Late Bluebells and Rhododendrons

A few years ago here in Britain we were told have every year the flowers were blooming earlier and earlier because of global warming. One of the most beautiful natural woodland signs of spring is a carpet of bluebells in April time. Well this morning I took a walk in Workington in the far north of England and the bluebells were in full bloom. Mixed with the smell of wild garlic it was a wonderful experience. Here in Manchester, the bluebells in my garden – in the most informal, organic and highly naturalistic sense of the term – are still in bloom about a month later than normal. By now I have had to lop the dead heads and pull up the long leaves before they rot, becoming food for the slugs that plague the garden. The rhododendron is blooming at least a week late. They normally are in bloom for two weeks in late May. By 1st June, the flowers are past their best. I also include a picture of the lilac tree, obtained with the house and occasionally pruned in a most irregular fashion.

The rhododendron was purchased from Bodnant Garden in North Wales over 20 years ago. Despite my near total inattention, it seems to grow a little each year. This coincided with the period when I ceased being a volunteer rhodie-basher with the National Trust. In many parts of Britain the common purple-flowering ponticum has spread through many areas with peat soils, becoming an invasive species. The bushes grow to over ten metres high, and completely cover the ground, to the exclusion of other plants, including re-generating trees in woodland areas. The waxy evergreen leaves are also acidic, so once cleared the soil can be poisoned for years after. I describe myself as a “slightly” manic beancounter. There was nothing slight about the manic ferocity that I used to hack the invaders down with a bow saw, smash and tear up the roots with a mattock and then consign the whole lot with to a flaming pyre. 

The bluebell seeds were given to me by the late Joyce and Jack Page, a keen pair of organic gardeners. I was warned that they could spread, so ignored their advice and scattered them in various patches in the both front and back. Now, every other year I dig out all the bulbs I can find, but they keep re-sprouting.

 

Australian Car Industry – When in a hole stop digging

At Jo Nova’s unthreaded there is a debate going on about Australian car industry. Started up in the post war era, it is currently going through a crisis. In fact, despite large subsidies, it is collapsing. The major messages I want to get across are:-

  • Learn from other countries. Britain in the 1970s for instance.
  • When in a hole, stop digging. If the car industry is failing, throwing money at it might win a few votes, but damage the economy.
  • Australians have the energy, and entrepreneurial skills, in abundance to create new wealth-generating opportunities.
  • Australians (like other countries) are being crippled by the short-sighted hand of Government, who should recognize that do not have the skills, nor the incentives required to create an industrial policy that is of net benefit to the country as a whole.

On making a new start and learning the lessons of Brazil

To successfully start a new car company is virtually impossible in the modern world. In recent decades the successful ones have been in China, but with the help of, and by copying, established marques. Outside of China, there was Proton of Malaysia. There original car was a 1984 Mitsubishi Lancer. That end of the market you do not want to get into – high subsidies and reliant on cheap labour. The last major car company start-up was (I believe) Honda.
Then there are niche markets. McLaren is doing well in the UK, but a midget and building on its F1 base. As the majority of F1 cars are made around Silverstone, it had an advantage of a skilled labour pool and (most importantly) the engineering and design skills.
The alternative is to do what Brazil did. For years it did not allow any imports. There were four foreign car companies building in Brazil (Fiat, Ford, GM and VW). The quality was shocking, models were decades older than Europe and the the companies colluded. VW built a variant of the Ford Escort and the Beetle came off Ford production lines. In 1994, they opened up to imports, but with a 25% import tax. Very quickly 70-80% of the market was imports. So the Brazilians stuck a 70% tax. The response over a decade was for more foreign companies to open assembly plants. Then came Mercosur – the “free-trade” zone covering most of South America. Now there are plants from Renault, Mercedes (mostly the A-class), Audi and Volvo amongst others.
The major problem of taking this route is the restriction of choice. The Mercosur market (including Brazil, Argentina and Mexico) is a number of times bigger than Australia, and last time I looked, had a more limited choice and higher prices than in Europe.
Learn for Australia what the biggest businesses did in the 1980s. Stick to what you are good at. Let the market develop in Australia based on its comparative advantages. That is farming (which you have developed from low margin sheep farming to high margin wine production) and mining. Then there is tourism as well, so long as you don’t let your government tax air travel.
In the longer term there are spin-off industries. In Britain we don’t have much manufacturing, but we have some of the world’s best designers. Oil production is declining, but a disproportionate amount of global off-shore technological expertise is around Aberdeen.
The mistake of most people to associate wealth with making actual things. It is not. Wealth is about creating greater value than the inputs. Assembling everyday, easily reproducible, objects adds very little value, so is confined to the poorest countries. For instance textiles in Bangladesh, or assembly of commodity items in China. The real wealth comes from new ideas, or taking existing processes and doing them more efficiently and/or effectively than anyone else. That is staying ahead of the game.

A readable primer on the economics is Israel Kirzner’s “Competition and Entrepreneurship.”

When in a hole, stop digging. Lessons of the British Experience

Andrew McRae is torn between ending the subsidies and letting the car industry fold.

Hi Andrew,

I can see why you are torn between Government Industrial policy and letting free markets work. I finished high school and went to university during the early Thatcher years and saw both sides. In the 1970s one of the most famous British cars was the MG Midget – a tiny two seater sports car. There were huge protests when production was stopped, with each car costing twice the selling price. Like most of the cars produced in Britain it was unreliable, particularly when compared with the Japanese competition. The country subsidised many industries, spending 5-8% GDP on subsidies. We tried to get into the computers – and failed. The one bright spot was Concord, developed with the French. A phenomenal technological achievement, it cost £4bn (A$40bn+ in todays money) and the few made were virtually given away. It was a case study in how an original government project at low cost with high rewards switches to the opposite. When mooted in the mid-50s, it was to cost £80m with a market for hundreds of planes.

One thing that you must not lose sight of is the existing workers in your car industry. In Britain in the 1970s there were millions employed in manufacturing, whether the car industry, steel, shipbuilding, engineering, or technology assembly lines. Another 250,000 jobs were in coal mining. Many who were made redundant in their 50s never got jobs again. Many others only obtained lower paid unskilled work. There is still incredible bitterness towards the whole Thatcher legacy. But the fault lay not with ending “industrial policy”, with its ever-growing subsidies, but in starting it in the first place. It is the same principle as for the carbon tax. Even assuming the theoretical case was true, the people least qualified to implement the policy are the politicians. Not because they cannot hire the best experts to devise a policy. It is for business and a carbon tax to work you need to make changes, which will hurt people. In manufacturing you need to continually cut jobs and change. With an “optimal” policy to reduce CO2 emissions some jobs need to be destroyed (to get huge benefits) and people suffer hardship. Politicians who are so openly ruthless get voted out pretty quickly, even though they are doing the best for the country. The best long-term interests of the country are the biggest vote losers, if those politicians are advised think short-term and are advised by spin doctors. Yet the interests of a modern developed country are in providing the structures to enable the future wealth-creating opportunities to develop. Australia is probably the pre-eminent example of a country for this to happen, as there are many people with vision, ability and the passion to make things happen, along with the ability to take risks. The crippling disability that they need to overcome is the risk-averse dead-hand of government who cannot see beyond the next set of opinion polls.

Suyts on Krugman

Suyts quite rightly criticizes Paul Krugman on the Nobel Laureate’s latest ramblings. However, his analysis misses a couple of issues. This is an extended comment.

You are quite right on two issues here, which I believe have been called the ratchet effect and the debt servicing impact.

The first is that it is easy to increase government expenditure, but much more difficult to scale it back as there are entrenched interests to stop the scale back. It is easy to give people welfare benefits or create jobs. But try to take these away and people will fight like crazy to keep them.


The second on debt servicing you demonstrate very well. As total debt goes up, so does the interest on that debt.

There are other issues that should be taken into consideration on the deficit and debt problem.

The first issue is the size of government. When an economy enters recession, the tax receipts fall and expenditure rises. Corporation tax is the first area to go down, followed by income tax as unemployment rises. In expenditure terms, welfare payments will rise along with (possibly) business bail outs. With small government, taxing little and spending little, this impact was small. With large government – in Britain rising nearly 50% of GDP – this effect is large. A 6% decline in GDP perhaps increased the deficit by 6-7% of GDP. Under the Eisenhower administration, a similar decline would worsen government finances by maybe 2% of GDP. Big government exacerbates the size of cyclical swings.

The second issue is the position at the start of downturn. In mid-2008 both USA and Britain had structural deficits – in the USA to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Britain finance a huge increase in public sector pay and capital spending on schools and hospitals. A structural deficit is the measure of the average government deficit over the course of the business cycle. In Britain at the top of the cycle, the actual deficit was around 3% of GDP, with a planned rise to 4%. The structural deficit was probably greater than 4% of GDP in mid-2008 in Britain and maybe slightly smaller in the USA. Below is my estimate of the impact of Britain’s structural deficit in April 2010. I estimated that the structural deficit built up between 2001 and 2008 would in the long-term increase National Debt by 40% of GDP. I was overly optimistic in my assessment.


The third issue is with the classical Keynesian Multiplier. Crude textbook Keynesianism of the 1960s for a closed economy stated

E = C+I+G

Or national expenditure is the sum of Consumption, Investment and Government expenditure.

The theoretical impact of increasing government expenditure on total output, when the economy is at less than full employment, is Y/G. If government expenditure is 10% of national income, then increase G by $1 and Y will increase by $10. If government expenditure is 40% of national income, then increase G by $1 and Y will increase by $2.50. However, crudely put, if the government expenditure does not take up the slack in the economy (the deficit in aggregate demand), then (in an inflation-free economy) the government expenditure “crowds out” private expenditure. Another way of putting the situation, if the economy is not “stuck in a rut” as Keynes assumed in his “General Theory”, but merely reacting to overinvestment (such as a housing bubble), then increased government expenditure will have no effect on total output, but “crowd out” other expenditure. It will also add to the nominal national debt, without adding to total national income, thereby increasing national debt as a percentage of national income, or expanding national income leading to increased tax revenues and thus closing the deficit.

The fourth issue is fiscal tipping points. If the increased government expenditure fails to stimulate the economy, then the result will be a larger structural deficit. If, like some European countries, there is a further contraction then the deficit will increase. In Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal, this further downturn has led to increased economic risk, pushing up interest rates. This increases short-term debt costs, further increasing the deficit. The only way to stem total collapse is to massively cut public expenditure and increase taxes to not only pay for the debt-financing costs but to rapidly cut the deficit as well. In climate change there has been much spurious talk about possible tipping points in the remote future if certain things come true. But in OECD economies, with some already having gone beyond the fiscal tipping points, many (including Krugman) seem oblivious to the possibility. Should we not use a smidgeon of the precautionary principle in economics , proclaiming austerity as an insurance against severe depression.?

Kevin Marshall


Help Launch Climate Skeptic Film Project: 50 to 1

This looks a very interesting project that mirrors my own thoughts. Take the UNIPCC “projections” of a future catastrophe – including all the nonsense about falling crop yields in Africa, collapsing polar ice caps, etc. – and you still have not got anything like the justification for policy.
If you then add the additional costs of ineffectual implementation, poor policy-making and other “policy” that economists would not recommend (e.g. bio-fuels) then the 50 to 1 ratio balloons. If the “science” turns out to be too extreme. If for instance a doubling of CO2 leads to just 1.5 degrees of temperature rise instead of 3 degrees, then the catastrophic consequences will not just halve, but be many times smaller. If the catastrophic consequences of a given amount of warming have been overstated, (such as storms not becoming more extreme, but less – as Hansen and Lindzen now agree) then it becomes worse still. If it turns out that a small amount of warming of net benefit to the planet (as it will be in Northern Europe) and/or that higher CO2 levels are of net benefit to the planet, then the whole exercise turns from incurring costs to prevent the future consequences of another lot of costs to incurring costs to prevent a benefit from happening.

Watts Up With That?

This will be a top post for a day or two, new posts appear below. For those waiting…PAYPAL is now available

I’m participating in this, as are some other well known climate skeptics. The producer (Australia’s video pundit Topher Field) has 4 weeks (28 days) to get it funded in IndieGoGo. I ask your help to make it happen. Note, I have no financial interest in this film, I’m merely one of the people to be interviewed. Thanks – Anthony 

View original post 1,106 more words

Is Australia near the fiscal tipping points of Europe?

Although in Australia the current economic situation may seem bad, it is nothing like as dire are Europe.

There is a new issue. After a long period of surpluses in 2009 the government created significant deficits. These do not seem justified by the small slowdown in economic growth. Any ideas?

Using World Bank Data, many of the Eurozone countries have been running large, structural deficits for years. Australia only went into deficit in 2009.


As a result, Australia’s national debt is small relative to GDP compared with the European nations.


The relative problem can be seen from the growth rates. Australia has yet to go into a full year of recession. That is growth of less than zero.


Neither has growth dipped much below the average for 1998 to 2007.

Alcohol Concern’s anti-poor campaign

Although I am not in any way a socialist, I vigorously oppose anything where the poor and weak are made to subsidise the rich and the powerful. I also strongly oppose policy being enacted which will be to the net detriment of society as a whole. This is why I strongly oppose the latest report from Alcohol Concern “Binge – Drinking to get drunk: Influences on young adult drinking behaviours“. Before anybody gets the wrong idea, I support their concern about binge drinking, especially amongst minors. I also believe that if there were ways to improve this situation, then they should be enacted. However, if economic price incentives are involved, then one should also look at the unintended consequences.

The policy proposed is again a minimum price for alcohol. This has long been touted by the last Labour Government, the BMA and David Cameron. Yet none really understand the harm that it will cause to society. The proposal it to impose a minimum retail price per unit of alcohol of about 40p to 50p. This will not affect the cost in the pubs and clubs, where the cheapest pint of standard lager is around twice this level. It will dramatically impact the retail prices, in both small off-licences and the supermarkets. Below are some examples.


The way prices work is that premium products have not just premium prices, but larger profit margins both in absolute and in percentage terms. A minimum price for alcohol will invert this position. Suddenly a 3 litre bottle of cheap cider will have the highest profit margins not just in absolute, but also in percentage terms. This will create very perverse incentives for the retailer. One direct consequence will cause a rise in the price of drinks already over the minimum price. Consider the situation of the cheapest wine at £2.99 per bottle and the more mainstream wine at £4.99.


Even at 50p a unit, the cheap wine is still cheaper than the mainstream one. If the mainstream wine price remained unchanged, then the price premium to the consumer has dropped by 75%. Better quality has less of a premium. The retailer gets the margins reversed. The margin on the premium product goes from being 86% more to 48% less than the cheaper product. It makes sense for the retailer to increase the price. This increase might not be proportional to the cheap wine, but a least to make a greater margin in value terms.

Will the retailer end up making greater profit. This depends on something called elasticity of demand. To make less money on the cheap wine, demand would have to drop by over 72%. To make less money on the mainstream wine, demand would have to drop more than 53%.

Will this be of benefit to the supermarkets? It depends on the elasticity of demand. From Investopedia

Definition of ‘Price Elasticity Of Demand’

A measure of the responsiveness of the quantity demanded of a good to a change in its price. It is calculated as:



For the cheap wine the elasticity for break-even 72%/50.5% = 1.43

For the mainstream wine the elasticity for break-even 53%/25% = 2.12

Alcohol is well-known for being highly inelastic with respect to demand. That is elasticity measure is much less than 0.5. The supermarkets and the off-licences will make much, much larger profits on sales of cheap booze. With an elasticity of less than 1, consumers will end up spending more on alcohol than before, even though they are buying a smaller quantity. The biggest proportionate impact will be on those least able to afford that price rise. This is a double-hit. The poor spend a larger proportion of their income on alcohol than those on a higher income. They are also more likely to buy the cheaper forms of booze, which will have the larger percentage price rise.

The more equitable solution is to restructure the excise duties. The tax on alcohol should be shifted not just onto a per unit basis, but in such a way that it specifically targets the low-cost booze which is most attractive to minors. Therefore strong ciders (which I like), alchopops, and strong lagers should all have premium rates that are higher than, say, standard strength beers and wine. Weak taste drinks (Vodka, white cider) should have a premium over strong taste drinks such as real ale, whisky, or full-flavoured cider. This bigger added bonus is that there would a net gain in excise taxes, rather than just a gain in VAT receipts.

East Australia High Speed Rail – Opening Comments

Bernd Felsche has been blogging recently on proposals for a High Speed Rail project for Eastern Australia. The details and Phase 1 report are here.

In Britain there has recently been approved a HSR project from London to Birmingham, costing at least £17.1bn (A$26.7bn) for just 190km of track. The estimated cost of A$61bn to A$108bn for around 1644km looks remarkably good value in comparison. However, it is worth studying the underlying assumptions.

The Taxpayers Alliance has made a number of damming criticisms of the UK project. In particular that the actual costs could be nearly three times the estimated if supporting infrastructure improvements are taken into account. Having also looked at the Manchester Congestion Charging Scheme in 2008, I thought it might be worth a perusal.

The basis for the project is the projected demand, so my first comments are population and demand levels.

Initial Thoughts on Population

The study assumes a high level of population growth for Australia as a whole. From the current 23m, population is forecast to be between 30 and 40m in 2056. That is growth of 30% to 74% over 45 years. Taking the mid-point, that is 52.2% growth to 35m. East Australia is forecast to grow 58.3% from 17.8m to 28.2m, leaving growth in the rest of Australia of 30.7% (5.2 to 6.8m).


Map from page iii of Executive Summary, annotated with city population growth projections for 2011 to 2056.

The highest growth in population (using Australian Bureau of Statistics, Population Projections Australia 2006 – 2101, 2008 (Series B forecasts updated)) is projected to be in the Brisbane area. Given that this is the least populated end of the line, these population projections need to be put through a sensitivity analysis. With much lower projections for South East Queensland growth it could be that the northern stretch of the line and one third the estimated cost is not economically justified.

Passenger Growth

From the Executive Summary page iv

The population of the east coast states and territory of Australia is forecast to increase from 18 million people in 2011 to 28 million people by 2056. Over 100 million long distance trips are made on the east coast of Australia each year, and this is forecast to grow to 264 million long-distance trips over the next 45 years.

So population will grow by 58% and long distance trips by 164%. By 2036 (with 35% growth in population), they will have grabbed half the project air market in 2036 for Melbourne to Sydney and Brisbane to Sydney. With such a huge capital outlay how can this be?

Capital Cost

From the Executive Summary

International experience suggests it is unrealistic to expect the capital cost of a HSR network to be recovered.

The reason that the projected fares look so cheap, so that there is not going to be any recovery of the costs in fares. So the

competitive ticket prices, with one way fares (in $2011) from Brisbane to Sydney costing $75–$177; Sydney to Melbourne $99–$197; and $16.50 for daily commuters between Newcastle and Sydney

are no such thing. A quick check on single flights from Melbourne to Sydney reveals prices of $125 economy and $850 business. The HSR will be financed out of taxation to grab market share from air travel.

Kevin Marshall


Electric Cars – toys of the rich, subsidised by the masses

Joanna Nova reports on a new study showing that electric cars produce more CO2 that either petrol or diesel cars if that electricity is produced principally from coal-fired power stations.

The most practical electric car

In Britain there is more a market for electric vehicles, but still puny sales. The European Car of the Year is the Chevrolet Volt, which has a 1.4 petrol engine to accompany the electric motor. At £29,995 it costs 50% more than a similarly-sized Ford Focus diesel, even with the £5,000 government subsidy. In fact, it is more than a similarly-sized Audi, BMW or Mercedes and will not last nearly as long. If you look at the detail, the Volt has a claimed CO2 emission 27 g/km, as against 99 g/km for the best diesels. This takes no account of the CO2 emissions from the power stations. In Britain electricity is mostly from gas, with much of the rest from coal and nuclear.

There is also a question of equity. Domestic electricity has a 5% tax added on. Diesel has over 120% added. So the cost for 100 km (using official figures and 15p per kwh + 5% vat) is £2.66 for the Volt and £6.00 for the equivalent diesel car (combined 67.3mpg and £1.43 per litre). But tax is £0.13 and £3.30, so most of the cost saving is in tax. In the UK the average is 12,000 miles or 19,300km per year. So the tax saving from driving the Volt is up to £610 per annum. Although if you travel that distance per annum there will be a number of long distance journeys. Let us assume half the 12,000 miles is on the petrol engine at 50mpg, with petrol at £1.38. Then the annual tax saving drops to just £70.

The biggest saving for electric car owners is in London, with the congestion charge. Drive 5 days a week for 11 months of the year into London, and the conventional car owner will pay £2,750 a year. Drive an electric car or hybrid and the charge is zero.

So what sort of people would be persuaded to buy such a device? It is the small minority who have money for at least two cars, but want to appear concerned about the environment. They have the open-top sports car for summer days, the luxury car for long journeys, and the Volt for trips to the supermarket or to friend’s houses. It is the new form of conspicuous consumption for the intelligentsia, making the Toyota Prius so last year.

The least practical electric car

Launched this year the Renault Twizy is claimed to be about the cheapest “car” available today. As a car it is also by far the smallest available as well, being more a quadricycle, with no proper doors. The cost is kept low by not including the battery which is rented for at least £48 a month. As the Telegraph concludes, it is an expensive toy. My 12 year old son said he would love one when he saw it in a car showroom recently. But he would soon regret it if he was transported to school in it every day, instead of riding on the top-deck of a bus. At least if his dad forgot to plug it in, it would be small enough for him to push.

Lewandowsky et al. 2012 MOTIVATED REJECTION OF SCIENCE – Part 4 Political Opinions

This is the fourth in a series on Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac – NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (in press, Psychological Science).

This posting is further analysis of the data set sourced by Katabasis. (The data is now available from Bishop Hill) The previous post looked at the conspiracy theory question, whilst this looks at the link that the survey makes between free market ideas and rejection of climate science. From the abstract, this was the primary theme of the survey.

Abstract

Although nearly all domain experts agree that human CO2 emissions are altering the

world’s climate, segments of the public remain unconvinced by the scientific evidence.

Internet blogs have become a vocal platform for climate denial, and bloggers have taken a

prominent and influential role in questioning climate science. We report a survey (N

> 1100) of climate blog users to identify the variables underlying acceptance and rejection

of climate science. Paralleling previous work, we find that endorsement of a laissez-faire

conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science (r≈:80 between

latent constructs). Endorsement of the free market also predicted the rejection of other

established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking

causes lung cancer. We additionally show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy

theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King or that NASA faked the moon

landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific

findings, above and beyond endorsement of laissez-faire free markets. This provides

empirical confirmation of previous suggestions that conspiracist ideation contributes to

the rejection of science. Acceptance of science, by contrast, was strongly associated with

the perception of a consensus among scientists.

There were relatively few questions to identify the political views of the respondent.

The Free Market Questions

FMUnresBest An economic system based on free markets

unrestrained by government interference automatically

works best to meet human needs.

FMNotEnvQual I support the free market system but not at the expense

of the environmental quality.

FMLimitSocial The free market system may be efficient for resource

allocation but it is limited in its capacity to promote

social justice.

FMMoreImp The preservation of the free market system is more

important than localized environmental concerns.

FMThreatEnv Free and unregulated markets pose important threats

to sustainable development.

FMUnsustain The free market system is likely to promote

unsustainable consumption.

The Climate Science Questions

CO2TempUp I believe that burning fossil fuels increases atmospheric

temperature to some measurable degree.

CO2AtmosUp I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has increased atmospheric temperature to an appreciable degree.
CO2WillNegChange I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years will cause serious negative changes to the planet’s climate unless there is a substantial switch to non CO2 emitting energy sources.
CO2HasNegChange I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has caused serious negative changes to the planet’s climate.

The Results

The answers for the free market questions are from 1 (reject the free market) to 4 (complete agreement to free market).

The answers for the climate science questions are from 1 (totally Reject) to 4 (complete agreement).

As in my previous posting, for the Climate Science questions I graded the answers to the four questions into groups based on the average score.


The answer is clear from the poll results. The stronger the support for free markets, the more likely one is to reject the climate science.

Taking the average score and rounding to the nearest whole number, the picture is even clearer.


The more free-market the views expressed, the greater the rejection of the science. Does this substantiate Lewandowsky et. al’s assertions?

Err No.

There are some series issues with this result.

Firstly, the survey was only available on a certain type of blog. Depending on your point of view, they are either pro-science or alarmist. These are

http://www.skepticalscience.com
http://tamino.wordpress.com
http://bbickmore.wordpress.com
http://www.trunity.net/uuuno/blogs/
http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/
http://profmandia.wordpress.com/
http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/
http://hot-topic.co.nz/

If you sample some of their articles, you will find a dogmatic defence of climate change, and blocking, editing or denigration views that are contrary to their own. To regularly trawl through articles that you disagree with takes a certain kind of person that may not be representative of the wider sceptic community. Given that the sceptic blogs attract a wider audience than the “pro-science” ones, the fact that only 15% of responses were from sceptics says that only a minority regularly visit the blogs antagonistic to their views. In other words, the survey is not representative of the true population of those interested in the climate change / global warming issues.

Then there are the questions themselves.

At first glance the questions do not allow for the middle ground. Many sceptics who are not libertarian in outlook have then a number of options.

  1. Some might quit the survey in disgust, thus creating a sample less representative of the true population. There was no record kept of the numbers of part completed surveys, nor the point at which they were completed. The lack of neutrality and narrowness of the range of questions suggests that might be material.
  2. The second is to answer questions in opposition to the climate consensus. That is the join in coalition to free-marketers to oppose the environmentalist ideology. This is quite logical. Environmentalist ideology can be viewed as increasing authoritarianism, constraining economic growth (and thus the prospect of ever-rising standards of living) along with regressive cost increases in electricity and fuel for cars. In other words, those who want the status quo to be maintained join in coalition with those who want the direction of change to be the opposite of where environmentalists are pulling. There is no risk here for the moderates. Libertarianism is nowhere a major political force.

Let us look at the average response for each question to see if this is suggested.


The most pragmatic question is the least polarized. People may support a position ideologically, but will compromise if there is a demonstrable need or benefit. Conversely the last two questions are the most ideological. A lot of people are motivated to oppose a movement that is contrary to their own beliefs. In other words, the nature of the questions further drives people into opposing camps.

How should Lewandowsky have approached these problems? If he was an objective scientist, Lewandowsky would have sought advice from professional pollsters on the content of the questions. They would have advised more neutral, and a broader range of questions to enable people to express a range of views. They would have also advised validity checks to make sure the survey results were representative of the population at large. But Stefan Lewandowsky is not an objective scientist. His agenda is to prevent any opposition to the ideology he and others promote.

Are there any conclusions to be drawn?

The biases in the free market questions apply to those who reject climate science. However, as a survey of those who accept the climate science, it is more valid.

Firstly the sample size is significant. Merging the six groups into 3 gives:-


The sample size of 854 is quite large, and more than six times the size of those who reject climate science.

Secondly, the sample is likely to represent the true population of “Acceptors”, as it was placed on the blogs that they frequent.

Thirdly, as the survey was devised by people sympathetic to their point of view, the abandonment rate should not have been any higher than for more neutral polls.

The major conclusion is that those who “accept the science” have no truck with conspiracy theories. On political opinions, they strongly support an ideology which promotes the environment at the expense of economic growth and economic freedoms. That is the, planet should be given a higher priority relative to the people that live on it.

Thus the true result of the survey data is not that those who oppose climate science are nutters. Rather, it is that those who support climate science have views that are at odds to, and contrary to the best interests of, the vast majority. We have not got here the justification to silence the opposition, but giving them due weighting.


The Bias of Climatology – Pulling Recent Strands Together

David Evans has provided a succinct explanation of why climate scientists’ theories, ignore some fundamental data. The views that feedbacks amplify the effects of CO2 (see Evans’s diagram below) is due to a highly selective reading of the data in a number of different ways.


Now we need to pull the recent strands together.

On actual temperature history we are getting evermore examples of data manipulation, whether on US temperatures (A Watts), Australian Temperatures (See Jo Nova), or the GISSTEMP global surface temperatures (Steven Goddard).

On past temperature history, we have the famous hockey stick graphs, starting with Mann et al in 1998 and culminating in the recent Gergis et al Australasian temperature reconstruction. All need a combination of one, or a few, very poor data sets that are promoted to prominence by statistical techniques unique to climatologists, and ignoring better quality data sets.

Something else needs to be added to the mix to obtain the high role for feedbacks – climate modelling. If recent temperature trends are exaggerated AND past temperature fluctuations smoothed out, then running a model that tries to look at relative influence of natural and anthropogenic factors on temperature will massively over-estimate the anthropogenic over the natural influences.

But go the other way. Look at the more accurate satellite data for recent temperatures and the temperature rises do not track the CO2 rises nearly so well. Go back to the raw data from the thermometers (adjusting properly for UHI), along with homogenization techniques developed by professional statisticians and the C20th warming deflates.

Then take the widest range of proxy records over a long period (even leave in the lowest quality ones) and suddenly the picture looks very different.

Then look at the role of feedbacks from a number of different perspectives, like Sherwood Idso, (possibly further corroborated by Esper et al 2012) and the real picture becomes clearer. Global average temperatures have increased in the last 200 years. Not quite as much in recent years as the temperature records maintain, but are now significantly higher than in during the 17th century. Furthermore, there is circumstantial evidence that a part of this increase (even up to 0.4 Celsius if non-C02 GHGs are included) has been due to the human greenhouse gas emissions. But this is a curiosity for a few academics to ponder, whilst the thrust of the research effort is put into improving the accuracy and integrity of the data.

Defence of the Consensus

The response of mainstream climatology (and with it a vast array of hangers-on) is not to improve the standards and moderate their wilder comments. Instead it has been to shut down debate by attacking the opponents. Australia has the unfortunate achievement to be home to two of the vilest the proponents of this assault on dissent. Prof Stephan Lewandowsky’s latest instalment is publishing a survey which associates climate skeptics with the worst of the conspiracy theorists. John Cook, a climatologist, ignores expert etymologists to justify calling his site skepticalscience.com

Climatology does not rank as a true science, as it has long since abandoned the search for challenging questions and improvements in quality of answers. Rather than explain the anomalies and meet the challenge of alternative explanations, climatology protects itself by employing intellectual bully-boys.