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]

The unsung genius of the yellow vest

Whatever one thinks about the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests/riots in France – and I happen to know that they are the result of a deal made between a French green activist wishing to see more protests about what the government was doing to combat climate change and a particularly literal minded demon – the choice of the yellow Hi-Vis waistcoat or vest as a symbol of the protests was inspired. As every schoolboy knows, St David told the Britons to wear leeks in their caps to distinguish friend from foe in their battles with the Saxons. In many struggles since then some item snatched up in haste from whatever was lying around in order to improvise a uniform has duly become an icon of that cause. Here are some reasons why the gilet jaune is destined to join that illustrious list:

One: Protesters want to be seen. Hi-vis vests make people highly visible. This is one of those linkages that manages to be both obvious and surprising at the same time. Why did no one think of this before?

Two, anyone driving a car in France has got one in the boot anyway because a 2008 law says they must. Might as well put the thing to use.

Three, and this is the one I love, it turns a symbol of compliance into a symbol of defiance. Cop pulls you over. Cop saunters up to the car. “Is monsieur carrying a gilet de haute visibilité as required by law?” “Why of course, officer. I always carry my yellow vest. One never knows when one might need it.”

One day the Times headline writers might figure out what actually helps save rhinos

The paper edition of the Times that hit my doormat this morning had an interesting headline: “Hi-tech kit keeps rhinos safe from poachers”.

The online version has an even more interesting headline: “Hi-tech kit and ex-spies keeps South Africa’s rhinos safe from poachers”.

Neither headline is untrue, both the hi-tech gadgetry and the spies are helping preserve the rhinos, but both are missing something. My use of the “Deleted by the PC Media” tag is a little inaccurate, as is my use of the “Hippos” tag, but we seem to lack a tag for “Rhinos” or for “Never even entered the PC Media’s pretty little heads despite the facts staring them in the face from their own reporting”. See if you can guess what the missing factor is from this excerpt:

South Africa, home to 80 per cent of the world’s 29,000 rhinos, loses about three a day to poachers, the vast majority in state parks. Private reserves have become essential to preventing the animals from extinction, as long as the owners can afford to protect them.

Turning the 150,000-acre reserve into a 21st-century fortress in the African bush costs £1 million a year but the investment has paid off. The park has not lost a rhino in the past two years. It is hardly surprising. At each of the park’s four gates, guests visiting its five-star lodges, as well as staff, only enter after systems have checked numberplates and fingerprints against a national criminal database and are tracked and monitored until they leave.

Kruger National Park is far less secure and the rate of survival among its 9,000-strong rhino population is poor. Sixty per cent of all poaching incidents in South Africa occur there. Too often its rangers, police and officials are in the pay of poachers. Rhino horns can fetch up to £70,000 per kilogram in Asia, where they are imagined to cure a range of ills from hangovers to cancer.

Nico Metten on the Electric Vehicle Revolution

Is The Electric Vehicle Revolution Real? That is the question that Nico Metten asks, over at Libertarian Home. Metten’s answer, surprise surprise: no. His English could do with a little cleaning up by a native of these islands, but that quibble aside, and on the basis of far less technical knowledge than him, I share his doubts, although in my case the proper word would probably be: suspicions. I suspect everything tinged with Green to be … suspect.

Ken Ferguson, commenting at Libertarian Home on the matter of electric vehicles, argues, in contrast, that this “revolution” is real, and is driven by the need to cut down on air pollution. He supplies this link.

And indeed, you do now see electric vehicles all over the place. Here is one I photoed a while back, just a walk away from where I live, getting an electro-refill from a special roadside charger:

But are electric engines n vehicles the only way to cut down on harmful vehicle engine emissions, or could regular or not-so-regular petrol engines be part of similar reductions, perhaps by having something bolted onto the end of them to take care of those emissions? Or, could vehicle emissions be somehow cleaned up by other means, with devices not attached directly to any vehicles? Do such things already happen? And: How harmful are those emissions, actually? (See above: “suspicions”.)

Since concocting the bulk of this posting, I notice that another Libertarian Home commenter, Jordan Lee, echoes many of my doubts, and one in particular of my questions:

Is there a way to make fuel burning cars more efficient in cutting emissions?

Cars are now being sold on this exact basis. But how far will they get in doing this, and how efficiently will such cars continue doing their number one job, of being cars?

The Samizdata commentariat contains some notably well-informed techies. I’ll be interested to read whatever anyone may feel inclined to say about this.

This month’s quota

February 23 2018:

Do male climate change ‘sceptics’ have a problem with women? – Bob Ward

I posted about it here.

March 28 2018:

‘It’s a Very Male-Dominated Space’: Welcome to the Sexist World of Brexit and Climate Science Denial – Christine Ottery

And I’m posting about it here.

Is this what a man hired to communicate climate science calls evidence?

As I have said before, I retain a belief in CAGW two-and-a-half letters to the left of most commenters on this blog. But Bob Ward – Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics – is not the first believer in the imminent peril of climate change to have a damn good go at pushing my scepticism-marker to the right. On the LSE British Politics and Policy blog, he writes:

Do male climate change ‘sceptics’ have a problem with women?

Betteridge’s Law of Headlines applies for a reason. If someone knows a thing for sure, they don’t ask the air. They state it, good and hard.

Although clearly not all climate change ‘sceptics’ are male, writes Bob Ward,

Get-out clause.

it does appear that those who most intensely promote climate change denial are usually male, and routinely refer to female climate scientists in a dismissive way. He provides some evidence for his argument.

The standard of what he thinks is evidence is what prompted me to write this post.

On 20 February, the Global Warming Policy Foundation launched a new pamphlet at the House of Lords, attacking the mainstream media for not giving more coverage to climate change ‘sceptics’. The author, Christopher Booker, is a veteran columnist for The Sunday Telegraph. This will be the 65th pamphlet published by the Foundation, since it was registered as an educational charity by Lord Lawson of Blaby in 2009, 57 of which have been written by men only.

So 8 out of the 65 were not. That is 12.3%. According to a Guardian article asking how well women are represented in UK science in the light of the forced resignation of Tim Hunt (an affair which itself demonstrated the incompatibility of modern feminism with science), women make up just 12.8% of the STEM workforce. So the GWPF’s pamphlet output is, as we scientists say, only short by a whisker. Yeah, that 12.8% is a factoid I plucked out of the air of questionable relevance to anything, but so is Bob Ward’s figure of 57/65 GWPF pamphlets not having a woman’s name at the end. Incidentally I am shocked that the Guardian, unlike Mr Ward, ignores scientists of non-binary gender. No, wait! I have suddenly seen that Mr Ward’s rather strange phrasing “written by men only” might not after all be a progressive acknowledgement that some authors presenting as male or female might actually consider themselves as part of the Two Spirit community. It could just be about papers with more than one author. Oh, poot. That’s a paragraph of snark wasted. Not to worry, though. All I have to do is put a question mark at the end and I can use it after all: Does Bob Ward have a problem with the Two Spirit Community?

However, male dominance of the Foundation’s other activities is even stronger. Of its 10 Trustees, all but one are men. All of the 25 members of its “Academic Advisory Council” are men.

Those square quotes are men. I can tell by the way they are so aggressive and in yer face. Female punctuation marks are much nicer.

Its Chair, Director, Deputy Director, Science Editor, Energy Editor, Director of Development and Researcher are all men. And all seven of its annual lectures have been delivered by men.

So that’s the Global Warming Policy Foundation shown to be almost as sexist as liberal Hollywood luvvies or Oxfam directors. Are we going to reach the bit where we prove – or even attempt to prove – the sexism of climate sceptics in general rather than this one think-tank soon?

The Foundation does not disclose any details about the identities of its members, thought to number about 100, or its donors who last year gave more than £284,000. It is not obvious why the Foundation should be able to benefit from charity status while appearing to operate as an old boys’ club. It is not, for instance, raising awareness of men’s issues, such as the risks of prostate cancer.

Huh? I can vaguely see how he gets from “does not disclose any details about the identities of its members” to “appearing to operate as an old boys’ club”, but where did the bit about prostate cancer come from? The term “old boys’ club” or “old boy network” is usually taken to mean a group that operates by the principle of “it’s not what you know but who you know”. But the mention of “boys” is a historical hangover from the days when the days when practically all professionals were male. There was never any suggestion that old boys’ clubs became more acceptable if they dealt with old boys’ issues.

I asked the Charity Commission to investigate whether the under-representation of women within the governance and activities of the Foundation was the result of discrimination. The Commission had previously carried out an inquiry into the Foundation and concluded that it had violated the rules for education charities because it was solely promoting climate change denial.

However, it refused to make any enquiries about the under-representation of women on the grounds that “there are no legal requirements around gender balance in governance and that under s20(2) of the Charities Act, the Commission is precluded from interfering in the administration of a charity”.

Good to see the Charity Commission staying within its legal remit. Gambling Commission, please note.

The Foundation may be dominated by older men because climate change denial is simply not popular among women and young people.

Science of the sort that Bob Ward approves of is also disproportionately old and male. Old because it takes time to learn this stuff, male because… well, that is not a question into which modern science cares to delve.

Numerous studies have suggested that climate change ‘sceptics’ are usually older and male, with political views that place less value on the environment. However, recent polls of the UK public suggest that there is little gender difference among the small proportion of the population who are hardcore ‘sceptics’.

The fact that Mr Ward put in this nugget that undermines the rest of his article made me think a lot better of him. But it still undermines the rest of his article.

A tracking survey commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showed that, in March 2017, 7.6% answered “I don’t think there is such a thing as climate change” or “Climate change is caused entirely caused by natural processes”, when asked for their views. Among men the figure was 8.1%, while for women it was 7.1%.

As above.

Anyone who has engaged with ‘sceptics’ will have learned that it is the men who are most vocal about their views.

Anyone who has engaged with ‘human beings’ will have learned that it is the men who are most vocal about their views.

They tend to lack any training or qualifications in climate science, but still appear to believe that they know better than the experts. And there is also a degree of male chauvinism that often underlies the arguments put forward by ‘sceptics’ during public discussions. For instance, when Lord Lawson was asked to comment on a statement by Professor Dame Julia Slingo, the chief scientist at the Met Office, about the link between flooding and climate change, he did not refer to her by her professional title but as “this Julia Slingo woman”.

The degree of male chauvinism in that is close to zero. I am female but if I do not think too highly of a person I might easily refer to them as “this X Y man” if they happen to be male and “this A B woman” if they happen to be female. To omit her professional title does fall short of the highest standards of courtesy but before we specifically condemn Nigel Lawson for sexism perhaps we ought to establish that he is more insulting to women than to men. Paradoxically he could defend himself from the charge by pointing to his frequent waspishness to his male political allies, his male political enemies, and to the male chat show host Clive Anderson. I am sure Lord Lawson would not have dreamed of making disparaging reference to the appearance of a lady.

Other climate change ‘sceptics’ routinely refer to female climate scientists in a dismissive way. For instance, Professor Joanna Haigh of Imperial College London was called a “puffed-up missy” in a trademark rant by James Delingpole for the extremist website Breitbart. Mr Delingpole also referred on his website to Dr Emily Shuckburgh, an experienced climate scientist who specialises on impacts in polar regions, not by her name or job title but as “some foxy chick from the British Antarctic Survey”.

What an adorably old-fashioned chappie Delingpole is. As indeed is Mr Ward. A chick can go Oxford and have a science degree and still be pretty damn foxy, you know. This is a point upon which I feel strongly.

Female scientists outside the UK are also exposed to sexist invective from climate change ‘sceptics’, with Scientific American reporting that, in the United States, “more than 90 percent of the harassing emails they receive are from men and often include gender-specific abuse”.

Of course not all climate change ‘sceptics’ are male chauvinists, but it is clear that those who most obsessively promote climate change denial are usually male, arrogant, and unable to accept that the experts are right, particularly if they are female.

No, it is not clear. Insufficient evidence has been provided to support the assertion.

Edit: Oh, and one further thing. A point so fundamental that I didn’t think of putting it in until later, like the Zeroth Law. Lord Lawson, James Delingpole, the entire complement of the Global Warming Policy Foundation irrespective of gender, and every climate sceptic on the planet could all be misogynist space Nazis who wear Free Cuckistan socks in bed and it still would not make their opinions on climate change wrong.

Parasites invading Houses of Parliament – DO SOMETHING!!!

Shocking news, despite the best efforts of voters over the years, and repeated manifesto promises, and reform of the House of Lords, all of which has been to no avail, parasites are invading the Houses of Parliament.

As Oliver Cromwell put it:

You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

Samizdata quote of the day

An Engineer, a Mathematician and a ‘Climate scientist’ are each asked “what is 2 + 2?”

The Engineer says “somewhere between 3.9 and 4.1”, the Mathematician says “4” and the ‘Climate scientist’ says “what would you like it to be?”

David Bidstrup

The Prime Minister has poorer housekeeping skills than a badger

This may seem a rather strange proposition, but in terms of ‘housekeeping’, there are various aspects to running a ‘household’, and I am comparing the financial discipline and general acumen of the First Lord of the Treasury (aka Mrs May) making the analogy to running the national ‘house’ to the practical but non-monetary skills of a badger, or rather, some badgers local to me.

The other day I found a badgers’ latrine on my morning walk, it was rather obvious, a ‘not-quite steaming’ pile and I immediately thought of the Prime Minister. I was struck by how careful the badger is to look after his household (or rather, his sett) and not to dump in it, instead using a carefully-dug latrine. This one was unusual in that it was very close to the roadside and highly visible.

Whereas it seems that the Prime Minister is quite happy to dump on the country a €20,000,000,000 bill for the privilege of leaving the EU and letting the UK run a trade deficit with them, and also dump a load of regulations on the UK. If you are going to make a payment, at the bloody least make it in Sterling, so the Bank of England can QE the money out of thin air (if this has to be done at all, which it doesn’t) and they can spend their nice pounds rather than HMG buy Euros. The good folk at Lawyers for Britain have debunked the case for any payment to be made for leaving. How about telling the EU that if your income falls, you cut costs, so that there are fewer than 10,000 in the EU earning more than the UK’s Prime Minister (which ought not to be an ‘office of profit’ under the Crown anyway).

The plan to graft into UK law all EU Regulations has at least the attraction of providing certainty, but why not plan a bonfire ‘On Day 1‘ to quote the Donald (yeah, it still hasn’t happened).

So if I have to choose between the two?

or

Having had to negotiate with a badger at 3 am one winter morning to get him to leave my garden, in my pyjamas and armed with only a garden fork for self-defence (this is England), I can testify that they do not give up a position easily, but my bluff worked.

To be fair to Mrs May, the badger seems to know instinctively not to foul its home, however, this is a skill that some of our politicians have yet to learn, and they are so very busy doing the opposite, it may take some time for them to lose their habits, but why?

Photo credits: Per Wikipedia, The Rt. Hon. T May MP, per Controller of HMSOOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Badgerhero.

Wanna see some hot models?

As ever, Paris was the place to see really hot models, but you have missed your chance. A couple of years ago they were basking in the admiration of the world. Now, they are looking a little old. However you can still read about them in today’s Times:

We were wrong — worst effects of climate change can be avoided, say scientists

Catastrophic impacts of climate change can still be avoided, according to scientists who have admitted they were too pessimistic about the chances of limiting global warming.

The world has warmed more slowly than had been predicted by computer models, which were “on the hot side” and overstated the impact of emissions on average temperature, research has found.

New forecasts suggest that the world has a better chance than claimed of meeting the goal set by the Paris Agreement on climate change of limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The study, published in the prestigious journal Nature Geoscience, makes clear that rapid reductions in emissions will still be required but suggests that the world has more time to make the necessary changes.

Michael Grubb, professor of international energy and climate change at University College London and one of the study’s authors, admitted that his previous prediction had been wrong.

He stated during the climate summit in Paris in December 2015: “All the evidence from the past 15 years leads me to conclude that actually delivering 1.5C is simply incompatible with democracy.”

Emphasis added. Professor Grubb was not alone. An article in New Scientist from December 2015 that included that quote from Professor Grubb also said,

And time has nearly run out for limiting warming to 2 °C. “If we wait until 2020, it will be too late,” climate scientist Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre in the UK told New Scientist on Friday. “It’s a very small window.”

As for 1.5 °C, it would take nothing less than “a true world revolution”, according to Piers Forster of the University of Leeds. “We need renewable energy, nuclear power, fracking, zero-carbon transport, energy efficiency, housing changes,” he said. “Even international aviation and shipping that were excluded from this report will need to be tackled within the next few years.”

I remain more of a believer in anthropogenic climate change than many here, but after three or four cycles of this, cynicism does creep in. There is the cycle of direct prediction: DOOM BY YEAR X > two years before year X doom has failed to show any sign of arrival > DOOM BY X+10 AND WE TOTALLY HAVE GOT IT RIGHT THIS TIME. As with the lifecycle of the periodical cicada, whole theses could be written about how the the swarming and dying off of predictions of climate doom is correlated with the emergence and retreat of predictions that the only way to avoid climate doom is a globally imposed command economy. There is a long, slow rising line in which something like Professor Forster’s “true world revolution” is more and more incontrovertibly the only chance, until the date it is going to be needed to be done by becomes so close that (a) it obviously ain’t gonna happen, and (b) people start saying that if “our only chance” is something that obviously ain’t gonna happen, we might as well take our tune from the besieged citizens of Jerusalem in Isiah 22:13 and have joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine, for tomorrow we die. At this point the trendline for true world revolution being the only solution falls off a scarp slope and the one for mere socialist austerity just possibly being enough (if we start now) starts to rise.

And that is where we find ourselves with this most recent paper in Nature Geoscience,

Speaking to The Times, he [Professor Grubb] said: “When the facts change, I change my mind, as Keynes said.

That line from Keynes has long bugged me. For every one occasion when the facts truly change there are ten where the facts are the same as ever and all that has changed is that the speaker finally had to stop running away from them. It is a phrase that sounds like open-mindedness, but in fact avoids the need to admit error. Having said that, it is better to make like slippery Keynes than to make your opinions completely impervious to reality, and Professor Grubb has done better than Keynes in that he has said he was wrong.

“It’s still likely to be very difficult to achieve these kind of changes quickly enough but we are in a better place than I thought.”

Professor Grubb said that the new assessment was good news for small island states in the Pacific, such as the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, which could be inundated by rising seas if the average temperature rose by more than 1.5C.

“Pacific islands are less doomed than we thought,” he said.

Tuvalu’s doom level has been fluctuating since at least 2004.

Professor Grubb added that other factors also pointed to more optimism on climate change, including China reducing its growth in emissions much faster than predicted and the cost of offshore wind farms falling steeply in the UK.

He said: “We’re in the midst of an energy revolution and it’s happening faster than we thought, which makes it much more credible for governments to tighten the offer they put on the table at Paris.”

The study found that a group of computer models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had predicted a more rapid temperature increase than had actually occurred.

The global average temperature has risen by about 0.9C since pre-industrial times but there was a slowdown in the rate of warming for 15 years before 2014.

Myles Allen, professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford and another author of the paper, said: “We haven’t seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models. We haven’t seen that in the observations.”

He said that the group of about a dozen computer models, produced by government research institutes and universities around the world, had been assembled a decade ago “so it’s not that surprising that it’s starting to divert a little bit from observations”.

Here the cynic in me says that it is not that surprising in a different way that a dozen models were all wrong in the same direction. But, again, let us not be too down on Professor Grubb – at least he is partly acknowledging that scientific models are often uncertain, as Michael Jennings drew on his own experience as a research scientist to say on this blog in 2009.

He [Professor Grubb] said that too many of the models used “were on the hot side”, meaning they forecast too much warming.

See, I promised you hot models and here are so many hot models, you may even get tired of hot models.

A return to our roots

In the Guardian Hugh Warwick takes Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to end the oppression of students paying money for their higher education to its logical conclusion. He proposes that we rediscover the venerable tradition of corvée and let them pay their debt to Labour in labour.

What if all students spent a year working the land before university?

[…]

Yes, this is state coercion. But does that make it any worse than the corporate coercion that has helped create such an insular, unfit and unhappy society; that has helped create an ecological desert in the countryside? This is a chance to fight back against the enemy, because this is a war. We have just not woken up to the fact yet.

[…]

Of course there will be those who believe that this is wrong, that there should not be a compulsion to take part in eco-conscription. And it would be wrong of me to insist that everyone take part. So there will be an opportunity for opponents to state their case and to become, in effect, “conscientious objectors”. They could be given the alternative job of joining the army.

Samizdata quote of the day

One reason why so many people don’t take climate change seriously is that the people who are constantly telling us it’s a crisis never actually act like it’s a crisis. They’re all-in for sacrifices by other people, but never seem to make much in the way of sacrifices themselves.

Glenn Reynolds

Samizdata quote of the day

He [Trump] appears to be entertaining the horrible idea that the people who buy cars ought to be free to decide for themselves how much fuel economy matters to them – since they will be the ones paying for both the car and the gas. And – oh my god! – that this is really none of the business of the “concerned” scientists and other professional busybodies who regard their opinions and preferences as holy writ enforceable at gunpoint.

Eric Peters