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.
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
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.
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, 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”.
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:
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.
I urge the minister, in the light of all the evidence that has come out about the lack of any change in temperature over the past 15 years, to think again about the Climate Change Act and to revoke it, amend it and support home owners and British businesses.
– David Davies MP
Yasuni: Ecuador abandons plan to stave off Amazon drilling
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has abandoned a unique and ambitious plan to persuade rich countries to pay his country not to drill for oil in a pristine Amazon rainforest preserve.
Environmentalists had hailed the initiative when Correa first proposed it in 2007, saying he was setting a precedent in the fight against global warming by reducing the high cost to poor countries of preserving the environment.
“The world has failed us,” Correa said in a nationally televised speech. He blamed “the great hypocrisy” of nations who emit most of the world’s greenhouse gases.
“It was not charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility in the face of climate change.”
Correa had sought US$3.6bn in contributions to maintain a moratorium on drilling in the remote Yasuni national park, which was declared a biosphere reserve by the United Nations in 1989 and is home to two indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation.
But on Thursday evening he said Ecuador had raised just $13m in actual donations and $116 million in pledges and he had an obligation to his people, particularly the poor, to move ahead with drilling.
Schemes outwardly quite like this, that ask people to put their money where their mouths are, might yet turn out to be a great way to find the balance between development and preservation that actually pleases most people as revealed by what they are willing to pay for. But given that Mr Correa has already shown, as Tim Worstall points out, that he considers payment of his country’s debts to be optional, I think the required foundation of trust might be lacking for this one. Sadly there were quite a few private individuals who contributed to this scheme even though the rich world’s governments prudently refrained – some of these individuals lament their wasted money in the comments to this second Guardian story. Someone else replies that it is a sin to leave a sucker in charge of his money, but there are worse things to be than a sucker. They are not the environmentalists who should arouse our scorn. Reserve that for the first commenter, who says to general approval, “If we want to save the planet, we are going to have to do this by force.”
The other thing that really got me thinking was seeing the sort of people that would appear on television, proselyting about the coming tragedy that it would imminently become too late to prevent. Whether from charities, pressure groups or the UN, I knew I had heard their strident and political use of language, and their determination to be part of the Great Crusade to Save the World before. These were the CND campaigners, class war agitators and useful fools for communism in a new guise. I suddenly realised that after the end of the Cold War, rather than slinking off in embarrassed fashion to do something useful, they had latched onto a new cause. The suggested remedies I heard them espouse were always socialist in approach, requiring the installation of supra-national bodies, always taking a top-down approach and furiously spending other peoples’ money. They were clearly eager participants in an endless bureaucratic jamboree.
Now don’t get me wrong: a scientific theory is correct or not regardless of who supports it. But recognising the most vocal proponents of CAGW for what they were set alarm bells ringing, and made me want to investigate further…
- Jonathan Abbott writes on WUWT about his personal path to C(atastrophic) A(nthropogenic) G(lobal) W(arming) skepticism.
Aside from the slightly odd word “proselyting” … snap.
A few commenters here have expressed boredom about this whole climate thing, and a lot of people certainly are very bored indeed with the climate alarmists. But when you consider how much power and money are still being diverted into arrangements based on climate alarmism being true, by people for whom the science still seems to be settled like it was 1999, it would surely be a big mistake to stop discussing these matters now. This would be the equivalent, during the Cold War (an earlier huge argument to which Abbott rightly compares the climate debate), of reading someone like Von Mises explaining in about 1950 that communism is economically irrational and hence in the long run doomed, and saying, right, we can forget about that then. Communism still had many decades of damage to do. And it didn’t just fall. It was also pushed. Climate alarmism is the same now. The damage it will do has, arguably, only just begun. Just how much damage climate alarmism ends up doing depends on how much it continues to be challenged.
Earlier this year, we here in the UK had a spring that felt more like winter. Now we are enduring the frightful ordeal of a summer that is exactly like a summer, only more so. I don’t know about other UK-based Samizdatistas, but this current burst of local warming saps my will to blog. When it is this warm, my idea of fun is not sitting next to a typing machine that happens also to be a fan heater. But I will give it a go anyway, and in a way that doesn’t change the subject from the weather.
Last week, there was a publicity stunt by some lady mountaineers, who climbed up the Shard, to protest against oil and gas drilling by Shell in the Arctic. Measured with a tape measure and a stop watch, media reactions to this escapade say that it was a big success.
Nevertheless, the mainstream media angle on all this may have somewhat disappointed the lady mountaineers. It was: Does This Kind Of Thing Work? Does a bunch of women showing off their shapely bottoms on nationwide television by clambering up a rather irrelevant but shapely new London tower really do much to change opinion on such matters as Arctic oil and gas drilling? That was the BBC’s original slant on this, and I heard the same thing on the Channel 5 TV news in the evening. Maybe I am reading too much into this, but such questions suggest to me a slight pulling back from this argument on the part of the media people, a feeling that a whole generation of broadcasters is detaching itself from a previously definite point of view, the obvious truth of which would have been their starting point only a few years ago, but which they now regard as just another of those arguments that people have, which it is now their job to report rather than to take sides in.
The pessimistic line on this, from the anti-alarmist point of view, is that all that the media people were really asking was: How Can We Best Make Everyone Into Climate Alarmists? Will this stunt accomplish this, or do we need to try other methods? We. They are still all on side with the climate alarmists, but some of the climate alarmists, especially those in the media, are now starting seriously to fret about tactics. But even if there was a big whiff of that about the coverage of this stunt, does not the suggestion that these lady climbers might not actually have been persuading anyone to think differently at least suggest that maybe their team in this argument might be wrong about matters of far greater substance, such as – whisper it ever so quietly – the alleged scientific fact of forthcoming climate catastrophe?
What is not deniable, if you will pardon the expression, is that a libertarian, Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home, was asked to join in the coverage and say what he thought about it all,. You can listen to what Simon said here, and read Simon’s further thoughts on all this here. It was an email from Simon Gibbs that alerted me to this story. He knows that I am fond of the Shard.
→ Continue reading: Extreme weather – and some thoughts about what publicity stunts do and do not accomplish
When we learned how to make carbon our slave instead of other people, we started to learn how to become a civilised people. Thorium has a million times the energy density of a carbon-hydrogen bond. What does that mean for human civilisation? Because we’re not going to run out of this stuff. We will never run out.
So says Kirk Sorensen in a 5-minute YouTube video summarising the benefits. See also his company Flibe Energy and the Energy From Thorium Foundation. Between this and fracking there really is no need to worry about energy. That whole debate is simply between those who are for and those who are against civilisation.
Mongolian neo-Nazis rebrand themselves as environmentalists.