What is the authority of climate scientists?

Climate realists/skeptics often encounter the argument that most skeptics are not actually “climate scientists” because they mostly come from a range of other disciplines. The clear assumption is that there is something special about climate science that only properly authenticated climate scientists can understand. And so when the serious head counters like John Cook and colleagues do their count they draw their sample from the people who publish in official climate science journals and/or do their work in designated climate science units.

I think that assumption reflects a fundamental failure to appreciate the nature of the weather and climate science. It helps to come from a background in Agricultural Science because that has some of the same characteristics as climate science. It is not a pure discipline, it is inevitably a mixed discipline where the most rudimentary understanding calls for a sound basis in all the sciences, chemistry, physics, botany, zoology, geology with more depth in selected areas like animal production, agronomy, soil science and other specialised areas like plant pathology and entomology.

You could say the same for political economy, or simply economics the way it is practiced by the masters like von Mises, Hayek and Davidson.

The point is that a person with a background in the relevant disciplines, whether or not they have spent years in “climate science”, is well placed to form an opinion the issues if they have taken the trouble to engage with the literature for some time with the necessary scientific (critical) attitude. Bear in mind that this type of appreciation is very different from advancing the field that indeed takes years of intense application.

As for advancing the field, how far has climate science advanced in the several decades since it became a burning issue, for all the tens of billions of dollars spent on it?

Climate modelling is arguably the heart and soul of the enterprise, certainly all the things that are being done to save the planet are justified by the alarming projections of massive General Circulation Models. This appears to be a highly specialized field and it depends entirely on government funding because no private agency has ventured to spend the amount of money required to do the work.

I wrote that it appears to be highly specialised but in fact multivariate regression modelling is a common practice, especially in the service of Keynesian econometrics (how is that going these days?) It really helps to have some hands-on experience in this area and from my experience there are three things that you really need to know.

1. Running regression models is just about as much fun as you can have with clothes on.
2. Garbage in, garbage out.
3. You have to be very clever or very lucky to find out anything that you didn’t know before you started.

To conclude, can someone explain what climate modelling has contributed to our understanding of the weather. Do we have any reason to expect the projections from more advanced models to be any better than the old ones that have almost all been falsified?

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe | 76 Comments

The incredibility of the scientific academies

An interesting comment has turned up on a previous thread listing 200 academies that appear to support the climate fraud. They range from Academia Chilena de Ciencias (Chile) to Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences.

Who knewth there were so many socialist fools in the world? And the American science bodies that agree, via NASA.
Fools all, according to Dear Rafe?

A sample:
Academia Chilena de Ciencias (Chile)
Australian Medical Association
Cameroon Academy of Sciences
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Islamic World Academy of Sciences
Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
Pakistan Academy of Sciences
Palestine Academy for Science and Technology
Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences

I don’t know how much credence to ascribe to support from medical doctors and nurses, teachers and the humanities but there are enough supposedly reputable hard science bodies there to carry conviction to the casual onlooker.

It is important to be more critical than the casual onlooker. First up, there is a paper in the literature that that reported a close examination of the survey of the major scientific bodies to see what kind of response they really gave to a loaded question regarding their position. It seems that some organizations that are claimed to support the fraud actually hedged and qualified their position because they were clearly unwilling to give offence but they were also unwilling to go all the way.

The executive of one the more important bodies (The Institute of Physics? someone will know) had to redraft their position after the membership revolted against the “executive decision” and demanded a proper discussion of the scientific issues.

That points up the disconnect between the boards/administrators of the academies and the world of critical/sceptical scientific investigation. The typical example is the head of the Australian Academy of Science who is a Labor Party hack, pure and simple.

The overwhelming priority of the academies is to keep the money rolling in. They are PR agents and lobbyists and their KPIs are measured in government dollars. What more need to be said? Of course a lot of good work gets done, you can’t have that many bright, hard-working and well resourced people working for years without finding something, at least in medicine, science and engineering where there are tests in practice. Even there you will find serious concerns about a lot of the work. That also goes without saying when you consider the motivation of researchers, as described by Gordon Tullock (1965).

There is more to be said in another post and I welcome an ongoing exchange to explore the issues that arise here in appealing to the authority of the academies.

Just to finish with a comment on the credibility of NASA, about 40 retired astronauts wrote an open letter to deplore the politicisation of the organisation since they were at work.

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe | 21 Comments

A dark age coming

The headline story in The AFR today begins:

The federal government has slammed plans by business to go it alone on climate and energy policy but industry leaders are holding their ground and have the backing of Labor and the Greens.

It’s a new world out there.

Meanwhile, in the US: Is The Fed Trying To Tank The Trump Economy Before The Midterms? Want to breed uncertainty? Try this on for size:

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said he still favors the central bank raising short-term interest rates three more times before deciding whether more increases will be necessary to keep the economy on an even keel.

This suggests the Federal Reserve should lift rates at its December, March and June policy meetings “unless something changes,” Mr. Kaplan said Tuesday in a Wall Street Journal interview.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said then that rates remain low enough to continue stimulating economic growth. But according to the Wall Street Journal other officials have expressed a range of views, and some uncertainty, about how high rates would have to go to reach a so-called neutral level that neither spurs nor slows growth.

A COMMENT ON RISING RATES: I have been asked about rising rates in the comments. And as I have said in the past, rates have been too low for too long which has lowered the productivity of our array of investments. The issue is not whether rates should rise – they should – but whether they should rise now immediately before an election. The effect on share markets was obvious enough. Front-page treatment of a falling market can move voter sentiment, specially the way it can be played on by the media. The Fed kept rates down throughout the Obama presidency and there was never any doubt it would push them up once PDT was elected. Optics is all, and even if the adjustments brought on by higher rates are positive for the economy, it may not look that way to anyone who is paying out more on their mortgages or small-business loans.

Posted in Economics and economy, Federal Politics | 22 Comments

Facebook vs alternative media

A warning from We Are Change.

It is with deep sadness and justified anger that we must report that Facebook has now unpublished some of the largest alternative media pages around! Included in this Orwellian information purge are Press For Truth, The Anti-Media, and The Free Thought Project just to name a few in a move that took down 599 pages and 251 accounts. We have had a close working relationship with many of these organizations.

What do we know about these organisations? This is We Are Change and this is The Free Thought Project.

Posted in Freedom of speech, Rafe | 16 Comments

Laframboise on the IPCC rule-bending

From the summary of her critique.

Four chapters – 14 “The Stern Review Scandal”, 15 “Cutoff Dates, What Cutoff Dates?”, 16 “This is Called Cheating” and 17 “Cross-examination” report on some of the ways the rules on deadlines, peer review and the like are bent to suit the agenda.

The tone is set from the top and chapter 25 is “Pachauri’s Cause”, specifically “rapid transformation of the economic system” redefining cultural patterns and major lifestyle changes everywhere.

“We have been so drunk with this desire to produce and consume more and more…we are on an environmentally unsustainable course..I am not going to rest until I have articulated in every possible forum the need to bring about major structural changes in economic growth and development. That is the real issue, climate change is just a part of it.”

Chapter 26 “Follow the Leader” describes the way that the cause of climate change and “extreme weather” meant that the leading hurricane expert Chris Landsea had to be sidelined by Kevin Trenbath who was in charge of the relevant chapter in the Climate Bible. The following chapter takes that case further to describe the role of Susan Solomon, the co-chair of that working group, who was named in another chapter for threatening to dismiss Steve McIntyre when he tried to do a proper job as an expert reviewer. Chapter 28 follows the story about pseudo-scientific data on hurricanes that became part of the Climate Bible.

So a dubious finding that originated in a paper written by an insurance company was included in the Climate Bible in 2001. It then made its way into the peer-reviewed scientific literature in 2005. By 2009 it was being regarded as gospel by the US Government.

One of the expert reviewers asked an appropriate question about some papers that were accepted which contradicted the views of a leading expert in the field. What did the expert think about these papers? He was not asked. One of the graphs in a key paper was criticized by an expert reviewer, a different graph appeared in the final report, making the same (alarming) point.

Finally, in Febuary 2010, a contributing author of the chapter admitted he had drawn up the new graph “informally”. [run that past me again!]. In the words of the (excluded) expert “The IPCC created a graph that did not exist in the peer reviewed literature or in the grey literature to suggest a relationship between increasing temperatures and rising disaster costs”.

Nice work if you have enough control over the production to get that kind of result.

Chapters 29 and 30 run through one of the most scandalous beatups on the IPCC record, the malaria scare, suggesting that warming will massively increase the prevalence of malaria. Among other things malaria is not especially a warm climate illness. On top of that we find the domination of non-experts in the field, abuse of non-peer reviewed literature and uncritical channelling of the beat-ups by the obliging press.

Chapter 31 “Extinction Fiction” charts the abuse of pseudo-scientific findings to predict alarming species losses. One of the two key papers was written by Chris Thomas and 14 co-authors. Enter Daniel Botkin, one of the leading figures in the field. He described the Thomas paper as “the worst paper I have ever read in a major scientific journal”.

“Is there any way you can cite the findings of the Thomas paper but not tell your readers about the controversy it generated? Is it honest to neglect to mention that the same journal that published the paper followed up six months later with not one, not two but three critiques? Is it scientific to fail to discuss the fact that another harsh appraisal of some 6000 words in length was authored by a scholar at Oxford [an Oxford scholar!] Yet that is precisely what happened.”

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe | 16 Comments

Carbon taxes: many losers, some winners

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Bjorn Lomborg drew attention to the inconsistency of the global warming costs and benefit estimates made by newly minted Nobel Prize recipient William Nordhaus, and the alarmist IPCC climate review issued out of Inchon.  Lomborg, is a believer in the global warming myth but tends to think the money spent alleviating it is better spent elsewhere (his socialist background does not allow him to include an option of leaving the money with its owners!)

A New York Times article put the level of a carbon tax necessary to curtail emissions in line with an estimate of their social costs at somewhere between $135 and $5000 per tonne; the former would mean a twofold increase in Australian wholesale prices and the latter a thirteen fold increase.

Actually, though Nordhaus was a pioneer in marrying an emission reduction regime to economics, he uncritically accepted all the costs said to emanate from global warming – crop reductions, hurricanes, desertification of eastern Australia, increases in disease, lost infrastructure.  Having done so, he set about estimating the level of global tax which would redirect spending and investment to take into account of these “externalities”.

It is worth noting that the level of loss he estimated from an increase in temperatures of 3°C, even with the outrageous exaggerations that were, and remain, part and parcel of the IPCC ideology, was just 2.5 per cent of world GDP – about one year’s growth rate!.  So, the greatest moral issue of our time, the begetter and destroyer of political regimes and the policy bedrock undermining the Australian economy would, if resolved, even with all the exaggerated costs assessed by the alarmists, allow the saving of just one year’s growth!

Aside from the Nordhaus calculations, Tol (who was largely responsible for the economic chapters of the IPCC 2013 report) could only find two other peer reviewed studies of the costs (he dismissed the blatant propaganda exercises of Stern and Garnaut).  One of these, Boselo, Eboli and Pierfederici put the cost of warming by 1.9°C at 0.5 per cent of global GDP and the other by Rosen and van der Mensbrugghe put the cost of warming of 2.3°C at 1.8 per cent of GDP and a warming of 4.9°C at 4.6 per cent of GDP.

To achieve a 2.5°C maximum temperature increase, on recent Nordhaus estimates would require a tax in 2015 at $184 (US 2010 dollars) rising to $351 by 2030.  This, unrealistically assumes that the tax will be uniformly and immediately applied across all countries.  And that those countries that are natural carbon sinks, like Australia, Russia and Canada don’t lay claims for their services from the rest of the world!

Even so, it is worth looking at what the Nordhaus tax would be required for Australia.

A tax at US184 per tonne in 2010 dollars equates to a tax today of about $A290 per tonne.  Applied to the 560 million tonnes of Australian emissions, such a tax would be raising $160 billion this year.  That’s about 13 per cent of GDP.

The alternative to the carbon tax has been the regulatory taxes and subsidies, chief among which have been those on renewable energy.  Whatever pain these might have caused they have brought great comfort to some firms, as is illustrated in profit growths below

Revenues were little changed.

The latest accounts show that Ms Tanna the CEO of energyAustralia, who claimed the firms “were not bandits”, was amply rewarded with annualised income of $A8.86 million for the current year, more than that of her Hong Kong based boss and three times that of the CEO’s of the Hong Kong, Chinese and Indian subsidiaries.

Every cloud ….

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Laframboise on the IPCC revisited

The scathing and evidence-based critique of the governance of the IPCC remains topical as long as the IPCC produces rubbish in the name of science. The good news is that almost 800 people checked out this link after it appeared on the Cat last week and a day or so later in a post on Tim Blair’s blog.

The overwhelming majority of the visitors came from The Daily Telegraph. When I post links from my website on the Cat I usually get 40 to 80 visits and once when Andrew Bold ran a link it raised 800. For the benefit of Cats who were too lazy to follow the link (admittedly I have posted it at least once a year since it first went up) I will run some of the worst examples of fraud here.

The Steve McIntyre case

McIntyre has a track record of his own, with his demolition of the “hockey stick” claim about global warming. So it is surprising that he was selected to be an expert reviewer for the documents feeding into the 2007 reports. Laframboise reports that McIntyre noticed that the arguments in one of the major reports were based on two papers which had not yet been published. He was suspicious of the results so he asked to see the raw data. According to the IPCC rules the support units are supposed to provide expert reviewers with material that is not readily available. They have fulltime staff and the reviewers mostly do the work pro bono. The head of the unit was Martin Manning, now head of a research institute in a NZ university. Twice he refused to help McIntyre. His second email read:

“Let me repeat – If you wish to obtain data used in a paper you should make a direct request to the original authors yourself. It would be inappropriate for the IPCC to become involved in that communication and I have no intention of allowing the IPCC support unit to provide you with what would in effect be a secretarial service. There are over 1200 other scientists on our list of reviewers and we simply cannot get involved in providing special services for each…I will not be responding to further correspondence on this matter.”

He probably could have emailed the two scientists in the time he took to reply to McIntyre and the request for the raw data would have had an official imprint, demonstrating a commitment to quality review in the organization. In the event, the two authors refused to provide the data to McIntyre when he contacted them.

He reported this to Susan Solomon, an atmospheric chemist who had a senior role in assembling the 2007 report. In 2008 Time magazine named her as one of the world’s most influential people due to her work on the 2007 Climate Bible.

Solomon’s own response could hardly have been less helpful. IPCC rules, she said, “only oblige the technical support units to provide copies of unpublished papers. The IPCC does not, said Solomon, concern itself with the raw data on which papers – published or otherwise – are based.”

In case that is not strange enough, Solomon then accused McIntyre of behaving improperly. In her view by contacting the journal, as he’d been told to do by the author, McIntyre was interfering with that journal’s internal decisions. She stated that McIntyre had been granted access to the unpublished papers for one purpose only: to read them. She suggested that in seeking more information, he was violating IPCC confidentiality provisions. For this reason he could be struck from the official list of IPCC reviewers. She wrote to McIntyre:

“We must insist that from now on you honor all conditions of access to unpublished, and therefore confidential, material…The IPCC rules…have served the scientific and political communities well for numerous past international assessment rounds. If there is further evidence that you cannot accept them, or if your intent is to challenge them…then we will not be able to continue to treat you as an expert reviewer for the IPCC.”

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe | 12 Comments

Boettke on the Hayekian legacy

The final chapter is The Hayekian Legacy. A reminder that students may be able to obtain the book at a reduced rate .

However, you are able to get the book at a discount for personal use, and if your library subscribes to Palgrave/Macmillan catalogue you might be able to order a version of MyCopy, which I don’t really know the details about but it appears to be a sort of print on-demand version.

It is possible that this offer expires on Oct 17 so don’t delay to follow it up.

Hayek’s project is a challenge to the scientistic understanding of economics and political economy…it is a project full of tensions but also of great promise. [295]

Boettke identified three potentially critical tensions in Hayek’s body of work although two of them arise from misreading the arguments and he sees the third as the growing point for the next developments. This is a rather important point because it shows the importance of criticism and especially the way the criticism plays out. Criticism has a destructive and a creative function rather like the creation and destruction of entrepreneurial activity in the economy. Criticism identifies problems and problems are the growing point for the next developments. Criticism may be deadly and sink the program or alternatively it may stimulate the creative response that drives the program forward.

Boettke reminds us that he has beaten a path through seven decades of highly productive work in several disciplines. Most academics are probably at home in only one, some venture into two or three. If you are lucky enough to find the right books and mentors early in life you can led directed into the most productive and illuminating channels in more than one field. So it is with students of Austrian economics as Boettke has demonstrated in this book. Even Steve Kates has acknowledged a debt to the Austrians which is a change from a few years ago. That might me an exaggeration, he just insisted that he was a classical, not an Austrian. Who cares, Hutt trained as a classical and was adopted by the Austrians.

The first tension is between the role of the technical economist and the moral philosopher. This is resolved by the fact that the technical economist is concerned with the way things work and the moral philosopher is concerned with “what is to be done”.

The second is between the evolutionary emergence of institutions and the “design principles” of deliberate institutional reform. This is resolved along the same lines as the first. Questions about the emergence and evolution of institutions are descriptive and scientific with conjectural answers that can be debated in search of better explanations and narratives. There is a fundamental difference between unchangeable laws of nature that we may discover (admittedly by invention in the first instance) and the mores, rules and conventions that do change, both by accident and design.

Rules and laws of the second kind are changing all the time whether we like it or not and the task of the well-meaning reformer is to make changes that produce the desired (and hopefully desirable) effects. Good luck with that! The kind of institutional studies that Boettke wants to see are the best hope we have to do better with institutional design and reform.

The image of the gardener that he invokes is apt. We just have to maintain and design the best institutions that we can manage and leave it to people to get on with it. Similarly the farmer tills the soil and does whatever is calculated to be cost-effective and within human control to optimise the growth of the tender and succulent little seedlings and after that it is up to the seedlings to do the rest.

The third tension is between moral intuitions and moral demands. Boettke regards this as much more difficult and intractable than the others and it may call for another post because this is too long already.

Ending with words from the book.

Let this book end with an invitation to inquire into the science of economics, the art of political economy and the implications of both for a renewed social philosophy for the twentieth century.” [295]

Windpower Update. At 7am Wind & Other were delivering 7.5% of demand in SE Australia.
Updating again at 4pm Wind & Other 10% of demand.
Be warned that bigger numbers here are not good news because when more windmills come on line your power will become more expensive and the supply will be less reliable.

Posted in Classical Economics, Rafe | 1 Comment

Tell that to ASIC

Matt Canavan, quite rightly, has issued a warning to big business:

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has warned big business not to form its own policy on greenhouse gas emissions in the wake of the dumping of the National Energy Guarantee, telling it to leave policy to the democratic process.

Responding to an unsourced Fairfax Media report that the nation’s biggest energy companies had begun talks on a self-regulated package to reduce greenhouse gases through the Business Council of Australia, Senator Canavan advised the big corporates to have “a bit of humility.”

But … I suspect many big businesses are being driven to do so by a government agency:

The corporate regulator has encouraged companies to go beyond meeting strict legal requirements and voluntarily disclose climate change risks and opportunities to the market.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission commissioner John Price told a Centre for Policy Development forum on Monday night that in addition to the strict legal requirements, companies should also “carefully consider the general information needs of investors” when it comes to disclosing climate risks.

So what is Business to do? Respect the democratic process, or respect the undemocratic regulatory agencies that will drag them through the courts?

Posted in Economics and economy, Oppressive government, Rule of law, Shut it down. Fire them all. | 26 Comments

Paul Johnson on universities

Poor behaviour at universities has been in the press recently so I thought it might be interesting to post what British historian Paul Johnson had to say about the role of those institutions:

Indeed, the study of universities and the great men and women who have attended them leads me to think that the best of these schools are characterized not so much by what they teach and how they teach it but by the extent they provide opportunities and encouragement for students to teach themselves. The best also help to instill certain intellectual virtues in young minds, including respect for the indispensable foundation of democracy, the rule of law; the need to back up opinions with clear arguments, empirical evidence and hard work; the varying importance of resolute conviction and friendly compromise, when appropriate; open-mindedness at all times; and the perpetual need for courage in the pursuit of truth.

Then there is Bryan Caplan’s view of education nicely summarised here.

Posted in Education | 5 Comments