Iain Murray

On Monday, the British House of Commons passed the Climate Change Bill, marking a solemn undertaking to reduce British emissions by 80% by mid-century (unless decided otherwise) by the clear majority of 403 to 3.

Today, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) demanded that oil companies reduce the price of gasoline.

There's "joined-up government" for you.

Andrew Lilico, a British economist, has an interesting discussion of the economic aspects of global warming politics over at ConservativeHome.  This is particularly illuminating: 

Now the Stern Review has been subjected to extensive methodological criticism, and I think it’s fair to say that the position amongst economists is something like the following:

  • If we want to do any work on environmental economics for any government agency, we take the results of the Stern Review as given and unquestionable.
  • When we are down the pub, or chatting in meetings with other economists, almost no-one takes any of its results seriously.

Confirmation bias is alive and well in Her Majesty's Government.

It is often suggested that global warming and/or the environment is becoming more important in deciding how Americans vote. The latest poll figures, from the Washington Post and ABC News, suggest that for Democrats in the crucial state of Iowa, that is far from the case.

In a state where ethanol and energy are important issues, too few people to register mentioned global warming as the most important issue in determining their choice of candidate. Taking the top two issues together, 4 percent said the Environment, 3 percent said Energy/Ethanol and 2 percent global warming. There may be some overlap between these groups, so it is impossible to add these up even to 9 percent.

And that's the Democrats. Now admittedly, this is from a midwest state but the figures for environmentally "aware" New Hampshire aren't much different. In the latest CNN poll there, just 4 percent of Democrats make it their #1 issue, with 3 percent their #2 (an additional 5 percent named it their #3 issue, something that wasn't asked in the Iowa poll).

In South Carolina, a Winthrop University poll in October found just 0.8 percent of Democrats mentioning the Environment as their most important issue – lower (though meaninglessly so) than the 1 percent of Republicans!

 

Matt Sinclair of the Taxpayers Alliance in the UK builds on Marlo's research on the reality of large-scale emissions reduction.  Matt's conclusion:

"Without some kind of miracle technology you can only reduce emissions sufficiently by radically slashing incomes. There is just no way that the Chinese, or any other other big emitters, will possibly accept this. Cutting their long-term expected income in half, or more, is just not an option at all.

"What does this mean for Britain? We already knew that our emissions weren't particularly important to global emissions growth. The UK just doesn't emit that much. Instead of actually changing anything by our actions we were supposed to be "leading". Showing others how it is done. That's pretty irrelevant now. Even if you were to, as some would like to, have the EU put massive trade sanctions on any country that doesn't sign up to our green agenda they're still not going to pay half of their long-term income for the right to trade with us. They certainly won't be shamed into it by Britain's selfless willingness to decimate its manufacturing sector."

There's a hoax going round, with a very convincing "study" that claims not only to find a link between "benthic bacteria" and temperature increases, but also has the authors say that they were intimidated into not publishing their findings.  You can see this clever piece of inventiveness here. The author(s) have even made up past contents for the fake journal.  There is no Department of Climatology at the University of Arizona, nor is there a Daniel Klein or Mandeep Gupta in the U of A directory. Neither is there an Institute of Geoclimatic Studies.

A quick whois lookup indicates that the site is registered to one David Thorpe of Powys, Wales, in the UK.  There is a David Thorpe who claims to be a "prize-winning novelist and environmental journalist" there and who runs the company to whom the site is registered.  He blogs as The Low Carbon Kid.

Congratulations to Mr Thorpe on his eye for detail and the work that must have gone in to producing such a convincing-looking study at first sight.  I'm sure he'll fool lots of people who will find the "findings" extremely attractive, but globalwarming.org is not one of them.  We are skeptics, after all…

 

This one takes the cake. If there was a Nobel Prize for Absurd Assertions (hmmm, perhaps there is) RFK Jr would win it hands down with this one:

If — you know, the National Academy of Sciences did a study an inventory, three years ago, of all of the scientific documents that had — the peer reviewed, refereed scientific documents that had been published in the previous decade, over 10,000 documents, 10,000 scientific studies. All of them agreed on the basics: that global warming exists; that human beings are causing it; that it’s upon us now; and that its impacts are going to be catastrophic. In the scientific community, there was literally zero dissent.

There is no such study. The NAS did not conduct such a survey. This is either a complete fabrication or a massive confusion. Neither speaks well about RFK Jr’s credentials to speak as an authority on the subject.

I think RFK Jr is simply confused. Here’s where I think he got it from: a few years back, Naomi Oreskes, an historian, wrote an “Essay” feature for the magazine Science, which is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, entitled “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” (subscription required). She claimed to have reviewed

928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change.”

This was an error. As she admitted in an Erratum, she actually searched under the terms “global climate change.” If she had used just “climate change” she would have got about 10,000 results.

Oreskes’ review concluded that 75 percent of the abstracts (not the full papers) agreed with a consensus view summarized by the National Academy of Sciences as

The IPCC’s conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue.

Note that there is no mention of RFK’s assertion that the consensus exists that global warming is going to be catastrophic. The consensus position thus stated is essentially uncontroversial. It certainly does not say anything about whether or not action should be taken.

Now, given Oreskes’ admitted error, we know nothing about the other 9,000 studies that she could have reviewed but didn’t. This didn’t stop Al Gore, though (It’s That Man Again!). He said in An Inconvenient Truth (p. 262):

[Oreskes] and her team selected a large random sample of 928 articles representing almost 10% of the total, and carefully analyzed how many of the articles agreed or disagreed with the prevailing consensus view.

This is accompanied by a graphic that says “Number of peer-reviewed articles dealing with “climate change” published in scientific journals over the previous 10 years: 928.”

So Gore’s handling of Oreskes contains an outright fabrication – that her team ’selected a large random sample’ when in fact they made a serious and admitted mistake – and an outright untruth – that 928 peer-reviewed papers dealt with ‘climate change’ when in fact they dealt with ‘global climate change.’

So, it looks to me like Kennedy took Gore’s disingenuous handling of Oreskes’ flawed article, made a massive logical leap to the conclusion that Gore’s “random sample” was a representative random sample, unjustifiably added the idea that the “prevailing consensus” had anything to say about catastrophe, and then confused the AAAS with the National Academies.

Now, the question remains, was he deliberately misleading the audience or was he displaying Olympian levels of misunderstanding?

I’m willing to be convinced either way.

Gore’s Wars?

by Iain Murray on October 12, 2007

Gore's Wars?   [Iain Murray]

It appears that the Nobel committee gave Al and the UN the peace prize on the grounds that

 it wanted to bring the "increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states" posed by climate change into sharper focus

The theory being that if there's more malaria, sea level rise, drought, hunger etc then people will react badly and fight.  The trouble is that Gore's preferred policies will lead to a poorer, energy starved world.  Far better, one might think, to tackle malaria, sea level rise, drought, hunger and so on directly rather than by tinkering with the chemical composition of the atmosphere.  As Indur Goklany has shown, we can do this for a fraction of the cost. 

Lots more on this idea on the Solutions page.  In particular you might note William Nordhaus' findings that while 3 degrees C of unchecked warming will cost the world $22 trillion in damages, Gore's policies will cost the world $44 trillion in total.

So if global warming will lead to "violent conflicts and wars," what would Gore's policies do?

The British government decided that it would be a good idea to send copies of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth to all schools, with then Environment Secretary (now Foreign Secretary) David Miliband declaring that “the debate over science is over.” Well, it may be, but not in the way Gore portrays it. A truck driver and school governor, Stuart Dimmock, took the government to court, alleging that the film portrays “partisan political views,” the promotion of which is illegal in schools under the Education Act 1996.

The judge has decided that this is indeed the case and that the Government’s guidance notes that accompanied the film exacerbated the problem. For the film to be shown in schools, therefore, several facts would have to be drawn to students’ attention:

In order for the film to be shown, the Government must first amend their Guidance Notes to Teachers to make clear that 1.) The Film is a political work and promotes only one side of the argument. 2.) If teachers present the Film without making this plain they may be in breach of section 406 of the Education Act 1996 and guilty of political indoctrination. 3.) Eleven inaccuracies have to be specifically drawn to the attention of school children.

The inaccuracies are:

* The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming. The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
* The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years. The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.
* The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.
* The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
* The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.
* The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age: the Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
* The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching. The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
* The film suggests that the Greenland ice covering could melt causing sea levels to rise dangerously. The evidence is that Greenland will not melt for millennia.
* The film suggests that the Antarctic ice covering is melting, the evidence was that it is in fact increasing.
* The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
* The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

This is a far better result than refusing to allow the film to be shown at all. It requires that students be told by teachers that Al Gore is factually inaccurate, misleading and – in one case – making things up. These inconvenient truths for the former Vice President have been covered up or obscured by the hype surrounding his film. Students will now realize that there are significant shortcomings and inaccuracies in the way the global warming scare has been presented to them. This is a victory for honest debate, a victory for science and a victory for education.

The comprehensive guide to Gore's innacuracies is, of course, Marlo Lewis' "Al Gore's Science Fiction."

In the UK, Conservative Party spokesmen are claiming that their demands for rapid, drastic action to cut carbon emissions are congrent with Mrs`Thatcher's views. This is a shaky claim at best.

In her latest book, Statecraft (2002, 449-58), Thatcher devotes ten pages to the subject of "Hot Air and Global Warming." Thatcher is quite clear that she feels things have gone in the wrong direction since she warned, "it is possible . . . we have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself." She notes that global warming alarmism today "provides a marvelous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism" (Statecraft, p.449).

In other words, Mrs T concedes there might be a problem, but rejects the economy-destroying solutions of emissions taxes and targets that have entranced so many. She recognized this back in 1990, when she said, "Whatever international action we agree upon to deal with environmental problems, we must enable our economies to grow and develop, because without growth you cannot generate the wealth required to pay for the protection of the environment". In fact, Thatcher makes it clear that she regards global warming less as an "environmental" threat and more as a challenge to human ingenuity that should be grouped with challenges such as AIDS, animal health, and genetically modified foods. In her estimation, "All require first-rate research, mature evaluation and then the appropriate response. But no more than these does climate change mean the end of the world; and it must not either mean the end of free-enterprise capitalism." (Statecraft, p.457).

I wrote more on Mrs Thatcher's environmental record for the free-market environmental group PERC a couple of years ago.

Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, has initiated something of a backlash as scientists, heretofore absent from the global warming debate, have begun to criticize Mr. Gore, and by extension, much of the underpinnings of the global warming hypothesis.
 
One such critic is Professor Scott Armstrong, a leading expert on forecasting with the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  Professor Armstrong hasn’t just criticized Mr. Gore; he has put his money where his mouth is by challenging the former VP to a $10,000 bet, based on climate predictions.
 
On September 13, the Center for Science and Public Policy hosted a briefing where Professor Armstrong presented the findings of an audit he and his colleague, Professor Kesten Green with Monash University’s Business and Economic Forecasting Unit in New Zealand, conducted on Chapter 8 of the IPCC’s Working Group I report, The Physical Science Basis. 
 
As noted in the presentation, they found no evidence that the IPCC authors were aware of the primary sources of information on forecasting. Indeed, as Professor Armstrong stated, “We have been unable to find a single scientific forecast to support global warming.”
 
They also found that there was only enough information within the IPCC report to make a judgment on 89 of the total 140 forecasting principles as described in Professor Armstrong’s book, Principles of Forecasting.  Of these 89 principles, the IPCC violated 72.
 
The power point slides and video of the Professor Armstrong's presentation are available here.