Will Clive Hamilton reflect on ‘alarmist’ failures?

Clive Hamilton’s series of articles on the climate change debate at The Drum is not yet complete, but what’s missing so far is any self-reflection. Things have gone wrong for the alarmist camp, but the fault according to Clive seems to lie entirely with other people.

For instance I agree with Hamilton that behaviour in this debate has been poor – but poor on both sides, not just the sceptic side. I complained years ago about the ‘McCarthyist’ tactics of the alarmists, and their outrage at any dissent from the official line.

Not only has this approach helped provoke attacks in response and alienated people not strongly committed to either side, but it probably contributed to the broader political shortcomings of the alarmists. As I showed in a recent Policy article, in public opinion the alarmists have had the upper hand for 20 years. Their political imperative wasn’t to stamp out the last remnants of dissent on the science, but to convert belief in the science into support for practical measures to reduce carbon emissions. There was an opportunity cost to chasing down every sceptic offering a view.

The other tactical problem with the alarmists was their focus on scaring people rather than trying to sell a more positive message. In a month of climate change media monitoring in 2008, I found in Australian media alone an average of 1.6 different climate change disaster stories a day. This vastly understates the actual number of such stories, because multiple media outlets often report the same story. This kind of saturation negativity promotes both scepticism and boredom.

Perhaps Clive will reflect on his own side’s faults in coming days, but somehow I doubt it.

—-

In Hamilton’s attacks on ‘sceptic’ think-tanks he lets the CIS off relatively lightly. But as with his former PhD student Guy Pearse his evidence includes facts that are irrelevant to his case.

…after struggling in its early years, it was reprieved by a major funding boost from six mining companies, a rescue facilitated by Hugh Morgan. Among its board members is Sir Rod Eddington, a senior business adviser to the Labor Government.

What does help from Hugh Morgan 30 years ago have to do with current debates? And I’ve heard Rod Eddington argue for the science behind climate change, so how is his CIS board membership connected to supposed CIS scepticism? This is all just padding to make it look like Hamilton has more evidence than is actually the case.

101 Responses to “Will Clive Hamilton reflect on ‘alarmist’ failures?

  • 1
    JC
    February 24th, 2010 18:16

    Wht do you think, Hamilton is in the least concerned with anything other then trouncing the other side, Andrew?

    He seems more focused on how he looks to his own small tribe in terms of self-aggrandizement and promotion.

  • 2
    Rebecca_23
    February 24th, 2010 18:29

    First, ‘the drum’ is full of ex-crikey lefties, and the invited guest writers are all lefties too! Good to see my tax payer dollars at work!

    Second, Clive Hamilton is the last person to comment on behaviour. His open letter to Andrew Bolt’s children was a disgrace (long live the Bolt).

    Anyway, to the case at hand. Totally agree with you Andrew about the skeptic witch hunts. From my angle, I am not a scientist. I don’t know whether any of this warming stuff is true or not. What I do know is that every day for the last 5 years scientists, greenies, lefties were ramming this stuff down my throat and treating skeptics like heroin addicts.

    This alone makes me skeptical and resentful.

    I have to say I’m bloody glad that they now have egg on their faces (East Anglia, IPCC issues). Serves em right.

    But now, I am genuinely more confused then ever on the subject. I don’t know if this is all a hoax, or if there’s some truth in it. Comments from leading scientists saying “oh we have to exgaggerate to get people to act’ are not helpiing their cause either.

    The ETS was always going to falter due to free riding – the Chinese would never sign up. Now that the lies have been exposed, it’s all over…NEXT!

  • 3
    hc
    February 24th, 2010 19:36

    You really are doing a great job with these types of posts Andrew – hits a bit light this week? Look at the Pavlovian responses of the first two who have responded to your critique of “alarmism”. Right-wing rebels who show their individualism by rejecting mainstream science. Brave kids. Existential heroes. Anyone for biblical accounts of human creation?

    Climate change scientists take the issue seriously because their arguments have serious consequences. Robert Frank in the NYT gets it right and provides seriously (I guess to you) “alarmist” views of our climate future. But I think they are much more accurate statements than your hand-waving agnosticism.

    Rather than consider these arguments Rebecca sees them as portraying her as a ‘heroin addict’. She isn’t a skeptic just a lightweight who can’t think – her views a surge of right-wing resentments and free associations – not an argument at all.

  • 4
    JC
    February 24th, 2010 19:53

    Oh Harry, try to be nice on Andrew’s blog and thanks for proving Andrew’s point.

    I know you keep grudges from previous arguments, but it labors me in having to explain my views every time we meet on someone’s blog that I am not a sceptic. Not that it matters what you think i should think.

    However I am not an alarmist either, as I don’t consider the tail risk is as dangerous you do while the bulk of the science is sitting around the 2 deg mark or there about.

    There is nothing wrong with being offended by Hamilton’s rabidness even by people that aren’t sceptics.

    As I said, try and act a little nicer and more pleasant, harry even when people disagree with you.

    Furthermore you’re veering away from the topic of the thread which is really about Clive’s recent stuff on the ABC site and not about “da” science. Do keep up.

  • 5
    JC
    February 24th, 2010 19:55

    And Harry:
    Anyone for biblical accounts of human creation?

    Perhaps you’re living proof of creationism as I honestly can’t think that evolution would create someone like you in terms of the way you think at times :-)

    Just be nice.

  • 6
    Rebecca_23
    February 24th, 2010 20:00

    Bit harsh there hc.

    Simply saying that I am not a scientist and I don’t know whether the world is getting warmer or not. Unlike many blogg writers, I am saying hand on heart that I don’t know.

    On the one side you have majority opinion saying the world is getting warmer etc, and on the other, you have well respected and influential people like Ian Pilmer and Andrew Bolt (viva la bolt) saying temperatures have fallen over the last 10 years despite Co2 emmisions.

    Amongst that, the former is pointing fingers, yelling and screaming ‘heretics’ to the non-believers. Now at this stage I am not rejecting the ‘alarmists’ view, simply saying that they’ve been caught out (East Anglia etc), that they have egg on their faces (which I find amusing) and that I hope some rationaility will be restored to the discussion.

    Lastly, they say when you can’t win an argument, attack the person, not the idea. So when I look at your post, with no evidence of warming and much name calling (lightweight), this is only leading me to believe that the alarmists views are simply that (hollow).

    Night all – PS – I liked Rajat’s post before on the ’96′ tram. For those less travelled, it’s a bloody sheep carrier that tram. Ahhhh the memories!

  • 7
    JC
    February 24th, 2010 21:43

    Rebecca:

    Don’t let harry worry you. He often is at his worst late at night for some reason and goes a little off the deep end. In the mornings after a few hairs of the dogs he reverts back to his normal charming self.

    Don’t worry.

  • 8
    Alan Anderson
    February 24th, 2010 22:10

    The frustrating thing for skeptics over the past several years has been the dogmatism of the climate cultists, coupled with an unwillingness to debate the underlying questions (and I don’t just mean the science, to which debate has returned post-Climategate; I mean the economics of adaptation vs mitigation, the real-world feasibility of an enforceable global deal to reduce emissions in the context of international politics and Chinese govt incentives, etc.)

    I admit to taking involuntary pleasure in the frustration of the cultists now that the shoe is on the other foot and discussion has turned to issues they don’t want to talk about. It would have been nice to have a civilised discourse about all of the above. Instead, they wanted to sell shrill “Day After Tomorrow” stories and stigmatise every skeptic as a creationist lunatic (e.g. Harry’s comment above) or a shill for big oil. As they labour to free themselves from the stigma of Climategate, arguing that it is unfair to tar them all with the same brush, one cannot help but appreciate the irony.

  • 9
    Tom N.
    February 24th, 2010 22:22

    In citing comments from leading scientists saying “oh we have to exgaggerate to get people to act”, Rebecca fails to realise that those comments appear to have been fabricated by a British journalist. Indeed, four climate change scientists have now come out to indicate that they have been verballed by the same journalist (from the London Telegraph, if I recall correctly). But such behaviour is par for the course for denialists.

  • 10
    Robert Wiblin
    February 25th, 2010 00:33

    I think part of the problem is that even if most people think climate change is real and problem we should work to solve (as a majority, including myself, do), because it is a ‘common good problem’ there is no clear route to a strong international agreement on climate change.

    Because it’s not clear what productive work those worried about climate change can engage in, the temptation is to continue hammering the few remaining skeptics. Alas, they are not the real impediment to solving the problem now – rather it is that each nation would individually prefer to keep polluting while the others put in the hard yards.

  • 11
    conrad
    February 25th, 2010 04:03

    “However I am not an alarmist either, as I don’t consider the tail risk is as dangerous you do while the bulk of the science is sitting around the 2 deg mark or there abouts”
    .
    JC, you are making no sense. First you say you don’t think the tail is dangerous (who on Earth is saying it isn’t incidentally?), and then you point to the mean (in fact a number slightly lower). This is a bit like me saying I don’t think the risk of skin cancer is dangerous because I only have 22 moles, and most of them don’t look very big and most won’t turn into cancer.
    .
    Also, I wonder why people feel obliged to go after Clive Hamilton? Can’t people find any real or slightly more serious targets to go after?

  • 12
    Andrew Norton
    February 25th, 2010 04:33

    Harry – My post originally had a link to this similarly-toned comment of yours as evidence for my argument, but I deleted it as I decided it was not fair to single you out. But ironically (as others have pointed out) you jumped in with the evidence anyway. I’m a classic case of someone who thinks the alarmists have a point but is put off by their bullying and arrogant style.

    Robert W has the most important point in this comments thread, which is asking what other productive work the alarmists could have done instead of what they did do. (I should note that one problem here is that we are talking here more about a movement than an organisation, so hard for them to collectively decide to do anything). The most obvious to me positive thing would have been to focus more on technologies that would make a difference. This is indirectly what carbon charges are supposed to provide incentives to do, but people like technology and there would be little resistance to extra R&D billions focused on alternative energies. There are elements of this in the US where reducing reliance on Arab oil is an added argument.

  • 13
    Andrew Norton
    February 25th, 2010 04:37

    “Also, I wonder why people feel obliged to go after Clive Hamilton? Can’t people find any real or slightly more serious targets to go after”

    Probably because:

    1) He’s everywhere (in Australia, he’d be one of the top few alarmists for name recognition);
    2) There is strong suspicion that his prior political rejection of affluent Western lifestyles is his motive;
    3) He attacks individuals and organisations so they respond;
    4) There is a touch of sanctimony to his style.

  • 14
    JC
    February 25th, 2010 07:53

    Conrad:

    I was trying to make sense. The tail is a very long odds bet like most tails are. Harry’s excitable link implies the tail ought to be given higher recognition. In other words the tail is fatter. However it doesn’t appear to be the case in terms of where “da” science is. “Da” science is around 2% according to Richard Tol who spent the time to review everything there’s around.

    Funnily enough the best explanation and what to do about is actually found at the IPA website in a lecture given by Richard Tol who incidentally debunked Stern’s appalling economics.

    It’s here: http://www.ipa.org.au/publications/1751/how-much-emission-reduction-would-be-justified-

    Why do people go after Hamilton?

    Are you kidding me? This isn’t a serious question.

  • 15
    TJW
    February 25th, 2010 08:04

    Poor Harry, his haemorrhoids are playing up again.

  • 16
    conrad
    February 25th, 2010 08:45

    JC,

    Even at 2%, it is worth thinking about. The chance of my house burning down is less than that, but I still have insurance for it.

    Perhaps I just give Hamilton less credit than other people do.

  • 17
    jack strocchi
    February 25th, 2010 09:19

    Climate political alarmism was important a few decades ago to raise the alarm. Now what is needed is climate policy progressivism, to show the majority the way forward.

    The main climate policy is “cap and trade”. I dont know about you but the thought of leaving the management of the earths climate to a combination of UN bureaucrats and Wall Street bankers leaves me cold [sorry!].

    Most people cannot understand or feel confident about this scheme. That is why climate skepticism is growing: the main policy solution looks like a dead-end so whats the point of going down that road?

  • 18
    JC
    February 25th, 2010 09:47

    Conrad:

    2% is not 9% which is the projection in Harold’s link I believe. Bit different.

    People that generally talk about Hamilton is to put down his ideas. Anyone that says democracy needs to be suspended to allow a dictatorship to rule us should never be allowed an even break.

  • 19
    derrida derider
    February 25th, 2010 10:11

    “On the one side you have majority opinion saying the world is getting warmer etc, and on the other, you have well respected and influential people like Ian Pilmer and Andrew Bolt (viva la bolt) saying temperatures have fallen over the last 10 years despite Co2 emmisions.” – Rebecca_23

    Rebecca, don’t you think you have a duty to yourself to actually try to find out if temperatures actually have fallen over the last 10 years? And if in fact they clearly have not (as I am very confident a few minutes googling will tell you, because the “10 year” timeframe now excludes 1998 – the hottest year for many millennia) then will you continue to think people such as Bolt who lie to you about it as “well respected”?

    One side is, admittedly sometimes badly, trying to tell people the facts here. Another is only concerned to spread FUD – and FUD is always easy to spread.

  • 20
    JC
    February 25th, 2010 10:14

    Rebecca, don’t you think you have a duty to yourself to actually try to find out if temperatures actually have fallen over the last 10 years? And if in fact they clearly have not (as I am very confident a few minutes googling will tell you, because the “10 year” timeframe now excludes 1998 – the hottest year for many millennia) then will you continue to think people such as Bolt who lie to you about it as “well respected”?

    Phil John reckons they’ve flat-lined Derida.

    Here take a lookse:

    So to remind ourselves, what did Jones say?

    B – Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming
    Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

    Let’s do that again.

    B – Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming
    Yes …

  • 21
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 25th, 2010 10:38

    I think a key reason why the scientists are exaggerating claims is because they’re on the public teet and that their incomes and well being are directly tied to the issue.
    I mean, we hear about all the bogus claims of Ian Pilmer et al being in the arms of the oil companies, but what about all these academics and scientists bleeding my mates – average Joe taxpayers – by perpetuating these climate change myths.
    Indeed, the other day I read how all these research grants had been awarded to ‘climate change studies’. And of course the academics realise this, so they’re all tacking ‘and climate change’ onto the titles of their proposed studies.

    E.g. History of monetary policy and climate change, A study of post-modern urban ecology in Australian suburbia and climate change…..what a joke!

  • 22
    Russell
    February 25th, 2010 10:50

    Andrew – I don’t think most mainstream commentators have been hysterically alarmist – given the extremely serious threat climate change poses.
    .
    I think what so upsets the right about the issue is the undeniable failure of our free-market system to handle the problem, and the fact that we have no choice but to do something it. Classical liberals don’t like being told that the government has to step in to do anything, thus the shoot-the-messenger reaction.
    .
    I agree with Jack that public support is waning because of poor leadership on this issue. I agree (uncomfortably) with Tony Abbott (I think that’s where’ll you find a “bullying and arrogant style”) that direct action is our best first step. When I’m trying to persuade friends of mine, who say things like “Why should we go first?”, I try to find other benefits – for example if we produced methanol and used it in our cars the way Brazil does, this would help with energy security and create jobs for indigenous communities.

  • 23
    conrad
    February 25th, 2010 10:51

    “I think a key reason why the scientists are exaggerating claims is because they’re on the public teet and that their incomes and well being are directly tied to the issue.”

    Actually, I think you find many, like the MIT group, work at private universities.
    .
    In any case, I doubt it makes much difference to a lot of them — once you’re good, it’s easy enough to work in other countries that don’t have the type of anti-intellectual morons Australia does that not only complain about what gets done, but then complain when people sell their ideas overseas when they do find something good when no-one cares in Australia. Reminds me of that SunTech guy who people complain about because he did his PhD here and then became a billionaire in China.

  • 24
    conrad
    February 25th, 2010 10:52

    “I don’t think most mainstream commentators have been hysterically alarmist – given the extremely serious threat climate change poses.”
    .
    I don’t either, because I don’t consider Clive Hamilton a mainstream commentator.

  • 25
    Rajat Sood
    February 25th, 2010 10:55

    Picking up on Robert’s point, the closest analogy (as Garnaut keeps saying) is free trade. As multilateral trade negotiations have broken down, countries have moved to bilateral and regional deals. But free trade is unilaterally beneficial, carbon reduction action is not. So there isn’t much point in entering regional or bilateral deals on carbon reduction unless you have the ability to get the large emitters to join them. Europe has been talking about carbon tariffs, but Australia is in no position to arm-twist anyone. Investing in R&D on new technologies is one approach – and Lomborg has been a strong supporter of this – but the same issues arise for Australia: why invest when we can free-ride on others? One thing Australia could usefully do while waiting for others to commit is have a proper debate on the technological issues surrounding nuclear power. So that if and when a global deal is ever reached, we know the full extent of the technologies we are willing to use.

  • 26
    Russell
    February 25th, 2010 11:15

    “have a proper debate on the technological issues surrounding nuclear power”
    .
    Why only the technological issues when a lot of the objection is over issues such as if we have the right to leave everlasting toxic waste as a nasty legacy to future generations?

  • 27
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 25th, 2010 11:19

    I don’t think the right is upset by the ‘climate change issue’, it’s just that there is no underlying issue. Only lefties, who have long since left religion needing something to believe in. So they embark on this ‘climate change crusade’, castigating skeptics and burning heretical deniers at the stake!
    The interesting thing is, even if you believe all this climate change tosh, what then? Little ole Australia can’t do much. We’re much better off free riding off the efforts of others. The Chinese and Russians have worked this out, so why can’t we??? This is not a break down in classical economic theory, as Rusty would have us believe, but rather, a robust confirmation of it!
    But I spose,our troubles could be solved, if we closed our coal plants and factories so that we can produce some ethanol… Pah-lease!

  • 28
    Russell
    February 25th, 2010 11:29

    Baz – is Tony Abbott a leftie? He seems to have moved from the tosh/crap position …
    .
    I didn’t say we should close our factories (do we have any?) but go ahead with measures that reduce carbon emissions while also having other benefits. Pity Rex Connor didn’t get to build his pipeline – we could have been using gas in our power stations now. Premier Barnett says W.A. is the Saudi Arabia of gas.

  • 29
    conrad
    February 25th, 2010 11:38

    “The interesting thing is, even if you believe all this climate change tosh, what then?”
    .
    And if you’re an anti-science fool, then you simply use ad hominem to discredit things. Enjoy smoking, it’s healthy after all. All that tosh about lung cancer is just tosh. I know, Andrew Bolt (or insert other shock-jock here) told me so.
    .
    “Little ole Australia can’t do much. We’re much better off free riding off the efforts of others. The Chinese and Russians have worked this out, so why can’t we???”
    .
    Because we’re rich and can get a early mover advantage. In addition, I might point out the 20th century was a good example of the problem of countries not co-operating, which is why things like the EU were formed, and they were successfully able to tackle things like SO2 emissions (and stop fighting each other). If there was no cooperation between countries, I don’t see why some countries wouldn’t just dump their rubbish and used nuclear submarines in convenient places away from their own countries (many countries could “give” Australia’s uranium back also), use all the water in rivers that cross countries, belch out as much smog as they want (China’s smog now reaches the US), etc. .

  • 30
    JC
    February 25th, 2010 11:53

    What new technologies, Rajat? Honestly? I not trying in any way to sound terse towards you but what new ones? The subsidy whores like wind and solar?

    That junk will never ever work, as it’s impossible to extract heavy amounts of energy from totally dilute forms of energy input. They will simply never, ever work in providing cheap and abundant energy to fuel an industrial civilization. Period. That’s not even up for debate.

    So let’s go to the ETS, which is really the elephant in the kitchen cupboard here. Penny Wong has privately conceded (but publicly hasn’t) that the objective of reaching 20% renewable /carbon emissions target by 2020 is impossible.

    It’s impossible because renewable energy transience creates the problem that you can only have a maximum of 7% renewable target on a north south grid backed up with coal fired plants. Coal fired plants require to higher lead times in terms of responsiveness to sudden drops in renewable supply vs demand.

    So the ETS is a no goer from the start. It’s fatally flawed based on wretched premises.

    How about the other elephant in the bathroom, which is nuclear energy, that is 100% emissions free and doesn’t pollute microenvironments with crappy junk littering it? How the hell can we have an ETS without nuclear is beyond the realms of being retarded?

    Tanner has publicly stated towards the final stages of the introduction of the ETS into parliament that lower income earners will in fact take more out than they put in, which immediately turns part of this policy into a social redistribution model and not an emissions reduction plan.

    Lastly, how do we introduce such a plan when the big players aren’t and having a lateral effect of pushing our energy intensive industries overseas and thereby having zero effect on global emissions?

    These are questions I have put to myself and I can’t find any reason to support this abomination of a policy. In fat it’s worst than an abomination as it belongs in the 1oth circle of Dente’s hell.

    If we really want to do something about emissions we should simply roll the targets up to zero emission by 2050 (60% under the ETS) and wait patiently for 15 to 20 years while the price of nuclear plants fall in price as a result of economic scaling and be done with it.

    The subsidy whores like solar and wind will never, ever, ever become economically efficient and we’re kidding ourselves into stupidity by pretending otherwise. They’re money sinkholes.

  • 31
    conrad
    February 25th, 2010 12:02

    “The subsidy whores like solar and wind will never, ever, ever become economically efficient and we’re kidding ourselves into stupidity by pretending otherwise.”

    And your evidence for this statement is?

  • 32
    Russell
    February 25th, 2010 12:04

    I thought nuclear was a subsidy whore too ??

  • 33
    Russell
    February 25th, 2010 12:05

    Also, isn’t Spain doing quite well with renewable energy?

  • 34
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 25th, 2010 12:07

    Spain is barely solvent!

  • 35
    JC
    February 25th, 2010 12:08

    Yes,

    As I explained earlier.

    1. Energy diilute

    2. transience

    3. economic inefficiency.

    4. Engineering impossibility to even make them efficient.

    I’ll repeat. They will never ever ever be efficient enough to fuel our living standards. Ever! Even if this crap was free they still wouldn’t.

    And when the public cottons on it will place de-carbonization even further behind he 8 ball as people will feel they have been pied to again and tons of scare resources wasted.

  • 36
    JC
    February 25th, 2010 12:16

    Russell

    I highly recommend you read this.. pay particular attention to the comments section too by Peter Lang, as he along with Barry Brook are the best commenters in the country over this issue.

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/09/emission-cuts-realities/

    I’m more pessimistic than Peter on renwwables as he doesn’t care or not if they work as long as they’re not subsidized.

  • 37
    JC
    February 25th, 2010 12:17

    oops lots of gram mistakes sorry. I should proof.

  • 38
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 25th, 2010 13:28

    Anyway, Abott doesn’t believe in climate change. He also thinks its tosh, just like John Howard did. If he says otherwise, it’s only because its an appeasment to potential greeny voters. If in power, Abott wouldn’t do anything (non-core promise). Maybe he will make a few well publised carbon sequeastration subsidies.

    Conrad, there’s as much of a first mover advantage in an ETS as there is in Russian Roulette. Furthermore, unlike the reasons behind the formation of the EU, the Nash equilibrium for the ETS issue, is to free ride (see game theory). Hence, no co-operation (see the hopen-hagin and copen-hatin mess).

  • 39
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 25th, 2010 13:29

    PS – least Andrew Bolt is entertaining. What does the left have….ohhh I’m sorry, Phillip “chunker’ Adams! …..my mistake!

  • 40
    Sam of Southbank
    February 25th, 2010 15:39

    Andrew,

    Just wanted to voice my strong agreement with your post.

    On any number of occasions I have voiced my anti-warming opinion. These opinions are well founded and tpyically based on hard evidence. For example, the weather in Melbourne today maxed out at 25 degrees. This is well down on the about 35 degrees temperatures of late last month. Moreover, there have been crazy snow storms this year in the Northern hempishere.
    In any case, when I voice these opinions, I often get called nasty names, such as nutter, half-wit and sometimes I am even told to do things like ‘do us a favour and cark it’.
    This is clear, hard evidence that those that believe in climate change are harrassing people and alienating them. But while doing so, they fail to realise that they can never change my thoughts, nor my vote. And that comforts me.

  • 41
    conrad
    February 25th, 2010 16:32

    “hence, no co-operation (see the hopen-hagin and copen-hatin mess).”
    .
    Well, when Indonesia lets in lots of boat people, gets their fisherman to fish out our waters, and dumps toxic waste near our shores, I guess we shouldn’t complain. No co-operation, after all.

  • 42
    Rebecca_23
    February 25th, 2010 16:50

    Sam,

    I don’t wish to be personal, circa conrad last night, but I think you might be a french fry short of a happy meal!

    That said, I agree with your sentiments and must confess to a guilty chuckle nonetheless.

  • 43
    Jeremy
    February 25th, 2010 17:50

    Andrew, Clive is clearly out of his tree. And he has been for years. I don’t think we should be giving him oxygen, or holding his battiness up for public ridicule.

  • 44
    hc
    February 25th, 2010 19:36

    Andrew, Your emotive description of those who recognise the possibility of catastrophic climate change as ‘alarmists’ is very misleading. They recognise a substantial probability of a catastrophic risk to the continued survival of the human race on this planet from unmitigated climate change. The evidence I cited for this didn’t come from some ratbag blog site but from some distinguished climate scientists at MIT.

    If I am a little terse with fools like JC who criticise the notion of fat tails of a probability distribution by alluding to the mean of of these distributions then I apologise. But I don’t think I am – JC is just ignorant of climate science and of statistics. How should you deal with fools?

    There are real dangers from climate change which can be averted at relatively low cost. What is bizarre really are the ongoing attempts by seemingly smart people such as yourself to promote a derisory attitude to the science and to those – who having recognised what is possible – seek to get governments to act to mitigate the worst possible outcomes.

    This isn’t politics – its using the best knowledge we have to manage the life of the planet prudently and effectively.

  • 45
    Peter T
    February 25th, 2010 20:01

    Just check back on all those arguments that went “scientists say that this fishery will collapse unless you cut fishing by x per cent”, and all the hard-headed realists said that was impossible, economically ruinous, what would ivory-tower types know anyway – and the fishery collapsed. Try Grand Banks, bluefin tuna, North Sea herring. Check also water allocations, forest management and much else.

    Now get a good basic book out of the library on the laws of thermodynamics (basic to most industrial processes – no controversy there unless you also believe the earth is flat). It would be a surprise if the earth were NOT warming – and indeed it is. The universe does not make exceptions for human convenience.

    Check the meaning of “statistically significant”. and try to understand that teasing a 0.2 degree per decade signal out of a lot of noise means that 10 years is a short time.

    The latest science says we have probably missed the chance to limit warming to 2 degrees average across the planet – probably nearer 3 IF we get our act together quickly. For 3 degrees, it’s closer to think “20 per cent warmer” than just another degree or two. That is, your 45 degree summer heatwave will be a 50 degree summer heatwave.

    If my doctor was as worried about my health as the scientists are about warming, I would be revising my will. And it’s not their job to explain the facts of life to the poorly-educated, ignorant or the unwilling. They get paid (very modestly) to understand the universe. It’s up to us to pay attention and do something.

  • 46
    Andrew Norton
    February 26th, 2010 04:09

    “This isn’t politics – its using the best knowledge we have to manage the life of the planet prudently and effectively.”

    Harry – This sentence sums up the problem I was writing about in the post. Like many people through history in the grip of (to them) a self-evident truth, the alarmist camp has set out to terrify and bully people into submission. Our current systems of democratic government have been designed to limit such people, and require them to get consent (or at least acquiesence) for their views. Any major change, however desirable or sensible, is therefore ‘political’. While the collective action problems here are so massive I think the default option – dealing with the consequences of climate change – was always the most likely, I think poor tactics by the alarmists have probably blown the opportunities provided by early public acceptance of the basic scientific theory.

  • 47
    JC
    February 26th, 2010 04:52

    Harry:

    Please stop frightening yourself to death and calling people names because they don’t agree with your extreme views.

    If I am a little terse with fools like JC who criticise the notion of fat tails of a probability distribution by alluding to the mean of of these distributions then I apologise. But I don’t think I am – JC is just ignorant of climate science and of statistics. How should you deal with fools?

    I was actually very good at numbers. In fact they were my best subjects and got me through tertiary very lazily. I find it hilarious that you would emotively call me a fool when I’m simply relying on the mean distribution to reach the more likely conclusion.

    There are real dangers from climate change which can be averted at relatively low cost.

    Okay, then spell them out. Just don’t leave us hanging, spell out exactly how your plan would be low cost Mr. Armchair Strategist. Let me warn you though that it had better include something more than wind or solar as you would be marked down with a giant “F” for fail.

    The evidence I cited for this didn’t come from some ratbag blog site but from some distinguished climate scientists at MIT.

    Harry, you’re truly bizarre. MIT scientist such as Lindzen considers the predictions of some of “da” science to be overblown. Would you selectively include him as a “distinguished” MIT scientist or not?

    What is bizarre really are the ongoing attempts by seemingly smart people such as yourself to promote a derisory attitude to the science and to those – who having recognised what is possible – seek to get governments to act to mitigate the worst possible outcomes.

    As far as I can tell, there’s no government in the entire world that is trying to mitigate for the worst possible outcome. Most rely on where the large body of predictions lay on a probability chart and not the “fat tails”.

    This isn’t politics – its using the best knowledge we have to manage the life of the planet prudently and effectively.

    You’re remarkably ignorant if you really think the tool kit to deal with it is not about politics. I’ve already explained a better plan to get to the Promised Land, which doesn’t involve tossing money at the subsidy whores. If you have a better way, other than the pathetically conceived ETS the government is presenting then lets hear it, otherwise stop abusing people if they don’t agree with you.

    Don’t be scared Harry.

  • 48
    JC
    February 26th, 2010 05:03

    Conrad:

    And if you’re an anti-science fool, then you simply use ad hominem to discredit things. Enjoy smoking, it’s healthy after all. All that tosh about lung cancer is just tosh. I know, Andrew Bolt (or insert other shock-jock here) told me so.

    Good example, Conrad. It’s actually a great example of “da” science leading to some really detestable outcomes. The effect has been to lead governments into taxing the hell out of these products, which incidentally is being used these days more as a revenue-gathering tool than to prevent smoking. Higher taxes have led poorer people into smoking stronger (effect) and inferior products that are likely to make their health worse.

    Great effort.

  • 49
    conrad
    February 26th, 2010 06:50

    JC,
    .
    If AGW was either correct or not correct, you wouldn’t call it “tosh”. It’s a serious line of scientific investigation, and the fact that some people simply dismiss it like that shows what an anti-intellectual group many Australians happen to be part of, and no doubt is one reason why Australia will never be good at science (it’s also very ironic since it seems rather likely that, as you’ve pointed out a thousand times, we’ll all be involved with it one way or another, even if we don’t want to, given the likely actual outcome is that it is assumed to be reasonably valid).
    .
    Also if you think the government smoking campaign hasn’t worked, you’re wrong. If there’s a few fans of cancer left, and they now smoke more dangerously as a result, well, it was still a good trade-off.

  • 50
    JC
    February 26th, 2010 07:01

    Conrad:

    Where did I call it’s “tosh”? Please retract that silly assertion and apologize.

    I believe the government’s smoking campaign to high tax in cigs has not worked and caused further hardship.

    It’s a serious line of scientific investigation, and the fact that some people simply dismiss it like that shows what an anti-intellectual group many Australians happen to be part of, and no doubt is one reason why Australia will never be good at science

    Australia is actually very good at science, Conrad. I just don’t think one needs to support the appalling abomination of the ETS to be good at science. Do you?

    (it’s also very ironic since it seems rather likely that, as you’ve pointed out a thousand times, we’ll all be involved with it one way or another, even if we don’t want to, given the likely actual outcome is that it is assumed to be reasonably valid).

    I really don’t follow you on this point.

  • 51
    conrad
    February 26th, 2010 07:37

    JC, the comment was directed at Baz, which is why I think you are misunderstand things.
    .
    Also — Australia has some of the lowest smoking rates in the world. How could it not have worked?
    .
    As for how/good bad Austraila is at science — i think we’re living on borrowed time and reflected previous glory actually. I don’t think the ETS and science are related.

  • 52
    JC
    February 26th, 2010 07:55

    It doesn’t appear the comment was directed at baz at all.

    jc,
    .
    If AGW was either correct or not correct, you wouldn’t call it “tosh”.

    Doesn’t appear to be directed to Baz.

    Also — Australia has some of the lowest smoking rates in the world. How could it not have worked?

    Educational programs through the medical system. Government advertising and the fact that the older smokers have died away.

    Not tax, which simply directs people towards smoking the least healthy products around.

    In any event this isn’t about smoking, so leave it there.

  • 53
    conrad
    February 26th, 2010 08:45

    JC, search for the word “tosh” (comment 27).

  • 54
    JC
    February 26th, 2010 08:48

    Conrad

    I have no doubt, Baz used it. I didn’t and yet you suggested I did.

    As I said a nice heartfelt apology would be in order especially after Harry’s abusive rants unjustly directed toward me. I’m feeling victimized now.

  • 55
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 26th, 2010 08:54

    Of course I said the word ‘tosh’. It is tosh!
    Sorry if revealing the emperor’s clothes, or lack thereof, made an anti-intellectual, but when I spot rubbish, I say it. e.g. the IPCC claims that the Himelayan glaciers were melting was complete tosh.
    Yet I am a big fan of the enlightenment period, a couple of degrees in the hard sciences (ok dismal sciences), yet somehow I’m an anti-intellectual.
    I think this really goes back to Andrew’s point, can’t win an argument, just burn em at the stake!
    In terms of Australia and science. I agree the future is bleak, but I don’t think we have to much to cheer about our scientific past anyway. As before, compare our unis to the US, compare our venture industry to the US, it’s pathetic. We’re better of sticking to what we do well. Digging stuff out of the grain, making food, finance and manufacturing degrees :) . And that’s ok – not the end of the world anyhow.

  • 56
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 26th, 2010 08:59

    I think you should apologise also conrad.

  • 57
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 26th, 2010 09:00

    It’s un-Australian not to!

  • 58
    Russell
    February 26th, 2010 10:10

    “I think poor tactics by the alarmists have probably blown the opportunities provided by early public acceptance of the basic scientific theory.”
    .
    So the deniers and people like Abbott, and the crew at The Australian et al. had nothing to do with public opinion? Environmentalists, left or right, did present a confusing and contradictory range of ‘solutions’, but more damage was done by the deniers, and their publicists. The subject and its consequences are necessarily alarming – it was the alarm raised by Gore and others that led to the “early public acceptance of the basic scientific theory.”

  • 59
    JC
    February 26th, 2010 10:15

    Russell:

    Most of what Algore said wasn’t all about “da” science. It was self-serving, highly emotive gibberish that only the failed divinity student is able to muster. If anything he poisoned the discussion even further.

  • 60
    conrad
    February 26th, 2010 10:48

    You must be a literal genius Baz, to have a normal job and be able to evaluate all the literature so well that you can call it tosh (especially considering some of the smartest people in the world work on the issue). I learnt a new word from John Quiggin’s blog yesterday for people like that.
    .
    JC: You’ll have to ask Harry for that (although his post was directed at Rebecca and Andrew if you read it ). All I asked was for you to clear up a a few other things. As I said, my complaints are largely directed at Baz.

  • 61
    Tom N.
    February 26th, 2010 10:51

    DENIER’S FLAT EARTH APPROACH TO SCIENCE

    hc (Harry) said (to Andrew)

    What is bizarre really are the ongoing attempts by seemingly smart people such as yourself to promote a derisory attitude to the science and to those – who having recognised what is possible – seek to get governments to act to mitigate the worst possible outcomes.

    Although I rarely disagree with Andrew, nor find myself on the same side of an argument as Russell (or Clive Hamilton), I agree with them and with Harry on this occasion. What is interesting in Andrew’s post(s) is the lack of any attempt to address the fundamental point in Hamilton’s article – that the various supposed “errors” found in the IPCC report do virtually nothing to alter the validity of that body’s findings. They are rather like a spelling mistake in Copernicus’s thesis being used to argue that the earth doesn’t revolve around the sun. Alas, that has not stopped denialists from claiming that these errors invalidate, or cast serious doubt, on the IPCC reports key findings on climate change.

  • 62
    Russell
    February 26th, 2010 11:00

    JC, … whatever. Andrew claims that alarmists blew “the opportunities provided by early public acceptance of the basic scientific theory.”
    .
    I think that’s the wrong way around. The early public acceptance of the basic scientific theory was due to the alarming message of Gore and others. The opportunities were blown as much by deniers muddying the waters, as anything else.
    .
    It’s just shoot-the-messenger hysteria because neoliberals can’t accept the need for government interference. Even when the interference takes the neoliberal inspired idea of creating ersatz markets.

  • 63
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 26th, 2010 11:25

    Conrad – You are my hero – a real live case study who keeps evidencing Andrew’s orignal post. That is, yourr arguments are lazy, you just persist with this ‘anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot approach’ Mate, it doesn’t work me and it doesn’t wash with my – average Joe Public.

    Anyway, so-called climatetologiests are the smartest people in the world? Kidding me. Most of them are cardigan wearing, self important intellectual snobs who couldn’t hack it in the real world. You know the line, ‘those who can’t, teach’. Well that’s them! There’s no global warming, just selective data.

    PS – Andrew Bolt also has a name for those people!

  • 64
    conrad
    February 26th, 2010 11:59

    Baz,
    .
    I wasn’t using that argument at all. If you want to be smart and convince people that the really smart people arn’t, rather than calling them names, nasty stuff etc. (which you’ve managed to do yet again), why not publish a few articles in Nature telling everyone why? You’ll be more famous than Monckton, but for the right reasons. If you don’t do that, no doubt the people you are trying to deride will have the last laugh on you.

  • 65
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 26th, 2010 12:07

    Nature magazine? What is that? It must have subscriptions in the order of, what, 3? Much rather write for GQ, Ralph, zoo weekly etc. A few laughs from those readers and I’ll be pretty chuffed!

  • 66
    Russell
    February 26th, 2010 12:12

    “climatetologiests … are cardigan wearing, self important intellectual snobs who couldn’t hack it in the real world”
    .
    Baz, I think you’ve just exposed yourself there. It seems that you think that the world of business is the real world? We’re just finishing our hottest, driest summer on record here in WA – last night the minimum was 28c – the real world was making itself felt.

  • 67
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 26th, 2010 12:19

    Russel – Melbourne weather forecast
    ——–
    Forecast for Saturday – source BOM
    Cloudy. Scattered showers. Winds northwesterly averaging 15 to 25 km/h tending south to southwesterly around lunch time.

    City Showers.
    Min 21 Max 25

    Yep, that global warmin business, she is a sure blowin in!

  • 68
    Russell
    February 26th, 2010 12:35

    Baz – you need to put down the daiquiri, roll of the Lilo and get out of the pool. Find out about the rest of the world. It’s not all about Melbourne you know.

  • 69
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 26th, 2010 12:44

    And then what Rusty? Check out WA cause its all happenen there?

  • 70
    Russell
    February 26th, 2010 12:56

    From deserts the prophets come, Baz

  • 71
    conrad
    February 26th, 2010 12:57

    Actually, it’s bloody hot outside in Melbourne right now.

  • 72
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 26th, 2010 13:07

    Just kidding Rusty, WA is a great place!

  • 73
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    February 26th, 2010 13:15

    What do u mean its hot. It’s 21 degrees where I’m sitting

  • 74
    Russell
    February 26th, 2010 13:22

    Still in the pool, on the Lilo, with the daiquiri?

  • 75
    Andrew Norton
    February 26th, 2010 14:16

    “What is interesting in Andrew’s post(s) is the lack of any attempt to address the fundamental point in Hamilton’s article – that the various supposed “errors” found in the IPCC report do virtually nothing to alter the validity of that body’s findings.”

    Indeed, my post was about what was *not* in Clive’s articles. Most of them, including the two I linked to, were not on the IPCC report (the one that was mainly on the IPCC report appeared the day after I originally published this post). Hamilton was offering an analysis of the politics of climate change without reflecting at all on whether his own side may have mishandled the issue.

    To me, this is just typical of the alarmist approach: we can’t possibly be wrong, everyone who is against is a fool, a nutter, anti-science, a stooge of vested interests etc. These things may be true, but it is a recipe for political failure in a democratic culture to make saying this the strategy.

  • 76
    JC
    February 26th, 2010 14:24

    Still in the pool, on the Lilo, with the daiquiri?

    Russell, I hope the computer is running by battery and you haven’t got the ac adapter running while on the lilo.

  • 77
    Andrew Norton
    February 26th, 2010 14:46

    Enough on the weather and pool activities.

  • 78
    Rebecca_23
    February 26th, 2010 16:13

    I love a good lilo :) so much fun!

  • 79
    Robert
    February 27th, 2010 22:53

    Andrew,

    I think you might have a point about the conduct of some on the pro-science side of the debate. I think calling them alarmist (even if you use scare quotes) is a bit of a sleight of hand and probably beneath you, but I’m happy to look past that.

    But I think your stance would be more credible if you went after the dishonesty of the anti-science side a little more. You’ve had a go at Clive Hamilton (he deserves it), but if you are impartial, why not have a go at Andrew Bolt as well? His coverage has been just as agenda-driven, and just as dishonest. Maybe you are scared of the viciousness of his response?

    The economist have shown the way:
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/02/climategate_distortions/

    I think if more people “on the fence” like you went after the Bolts, Blairs et al as well as the Hamiltons, it might soften the view of a lot in the “alarmist” camp.

  • 80
    Andrew Norton
    February 28th, 2010 04:38

    Robert – I do try to be fair in the context, but I am not purporting to be ‘impartial’ or in a blog post provide any comprehensive coverage of a subject. The context here was a series of pieces by Clive Hamilton, with whom I have a long adversarial history (ie, why pick on him?).

    I have avoided discussion of the science, as I have no scientific credentials and no credibility on the subject. (Like most people I have a heuristic-driven opinion, in my case that the majority scientific opinion is more likely to be right.) There is no reason why anyone should pay attention to my views on future weather. My climate change analysis has been of the politics of the subject, where I do have some expertise.

    The ‘alarmist’ tag annoys some people, but it is short and in its literal meaning (without pejorative connotations) a good description of people offering a constant stream of catastrophe predictions.

    As for the idea that I could swing sceptic opinion, I seriously doubt it. As far as I can tell, this blog only has a few hundred regular readers and not that many from the ‘tribal’ right that is driving the sceptic case.

  • 81
    Robert
    February 28th, 2010 06:54

    Thanks for your response Andrew. I appreciate your honesty. I should emulate it myself. I also can only pretend to having a heuristic-driven opinion and find your characterisation of it as such refreshing.

    As for the alarmist tag–fair enough. I disagree with you but accept the use of it as shorthand from a certain perspective.

    I’d just like to push back on one point you make: you say that your blog has only a few hundred regular readers and none from the ‘tribal’ right, and that you would be unable to influence them in any case. This is untrue. Andrew Bolt has linked to your blog approvingly on a number of occasions, (from memory). Ideas do matter, and they spread further than one’s immediate readership. They ‘trickle down’. You are a measured, intelligent writer with a small but loyal following. You do have the ability to influence the way some on the right– maybe even the tribal right–think about these things.

  • 82
    Rebecca_23
    February 28th, 2010 06:58

    Robert, Andrew Bolt is not dishonest. He is an absolute legend.
    When being a skeptic was worthy of being burned at the stake, Bolty, the ex-labour staffer, was there defending the truth. He always projected that copenhagen would come to nothing, it was he who showed the flaws and frauds in the claims of the alarmists, it was he who carried the torch of truth when we were surrounded by a dark sea of conformist climate change sheep!
    And it doesn’t matter if the issue is climate change, islam, the stolen generation, no one on the left is able to land a glove on him and he is cutting through with the broader public. Consequently, his reputation and reach has grown accordingly.
    Thus, the question is not whether the A-Nort should critise Bolty, but why he doesn’t get off the fence, come out of the closet and more fully echo Bolty’s sentiments.

  • 83
    Andrew Norton
    February 28th, 2010 07:11

    Robert – I said ‘not that many’ rather than ‘none’ on my ‘tribal right’ readership. Andrew Bolt does link sometimes, and I get temporary visit spikes when he does, but my general view is that my style will put off the ‘tribal’ audience. Apart from recent arrivals Baz and Rebecca, only a few of my long-term regular commenters seem to basically offer the ‘tribal’ view in their contributions (and not all the right tribal view either). That’s the way I want to keep it; while obviously my own normative views are right-of-centre I mostly find the tribal stuff a bore, trying to squeeze every issue into a team competition rather than having any curiosity or desire to sort out puzzles.

  • 84
    Tom N.
    February 28th, 2010 10:09

    GO THE A-NORT! … BACK TO THE DICTIONARY

    Andrew#75 said: “Indeed, my post was about what was *not* in Clive’s articles….”
    I accept you can make a defense of this nature, and more generally a claim not to have (or to need to) make a call on the science, though you might want to reflect on whether your choice of language – “alarmists” – and what The Australian would call your use of moral equivalence – “poor [behaviour] on both sides [of the debate]” – do give succour to denialists.(^)
    .
    In relation to the alarmist tag, in response to Robert you said
    “…in its literal meaning (without pejorative connotations), a [it is a] good description of people offering a constant stream of catastrophe predictions.” However, its dictionary meaning includes a pejorative aspect(#) – that’s what the “ist” suffix is intended to do! Accordingly, people who offer a constant stream of catastrophic predictions are only “alarmists” if their predictions are without a reasonable basis. You have by your own words indicated that you have not shown this. Unless you can, I believe you should dispense with using the term.
    .
    On a slightly different note, I hope the newcomers to this blog take heed of the fact that you find the tribal stuff a bore. As a long term visitor/contributor here, I would prefer that the comments thread was not crowded up with that sort of pap too. That said, I admit that the “A-Nort” does have a certain ring about it.
    .
    ______
    .
    # Alarmist: A person who needlessly alarms or attempts to alarm others, as by inventing or spreading false or exaggerated rumors of impending danger or catastrophe. (emphasis added)
    .
    ^ Before I be criticised for hypocracy regarding labels, let me clairfy that I use the term “denialist” in the sense carefully argued by Quiggin, for that subset of anti-AGW action campaigners who inter alia repeat long-discredited talking points with the aim of besmirching and befuddling, rather than honestly seeking the truth on this matter. I do not lump all anti-AGW action types under this label; I recognise that there may also be some genuine sceptics regarding the science, and rather more regarding whether an ETS or other preventative actions are warranted.

  • 85
    Andrew Norton
    February 28th, 2010 11:01

    Tom – OK, my dictionaries agree that ‘alarmist’ has a connotation of generating needless fears, though needless or not the people-without-any-short-or-catchy-name-who-are-very-worried-about-climate-change have used alarm as a primary tactic. This is the biggest scare campaign in history, the only one I think that has been maintained for years across many cultures.

    And frankly it is the ‘succour to denialists’ kind of approach that I find pretty irritating and why I am fairly hostile to the people-without-any-short-or-catchy-name-who-are-very-worried-about-climate-change as a political group while still thinking they are probably closer to the truth on the science than the sceptics.

    This kind of ‘you’re with us or against us’ approach is both counter-productive politically- I for one rarely respond positively to this kind of pressure – and ultimately very damaging for the people-without-any-short-or-catchy-name-who-are-very-worried-about-climate-change themselves, as it closes down processes of reflection and criticism. This was one point I was making when I noted the lack of self-reflection in Hamilton’s articles (there was none in his series, as I predicted).

    I think there is a serious case that the people-without-any-short-or-catchy-name-who-are-very-worried-about-climate-change have made major tactical blunders, but no sign at all that they are doing anything other than intensifying the strategies that did not work last time.

  • 86
    Jeremy
    February 28th, 2010 11:01

    A-Nort, how about just calling members of the two broad groups ‘Believers’ and ‘Doubters’? People may not be alarmists, sceptics or denialists, but they are likely either to believe the IPCC’s argument about climate change or to doubt it.

    That should allow you to discuss matters without the alarmists’ knickers becoming too knotted ;-)

    I find it endlessly fascinating that a discussion of climate change can send people limbic!

  • 87
    Andrew Norton
    February 28th, 2010 11:04

    Jeremy – ‘Believers’ is certainly easier than people-without-any-short-or-catchy-name-who-are-very-worried-about-climate-change!

  • 88
    Tom N.
    February 28th, 2010 11:52

    Andrew, sometimes a pejorative label is well deserved, and serves a useful purpose in public debate. People who continue to pedal arguments that have been shown to be false, after enough instances, cease to deserve the benefit of the doubt.

    As I mentioned (in a footnote in my previous post – not sure from your response whether you read it), I use the term “denialists” selectively and carefully: I do not label all people who supposedly ‘doubt’ the case for action on AGW as denyers. Equally, I am sure there are some – though I suspect a much smaller proportion – of advocates of action to counter AGW who are indeed alarmists. The problem is that you seem to have been applying that label to all – including, in effect, thousands of reputable scientists – who support action to counter AGW.

    The fact that you apparantly cannot find an existing, and suitably pithy, term to capture this broader group does not, I suggest, justify use of term for them that clearly has a false and derisory connotation.

  • 89
    Sinclair Davidson
    February 28th, 2010 17:35

    I use the term “denialists” selectively and carefully

    I’m sorry Tom – that’s just bullshit. The term ‘denialist’ has a very well known meaning as a perjoritive and is associated with holocaust denial. It is offensive, it is meant and designed to be offensive and I cannot imagine why anyone hearing that term should think that it is intended to be offensive.

  • 90
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 1st, 2010 09:21

    A big A-men to that Sinclair. This Thommo character seems to asking for permission to dismissively label people who happen to share differing opinions. But, credit where its due, he did at least he put forward his ideas in an anti-tribal more intellectional kind of way.

  • 91
    derrida derider
    March 1st, 2010 10:15

    “… this is just typical of the alarmist approach: we can’t possibly be wrong, everyone who is against is a fool, a nutter, anti-science, a stooge of vested interests etc. These things may be true [my emphasis], but it is a recipe for political failure in a democratic culture to make saying this the strategy.” – Andrew

    So presumably we should refrain from speaking ugly truths, Andrew? Personally, I reckon if “everyone who is against is a fool, a nutter, anti-science, a stooge of vested interests etc.” then I have not merely a right but a duty to say that.

    Surely you would have far more cause for complaint if there was in fact a united, co-ordinated “strategy” to manage public opinion, rather than just individuals calling it as they saw it. Do you really want to feed the conspiracy theorists?

  • 92
    JC
    March 1st, 2010 10:53

    Derrida:

    How do you feel about people applying unscientific methods to casually dismiss nuclear science?

  • 93
    derrida derider
    March 1st, 2010 11:37

    I don’t like the Caldicotts of this world either, JC. But it is not primarily “unscientific methods to casually dismiss nuclear science” that is stopping nuclear power but simple economics.

    Whereas alarmism gets all its political effectiveness from the conspiracy theorists and those whose “logic” runs:
    - if AGW is real then government intervention is needed
    - government intervention is Teh Evil
    - therefore AGW is not real.

  • 94
    Tom N.
    March 1st, 2010 12:02

    Sinclair said (#80):

    I’m sorry Tom, but that’s just bullshit. The term ‘denialist’ has a very well known meaning as a perjoritive and is associated with holocaust denial. It is offensive, it is meant and designed to be offensive and I cannot imagine why anyone hearing that term should think that it is intended to be offensive.

    Actually Sinc, I never denied that ‘denialist’ is a pejorative; in fact, if you re-read my post, you’ll see that I was quite explicit about there being a case for the use of pejoratives in some instances.

    That said, I neither mentioned – nor thought about referencing – the holocaust when using the term ‘denialist’. Now that you raise it though, there are of course some parallels in the mental gymnastics engaged in by holocaust denyers and AGW denyers. Nevetheless, there are different types of denialists, just as there are different types of alarmists. The question, it would seem to me, is whether such a term is an appropriate descriptor.

    In the case of AGW, I judge that many AGW ‘doubters’ do indeed deserve time term (and, as mentioned, I agree with Quiggin’s careful argument on this). You are entitled to be offended by the application of this term to you, just as I am entitled to offend you – its a free(ish) country. Of course, you are also at liberty to ignore me. Nonetheless, I’m calling it as I see – and analyse – it.

  • 95
    JC
    March 1st, 2010 12:03

    Derrida:

    You may not like Helen Calidcots, the Peter Garretts, the Green Party or the ALP over this issue, but there are lots that do. Judging from some of your previous commentary I would tend to see you in the left leaning camp, which seems to me that you also really don’t have an issue with this policy either, despite your protestation.

    They each share similar passion of rejecting nuclear power and in the case of the Greens rejecting nuclear medicine outright.

    In other words they reject a scientifically proven method of producing emissions free energy because it’s “yukky” and instead promote the various subsidy whores such as wind and solar which have as much hope of producing enough energy for an industrialized civilization equal to rubbing two sticks together to make fire.

    …….

    But it is not primarily “unscientific methods to casually dismiss nuclear science” that is stopping nuclear power but simple economics.

    Seriously? So the French, Swedes, UK, US, China and Japan to name just a few countries are using nuclear energy for uneconomic reasons?

    Incidentally solar would be the most un-economic method of energy production.

    Whereas alarmism gets all its political effectiveness from the conspiracy theorists and those whose “logic” runs:
    - if AGW is real then government intervention is needed
    - government intervention is Teh Evil
    - therefore AGW is not real.

    Yes, generally speaking nearly all government interventions (economic) in the West since the war has been like Midas in reverse. There’s not much anyone could hang his or her hat on. The pink bats and the abomination of the ETS being two decent examples.

    I think you left out various groups. One group thinks AGW is real, but it is hardly the moral descriptor of out age.

  • 96
    derrida derider
    March 1st, 2010 12:40

    JC, you’re a dope. I’m not going to waste more time and derail the thread any further by responding to your post above, but I invite other readers to peruse it carefully and count the errors of logic in it. We all need a laugh.

  • 97
    JC
    March 1st, 2010 12:48

    Derrida:

    I’ve been called worse. Try and calm yourself down as I would be interested in a response. If it’s peppered with abuse it’s fine too.

  • 98
    Rebecca_23
    March 1st, 2010 16:40

    Whooska – don’t mess with the JC!

  • 99
    Guy Pearse
    March 8th, 2010 13:27

    Andrew – It’s good to see that you’re still dining out on the passing mention I made of you on page 244 of High & Dry. Your greenhouse policy commentary has been entirely relevant to the case I made in the book. It only reinforces how right it was to include you. Guy Pearse – Global Change Institute, University of Queensland.

  • 100
    Andrew Norton
    March 9th, 2010 05:50

    Guy – And how right I was to take a swipe at you, for concocting conspiracy theories!

  • 101
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 9th, 2010 12:31

    Don’t worry A-Nort. This Guy Pearse character doesn’t know whether he’s a lib or a greeny. His bio is an exercise in confusion. Hope he’s not that chap from that ‘Momento’ movie.
    Baz – the ordinary Aussie – Institute of Ordinary Australianess, University of Name-Drop-Kick