Coffee House

The green threat to growth

26 September 2011

4:03 PM

26 September 2011

4:03 PM

Luciana Berger is a frequent speaker at this year’s conference and her creed is simple:
tax energy use to tackle climate change. But, journey along the Mersey, from the glamorous fringe events held on Liverpool’s well rejuvenated quays to the post-industrial wasteland
that lies beyond and you discover a different breed of Labour MP.

‘Is the green economy a threat to growth?’ asked Ellesmere MP, Andrew Miller at a seminar earlier this afternoon. Along with his panel – comprised of representatives from the chemical
industry, the unions and of Michael Connarty, the MP for East Falkirk and a long-term advocate of the chemical industry – he reached the following conclusion: the current incarnation of
the green economy is a threat to energy intensive manufacturing jobs.

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Connarty and Steve Elliot of the Chemical Industry Association both said that government initiatives like the Climate Change Levy had made a positive impact on manufacturers, forcing them to be
more energy efficient, in turn leading to greater investment in research and development. This was an example of the economic opportunities that issue from the creation of a low carbon economy.
But, the panel agreed that excessive levies on energy use are harming comparatively clean industries that directly employ 125,000 people in Britain. These industries are vital to our balance of
trade, contributing £30 million a day to GDP. Their prosperity and expansion is vital to our long-term economic recovery.

Connarty pointed out that Britain’s unilateral adoption of carbon floor price on energy consumption and the next phase of the emission’s trading scheme will disadvantage British
manufacturers by 10 per cent in comparison to their European competitors, while Europe is already 10 per cent less competitive on energy costs than the rest of the world. “There is no
point,” he said in allowing “clean jobs to be exported to dirty economies” in the developing world.

On leaving the windswept marquee in which the event was held, I walked out onto the wasteland that leads from Liverpool’s abandoned upriver docks and looked across the Mersey to the heartland
of Britain’s chemical industry. There was a sense that history may repeat itself.


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Show comments
  • Simon Stephenson.

    Richard

    Just an extra thought to my final paragraph. Maybe the political failure of the last 50 years has been the inability of both the Left and the non-Left to see the necessity of compromising over the definition of right/wrong, or to see the political breakdown that would ensue from a failure to compromise. We’ve ended up with a polarisation in which each side is so fearful of and hostile to the other that neither side is willing to concede the possibility that they could both be wrong. Maybe what is preventing us from finding a good path is the almost universal belief in the fallacy that if your opponent is wrong, which in today’s atmosphere he must be, then you must be right.

    Perhaps if the Left had pre-warned the non-Left that unless they were cut some slack over right/wrong they’d have no option but to destabilise constructive discussion, or if the non-Left had anticipated that this would happen, and cut the Left some slack as the lesser of two evils – if either of these things had happened we’d be a lot better off today. And maybe the answer for today is to seek to construct a position as though the Left had been given those relaxations to established right/wrong that it was not unreasonable to concede?

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Richard : 10.13pm

    “Would you accept that some people on both sides are too free with attacks on their opponents’ integrity?”

    Some, perhaps. But I’ve dealt with that. I don’t believe that the thrust of Warmism is about generating research grants or making money from carbon trading. I do believe that the vast majority of the Warmist camp is there because they believe what they are doing is for the good of mankind.

    But like any group there are a few leaders and a great mass of followers, and I think that in this case the leaders are pursuing a wider agenda – they are affecting a concern about the climatic consequences of man’s activities, in the knowledge that the climatic projections are far too open to doubt to be taken unequivocally as evidence of the need to change development in the way they are suggesting. They know that without the wider moral agenda of which Warmism is so supportive, enforced low-carbon energy is unsupportable as an evidentially based policy.

    As far as the followers are concerned, it reads awfully derogatively, but I think probably accurately, that the relationship between them and the leaders is akin to that between the the useful idiots and the Soviet leaders during the period of the communist empire in eastern Europe.

    I don’t think you’re one of the leaders, Richard, and I’m far too polite to suggest that you must therefore be one of the useful idiots.

    How about this for a thought though? Maybe the reason that discussion increasingly leads to challenges to personal integrity is less to do with disrespectful behaviour in the participants than it is to do with the blurring of the boundaries between advocacy and discovery. We have seen over the last 30-40 years, I think, the realisation of how easy it is to steal a march on opponents by incorporating a bit of concealed advocacy into what are purportedly searches for truth. But, as is so often the case in human affairs, the breaching of a standard leads not to improvement, but to a race to the bottom. Winning argument by sleight of hand has gone, over 40 years, from being utterly reprehensible, through tut-tut resignation, to it’s current position of being the sought after, cutting-edge way of conducting negotiation. Isn’t it perhaps inevitable, when the boundaries of integrity have been stretched so far to include this development in argumentation, that challenges to personal integrity have become more and more frequent? After all, as the establishment of right and wrong has become determined more by the quality of the window-dressing than by right and wrong themselves, it’s hardly surprising that the less-developed window-dressers, with little chance of prevailing as things are, seek instead to undermine the foundation of modern argument – that it’s morally OK to play fast and loose with the truth in the pursuit of what one personally believes to be the general good?

    To be fair, Richard, it was the Left who deviated from right/wrong as being the protagonists in argument, because, in this battle, they were losing. They felt, perhaps understandably, that right/wrong, as it was defined, was too strict a regulation for them ever to win. After all, they were challenging the status quo, and the supporters of the status quo had had centuries to construct an understanding of right/wrong which was, to all intents and purposes, impossible to overrule. What’s happening now is the non-Left’s reaction to the Left’s self-serving reconfiguration of argumentative process – it’s the flip-side of what started to happen in the sixties and seventies.

  • Richard

    Would you accept that some people on both sides are too free with attacks on their opponents’ integrity? I’ve never questioned yours, and I’m one of the people you call Warmists. In these pages one can’t attempt to take the danger seriously at all without accusations of ‘scam’ and ‘lies’. I feel bullied; you feel bullied too. Each of us feels the other side to be the one mainly responsible.

    I’m not sure the answer is to stop talking, but maybe.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Richard : 6.58pm

    I’m sorry if you feel your integrity has been impugned, but you should understand that the entire sceptical camp are having their integrity impugned, daily, venomously and unjustifiably by the Warmists. We will not accept that a body of scientists is incapable of defending a robust position with an argument for the educated layman that is fair, balanced, self-audited, conservative, based on whole truth, not just truth, and would allow them to pass a polygraph test about the singularity of the derivation of their motivation for being so opposed to the anthropogenic part of global warming. We find it difficult to see that the scientific justification for accepting the anti-carbon conclusion is so complicated that it either has to come in an unreadable tome, or else we just have to take it on trust. We also find it strange that there are renowned people with scientific training who object to the claims made – we would expect that normally something that is scientifically proven is accepted by all scientists, and that if there is objection to claims, it is because the claims are in excess of what is reasonably able to be concluded from the proven position. You don’t find too many scientists who still accept that the moon could be made of green cheese, or that the sun revolves round the earth.

    Maybe the answer is that there are too many people who’ve been conned once too often for it to any longer be feasible to push through a political platform based on a fabricated justification. And maybe you and I ought to cease hostilities on this particular subject.

  • Richard

    I think my state can best be described as ‘aghast’. Sad, too. It’s the first time I’ve felt like this in one of these debates. I seem to be faced with an argument that consists entirely of the assumption that I am not being honest about my motives and beliefs. And not just me – anyone who advocates action against AGW, and any scientist who comes up with findings that support the thesis.

    I’ll restrict myself to two of your comments.

    ‘I know, as well as I do that tomorrow is Wednesday, that if someone came up with an unchallengeable proof that AGW was a pile of hogwash, 99% of the “climate scientists” would cease to be climate scientists within 3 months’.

    Of course you don’t know this. There is no way you could conceivably know it. What has made you resort to this kind of statement?

    ‘I’m similarly certain that AGW being shown to be hogwash would be highly, highly, highly unlikely to result in the Warmists breathing a sigh of relief’. This is worse. I have young children, and I worry desperately about the effect of global warming on their future lives. I wouldn’t normally mention them in a debate, but the way you have impugned the sincerity of my fears makes it relevant. If AGW were proved not to be happening, I would feel floods of relief on their behalf. How dare you doubt it? Why should you doubt it? When have I ever argued so unfairly with you?

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Richard : 2.46pm

    “As far as I can see, it’s a way of saying that you will only accept the integrity of scientific findings that lead to political outcomes you already favour”

    No Richard. It is saying that I believe in the old-fashioned idea of meticulous and demonstrable probity, of the indivisibility of good faith – something that in my opinion has almost completely departed from the modern world. I don’t blame the younger generation from going down this route – after all, they are under a great deal of pressure to follow contemporary standards – but it’s hardly reasonable to expect those of us who were brought up in a world of different standards to accept the superiority of those we see as grossly inferior.

    I think that just as an advertiser has no compunction about cherry-picking and misrepresenting the tombstone details of the product he is seeking to promote, so the critics of ever-growing human consumption have no compunction about cherry-picking and misrepresenting the AGW argument if this has a chance of bringing people round to their consumption growth fears. Unlike some, I don’t argue that the AGW argument is mostly self-interested -about preserving research grants or making money from carbon trading. I’m quite willing to concede that the goal is commendable – we’re consuming ourselves to oblivion, let’s do something to stop it. What I object to is the arrogance that deems that I am so incapable of being persuaded by the truth that it is justifiable therefore for me to be persuaded by lies. I know, as well as I do that tomorrow is Wednesday, that if someone came up with an unchallengeable proof that AGW was a pile of hogwash, 99% of the “climate scientists” would cease to be climate scientists within 3 months, and within 6 would have moved on to the next field of study in which they reckon to be able to punch above their weight in the battle against human supremacy over the environment. I’m similarly certain that AGW being shown to be hogwash would be highly, highly, highly unlikely to result in the Warmists breathing a sigh of relief, and giving the rest of us the all-clear to resume burning fossil fuels willy-nilly.

    Why am I so certain? Because AGW was never the trigger that led to Warmist formations. It was only ever the Trojan Horse through which the anti-consumptive agenda could be advanced.

    I’m not a complete nincompoop – I’m as capable as the next man of taking part in a discussion about continuing human consumption. What right has the Warmist faction to decide that I am instead in need of nannying?

  • Richard

    Simon Stephenson,

    You’re setting me an impossible task, aren’t you? You say that ‘the evidence of experts, is only valid if we can be sure to have stripped any taint of politics from the opinion of these experts’. What would ever persuade you that we had done that? As far as I can see, it’s a way of saying that you will only accept the integrity of scientific findings that lead to political outcomes you already favour. Anything that leads to different outcomes must have those outcomes as its prior motive.

    Your argument rests on the idea that there is a hidden political motive behind climate science. It would have to be hidden, because it is not visible in the science itself: your only evidence is that you infer a surreptitious political motive from the political consequences you think these scientific findings must have if acted upon – ergo, for you, the politics must be the motive. I don’t see how one can defend oneself against such an accusation (as psychiatrists are supposed to say, the vehemence of your denial is evidence that my diagnosis is true).

    Similarly, you tell me you’d love to talk about my real motive, but won’t accept my word for what it is. How could we have that conversation, the premise of which is that I have a deliberately hidden agenda, while you are in perfect earnest? You offer no evidence for this, and therefore I cannot defend myself.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Richard

    If I were an accountant and an economist and a member of a golf club, and I were asked to investigate the financial side of the club buying some land, and building another 18 holes – a project about which I had been openly non-committal, but which I was personally very much against. How morally correct would it be of me to produce a case which contained no untruth, but which highlighted every worry and concern about the development, and minimised all the potential benefits? Bearing in mind that I had been retained as an expert, commissioned to give advice as an expert.

    I would argue that I should declare my opposition in advance, and give the club the option to seek the advice from someone less personally involved. If the club decided not to replace me, I would prepare the report on what I believed to be an entirely professional basis, allowing no personal bias to enter, but also I would need to have my final report checked over, audited and peer-reviewed by someone independent of both me and the club, to give comfort that I had not unconsciously allowed personal bias to filter in to it.

    The last thing I’d do is to seek to abuse my position of trust to sneak in a personal belief on the sly. Why would I want to underhandedly poison the opposition’s case when I have been able to convince myself that my case is the stronger anyway?

    Regrettably, though, it seems that there are many who aren’t so taken with the idea of such meticulous probity – and although there may be no “deliberate lies”, the obvious misrepresentations in the Warmist’s evidence should be taken as a warning to take every strand of their argument with a pinch of salt. It’s a pity they didn’t declare their political interest beforehand, and not make quite such a fuss about being subjected to peer-review. We might not then have had to waste quite so many million man-hours in argumentative futility.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Richard : 12.20pm

    I hope you won’t feel hurt if I say that this isn’t your best comment. You appear not to have recognised that your position is political as well as scientific. You are predicating your argument with the assumption that the conclusions of a large group of scientists cannot be anything other than scientifically robust. Well, of course, if you make this assumption, the AGW argument has to be respected, and acted upon.

    The sceptics argument, on the other hand, is that this assumption may not be true – that a group of scientists need not be scientifically robust, if their scientific discipline is being subordinated to political motivation. We are not saying that a group of trained scientists are making a scientific mistake, but that they are making a political, not a scientific case – and as such they are no more entitled to be given enhanced credibility as experts than is anyone else.

    Ergo, your call that the “threat” must be treated as a probability, because of the evidence of experts, is only valid if we can be sure to have stripped any taint of politics from the opinion of these experts. If we can’t be sure of this, we must look at the evidence with a view to establishing the strength of the possibility, shorn of its political bias. Once we’ve established the most likely, strictly scientific conclusion, we can then start the totally separate political discussion, knowing that we are doing this using precise scientific information, which we can assume hasn’t been pre-tainted in an attempt to mislead the political discussion into reaching a preordained conclusion.

    As far as the State is concerned, nobody could be more concerned than I that we need to protect people from the badness in others. You are wrong if you think that I am a laissez-faire liberal who understates human badness in order to create comfortable conditions for the strong to prosper in. What I do believe, however, is that there will sometimes be situations when stopping a specific badness cannot be done without also stopping a great deal of goodness, and that in these situations we need to consider whether the better solution is to compensate the victims for the badness they have suffered, and allow all the goodness to take place, rather than do what is necessary to stymie the badness, but at the same time stymie large amounts of goodness as well. If it’s a choice between remedying the harsher side of a production system, or having a theoretically fair, but much-lower level of production, then I reckon it should be the people who decide which way we go – not the ideologues who are generally going to live pretty comfortably, irrespective of the decision made.

    And finally, you’ve misinterpreted my reservations about the mainstream AGW perception. I question the AGW consensus not because I am anxious to reverse a probably “good” policy for fear of the effect it will have on State power, but because I believe it may be a “bad” policy being promulgated in part because of the effect it will have on expanding State power. I’m also concerned that the measures may be ineffecive and that they may be countering a threat that is largely illusory, but these reservations would be minuscule, and not really worth bothering with, were it not for the failure of the pro-Green lobby to address the massive unforced cost to billions of people that will be consequential upon following their agenda. Social decisions aren’t just about adopting monofocal good ideas, they’re about balancing the overall costs and benefits of these ideas and deciding only to pursue those with nett benefit. There are clearly massive downsides to the world going green, and no matter how much some argue the alternative to be Armageddon, there are others of us who aren’t entirely convinced that Armageddon has really been established to be the alternative – and the disjoint between the verve with which the Warmists make their argument, and the real evidence there is to back it up, leads us to suspect that the Warmist enthusiasm is driven by something more than a concern about the condition of the environment in 100 years time. We’d love to discuss what is really the concern of the Warmists, even though we can’t guarantee to be convinced by their arguments.

  • John

    I don’t think I could have been any clearer: MY NEW POINT. In my new point I try to say that the leak of the mails would be consistent with someone wanting to break out of a cabal. Or groupthink as some might say. But yes that bit’s a guess.

    I don’t guess about the deliberate lies. People who have spent decades in the field and academe generally will have known the tree-ring line doesn’t correlate with temperature in the only period in which we can judge them side by side. They therefore have no place in the hockey stick diagram at all. The fact that they went ahead tells us they put their ‘message’ ahead of ‘the science’.

    I can go to Greenpeace ot WWF for propaganda. I expect a University to be academically rigorous.

    And Nature et al. should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Richard

    John,

    ‘I guess….’. This is an odd basis on which to accuse people of ‘deliberate lies’. I don’t think you’d like to be on the receiving end of that kind of statement.

  • John

    I think Rhoda captures the deliberate lies behind the hpockey stick in her usual succinct fashion.

    My new point is: the climategate mails didn’t leak themselves. I guess it could be random chance, but seems to me someone on or near the inside knew how corrupted the field had become and concluded there was no other way to take a stand.

  • Richard

    A lot of interesting responses here – thanks. There is so much to say about this. Please remember that I was attempting to answer a crude accusation of deception (‘deliberately misled…’), posted by John. I can agree with Rhoda to the extent that there are legitimate questions about why the tree ring data ceases to tally with the temperature measurements, and that this casts some uncertainty over tree-ring data from further back. Pearce says as much. But if, as Pearce says, Mann was open at the time about his merging of the two data-lines in his graph, then there was no deception, was there? I hope you have the fairness to condemn the frequent misinterpretation by journalists and others of the phrase about the ‘trick.. to hide the decline’, whether the misinterpretation is deliberate or merely ill-informed.

    Pearce also says that ‘Whatever the reliability of the tree rings, other proxies that do not rely on tree rings show much the same. For instance, studies of the water in hundreds of wells and deep boreholes in all six continents…’ (101).

    I am not suggesting that there is no room for uncertainty. There is a lot of uncertainty about how the positive and negative feedback effects will operate; that is, about whether the roughly two degree increase that now seems inevitable will lead to still greater increases, taking us into widespread ecosystem breakdown or not. My main point is that the scientific consensus around this – however you quibble about the edges of that consensus – deserves some respect. They are saying that on the basis of current knowledge, taken broadly, we probably have a serious problem. Probably. That’s what I think it is irresponsible to dismiss.

    Simon Stephenson, that’s the nub of my disagreement with you, I think. On the basis of what the experts are saying, I think we lay-people have to talk about probability, not your ‘possibility’, and then start our admittedly very difficult considerations of what to do. I share some of your misgivings, and Donna’s. We should indeeed weigh the cost of preventive measures against the likely success-rate. Bjorn Lomborg has always concentrated on this question, very challengingly. But that conversation, to be serious, needs to start with the probable threat as part of the equation.

    Donna, you talk about scientific funding, but it is clear that there would be lots of industry and political funding for a climate scientist able to demolish the AGW theory in effective and thorough scientific terms. The energy companies in the US and elsewhere have been desperately looking for such a person for years. It’s telling that they haven’t come up with anything substantial, isn’t it?

    As for ‘the State’ – Simon Stephenson, from our conversations over the months, it has become clear that I place more emphasis on the state’s role in protecting people from what you call ‘the bad side of human nature’, and you place more on state power as restricting ‘the good side’. That’s a genuine disagreement in which we should listen carefully to each other, and I think we generally do. I’m afraid of state power too, but it can be moderated, and some things are scarier. What other protection against the ‘bad side’ can people have? All I ask, in a sense, is that we should accept that each of us perceives a necessary principle, and that circumstances are always changing in ways that tip the balance of this argument.

    You are, essentially, arguing that we should do nothing about the probable threat of global warming, because protective measures might strengthen state power too much, and because those measures would be costly and might not be sufficiently effective to justify that cost, especially if other countries did not follow suit. I am saying, essentially, that, yes, we must make constantly shifting calculations that take these factors into account, but we must try to do something about the threat. Painful as it is, we must begin some sort of transition. A world population of 9 billion people in 2050 (the UN’s mid-range estimate), most of them striving for a western-style consumerist way of life, does not seem likely to be compatible with the ecosystem resources that have sustained us so far.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    From my 10.10am post

    “and we dispute that it’s been established that the reality of the downside consequences of taking corrective action, in total, are not greater as negatives than it’s possible to outweigh as positives through combining the weight of the upside consequences with the reasoned assessment that they may not be necessary”

    This reads like something Gordon Brown or Ed Balls might have written, when they purposely didn’t want the readers to grasp the point they were making.

    What I was trying to put over was that the Warmist argument fails to evaluate the costs of the action it recommends. It fails to accept that in taking what is maybe the appropriate action to obviate what otherwise would maybe become a catastrophe, it is definitely denying the world’s population the use of energy that could and would be produced without the imposition of Warmist policy. This denial of energy won’t just lead to us needing to put on an extra layer of clothing during the winter, it will lead to billions of people finding the basics of their survival more difficult to obtain. The Warmists don’t seem to accept the need to measure the potentiality of this catastrophe – that would result directly from the adoption of their policies – against the potentiality of the possible catastrophe they are seeking to prevent. If they were to do so, perhaps then they might start to realise just how much their argument is driven by general political ideology, and how little by the specific concern which they are choosing to highlight.

  • Donna

    Richard, I suggest that you read Matthew Sinclair’s new book “Let Them Eat Carbon”. In the opening pages there are two graphs which show how current climate policies (mainly made up of taxes and subsidies) have done absolutely nothing to reduce carbon emissions. So even if the doom-mongers are correct and climate change is a real threat, the policies we are pursuing will not solve the problem but merely harm business. This has the knock on effect of making Britain less wealthy as a nation and therefore less able to cope with any climate disasters in the future.

    However, you don’t need a global conspiracy amongst scientists to create a global ‘consensus’ (as if such a thing existed). Just as politicians are liable to jump on a bandwagon if they think it will help their career, so are scientists. They need to secure funding to continue their work, after all.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Richard : 6.59pm

    “Or is it just possible that the leading politicians of all three large parties, who have the advantage of receiving a lot of advice from the experts, actually perceive global warming as a serious danger?”

    Not really. There’s boatloads of opinion out there from either side, the politicians won’t weigh up one against the other – they’ll largely want to go with the mainstream groupthink, and as long as there is some argument in favour of this , they’ll go that way. With notable and herioc exceptions, of course.

    The other thing, of course, is the issue of ideology fulfilment. The whole anthropogenic global warming brouhaha, and the action needed to “protect” us, is predicated on free individuals = bad, government = good, and so there’s an obvious attraction for Statists to push it for all it’s worth, irrespective of the argument’s genuine merits. After all, if the world’s population can be lulled into thinking that this is a human problem that only State committees can solve, then that’s another step on the way to establishing top-down State control as the natural and normal way for humans to organise themselves. 1984 here we come!

    “If coalition against the threat of financial disaster is a good thing, why not against the threat of environmental disaster?”

    Because the threat of financial disaster is demonstrably real, and the causes of it are both a lack of interference and an over-interference by the State. It is necessary that the State recognises and deals with the imperfections of the financial system through which the bad side of human nature will bring about bad things, but at the same time recognises that any restriction on the creativity and invention of the good side of human nature should be outside its remit. Stakhanovism, for example, is a good thing for people, but a bad thing for the State – the people should prevail.

    “The problem with most of the responses here is that they assume we can be sure that the threat doesn’t really exist. This isn’t responsible.”

    Nonsense. The point of the entire sceptical position is scepticism, not denial. What we believe is that however much the AGW argument is based in science, the rationale behind how it is being presented is not scientific. That the scientists who are advancing it are not circumscribing their arguments in science, and that they are not presenting a scientific opinion unsullied by political desirability. They have been persuaded by the Hari-esque argument that there is an emotional truth that is above rational truth, and they therefore see the prostitution of their scientific discipline as a necessary service for the good of mankind.

    We sceptics don’t deny the possibility that man may be contributing something to atmospheric change, but we believe that the risks and dangers of what we are doing have been cherry-picked by a group of people whose basic purpose is not to take action against what is a very nebulous threat, but to use it as a totem to advance their belief that man = bad, and that he therefore needs to be controlled by a committee of the great and good sitting on high. We dispute that AGW is any more proven than Malthusianism was; we dispute that the corrective action being proposed has been shown to be effective, even if the threat turns out to be real; and we dispute that it’s been established that the reality of the downside consequences of taking corrective action, in total, are not greater as negatives than it’s possible to outweigh as positives through combining the weight of the upside consequences with the reasoned assessment that they may not be necessary.

    “But to reject all forms of ‘green’ adaptation, and to advocate growth of absolutely any kind, at absolutely any cost, is to risk a future catastrophe.”

    Sure it is, but this isn’t what we’re doing. What we want is a recognition that we are not having a proper discussion about carbon emissions and the genuine degree to which we should be concerned about this, purely from a scientific point of view. We are having a political discussion, in which a scientific argument has been hi-jacked, spun, window-dressed, misrepresented, and demonised in order to serve the purposes of those people who wish to structure the world on the basis that man = bad, State = good. We’d prefer them to start from man = good and bad, State = good and bad, and for externalities like AGW to be looked at exactly how they should be seen as externalities, not topped and tailed in advance so that they fit the desired political prejudice.

    “Unless one seriously believes that nearly all the world’s climate scientists are engaged in a vast conspiracy, one has to think in terms of some sort of adaptation, and such adaptations are likely to carry an initial cost. Why shouldn’t the richest countries, and we’re still one of them, make the first move?”

    It doesn’t need to be a conspiracy, does it? “Nearly all” of the world’s “climate scientists” could have settled on their views completely independently. It could be that the discipline of climate science attracts a particular sort of person – one, perhaps, who is especially concerned about the impact man makes on the environment. Is it not quite likely that “climate scientists” are a long way from being a random sample of the human population? Taking another example, wouldn’t you expect to find that people who specialised in Marxist theory were on average more pro-Marxism than the rest of the population? And would it be right to conclude from this that it was their expertise that led them to their beliefs, or would it be more correct to conclude that it was their beliefs that led them into gaining their expertise?

    Sorry for the long fisking, but your comment needed it, I thought.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Richard, you do not understand the trick, nor does Fred Pearce, or he is being intentionally disingenuous. It is not kosher to put a line on a graph composed partly of one series and partly of another. The thing they were trying to cover up is not cooling, but the departure of the tree ring proxy from recorded temperatures during the only time period when we know both. If the tree rings do not map observations during a period we know about, how can we be sure that they do so in any past period where no actual temperature data is available. We don’t. We therefore conclude that dendro-climatology cannot give us a reliable construction of past temperature. Which is the fact that they were keen to cover up.

  • oldtimer

    A late contribution to this post. This speech by Rupert Soames to the Scottish Parliament is worth watching. It sets out why the UK lights are going to go out unless someone, other than Huhne, wakes up to the need for an energy policy that will actually deliver the energy the country needs.

    http://www.aggreko.com/media-centre/video-centre/rupert-soames-speech.aspx

  • Maddy1

    This is great for the elite to suggest this! They get to travel on Virgin Trains with pyschopaths for free, or at least taxpayers free. It does not matter how much petrol costs, the Short Birmingham Third World, Angel got to run around in her ministerial limo smoking reefers. Even the OZ. Bozz went to meet Oprah by private jet, either everyone should do this or none of us should do it, except for the late, saintly, Princess Diana of course.

  • Richard

    John,

    I’ll quote from Fred Pearce’s book The Climate Files:

    ‘While there, he [Inhofe] referred to Jones’s “hide the decline” quote. He said: “Of course he means the decline in temperatures.” This is nonsense. Given the year the email was written,1999, it cannot have been anything other than nonsense. At that time there was no suggestion of a decline in temperatures. The previous year was the warmest year in the warmest decade on record. So what did Jones mean?
    The full email from Jones says: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series
    for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith [Briffa]’s to hide the decline.” The decline being referred to was an apparent decline in temperatures shown in the analysis of tree rings. Tree rings have previously correlated well with changes in temperature. But that relationship has broken down in the past half-century. The reasons are still debated. The “trick” was a graphic technique used by Mann in his famous 1998 “hockey stick” paper in Nature, to merge tree ring data from earlier times with thermometer data for recent decades. He explained what he had done in the paper. Jones was repeating it in another paper. (…) [I]t is manifestly not clandestine data manipulation, nor (…) is it a trick to hide global cooling. That charge is a lie.’ (174-175)

    Do you dispute what Pearce says here? To repeat – Mann ‘explained what he had done in the paper’. There was no attempt to conceal this technique that the word ‘trick’ referred to.

    And beyond this, do you really think that the world community of climate scientists, way beyond East Anglia, are all involved in a gigantic, brilliantly co-ordinated fraud?

  • John

    Richard, you really ought to take a look at what ‘hide the decline’ in the ‘climategate’ mails actually meant. The team at UEA *deliberately* misled the pols and the public. The bits of the data series that were deliberately hidden, if re-instated, entirely falsify the whole construction of the hockey stick.

    Now we know the last 10 years have shown no hockey stick in temps. in real life either.

  • Andrew K

    “A frequent speaker at this year’s conference, Luciana Berger’s creed is simple.”

    I despair. I expect this from the BBC these days. Can’t anyone construct an absolute clause correctly?

  • Noa.

    “I walked out onto the wasteland that leads from Liverpool’s abandoned upriver docks and looked across the Mersey to the heartland of Britain’s chemical industry. There was a sense that history may repeat itself”.

    Well observed David and I’m sure you enjoyed the hard earned fresh air.

    However if you had been able to see further into the Irish sea you would have seen the wind farms which are even now powering Noa’s very own 60 watt light bulb and spittle flecked laptop, because it’s not too windy today to stop them.

  • daniel maris

    I agree industry are right to be concerned. What we need in this country is an energy investment strategy rather than one focussed on taxation not government revenue.

  • Richard

    Or is it just possible that the leading politicians of all three large parties, who have the advantage of receiving a lot of advice from the experts, actually perceive global warming as a serious danger? If coalition against the threat of financial disaster is a good thing, why not against the threat of environmental disaster? The problem with most of the responses here is that they assume we can be sure that the threat doesn’t really exist. This isn’t responsible.

    There are legitimate arguments about the effectiveness of different strategies, and the point about measures that simply shift the pollution elsewhere is valid and troubling. But to reject all forms of ‘green’ adaptation, and to advocate growth of absolutely any kind, at absolutely any cost, is to risk a future catastrophe. Unless one seriously believes that nearly all the world’s climate scientists are engaged in a vast conspiracy, one has to think in terms of some sort of adaptation, and such adaptations are likely to carry an initial cost. Why shouldn’t the richest countries, and we’re still one of them, make the first move?

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Rhoda Klapp : 5.33pm

    Well the answer is that the vast majority of people are mainstream belongers – this is their first priority – don’t go out on a limb about anything. Their rationalisation of this opinion-forming system is the concept that the mainstream, being composed of most people, is more likely to be right than any other school of thought. They fail to take into account that most of the mainstream’s superiority of numbers is composed of people who’ve only joined to be part of the mainstream – not because they’ve given any thought at all to the opinions behind which they’ve thrown their weight.

    One person in five years – that’s all I’ve had supporting my distnctly non-mainstream belief that our political system has become dominated by Machiavellians, non-mainstream but passing themselves off as being so, who are leading us by the nose to a place where the great majority of us do not want to be.

    Still, it only took the Russians 70-odd years to get rid of the totalitarian Statists – maybe we’ll get lucky and do it in 50.

  • Verity

    To David B, who writes: “comprised of representatives from the chemical industry, the unions and of Michael Connart …”.

    It should read “composed of” as every skuleboy no.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    TGF, I know, I was being disingenuous. But how else to let the stupid coalition do a u-turn that makes sense for the nation?

  • TGF UKIP

    Rhoda at 5.33 pm, it would seem that you are not taking into account the editorial agenda of the Nelson Spectator.

  • Hard, Heartless, Romantic Perry

    So, – let us imagine that the H2B comes to his senses (not very likely, but one must admit, a distant possibility) – comes clean, as it were, and against the entreaties of his masters in Brussels, discards the green taxes.

    Would that please the Conference Hall?

    Would that the please the general populace sick to the teeth of green b*llshit?

    Would that please OAPs struggling with exorbitant fuel hikes?

    I reckon so.

    Thus, it will never happen in our time, – or until the H2B is pitched out on his ear, – or gets his sinceure in Brussels.

    Hey hum!

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Simon, I am sure you are right, and my question was somewhat rhetorical. However, it was meant to be re-posed by the Spectator. While pols are as you say stuck on the mainstream position, and plebs such as ourselves have no say anyway (just try to take up greenism with your MP, if you want to receive a patronising non-engaging reply) I do not see why the media have to go along with it quite so sheepishly as the pols. I don’t see why the Spectator, for example, does not ask this kind of question loud and often, and refuse to take any sort of weak response. All that nonsense we get spooned about lack of growth, and we do not even address that we have policies which are bound and determined to suppress growth at source. Not just this policy, but many others. Why can we not stop doing stupid things?

  • Rabyrover

    As you look across the Mersey to Birkenhead, Port Sunlight, Ellesmere Port, Stanlow and Runcorn, you see chemical and related industries that green policies will decimate. And with it the exporting of many high paying jobs.

  • TGF UKIP

    Now David, what about the Speccie facing up to the bleedin’ obvious with a post headlined:

    “The Cameron Tory Green Threat to Growth”

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Rhoda Klapp : 4.21pm

    “The more appropriate question would be why so many pols have bought into the green fantasy.”

    Because doing so helped to cement their identification as being a solid member of the mainstream. And, as I’ve claimed elsewhere today, being considered to be part of the mainstream is essential to carrying any political weight. It really doesn’t matter if Greenery makes any sense in logic and reason, at the moment the mainstream position is pro-green, and so every personally ambitious politician has to support this position, or if he’s not shameless enough to do this, be agnostic about it. If for some reason the mainstream were to go anti-green, because Greenery was going to cost them too much money, then as if by magic all the ambitious politicians would be making out that they’d really been sceptical of Greenery all the time.

  • TomTom

    Luciana Berger – another public school girl lecturing the Plebs. What does she know about anything ? Full-Employment in Britain was based on cheap Russian and Libyan oil in the 1960s; after 1973 full-employment disappeared.

    Rather than talk about TAXING Ms. Berger should talk about SPENDING and how to SPEND only that which people are WILLING to pay in TAXES. She has NO mandate to tax or spend and no mandate to lecture; she is there to REPRESENT constituents, nothing else.

    She should be looking after her constituents and not sounding off about Israel or Green Issues or anything else

  • Baron

    David, excellent post.

    Michael Connarty concludes: “the current incarnation of the green economy is a threat to energy intensive manufacturing jobs”.

    Nope, that’s wrong, the current incarnation of the green economy is a threat to us all.

    Not unlike with the proposed changes in banking, the unilateral adoption of the idiotic carbon floor plan cannot but drive many jobs to countries that don’t give a toss, go for growth burning whatever they can get their hands on.

  • Axstane

    Why does it take a panel of “experts” to lay out what most of us instinctively know?

    Continue with these ridiculous carbon taxes and carbon trading for another year or two and we will have no industry to give off carbon.

    Just as the Labour hierarchy are reversing on spending and debt it is time that the leaders of the Conservative Party reversed on these green issues. I am fine with measures against atmospheric pollution and recycling and anti-littering as they make sense. The issues such as carbon are costs that we cannot afford and may have nebulous or negligible results.

  • oldtimer

    They only have to overcome the Cameron/Clegg vested interests, E Milibands pride of authorship of the Climate Change Act and Huhne`s zeal for his Carbon Plan. Should be a doddle for them.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    ..specialist subject the bleedin’ obvious?

    You could have read the same right here these last four years from me and maybe longer from many others. The more appropriate question would be why so many pols have bought into the green fantasy. Far more than would be explained by an ordinary division of opinion, which so rarely falls 100% to nil, on any subject, without some other influence at work.

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