We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

From the earth’s core to the uttermost star: how far up and down should property rights extend?

I see that government ministers have authorised an expansion of fracking in the UK. In general anything that riles up the Greens pleases me. But only in general.

As I understand it – OK, make that “I think I remember reading somewhere” – it has hitherto been the case in the UK that if you own a property you also own what lies below, not just immediately below such that you can prevent someone excavating their bomb shelter under your house, but all the way down in a long thin cone to the Earth’s core. So a property owner can forbid fracking beneath their land however deep the drilling. Anyone know, is this right? And whether it is or not, should it be?

I really do remember reading somewhere a science fiction story in which the entire universe had been assigned to various Earthly nations based on what cone of sky was above the territory of each country at midnight on a particular date. I cannot recall how or if that story dealt with either the effects of terrestrial boundary disputes, possible objections from as yet undiscovered alien species at their involuntary inclusion in one of these thin but infinite empires, or the curvature of spacetime. Granted that “to the edge, if such exists, of the universe” is taking property rights a tad too far, how far above your house should your property rights go?

A very welcome development

As Michael Jennings of this parish often points out, Australian political culture is as corrupt and nasty as pretty much anywhere else in the First World. But nevertheless, this is rather good news:

Tony Abbott, Australia’s centre-right Prime Minister, finally made good on his pre-election pledge after his government repealed the measure introduced by his Labor predecessor Julia Gillard. Poorly thought out and highly unpopular, the tax is almost unique in that it generated virtually no revenue for the Australian Treasury, contributed to the rising costs that have taken the gloss off the country’s resources boom and essentially brought down Ms Gillard’s former Government.

Of course it is not nearly enough, but it is a good start. The important thing is this destroys the aura of invincible inevitability that the Cult of Anthropogenic Climate Change has built up, tearing it off like the vestments of an unchallengeable priesthood to reveal what truly lies beneath. Now drive a stake through the evil beast’s green heart.

Samizdata quote(s) of the day

There are some libertarians who believe there may be something to AGW, and see using markets the way to mitigate the consequences. There are also libertarians (and conservatives and lefties) who think AGW is a preposterous fraud, and who naturally have no interest in finding solutions to a non-existent problem. But AGW per se is not a ‘libertarians vs. non-libertarians’ issue. You can still be a libertarian and think there is something to AGW, you are just going to see the ways of dealing with it very differently to command-and-control statists.

- Perry de Havilland

Bonus SQOTD, also from the same raucous beer and grappa fuelled discussion the other night…

Let me answer by rephrasing your question: “Do I trust a bunch of lay observers more than I trust a bunch of academics… academics whose professional acceptance and funding will be put at risk if they commit heresy against the True Faith and suggest AGW might not in fact be the indisputable truth?”

The establishment media did not get the memo

It is amazing the establishment is still peddling the whole nonsensical ‘climate change’ fraud. I guess they did not get the memo that people outside the BBC/Guardian bubble have noticed that the Emperor has no clothes.

There are no problems, only opportunities

The travails of Greenpeace continue to entertain.

If ever John Vidal tires of being the Guardian‘s Environment editor, he will be well placed to audition for the role of David Brent. How about this for an attempt to see the silver lining behind a very dark cloud: “Greenpeace’s £3m gamble could yet reap dividends in the fight against climate change”. What? How? Oh yes, of course:

If it only costs £3m for Greenpeace to prove to the world that speculation on risky markets to raise money is madness, then it may be money well spent.

O-Kaaay.

Meanwhile, and though I often mock the Guardian I must concede that it has diligently reported all this, it has also emerged that in an effort to prove to the world that the question “What kind of compromises do you make in your efforts to try to make the world a better place?” can be a bit of a toughie for a sought-after young Third Sector exec with a work-life balance to maintain, Greenpeace’s International Programme Director has over the last couple of years been flying from home to work several times a month.

Oops!

Greenpeace loses £3m in currency speculation

I liked the first comment, from a merry soul called ‘casaleiro’:

“Shoulda put the money in armaments and petroleum.”

Climate science biases

When it comes to “climate science”, I have for quite a few years now, as my sneer quotes make clear, been inhabiting the land of confirmation bias. So, I will not say that this proves me right. It merely confirms me in my state of ever more glacially advancing contempt for the “science” here described:

Several months afterwards, the society’s ‘newsletter’ was published. It contained a special section on the conference at which I had spoken, with a brief description of each talk, the work behind it, and with thanks offered to each speaker. I searched for my name – nothing. My presentation was ignored in its entirety.

“Disheartening” isn’t the term I would use, and I seriously considered giving up on the entire idea of academia, and getting a nice little 9-5 job. But, I am still here, still working on the problem, still uncovering, lets call them ‘anomalies’, in many areas, which the scientists involved have no clue how to explain, but about which they will hear no view other than their own.

Biases being confirmed all round, it would seem.

The answer to global warming: higher solar panel costs

From the “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry” department:

The Obama Administration has revealed the core of its strategy for reducing carbon dioxide emissions: increasing the cost of solar panels to discourage deployment.

The Commerce Department on Tuesday imposed steep duties on importers of Chinese solar panels made from certain components, asserting that the manufacturers had benefited from unfair subsidies.

The duties will range from 18.56 to 35.21 percent, the department said.

Read all about it here.

Note that the U.S. government has had a policy of systematically subsidizing solar panel manufacturers for some time, often with disastrous results, and so far as I can tell (from an admittedly cursory study) the main crime of the Chinese manufacturers is to be more efficient than U.S. producers.

(Whether you think CO2 emissions are increasing global temperature or not, one thing is clear: in politics, cronies are the highest priority of all.)

Why you should wash your dirty linen in public

Anthony Watts of the “climate sceptic” blog Watts Up With That republished this list by Roy W. Spencer: Top Ten Skeptical Arguments that Don’t Hold Water.

Not everyone agrees with his list. It seemed reasonable to many commenters, the great majority of whom appear to be fellow members of the anti-warmist camp, but there are apparently well-informed replies from those who disagree with individual entries or with the whole concept.

As propaganda, I thought it was terrific. To strip away the bad arguments put forward by one’s own side is to demonstrate that you think your main argument will survive the process. It shows yet more confidence to anticipate that the quality of debate in the comments will not let the side down.

What bad arguments have you come across for causes or contentions that you believe in?

Back-pedalling

Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.

James Lovelock in 2010.

The Revenge of Gaia was over the top, but we were all so taken in by the perfect correlation between temperature and CO2 in the ice-core analyses [from the ice-sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, studied since the 1980s]. You could draw a straight line relating temperature and CO2, and it was such a temptation for everyone to say, “Well, with CO2 rising we can say in such and such a year it will be this hot.” It was a mistake we all made.

James Lovelock in 2014.

When asked what the next 100 years will be like: “That’s impossible to answer. All I can say is that it will be nowhere as near as bad as the worst-case scenario.”

Incidentally, I am skeptical that heat is disappearing into the oceans, as he now appears to think. I think it is much more likely that the positive feedback needed to achieve high sensitivity to carbon dioxide doubling simply does not exist. Nonetheless, respect is due to James Lovelock for admitting a mistake. Let’s see if the rest of the global warming movement follows suit.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Indeed, it would be helpful if the climate scientists would tell us what weather pattern would not be consistent with the current climate orthodoxy. If they cannot do so, then we would do well to recall the important insight of Karl Popper — that any theory that is incapable of falsification cannot be considered scientific.”

- Nigel Lawson

Eminent UK academic doesn’t understand trade

A few days ago I had a bit of a rant about a UK-based academic, Danny Dorling, who among other things seems to be scathing about those academics who have the effrontery to challenge egalitarianism, at least of the sort enforced by the coercive power of the state. Dorling is that rather perplexing example of a certain intellectual: penetratingly sharp and illuminating on some issues (he is marvellous about population control characters and some of his statistics are very interesting) but flat-out bloody awful in his political economy. (He describes David Ricardo’s crucial Law of Comparative Advantage insight as “infamous”.)

As example of the latter, he writes about the implications of a decelerating population growth rate for retirement systems, such as tax-funded pensions and retirement ages:

“Retirement ages may have to rise, although if far more of us did useful work rather than working simply for the profit of a few others, retirement age need not be raised much, but we are going to have to learn to share better.” (Page 327).

When someone works to obtain something of value by providing something/service to another, it is called trade. Both sides are better off than they would otherwise be from doing this – they profit – since otherwise there would be no point in doing so. So, Professor Dorling writes a paragraph about “useful work” as if it is opposition to the notion of profit, not perhaps stopping to wonder whether the word “useful” is question-begging. Useful to whom? If I can write a news article, mend a fence, take packages to firms as a courier or work in a metal-bashing factory, all of these things might be useful to someone so much that they are willing to pay me enough to be worth my time and trouble, and profit me to that extent, and so on. It might be more useful for me, perhaps, to spend my time writing books about population, about how we should “share better”, and so on, but since these things might be thought of as totally bloody useless to others, I might have an issue in being able to make a living out of this unless I am lucky enough to not to have to earn a living with the free consent of my fellows. Luckily for Professor Dorling, who is paid a salary as an academic by the taxpayer, and who might also make a few quid selling his books and doing lecture circuits and so on, he can make a living, although we taxpayers might suggest that some of that money spent on supporting the lifestyles of this man might be more “usefully” employed on something else.

And that is the craziness of it. When a significant portion of the UK electorate is supported by the coercively funded payments of others who toil in the evil capitalist system, the former will contain people who, even if they happen to look and sound clever with their academic honorifics, be utterly ignorant of the most basic facts of economic life.

Discussion point: one of the Professor’s contentions is that highly unequal societies are far more environmentally destructive than egalitarian ones, although I find his reasoning a bit odd. (Correlation is also not causation). Surely, if you have a society where wealth is relatively evenly spread, but where people consume lots of stuff, that could be more destructive than a less equal one where people nevertheless had to be careful about the environmental costs of their actions. What Prof Dorling seems to be saying is that it is high levels of consumption that is the issue; some of his attacks on the mega-rich seem to be as much aesthetic as driven by environmental concerns. He also claims that unequal societies have higher birth rates than egalitarian ones – he may be right about that – but again, his contention begs the question as to why this is a bad thing so long as production is able to keep pace and if the standard of living of even the poorest person improves at a healthy clip. I cannot help but wonder whether Prof. Dorling is an egalitarian first and who wants to use the Green argument to bolster it. In other words, he is very much the face of the modern Left and different in many respects from old-style Marxists. What he has in common with such people is the unspoken – or even spoken – belief in the need for the supposed chaos and venality of the market to be replaced by the rule of people such as themselves.