallacy, of course, being that free and open debate is not welcomed…..”

        I have suffered deletion of comments on THIS forum, let alone forums run explicitly for discussion of these issues. I know IPCC reviewers who can’t get a letter printed in their local newspaper indicating their concerns, and can’t even get a “mainstream” journalist to talk to them. At least there are alternative sources these days, and these are growing so rapidly at least partly because it is obvious that the mainstream media has been utterly abusing the public trust.

        And the number of debate challenges turned down by Al Gore since 1996 on the grounds that “the time for debate is over”???? The few fair public debates that ever do take place, usually show why Al Gore would be so reluctant. Monckton would slaughter him and the post-debate audience vote would have shifted 20% or more in the skeptics favour.

        Don’t mock this, because if it were not true, Gore would be quite happy to debate and win, wouldn’t he?

      • Climategate I was “not an actual scandal”?

        No.

        Multiple investigations across multiple countries have found zero evidence of any scientific malfeasance, fraud, deceit, or anything else.

        None.

        At all.

        The only “scandal” lies in the fevered imaginations of people who think a worldwide, multi-generational conspiracy is the most plausible explanation for scientific consensus.

        http://www.drroyspencer.com/2013/06/epic-fail-73-climate-models-vs-observations-for-tropical-tropospheric-temperature/

        http://davidappell.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/speaking-of-epic-fails.html
        http://skepticalscience.com/roy-spencer-catholic-online-interview.html

        At least there are alternative sources these days, and these are growing so rapidly at least partly because it is obvious that the mainstream media has been utterly abusing the public trust.

        Well that’s certainly true. They give far too much oxygen to denialists repeating the same tired, unsupported, debunked ideas.

        And the number of debate challenges turned down by Al Gore since 1996 on the grounds that “the time for debate is over”???? The few fair public debates that ever do take place, usually show why Al Gore would be so reluctant. Monckton would slaughter him and the post-debate audience vote would have shifted 20% or more in the skeptics favour.

        Why are you talking about Al Gore and Monckton in a discussion supposedly about science.

    • dumb_non_economist

      Shit, so that’s it is it?

      So all the other science from NASA. NOAA, US Academy of Science, CSIRO, BoM etc, etc, etc just bs? Lavishly funded, shit where’s the funding coming from for the anti crusade?

      Thank god for the 1% of climate scientists for “saving” us.

      • I don’t believe the crap coming out of Transport and urban planning bureaucracies either. The naive belief that anything taxpayer funded is ideologically purer than the driven snow will be the death of our civilisation.

  2. Any article on climate change has become so boring on Macro-business.

    Can’t we get beyond the silly abuse of the other side, assuming they are all idiots and nut-jobs?

    My problems with the AGW hypothesis are ones of degree not absolute.

    I am very happy to accept that AGW is occurring and will get worse, but what I’ve always stood against are cures that are worse than the disease.

    The only solutions proposed are sure to drive up power costs or for those who can least afford it (in developing countries and developed countries).

    Cheap plentiful energy are absolutely essential for the prosperity of mankind, and I’m prepared to trade cheap power for some warming.

    I’m convinced that nuclear is the solution and have been boring anyone who will listen to me for about 5 years, on this.

    I sent a joint letter to Shorten and Abbott proposing that Australia starting a nuclear energy program is the way out of the carbon tax impasse.

    Pandora’s promise is a great new film that I watched last night that effectively demolishes all the environmental arguments against nuclear.

    What about some articles arguing for the start of a nuclear power program in Australia MB?! Rather than the deniers are swivel-eyed loons stuff.

    • +1 scottmuz.

      Just wait for the MB haters to flame you now. Its an absolute religion with them and you have offended their sacred deity.

    • “I am very happy to accept that AGW is occurring and will get worse”

      Is this because you accept what climate scientists are saying? If so, you are not denying the science.

      It is the people who do NOT accept what scientists are saying because

      a) it contradicts their opinion (luckily science isn’t based on opinion)
      b) it undermines their source of income
      c) they do not understand the science

      who are branded “swivel-eyed loons” (Monkton?)

      The science of climate change is complex and uninformed debate from the sidelines serves only the interest of the doubt-mongerers

    • General Disarray

      Nuclear power is hardly a cheap source of energy, but I agree it should be on the table – definitely when Thorium reactors become a reality.

      • Australia 2012 numbers :~ 850g CO2 / kWh

        Thats what the cheap stuff is doing for us.

        So can we have a crack at thorium? Help ourselves sorta thing?

        Mebbe patent and licence our process and design…… nah fuckit ..buy another house.

      • Why mine poisonous substances (uranium!) with half-lives in the millenia, yet whose waste containers only last centuries?

        Well, for the energy. But there are already solutions that don’t require that. See Amory Lovins (a physicist who works in energy conservation) here.

        On the other hand, other research suggests a comprehensive limit to growth not fathomed by a simple energy-based analysis.

    • @scottmuz
      Well put. Climate is so complex no-one outside of the science can pontificate and there is enough anti AGW opinion in the scientific world:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_the_mainstream_scientific_assessment_of_global_warming
      to give anyone a headache The real point is, given that AGW MAY be a real threat , what is the world likely to do about it? For a start we have:
      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/nov/20/coal-plants-world-resources-institute
      A bit of a worrier right?
      Every nth article on this blog is about rent seekers. Now imagine cities full of the new middle class in the (largely tropical) developing world who would just kill for that 18KW air conditioning unit. The pressure to prevaricate and continue to burn coal will be OVERWHELMING. You’ve seen the Greens get a good kicking here. In Pakistan and the like they’d be in the slammer.
      The jury may be just coming back to the court room on AGW “We have reached a verdict My Lord, we find the prisoner Guilty and Not Guilty – cos it won’t make any difference…”.

      • Climate is so complex no-one outside of the science can pontificate and there is enough anti AGW opinion in the scientific world:

        No, there’s not.

        It’s almost impossible to find anyone with actual research and evidence to support a stance against the climate change consensus.

      • I am assuming the people whose names appear in the web site quoted don’t exist or are rent seeking liars drsmithy. I assume you have a doctorate in the relevant science? You should try rational arguments rather than a constantly emotive approach to those you consider your class enemies. Finally, you also missed the point of the response by a mile.

      • Which consensus, DrSmithy? The full Al Gore, Inc one, or the real one as represented by the actual drafts, comments, and body of the IPCC Reports climate science chapters?

        Because there is quite a significant difference, and most members of the public have been led to believe something quite false about what the “consensus” is about.

        You say:

        “…..It’s almost impossible to find anyone with actual research and evidence to support a stance against the climate change consensus…….”

        Which is 100% true about the consensus among actual climate scientists.

        That is, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and human activity emits it.

        But about the extent to which observed warming is caused by this or is merely natural cycles; and an even bigger stretch, that the human influence will be “catastrophic”; I don’t recognise as a “consensus” that justifies anything as strong as your comment.

        http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

        http://cfact.org/pdf/2010_Senate_Minority_Report.pdf

        I have seen many people change their minds when simply provided with the information in those two links. The alarmists have not helped their cause by their exaggerated claims for years that “there is not one single” authoritative scientist or paper, yadda, yadda, yadda. Of course when an open minded person discovers that there are HUNDREDS, they will regard themselves as having been lied to.

      • I am assuming the people whose names appear in the web site quoted don’t exist or are rent seeking liars drsmithy.

        No, they are simply in a very small minority, likely pushing poorly supported positions.

        I assume you have a doctorate in the relevant science?

        Why ? Do I need to be a oncologist to conclude that if 9/10 doctors say someone has cancer, then they’ve almost certainly got cancer ?

        You should try rational arguments rather than a constantly emotive approach to those you consider your class enemies.

        I’m a little unclear on what is “irrational” about accepting the conclusion of the vast majority of subject matter experts.

        Finally, you also missed the point of the response by a mile.

        That we need an abundant energy source and should consider nuclear ? I responded to that as well.

      • Which consensus, DrSmithy?

        The scientific one.

        Which you’re clearly not talking about, since you keep bringing up Al Gore.

        http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

        http://itsnotnova.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/poptechs-list-of-confusion/

        I have seen many people change their minds when simply provided with the information in those two links.

        Somehow I doubt their minds changed very much, or would be very difficult to change again.

        Of course when an open minded person discovers that there are HUNDREDS, they will regard themselves as having been lied to.

        Probalby until they find out those HUNDREDS represent a fractional percentage of research, and most (that aren’t outright wrong) are investigating minor issues of detail rather than the core tenets.

    • Nuclear certainly does hold potential as a good low carbon fuel source in the future. However, in Australia I think solar power will become more important and eventually supply the energy needs for most detached residential dwellings and their inhabitants. Of course that does require some substantial improvements in battery technology though.

    • The only solutions proposed are sure to drive up power costs or for those who can least afford it (in developing countries and developed countries).

      Solvable with targeted welfare and subsidies.

      Cheap plentiful energy are absolutely essential for the prosperity of mankind, and I’m prepared to trade cheap power for some warming.

      This is the problem. You already have.

      I’m convinced that nuclear is the solution and have been boring anyone who will listen to me for about 5 years, on this.

      There are plenty of people out there more than willing to support nuclear. The problem with nuclear is its viability from a sheer affordability point of view is highly suspect.

      • More affordable than the alternatives, i.e. reduced prosperity, magically solvable with “targeted welfare and subsidies”?

        This is like standing in a bucket and expecting to be able to lift yourself by pulling up on the handle.

      • “Cheap plentiful energy are absolutely essential for the prosperity of mankind, and I’m prepared to trade cheap power for some warming.”

        “This is the problem. You already have.”

        A further problem is that the public is constantly presented with a false pair of alternatives: the cost of acting, versus the cost of not acting.

        The problem is that it is never mentioned that “the cost of acting” that is presented to the public – a few carbon taxes, etc – will only avert some tiny fraction of “warming”, not “all the warming”.

        So what we are told are “the costs of not acting”, need to be compared not with what we are told are “the costs of acting”, but with “the costs of acting PLUS 95% (or so) of the costs of not acting”.

        You don’t even need to be a scientist to know this.

      • More affordable than the alternatives, i.e. reduced prosperity, magically solvable with “targeted welfare and subsidies”?

        False dichotomy fallacy.

      • A further problem is that the public is constantly presented with a false pair of alternatives: the cost of acting, versus the cost of not acting.

        The problem is that it is never mentioned that “the cost of acting” that is presented to the public – a few carbon taxes, etc – will only avert some tiny fraction of “warming”, not “all the warming”.

        This is a lie.

        It has been made plainly clear that a certain amount of warming is already locked in and unchangeable within generational timescales.

        I’ve never seen anyone (who isn’t simply building a straw man argument as above) suggest that “a few carbon taxes, etc” – or even much more dramatic steps – will ever come anywhere close to averting “all the warming”.

  3. France gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear and has the cheapest power in Europe. Electricity is also one of its biggest exports.

    Nuclear can be a very cheap form of energy, if you build enough plants using a standard design that allows costs to be driven down.

    And yes Thorium has huge potential.

    • I like the economics. I’m not so sure about the risks. France may be able to state that their plants are (relatively) safe as they’re in a relatively stable geological area. Would you say the same when some of the less than democratic governments start building plants in locations that may well compromise safety through pervasive graft? Fukushima could have been adequately protected from the recent disaster, it was a case of cost (profit) vs risk, a risk that wasn’t going to apply to the financiers. I suppose if it’s nuclear vs coal just make sure you’re living far enough away…

      • Fukushima wasn’t a case of “economics”, it was a case of failure to anticipate a tsunami knocking out backup generators. Actually easily fixed.

        As it is, it is a demonstration of how safe nuclear really is. The natural disaster was a colossal one, but the reactor shields did not fail like Chernobyl’s inadequate communist one. Even with Chernobyl in the scale, nuclear remains a far less harmful energy technology than the mainstay, fossil fuels. Coal mining deaths etc. Even coal burning releases radiation, which cumulatively has come to a lot more than the few nuclear power station leaks that have occurred.

      • Not sure I agree here PB. The 2011 tsunami reached 15 meters, the 1896 tsunami at Sanriku peaked at over 30. If I had been designing a nuclear power station I’d probably be thinking “location, location, location”. Though locating the power station on higher ground would have been significantly more expensive and no doubt extended the NPV of the project for a year or three, the penalties for ignoring Japan’s known proclivity to violent earthquakes & tsunamis would have been known to be extreme.

      • Firstly see Pandora’s Promise.

        It is a film by ant-nuclear activists who have realised the error of their ways. It addresses all the risk issues people have, discussing Fukushima, Chenobyl and Three Mile island.

        Lastly Australia has the stablest geology of any continent.

      • I agree with you all to a degree. Yes WE have geological stability and a political system which would be strong enough to avoid a shonky plan. In fact I’m surprised we haven’t seriously considered it earlier. Old breeder reactors designed for producing Plutonium as a side product for the military are, in my view, extremely dangerous, newer technology (and one day maybe Fusion) is certainly safer. The problem is, what about our neighbors? There’s hardly a day goes by without a building collapse in Asia due to corrupt building practices, and the graft goes all the way to the top..

  4. Two things to remember in these debates:

    1. Climate change deniers have every incentive to obfuscate and cling to their beliefs. This is nothing new. Copernicus’ work was banned posthumously and Galileo spent his elder years under house arrest for proposing correct science. It was ever thus. Max Planck (the fellow who came up with the quanta of quantum mechanics) famously said “The truth never triumphs. It’s opponents simply die out. Science advances one funeral at a time.”

    2. The anti-government campaigns funded by the fossil fuel industry amount to self defense. I know it’s the standard propaganda line that the saintly CEOs like Steve Jobs (may his name ever be revered!) have given us all wealth and power possible. Why Jobs even single-handedly invented the iPhone!

    …But that propaganda ignores the essential role of the government in sponsoring the basic research leading to the silicon chip, the internet, GPS, etc…never mind the government subsidies for the Apple workers’ education.

    The truth is that government research has been game changing. (See Ms. Mazzucato at TED). Just recently, for example, a tiny ARPA-E grant funded a potential solution to the renewables’ storage problem.

    The vehemence of the conventional energy industry’s opposition isn’t because they believe government is corrupt or ineffective. On the contrary, it’s because they’re terrified it can come up with another Manhattan project to put them out of business.

    • While I don’t agree with your beliefs about people who are “deniers” in alarmists terminology, you said this very well:

      “…..The vehemence of the conventional energy industry’s opposition isn’t because they believe government is corrupt or ineffective. On the contrary, it’s because they’re terrified it can come up with another Manhattan project to put them out of business…..”

      Isn’t it ironic to think then, that the results of the Manhattan project could have gone a lot further than it has, especially in the USA, if it were not for anti-nuclear activism? And there is every incentive for the fossil fuels industry to be behind this.

      It is also no surprise at all that Saudis would be funding anti-fracking activism.

      The one almost no-one takes into account is the zero-sum gains from land use policies that are enacted on the back of anti-fossil fuels arguments. These land use policies are useless anyway; all they do is create the capital gains to the land rentier class and don’t actually have the outcomes they are alleged to be about.

      The fossil fuels industry are saints compared to these gougers. At least petrol has massive consumer surplus in it; the price of it is really a miracle of the free market even if people have strong opinions to the contrary. Civilisation would be distressed without fossil fuels, whereas it is distressed “with” the land rentiers gouging racket in land capital gains.

      While government has played a role in some technological advancement, that is missing the point that government was not necessarily essential to those advancements, and nowhere in the world has government succeeded in commercialising any new technology and bringing about a condition of massive consumer surplus in it.

      I recommend to everyone, “The Sources of Invention” by JOHN JEWKES
      This article is reprinted by permission from the January 1958 issue of Lloyds Bank Review.
      The author was Professor of Economic Organization in the University of Oxford.

      http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/the-sources-of-invention#axzz2rLiIP2wd

      The same author’s book, “Ordeal By Planning”, about Britain under its Labour government following WW2, is an education in itself that few have ever learned, about disastrous “not quite 100% communist” experiments in government central planning. That post-WW2 Labour government finally got thrown out by the electorate when the next step on its program was “Employment Boards” that were going to tell everyone where they were to work. And the great Winston Churchill was restored to his rightful place in the years before his death.

      • While government has played a role in some technological advancement, that is missing the point that government was not necessarily essential to those advancements, […]

        The same meaningless hypothetical could be just as validly posited about private industry.

        […] and nowhere in the world has government succeeded in commercialising any new technology and bringing about a condition of massive consumer surplus in it.

        Water treatment, distribution and sewers
        Telecommunications
        Education
        Healthcare
        Transport infrastructure

  5. “My aim is to make sure that energy remains affordable for households and companies. The 2030 framework sets a high level of ambition for action against climate change, but it also recognizes that this needs to be achieved at least cost.” said Gunther Oettinger, the European Commission’s energy commissioner.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/22/ambitious-climate-change-goals-too-costly-for-eu/

    Ambitious climate change goals too costly for EU
    Individual nations allowed to cut back
    By Ben Wolfgang – The Washington Times Wednesday, January 22, 2014