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« The Black thread | Main | Curry express »
Tuesday
Nov012011

Scientific heresy

I'm grateful to Matt Ridley for allowing me to post the text of his Angus Millar lecture at the RSA in Edinburgh. [Update: I have prepared a PDF version of the talk, which has the important slides as well.]

It is a great honour to be asked to deliver the Angus Millar lecture.

I have no idea whether Angus Millar ever saw himself as a heretic, but I have a soft spot for heresy. One of my ancestral relations, Nicholas Ridley* the Oxford martyr, was burned at the stake for heresy.

My topic today is scientific heresy. When are scientific heretics right and when are they mad? How do you tell the difference between science and pseudoscience?

Let us run through some issues, starting with the easy ones.

Astronomy is a science; astrology is a pseudoscience.

Evolution is science; creationism is pseudoscience.

Molecular biology is science; homeopathy is pseudoscience.

Vaccination is science; the MMR scare is pseudoscience.

Oxygen is science; phlogiston was pseudoscience.

Chemistry is science; alchemy was pseudoscience.

Are you with me so far?

A few more examples. That the earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare is pseudoscience. So are the beliefs that Elvis is still alive, Diana was killed by MI5, JFK was killed by the CIA, 911 was an inside job. So are ghosts, UFOs, telepathy, the Loch Ness monster and pretty well everything to do with the paranormal. Sorry to say that on Halloween, but that’s my opinion.

Three more controversial ones. In my view, most of what Freud said was pseudoscience.

So is quite a lot, though not all, of the argument for organic farming.

So, in a sense by definition, is religious faith. It explicitly claims that there are truths that can be found by other means than observation and experiment.

Now comes one that gave me an epiphany. Crop circles*.

It was blindingly obvious to me that crop circles were likely to be man-made when I first starting investigating this phenomenon. I made some myself to prove it was easy to do*.

This was long before Doug Bower and Dave Chorley fessed up to having started the whole craze after a night at the pub.

Every other explanation – ley lines, alien spacecraft, plasma vortices, ball lightning – was balderdash. The entire field of “cereology” was pseudoscience, as the slightest brush with its bizarre practitioners easily demonstrated.

Imagine my surprise then when I found I was the heretic and that serious journalists working not for tabloids but for Science Magazine, and for a Channel 4 documentary team, swallowed the argument of the cereologists that it was highly implausible that crop circles were all man-made.

So I learnt lesson number 1: the stunning gullibility of the media. Put an “ology” after your pseudoscience and you can get journalists to be your propagandists.

A Channel 4 team did the obvious thing – they got a group of students to make some crop circles and then asked the cereologist if they were “genuine” or “hoaxed” – ie, man made. He assured them they could not have been made by people. So they told him they had been made the night before. The man was poleaxed. It made great television. Yet the producer, who later became a government minister under Tony Blair, ended the segment of the programme by taking the cereologist’s side: “of course, not all crop circles are hoaxes”. What? The same happened when Doug and Dave owned up*; everybody just went on believing. They still do.

Lesson number 2: debunking is like water off a duck’s back to pseudoscience.

In medicine, I began to realize, the distinction between science and pseudoscience is not always easy.  This is beautifully illustrated in an extraordinary novel by Rebecca Abrams, called Touching Distance*, based on the real story of an eighteenth century medical heretic, Alec Gordon of Aberdeen.

Gordon was a true pioneer of the idea that childbed fever was spread by medical folk like himself and that hygiene was the solution to it. He hit upon this discovery long before Semelweiss and Lister. But he was ignored. Yet Abrams’s novel does not paint him purely as a rational hero, but as a flawed human being, a neglectful husband and a crank with some odd ideas – such as a dangerous obsession with bleeding his sick patients. He was a pseudoscientist one minute and scientist the next.

Lesson number 3. We can all be both. Newton was an alchemist.

Like antisepsis, many scientific truths began as heresies and fought long battles for acceptance against entrenched establishment wisdom that now appears irrational: continental drift, for example. Barry Marshall* was not just ignored but vilified when he first argued that stomach ulcers are caused by a particular bacterium. Antacid drugs were very profitable for the drug industry. Eventually he won the Nobel prize.

Just this month Daniel Shechtman* won the Nobel prize for quasi crystals, having spent much of his career being vilified and exiled as a crank. “I was thrown out of my research group. They said I brought shame on them with what I was saying.”

That’s lesson number 4: the heretic is sometimes right.

What sustains pseudoscience is confirmation bias. We look for and welcome the evidence that fits our pet theory; we ignore or question the evidence that contradicts it. We all do this all the time. It’s not, as we often assume, something that only our opponents indulge in. I do it, you do it, it takes a superhuman effort not to do it. That is what keeps myths alive, sustains conspiracy theories and keeps whole populations in thrall to strange superstitions.

Bertrand Russell* pointed this out many years ago: “If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.”

Lesson no 5: keep a sharp eye out for confirmation bias in yourself and others.

There have been some very good books on this recently. Michael Shermer’s “The Believing Brain”, Dan Gardner’s “Future Babble” and Tim Harford’s “Adapt”* are explorations of the power of confirmation bias. And what I find most unsettling of all is Gardner’s conclusion that knowledge is no defence against it; indeed, the more you know, the more you fall for confirmation bias. Expertise gives you the tools to seek out the confirmations you need to buttress your beliefs.

Experts are worse at forecasting the future than non-experts.

Philip Tetlock did the definitive experiment. He gathered a sample of 284 experts – political scientists, economists and journalists – and harvested 27,450 different specific judgments from them about the future then waited to see if they came true. The results were terrible. The experts were no better than “a dart-throwing chimpanzee”.

Here’s what the Club of Rome said on the rear cover of the massive best-seller Limits to Growth in 1972*:

“Will this be the world that your grandchildren will thank you for? A world where industrial production has sunk to zero. Where population has suffered a catastrophic decline. Where the air, sea and land are polluted beyond redemption. Where civilization is a distant memory. This is the world that the computer forecasts.”

"Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts", said Richard Feynman.

Lesson 6. Never rely on the consensus of experts about the future. Experts are worth listening to about the past, but not the future. Futurology is pseudoscience.

Using these six lessons, I am now going to plunge into an issue on which almost all the experts are not only confident they can predict the future, but absolutely certain their opponents are pseudoscientists. It is an issue on which I am now a heretic. I think the establishment view is infested with pseudoscience. The issue is climate change.

Now before you all rush for the exits, and I know it is traditional to walk out on speakers who do not toe the line on climate at the RSA – I saw it happen to Bjorn Lomborg last year when he gave the Prince Philip lecture – let me be quite clear. I am not a “denier”. I fully accept that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, the climate has been warming and that man is very likely to be at least partly responsible. When a study was published recently saying that 98% of scientists “believe” in global warming, I looked at the questions they had been asked and realized I was in the 98%, too, by that definition, though I never use the word “believe” about myself. Likewise the recent study from Berkeley, which concluded that the land surface of the continents has indeed been warming at about the rate people thought, changed nothing.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that you can accept all the basic tenets of greenhouse physics and still conclude that the threat of a dangerously large warming is so improbable as to be negligible, while the threat of real harm from climate-mitigation policies is already so high as to be worrying, that the cure is proving far worse than the disease is ever likely to be. Or as I put it once, we may be putting a tourniquet round our necks to stop a nosebleed.

I also think the climate debate is a massive distraction from much more urgent environmental problems like invasive species and overfishing.

I was not always such a “lukewarmer”. In the mid 2000s one image in particular played a big role in making me abandon my doubts about dangerous man-made climate change: the hockey stick*. It clearly showed that something unprecedented was happening. I can remember where I first saw it at a conference and how I thought: aha, now there at last is some really clear data showing that today’s temperatures are unprecedented in both magnitude and rate of change – and it has been published in Nature magazine.

Yet it has been utterly debunked by the work of Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick. I urge you to read Andrew Montford’s careful and highly readable book The Hockey Stick Illusion*. Here is not the place to go into detail, but briefly the problem is both mathematical and empirical. The graph relies heavily on some flawed data – strip-bark tree rings from bristlecone pines -- and on a particular method of principal component analysis, called short centering, that heavily weights any hockey-stick shaped sample at the expense of any other sample. When I say heavily – I mean 390 times.

This had a big impact on me. This was the moment somebody told me they had made the crop circle the night before.

For, apart from the hockey stick, there is no evidence that climate is changing dangerously or faster than in the past, when it changed naturally.

It was warmer in the Middle ages* and medieval climate change in Greenland was much faster.

Stalagmites*, tree lines and ice cores all confirm that it was significantly warmer 7000 years ago. Evidence from Greenland suggests that the Arctic ocean was probably ice free for part of the late summer at that time.

Sea level* is rising at the unthreatening rate about a foot per century and decelerating.

Greenland is losing ice at the rate of about 150 gigatonnes a year, which is 0.6% per century.

There has been no significant warming in Antarctica*, with the exception of the peninsula.

Methane* has largely stopped increasing.

Tropical storm* intensity and frequency have gone down, not up, in the last 20 years.

Your probability* of dying as a result of a drought, a flood or a storm is 98% lower globally than it was in the 1920s.

Malaria* has retreated not expanded as the world has warmed.

And so on. I’ve looked and looked but I cannot find one piece of data – as opposed to a model – that shows either unprecedented change or change is that is anywhere close to causing real harm.

No doubt, there will be plenty of people thinking “what about x?” Well, if you have an X that persuades you that rapid and dangerous climate change is on the way, tell me about it. When I asked a senior government scientist this question, he replied with the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. That is to say, a poorly understood hot episode, 55 million years ago, of uncertain duration, uncertain magnitude and uncertain cause.

Meanwhile, I see confirmation bias everywhere in the climate debate. Hurricane Katrina, Mount Kilimanjaro, the extinction of golden toads – all cited wrongly as evidence of climate change. A snowy December, the BBC lectures us, is “just weather”; a flood in Pakistan or a drought in Texas is “the sort of weather we can expect more of”. A theory so flexible it can rationalize any outcome is a pseudoscientific theory.

To see confirmation bias in action, you only have to read the climategate emails, documents that have undermined my faith in this country’s scientific institutions. It is bad enough that the emails unambiguously showed scientists plotting to cherry-pick data, subvert peer review, bully editors and evade freedom of information requests. What’s worse, to a science groupie like me, is that so much of the rest of the scientific community seemed OK with that. They essentially shrugged their shoulders and said, yeh, big deal, boys will be boys.

Nor is there even any theoretical support for a dangerous future. The central issue is “sensitivity”: the amount of warming that you can expect from a doubling of carbon dioxide levels. On this, there is something close to consensus – at first. It is 1.2 degrees centigrade. Here’s* how the IPCC put it in its latest report.

“In the idealised situation that the climate response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 consisted of a uniform temperature change only, with no feedbacks operating…the global warming from GCMs would be around 1.2°C.” Paragraph 8.6.2.3.

Now the paragraph goes on to argue that large, net positive feedbacks, mostly from water vapour, are likely to amplify this. But whereas there is good consensus about the 1.2 C, there is absolutely no consensus about the net positive feedback, as the IPCC also admits. Water vapour forms clouds and whether clouds in practice amplify or dampen any greenhouse warming remains in doubt.

So to say there is a consensus about some global warming is true; to say there is a consensus about dangerous global warming is false.

The sensitivity of the climate could be a harmless 1.2C, half of which has already been experienced, or it could be less if feedbacks are negative or it could be more if feedbacks are positive. What does the empirical evidence say? Since 1960 we have had roughly one-third of a doubling, so we must have had almost half of the greenhouse warming expected from a doubling – that’s elementary arithmetic, given that the curve is agreed to be logarithmic. Yet if you believe the surface thermometers* (the red and green lines), we have had about 0.6C of warming in that time, at the rate of less than 0.13C per decade – somewhat less if you believe the satellite thermometers (the blue and purple lines).

So we are on track for 1.2C*.  We are on the blue line, not the red line*.

Remember Jim Hansen of NASA told us in 1988 to expect 2-4 degrees in 25 years. We are experiencing about one-tenth of that.

We are below even the zero-emission path expected by the IPCC in 1990*.

Ah, says the consensus, sulphur pollution has reduced the warming, delaying the impact, or the ocean has absorbed the extra heat. Neither of these post-hoc rationalisations fit the data: the southern hemisphere has warmed about half as fast as the northern* in the last 30 years, yet the majority of the sulphur emissions were in the northern hemisphere.

And ocean heat content has decelerated, if not flattened, in the past decade*.

By contrast, many heretical arguments seem to me to be paragons of science as it should be done: transparent, questioning and testable.

For instance, earlier this year, a tenacious British mathematician named Nic Lewis started looking into the question of sensitivity and found* that the only wholly empirical estimate of sensitivity cited by the IPCC had been put through an illegitimate statistical procedure which effectively fattened its tail on the upward end – it hugely increased the apparent probability of high warming at the expense of low warming. 

When this is corrected, the theoretical probability of warming greater than 2.3C is very low indeed.

Like all the other errors in the IPCC report, including the infamous suggestion that all Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035 rather than 2350, this mistake exaggerates the potential warming. It is beyond coincidence that all these errors should be in the same direction. The source for the Himalayan glacier mistake was a non-peer reviewed WWF report and it occurred in a chapter, two of whose coordinating lead authors and a review editor were on WWF’s climate witness scientific advisory panel. Remember too that the glacier error was pointed out by reviewers, who were ignored, and that Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, dismissed the objectors as practitioners of “voodoo science”.

Journalists are fond of saying that the IPCC report is based solely on the peer-reviewed literature. Rajendra Pachauri himself made that claim in 2008, saying*:

“we carry out an assessment of climate change based on peer-reviewed literature, so everything that we look at and take into account in our assessments has to carry [the] credibility of peer-reviewed publications, we don't settle for anything less than that.”

That’s a voodoo claim. The glacier claim was not peer reviewed; nor was the alteration to the sensitivity function Lewis spotted. The journalist Donna Laframboise got volunteers all over the world to help her count the times the IPCC used non-peer reviewed literature. Her conclusion is that*: “Of the 18,531 references in the 2007 Climate Bible we found 5,587 - a full 30% - to be non peer-reviewed.”

Yet even to say things like this is to commit heresy. To stand up and say, within a university or within the BBC, that you do not think global warming is dangerous gets you the sort of reaction that standing up in the Vatican and saying you don’t think God is good would get. Believe me, I have tried it.

Does it matter? Suppose I am right that much of what passes for mainstream climate science is now infested with pseudoscience, buttressed by a bad case of confirmation bias, reliant on wishful thinking, given a free pass by biased reporting and dogmatically intolerant of dissent. So what?

After all there’s pseudoscience and confirmation bias among the climate heretics too.

Well here’s why it matters. The alarmists have been handed power over our lives; the heretics have not. Remember Britain’s unilateral climate act is officially expected to cost the hard-pressed UK economy £18.3 billion a year for the next 39 years and achieve an unmeasurably small change in carbon dioxide levels.

At least* sceptics do not cover the hills of Scotland with useless, expensive, duke-subsidising wind turbines whose manufacture causes pollution in Inner Mongolia and which kill rare raptors such as this griffon vulture.

At least crop circle believers cannot almost double your electricity bills and increase fuel poverty while driving jobs to Asia, to support their fetish.

At least creationists have not persuaded the BBC that balanced reporting is no longer necessary.

At least homeopaths have not made expensive condensing boilers, which shut down in cold weather, compulsory, as John Prescott did in 2005.

At least astrologers have not driven millions of people into real hunger, perhaps killing 192,000 last year according to one conservative estimate, by diverting 5% of the world’s grain crop into motor fuel*.

That’s why it matters. We’ve been asked to take some very painful cures. So we need to be sure the patient has a brain tumour rather than a nosebleed.

Handing the reins of power to pseudoscience has an unhappy history. Remember eugenics. Around 1910 the vast majority of scientists and other intellectuals agreed that nationalizing reproductive decisions so as to stop poor, disabled and stupid people from having babies was not just a practical but a moral imperative of great urgency.

“There is now no reasonable excuse for refusing to face the fact,” said George Bernard Shaw*, “that nothing but a eugenics religion can save our civilization from the fate that has overtaken all previous civilizations.’’ By the skin of its teeth, mainly because of a brave Liberal MP called Josiah Wedgwood, Britain never handed legal power to the eugenics movement. Germany did.

Or remember Trofim Lysenko*, a pseudoscientific crank with a strange idea that crops could be trained to do what you wanted and that Mendelian genetics was bunk. His ideas became the official scientific religion of the Soviet Union and killed millions; his critics, such as the geneticist Nikolai Vavilov, ended up dead in prison.

Am I going too far in making these comparisons? I don’t think so. James Hansen of NASA says oil firm executives should be tried for crimes against humanity.  (Remember this is the man who is in charge of one of the supposedly impartial data sets about global temperatures.) John Beddington, Britain's chief scientific adviser, said this year that just as we are "grossly intolerant of racism", so we should also be "grossly intolerant of pseudoscience", in which he included all forms of climate-change scepticism.

The irony of course is that much of the green movement began as heretical dissent. Greenpeace went from demanding that the orthodox view of genetically modified crops be challenged, and that the Royal Society was not to be trusted, to demanding that heresy on climate change be ignored and the Royal Society could not be wrong.

Talking of Greenpeace, did you know that the collective annual budget of Greenpeace, WWF and Friends of the Earth was more than a billion dollars globally last year? People sometimes ask me what’s the incentive for scientists to exaggerate climate change. But look at the sums of money available to those who do so, from the pressure groups, from governments and from big companies. It was not the sceptics who hired an ex News of the World deputy editor as a spin doctor after climategate, it was the University of East Anglia.

By contrast scientists and most mainstream journalists risk their careers if they take a skeptical line, so dogmatic is the consensus view. It is left to the blogosphere to keep the flame of heresy alive and do the investigative reporting the media has forgotten how to do. In America*, Anthony Watts who crowd-sourced the errors in the siting of thermometers and runs wattsupwiththat.com;

In Canada*, Steve McIntyre, the mathematician who bit by bit exposed the shocking story of the hockey stick and runs climateaudit.org.

Here in Britain,* Andrew Montford, who dissected the shenanigans behind the climategate whitewash enquiries and runs bishop-hill.net.

In Australia*, Joanne Nova, the former television science presenter who has pieced together the enormous sums of money that go to support vested interests in alarm, and runs joannenova.com.au.

The remarkable thing about the heretics I have mentioned is that every single one is doing this in his or her spare time. They work for themselves, they earn a pittance from this work. There is no great fossil-fuel slush fund for sceptics.

In conclusion, I’ve spent a lot of time on climate, but it could have been dietary fat, or nature and nurture. My argument is that like religion, science as an institution is and always has been plagued by the temptations of confirmation bias. With alarming ease it morphs into pseudoscience even – perhaps especially – in the hands of elite experts and especially when predicting the future and when there’s lavish funding at stake. It needs heretics.

Thank you very much for listening.

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References (9)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: Heretic
    - Bishop Hill blog - Scientific heresy Matt Ridley's text of his Angus Millar lecture at the RSA in Edinburgh. That is all for this morning, it is more than enough....
  • Response
    So I learnt lesson number 1: the stunning gullibility of the media. Put an ?ology? after your pseudoscience and you can get journalists to be your propagandists. You're going to love it, and you're going to send it to...
  • Response
    Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts. - Richard Feynman, quoted by Matt Ridley in his Angus Millar lecture at the RSA in Edinburgh, the entire text of which you an read at Bishop Hill....
  • Response
    Response: Climate of here
    'Is a conservative climate consensus possible ?'
  • Response
    Response: Politics
    [...]- Bishop Hill blog - Scientific heresy[...]
  • Response
    [...]- Bishop Hill blog - Scientific heresy[...]
  • Response
    Response: gaspreisvergleich
    [...]- Bishop Hill blog - Scientific heresy[...]
  • Response
    Response: E-juice
    So this is what I must conclude in 2 lines, If I want to protect my belongings, I can choose a policy. But nobody is making me buy it. Thanks
  • Response
    The ultimate fat-burning cardio routine....

Reader Comments (364)

Fact: The earth always warms up, then cools, between ice ages!

Nov 2, 2011 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimT

The answer to the insurance challenge is simple. When I was a young man, an insurance man gave me some of the best advice of my life: "do not buy insurance against something that you are able to pay for. Ask yourself not 'do I *want* to pay for it', but ' *can* I pay for it'."

Accordingly, I am insured against striking and injuring someone with my car, but not against my car needing a new engine.

By the insurance analogy, the climate insurance salesmen have the following pitch: "I have something very expensive to sell you, which, by the way, may not work. I'm not sure you'll need it, but you don't know that you don't."

Nov 2, 2011 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterWrecktafire

John Shade Nov 2, 2011 at 8:26 PM

Thank you for your politeness!

But I don't know why you think "homeopathy is a candidate for lumping in the pseudoscience end of things". Surely there is a hint of prejudgement in there somewhere. Why not, "We would like to have a better understanding of what happens when homeopathic remedies are said to work". (I am not saying they do, but it does appear that they do.)

Some well behaved sceptics could sit in on some consultations, though, in many cases, it would takes several months to complete treatment of individuals, and they would have to be coperative and respect the patients confidentiallity. There would be the problem of finding someone to pay for it, (I wouldn't, because it would be a waste of my money) and I don't think it would help to understand how it works either.

Many just do not understand that a theory (quoting Avagadro's number and homeopathic dilutions) cannot prove that an effective treatment did not happen. This type of uninformed view does not help to advance understanding.

I do think the term 'pseudoscience' is on a par with 'denier' in that it implies something unethical. It is better to use another word, especially in the thread discussing Matt Ridley's speech!

This is so off topic, but then if Matt Ridley wants to incorporate so many topics, then so be it.

Nov 2, 2011 at 10:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Christopher

A fine speech, placing climate "science" in the pseudoscience field.

A couple of points.

1. Climate science tends to ignore the issues of combining magnitude and likelihood. The magnitude of projected catastrophic events is inversely related to their likelihood. AR4 and the Stern Review looked at the worst case and treated them as nigh on certain.
2. On policy, the Stern Review assumed that a global policy applied gradually over decades would be a fifth to a twentieth of the cost of welfare impact of the do-nothing approach. It gave no justification for one or two minor nations spending huge amounts on drastic reductions in CO2. Neither did Stern allow for ineffectiveness of policy, or policy reducing economic growth.

Nov 2, 2011 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

Thanks for posting Matt's clear & concise Lecture.

As others have mentioned, it ought to be compulsory reading by MPs.

Nov 2, 2011 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Why would anyone take Ridley seriously when he doesn't know to offset the satellite measurements due to differing baselines? Rubbish talk,full of predictable unchecked factoids and half-assedness. Why you do it to yourselves I'll never know.

Nov 2, 2011 at 11:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick

Here's a Dan Gardner (Future Babble) article I read in the National Post a few years ago.

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/views/story.html?id=f6db9435-6d1d-47b3-a98d-116e8acfcfec

Nov 2, 2011 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevYYZ

Good but no cigar. Evolution is pseudoscience creationism is not.
http://www.youtube.com/v/xHkq1edcbk4?version=3

911 sure as God made little green apples was not done the way the powers that be tell it. And as for the green movement, it was started by the Nazis.


http://www.google.co.uk/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ie=UTF-8&ion=1&nord=1#hl=en&sugexp=kjrmc&cp=30&gs_id=3&xhr=t&q=nazi+roots+of+the+green+movement&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&nord=1&site=webhp&source=hp&pbx=1&oq=nazi+roots+of+the+green+moveme&aq=0w&aqi=q-w1&aql=f&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=340b7485cc3d0f9d&biw=1600&bih=813&ion=1

Nov 3, 2011 at 12:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter
Nov 3, 2011 at 12:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank Davis

Excellent lecture. Well-needed.
However, I think Ridley begins with a serious faux pas in defining anything non-scientific or non-rational as
"pseudo-science."
There are, I think we can all agree or be persuaded, ways of knowing that are non-rational; not "IR-rational," but simply outside, or alongside, the rational processes of our minds (remember the distinction between our minds and our brains, too; says a lot about all this.) It's ways of knowing akin to ken...
Love, personal knowledge, eros, seem to be examples of human experience of "knowing" things without pre-knowledge, scientific experiment or logical cognitive activity; all of which, can be used to examine or test or think about the non-scientific knowledge or experience we seem to be having.
There are, in short, non-scientific ways of knowing, it seems human history and our own life experience tells us: we know our mothers love us, not because we checked it out, but by some way more ineffable, less logical, that pre-dates reason, but no less true, no?
There are aspects of eros that also seem to be "above" or "beyond" reason; not athwart it, necessarily, but apart from it.
Lumping all such possibly transcendent ways of knowing into "pseudo-science" is a mistake, a logical mistake, that could lead to a stunted view of what we all know, instinctively, pre-rationally perhaps, about human behavior and possibility.
We cannot scientifically prove, for example, that there is no God, or that there is.
We must decide the issue, but science is out of its bailiwick on the issue.
There are other ways, philosophical and still in line with reason, to figure out how we can know, what we can know, if we can know; it's those further, deeper ways of knowing that give us the potential to do science, among other things.
Understanding this also helps us see more clearly the bias problem Ridley talks about; he fails to recognize that there might be good and bad bias, based on other ways of knowing, that keeps a check on scientific hubris taking science out of its tracks, out of its bailiwick; that would explain how less educated, more religious folk might be better in futurology - or to use a better term, wiser - about how stuff will and does shake out.
Who would have been a worse friend and counselor, spouse or life coach than, say, Albert Einstein? that tells us something big about the limits of scientific knowledge.

Nov 3, 2011 at 12:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterstephen lee

Brilliant dissection of the climate controversy which took care of a load of "sacred cows" that have been manuring up university minds when they should have been sharpening them in more scientific inquiry.

The problem in the English speaking world is that we are all wedded to fads and this will cost us dearly as the world's problems mount and no attention is paid to basics. Like the Don who had to ask about insurance..what did that have to do with the subject...it was another red herring to divert attention from the real to the unreal.

The economic crisis mounts everyday. Once I was fearful of it, our future because of it but hearing how much cash goes to charletons who are immediartely hired by the new state sponsored universities, well maybe there is a God in the Heavens after all to put an end to idiots and their nonsense.

Nov 3, 2011 at 12:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlice Maxwell

One thing that cannot be denied and will have catastrophic results is the increase in ph of the oceans due to the increase in carbon in the atmosphere. Wave action is effectively absorbing much of the CO2 and as acidity increases, the coral reefs are suffering. At some point, they will not be viable.

Nov 3, 2011 at 1:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterCurt Clemenson

One thing that cannot be denied and will have catastrophic results is the increase in ph of the oceans.

The oceans have been much more acidic for most of the past 100 million year than they are now, when CO2 levels were much higher than they are now. The corals were fine. This is well documented in the peer reviewed literature. Corals have been around for hundreds of millions of years. A lot longer than humans. They like warm temperatures, which is why there are found mostly in the tropics.

Nov 3, 2011 at 1:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterferd berple

Insurance is not the same as taxes. Insurance pays you back if there is a loss. If I insure against CO2, then I expect to get paid for any loss I suffer as a result of CO2 in future.

I have no problem paying a tax on CO2 if there is a guarantee that I will be paid for any losses I suffer if temperatures go up. Is that what the government is proposing? I don't think so.

What is being proposed isn't insurance at all, because there is no way you will ever get your money back if you suffer a loss as a result of CO2. The tax money you pay on CO2, that money is gone. You will never see it come back, no matter how much loss you suffer as a result of CO2.

Nov 3, 2011 at 2:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterferd berple

Wow! Finally, someone who makes sense and provides the data and rational thinking to combat the other side. It's like the patients have taken over the asylum. Thank You

Nov 3, 2011 at 2:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Tochterman

Curt Clemenson: "catastrophic results [from] the increase [sic] in ph of the oceans due to the increase in carbon in the atmosphere"
As it happens, Dr Ridley has written about the likely effects of a decrease in pH (that is, the ocean becoming less alkaline), having found them not so catastrophic. As you mention coral reefs, please look here.

Nov 3, 2011 at 3:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

I have found that most people who claim to recognize pseudoscience usually know little or nothing about real science themselves.

Nov 3, 2011 at 4:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterGold Bullet

You make some interesting points. Your statement on homeopathy being a pseudoscience however is patently false. The M D Anderson Cancer center in Houston Texas which arguably the most respected cancer institute in the United States has pupblished a study in the International Journal of Oncology whereby they have shown a glioma brain cancer CURE rate of 85% using only homeopathy. That's some pseudoscience! Here's the link. http://www.virtualtrials.com/pdf/ruta6.pdf Cure rates of 35% for breast cancer were also accomplished using homeopathy. http://www.otherhealth.com/homeopathy-list-discussion/11064-new-study-shows-significant-effects-homeopathic-medicineson-breast-cancer-cells.html So tell me, who's the most pseudoscientific essay writer you know? You should at least check your facts before embarassing yourself. Post your address and I'll send you a hockey stick.

Nov 3, 2011 at 4:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterVincent G

I would be interested in your opinion on the greatest possible discovery in our lifetimes. We are on the brink of a new dawn in energy creation if it is true. Andrea Rossi and others are pursuing Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) or more commonly know as Cold Fusion. Pseudoscience? It has all the makings or a great drama. Mad scientist forging ahead on his own. Accusations of quackery. We should know in months, not years if it is truly what it is proposed to be. a simple google search on "Rossi cold fusion" should give you all the links.

Nov 3, 2011 at 4:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Lang

"But those three buildings did come down very fast. How did that happen? That's the simplest question that leads into a very disturbing set of subsidiary ones. I wish it wasn't so."

The twin towers didn't come down at all, they disappeared floor by floor by turning everything, structure/contents/people, into clouds of powder.

Nov 3, 2011 at 4:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrandX

The question comparing insurance to climate mitigation is not a valid analogy. (ferd berple's comment above gets this right.) We are not banking capital to use some other day in the event that something goes wrong.

If we are talking houses, better analogies of what we are unfortunately doing might be one of these two:

1) Houses are dangerous. They may burn to the ground, collapse due to an earthquake, get struck by a meteor, and so on. We should instead Reduce our use of houses and live in teepees or caves.
2) Most houses are made of wood and are therefore susceptible to fire. Instead of taking precautions against fire, we should build lots of extra houses made of either a) steel and concrete or b) glass (silica). We can then live in whichever house suits us. We find however that the glass houses are either too hot, too cool, or too bright (even at night because the neighbor's outdoor lights shine in -- seriously, my nextdoor neighbor who lives in a glass house complained to me about leaving my Christmas lights on all night). The concrete/steel houses could withstand a meteor hit, but they are only occupied about 30% of the time because they don't have much living space ( even though they are 100s of feet tall, they only have one floor). The extra houses are all uncomfortable, because all the money was spent on building materials, so there was nothing left over for furniture. We find ourselves without any extra spending money, living in our regular houses, hoping that they don't burn down ...

Nov 3, 2011 at 4:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterTrey

My heretical idea: The Double Universe.
=.
The Universe as whole is Two - Measured World.
Why ?
Because :
‘ Somehow, the energy is extracted from the vacuum and turned
into particles...Don't try it in your basement, but you can do it.’
/ -- University of Chicago cosmologist Rocky Kolb /

' Somehow' from ' Somewhere'
From ' Somewhere' , ' Somehow' to the Visual World.
We have Double Universe.
=.
a)
If you want you can call one Reference Frame as
Schwarzschild radius ( a radius where the escape velocity
would be so high, that not even light could escape – Black Hole)
And another Reference Frame is outside of Schwarzschild radius.
P.S.
Physicists say the event horizon of a black hole
is boundary between two worlds.
/ / Book: Stephen Hawking. Page 116.
By Michael White and John Gribbin. /
b)
If you want you can call one Reference Frame as ‘Dirac sea’.
And another Reference Frame is outside of ‘Dirac sea’
P.S.
Although we are used to thinking of empty space as containing
nothing at all, and therefore having zero energy, the quantum
rules say that there is some uncertainty about this. Perhaps each
tiny bit of the vacuum actually contains rather a lot of energy.
If the vacuum contained enough energy, it could convert this
into particles, in line with E-Mc^2.
/ Book: Stephen Hawking. Pages 147-148.
By Michael White and John Gribbin. /
c)
If you want you can call one Reference Frame as ‘ Kirchhoff black body’
And another Reference Frame is outside of ‘ Kirchhoff black body’.
P.S.
/ Max Laue called ‘ Kirchhoff black body’ as ‘ Kirchhoff vacuum’ /
d)
Herman Minkowski said about ( -4D ) spacetime continuum:
“ Henceforth, space by itself, and time by itself,
are doomed to fade away into mere shadows,
and only a kind of union of the two will
preserve an independent reality.”

It means that the Universe as whole is Two - Measured World.
One world is Minkowski union of spacetime continuum.
Another world is shadow of it because the time and space
are different conceptions.
e)
Another example of ‘ The Double Universe ‘:
wormhole : Einstein-Rosen Bridge ( EP).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wormhole
=.
To understand the Existence we must think about the
Double Universe, where one Reference Frame is the Matter World
and another Reference Frame is the Vacuum World.
But today physicists know the Matter world and refuse to think
about the Vacuum world.
=====.
Best wishes.
Israel Sadovnik Socratus
=====================.

Nov 3, 2011 at 5:03 AM | Unregistered Commentersocratus

My heretical idea: God as a Scientist :
Ten Scientific Commandments.
===.
Can a Rational Individual believe in God ?
In other words:
Can God be atheist, governed by scientific laws?
Of course
Because if God exists, He/She/It would necessarily
to work in an Absolute Reference Frame and had set of
physical and mathematical laws to create everything
in the Universe.
If we find and understand this Absolute God’s House then
is possible step by step to find and understand God’s Physics
Laws, which Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Maxwell, Planck,
Einstein and many others scientists discovered.
#
Has God known the formula: E=Mc^2 ?
If God has known the formula why HE / SHE /IT
didn't write it in His Bible?
=========..
The people created a God.
No one knows what the external characteristics
of this God are, a God who made himself known
with the name " I am who I am ".
Is it enough for us in the XXIc ?
Why wasn’t the formula E=Mc^2 written in the Bible?
===============. .
Each religion uses a system of symbols
(images, metaphors, ancient myths and legends ,
beautiful stories) to explain its truth.
But Bernard Shaw wisely remarked :
“ There is only one religion,
although there are a hundred versions of it.”
It means that the source of all religion is one.
And I try to prove this idea with the formulas and laws of
physics. I don’t invent new formulas. I use simple formulas
which ,maybe, every man knows from school.
Is it possible? Is it enough?
Yes. Because the evolution goes from simple to the complex.
So, in the beginning we can use simple formulas and laws.
For this purpose I explain what the first law of Universe is,
and second law is and ...........etc.
Step by step I create a logical system of the Universe.
============= . .
How can God be Scientist?
Scheme,
Fundamental Theory of Existence: Ten Scientific Commandments.
1 The infinite vacuum T=0K
2 The particle: C/D = pi, R/N= k , E = Mc^2 = kc^2 , h = 0 , i^2= -1
3 The spins: h =E/t , h =kb, h* = h/2pi
4 The photon, the inertia
5 The electron: e^2 = h*ca, E = h*f , electromagnetic field
6 The gravitation, the star, the time and space
7 The Proton
8
The Evolution of interaction between Electron and Proton
a) electromagnetic
b) nuclear
c) biological
9
The Laws
a) The Law of conservation and transformation energy/mass
b) The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle / Law
c) The Pauli Exclusion Principle/ Law
10
The test.
Every theory must be tested logically ( theoretical ) and practically
a) Theory : Dualism of Consciousness: (consciousness / unconsciousness)
b) Practice : Parapsychology. Meditation.
========.
Best wishes
Israel Sadovnik Socratus
============.
#
"God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light."
It means:
The secret of God and Existence is hidden
in the ‘ Theory of Vacuum and Light Quanta ‘.
#
I want to know how God created this world
I am not interested in this or that phenomenon,
in the spectrum of this or that element
I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details
/ Einstein /
==========.

Nov 3, 2011 at 5:05 AM | Unregistered Commentersocratus

"Matt's lecture is inspirational. In fact what came to mind was the St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. Could it be that, outnumbered and against a well-funded opponent, sceptics find themselves on the brink of an Agincourt?"

Verity Jones

I was thinking more of Latimer's words to Nicholas Ridley as they burned at the stake:

"Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."

Nov 3, 2011 at 7:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

[A] simple google search on "Rossi cold fusion" should give you all the links.

Well I saw the Ric Werme bit on WUWT apparently Rossi has already found a customer so it must be all done and dusted no?

Don't know who the alleged customer is though - weird eh? ;)

There is a point when you decide to invest time in a subject, and decide what you are going to get out of it. Wonder? knowlege? Another customer?

I personally wouldn't spend a milisecond on that one.

Nov 3, 2011 at 7:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Why is it every skeptic who spouts these semi twisted facts always ends up leaving the science arguments behind so he can talk about how much it is all going to cost? Just leaves you wondering what his real reason for arguing against climate change is?

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimon

simon

I am left wondering what you think is a cost?

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Using the "hockey stick was wrong" argument to disprove climate change is flawed logic. The Hockey Stick was a specific example, Climate change is a broad study - disproving one doesn't disprove the other. That's highly flawed logic. Surely a man of science could see that a mile away.

[quote]
So what’s the problem? The problem is that you can accept all the basic tenets of greenhouse physics and still conclude that the threat of a dangerously large warming is so improbable as to be negligible, [/quote]

There are amplifying factors in climate change. Albedo being the big one. Thawing of Tundra and release of trapped mathane being another. Changes in ocean currents being an unpredictible 3rd and the and warming of the oceans and possible decreases in oceanic absorbtion being another.

The Milankovitch cycles which are thought to turn on and off the ice ages have a forcing of just 1 degree, but amplification, oceanic absorption of CO2 and Albedo leads to a 10 degree global change from 1 degree of forcing. You need to be much more careful before you so callously dismiss temperature forcing. (and I notice you don't even mention the other forcing factors, only clouds and water vapor - you need to do more research).

Al Nino is just a few degrees of pacific ocean surface temperature based on wind strength - and just that has a significant effect on weather thousands and thousands of miles away all over the globe. - It's a mistake to assume that just 1 or 2 degrees is harmless. it might be devastating.


[quote]
I also think the climate debate is a massive distraction from much more urgent environmental problems like invasive species and overfishing.[/quote]

This may or may not be true. We don't know what damage will come from climate change, but it's just as foolish to say the damage will be zero as it is to say it would be catastrophic - in fact, the guy who says it might be catastrophic, but who prepares, is the wise one.

[quote]
there is no evidence that climate is changing dangerously or faster than in the past, when it changed naturally.[/quote]

There is some evidence of this.


[quote]
It was warmer in the Middle ages* and medieval climate change in Greenland was much faster.[/quote]

According to who? The IPCC's best research says the Medieval warm period was not warmer than the 1950s, much less the 1990s.


[quote]
Stalagmites*, tree lines and ice cores all confirm that it was significantly warmer 7000 years ago. [/quote]


Stalagmites are interesting. Stalagmites and stalactites can only form in air, by dripping water over long periods of time, so if they are near sea level, they can indicate if a spot above the water line or not - and with aging, you can get a read of where sea level was at certain periods of time.

Stalagmites are not particularly good at reading temperature but they are a very reliable tool for reading sea level - provided the ground hasn't shifted too much - there's less certainty if you go back too far in history. Parts of Japan for example dropped 3 feet during the last earthquake and Canada is still rising about an inch every few years as bounce-back from the glaciers - so, research with care, but Stalactites & mites are worth studying.

Tree lines - OK. Tree lines are valid and Ice Cores - also valid.

But was it warmer 7,000 years ago?

Not according to this (look at the 2004 line)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ca/Holocene_Temperature_Variations.png[

If it was warmer 7,000 years ago, it wasn't by much - see the peak is just plus 0.2 degrees - that's not much and the 2004 arrow is warmer than 7,000 years ago.

Certainly there's some disagreement there, and lets not forget, some uncertainty.

You should be much more careful what you state as fact - you're doing what you're accusing the climate change believers of doing.

[quote]
Evidence from Greenland suggests that the Arctic ocean was probably ice free for part of the late summer at that time.[/quote]

What evidence? Could you back this up please.

[quote]
Sea level* is rising at the unthreatening rate about a foot per century and decelerating.[/quote]

[quote]Greenland is losing ice at the rate of about 150 gigatonnes a year, which is 0.6% per century.[/quote]

Interesting, that you fails to mention that Greenland's loosing of ice is accelerating significantly. (oops)

I'd also like to know on what his scale you claim a decelerating of sea level rise cause I don't think that's true.


[quote]
There has been no significant warming in Antarctica*, with the exception of the peninsula.[/quote]

The warming is mostly in the northern hemisphere. The hole in the ozone may provide a cooling effect over Antarctica too. Climate change isn't universal, it's happening far faster around the North Pole than the South.

[quote]Methane* has largely stopped increasing.[/quote]


http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/aggi_2011.fig2_med.png[

Methane leveled off between 1999 and 2006, probably as a result of efforts to reduce methane emissions as a climate change prevention initiative. It's increasing again and that increase will spike even sharper as fracking continues.

What you've saying here just ain't true.


[quote]
Tropical storm* intensity and frequency have gone down, not up, in the last 20 years.[/quote]

While this is hard to measure due to no 2 storms being alike, I don't think it's true overall. Also, Tropical storms isn't the only thing to measure. Floods are not just caused by tropical storms. Neither are droughts.

Just this last year the US had multiple once in a 100 year storms - record snowfalls in the northeast, record drought in Texas, record flooding along the Mississippi hitting several states and record flooding in New Jersey and recently - a record October snowfall in NY/NJ/Connecticut (snowfalls by the way, increase with climate change - more water in the air and warmer weather leads to more and heavier snow / more moisture in the air.

A lot is happening in the weather these days for you to dismiss so casually.


[quote]Your probability* of dying as a result of a drought, a flood or a storm is 98% lower globally than it was in the 1920s.
[/quote]

Yes, because of international relief efforts and improved building and road construction as well as earlier warnings. Technology can help, but floods and droughts are still a problem. Try being displaced from your home and livelihood before you dismiss it next time.


[quote]
Malaria* has retreated not expanded as the world has warmed.[/quote]

Has more to do with rain fall in parts of Africa and South America than anything else. Since those 2 areas have been dryer, even drought ridden the last several years, a decrease in Malaria is to be expected.

[quote]
And so on. /quote]

And so on - you haven't gotten one thing right yet?

[quote]
I’ve looked and looked but I cannot find one piece of data – as opposed to a model – that shows either unprecedented change or change is that is anywhere close to causing real harm.[/quote]

That's cause you don't understand climate change. You look, but you do not see.


[quote]
To see confirmation bias in action, you only have to read the climategate emails, documents that have undermined my faith in this country’s scientific institutions. It is bad enough that the emails unambiguously showed scientists plotting to cherry-pick data,[/quote]

Pot, meet Kettle.

[quote]
Nor is there even any theoretical support for a dangerous future. The central issue is “sensitivity”: the amount of warming that you can expect from a doubling of carbon dioxide levels. On this, there is something close to consensus – at first. It is 1.2 degrees centigrade. Here’s* how the IPCC put it in its latest report.

“In the idealised situation that the climate response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 consisted of a uniform temperature change only, with no feedbacks operating…the global warming from GCMs would be around 1.2°C.” Paragraph 8.6.2.3.[/quote]

Do you even know what Feedback means? Do you know what 1.2 degrees means?

[quote]
Now the paragraph goes on to argue that large, net positive feedbacks, mostly from water vapour, are likely to amplify this. But whereas there is good consensus about the 1.2 C, there is absolutely no consensus about the net positive feedback, as the IPCC also admits. Water vapour forms clouds and whether clouds in practice amplify or dampen any greenhouse warming remains in doubt.[/quote]

Do you have kids?

Do you understand what risk is?

[quote]
So to say there is a consensus about some global warming is true; to say there is a consensus about dangerous global warming is false.[/quote]

You obviously don't have kids. You're casually dismissing risk here. That's crazy.


[quote]
The sensitivity of the climate could be a harmless 1.2C,[/quote]

1.2 degrees is not harmless, and Feedback could make it quite a bit worse.

[quote]
And ocean heat content has decelerated, if not flattened, in the past decade*.[/quote]

This isn't clear. Oceanic measurements have recently switched from a boat based system to a Buoy based system. - remember the urban heat island - well boats generate heat too.

Accurate and detailed measurements of ocean warming don't really exist - it's too new, all we know is that they are warming.

Look man. You're every bit as bias as the people you claim to be calling out. Probably more so.

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterEd

The Leopard In The Basement...Cost = money. Why does the argument always come down to money. The earth is warming whether you or I have to pay a tax or not. Just seems every time I hear a skeptic put forward an argument they have to qualify their stance by moaning about how much this is all going to cost. Kind of leaves you wondering what their real motivation for questioning the science is?

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Ed: you sez - "It's a mistake to assume that just 1 or 2 degrees is harmless. it might be devastating".

Where, when? Edinburgh, now or when?

And what is your evidence that it is winds that cause ENSO (El Nino/La NIna)?

I'm just as concerned about my children's and grandson's welfare as you. Why do warmists like you and Hansen insist that only you and he are concerned for the welfare of our progeny? What is your evidence for that?

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim Curtin

If all the available carbon on the surface of the planet were burned, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere would rise from 0.03% to 0.04%. In most experiments, the starting and finishing levels are scientifically insignificant. Nitrogen has greater "greenhouse" properties than CO2, and makes up 80% of the atmosphere, give or take 1.00%. Water vapor has the most "greenhouse" properties and visibly affects local climates, sometimes on a minute to minute basis. Water vapor has truly significant variable properties. Then there is water. If the average global temperature (54 degrees F for the past 100 years) remains above 32 degrees F, the total amount of ice on the surface of the planet will decline over time. To prevent further warming of the planet, the average temperature would have to be reduced to 32 degrees F, which would extinquish most life on the planet. Unless Carbon Dioxide has magical properties yet to be presented scientifically, a change of 0.01% will not lower the temperature of the atmosphere even a fraction of a percent. Lowering the level of CO2 below 0.03% will have the effect of starving chlorophyll based plant life of the key essential compound that supports all life on the planet.
Oldbill is a retired part time site attendant at a recycling and trash collection center in Georgia, USA. He had to take Typing II to graduate from highschool and he never attended college.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered Commenteroldbill

@ Simon

The IPCC's own assumptions are that by the time the supposed consequence of CAGW materialise in 100 years' time, everyone will be about 9x richer than today. That is, the assumptions about fossil fuel use include assumptions about economic growth and that is one of them.

It is thus highly relevant to wonder why someone on the UK average wage of about £25,000 a year now should contribute towards £18,000,000,000 of annual taxes now to spare his 2111 counterpart - who'll be on the equivalent of £225,000.

Factor in the consideration that CAGW may be non-existent or in fact beneficial and it all starts to look a bit silly.

As someone mentioned upthread, the precautionary principle should apply also to itself. What's the cautious way to spend £18,000,000,000 a year? On something with results now, or on something that won't prevent a problem in 100 years' time and which may not be a problem anyway?

Impoverishing ourselves now creates real suffering now. If anybody in the CAGW movement really gave a toss about the spread of malaria in 100 years' time they'd demonstrate it better if they spent a small amount of money on eliminating it now.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

How far away are we from the day when the government will try and control how much hot water and electricity we use, like your father did when you were a child?

Nov 2, 2011 at 3:32 PM | ferd berple

Have you not heard of SMART METERS . . . ??

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered Commenterletmethink

I have for a long time suspected that 99% of climate change is outside our control and that ergo there is no excuse for taking taxpayers money to pay for green initiatives that only benefit the ones who are orchestrating and carrying out the changes which will lead to an even bigger debt burden for our children and later generations. If funding is available then many will climb on the bandwagon and make sure that it gathers momentum and the city will have worked out how to make money out of it. Carbon credits are a prime example and those investing will lose money when the whole programme becomes so expensive that no one will be able to afford it and countries will ignore agreements or cancel them. By getting rid of this wasteful "investment" now we could mitigate some of the financial damage done by the very people who are now such avid supporters of the green movement. How crazy to let the same people who got us into the financial mess have access to other people's money to enrich themselves again.

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJOLYON BALDWIN

Climate change is just a story to frighten the children. With India and China becoming wealthier, they will be able to compete with the West for oil. This will drive the price up. Unless the West finds other sources of fuel, their standards of living will suffer.
The politicians have a problem: how to get public support for the investment in infrastructure that currently is uneconomic, but which will take longer to build than the lead-time available once their necessity becomes obvious?
Answer: Scare the people with tales of global destruction.

Nov 3, 2011 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack

"Around 1910 the vast majority of scientists and other intellectuals agreed that nationalizing reproductive decisions so as to stop poor, disabled and stupid people from having babies was not just a practical but a moral imperative of great urgency"
That so many believe the climate change story uncritically suggests that maybe the eugenicists had a point.

Nov 3, 2011 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack

Why does the argument always come down to money?

Because science has shifted from science - saying things are warming - to policy - saying how we must deal with warming.

There are many ways to deal with warming. Shutting down fossil fuel use may work - but it may also be very expensive - which is likely to lead to cheating, fraud and corruption.

The problem with expensive solutions is that they are unworkable solutions over the long term. If there are cheaper alternatives human beings will find them and ultimately sabotage the more expensive solution.

In the case of CO2, if it is cheaper to burn coal for power and install air conditioning, as compared to using wind-power and no air-conditioning, then that is the solution that ultimately will win out over the long term, simply because of economic competition.

For the past 100 years CO2 production has gone hand in hand with economic production and economic might. China has recently passed the US as the world's largest producer of CO2 and this is reflected in the changing economic circumstances of both countries, where a substantial portion of the US debt is now owned by China. In effect China is America's banker. Any American that does not realize the danger in this has not looked at history.

Nov 3, 2011 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterferd berple

Dear Sir,
I am a scientist. I can tell you both sides of the argument are wrong. Scientists are often wrong. The POLLUTION we have created AS WELL AS the evironmental POLLUTION has caused devasting affects on humans. The CO2 emissions from exhaust, coal burning electric generating plants that spue tons of toxins, particularly heavy metals as well as all the other pollutants ,etc, flatulance of methane gases from cows,the list goes on and on. HAS caused a decrease of OXYGEN in the air by 20-30% which then leads to the decrease in ozone being generated. Ozone is the protective barrier around our planet. Ozone stops the uv radiation from coming in to the atmosphere and heating up the planet. GUESS WHAT? The ozone is depleted, not completely gone but getting there! Hence the rise in skin cancers. The rise in pollution has led to a rise in asthma rates (more toxins and less oxygen). Autism, ADD, ADHD & neurological problems in the WORLDS children. ALL associated with POLLUTION!!! SO, LETS CHANGE THE ARGUMENT: HOW ARE WE GOING TO DEAL WITH THE POLLUTION???

Nov 3, 2011 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael morvillo

Re: post from ED

'There are amplifying factors in climate change. Albedo being the big one. Thawing of Tundra and release of trapped mathane being another. Changes in ocean currents being an unpredictible 3rd and the and warming of the oceans and possible decreases in oceanic absorbtion being another.'
Very little science here, mainly postulation.

'It's a mistake to assume that just 1 or 2 degrees is harmless. it MIGHT be devastating.'
We MIGHT be hit by an asteroid tomorro. Possible.
We WILL be hit by an asteroid tomorrow. Most unlikely.

'There is some evidence (that the climate is changing dangerously).
I'd like to see the impirical evidence for this.

'The IPCC's best research says the Medieval warm period was not warmer than the 1950s, much less the 1990s.'
So many papers and observations to duspute this. Here's a post from a couple of years ago worth reading.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/29/the-medieval-warm-period-a-global-phenonmena-unprecedented-warming-or-unprecedented-data-manipulation/

'But was it warmer 7,000 years ago?'
Again plenty to say it was. Here's just one interesting view.
http://www.stanford.edu/~moore/history_health.html

'What evidence? (that the Arctic Ocean was ice-free for periods 7000 years ago).
http://www.ngu.no/en-gb/Aktuelt/2008/Less-ice-in-the-Arctic-Ocean-6000-7000-years-ago/

'Interesting, that you fails to mention that Greenland's loosing of ice is accelerating significantly. (oops)'
Greenland is losing ice at the approximate rate of 0.1% per decade. Significant? I think not.

While this is hard to measure, (that Tropical storm* intensity and frequency have gone down), due to no 2 storms being alike, I don't think it's true overall.
Hard to measure indeed, but you ppear to know differently. How is that?

'That's cause you don't understand climate change. You look, but you do not see,(the evidence for unprecidented climate change).
Perhaps you'd be kind enough to supply us all with the impirical evidence.

'Do you know what 1.2 degrees means?'
Do you? (see re: climate 7000 years ago above).

'Do you have kids? Do you understand what risk is?''
Unbelievable comment! And you expect to be taken seriously?

Nov 3, 2011 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterGW

"Lesson 6. Never rely on the consensus of experts about the future. Experts are worth listening to about the past, but not the future. Futurology is pseudoscience."

What an amazing statement. Climate scientists are not fortune tellers any more than the medical scientists were who told us if you smoke you will probably shorten your life, or the geologists are who tell us if you drill a hole in the ground here, you increase your chance of finding oil. What is the point in finding out about the past, if it is not to understand the future? A

This whole debate is about predicting the likelyhood of trouble ahead. If you pump this much C02 into the atmosphere, what are the chances of the planet and life on it changing? And.... is it possible to minimise these changes? That is their job. Honestly saying "Futurology is pseudoscience" is just such bizarre weird thing to say. Fortune telling is... climate science is not. At this point he lost me.

Nov 3, 2011 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Matt does his office well, but after a while the mirror he holds up to the climate wars begins to darken, and in the silvery film of cant condensing from his discourse, we see reflected something very like the speaker telling us : "What sustains pseudoscience is confirmation bias. We look for and welcome the evidence that fits our pet theory;”

Providing a Gish Gallop of examples, from alchemy to phlogiston and the fraudulence of Freud, he joins the ranks of those who dismiss climate science as just another religious cult, a sort of scientology with software.

But really, Montford, what have we seen offered here ,and at WUWT, besides the gibberings of amateur statisticians obsessed with one tree ring paper, the scientifically illiterate performance art of Viscount Moncton, and the grotesqueries of K-Street shills modulated with hypocrisy of an amperage Al Gore might envy?

We've seen underwater volcanoes touted as a primary CO2 source, the Iron Sun adduced as a data-free alternative to astrophysics, the palaeoisotopic record of millennia of is subordinated to one crank's view Carbon 14 in CO2, Cosmic rays driving climate change ,ozone depletion blamed on one Antarctic volcano, and last but not least , the edifying spectacle of folk bent on denying the existence of global warming denying anyone denies it.

The journey that began with the Pardoner's Tale en route to Canterbury, and continues through the pages of Elmer Gantry has reached its destination here on Bishop Hill. I suspect Matt will not pause for very long.

Nov 3, 2011 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell Seitz

- "Climate Science" = science + emotion => confirmation bias => irrational extrapolation
- We like science, science is good.... Make a theory take measurements; try to destroy your own theory. Test test test does it reproduce ?
- The key thing is to stick to the science and keep the emotion out of it; emotion leads to confirmation bias.
- The problem is often when we should have the strength to say "we don't know" emotion leaps to fill it the void.... Be strong

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterstewgreen

Russell

I suggest you try to open your mind and then start to learn how to read. Nothing in your post shows any evidence that you are anything more than an unthinking robot. In fact, you could almost be William Connolley.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Great report. There are a few mistakes such as evolution is scientific and creation science is not. He needs to do more homework. Ghosts happen to be a real observable phenomenom. I have observed a ghost while living in Peru. Truth (with a capital T ) is what we all would like to know.

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike

The insurance analogy is completely wrong. Insurance is mitigation of the effects and repair after the calamity strikes. This would be the equivalent of waiting for actual bad global warming to strike and doing large geoengineering projects to reverse it.

What the CAGW crowd want is the equivalent of entire house halon systems to actively prevent the fire as well as banning any open flames or heat high enough to cause something to burn. Nobody does this for a variety of good reasons.

Nov 4, 2011 at 2:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterTMLutas

Heresy is based on a similar Greek word for choice. Around 200 CE, those running the bigger parts of the Christian Church, principally, Bishop Iranaeus of Lyon, determined that Heresy (choice) was bad because there were so many versions of Christianity supported by upwards of 30 Gospels, all purporting to tell the story about the life of Jesus and those around him. Bishop Iranaeus centered his view on 4 Gospels, the ones we have today...why 4? As he rightly pointed out, there were 4 directions, 4 winds. There was no need for any other conflicting idea on Jesus as God, the Son of God. Heresy, i.e., making a choice or keeping choices open was determined to be bad, so bad, that many people dies. In it's stead was the word Orthodox...meaning in Greek, "straight line". It would appear that we've made little or no progress over the past 2,000 years. You either are orthodox on the view given to you or you are evil in making heresy.

This was, (joining many others, a wonderful essay, bright, clear, to the point. Money...that makes what was once a credible scientist, forego science for the financial reward of adhering to and insisting on the current orthodoxy.

Nov 4, 2011 at 3:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterGary Mullennix

I wrote: "Richard Drake, the so-called "Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth" are the nutcases who want you to believe... [various absurdities]

Richard Drake replied: "But those three buildings did come down very fast. How did that happen?"

1. WTC 7 did not come down very fast. It burned out of control all afternoon, first.

2. The Towers weren't designed to withstand an intense fire, accelerated by the fuel from a freshly-fueled transcontinental jetliner, after a violent impact had blasted the lightweight mineral-fiber-based insulation from its structural steel.


Richard Drake wrote: "[Dr.] Rob said 'Yes, I always felt that the buildings came down too fast.' That's all I remember him saying. He isn't as far as I know signed up to any of the theories you pour scorn on (some of them rightly I think, by the way)."

I suspect that he might have said the same thing of patients, on occasion: "I felt that patient died too fast." But that doesn't mean he thinks someone poisoned the poor fellow.

Perhaps he thinks the buildings were not well-engineered (though they were certainly engineered better than some other structures which have failed without sabotage).

If the so-called "truthers" really were interested in the truth, why do you suppose they never show photos of the south side of WTC 7, with smoke billowing from most of the building face? (See Luke 16:10.)


Now, please, can we cease cluttering this thread with "9-11 truther" arguments? If you want to continue the discussion, click on my name for my email address. (I don't have yours.) Please?

Nov 4, 2011 at 5:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterDave Burton

@simon

Lesson #6 and a half. Listen to the experts. Always listen and ask if what they're saying makes sense. Look at their data. It's one of the most overstated bits of nonsense in Pseudo-science when people say "don't listen to the consensus" Times when the "consensus" was wrong it was either a) because the proposed correct solution was too advanced for the trained scientists of the day or b) when it was an area that nobody understood well - like the speed of light problem before Einstein - people proposed ideas but nobody really felt certain those ideas were right. In the science of climate change study, it's being thorougly studied both historically with geological evidence and mathematically, with as many measurements as possible, and while this is gong on, the science behind climate skeptisism is utter bunk.

Anybody can say "don't listen to the consensus" but that's much too easy - and you can say that about anything - what's next "smoking doesn't cause cancer", Fire doesn't weaken steel so the trade centers had to be blown up? - only a fool dismisses the consensus outright, but you have fools who say those words and think they are smart for saying them.

Nov 4, 2011 at 7:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterEd

Reply to Tim Curtin:

[Quote]Ed: you sez - "It's a mistake to assume that just 1 or 2 degrees is harmless. it might be devastating".

Where, when? Edinburgh, now or when?

And what is your evidence that it is winds that cause ENSO (El Nino/La NIna)?

I'm just as concerned about my children's and grandson's welfare as you. Why do warmists like you and Hansen insist that only you and he are concerned for the welfare of our progeny? What is your evidence for that?[Quote]


I think you need to read what I wrote more carefully.

A change in wind strength over the pacific, can lead to a couple degrees and a few inches of water difference around the equatorial pacific - the west being warmer, the east being colder - and that few degrees is what caused this years record drought in texas and the record rain and snow in the north east.

A few degrees can make a difference. If you understand climate, that's something you wouldn't dispute.

If it's just "warmer" - no big deal, but a global warming can change weather patterns, leading to the kind of weather we saw in 2011, and we may see worse in the coming years, and so far we've had roughtly 0.6 maybe 0.8 degrees of warming.

There's other factors as well. Melting ice over the arctic, increased glacial runoff from Greenland.

Nobody knows what 1 or 2 degrees will mean, but it probably won't be harmless.

I also gave you the evidence from studying what causes past ice ages - changes in the earth's procession can lead to a cooling trend in the northern hemisphere and a warming trend in the southern hemisphere - interestingly enough, this small tilt was enough to turn the Sahara desert from a lush forest 13,000 years ago to a desert today. The temperature forcing of the earth's procession and Orbital eccentricity is thought to be only 1 or 2 degrees - but that 1 or 2 degrees of forcing, brings with it other effects that add to teh cooling - so the net change over the last ice age was 10 degrees.

This is geology, we know it happened, and we think we know why. If history tells us that a 1 or 2 degree change can amplify due to icing over, and increased Co2 absorption by a colder ocean into a 10 degree change - that should, at the very least make you think, Hmmm. Maybe 1 or 2 degrees does matter, because, that's what geological history tells us.

To put it another way - warming leads to more warming and cooling leads to more cooling. This is what studying the rising and falling of ice ages has revealed.

Nov 4, 2011 at 7:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterEd

Re: Post from GW

[Quote]Re: post from ED

'There are amplifying factors in climate change. Albedo being the big one. Thawing of Tundra and release of trapped mathane being another. Changes in ocean currents being an unpredictible 3rd and the and warming of the oceans and possible decreases in oceanic absorbtion being another.'
Very little science here, mainly postulation.

'It's a mistake to assume that just 1 or 2 degrees is harmless. it MIGHT be devastating.'
We MIGHT be hit by an asteroid tomorro. Possible.
We WILL be hit by an asteroid tomorrow. Most unlikely.

'There is some evidence (that the climate is changing dangerously).
I'd like to see the impirical evidence for this.

'The IPCC's best research says the Medieval warm period was not warmer than the 1950s, much less the 1990s.'
So many papers and observations to duspute this. Here's a post from a couple of years ago worth reading.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/29/the-medieval-warm-period-a-global-phenonmena-unprecedented-warming-or-unprecedented-data-manipulation/

'But was it warmer 7,000 years ago?'
Again plenty to say it was. Here's just one interesting view.
http://www.stanford.edu/~moore/history_health.html


'What evidence? (that the Arctic Ocean was ice-free for periods 7000 years ago).
http://www.ngu.no/en-gb/Aktuelt/2008/Less-ice-in-the-Arctic-Ocean-6000-7000-years-ago/

'Interesting, that you fails to mention that Greenland's loosing of ice is accelerating significantly. (oops)'
Greenland is losing ice at the approximate rate of 0.1% per decade. Significant? I think not.

While this is hard to measure, (that Tropical storm* intensity and frequency have gone down), due to no 2 storms being alike, I don't think it's true overall.
Hard to measure indeed, but you ppear to know differently. How is that?

'That's cause you don't understand climate change. You look, but you do not see,(the evidence for unprecidented climate change).
Perhaps you'd be kind enough to supply us all with the impirical evidence.

'Do you know what 1.2 degrees means?'
Do you? (see re: climate 7000 years ago above).

'Do you have kids? Do you understand what risk is?''
Unbelievable comment! And you expect to be taken seriously?
Nov 3, 2011 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterGW
[Quote]

We MIGHT be hit by an asteroid tomorro. Possible.
We WILL be hit by an asteroid tomorrow. Most unlikely.

Sir, you need to include probabilities in your hyperbole.

Probability we will be hit by a (big enough to do damange) asteroid tomorrow - 0.0000000001%

Probability that 1-2 degrees of warming will be harmful to us who live on this planet and our children - I dunno. 30%-50%. It's a very real probability. (and I never said it was a certainty - I only used the word 'could')
Are you the The author of the above ridiculous bishop-hill article? You stated many things that you couldn't possibly know for certain as absolute truths. I strongly recommend you add the word "uncertainty" to your vocabulary. You might sell fewer books, but you'd be more honest.
It's important to keep in the discussion: probability, possibility, uncertainty and what is ridiculously unlikely (like your asteroid example). WIthout those words, we're just tossing rhetoric.
- - - -

[Quote]'There is some evidence (that the climate is changing dangerously).
I'd like to see the impirical evidence for this.[Quote]

Ice ages warmed to normal temperatures over thousands of years - though sometimes history tells us, sudden warming or cooling happened as fast as 1,000 years. We're currently in a 50 year, 0.6 degree warming trend - that's abnormally fast compared to the receeding of the last ice age, which took 3,000-5,000 years. Models suggest we could see an additional 1-2 degrees in the next 50 years - that's likewise, abnormally, unprecidentedly fast.

I'm not going to bother trying to prove this to you, my statement should be sufficient. People who say there's no evidence are just as stupid as those who say there's absolute proof. All we've got is a best guess, and in that best guess, there is a very real possibility that the earth is warming dangerously fast. To deny that is to deny the truth. You might not believe it, but to say there's no evidence once again, makes you wrong. The speed of the warming is evidence. The fact that Co2 traps heat is evidence. The fact that the atmosphere is shrinking - and you can google that - that's also evidence. Historical data that shows that CO2 levels and temperature levels go hand in hand is also evidence.

- - - -

I'm so glad you posted the Watts-up-with that fellow, cause I've read him and dealt with him before.

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/29/the-medieval-warm-period-a-global-phenonmena-unprecedented-warming-or-unprecedented-data-manipulation/

He uses this chart, which is an IPCC chart from 1990
http://www.science-skeptical.de/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/lambh23.jpg

Now, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that we didn't know as much about historical temperature in 1990 than we know today. The IPCC has since corrected that chart, but mr. Watts, insists, teh IPCC had it right in 1990, though they knew a lot less then, than they do now.

The IPCC says it was colder during the MWP. Watts, cherrypicks info from the IPCC and from some guy named Lamb, who's studied this in the 1960s - and reaches the conclusion he wants to reach, while ignoring the best research over the last 20 years.

Maybe you could say "it might have been warmer in the MWP. we're nto sure" - I'd not give you a hard time for that, but to say it was absolutely and quote this Watts guy - that's just bonkers. Watts is picking and choosing his data and using nothing that's peer reviewed or verified by modern research.

But If you want to say the entire scientific community is wrong, then, well, you'd be the extremist, not me.

- - - -

'But was it warmer 7,000 years ago?'
Again plenty to say it was. Here's just one interesting view.
http://www.stanford.edu/~moore/history_health.html

- So, I post a link that says it was about the same as the 1950s, 7000 years ago and you post a link by Thomas Gale More (who's funded by Exxon), but to his credit, he is a scientist, who says it was 5 degrees warmer 7,000 years ago.

I don't know what the temperature was 7,000 years ago, I wasn't there and I'm not an expert in the field. I'll wager - you don't know either.

But, you say there's "Plenty" to say it was, and you post one scientist who's funded by Exxon?

I don't think Thomas Gale Moore qualifies as "Plenty" - he qualifies as one guy. What you should have said is, one scientists thinks it was warmer 7000 years ago.


- - - -


This one is golden:

'What evidence? (that the Arctic Ocean was ice-free for periods 7000 years ago).
http://www.ngu.no/en-gb/Aktuelt/2008/Less-ice-in-the-Arctic-Ocean-6000-7000-years-ago/


Your words "the arctic ocean was ice free for periods 7,000 years ago"

Your article's words:

"We still don’t know whether the Arctic Ocean was completely ice free, but there was more open water in the area north of Greenland than there is today,” says Astrid Lyså, a geologist and researcher at the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU)."
Also from your article:
"However, the scientists are very careful about drawing parallels with the present-day trend in the Arctic Ocean where the cover of sea ice seems to be decreasing.
“Changes that took place 6000-7000 years ago were controlled by other climatic forces than those which seem to dominate today,” Astrid Lyså believes."
So, they not only use the word "may have been ice free" where you use the words "was ice free", but they state specifically that the causes 6000-7000 years ago were different than the causes behind the warming today?

Hmmm.

I don't think that Eiliv Larsen and Astrid Lyså would agree with your conclusions from their study.
But for what it's worth - I apreciate the article a lot. That is a genuine scientific article and I very much enjoyed reading it. I don't know what happened in the North Atlantic 6000-7000 years ago, it could have been many things, but I love learning about stuff like that.

- - - - -
Greenland is losing ice at the approximate rate of 0.1% per decade. Significant? I think not.
it's accelerating. That's the worry. It's not just rising ocean levels but changes in salinity and possible changes in ocean currents.
- - - - -
While this is hard to measure, (that Tropical storm* intensity and frequency have gone down), due to no 2 storms being alike, I don't think it's true overall.
Hard to measure indeed, but you ppear to know differently. How is that?

Well, I didn't say I "know" different, I said I don't "think" what you said is true. The reason I don't think that is that this year alone in the US we had record droughts in Texas and Record flooding in about a dozen states and record snowfalls this winter. We also had the 2nd most damaging huricane in history in 2008 (Ike) and the First Huricane to hit NY State and Vermont since the 1930s. - A lot of very wierd weather stuff happened this year - that's why I don't "THINK" you were correct when you made your claim that the weather has been calmer over the last several years - whatever you specifically said. I repeat. I don't think you're conclusion there was correct.

The bottom line is, you're using bad examples and making bad assumptions - and, I can't stop you from doing that. All I can do is point out corrections and mistakes.

The earth might not have been 5 degrees warmer 7,000 years ago - you should question that, rather than take one scientists word with absolute certainty, while you dismiss every scientist who says climate change is real and underway and man made? Why do you believe one and not the many others? Especially when the one is funded by Exxon?

Nov 4, 2011 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterEd

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