Carbon Capture and Storage Loses another £100m but saves up to £10bn

Last week the National Audit Office published a report Carbon Capture and Storage: the second competition for government support. The main headline was

“The Department has now tried twice to kick start CCS in the UK, but there are still no examples of the technology working. There are undoubtedly challenges in getting CCS established, but the Department faced an uphill battle as a result of the way it ran the latest competition. Not being clear with HM Treasury about what the budget is from the start would hamper any project, and caused particular problems in this case where the upfront costs are likely to be high. The Department must learn lessons from this experience if it is to stand any chance of ensuring the first CCS plants are built in the near future.”

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 20 January 2017

Key elements

  • Two Projects in the Competition.
  • When project cancelled £100m had already been spent.
  • The first competition running from 2007 to 2011.
  • Full subsidy from the Treasury (i.e. Taxpayers) would have been £1 Billion
  • Over 15 years, subsidy from consumers would have been £3.9 Billion to £8.9 Billion
  • Would have captured 1Mt to 2 Mt of CO2 a year.
  • Consumer subsidy between £105 and £172 Mwh, on top of the current wholesale price of around £45 Mwh.

The BBC carried the story, correctly citing many of the costs, as did the Express, which stated

At the time it was cancelled, the competition had two preferred bidders: the White Rose consortium in North Yorkshire which planned to build a new coal plant with the technology, and Shell’s scheme in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, to fit CCS to an existing gas plant operated by SSE.

The NAO report said the department initially estimated it would cost consumers – who would subsidise electricity from the schemes – between £2 billion and £6 billion over 15 years, but by 2015, this estimate had risen to as much as £8.9 billion.

The report found the Treasury was concerned over the costs to consumers, and that the competition was aiming to deliver CCS before it was cost-efficient to do so.

Joanne Nova points to a July 2015 post on the subject of CCS by Anton Lang. He stated

CCS artificially raises the costs of coal fired power in two ways

First, it raises the initial construction cost for any new large scale coal fired plant by around 60%.

Second, the CCS process is hugely energy intensive — consuming up to 40% of the electricity generated by the plant. So  the plant can only sell 60% of the actual power it produces.

As a (slightly manic) beancounter, I like to put the costs in context.

  1. How much would the cost have been if the Treasury had not pulled the plug per tonne of CO2 saved?
  2. What is the value of the subsidy be if China and India adopted the plan?

In the full NAO report (a 389kb pdf) Figure 6 gives details of the two schemes shortlisted in the competition.

It is the Peterhead scheme that would incur the lower subsidy of £105 Mwh. The £3.9 billion works out at an average 290 Mw production, or 76% of capacity over 15 years. It is cheaper due to adapting old plant. The disadvantage is that there is only 30 Mt of CO2 storage capacity in the area, so the area does not have the facility to develop much more unless further infrastructure development is made to pump the CO2 offshore into old oil wells.

The White Rose scheme has higher subsidy of £172 Mwh. The £8.9 billion works out at an average 394 Mw production, or 88% of capacity over 15 years. It is new plant, but has the advantage of 520 Mt of CO2 storage capacity in the area.

If we add in the £1bn subsidy without interest, over 15 years the cost per tonne of CO2 saved is about £264 (US$330, A$435) for the Peterhead project and £300 (US$374, A$490) for the White Rose project.

The NAO report in figure 12 that the subsidy could come down to £94 Mwh with scale.

Let us see what would be the cost if India and China adopted CCS for the current coal-fired power stations, but increasing capacity by 25% to cover the efficiency losses. Assume subsidy is just $100 Mwh.

According to Greenpeace (could be unreliable), China has about 900,000 MW of capacity. Add in 25% and assume 70% capacity, gives around $700bn a year subsidy. This is about 6% of current GDP.

From Wikipedia, India had 310 000 MW of capacity in 2015.  Add in 25% and assume 70% capacity, gives around $240bn a year subsidy. This is about 12% of current GDP.

I am sure that China and India will want to follow the UK’s lead. The only slight issue is finding a hole big enough. Maybe instead they could build some big greenhouses and grow tomatoes very rapidly.

Kevin Marshall


Using 15 year trends to replicate GISTEMP average surface temperature anomalies

At Jo Nova’s Unthreaded on 22/06/14, Philip Shehan posted some GISTEMP temperature trend figures that caused a good deal of controversy.

In 15 year steps they are

1924/39 Trend: 0.142 ±0.148 °C/decade (2σ)

1939/54 Trend: -0.088 ±0.144 °C/decade (2σ)

1954/69 Trend: 0.024 ±0.151 °C/decade (2σ)

1969/84 Trend: 0.165 ±0.162 °C/decade (2σ)

1984/99 Trend: 0.234 ±0.167 °C/decade (2σ)

1999- Trend: 0.099 ±0.138 °C/decade (2σ)

Two issues with the trends are

1. They do not really capture the trends in the data.

2. They slope of the 15 year OLS lines is sensitive to shifting the period by one year – for instance replacing 1999-2013 with 1998-2012.

I replicated Philip Shehan’s data (or a least tried to – he does not use J-D years) on a graph, along with shifting the periods a year backwards. Compare these slopes to the 5 year centred moving average curve in light blue.

Understanding the role of Peer Review

In “Newton, Einstein, Watson and Crick, were not peer reviewed“, Jo Nova questions whether peer review is valid at all. I think the answer is somewhat more nuanced. This is an extended version of a comment made.

Before dismissing peer review, we should ask are the boundaries of peer review. That is what peer review can achieve and what it cannot.

Proper peer review should check that the thesis of paper is original and properly references other works in the field. It should also make sure that the claims made are coherent, not demonstrably false, have a reason (or reasons) for originality, and all assumptions are clearly stated. It might also check to ensure that certain ethical boundaries are not breached. There is more basic checking, like that of an editor.

Peer review cannot determine if the following criteria are valid:-

(1) The ultimate truth. Make sure that the claims made are the last word on the subject. That is the thesis will never be falsified, contradicted, or supplanted by more general theories.

(2) The best to date. Determine that the thesis is superior to what is already available. There is a place for literature reviews to compare and contrast the existing body of knowledge.(i)

(3) That every point is correct, or every assumption known and stated.

(4) That every conjecture that the paper is built upon is correct, or every assumption is valid. Certain stated hypotheses or conjectures might be themselves based upon other conjectures. Assumptions might be accepted, but be false or exclude other, contradictory but quite valid, lines of enquiry.

(5) That a paper is hugely significant, or of little consequence.

(6) That a paper is of outstanding quality, against mediocre.

(7) That the absence of, superior, contradictory views in the academic literature is not a demonstration of the truth or quality of a research program.

Academic study is a combination of building on the work of that has gone before, whilst noticing the empirical or logical gaps and anomalies. It can be quite valid to making conjectures upon conjectures, as long as you do not lose sight that the falsification of a root conjecture will partially or completely undermine every piece of work built upon it.(ii) In climatology the vast majority of papers are built upon looking at the consequences of the catastrophic warming hypothesis. Falsifying CAGW will mean entire research programs will be null and void. That includes many studies in other areas such as economics and public-policy making.



  1. For instance, the Journal of Economic Literature has long-performed this service in economics.
  2. Until Andrew Wiles proved Fermat’s last theorem, large areas of mathematical proofs relied upon a conjecture. Watch the video here.

Stephan Lewandowsky – a self-confessed danger to democracy

Australian Climate Madness takes a swipe at Stephan Lewandowsky’s latest taxpayer-funded polemic. This is an extended version of my comment.

Lewandowsky’s sneaky request “to mention only my assistant’s name, Charles Hanich, on the online survey” has particular relevance to what followed. Before Joanne Nova published her “Lewandowsky show skeptics are nutters… post, she contacted a number of skeptic bloggers to search their inbox for Lewandowsky’s survey. There was no mention of his research assistant in the paper, so naturally all the resultant searches drew a blank. On this basis I wrote on 03.09.12:-

The claim in the paper that they contacted five sceptical blogs to improve the spread of views is highly suspect.

It turns out that my suspicions were correct. Stephen Lewandowsky had not contacted any of the skeptic sites, and deliberately kept people in the dark as to this fact.

Lewandowsky posted on 10.09.12 at Shaping Tomorrow’s World

1. When will an apology be forthcoming for the accusations launched against me? And how many individuals should now be issuing a public apology?

To explore the magnitude of this question we must take stock of public statements that have been made about my research. For example, one blogger considered it “highly suspect” whether I had contacted any “skeptic” sites. (emphasis mine)

Linking to my comment, Prof. Lewandowsky, knowing my suspicions to be true, brazenly demands that I apologize for daring to suspect him.

He digs himself a deeper hole by saying later

we now know that the presumed lack of evidence was actually evidence for a measure of carelessness or shoddy record keeping among the individuals contacted.

It gets worse. Prof Lewandowsky co-wrote with John Cook a short pamphlet called The Debunking Handbook.

It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.

What Lewandowsky engaged in was misinformation. He asked to keep secret his identity, gave obscure (or non-existent) clues to emails and then claimed bloggers “amnesia” when they failed to find emails sent to them by unidentified individual. He did this whilst believing that such misinformation would work to the advantage of himself and his unsupported beliefs, whilst undermining democracy.

He later went onto attack my simple analysis using pivot tables. Yet such analysis revealed much the LOG12 paper omitted. For example

– how few skeptic responses there were (c.15%)

– how few supported many of the conspiracy theories (e.g. Moon landing hoax = 10/1145, AIDS created by US Govt = 9/1145)

– That key to the higher proportion of skeptics supporting conspiracy theories were two rogue responses.

The whole paper is misinformation, aimed at getting an alleged majority to discriminate against those who have alternative points of view. Lack of any counter-balance is the major factor that makes people vulnerable to misinformation. Further research on belief in conspiracy theories would reveal that they are more predominant in communities where there are strong belief systems with enforced dominance.

Kevin Marshall

Anyone who wishes to contact me can do so through the comments. I will not publish any such request made in a non-threatening fashion. I will publish counter-arguments, so that others might compare and contrast for themselves.

UK Energy Research Centre (UKREC) doubly misleads

Yesterday the GWPF and Joanne Nova point to an article in Thursday’s Daily Express which declared

A report from the UK Energy Research Centre also shows the number of those who resolutely do not believe in climate change has more than quadrupled since 2005.

There are two fundamental issues with the press release. First the research shows a much bigger divergence in public opinion from climate orthodoxy than the press release by the QUANGO shows. Second, the opinion poll conducted in England, Scotland and Wales by psychologists had two fundamental errors that fail to connect with the real world situations that people are facing and will face in the renewable energy future.

Public Opinion on Climate Change

The Government funded report shows 19 per cent of people are climate change disbelievers – up from just four per cent in 2005 – while nine per cent did not know.

The Daily Express article only looks at the press release and then speaks to UK Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, who says, who says

Of course, however, the 72 per cent of the public who acknowledge the climate is changing are backed overwhelmingly by the scientific evidence.

If they had clicked on the second link on point 3 (of 5) in the “Notes to the Editors” (below where it says – Ends –) labelled “national survey“, they would have opened up the 62 page “SURVEY FINAL.pdf”. If they had then gone to Appendix B, they would have found the full results of all 72 survey questions. The following is relevant

Q3. How concerned, if at all, are you about climate change, sometimes referred to as ‘global warming’?

“Very” or “Fairly” concerned         74%

“Not very”, or “Not at all” concerned      26%

Don’t know                 1%

However, this should be more relevant.

Q5. Thinking about the causes of climate change, which, if any, of the following best describes your opinion?

CC is entirely or mainly caused by natural processes                 16%

CC is partly caused by natural processes and partly caused by human activity     48%

CC is entirely or mainly caused by human activity                 32%

The survey shows that two-thirds of the public disagree with the “scientists”, and thus disagree with a necessary condition to justify policy – that climate change is a non-trivial problem. The press release hides the real story in obscure places that no journalist has time to find.

The opinion poll failing to address real world situations

The questionnaire started with questions on attitudes to climate change. However, the vast majority of the questions, and the purpose of the survey, was upon the “Public Values, Attitudes and Acceptability” of pursuing the UK’s transformation to “green” energy. As this questionnaire was conducted by the School of Psychology at the University of Cardiff, there are two things one could reasonably expect.

  1. Empathy with the people impacted.
  2. Addressing the costs that people are most likely to face.

In both there is a depersonalisation of the impacts.

One of the most controversial areas of renewables is wind turbines. An innocuous question is

Q22. To what extent would you support or oppose the building of a new wind farm in your area? (By ‘area’ we mean up to approximately 5 miles from your home)?

The distance is relevant. Like the vast majority of people I live in a built-up area. If the world’s tallest building was located five miles from my house, I would likely not be able to see it from the ground floor in any direction. Five miles distant there is an airport with 20 million passengers and 170,000 flight movements a year. I rarely hear an aircraft, as I do not under the usual flight paths. To personalize it, you need to ask people if, when purchasing a house, having a wind turbine located at less than a mile from a house, clearly visible, would affect the decision to buy it.

This depersonalisation of the impacts also includes the benefits. In a remote rural area a nuclear power plant would bring a huge influx of jobs and prosperity, more than thousands of wind farms. There is a relevant example. In the 1960s Caithness boomed as a result of the building Dounreay nuclear research plant. The county is currently being overrun by wind turbines, which do little to replace the jobs lost as the nuclear facility is decommissioned.

Empathizing with the plight of a minority who are adversely affected by renewables is something that should be appreciated. However, for most people, it is the direct impact of renewables that will concern them most. For the vast majority, it is costs that are important. UKERC fully realize that switching from fossil fuels to renewables means receiving power solely in the form of electricity. Therefore, there are questions about switching from gas to electric for heating and cooking, and about the public perceptions of electric cars.

Q23. How positive or negative do you feel about heating with electricity?

Q24. Please indicate how willing you would be, if at all, to use electric heating in your home in the future.

Q25. …what if your friends, family and neighbours used electric heating? How willing would you be, if at all, to use electric heating in the future if this was the case?

Q26. …what if the performance of electric heating was no different to central gas heating systems? How willing would you be, if at all, to use electric heating in the future if this was the case?

Q27. …what if electric heating was significantly cheaper than heating with gas? How willing would you be, if at all, to use electric heating in the future if this was the case?

Q28. How positive or negative do you feel about cooking only with electricity?

Q29. Please indicate how willing you would be, if at all, to cook only with electricity in the future.

Q30. …what if your friends, family and neighbours cooked only with electricity? How willing would you be, if at all, to cook with electricity in the future if this was the case?

Q31. …what if the performance of an electric hob was no different to a gas hob (e.g. it heats up in the same time)? How willing would you be, if at all, to use an electric hob in the future if this was the case?

Q32. …what if cooking with electricity was significantly cheaper than cooking with gas? How willing would you be, if at all, to cook with electricity in the future if this was the case?

Q33. How positive or negative do you feel about driving an electric car?

Q34. Please indicate how willing you would be, if at all, to drive an electric car in the future.

Q35. …what if your friends, family and neighbours drove electric cars? How willing would you be, if at all, to drive an electric car in the future if this was the case?

Q36. …what if the performance of an electric car was the same as a petrol car (e.g. speed, range, availability of charging points)? How willing would you be to drive an electric car in the future if this was the case?

Q37. …what if the cost of buying and running an electric car was significantly less than the cost of a petrol car? How willing would you be, if at all, to drive an electric car in the future if this was the case?

UKREC could say they have dealt with costs in Q27, Q32 and Q37. But this only deals with the scenario if the electric alternative is cheaper. Currently the electric alternative is far more expensive. Maybe twice the cost for heating by electric than gas, and an electric car is around twice the cost (or more) of an equivalent size of diesel car. Will the reality change? There are four reasons why not, which need to be compared with the current domestic price (after distribution costs, reseller costs and reseller margin) of 10p Kwh.

First, is that renewables cost more, in total, per unit of electricity than fossil-fuelled power stations. When I last checked it was 4.1p for onshore turbines and 8.3p Kwh for offshore. This is on top of the wholesale market rate. In addition, there is the STOR energy scheme where the marginal cost per Kwh is over 20p-30p Kwh, and the average cost per Kwh could be 50p or more. Then there are the payments not to shut the things off when the wind blows too strongly.

Second, is that fossil fuels are likely to come down in price than go up. In particular in Britain the shale gas revolution will guarantee supplies for a generation and are more likely to see gas prices fall in real terms, than rise.

Third, is that if we switch energy from gas and petrol/diesel to electric, the amount of electric power generation capacity required will go through the roof. The first point applies even more strongly.

Fourth is that current technologies are developing rapidly as well. For an electric car to become competitive on running costs, it needs to overtake the next generation of diesel cars. For instance, last week I drove one of the current Volkswagen Golf diesels, a 1.6TDI. The fuel consumption of just over 60mpg(1), was at least 25% better than a 2007 Vauxhall (General Motors) Astra 1.7TDI, and 100% better than my first car – the much smaller 1978 Honda Civic 1.2 petrol.


The press release fails to show how far out of line the consensus of climate scientists are with mainstream public opinion. More importantly, a questionnaire commissioned by a QUANGO for renewable energy research and conducted by academic psychologists, fails to address the likely real situations people will face under a renewable future.

Kevin Marshall

  1. For Australians and Europeans, 60 miles per gallon is 4.7 litres per 100km. For those in the United States it is about 50 miles per US gallon.

Answering Michael the Realist

The summary conclusion I reach from this posting is

Cherry-picking is being selective, to confirm one’s prejudices. To use all the available data is (according to Michael) the sign of a true skeptic. So (a) Michael is right, therefore wrong (b) Michael is wrong, therefore right (c) Michael contradicts himself. I cannot think of any other logical category.

One of the issues I find with the blogs on climate, and particularly with many of the comments, is that many believe that the arguments hinge on a single piece of data, or on the weight of opinion. There is also a lot of denigration of others but no substantiation. The reason I chose “Michael the Realist” was because he was trolling Jo Nova’s blog, whingeing that nobody would answer his ridiculous points, which were totally out of context with the theme. When I do a search on “Michael the Realist”, in one posting I get 37 hits out of 297 comments. This understates the way he sought to hijack the debate. A couple of comments he made are at the foot, with comments by Joanne Nova

My subsequent postings with direct answers to his questions met with no acknowledgement that I may have anything useful. I fully realise that I could be fundamentally wrong somewhere, or rejecting good strong arguments for superficial reasons. Climate is an enormously complex issue. The study of climate is an applied science, requiring drawing upon a range of skills from a variety of areas. I have therefore listed, and explained, the fundamental issues that climate science ignores. It is from the study of the philosophy of science, economics, econometrics, accountancy, and history. I also draw analogies with principles of trial by jury in English Common Law. Over hundreds of years there has developed principles for establishing whether a claim is proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. The people that need convincing are ordinary people. It is an analogy that the PR people should draw upon.

The fundamental issues are listed below. In some cases I will refer to only the letter for brevity.

A Positive and Normative

B Boundary conditions

C Open and closed questions

D Trivial v. Non-trivial

E Quality

F False Positives and False Negatives

G Relevancy and significance

H Necessary and Sufficient

I Levels of evidence

J Values of the Legal Process in Reverse

K Underdetermination Thesis

L Vulnerability

M The Null Hypothesis

To retain the flow I will post my previous comments in orange, and Michaels in green. New comments are in black. This exchange took place here and here.

  1. Your so called “proof” of AGW is lacking something. It has data on the alleged effect (C20th warming), but no data on the alleged cause – human greenhouse gas emissions. Do you agree?

    No. It is warming, this fits the theory of AGW as greenhouse gas emissions are increasing K. Natural factors are examined and cannot be the cause. All other predictions of AGW caused warming are also occurring, including falling ph in the oceans D, melting Arctic D, falling global ice volume D, rising sea levels D, increasing extreme weather especially floods D, heat waves D and droughts D and much more. Also
    F applies to weather trends.

    There is no other plausable explanation put forward that I have seen yet.

  2. Above I show there is no apparent link between C20th CO2 emissions and the pattern of warming.

    That is incorrect. C CO2 emission have been increasing and temps have been rising, plus all the other observations. Both rose in the C20th, but I claim that “the relationship of CO2 emissions to average temperature is weak.” I look beyond the simplistic statement, and Michael does not.

  3. If I used HADCRUT4 or GISSTEMP, the fit would be closer, but still have anomalies.

    The trend with GISS, even against the satelites is the same. So unless Michael is claiming that HADCRUT4 and GISSTEMP is the same as HADCRUT3 (thus contradicting his earlier claim that HADCRUT3 was out of date), then they are only the same in an unscientific, cherry-picking sort of way. So there are three option here. First, we trust the Michael who says HADCRUT3 is out-of-date and thus inferior to HADCRUT4 and GISSTEMP. Second, we trust the Michael who says HADCRUT3 gives the same results as HADCRUT4 and GISSTEMP. Third we conclude that Michael does not know what he is talking about.

  4. Pages 2K shows considerable natural fluctuations, including two previous warm periods in the last 2000 years. Maybe not as much at in Esper et al 2012 (published in Nature), but there nonetheless. In the absence of an accurate and clear method of deciphering the human signal from the natural signal, it is easier to assert that C20th warming was predominantly due to natural factors, than >100% due to human factors. (The AR4 of 2007 had aerosols as offsetting much of the GHG effect.)

    Natural factors do indeed exist, but just because we have less information about past natural factors than present ones does not nullify how much we know about present ones. G, I, L, M Most significant natural factors that we can measure and are currently aware of since the 50′s have been cooling. (Unsubstantiated claim) . Also the 2001 to 2010 decade, the hottest on the instrumental record, has been significantle in the grip of cooling la ninas and falling solar. (Unsubstantiated claim) Despite that it is still hotter than the previous decade with predominantly warming el ninos. (Answered here, which Michael has not contradicted) This is the proof that you are wrong, I even skeptic scientists expected it to cool by now. It is not cooling because it is being overwhelmed by greenhouse gas warming.

  5. Given that the GISSTEMP shows much a greater warming spurt in the late C20th than the second half, and that most the extreme rise is in the Northern Hemisphere (especially the Arctic), is it not surprising that the Pages 2K proxies have most of the Arctic and European warming in the early C20th, with little warming thereafter?

    The fastest warming is in the second half, with .5 degree rise snce the 50′s. Repeats what I said about GISSTEMP, but does not engage with the significant bit – that the Pages2K temperature reconstruction contradicts the GISSTEMP temperature record. Pages2K (Michael promotes) appears more in line with HADCRUT3 (Michael rejects as being out-of-date) than GISSTEMP (Michael promotes).

  6. Given a lack of comment to the contrary, you accept that your claims about hottest decades is not evidence against warming having stopped. Rather it is what Stephen Lewandowsky terms “misinformation”.

    No, as I have pointed out, when you take all the science, information and data into account, it is clearly still warming. That statement only works if all your (lack of) science comes from an eyeball look at a cherry picked portion of a graph out of context and ignoring all other data. People, like David Whitehouse of the GWPF, have looked at the surface temperature over the last 15 years or so and found there is no statistically significant warming. Even Nature Climate Change has a peer-reviewed paper showing that the recent warming over the last 20 years is a lot less than the climate models predicted, and agrees that no significant warming in the last 15 years. (see quote in Appendix 2) Note the difference in the periods of the last two sentences. It is a matter of degree. So Michael falls foul of H and I, as established in the peer-reviewed science. Will Lewandowsky and Cook (a) now acknowledge that one of their own spreads “misinformation” (b) declare “Michael the Realist” an outsider (c) duck the issue and implicitly deny that somebody who agrees with the “science” could be more of an “eccentric” than some of the skeptic scientists.

  7. That your definition of “Skeptic” is completely at odds with the premier dictionary of the English Language.

    I use skeptic to be kind and because if I use the term that more accurately describes your behavour I get fake indignation. I actually believe myself to be the skeptic as I look at all the data and information with an open mind. This referred to Michael’s definition of “skeptic” here and my follow-up here. The definition he used was

    A true skeptic is somebody who looks at all the data, science and observations and makes rational and logical determinations on that…

    So Michael does use the term skeptic to refer not to me, but himself. Despite being pointed to the definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary, he still persists in promoting a falsity.

Also from the same comment.

On Correlations

This pearl of wisdom from Michael.

Even your graph above shows fairly good correlation with CO2 and temperature.

Correlations are obtained from running statistical tests against the numbers. It is purely obtained from eyeballing the data – which anybody who understood data would not do. If Michael, the self-proclaimed expert on climate science, wants to run the appropriate correlations, and report on whether they are “good” or not by the appropriate statistical tests, then I will provide them with the data. I will also provide the Excel spreadsheets (raw data and adjusted data) to anybody else who requests it. They can then run this data for CO2 emissions against any temperature set they see fit. It will not be easy, as the test is for a non-linear, time-series correlation. As such a battery of tests are required.

Michael’s opener on my blog is

Your cherry picking again. Your use of hadcrut 3, a superseded non global data set is a dead giveaway and then choosing specific proxies that match your confirmation bias.

I went to CO2, where they summarize all the available proxies. From those that show estimates of average temperatures estimates since the medieval warm period, they produced this graph.

Cherry-picking is being selective, to confirm one’s prejudices. To use all the available data is (according to Michael) the sign of a true skeptic. So (a) Michael is right, therefore wrong (b) Michael is wrong, therefore right (c) Michael contradicts himself. I cannot think of any other logical category.

A couple of comments by “Michael the Realist”, with bold-type comments by Joanne Nova.

Michael the Realist August 25, 2013 at 5:57 pm · Reply

I also do not ignore responses. I hope you can appreciate that I work for a living and so by the time I get back on it is hard to work out whom has replied to whom and when. So keeping up is a huge issue. THere is one of me and I get attacked by 10+ of you guys. If someone would pay me then I could devote full time to this but I doubt that will happen. I reply to as many as possible.
I’m unpaid too. Do your research before you comment. – Jo

As to repetition, the main arguments from skeptics revolve around 3 areas.
1. There is no consensus, or there is a global conspriracy

[Dishonest or ignorant. This is not remotely a “main” argument. On this site almost everyone agree there is a consensus among climate scientists — the issue is that it’s meaningless. You pretend I talk about a conspiracy. Our main point is the empirical evidence. – jo

The post above with the list of scientific organisations puts those claims to bed. It is not feasable to maintain those views when organisations as far apart as China, US, Russia, Mexico, Peru, France, Canada, India, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Japan, Turkey etc, just to name a few all agree in the science of AGW.

[Consensus proves nothing about the atmosphere. It can be bought (with say $100 bn in science grants) or bullied or a genuine mistake from groupthink. Scientific consensus has been wrong many times before. Name which of these agencies actually surveyed it’s members? Ans None, apart from 2 or 3 surveys on tightly defined and annointed “climate scientists”. The other statements come from 6 – 8 activists in a committee in each group, are meaningless and have been protested by thousands of members of the major groups. I have covered all this over and over, you don’t respect us enough to read my site before arriving here to lecture us repeatedly on a topic we know better than you. – Jo]

2.The models are wrong
I avoid the models completely in discussions as I want to stick to the actual data and observations. The models are useful, and have been really accurate in many areas, because you cannot put the planet in a test tube, isolate variables and see what happens. But as I have pointed out many times, they are still just projections based on ceratin scenarios and reality is always going to be slightly different due to natural variations that are not completely predictable (like ENSO), lack of computing power and accuracy due to grid sizes, and the parameters like how much CO2 or aerosols emitted being different to that entered. The science is not based on the models, it is based on the physics, data and observations, and I make my points on those basis.

[The models are broken and even alarmists admit that now. They have not been accurate about anything that matters. This is blather you can’t back up. Read my “new Here” post. We agree with alarmists on physics, but not on feedbacks, you’ve been misled and are waging the wrong war. – Jo]

3. Warming stopped 16 years ago, or there is a pause etc.
This is answered by the fact that it is a dynamic system with natural and anthropogenic forcings and that even though there are many dips and pauses in the long term record the trend is up. I prove that the 2001 to 2010 decade was the hottest on record globally, over ocean, land and both hemispheres, and that every decade bar 1 in a hundred years has been hotter than the previous one. Using years in such a complicated system is deception becasue it has to many natural cycles to make judgements that way. I show the ENSO charts to prove that the current 13 years have been mainly la nina, but temperatures have not fallen and the period is still hotter than the decade with predominantly el ninos. I show skeptic scientists who have predicted cooling due to natural factors, but this has not occurred. This proves warming is occurring as it has overpowered natural factors. This has not been able to be explained away by your readers using any properly scientifically accepted theories and data. Is this why you are blocking me.

[Since I’ve published over 700 of your comments, will you apologize for dishonestly suggesting I am blocking you? _Jo]
[As as for the “pause” read my last comment again. Even if is still warming in the long term trend, the models are broken and the 300 years of warming does not correlate to CO2.- Jo]

As to the repetition, I would say that 90% of your posters postings are based around those 3 themes so the repetition is all here.

[You start and amplify these themes by posting 700 comments on exactly these points. That’s why commenters get so angry. You drive threads off topic and into these inane repetitious channels. Jo]

Obviously since I am using accepted sceince…

[You don’t know what science is. Logical fallacies are not “Science”. – Jo]

…and data my answers are not going to change. The posters will repeatedly not accept my answers and keep posting the same questions over and over and over again (Heywood especially but many others) Why are they not being moderated? If I have answered a question but asked it again how should I respond?

[Stop taking the threads off topic and repeating errors and you won’t get caught in the same loops. – Jo]

So I have valid answers to all queries that clearly point to a consensus

[Which means nothing in science… -Jo]

and clearly answers why there is a pause,

[Trenberth, Jones and Mann don’t know why there is a pause, if you do, you should write to them, quick, they need you! -Jo]

using previous periods is not proof of anything unless you can put forward measurements to show that natural factors were not the cause. Currently natural factors are not the cause, they can be measured and determined. That being the case, to promote delay and to not accept the science, for what I can presume are only ideological reasons, is not the right thing to do. There is more than enough evidence for concern and to justify action, until the science and the data start pointing the other way. The consequences are to severe.

Obviously being moderated this might not (likely) be posted, but I hope you actually read it and think about it. My only motivation is my kids and they do not deserve the short shrift they are getting in regards to the future planet we are leaving them.

[Your kids deserve better science – we’re happy to help them have a future with less corruption, better reasoning, and based on evidence – Jo]

Michael the Realist August 26, 2013 at 7:57 pm · Reply

Michael, I don’t want to moderate you or block you. I want you to learn what our basic position is so you can argue at a level commenters will enjoy. I want debate, and I want people to point out where we might be wrong, but repeating logical fallacies is too basic a level. Perhaps I should write an FAQ? _Jo

You still haven’t provided a working email address. You are now on the moderated list until you do

I have not been dishonest about questioning my blocking.

You’ve posted 700 comments repeating the same points many times. You have not been blocked. It’s dishonest to say you have.

I have been told that my address is false as I have not responded but I have responded many times, and you have replied. I work, check when I can, the replies come into the hundreds, I will scroll through trying to pick up which ones applied to me. It is easy to miss individual ones, your email does not come in special, it just looks like it is from the list.

Yes you work to but most of your posters do your work for you, I have many more responses to answer personally than you do.
Wow. That is some delusional framework you are creating there. Or perhaps you don’t read my posts? -Jo

My query above has been unable to be successfully answered with any firm science.

What query? I suspect there is no answer anyone could give you… – Jo

That is why they get angry, they cannot answer it. It is based on actual data and observations, not models. I attempt to be as polite as possible and I try to answer as much as possible, repetition comes from them asking me the same questions over and over and making the same complaints. Do you find Heywoods million questions on how much in deg c Australias emissions reductions will reduce temps? I don’t, it is not about one country or minute temps it is about global responsibility and consequences, thats what everybody is resonding to. Do you find blackadder throwing in vikings, without any references as an argument that disproves AGW? What about all the personal questions about why I have kids and drive a car? You say my questions are irrelevent to the science, do you ever question supporters?

[Yes I do. I send emails to commenters privately. Theirs works. They respond before they write another 14 comments. – Jo]

I am not sure what you are after now. Do you want me to go through point by point on your evidence list? Do you want it done on this thread or that one? Can you answer clearly where my logic above is wrong and prove it so that I can be secure in my childrens future?

Read your emails before you write comments asking for answers I have sent you.
PS No I don’t want to tutor you on any thread. 
Argument from authority is a logical fallacy known for 2300 years. It isn’t evidence about the climate.


Appendix 2 – The Nature Climate Change paper.

The inconsistency between observed and simulated global warming is even more striking for temperature trends computed over the past fifteen years (1998–2012).

For this period, the observed trend of 0.05 ± 0.08 °C per decade is more than four times smaller than the average simulated trend of 0.21 ± 0.03 °C per decade… It is worth noting that the observed trend over this period — not significantly different from zero — suggests a temporary ‘hiatus’ in global warming. 

Was the twentieth century warming mostly due to human emissions?

There has been no statistically significant warming for at least 15 years. Yet some people, like commentator “Michael the Realist”, who is currently trolling Joanne Nova’s blog, are claiming otherwise. His full claims are as follows

Again look at the following graph.

Now let me explain it to the nth degree.
# The long term trend over the whole period is obviously up.
# The long term trend has pauses and dips due to natural variations but the trend is unchanged.
# The current period is at the top of the trend.
# 2001 to 2010 is the hottest decade on the record despite a preponderance of natural cooling trends. (globally, ocean, land and both hemispheres)
# Hotter than the previous decade of 1991 to 2000 with its preponderance of natural warming events.
# Every decade bar one has been hotter than the previous decade since 1901.

Please explain why the above is true if not AGW with proof.

The claims against the warming standstill I will deal with in a later posting. Here I will look at whether the argument proves, beyond reasonable doubt, that AGW exists and is significant.

There might be a temperature series, but there is no data on greenhouse gases. There is data on the outcome, but there is no presentation of data on the alleged cause. It is like a prosecution conducting a murder trial with a dead body, with the cause of death not established, and no evidence presented linking the accused to the death. I will have to fill this bit in. The alleged cause of most of the twentieth century global warming is human greenhouse gas emissions. The primary greenhouse gas emission is CO2. First I will compare estimated global CO2 emissions with the warming trend. Second, I then show evidence that the twentieth century warming is nothing exceptional.

The relationship of CO2 emissions to average temperature is weak

Some time ago I downloaded estimates of national CO2 emissions data from what is now the CDIAC website, then in filled my own estimates for all major countries where there were data gaps, using the patterns of other countries and my knowledge of economic history. This shows steady growth up to 1945 (with dips in WW1, the Great Depression and at the end of WW2) The post war economic boom, the 1973 oil crisis, the recession of 1980-81 and the credit crunch of 2008 are clearly visible. It therefore seems reasonable and not too dissimilar from the increase in atmospheric CO2 levels.

I have charted the growth in human CO2 emissions against the HADCRUT3 data, putting them on a comparative scale. The 5 year moving average temperature increased by around 0.5oC between 1910 and 1944 and 0.6oC between 1977 and 2004. In the former period, estimated CO2 emissions increased from 0.8 to 1.4 giga tonnes. In the latter period, estimated CO2 emissions increased from 4.9 to 7.4 giga tonnes. The period in between the 5 year moving average temperature decreased very slightly and CO2 emissions increased from 1.4 to 4.9 giga tonnes. 1945 and the late 1998 have two things in common – the start of a stall in average surface temperature increases and an acceleration in the CO2 emission rate of increase. On the face of it, in so far as there is a relationship between CO2 emissions and temperature, it seems to be a pretty weak one.

The longer view

The case for claiming human emissions affect temperature is even weaker if you take a longer perspective. Human CO2 emissions were negligable before the industrial revolution, yet there is plenty of evidence that temperatures have shown larger fluctuations in last couple of millennia. Four example are Law Dome, Esper et al 2012, Gergis et al 2012 and the CO2 Science website.

This Law Dome ice cores are the highest quality ice cores in Antarctica.

There seems to be no warming there at all. With 75% of the global ice packs in Antarctica it is fortunate that there is nothing exceptional about Antarctica warming. But maybe the Arctic is different.

Esper et al 2012, published in Nature, has the following Summer temperature reconstruction for Northern Scandinavia over two millennia.

There is a twentieth century uptick, but only in the context of a long term cooling trend.

Focussing on the last 130 years shows something at odds with the global position.

The highest temperatures were in the 1930s, just like the record temperatures in the USA. The warming trend from the mid-1970s is still far greater than the global averages, but less than the warming trends in the early twentieth century. It corroborates data that shows recent warming trends are higher in the Arctic than the global average, but also shows claims that there is nothing significant in these trends.

I find the most convincing evidence is from the withdrawn Gergis 2012 temperature reconstruction for the combined land and oceanic region of Australasia (0°S-50°S, 110°E-180°E). This is because it set out with the aim of showing the opposite – that the recent warming was much more significant than anything in the last millennium. Despite breaking their own selection rules for proxies, they managed to only demonstrate that the last decade of the last millennium the warmest by the narrowest of margins. See below.

There are many reasons to reject the paper (see here), but one significant point can be illustrated. There were only three reconstructions had any data prior to 1430. There were two tree ring studies from New Zealand, and coral study from Palmyra Atoll. Plotting the decadal averages shows that the erratic Palmyra data suppresses the medieval period and exaggerates the late twentieth century warming. Further, Palmyra Atoll is over 2000 km outside the study area.

Finally, specialises in accumulating evidence of the impacts of CO2. It also has a database of studies on the medieval warm period. There is a graph that summarizes the quantitative studies

Figure Description: The distribution, in 0.5°C increments, of Level 1 Studies that allow one

to identify the degree by which peak Medieval Warm Period temperatures either exceeded

(positive values, red) or fell short of (negative values, blue) peak Current Warm Period


In conclusion, on the face of it, there is very weak support for human emissions being the cause of most of the warming in the last century by the fact that changes in human emissions do not appear to move in line with changes in temperature. The case is further weakened by evidence that at times in the last 2000 years were warmer than in the current period. It does not discount the possibility that human emissions are responsible for some of the warming. But demonstrating that empirically would mean understanding and accurately measuring the full extent of the natural processes, then demonstrating that these were not operating as strongly as in previous epochs. By definition, the evidence will be more circumstantial than if there was a direct correlation. Furthermore, the larger the actual human impact the more circumstantial will be the evidence.

Velicogna 2009 and Chen et al 2009 on Acceleration in Antarctic Ice Melt

This blog post started out as some musings on the different way of measuring the changes in the mass of Antarctic land ice, as a follow up to a couple of comments to Jo Nova’s posting “Antarctica gaining Ice Mass — and is not extraordinary compared to 800 years of data.” The problem with this is that it looks at just part of the total ice mass balance. These lead me to look at the major papers that looked to Total Mass Balance. There are two from 2009, using early data from the GRACE satellite gravity mission Velicogna and Chen et al. In comparing the various estimates, I discovered three anomalies that should have been detected as part of the peer review process.

Error in Velicogna Summary

The abstract notes

In Greenland, the mass loss increased from 137 Gt/yr in 2002–2003 to 286 Gt/yr in 2007–2009, i.e., an acceleration of −30 ± 11 Gt/yr2 in 2002–2009. In Antarctica the mass loss increased from 104 Gt/yr in 2002–2006 to 246 Gt/yr in 2006–2009, i.e., an acceleration of −26 ± 14 Gt/yr2 in 2002–2009.

When I tried to replicate this for Greenland, the figures worked out. Starting with 122 Gt/yr a year ice loss in 1992 and adding 30 to each year gives the “137 Gt/yr in 2002–2003 to 286 Gt/yr in 2007–2009“. But for Antarctica, adding 26 to each year cannot give “the mass loss increased from 104 Gt/yr in 2002–2006 to 246 Gt/yr in 2006–2009“. However, if the statement is rephrased with the Greenland timescales as “the mass loss increased from 104 Gt/yr in 2002–2003 to 246 Gt/yr in 2007–2009” then the numbers work out.

The spread sheet is easy to construct. For Velicogna Antarctica, start with -90 in 2002 and subtract 26 from the preceding year. The average uses the “=AVERAGE()” function in Excel.

So why did this dating error occur? There is no apparent reason in the Velicogna paper to use two different averages over such a short time frame. I might suggest that there is another reason. The two papers were published weeks apart (Velicogna 13th Oct and Chen 22nd Nov) and used the same data for Antarctica over similar periods (Velicogna Apr 02 – Feb 09 and Chen Apr 02 – Jan 09). The impact of both would be enhanced if they had comparative statistics. For instance Zwally & Giovinetto 2011 state

Table 2 includes two GRACE-based mass loss estimates of 104 Gt/year (Velicogna 2009) and 144 Gt/year (Chen et al. 2009) for the period 2002–2006 and two estimates of 246 Gt/year (Velicogna 2009) and of 220 Gt/year (Chen et al. 2009) for the period 2006–2009.

Correcting Velicogna, it becomes

Table 2 includes two GRACE-based mass loss estimates of 142 Gt/year (Velicogna 2009) and 144 Gt/year (Chen et al. 2009) for the period 2002–2006 and two estimates of 233 Gt/year (Velicogna 2009) and of 220 Gt/year (Chen et al. 2009) for the period 2006–2009.

That is, the two papers become far more consistent if the averages are corrected. It would appear that Velicogna changed the dates without doing the maths.

Form of the acceleration

Velicogna states in the abstract

We find that during this time period the mass loss of the ice sheets is not a constant, but accelerating with time, i.e., that the GRACE observations are better represented by a quadratic trend than by a linear one, implying that the ice sheets contribution to sea level becomes larger with time.

This quadratic trend is backed up by graphs on the NASA website (Antarctica) and NOAA websites (Greenland)

For ice melt Velicogna is stating that, not only would the trend be for each year to be greater than the previous year, but for the incremental increase to be greater than the last.

But, if ∂M is the change in ice mass, from the following functions were used in my spread sheet to replicate both Velicogna’s and Chen’s results.

For Velicogna 2009, Antarctica

∂M = -90 – 26(Year-2002)

For Velicogna 2009, Greenland

∂M = -122 + 30(Year-2002)

For Chen et al. 2009, Antarctica

∂M = -126 + 17(Year-2002)

These are all linear functions. I do not have access to Chen’s paper, but Velicogna’s abstract does not conform to her model.

Discontinuous functions in Chen et al. 2009

The abstract for Chen states

… our data suggest that East Antarctica is losing mass, mostly in coastal regions, at a rate of −57±52 Gt yr−1, apparently caused by increased ice loss since the year 2006.

Chen detection of increased ice loss is similar to Velicogna’s. But unlike Velicogna, Chen suggests that there is a discontinuous function. In other words, Chen’s graph would look like this.

Although it is possible to extrapolate from a discontinuous function, it would be highly misleading to do so. It suggests there is no underlying empirical relationship to be observed, in direct contradiction to Velicogna. Further, over a short period it is impossible to say whether this is the shift in the underlying rate of change in Antarctic melt, or if this new direction be quickly reversed. Fortunately, the two studies were published over three years ago, so there are alternative studies to compare the projection against. This will be the topic of the next post.

J. L. Chen, C. R. Wilson, D. Blankenship & B. D. Tapley Nature Geoscience 2, 859 – 862 (2009) Published online: 22 November 2009 doi:10.1038/ngeo694

Velicogna, I. (2009), Increasing rates of ice mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets revealed by GRACE, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L19503, doi:10.1029/2009GL040222

H. Jay Zwally, Mario B. Giovinetto (2011) Surveys in Geophysics September 2011, Volume 32, Issue 4-5, pp 351-376, Overview and Assessment of Antarctic Ice-Sheet Mass Balance Estimates: 1992–2009 10.1007/s10712-011-9123-5

Two Comments on Antarctic Ice Accumulation

Jo Nova blogs on a study that claims the Antarctic continent is accumulating ice mass at a rapid rate. I have made two comments. One is opposing someone who claims that Antarctica is actually losing ice. The other is that the claimed rate of ice accumulation does not make sense against known data on sea levels.


April 17, 2013 at 6:27 am · Reply

John Brooks says

I’m also interested that the mass of antarctic land ice follows solar irradiance. This makes perfect sense. However I can’t see why the effective of an increase in the greenhouse effect wouldn’t have exactly the same result.

Maybe you should look at the period covered by the graph John. There is an 800 year correlation of mass of antarctic land ice with solar irradiance, with the biggest movements in both prior to 1800. Insofar as the greenhouse effect is significant, it is nearly all after 1945.

And for some reason, I’ve got the idea in my head that antarctic land ice is decreasing.

Sure enough from the Carbon Brief link, this quote

Measurements from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite since 2002 have shown that the mass of the Antarctic ice sheet is decreasing at an average rate of 100 cubic kilometres every year – the size of a small UK city.

(emphasis mine)
The size of a city is usually measured in area, not volume. The ancient City of York, for instance, has an area of 272 square kilometres (105 square miles) and a population of 125,000. Or maybe they mean the volume of the buildings in a city? A famous building in New York is the Empire State Building. Not only is it quite tall it also has quite a large volume. Around 1,040,000 cubic metres or 0.001 cubic kilometres in fact. So does the Carbon Brief claim that a small UK city have a volume of buildings equivalent to 100,000 Empire state buildings? Or each average person in a small UK city occupies a building volume greater than Buckingham Palace?
Alternatively, does John Brooks quote a source that does not have a clue about basic maths?


April 17, 2013 at 8:01 am · Reply

I think this paper does not stack up. I worked as a management accountant in industry for 25 years. One thing I learnt early on when estimating or forecasting was to sense-check the estimates. No matter how good your assumptions are, when estimating or extrapolating well beyond the data trend (where there is potential for error), the best check on the data is by reconciling with other data.
From the above

“The SMB of the grounded AIS is approximately 2100 Gt yr−1, with a large interannual variability. Those changes can be as large as 300 Gt yr−1 and represent approximately 6% of the 1989–2009 average (Van den Broeke et al., 2011).”

A gigatonne of ice is equivalent to a cubic kilometre of water. If the land ice volume is increasing, the water must come from somewhere. Nearly all of that water needs to come from the oceans.
Now for some basic maths. A gigatonne is a billion tonnes. As water has a relative density of 1.0, a tonne of water (1,000 litres) is a cubic metre. Therefore a gigatonne of water is a cubic kilometre (1000^3 = 1,000,000,000 = one billion).
A further factor to consider is the area of the oceans. According to my Times Concise Atlas, the total area of the oceans and seas (excluding the enclosed waters like the Dead Sea and Lake Baykal) is 325,000,000km^2. A cubic kilometre of water added to an enclosed sea of one million square kilometres, would raise the sea level by just 1mm (1000mm x 1000m = 1,000,000mm in a kilometre). So 325km^3 = 325Gt-1 of new ice accumulation above sea level in Antarctica would reduce sea levels by 1mm, or 2100GT-1 by 6.5mm.
Some of the ice accumulation will be on ice shelves, so the impact of 2100GT-1 extra ice per annum extra ice might be to reduce sea levels by just 5mm per annum. Also sea levels might be rising by a little less than the 3.2mm a year that official figures claim, but there is no evidence that sea levels are falling. Further, any net ice melt elsewhere (mostly Greenland) is only adding 1mm to sea level rise. So the rest must be mostly due to thermal expansion of the oceans. I think that the evidence for the oceans heating is very weak and of insignificant amounts. Even Kevin Trenberth in his wildest flights of fantasy would not claim the missing heat (from the air surface temperatures) adds more than 1-2mm to sea level rise.
What this study does show is that by honestly looking at data in different ways, it is possible to reach widely different conclusions. It is only by fitting the data to predetermined conclusions (and suppressing anything outside the consensus) that consistency of results can be achieved.

My scepticism on global warming stems from a belief that scientific evidence is strengthened by being corroborated from independent sources. Honest and independent data analysis means that wildly different conclusions can be reached. Comparing and contrasting these independent sources leads me to believe that the public face of the global warming climate change consensus massively exaggerates the problem.

Kevin Marshall

The Calculus of Climate Change morality

A couple of days ago Jo Nova highlighted another example of an environmentalist, Jonathan Moylan, who thought that to save the planet they were morally justified in committing criminal acts. My posting is on one journalist’s opinion that Moylan should be applauded, not prosecuted.

Katherine Wilson in the Age opinion says

Moylan’s hoax asks us to consider a broader category of victims: the world’s citizens and environments who are facing the real consequence of big polluters such as coal companies.

When asked by the Newcastle Herald whether his actions were justified, Moylan said

 My intention was to get ANZ Bank to expose themselves as the backers of the Maules Creek project. Some media organisations have used the word ”justify” – this is not my word. My prime concern is the local community, which has been feeling very despondent – the forest, our health and our water.

That is Moylan does not think he is saving the planet from catastrophic climate change. Or at least he claiming not to do have done so after the event. Let us, however, assume that Katherine Wilson is correct in assuming Moylan’s actions were more to do global climate change than local environmental issues.

The moral case is that the harms caused in the necessary publicizing of an issue are insignificant compared to beside larger damage occurring. It we were able to go back in a time machine to April 20th 1889, and strangle the newly born son of Klara and Alois Hitler, would we be justified in doing so. One death could have saved the life of millions, as without a charismatic leader the extremist nationalist elements in Weimar Germany would never have come to the fore. But what if the communists had come to power in Germany instead? They were certainly the main opposition that the Nazis staged street battles with in the 1920s. Suppose that they joined with the Soviets to invade Poland and then the rest of Europe? With the many millions of people that died in the Gulags, along with the tens of millions that had died in the collectivisation of agriculture, could the death of an infant conceivably have caused even greater misery?

I use this example, not to ponder nor the morality of killing infants (or later killing the Adolf Hitler once he became the charismatic leader of the Nazi party). It is to consider whether, for climate change, such a calculus of causing a small harm will lead to the prevention of a larger harm. With respect to climate change, this depends on three factors. First, the likely harm from future unimpeded climate change will have catastrophic consequences. Second, the likely harm of the action to highlight awareness of the issue is trivial compared to the impending climate catastrophe. Third, that will be significant success in getting the issue recognised.

If climate change is vastly exaggerated then there is a risk that Moylan is campaigning for policies that are not justified. The treatment is more harmful than the ailment. If the harm caused by the action is vastly greater than anticipated, or the full extent is not recognised post the event (“you’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette” mentality), then there is an element of recklessness. If there are already policies in place to optimally tackle the issue, and the media is already on the side of the consensus opinion, then aggressive action to further highlight the cause is that is already more than fully recognised is positively harmful to society. It could lead to policies not justified by the scientific evidence, however construed.

Consider the following from Katherine Wilson’s argument.

At the parliamentary level, Greens senator Christine Milne has applauded his actions as being ”part of a long and proud history of civil disobedience, potentially breaking the law, to highlight something wrong”.

Read more:

Like the Nazis smashing up the shops of Jews, or beating up communists to highlight that their great nation is being over-run? Most people will now accept that the racist laws that existed in America’s Deep South in the 1950s, or the denial of universal suffrage for all adults in Britain prior to 1918 were immoral, and therefore at least some of the protests were justified. But most sane people will accept that the cause of the Nazis was evil, so any sort of illegal actions to promote their ideas is wrong. Wilson and Milne are assuming they stand on the moral high ground. Whilst not considering them as bad as the Nazis, I do believe them morally to be nearer to that position than of Martin Luther King, or Emmeline Pankhurst, as the points below will demonstrate.

For those citizens who have not given up on the conviction that taking action is ”the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our generation”, there is little choice but to pull off hoaxes of this kind.

Read more:

Again, others may disagree. Al Qaeda sees the greatest challenge as spreading Islam. For millions in Southern Europe finding a job, or being paid for their work, is far more important. Dr Indur Goklany. looking at the consensus projections of climate impacts thinks that in the next few decades there are far more important issues facing humanity.

Moylan’s hoax asks us to consider a broader category of victims: the world’s citizens and environments who are facing the real consequence of big polluters such as coal companies.

Read more:

For more than two billion people in Asia, any environmental problems of rapid development may seem trivial to the huge benefits of being able to eat better, or having access to ever-increasing levels of healthcare and education.

For all the ”free market of ideas” posturing, the media and finance marketplace that Moylan sought to disrupt is not some equal playing field operating under rules of fair play. As countless journalism academics have documented, news agendas are set by public servants, PR agents, politicians and business leaders.

Read more:

It would be nice to know where Moylan’s views are under-represented. I know that I live on the other side of the planet here so I may have the wrong perspective. Did the Gillard Government enact a carbon tax last July to look tackle the problem of climate change? Was this policy one of the most stringent in the world? Does the “Age” publish the opinions environmentalists? Does the “Age” give fair coverage of both sides, or does it give voice to those deliberately misrepresent the sceptic position? Does the major TV network give impartial coverage, deliberately misrepresent one side? For example, when Jo Nova was interviewed for a “debate” on climate.

This is why Moylan orchestrated his hoax at a time when the Australian Securities Exchange is operating at a fraction of normal levels.

Read more:

Wilson is implying that Moylan planned the attacked to minimize the potential damage. But Jonathan Moylan has said

“.. it has had a much bigger impact than I expected.”

It looks like Katherine Wilson is trying to make Moylan out as somebody who understood the cost-benefit calculus of minimal damage for maximum effect, whereas Moylan is claiming the opposite.

True, his action may have affected the sort of ”ordinary” people who have blind faith that finance markets are based on trust and immutable laws. But are the people who gamble their spare funds in coal industry investments really the victims here?

Read more:

Wilson in effect condemns Moylan. Finance markets are based on trust. If the hoax has consequences for undermining peoples trust in making contracts, then the consequential costs are far greater than the short-term losses. She would have to show that she has in place an alternative system where trust is not important. I can think of some, but these are inferior to a market-based system, both morally (based on rule by fear) and economically. Wilson then makes an assumption about the investors. It might be people’s pensions that are at stake here. It might be from people who do not share environmentalist’s morality, or who simply think that the Labor Government is doing sufficient from the carbon tax.

To charge Moylan on the basis of fraud would also be disingenuous. As Fairfax journalist Eric Johnston reported on Tuesday, the ASX is subject to frequent hoaxes. How many rogue traders have used false takeover bids or issued statements to profit illegally from movements in the market? How many finance journalists and PR agents were complicit in deceiving finance markets in the lead-up to the global financial crisis?

Read more:

My reading of the law is that Moylan should be charged just the same as those who hoax for personal gain, or simply to cause damage for non-ideological reasons. The motives should be taken into account in deciding the severity of the charge, and if found guilty, the severity of the punishment. It could be argued that his hoax should be treated far more seriously than a fraud for personal gain, as it could viewed as an act of economic sabotage. In fact Wilson in effect condemns him For instance, burning down an empty building to instil fear should be viewed far more seriously than an arsonist who has a fixation with seeing buildings burn. In the first case, it undermines the rule of law, along with the other causes

In summary, none of the three conditions to say that there is a moral benefit in breaking the law are met. First. the climate change issue is likely to be grossly exaggerated. Second. the hoax may have had huge harm. Third, climate change policies have already been enacted and the media presence is considerable. For a journalist to claim otherwise is the sign of a blinkered extremist.

Kevin Marshall

My opinions are my own. If they are in error, then I will consider reasoned replies. If anyone would like a right of reply, I would be happy to publish it, so that people can compare the arguments. I reserve the right to publish a counter argument. If you wish to contact me, please do so through the comments. I will not publish any approach for debate, but reserve the right to publish any approach that uses threats to shut-off my counter-arguments, despite due warning.