Monday, June 16, 2008

How can so many be so wrong?

After reading some of the False Alarm website, which is highly critical of the scientific "consensus" that humans are the principal cause of global warming, a friend sent me an email the other day that read, in part: "How can many, many respected, competitive, independent science folks be so wrong about this (if your premise is correct)? I don't think it could be a conspiracy, or incompetence. Has there ever been another case when so many "leading" scientific minds got it so wrong?"

This is a really good question. I'm not a climate scientist (but, then, neither is Al Gore); I'm an ex-journalist, now an academic. I teach professional writing. How dare I claim to know more than, say, the 2,000 or so scientists who contribute to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports? These are the experts, after all, and they say that humans are the principal cause of global warming at the moment. How could the experts possibly be wrong?

Of course, many, many people (not just scientists) have been wrong before on many, many topics. Until the 1960s, few scientists believed in continental drift. Millions of intelligent people continue to believe in communism even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. After Rachel Carson's Silent Spring came out in 1962, many, many people believed DDT was bad when in fact, if used properly, DDT could have saved millions of lives in places like Africa.

Science is a process of systematically weeding out the wrong ideas and replacing them with better wrong ideas, as it were. But getting on to global warming

How can so many be so wrong?

Well, for a start, here's a comment from the Summary of the IPCC's 2007 report: Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.

The only problem with this statement is that it isn't true: it's now widely accepted in scientific circles that the climate system hasn't warmed since 1998 although, curiously enough, this hasn't been announced to the public. Why not? You'd think it would be in big, bold, front-page headlines: GLOBAL WARMING OVER (at least for now). Yet, somehow, the writers of the 2007 IPCC report managed to find increases in warming when the planet wasn't warming, which was a triumph of ideology over fact.And, when Official Climate Science did discover that it isn't warming, they tried to keep this information from the public as much as possible by ignoring it, or by saying the flat-lined warming is just "temporary" (which it may be).

Too many scientific careers (and billions in scientific grants) are riding on the hypothesis that humans are the main cause of warming to give it up easily.

How can so many be so wrong?

Ten years of no warming is a bit more than the normal year-to-year fluctuations - it's more like a trend - but none of the IPCC's sophisticated computer models predicted it. Yet, since carbon emissions are continuing to increase, the trend should be continuous warming if humans are the principal cause of climate change, as the IPCC believes (although it puts its bias in probabilistic language-"it is highly likely that.").

How can so many be so wrong?

Here's the IPCC's mission statement: The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation

There's nothing wrong with having a mission; it's unavoidable. The IPCC is a kind of global-warming think tank and most think tanks have a mission. The mission of the Fraser Institute, for example, is to promote free markets. The mission of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is to promote socialism, although its mission statement doesn't say this directly. Both seek to be as "objective" as possible, but they start from different premises.

Similarly, the mission of the IPCC is to investigate and promote the idea that human activities are the main cause of global warming. Its mandate isn't to explore the idea that perhaps humans aren't at fault. However, a key difference between the IPCC and the Fraser Institute, or the IPCC and the Centre for Policy Alternatives, is that most readers of a Fraser Institute or CPA document know that the organization has a bias and take that into account in assessing the information they are receiving. (3) The IPCC, on the other hand, promotes itself to the public as a fully scientific, unbiased source of information on climate change, when, in fact, as anyone who carefully reads its mission statement (few, apparently, have bothered) would know, it is not.

How can so many be so wrong?

The next sentence of the IPCC's mission statement reads: "Review by experts and governments is an essential part of the IPCC process" . Yet, surely if the IPCC was truly taking an "objective" look at climate change from a balanced, purely scientific perspective, its findings would not be subject to "review by governments," which are political bodies with political, not scientific, agendas. Does anyone today believe that Galileo should have had to present his findings to the Church before publishing them? True science is not subject to review by governments.

How can so many be so wrong?

No truly objective scientific body would be striving for "consensus" in its reports, although we expect consensus from think-tank publications - the Fraser Institute isn't going to put out a document calling for the nationalization of the Canadian oil industry, for example. This striving for consensus meant that the IPCC was not interested, right from the start, in giving legitimacy to views that didn't fit its mandate. For example, the 1990 IPCC report said of dissenters: "Whilst every attempt was made by the Lead Authors to incorporate their comments, in some cases these formed a minority opinion which could not be reconciled with the larger consensus".

Yet reaching a consensus was the IPCC's task when it was started in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program. What consensus? The one approved by the politicians who bankrolled the process, which is why, again, and incredibly, the IPCC's conclusions undergo "review by governments."(5) That is, the IPCC has to meet a political (ideological) as well as a scientific agenda.

Since the IPCC's mission isn't to investigate possible natural causes of climate change, but to determine the role of "human-induced" climate change, it's not surprising that the IPCC finds what it seeks. How do we know there is bias rather than objective science at work? Because when scientists who aren't part of the "consensus" suggest other, natural mechanisms for climate change, they are not only not given a respectful hearing, as you'd expect from disinterested scientists, they are denounced as heretics.

For example, when physicist Henrick Svensmark suggested that cosmic rays might be one explanation for climate change, former IPCC chairman Bert Bolin denounced his theory as "extremely naive and irresponsible," and another scientist at a conference called it "dangerous."(6) Similarly, research questioning the validity of ice-core CO2 readings was declared "immoral." These responses are reminiscent more of religion than science.

What is the proper scientific attitude toward new ideas? Here's what philosopher of science Karl Popper had to say: If you are interested in the problem which I tried to solve by my tentative assertion, you may help me by criticizing it as severely as you can; and if you can design some experimental test which you think might refute my assertion, I shall gladly, and to the best of my powers, help you to refute it.

This is the opposite of the IPCC's approach, which is to shout down or ignore critics, and even make it difficult for them to continue their research or get published. When the Official Science peer-reviewed journals refuse to publish articles by skeptics, as they do, Official Science can then say the skeptical science doesn't have peer-reviewed publications: it's a Catch-22. Official Climate Science has made up its mind as to the (human) culprit in global warming and isn't interested in any other suspects.

All of the above may be wrong, of course: the IPCC may be doing a totally accurate, bang-up job of assessing the science on climate change. Unfortunately, the process - a bias toward human causes of climate change and "review by governments" - means that the IPCC is not the objective scientific body it presents itself as to the public. It is driven by agendas other than science......

Let me conclude by saying this:

I can't claim to be an expert on climate science. But, as a former journalist, I do claim an ability to know when someone is not dealing honestly with the public. And everything I have read since I began my research convinces me more and more, as my book title argues, that most of what we, the public, have been told about global warming is misleading, exaggerated, or plain wrong, including the claim that the planet is warming.

You don't need to be a climate expert make this discovery, as I have, but you need time and patience and some idea of where to look. Of one fact I am now sure: the public won't get a balanced, objective viewpoint from the Official Climate Science "consensus."

How can so many be wrong? The real question, once we've seen the way Official Climate Science spins the facts, is how can we be sure anything it tells us is right?

Much more here

A comment from radiochemist Alan Siddons []:

Let me propose yet another reason. The IPCC and other authorities commit the same error that most people do. The earth is enclosed in a perfect thermal insulator, the vacuum of space. Since most people believe that space is incredibly cold, however, they've also been misled into believing that the earth is kept warm by an atmospheric blanket which inhibits the energy emitted to space - an outmoded conjecture now disproved by satellite observations. But a desperate belief in "the greenhouse effect" still persists, for people feel that isolating earth from the "coldness" of empty space is the only way of sustaining the earth's warmth. Short of installing a gigantic mirror around our planet, however, nothing but space can preserve the earth's temperature longer. That's how so many people can be so wrong, skeptics included. Their ideas about space come from science fiction.

Solution Found to Global Warming

The post below is not wholly logical but it is at least as logical as Warmism

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reports that parks in cities are up to 12 degrees centigrade cooler than commercial centers. A ten percent increase in green areas reduces the average city temperature by about 4 degrees; offsetting the UN climate committee's extreme predictions of temperature increases over the next century.

Many scientists have criticized the UN predictions for lack of correspondence with real climate data. Al Gore and others have suggested an extreme political agenda in response to the predictions. The political agenda has been criticized for its projected devastating effect on western civilization without any corresponding benefit. Even assuming the UN predictions are correct, new thinking about the problem is demonstrating that there are effective ways to deal with city heat without such extreme political measures.


More Signs of the Sun Slowing Down

Says meteorologist Watts. See the original for links and graphics

A few months ago, I had plotted the Average Geomagnetic Planetary Index (Ap) which is a measure of the magnetic field strength but also daily index determined from running averages of eight Ap index values. Call it a common yardstick (or meterstick) for solar magnetic activity.

I had noted that there was a curious step function in 2005, almost as if something had "switched off".Today, since it is fathers' day, and I get to do whatever I want, I chose to revisit this graph. Later I plan to take my children to launch model rockets, but for now, here are some interesting new things I've found.

First, I've updated the original Ap graph to June 2008. Source data, NASA Space Weather Prediction Center

As you can see, the Ap Index has continued along at the low level (slightly above zero) that was established during the drop in October 2005. As of June 2008, we now have 32 months of the Ap hovering around a value just slightly above zero, with occasional blips of noise. Since it is provided in the same dataset, I decided to also plot the smoothed Ap Index. I had noted to myself back in February that the smoothed Ap Index had dropped to minus 1.0. I figured it was just an artifact of the smoothing algorithm, but today that number remains there, and there doesn't appear to be any change even though we've had a bit of noise in March that put the Ap Index back up to 10 for that month. I also plotted my own 24 month smoothing window plot, shown in magenta.

I find it curious that the smoothed value provided by SWPC remains at -1. I figure if it is a software error, they would have noted and fixed it by now, and if they haven't then perhaps they are standing by the number. Odd.

While I was searching for something that could explain this, I came across this plot from NOAA's NGDC which was used to illustrate solar storm frequency related to sunspots

But what I found was most interesting was the data file they provided, which had the number of days in a year where the Ap Index exceeded 40... What is most striking is that since 1932, there have not been ANY years prior to 2007 that have zero data. The closest was 1996

Now we have almost two years. I also decided to plot the 10.7 centimeter band solar radio flux, also a metric of solar activity. It is in the same SWPC dataset file as the Ap Index, in columns 8 and 9. Oddly the smoothed 10.7 CM flux value provided by SWPC also has dropped precipitously and stayed there. I also provided my own 24 month wind smoothed value which is plotted in magenta. Like the smoothed Ap Index, it has also stayed that way a few months. This is truly odd, either the smoothed value that SWPC provides is accurate based on their algorithm, and they know it, or the value is just plain wrong and nobody has caught it for months. My running 24 month window curve suggests the SWPC smoothed values are wrong.

Either way it appears we continue to slide into a deeper than normal solar minima, one not seen in decades. Given the signs, I think we are about to embark upon a grand experiment, over which we have no control


No Drilling. No New Refineries. Get a Horse!

I keep wondering how long it will take Americans to connect the dots and figure out why the most powerful economy the world has ever seen cannot manage to drill for oil in its own backyard and then get it refined nearby.

The news on June 10, if anyone was paying attention, was about the way the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups were able to thwart the plans of ConocoPhillips to expand its refinery in Roxana, Illinois. An appeal to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was upheld because, said the EPA, its air permit, previously granted, just did not meet all the excruciating requirements involved.

For the record, ConocoPhillips was and is prepared to invest an estimated $1 billion to add a second coker, otherwise known as a crude oil processor. The company wants to expand in order to process Canadian tar sands oil. These days it refines approximately 306,000 barrels of oil per day to produce gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, asphalt and other products."

This explains in part why ExxonMobil has just announced it will sell off its gas stations because the real money is made "upstream" as they say in the oil industry. The profits from the "downstream", in this case at the pump, are so small as to be a drag on earnings.

All those members of Congress that want to punish the oil companies for making a profit should check the balance sheet. From 2003 to 2007, ExxonMobil paid taxes (in all forms) in the amount of $64.7 billion. This actually exceeded its U.S. earnings by more than $19 billion! You do the math. Exploration, discovery, and drilling are where the money is. Wisely, this company has diversified into chemicals and a variety of petroleum related products.

Meanwhile, the only thing that the Greens are pumping is more hot air about global warming. According to the Sierra Club, "climate change is decimating many species" and pushing Congress to pass the Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act. Another name for it might as well be the "Do Not Drill for Oil, Mine for Coal, and Build a Pipeline for Natural Gas Act." The world is not running out of polar bears, but Americans who have to pay $4 plus for a gallon of gasoline are beginning-at last-to run out of patience.

Over at Friends of the Earth, they are very annoyed that America's high school students studying civics might read a new textbook that raises questions about global warming and/or climate change, based on real science, not the lies they and other Greens have been putting out for decades. FOE is currently flogging something they call "climate equity." According to them, "The next President must acknowledge that the U.S. has contributed more global warming pollution to our atmosphere than any other nation."

Oh yeah? What about those coal-fired plants that China can't build fast enough to provide electricity? Or comparable efforts in India to meet the needs of a growing economy? In the end, the Greens are utterly opposed to any development, i.e., modernization, anywhere and they don't care how many lies they have to tell.

Actually, they don't have to worry that much. The next President will either be a Democrat who wants to further destroy what's left of the oil industry in America or a Republican who believes global warming is real.

The Greens here in America don't want you to drive your car, your truck, your tractor or that big Harley-Davidson hog. They don't want any oil company to drill for oil anywhere on or offshore of America. They don't want any new refineries built. In short, get a horse!


The Climate Alarmist Manifesto

Just as class struggle forms the nucleus of Marxism, so does it sit at the very core of the Left's climate alarmism. At a glance, the regressive nature of fiscal Carbon control schemes, be they taxation or cap-and-trade, would appear to be antithetical to liberal thinking. But beneath the veneer of both the domestic and international green agenda lies a devious wealth-redistribution plan compared to which all predecessors pale.

Take, for instance, the recently tabled Lieberman-Warner Bill. The Act would have empowered government to control key aspects of -- while extracting trillions of dollars from -- our economy by forcing the auction of greenhouse gas (GHG) credits upon industry and power companies. And, while the left lauds penalizing bourgeois "big business" success, advocates for the poor were quick to point out that the inescapable consequent increase in energy costs across the board (electricity, home heating, gasoline, etc) would have placed a disproportionate burden upon proletarian lower wage-earners.

Ah, but the Democrats -- champions of the downtrodden that they are -- were just as quick to respond. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) offered a substitute amendment bearing her name, Subtitle I of which provided "Financial Relief for Consumers" as follows:
"The bill sets aside a nearly $800 billion tax relief fund through 2050, which will help consumers in need of assistance related to energy costs. The precise details of the relief will be developed by the Finance committee."

And if Senator Boxer's plan of doling out $800 billion in industry profits to the "needy" sounds like class warfare to you, just wait until you hear what's brewing down the hall.

Late last month, chairman of the Special House Committee On Global Warming, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), unveiled even harsher climate change legislation. Unlike Lieberman-Warner, which would have at least eased industry and power companies into compliance over time, Markey's bill would require permits for virtually all emissions right from day one, in a crazy effort to roll atmospheric CO2 back to levels 85 percent below 2005 by 2050 (that's 15% more than even the doomed Senate bill).

Also unlike its Senate counterpart, Markey's Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act (ICAP) requires no amendments to begin redistributing the profits of domestic commerce. Actually, Subtitle A: Climate Trust Tax Credits and Rebates is quite clear in describing how $4.3 trillion (which represents an estimated 55 to 58.5% of auction proceeds) will:
"be used for refundable tax credits and rebates for middle- and low-income households, to compensate for any increase in energy costs resulting from the bill. Tax credits will be used to reach middle-income wage earners and senior citizens, and cash rebates -- distributed through the Electronic Benefits Transfer systems used for food stamps -- will be used to reach low-income households. All households earning under $110,000 will be eligible. Virtually all costs from climate regulation will be covered for households earning under $70,000, with benefit levels phasing out gradually for households earning $70,000 to $110,000."

Of course, under the cloak of a "market-based" solution, cap-and-trade's government command-and-control system is, as George Will so brilliantly describes it, already nothing more than "a huge tax hidden in a bureaucratic labyrinth of opaque permit transactions." Adding unabashedly obvious wealth-redistribution to the formula merely strips any fa‡ade of capitalism's skeleton beneath.

It seems that giddy anticipation of further power gains next year -- combined with hope of the most liberal among them living in the White House -- has caused many Dems to lower their guard with respect to their aims. Just last month, before a House Judiciary Committee, Maxine Waters apparently cared little for Shell Oil President John Hofmeister's response to her questions about guaranteeing a drop in oil prices were he allowed to drill off US shores. Visibly flustered, the California Democrat let slip to an astonished audience:
"And guess what this liberal would be all about? This liberal would be all about socialize -- uh, uh, would be about basically taking over and the government running all of your companies."

What still escapes me is just why anyone might be surprised by her faux-pas. Such is precisely the Left's rationale for jumping aboard the bogus GHG bandwagon in such earnest almost to the very man and woman.

In the section Das Klima Kapital of my recent piece celebrating the death of Lieberman-Warner for its lack of scientific merit, I also pointed out why cap-and-trade is the perfect liberal synergy of environmentalism and socialism:
"In 1867, Karl Marx argued that capitalism's cycle of labor exploitation could not endlessly sustain itself and would ultimately be its doom. Modern greenies insist that capitalism's cycle of environmental exploitation will not endlessly sustain itself and will ultimately be not only its doom -- but the entire planet's."

But, indeed, the reach of this ecosocialism extends far beyond our borders. Internationally, the Left has always accused capitalist western nations of growing fat through the exploitation of poorer countries. And they now argue that those same fat-cat nations have exploited the planet to the brink of doom, also to the simultaneous exclusion and detriment of those less fortunate.

And for their imaginary sins of both economic and ecological abuse at both the national and global level, liberal-elitists have decreed that now is the time for the successful to atone. Translation: "developed" nations must not only clean up their own mess, but also pay to help "undeveloped" nations clean up theirs.

Much as Vladmir Lenin promised in 1920 that centralized electrification and "advanced technology" would abolish "the division between town and country" and "conquer completely and decisively the backwardness of the countryside, its scattered economy and its ignorance," so do the ecosocialists plan to uplift "developing nations." But unlike the first soviet leader's GOELRO project, which coalesced Russian scientists and peasant cooperatives to bring modernizing power to their own country, contemporary ecosocialists would simply play Robin Hood with the wealth and patented technology of "prosperous" nations under the false pretense of "saving the planet."

Through Carbon trading, taxes, mandatory "clean energy" technology transfers, and other austere regulations, proposed UN-controlled international climate treaties to succeed Kyoto would penalize wealthy, innovative, capitalist countries while subsidizing poorer nations with waivers and foreign aid. And with most "good governance" requirements for beneficiary nations lifted, this equates to coerced underwriting of military regimes, dictatorships and, of course, socialists.

In his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program, Marx defined the basis for a communist society with the words "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." What a marvelous creed for today's climate alarmists, who would steal from flourishing countries, enterprises and citizens in order to give to those they deem chronically underprivileged. And, by spreading their woefully unproven yet widely accepted GHG horror stories, would do so on a global level that Marx and Lenin themselves dared only dream of. And would wield more centralized control of international economies than either ever dared envision. In his book, Blue Planet in Green Shackles, Vaclav Klaus wrote:
"The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity at the beginning of the 21st century is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism.''

With all due respect to the wise Czech President, they are indeed one in the same.


The Chilling Costs of Climate Catastrophism

Comment from Australia

VACLAV KLAUS has given us a salutary reminder of the seriousness of the danger Australia is now facing from the "warmists". Both the Rudd government and the federal Opposition, currently led by Brendan Nelson, have promised us an emissions trading scheme; in the case of Prime Minister Rudd, by 2010. The responsibility of advising the federal and state governments on how such a decarbonisation regime should be established lies with Professor Ross Garnaut, a noted economist and diplomat, and a passionate advocate on the benefits of free trade and of the advantages of an ever-closer relationship between Australia and China.

The Garnaut Inquiry has issued two interim reports and Garnaut has given a number of papers to professional audiences in recent months. Three observations emerge from immersion in these documents.

The first is the childlike, unquestioning belief which Garnaut has in the IPCC story of global warming caused by anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, which, if not curtailed, will result in climatic and economic disaster for the whole world. Many people have noted the religious-like quality of faith in this story of human sin (particularly of Western mankind); the calamitous consequences following failure to repent; and the possibility of redemption through repentance and sacrifice under the wise guidance of green prophets such as Al Gore, James Hansen, Bob Brown, Peter Garrett, and now Ross Garnaut.

The second is the refusal to face the political reality posed by Chinese and Indian "intransigence" in the face of demands from the West, the EU in particular, to decarbonise their economies. India and China are embarked on trajectories of extraordinary and historically unprecedented economic growth. China is commissioning two new coal-fired power stations every week. Both countries are also operating and building nuclear power stations. China has ten operating nuclear power plants, one under construction, and six planned; India has fifteen operating nuclear power stations, eight under construction, and four planned. These are not countries devoid of technological and scientific expertise. The idea that they should give up their dash to modernity has been repeatedly and emphatically rejected by their most senior political leaders.

The third is the Orwellian use of the words market and price to persuade people to accept a degree of control over their lives which is unprecedented in the Anglosphere, except in time of war. This control is the necessary consequence of permanent decarbonisation regimes which will dramatically lower living standards.

The foundation on which the Garnaut (and Stern) prescriptions for global decarbonisation are based has to be repeated. It is taken as given that global temperatures have increased, are increasing, and will continue to increase to catastrophic levels because, and only because, mankind is emitting greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide in particular, and that these emissions have caused atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to rise, and global temperatures to increase as a consequence.

In order to save the planet (redemption in religious terms), mankind must stop "polluting" the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. This means reducing the current emission rate of approximately 25 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum (7 gigatonnes of carbon) to 5 or 7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. There is competition between the various prophets of decarbonisation as to the extent of the purification process required to save the planet. They are united, however, in the great urgency of the task. Delay in decarbonisation, they insist, will be disastrous, and they conjure up a "tipping point", some magical proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which will bring about runaway heating, or alternatively, perhaps, the next ice age. The tipping point is rather like the second coming of Christ, that final moment in history when Christ will come again in glory and power to judge the world.

As I argued previously (Quadrant, March 2008), such massive decarbonisation can only take place if the entire world's current stock of coal-fired power stations is replaced with nuclear power stations by 2050 (the currently favoured target date). At the same time all motor vehicles, ships and aeroplanes currently using liquid hydrocarbons (kerosene, petrol and distillate) as fuel for their engines, will have to convert to hydrogen, or accept batteries in lieu of internal combustion engines. The only alternative approach which will achieve the degree of decarbonisation the Greens and Garnaut demand, is to return to the living standards which were characteristic of Britain and North America in the eighteenth century, before the Industrial Revolution. China and India have rejected any such option.

Returning to the way of life of Adam Smith's Britain and George Washington's North America is not a politically feasible project, at least not in the Western democracies. So the Greens and their allies in this project go to considerable trouble to disguise their ambitions. One tactic they use to disguise the cost is to conduct econometric studies which predict very modest decline in GDP over the decarbonisation period, or even no decline at all. The fundamental problem with this is that per capita GDP is not a reliable measure of living standards and prosperity. As Frederick Bastiat pointed out over a century ago, deliberately smashing windows and then producing and installing replacements will contribute to GDP, but at the same time reduce living standards, because the resources required to build and install the new windows will have to be diverted from other more productive activities.

The decarbonisation parallel is that measured GDP will not be affected by the extra resources required to build wind farms relative to the resources required to build the same quantity of coal-fired capacity. However, because those extra resources will have to be diverted from producing other goods and services of value to consumers, the building of wind farms will, other things being equal, reduce living standards. Accordingly, using estimates of changes in GDP as an indicator of the costs of shifting away from carbon-based energy sources is not only misleading, but shoddy economic practice. Garnaut is guilty of this practice, a misdemeanour made worse by the way in which his modellers "assume" in their models that the price signals embodied in ever-rising prices for coal-based electricity and liquid fuels for transport will bring forth, in a cargo-cult fashion, new technologies which have not yet been invented, let alone deployed, but which will suddenly enable the world to reach a new, green, nirvana, and take the place of the old and proscribed technologies.

Arnold Zellner, one of the giants in the development of econometric analysis, relates this amusing story in a long interview published in the International Journal of Forecasting:

"Steve Peck and I simulated the Federal Reserve- MIT-PENN econometric model of the US economy that had over 170 nonlinear equations. Our simulation experiments showed that the model had very strange properties that were unknown to the model builders. From these results we concluded that the model was not safe for use in analysing serious economic problems."

Further he commented:

"I do not know of a complicated model in any area of science that performs well in explanation and prediction, and have challenged many audiences to give me examples. So far, I have not heard about a single one. Certainly the large scale econometric models and complicated VARs [very awful regressions] have not been very successful in explanation and prediction."

We can conclude that the debate about decarbonisation, and the various emissions trajectories which could be mandated to achieve the required state of purity, cannot be illuminated by econometric models. We are concerned here with the most basic building blocks of Western civilisation. We are entirely dependent upon liquid hydro-carbons for our transport needs and upon electricity for our energy and communications requirements. If petrol supplies are curtailed, all economic activity is seriously affected. If electricity supplies are shut down as a result of storm damage, for example, then those affected find that their lives are completely disrupted.

Much more here


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