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]

A not too terrible year for the environment

The Independent, looking back over the year through its deep green spectacles, tells us:

It was mostly a terrible year for the environment. In the UK, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson continued to prompt speculation that he is a climate sceptic and Chancellor George Osborne carried on putting off potential investors in green energy, most obviously by scrapping from the Energy Bill a clause to green Britain’s power supply by 2030.

Meanwhile, for reasons I have not been following, badgers are being killed.

People like Osborne, Paterson and their ilk, in Britain and around the world, could be doing much better, but reports like this remind us that things could be far worse. At least the argument is flowing in the sane direction and away from climate catastrophism. And, with painful slowness, the power and the money are now responding to this change in the climate, as in: change in the climate of opinion.

Meanwhile, the world continued to experience the kind of extreme weather events that cannot be directly linked to climate change but which scientists say are likely to occur more often as a result of a changing climate.

I love that “cannot be directly linked” bit. As in: cannot be directly linked, no matter matter how hard the Independent’s preferred scientists are trying. These guys are just too obvious about what they want to be true.

The climate itself remains much the same.

Loving the Aussies even more

At first I thought that Tim Blair’s account of the outrageous behaviour of the Australian delegates to the Warsaw UN climate conference was written for laughs. I duly laughed. Then I followed the links. It’s all true; the snacks … the T-shirts … the pyjamas. Then of course my laughter was replaced by profound sorrow at the disgrace brought upon a once-respected nation by its so-called representatives*.

*While acknowledging the limited validity of concerns about health and safety of delegates in late night negotiations.

The superior virtue of the oppressed

It’s no coincidence the MPs found guilty of fiddling are all Labour, writes Peter Oborne.

The book can at last be closed on The Daily Telegraph investigation into the MPs’ expenses scandal. More than 300 Members of Parliament have paid back wrongly claimed expenses. Several of the worst offenders have stood down from Parliament. Now that the former minister Denis MacShane has at last pleaded guilty to fraud, no further prosecutions are planned, and all criminal investigation is reported to have ceased.

But one puzzling question remains. Why is it that only Labour MPs have been found guilty of expenses fraud as a result of the Telegraph revelations?

His argument that there is “only one chance in 64 that Labour’s score of 6/6 was a coincidence” should be saved as an Awful Example for the probability chapter in a GCSE mathematics textbook, with calculation of the precise odds that he has let the Tories off far too lightly left as an exercise for the student.

This part of his explanation, however, is accurate:

It is especially perplexing because the party in general strongly feels itself to be the embodiment of decency and morality. Indeed Labour has always insisted that the Conservatives are the party of venality, greed and selfishness. How baffling it is, then, that only Labour MPs have been sent to jail as a result of the Telegraph revelations.

Paradoxically, I believe that it is Labour’s belief in its own higher morality – what Bertrand Russell called the “superior virtue of the oppressed” – that has led to its downfall.

Many Labour people cannot believe that anything done by the oppressed classes or their champions can ever really be wrong, not when there are Bullingdon-educated toffs who were in the Eton club out there for comparison. The jailed MPs and their supporters know in their hearts that their very sentences are part of the oppression. They take comfort as the prison gates clang behind them from the thought that when they hear that sound they join the company of heroes.

Stanley Kurtz described a similar persecution envy burning in the breasts of greens and climate change activists in The Wannabe Oppressed:

What do America’s college students want? They want to be oppressed. More precisely, a surprising number of students at America’s finest colleges and universities wish to appear as victims — to themselves, as well as to others — without the discomfort of actually experiencing victimization. Here is where global warming comes in. The secret appeal of campus climate activism lies in its ability to turn otherwise happy, healthy, and prosperous young people into an oppressed class, at least in their own imaginings. Climate activists say to the world, “I’ll save you.” Yet deep down they’re thinking, “Oppress me.”

And deeper yet, “Oppress me a little bit so that I can resist you with visible heroism safe in the knowledge that you will not actually hurt me.”

Ah you gotta love the Aussies

Australia will be represented by a diplomat rather than a senior minister at international climate talks in Poland next week aimed at securing an agreement to cut global carbon emissions. Environment Minister Greg Hunt won’t attend annual United Nations climate change talks in Warsaw, saying he’ll be busy repealing the carbon tax in the first fortnight of parliament. Mr Hunt said through a spokesman that he would be “fully engaged in repealing the carbon tax” while the conference was under way.

- Ben Packham

The wrong kind of wind

It was a breezy night last night in England, and because such times are rather rare in these islands we aren’t really organised for it. When the wind does blow a bit, there is damage. There are even deaths. Not funny.

But, this is funny. It’s a wind turbine in Devon, looking somewhat the worse for …. wind:

BlownOver

My thanks to commenter number one, on this posting at Bishop Hill today.

As we have been saying here for years…

Christopher Booker writes in The Telegraph:

What on earth was in David Cameron’s head when, amid raucous Commons exchanges on our soaring energy bills, he shouted at Ed Miliband, “we need to roll back the green charges” that the Labour leader “put in place when he was energy secretary”? Mr Cameron must have known that he and his party cheered every single one of the green charges introduced by Mr Miliband when he was energy and climate change secretary. Along with George Osborne, William Hague and most of his present Cabinet, Cameron happily voted for Mr Miliband’s Climate Change Act, committing us all to paying up to £18billion every year until 2050; in fact, the Tories wanted to go even further

So are the likes of David Davis plotting to remove the catastrophic Cameron? And if Nigel Farage is not intending to make hay out of this I would be very surprised. But then regular readers of Samizdata has long known we regard Cameron’s Tories, the LibDems and Labour as pretty much interchangeable.

Climate change policy: what do the models tell us?

Very little. A plethora of integrated assessment models (IAMs) have been constructed and used to estimate the social cost of carbon (SCC) and evaluate alternative abatement policies. These models have crucial flaws that make them close to useless as tools for policy analysis: certain inputs (e.g. the discount rate) are arbitrary, but have huge effects on the SCC estimates the models produce; the models’ descriptions of the impact of climate change are completely ad hoc, with no theoretical or empirical foundation; and the models can tell us nothing about the most important driver of the SCC, the possibility of a catastrophic climate outcome.  IAM-based analyses of climate policy create a perception of knowledge and precision, but that perception is illusory and misleading.

- Robert S Pindyck in a new paper. And this comes from someone who supports taxing carbon emissions.

Quoted by Robert Murphy, who’s very good on the sandy foundations of the climate economics holding sway in the IPCC and the US government – see also here and here.

Samizdata quote of the day

Watching the three party leaders arguing shamelessly over energy bills and climate-change policies is, at points, jaw-dropping. While Cameron mocks Miliband’s proposed energy freeze and points out that in the last Labour government he was the energy secretary who piled extra costs on to consumers, the Tory leader backed Miliband’s green policies at the time and has continued in a similar vein in office. That means that successive governments have been very slow to respond to warnings about Britain’s looming energy crisis

- Iain Martin

The Big Cause

Jonathan Abbott, whom we have seen mentioned on Samizdata before, has a rumination on not so much on environmentalism’s excesses but the underpinning psychology.

There is a type of person that needs to be part of a Big Cause. They cannot seem to accept the probability that they live in unexceptional times, that they themselves are thoroughly ordinary and will leave no lasting mark behind when they are gone. The number of individuals that substantially affect the course of history is vanishingly small and the mass of real progress takes place in tiny steps carried out by anonymous individuals. It is usually only in the collective total of our uncoordinated efforts that mankind as a whole advances in any way.

Some Big Causes do greatly benefit mankind (such as the programme to eradicate smallpox) but most, however well-intentioned initially, result in great harm. Many of the most damaging ones, for example fascism and communism, require another Big Cause to end them. Adherents to a particular Cause will necessarily not see it as just another campaign for progress, but as THE Big Cause, the movement that will change the historical paradigm and catapult humanity into a dazzling future.

Carrying out the personal actions prescribed by The Cause marks them out as one of the elect, and from then on no matter how commonplace other aspects of their life may be, they will have made their mark. They mattered.

This sort of belief is terribly seductive. As noted above, I do not think that all Big Causes are harmful, and I am not suggesting that only a bunch of no-hope losers would sign up for a Big Cause. However, for the most popular Big Causes of the twentieth century, this sort of optimistic, wishful thinking turned out to be a mere fairy tale. Indeed, the brutal and violent nature of the Big Causes of the previous century meant that only a sentiment-based, appeal to emotion Cause such as Climate Alarmism could arise in their wake.

And now as the end-game of Climate Alarmism as a major political force comes into view, I find myself wondering what will be the effect on the mass of its adherents. Historical Big-Causers such as Robespierre, Mao and the majority of their followers went to their graves convinced they had been doing the right thing, never renouncing the horrific by-products of their dogmas. Once signed up to a Big Cause, few ever leave. Will it be the same for the Alarmists?

One of the things that I find hardest to swallow is that the political, NGO and civil service fools wasting vast quantities of public money in the name of Alarmism are told on a daily basis by their fellow travellers in the media that they are doing a Great Thing. They are resolutely building a better world for everyone, especially for the oft-invoked archetypal grandchildren. Most of these apparatchiks will go to their graves convinced they spent their lives helping their fellow humans.

Even if the science behind their beliefs becomes publicly as discredited as that which denigrated plate tectonics, they will excuse themselves as being the innocent and well-meaning victims of deception. Their ignorance is their shield.

For the hard core of true believers, the Alarmist Cause will never die and they will follow it resolutely into the sunset, becoming the Trotskyites and Eugenicists of the future. Irrelevance will swallow them. For the less resolute, who come to accept the fall of Alarmism (or at least realise it has become a waste of time), the banner of other Causes will be raised instead. The beginnings of these new Causes will even now be growing and are probably already visible, just not gathering much media attention. Yet.

My guess is that many of the Alarmists will deflect their anti-capitalist neo-ludditism into campaigns against genetic engineering and nanotechnology; nascent movements to oppose both are already growing. Inevitably they will once again claim unequivocally that the science is on their side, even as they shut down scientific debate and rail against genuine scientific progress.

Unfortunately, it will not be until long after the worst Alarmists are dead that they will finally be grouped with the Malthusians and Lysenkoists as they deserve.

Samizdata quote of the day

I think we should rephrase the analogy. The position of scientists dependent on the approbation of their peers and government funding is knowing that to dissent from the thermogeddon narrative is as disastrous careerwise as that of the Islamic apostate’s future, and so keeps his silence as do the massed ranks of Muslims unenthusiastic about violent jihad but unwilling to draw the attention of Islamists to themselves by speaking out. I think Mehdi Hasan should understand that.

- Samizdata commenter ‘Ljh’, commenting here.

Medhi Hasan is ill-advised

Medhi Hasan, former editor of the New Statesman and now political director of the Huffington Post, writes,

Depressingly, you can draw no other conclusion from these facts than that the conspiracy theorists are winning. The deniers of global warming have come in from the cold. The “merchants of doubt”, to borrow a phrase from the science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, seem to have perfected the dark art of “keeping the controversy alive”, sowing seeds of doubt and confusion in the minds of politicians, journalists and voters, in spite of the scientific consensus.

Thus, I use both the terms “denier” (rather than “sceptic”) and “conspiracy theorist” advisedly.

If so, Mr Hasan, you are getting bad advice. As it happens I am a “lukewarmer” but if I were as anxious about anthropogenic global warming as Mr Hasan is, the last thing I would do is make a habit of directing public insult upon the heads of people who disbelieve in it.

Not just because it is nasty to compare people to Holocaust deniers, though it is, but because you will make people wonder whether the famous consensus is based on scientific judgement or fear. As I said in 2006 and still say seven years later:

The consensus convinces because there is no good reason to suppose that so many eminent scientists are lying or deceiving themselves when they say climate change is happening. But if you give me cause to believe that departure from the consensus gets a person ostracised, then there is a good reason.

I was rather prescient, wasn’t I? I supplied in advance the answer to Mr Hasan’s next point:

As for the “conspiracy theorist” tag, let me be blunt: climate-change deniers are the biggest conspiracy theorists of all. In order to embrace the delusions of the deniers, you have to adopt the belief that tens of thousands of researchers, some of them awardwinning scientists, from across the world (not to mention the political spectrum) have conducted behind the scenes, undetected by the media, a campaign of peer-reviewed deceit in defiance of empirical data.

One does not have to believe that tens of thousands of researchers consciously carried out an organized deceit in order to become a “denier”. One only has to believe the much more likely scenario that tens of thousands of researchers separately looked around them, noted that opposing the consensus gets you compared to a Nazi and duly – and quite possibly unconsciously – followed the proverbial advice “don’t stick your neck out”.

The green tide is now receding

Further to yesterday’s SQotD, which was an MP dissing the Climate Change Act, I spotted this propaganda, on the big expensive greenhouse type front door, in Victoria Street near where I live, of the governmental organ that now calls itself the Department for Business Innovation & Skills:

EnergisingBritain

Those wanting to say that my title for this posting is nonsense won’t have to go very far to prove themselves right, in their own eyes. All they need to do is go to the Department for Business Innovation & Skills website, where they will find no prominent mentions of anything about Energising Britain with such things as oil or gas, but plenty of mentions of things like Offshore wind industrial strategy and Multi-million pound investment in offshore wind industry to unlock billions in UK economy. Unlock billions from the UK economy, more like.

I agree, sort of, in other words, with a commenter on that SQotD, who said:

Too late, the scam has been running long enough that there are now too many snouts in the trough.

The above piece of propaganda that I photoed may not be an actual lie, in the trivial sense that 13.5 billion quid may indeed be being invested in Britain this year in oil and gas, despite everything that the Department for Business Innovation & Skills may have done to discourage such investment by instead prattling on about wind farms for the last decade or more. But as an exercise in saying what the Department for Business Innovation & Skills is now concentrating on, it is a lie. The racket continues.

But this is often the way with big government bureaucracies. The truth, and a consequent forthcoming shift of policy emphasis (that later cascades into a truly new and totally different policy), often first impinges in the form of public lies about what they are now doing, even as they persist behind the scenes with the old discredited nonsense.

Never underestimate the reverse-impact of public relations departments, in the form of them telling the other people in the building what they now all ought to be doing. The collapse of the USSR, no less, began as a big old Soviet lie about how the USSR was going to start being efficient and nice and good, by doing something called “Glaznost”. It was wall-to-wall bullshit, but it was wall-to-wall bullshit that helped to change the course of history. The USSR, like “green energy”, “climate change” and so on, was another huge scam that went on for far, far too long, and by the end snouts in the trough was all it was. And the snouts only changed things when the trough was getting seriously near to totally empty. But change things they did. Millions had already died, and millions more had endured lives of utter misery, and in this sense, the change came too late, far too late. But change like that is never not worth doing. There is still a future worth improving, for many millions more.

Suppose you were a green fanatic who had weaselled your way into the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, and got yourself a job giving money stolen from British taxpayers to friends of yours who construct wind farms for a living, and emitting Niagaras of lies about how that was going to “energise Britain”. How would you feel about walking past all this stuff about oil and gas, every time you went into work in the morning?

You might think that all that lovely oil and gas tax revenue would perhaps enable you and your lying friends to keep the wind farm scam going that little bit longer, and if you did feel that, you might well be right. But I don’t think, on the whole, you’d like what you were seeing every morning. Just keeping your little scam going for a few more years until you are safely retired is hardly what you had in mind when you began it. Then, it was a cause, and you and your pals would be all over the history books, in a nice way. Now, history is looking like it might be taking a somewhat different turn.

For starters, there is no mention in this big lump of verbiage, of green, either as a word or in the form of the actual colour green. There is only a rather garish, shamelessly industrial, orange. “BRITAIN” in big letters also has a nasty, nationalistic taste to it. Whatever happened to saving the world?

More fundamentally, “oil and gas” is everything you hate. Oil and gas is vast, clunky metal structures noisily gouging dirty old energy to set fire to out of defenceless Mother Earth like it’s 1925, or if it now isn’t that, you still think it is, as do millions of others who also think: Hurrah! It’s a whole generation of people saying: Bollocks to wind farms, let’s get rich, again. It’s the whole world saying: “Climate catastrophe? Let’s not worry about that when it doesn’t happen, okay?” Despite all the wind farm idiocy that the Department for Business Innovation & Skills is still shovelling out, I think I smell change here, and for the better.

LATER: Green bloodbath in Australia.

SEE ALSO: Alex Singleton, at the ASI blog, says that Parliament’s cushy consensus over climate change is dead.