Climate Tipping Points – The Real Conclusion beneath Scientists Opinion

The Independent reports on a new paper about the likelihood of a climatic tipping point being reached by 2200. How did they achieve this? Have they come up with a new wonder-model? Or by achieving a fundamental refinement of the existing models? No, the answer is more mundane. They interviewed 14 leading scientists on climate change, asking them some sophisticated (but leading) questions. It is an opinion poll, with a biased and insignificant sample. But it is revealing about the quality of climate change “science”.

  For instance consider the following from the abstract.


Quote 1

“The width and median values of the probability distributions elicited from the different experts for future global mean temperature change under the specified forcing trajectories vary considerably.”


   I thought statistical results could only come from statistical analysis, not experts reviewing the literature.


Quote 2

“For a forcing trajectory that stabilized at 7 Wm-2 in 2200, 13 of the 14 experts judged the probability that the climate system would undergo, or be irrevocably committed to, a “basic state change” as ≥0.5.”


   In science, a probability can only be calculated from the data, and can be subjected to a battery of tests for robustness. In common parlance probabilities are used as an expression of opinion. Like the IPCC forecasts for temperature the distinction is blurred. In this case it appears to be the latter, so should be clearly stated as such in a scientific journal.

   A second problem is the forcing trajectory being stabilised at 7 Wm-2. That is on top of the existing 324 Wm-2, a 2% rise (See IPCC AR4 page 96). The current greenhouse effect makes average global temperatures of 14oC up to 33oC higher than they would have otherwise been. If the effect were a linear one, then I would expect this impact to be 0.7oC. However I would expect the relationship to be a non-linear, with a diminishing marginal impact for each successive increase in the greenhouse forcings. To get to the median IPCC predicted increase of 3.5oC for this century would require huge increasing impact. Maybe climatologists are too lost in their consensus to see the bigger picture provided by data analysis.


Quote 3

“Finally, most experts anticipated that over the next 20 years research will be able to achieve only modest reductions in their degree of uncertainty.”


Do you want some accurate, scientific, analysis of the climatic instability that will be brought about by rising temperatures, in turn caused by rising CO2? The best experts cannot see this being achieved until long after they retired.


The Real Conclusion

The top climate scientists tacitly acknowledge that there is no robust, scientific basis for the climatic instability forecast.

Hat tip: Richard North at EU Referendum

Dear Boris, You have the England’s football malaise wrong.

Our youthful Mayor of London has misidentified the major causes of England’s lack of football prowess.  Whilst one might concede that the lack of competitveness is a minor contributor to England’s failure to progress far at the World Cup, it is far from being the major one. We have some of the finest footballers in the world. Speaking to some German and Danish colleagues, they both thought our players far superior to theirs. Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard and Terry and others would feature in many a pundits European or World fantasy team. But England lacks a National Identity. Where is the English parliament, the English leader, the English Law, the English way and the English Language? We suffer from nationalist schizophrenia.

 It lacks players who see the World Cup as the pinancle of their careers. And with so many players actual playing in the English Premier League, the top in the world, many spend most of the year seeing their English team mates as rivals.

Yet it is the English spirit that is wrong for the game. We see out own faults and the advantages of others. We share our culture and are open to diversity. So the World Game of Football is Englis; the parlimentary system of the leading nations is English Liberal Democracy; in most countries fought between the English political philosphies of Liberalism, conservatism and moderate socialism; the langguage of the world is English, the system of law in many nations is based on English Common Law. Flipping to the other side of nationalist schizophrenia, we can say much of modern science is British, as is economics and many of the leading inventions.

So whilst we navel gaze on why we cannot win right to display a small trophy for four years, we forget that this small island determines the rules of the game in a much broader sense than Football.

(an Update of yesterday’s post)

England is too great to win the World Cup

I find it painful to watch England playing football. As a country they always underperform. Today was a prime example. We had world-class players making the mistakes of a championship side on freefall to relegation. Why is it that we have world class players doing worse than they would do for their own clubs?

Consider the following points.

  1. For many of the English players the game of today was not the game of their lives. For Rooney, Gerrard or Terry, that is the Champions League or a crucial game I winning the Premiership. These games are the culmination of the games played for their club, in the top domestic competition in the world. Playing for their country is a nice extra, but not the pinnacle of their careers. For most other countries, most of the players do not reach those heights in their domestic competitions. They have lesser competitions are home, or play in a foreign league. For them it is like playing in Division 1, and having a once-in-a-career opportunity to play for
  2. We suffer from nationalist schizophrenia. I consider myself British, vote for a British Parliament and hold a British Passport. England is a historical curiosity. For many like me, it is only in sport that we have the nation of England. But for the Scots and Welsh, it is something different.
  3. Parts of the British culture are support for the underdog, diversity and the culture of the generalist. The intense focussed competitiveness required to win is not there. Instead, we see the other point of view, and learn how to compromise. That is why we have not had a pitched battle on British soil for Culloden in 1746, and English soil since Bosworth Field in 1483 (excluding the odd friendly game of Rugby). Instead, the ability to see the other point of view gives us some of the greatest minds of all time. The British invented football (and a host of other sports), a host of peaceful ideologies and produced some of the greatest minds of all time.


English football is incapable of gaining the focus to win. We just bequeath the rules of the game, whether in sport, or politics. We also provide the language in which it is spoken. These are trophies far greater, more enduring than a 10 inch gold one to place on the mantelpiece for four years. Question is, what greater victories are there to come?


Update – On Boris Johnson’s take in the Telegraph here

Cutting Government by Rules of Thumb

Over at the Admin Smith Institute Blog Dr Eamonn Butler has a short paper “Rebooting Government”. Just six pages long it looks at short, medium and long-term measures to reduce the deficit and keep it low. Well worth a read.

However, in evaluating what governments should do I advocate more general rules of thumb.

  1. Proportionality. Rather than trying to evaluate the relative worth of policies, try to see if the cost is anything like proportional to the benefit. That is a quick analysis to cull those policies where costs vastly exceed the benefits.
  2. Despinification of government. Cull those policies or regulations that where introduced as knee-jerk reactions, or on the basis of “research” that was discredited. This may include changing the language of government, with reports stating conclusions clearly and how they were reached, not waffling on for pages but saying nothing of substance.
  3. Temporal diminishing returns. Many initiatives have some initial benefits or successes, but later those benefits diminish for various reasons. (Not to be confused with diminishing returns to scale). The initial effects wear off. The organisation solidifies, the most needy processed first, or people get used to, or by-pass the intiative. Much the same way shock adverts only work being more graphic than the last one, or congestion charging only reduces traffic until people can adjust their budgets to afford the extra cost.
  4. Changing from direct provider to provision enabler. For instance, from providing schools to providing education vouchers (with many shades in-between).
  5. From detailed management to general objectives. A failure of government has been conformity to detailed standards by form-filling and inspections, whilst failing in the bigger picture. Social Services Departments, or General Hospitals that fall significantly shortly after having scored highly in performance evaluations. Or regulators who missed banks failing, despite receiving detailed and regular information about their operations.

John McDonnell should be cast to the political fringes

John McDonell’s jest that if he could go back in time he would “assassinate Thatcher” has caused some, rightfully, harsh words from Iain Dale. Here is my response.

McDonnell should be held up as an extreme element of New Labour thinking. It is OK to say something in jest, no matter how ludicrous, if it generates applause. It is but the uglier side of political spin. We can see through this one, but not as easily see through

1. “Labour Investment v. Tory Cuts”

2. “Beyond boom and bust”

3. Investment with no monetary returns funded through the deficit.

4. Daily government initiatives based on politically funded “research” that any objective researcher would throw in the waste bin.(And were, mostly binned once they had filled the news bulletins for a day).

 Iain Dale and Dan Hannan often have good things to say about their opponents, as did Tony Blair about Mrs Thatcher. If mainstream politicians cannot see the good in mainstream opponents, then they should not be cast to the fringes, for they are unlikely to have the ability to see their own faults. They should not be a candidate for the leader of the opposition.

Cameron gets the message on the Legacy of Labour

David Cameron yesterday started blaming the current deficit problems on the last Labour Government.  Benedict Brogan on his Telegraph Blog quotes Cameron

 “I think people understand by now that the debt crisis is the legacy of the last government. But exactly the same applies to the action we will need to take to deal with it. If there are cuts – they are part of that legacy.”

I have been thinking along the same lines for a while now. See for instance.

I believe it is as important for the future to understand the political element of how Labour went so wrong. The Golden Rule and the denial of the problem until it was too late have made a serious recession into a painful period of painful cuts in expenditure and large tax rises. This nation will be poorer for a generation as a result.

Prejudiced economic analysis in South Manchester

Have responded to a letter in the South Manchester Reporter of 3rd June.

GM’s letter of last week is prejudiced against a small minority and ignorant of economics. The need to cut is mostly due to the government running up a deficit during the boom years, and then going on a wild spending spree to try to shore up the vote as an election approached. (The cyclical part will be (mostly) taken care of by a strong economic recovery.) So in this area, we can look forward to some shiny new trams and gleaming school buildings along with a generation of cuts to pay for it. For instance, the £120m for the Didsbury spur of the Metrolink alone is equivalent to over 30,000 teachers and nurses doing without a 3% annual pay rise for five years.

The consequence of this fiscal irresponsibility is not just financial. People will lose their jobs or have careers de-railed, others will be made ill through over-work, or through seeing their livings standards fall salaries are frozen, whilst taxes, prices and interest rates rise. Rather than opposing cuts now, people should look to areas where they are least painful. That means shelving some of the recently signed-off “investments”, such as the extra bus lanes on Wilmslow Road; less government advertising; or finding better value for money in the provision of local services. The consequence of not doing so is even bigger cuts later, and lower living standards for the next generation.

But why call somebody prejudiced and ignorant? I quote

“Once again, those who really control the wealth and power (the gambler’s in our casino economy and the obscenely wealthy) have demanded that their government makes the poorest people in society pay for the economic crisis.”


“….John (Leech MP) will no doubt remind him (The Chancellor) that the multi-millionaires are unlikely to feel any effect whatsoever from the cuts to education, benefits and the health service that will inevitably follow in 2011”

The underlying cause of the recession, I believe, are:-

–         The prolongation of the last boom through cutting interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, and again in 2001.

–         Failure to raise interest rates in 2003. This would have been very difficult politically.

–         Failure of the regulatory authorities to realise the systemic risks building up in the financial sector, and the risks building up in individual banks.

–         Deficit spending in the boom years, which kept the boom going at the expense of creating structural deficits.

–         Political spin, and dubious accounting (PFI contracts to put liabilities outside the National Debt figure), to hide the reality.

Whether I have highlighted all the points, I am sure to be closer than someone who just blames the rich. The reason is that I, at least, attempt to understand the issues.

Reduce Gun Control to strengthen the Rule of Law?

I have commented on John Redwood’s Blog about the response to the murderous rampage by Derrick Bird through Cumbria. My claim that we may reduce gun control as a result needs to be substantiated. This posting does so in three parts.

  1. The posting, where I made the claim.
  2. A thought experiment on diverting police resources from gun control to tackling burglaries.
  3. The Rule of Law implications.


1. Posted to John Redwood’s blog

The Prime Minister’s response is the correct one. Government should act where there is an expected net benefit to society.

There are two sides to the argument.

Prevention – To argue how not only how any future occurrence could be prevented by the new measures.

Resource Diversion – To demonstrate that the implementation of any measures would be a worthwhile diversion of resources. That is both the police time in enforcement and the public’s time in complying with the regulations.

The rampage of a madman through Cumbria should mean a complete rethink on gun control. Paradoxically, it could mean less onerous regulations. The new laws introduced after Hungerford and Dunblane have not prevented a reoccurrence, but do involve a lot of police time and inconvenience to a section of the law-abiding public. There has been a net loss to society. The key to effective gun control is to concentrate on the substance and not on the political appearances.

2. A Thought Experiment

The tragic murders by a gunman on a rampage are, mercifully, very rare indeed in this country. Our laws should try to prevent an occurrence, but not at the expense of other things. For instance, the police claim there is a lot of time spent on enforcing exiting regulations. Suppose the effect of this has been to deaths from these rampages from 2 a year to 1. Now suppose that enforcement takes the equivalence of 200 police officers full time. This time instead is devoted to chasing up investigations into burglaries, with the result of one less burglary a week per officer. This could mean apprehending only one persistent burglar a year, or simply a team of officers reducing the number of burglaries per week of a professional burglar. Burglaries cause misery and upset. Suppose for every thousand burglaries there are ten serious confrontations and one very serious case of grievous bodily harm.

Also, for every hundred burglaries suppose one elderly person has their life reduced by a year due to the shock, fear and insecurity. Let us also state that the career of a police officer is 40 years.

So excessive gun control means, in this though experiment, one life saved for every five police officers spending their entire working careers on enforcement. This may be an exaggeration, as there is no evidence that the draconian laws have reduced the frequency of these mass killings, and the amount of police time spent on enforcement may be greater.

Alternatively those two hundred officer years will mean 10,000 fewer burglaries, 100 less cases of GBH and 100 years of extra years of lives prolonged. If average life expectancy is 80 years, that is one life saved for every four police officers spending their entire working careers on enforcement. There is no measure for misery caused by burglaries, though the cost of burglaries is in extra police resource, and higher insurance costs.

So on one hand you have law enforcement that means the a police officer spending their entire working career causing inconvenience to a large number of law-abiding citizens with have a one-in-five chance of saving one life. Or, alternatively, preventing one burglary a week. That, in turn, reduces the number of more serious crimes, and reduces the instances where crime makes people less secure in their own home, even shortening their life expectancy. They may, effectively, save more lives. But this is the tip of the pyramid. It is the other crimes that they will prevent as well, making people feel safer.  

3. The Rule of Law Implications

The police solving of minor crime provides a very positive image to the victims of crime, along with those in the wider community. People see the police as an agency that serves their interest, making them feel safer. Failure to clear up minor crime means contact with the police is simply to get a crime number for the insurance claim and a contact to the victims support unit. Major contact with police officers is for those who have transgressed (mostly traffic offences), or are suspected of doing so (stop and search late at night in inner cities). Therefore, by clearing up crime, the law-abiding see the police as their agents, not as people to be avoided.

Gun control is enforced by tight regulation of those who possess firearms. It means the police carrying out routine and regular checks on the personal circumstances of those involved and the places where those firearms are stored. Contact with the police is that of a potential suspect. It can thus serve to undermine the Rule of Law.

NICE Supports Big Business Profits at Expense of Consumers

The impact health watchdog NICE, consisting of non-economists, should be aware of a couple of points of economics when they propose a minimum price for alcohol. (Times and BBC)

First, alcohol is inelastic with respect to price. This is why, like tobacco and petrol, there can be such huge taxes with very little impact on consumption. In particular, those dependent on alcohol, like those dependent on class A drugs will absorb the price hike by reducing expenditure on other things (food and clothes for the children), rather than reduce consumption.

Second, the minimum price would raise the price of all alcohol, with the impact of squeezing shifting demand away from the cheapest varieties. Those who buy premium beers and £5 a bottle wine will see the price of their tipple rise, though maybe not quite as much a the white cider and the cheapest plonk. It is only the drinkers of 25 year old malt, first estate Chateaux Laffite and the older vintages of champagne and port who may not notice the difference.

Third, is to combine these two factors and see who gains. Consumption overall will drop very slightly, but the profit margins on 95% of the market will increase substantially, with the worst of the cut-throat competition eliminated. Add to that proposed restrictions of advertising, that will eliminate potential competition and the biggest gainers will be the retailers and the drinks companies. The losers will be the 99% of consumers who do not reduce total spend on alcohol.

Excessive alcohol consumption is a cultural, not an economic problem. From 1900 to 1930 consumption fell by 70% due to two factors – the temperance movement and the elimination of young men, the heaviest drinkers, in the Great War. It is only by a cultural change that consumption will fall. See my earlier posting here. A small change in price will not save thousands of lives per year. Any economic model that predicts this is flawed.