John Redwood lights the “Global Warming” fuse again

John Redwood bravely touched on the global warming subject again in “Challenging establishment orthodoxies“.

One of the strange features of global warming theory is the reaction of its leading protagonists. They say it is scientifically derived, but then go on to say the science is proven and established. I thought the essence of scientific method was to reach a hypothesis that seemed to fit the facts, and then to keep trying to improve or destroy it by further testing or experiment. This seems to be a thesis where the aim is always to buttress it rather than test it. For many years scientists thought Newton had said the last word on planetary motion, but the twentieth century did not rest until they had replaced or improved on the Newtonian universe in a dramatic way.”

My comment (following from previous comments made on this blog) was

You will notice that whenever you mention “Global Warming” that you are guaranteed to get a greater number of comments compared to practically any other issue. Further the views are probably more polarized and politicized than any other issue.
However, the way to proceed might not be one of hypothesis testing. The data is complex and most of the science is about future events. Rather, it might be worth using the experience with which you are more familiar.
1. In business, a new investment proposal will just be assessed on the theoretical profits, but on the capacity to see that proposal through to actual success. The Stern Review allegedly gave the theory, but there was nothing on public policy issues of controlling policy costs, and maximizing policy benefits (CO2 benefits). Whatever the policy, this failure to focus and project management is a sure guarantee of policy disaster.
2. In politics, the greatest threat to extremist and untenable viewpoints has been from the majority who are able to compare these viewpoints to their other perspectives. That is why authoritarian regimes only can exist in an environment where they silence criticism. There is growing evidence of excluding contrary views without a fair hearing in our scientific institutions, in research funding, and in the mainstream media.
3. Science at the frontiers about making bold hypotheses that can be falsified by later testing. Similarly, the police in a crime investigation make conjectures and then gather evidence. Established science (on which policy should be based) is like a successful prosecution in a criminal case. It is about presenting the evidence and under-going a cross examination by the opponents. This to convince a randomly-selected group of people. My contention would be that the strongest evidence of catastrophic global warming is the most trivial, whilst the most alarming aspects of climate change are based on weak, circumstantial and hearsay evidence.

Two relevant references
https://manicbeancounter.com/2011/02/13/climate-change-in-perspective-%E2%80%93-part-2-of-4-the-mitigation-curve/
https://manicbeancounter.com/2012/02/20/a-climate-change-global-warming-spectrum/

The Summer Riots – causes and prevention

Whilst I was away on holiday in Pembrokeshire, riots broke out in the cities of London, Birmingham and Manchester. The following comment was just posted to John Redwood’s blog:-

We should look at this in context. All the riots except the first in Tottenham were copycat riots. People saw that with sufficient numbers of people, looting could be carried out without fear of arrest. There was also the adrenalin rush of rioting, just like football hooliganism. The rioting stopped when people started being arrested in large numbers. They also stopped in Manchester when it started raining.

We should not overreact in issuing draconian laws. Rather it is to understand that people react to the opportunities presented to them. We had in the inner cities for a few nights to opportunity to riot and loot in the belief there would be no punishment. Many took that opportunity. This can be gleaned from the work of Prof. Gary S. Becker, who pioneered the study of the economics of crime.

Prevention of the riots in the near future might simply be to show that many of those who rioted had been caught. Therefore the belief that criminal acts in a riot would go unpunished is a false one. Beyond this, there might some minor changes. First, by more rapidly escalating the intensity of Police action in an area and nationally. Second, by instituting temporary powers of arrest in, or near, riot areas for those covering their faces. Third, if riots are in the summer, for helicopters to spray water to simulate a heavy downpour. The water might also contain a harmless dye visible under ultraviolet light (that can be removed with soap and water) to identify those who duck into side streets.

The ideas are minor. They will not quell a serious political riot – but the more serious riots of the 1980s in Brixton & Toxteth were also stopped by the rain. These are superficial “shopping riots“*. They are only a reflection of a breakdown in society insofar as there are large sections of society who lack the moral sense to respect property and other people even when there appears to be no possibility of being caught for breaking the law. The rule of law needs to be respected by vast majority of people for the vast majority of the time for civil society to exist. Otherwise, the peace can be maintained only by draconian laws and thuggish law enforcement. In such authoritarian societies the civil peace is maintained only by fear of arbitrary arrest and restraint of peaceful activities.

*This is not an endorsement of David Starkey’s other comments on the subject.

John Redwood and the BNP

Blogger Ralph Musgrave in comments to John Redwood’s posting “Finding our National Identity” claims that John Redwood and the rest of the Conservatives have been moving towards the BNP. This is my response.

A sure sign of extremism is to point to superficial similarities, over the substantive ones. In this case the use of a word – Identity – over these points of difference with the BNP.

 

1. Praising the left for making racism unacceptable.

2. “(W)e should also dislike those who think there is a single or pure British way which they wish to enforce.” Sounds like a dig at the BNP.

3. The ideas of Britain having emerged into a tolerant democracy.

4. Anyone who was moving towards the BNP position would not have written this posting:-

http://www.johnredwoodsdiary.com/2011/02/05/the-tyranny-of-ideas/

 

I categorize extremism as falling two types. The first is the numerical type – those who hold ideas distinct from the numerical majority, or mainstream. The second is those who hold ideas that cannot be substantiated by rational argument, or who are highly intolerant of others.

I believe that John Redwood has sometimes taken extreme positions of the first type – usually for well-argued reasons. The BNP falls into the second category.

Arsene Wenger does not play Cricket

John Redwood has an excellent post on the good points in our national identity.

I commented

There is something else that I believe that stands out about the British that is distinctive. We play by the rules and are (traditionally) honourable in upholding contracts on a handshake. It works to our disadvantage where rules and taxes are onerous, or only where rules that can be fully enforced are adhered to.

On Friday evening I heard Arsenal Manager say of the Cesc Fabregas incident that makes this distinctive aspect of the British clear. (BBC)

“He has not been charged by the FA, there is no action against him, so I don’t see why we should spend any more time to defend somebody who is not guilty.”

 

I am a great admirer of Arsene Wenger, but my interpretation of his statement is that something is only wrong if the authorities show it to be wrong. Rules are only broken when they are broken AND the authorities decide to take action.

I have been a great admirer of Arsene Wenger, in that his teams play attractive and creative football. But in this he is quite wrong.

Keeping ahead of China and India

John Redwood is comments that the Chinese and Indian economies will soon be larger than those of The EU or USA. The high growth rates, coupled with their huge populations means that this will happen quite soon. I believe that if the most advanced nations are not to stagnate they must accelerate the advance into higher value-added activities*.

 The government’s role in this should be, at minimum, to refrain from hampering the creativity and the flexibility that this requires. Further it should provide a structure to enhance the comparative advantages that the UK enjoys. For example, in no particular order:-

 1. In learning. Britain is probably second in the world (behind the USA) for attracting foreign students. For the size of population, we lead the world in world-class universities. The government should encourage/enable the universities to build upon this. Our comparative advantage is that we are the home of the English language, the World’s second language.

2. In Finance. Sorting out a proper structure for banking regulation that will both prevent the build-up of systemic risk, whilst at the same time encouraging/enabling future innovation. The apparent contradiction between these two aims is best resolved by emphasising general all-encompassing principles, rather than the detailed rules of the American’s or the detailed form-filling that was key feature of the last decade.

3. In Climate Change. The current aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 are totally unrealistic. The attempts to do so will only serve to make Britain’s poorer and fail to meet our growing energy requirements. Roger Pielke Jnr explains why here.

* It is usual to say that higher productivity per person is required. From that tautologous statement the National Income = National Output, the way to increase income per person is to increase output person. As working time tends to decrease, more that 100% of this must come from higher output per unit of time. That is, greater productivity. However, the way to increase the income of a business is to increase the margins. The output of a university is not in the raw number of published papers, but the rare papers that create a seismic shift in out knowledge. In finance, it is not the quantity of deals done, but the large deals that create the most profit. For these reasons, I prefer the term more value-added rather than productivity as the driver of increased income per capita.

Towards Public Consensus on Climate Change

 

John Redwood posted the following under heading “How a Prime Minister Loses his Job

The outgoing PM in Australia serves as a warning to incumbents. If you combine unpopular climate change legislation with a big tax increase, you lose your job. The legislation was defeated, and the tax increase on mining has now been abated.

Just posted on  blog comments

This illustrates the importance of carrying people with you through difficult and necessary decisions. On tackling the problem of the deficit the government is being brave and honest about the gravity of the problem. The Coalition is also making attempts to minimise the impact on service provision.

On climate change, we have had many dogmatic statements about the collective opinions of experts and the science being settled. This is accompanied with wild allegations on the motives of critics (in the pay of oil companies) or their very sanity (flat-earthers, or equivalent to holocaust deniers). To carry the majority forward, the scientific case needs to be made more clearly. That means opening up the black box of climate models to independent investigation and subjecting empirical studies to full statistical tests. Conflicts of interest should be stated and recognised. Like in a court of law, when people can see the robustness of the case, then the doubters will be the silenced and sacrifices willing made for the sake of our descendant’s futures.

We have been delivered with a fait accompli, with no reasonable person being able to question. It is not just the basic science that we are unable to question, but also the policy perscriptions. This is alien to an open society.

Reduce Gun Control to strengthen the Rule of Law?

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

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

 

1. Posted to John Redwood’s blog

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

There are two sides to the argument.

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

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

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

2. A Thought Experiment

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

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

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

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

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

3. The Rule of Law Implications

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

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