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Oct 22, 2009

At risk of banging on about this, we're all going to die

It now seems certain that without urgent and more stringent emission cuts are within the next few years, humans will be powerless to stop the shift to a new climate on Earth.


Abstract of a paper delivered by Clive Hamilton to the Royal Society of the Arts last night in Sydney:

Recent analysis of carbon budgets shows that the timing and scale of emission reductions needed to avert dangerous climate change are well beyond any national policy proposals or anticipated international agreement.

There have been two alarming developments in recent years. First, climate scientists are reporting that the scale of damages associated with warming of 2°C is much worse than previously believed, suggesting that more stringent emission cuts are essential.

Secondly, global growth in greenhouse gas emissions is much higher than anticipated a few years ago and the world is now on a warming path that is worse than the worst-case scenario. Rather than decarbonising, the world is carbonising at an unprecedented rate.

Analysis reviewed in this paper shows that, under the most optimistic assumptions about the timing and extent of global greenhouse gas emission reductions, cumulative emissions over the next few decades will result in atmospheric concentrations reaching 650 ppm of CO2-e, associated with warming of 4°C or more before the end of the century, a temperature not seen on Earth for 15 million years.

It now seems almost certain that, if it has not occurred already, within the next several years enough warming will be locked into the system to set in train positive feedback processes that will overwhelm any attempts to cut back on carbon emissions. Humans will be powerless to stop the shift to a new climate on Earth, one much less sympathetic to life.

Read the full paper here.



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95 thoughts on “At risk of banging on about this, we’re all going to die

  1. Andrew

    Clive’s paper is based on the most up-to-date climate science, reported recently in Oxford meeting of leading climate scientists (28-30 October, 09).

    A summary is appended below:


    Life on Earth depends on a delicate balance between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere. The atmosphere acts like the “lungs” of the biosphere, while the ocean currents act as its “vein system”, modulating temperatures around the globe. Changes to the chemistry of the atmosphere, including greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, nitric oxides, ozone) and aerosols (mainly sulphur dioxide) through Earth’s history resulted in climate shifts between greenhouse states and glacial/interglacial states. Such changes were triggered by orbital shifts, solar cycles, volcanic events, asteroid impacts, release of methane from sediments and, on longer time scales, the distribution of oceans, continents and mountain ranges.

    Sharp decline in CO2 34 million years ago and 15 million years ago to below 500 ppm has resulted in the development of the Antarctic ice sheet. About 2.8 million years ago a further decline in CO2 resulted in formation of the Greenland ice sheet and Arctic Sea ice. The current runaway climate change is a direct result of human emissions and land clearing. The emission of more than 320 billion tons of carbon (over 50% the original atmospheric inventory) since 1750 raised CO2 levels from 280 to 388 ppm, or 460 ppm CO2-equivalent (a value including the effect of methane).

    Acceleration of climate change since the mid-1970s is leading toward a global temperature rise of +1.5oC above pre-industrial time, once the masking effects of sulphur aerosols are removed. The polar regions have already warmed by up to 4oC. This results in carbon cycle and ice/water melt feedback processes, with consequent (A) extreme rates of polar ice melting, including the Arctic Sea, Greenland, West and East Antarctica, which threatens accelerated sea level rise above the current rate of 0.35 cm/year; (B) a progressive shift of climate zones toward the poles, which extend the tropics, as indicated by intensified cyclones and floods, and enlarging desert regions as manifested by extreme droughts and fires. Given lag effects, looming threats include (1) ocean acidification, collapse of coral reefs and the marine food chain; (2) mountain snow and glacier melt and availability of freshwater; (3) destruction of native habitats, i.e. the Amazon; (4) ozone depletion; (5) atmospheric aerosol loading and (6) chemical pollution by metals, plastics, radioactive nuclei.

    The consequences for human habitats include loss of arable land, fresh water supplies and extreme weather events. The loss of Himalayan snow and thereby decreased river flow, coupled with a failure of the monsoon and sea level rise, threatens more than one billion people in south and south-eastern Asia. As the polar regions warm, a release of methane from the many hundreds of billions of tons of carbon stored in permafrost and shallow lakes and seas, is imminent.

    In the view of leading climate scientists there is no alternative to attempts at reducing atmospheric CO2 levels to below 350 ppm as soon as possible. What is urgently required is a combination of (A) urgent deep cuts in carbon emissions; (B) fast-track development of clean renewable energy systems; (C) an intensive global reforestation campaign; (D) application of a range of CO2 draw-down sequestration measures, including world-wide replantation and reforestation campaigns and chemical capture methods, solar-powered desalination plants, and long-range channel and pipe water transport systems.

    Recent references

    Schellnhuber, Oxford meeting, 28-30.10.09 http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/4degrees/programme.php
    British Antarctic Survey http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/press/press_releases/press_release.php?id=989 NASA/GISS). http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/
    Copenhagen Synthesis Report http://www.anu.edu.au/climatechange/content/news/copenhagen-synthesis-report-released-today/
    Hansen et al. 2008. Target CO2: Where Should humanity aim? http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf
    Lenton et al., 2008. Tipping points in the Earth climate system. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204172224.htm
    Reports by NASA/GISS, Hadley_Met, Potsdam Ocean Institute, NSIDC, CSIRO, BOM.

    Andrew Glikson
    Earth and paleoclimate scientist
    22 October, 2009

  2. Scott

    Of course we are all going to die. Death is 100% certain. But people will die in such ways as cancer, heart attacks, accident or old age . Not of climate change.
    Please Clive, no more.

  3. Andrew


    The Oxford conference took place on the 28-30 September, 09.

  4. D. John Hunwick

    At last some one is getting really close to telling it how it is going to be!! Working with and understanding nature (ecology) brings with it the understanding that it is human arrogance to believe that we really understand nature at all – we can’t. What we have learned is that at some point (recognisable only in hindsight) we have gone too far and nature has reacted in a quite unpredictable way. It is recognised only after the event – on one can predict it in advance. What will be the first catastrophe of cataclysmic magnitude from climate change may well be in the pipeline. It wouldn’t matter that much – humans have got through extreme events (even world wars) BUT this time what is at stake is life on earth as we know it. Cost of action is not the issue. Cost of inaction is. Climate change is occurring now – it WILL affect our children let alone our grandchildren. The window of opportunity to take effective action is rapdly closing – have our political systems the ability to act decisively? The present debate about emissions trading in Australia says (see Crikey 21/10/09) we haven’t a chance in hell. If we can’t afford to stop mining coal then the earth can no longer afford to keep us on it in the way in which we have become accustomed. Thanks Clive for making it so starkly clear.

  5. Jenny Ejlak

    Without needing to know the specifics of the science, I was convinced decades ago that the damage humans were doing to the earth would ultimately lead to our own untimely demise as a species. Long before it was trendy to be an environmentalist I was pleading with people to consume less, reduce waste, conserve energy etc etc and was laughed at. As soon as Al Gore and his doco made it fashionable to be green people were telling me off for leaving a lightbulb on for five seconds longer than needed – but I digress into gripehood.

    The point is, I saw Crikey’s “oh shit moment” blog, pondered it, and I realised I really didn’t have an “oh shit” moment, more a longer realisation that our global capitalist economy would never put people or planet ahead of profit. So increasing evidence that its all too little too late comes as no surprise to me. I never expected anything different. Pessimistic, I know – but realistic I am sure. So while I support doing what we can to mitigate the effects of climate change, I think our main priority should be reducing the global population – one of the main causes of the problem and those (this and the next generation/s) who will suffer the most.

  6. Clive Hamilton

    Well Scott, if you are not ready to handle the truth just stop reading.

  7. Scott

    Truth is a very fluid concept, Clive. As a philosopher, I would expect you to know that.
    Was it truth when people believed the world was flat?

  8. Evan Beaver

    Wanker is also a fluid concept.

  9. michael james

    The earth has been both warmer and colder in the past, and humans adapted then.

    Humans will adapt to these changes, we will not die out.

    There may be major changes to climatic patterns, to population numbers and the locations where people live, but people will adapt.

    The issue is the lifestyle adopted by the planets inhabitants in the future to deal with the changes.

    For example, hotter weather will make some areas neither particularly arable nor habitable, however it will make other areas currently less suitable for cultivation more fertile (Siberia, Northern Europe, Northern Canada, etc).

    After all, the Middle Ages went through a significant warming period (Grapes grown in England, etc) and again even earlier (Greenland was called that by the Vikings because it was covered with trees), and humans did not die off.

    Rather they adapted, those who did not were overtaken by those who did.

    The same is likely to happen here.

  10. Scott

    Bit harsh, Evan….Though reading my last comment, it was a little rude to Clive. Apologies

  11. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    Having read the Clive’s full paper, and thought about it for a while, I’m still feeling stunned.

    Further research and analysis may change a detail or two. But all that matters is the big picture, and this is not nice

    So now I’m back to the discussion raised by Clive’s previous article on Crikey – how to handle this reality.

    For me the moral thing to do is to put effort into changing Australia’s (in)action on climate change to something significant enough to show future generations that at least we tried.

    If you found yourself in a situation where you knew you could get away with some rape and pillage, and others were doing so, what would you do?

    Many people would do the moral thing and not rape and pillage. Unfortunately we know that some would do otherwise.

    Accepting the consequences of taking real action on climate change is to me the moral thing to do.

    What I find very sad is that it seems that most of us are happy to rape and pillage the planet.

  12. Pete WN

    Thanks Clive.

    While I wish it wasn’t necessary, I’m at least glad the increasing sense of desperation is being properly reflected somewhere. You get the feeling that one way or another, we’re headed for conflict. Either on the lack of genuine action, or – following lack of action – on the scraps of whats left.

  13. Kevin Herbert

    Evan Beaver:

    completely off topic……very droll indeed…..I know I be using your quote

  14. Andrew

    Michael James:

    The Medieval Warm Period saw mean global temeprature rises on the order of a fraction of one degree C, well within the tolerance range of the Holocene interglacial.

    By contrast current climate change is projected to several degrees C through the 21st century.

  15. Robert Barwick

    More British AGW crap. Assuming AGW correct: Australia’s response is pathetic; America won’t have one; China, India and Russia are merely humoring the world push. The Poms and Clive are spinning out in desperation, and the “science” is getting increasingly shrill the closer we get to a failure at Copenhagen.

    Dear Jenny hit the nail on the head: how many people do you think we should kill? (MW-H hinted this morning the world would be a simpler hotter place without the skeptics, so once you decide how many, Jenny, he may save you from any agonising over who they should be.)

  16. stephen

    LOL Evan Beaver! and now for somehing more serious …. OH SHIT

  17. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    ROBERT BARWICH – Please do not misrepresent my views. You know perfectly well that I have never said anything that suggests killing people.

    I did suggest that if scientist were not allowed to say anything that was not supported by the evidence, AND THE SAME APPLIED TO THE SKEPTICS, then the discussion would be much simpler.

    I’m also confused by your posting. As you say, assuming AGW is correct, the responses are pathetic. That is what Clive said.

    Assuming that AGW is correct also means accepting that the consequences are horrendous, and so does it not make sense that those who think this is true are rather upset?

    Of course the idea that AGW is still a British conspiracy is rather insulting to all the other scientists (including those in the USA under Bush) who have done independent research to prove or disprove climate change. Again, as Clive says, the evidence is coming in from all around the world that it is true.

  18. MichaelT

    Also at the risk of banging on, can I point out yet again that regional effects like the thinning of Arctic ice that AGW proponents such as Clive claim to be unprecendented have happened before? See: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/04/26/ice-at-the-north-pole-in-1958-not-so-thick/. There are other examples of this at Anthony Watts’ quality site. What is hard to find are uncontestable demonstrations of a causal link with increasing CO2.

  19. Nanette Kerrison

    Thanks Clive, for such a clear paper.
    In the current broad climate debate/weirdness, I am frustrated at the lack of concrete examples given by those with the knowledge. The lack of concreteness has facilitated the ease of denial by, well, everyone with any power. I totally respect that this has been because there is so much uncertainty about what will happen, and good science is about accuracy. Unfortunately that caution has played into the hands of, well, everyone with any power.

    Would it be possible for these scientist groups to come up with some basic concrete examples such as: “In summer in Sydney most days will be between p degrees and q degrees” or “If sea levels rise by x metres, all real estate within x metres of the NSW coast will be underwater and thus worthless”. “When the summer average reaches N degrees in Griffith, growth of x y and z foodstuffs will be impossible”. Such simple baseline scenarios would be much harder to justify ignoring.

    I also wonder whether similar specificity about what is required in terms of personal sacrifice would also be helpful. I’d like to hear more in this debate about the elements of a no Carbon (or carbon capturing) life style. Specifics might include the reduced availability of beef and lamb and petrol costing $x per litre.

    The Government should really be taking a lead role in this, and their failure has placed an enormous onus on the scientists to communicate the level of seriousness of the situation.

  20. Robert Barwick

    MW-H: “Assuming”, as in, hypothetically speaking. AGW is rubbish, but if it was true, the official response is pathetic. A lot of sincere greenies are being used by a financial-political nexus to kickstart a financial trading system that will do nothing to the climate, but make a lot of money for speculators. If Rudd/Wong actually believed the garbage they spout, they would turn heaven and earth to stop it, not launder coal. You are all being had.

  21. Most Peculiar Mama


    Remind us again what your qualifications are to speak on this topic.

    You are as bad as Gordon “50 days” Brown.

    “…Humans will be powerless to stop the shift to a new climate on Earth, one much less sympathetic to life…”

    Oh tragedy, oh woe.

    This shrill doomsday rhetoric is just what is need to galvanise the population into further ignoring you and your fellow travellers.

    But I expect the wailing to increase in intensity as you approach your cub reporter jaunt to Carping-hagen.

    Cycling there I hope?

  22. Michael Rynn

    There is no need to kill people. As AGW progresses, we progress to the worst political scenarios. That is “fortress world”. As local resources fail overpopulated areas, there will initially be plenty of people and groups around to kill each other for resources to survive on. National unities and empires will fail. Water will fail with monsoon failures, drought, higher evaporation, disappearance of glaciers. Agricultural areas will turn to dust. Unfortunately the demise of human civilizations and the large number of deaths to happen in the next century will not reverse gradual onslaught of warming. The warming process will continue until long after we are all gone, so that Gaia can ensure our kind of behavior does not recur again, if ever she recovers.

  23. Roger Clifton

    Mobilise !

    In 1941, Pres Roosevelt could see that the world was going to pot unless the United States mobilised. However public opinion, much as now, was aware of but not alarmed by the crisis.

    The attack on Pearl Harbor galvanised public opinion, allowing him to declare that they were at war. The subsequent mobilisation of the American industrial machine included the mass production of the Liberty Ships . These 10,000 ton ships were launched at a rate of two a day, for more than three years.

    It would be naive to believe other than the mass production of the Liberty Ships had been planned well before Pearl Harbor.

    Referenced to today’s situation, our world leaders have yet to have their Pearl Harbor. However, we do already have the basic international agreement for the mass production of nuclear reactors, in the GNEP.

    Despite the belief of some to the contrary, there is an indefinite amount of uranium and thorium to fuel them.

  24. Most Peculiar Mama

    “…The Medieval Warm Period saw mean global temeprature rises on the order of a fraction of one degree C, well within the tolerance range of the Holocene interglacial.

    Much like the last 100 years, right Andrew?

    Was there a point you were trying to make?

    Did anyone die back then as a result of this HUGE warming?

    “…By contrast current climate change is projected to several degrees C through the 21st century…”

    Absolute rubbish.

    You have no proof beyond bogus climate modelling that struggle to match histroical observations and work largely on a garbage in-garbage out policy.

    Your own scientific tenure is predicated on your penchance to crank it up to 11 on the “Apocalyptometer” and so far you’re doing a great job.

    Nobody’s listening though.

    Bigger stories are about today.

  25. Altakoi

    I guess the reason nobodys listening is that this debate about whether APW is happening is over. All Clive has pointed out is whats going to happen now.

  26. Bebop

    The first emissions controls in the UK were the Clean Air Acts which brought to an end the coal generated killer smogs that gripped the cities every November. They have a long enough memory to know what can happen to an atmosphere out of kilter. California experienced similar smogs form polluting cards. They are both working on emissions control but it is all too late.

    Whatever we do now, agriculture will collapse as the climate worsens. Affluent nations will starve just like the ‘developing countries’. Societies will crumble and a handful of survivors will inherit a despoiled planet. I can understand the young worrying that will happen in their lifetime but the Baby Boomers like me have largely failed to get the message and it is just too late to take the necessary action. Drive everywhere, fly round the world on holiday and don’t worry about it. It will make very little difference.

  27. Altakoi

    Not a bad personal risk assessment, Bebop. But the young, which is anyone planning to be alive in 20 years, might start objecting to generational risk transferance and, in particular, those with young children might start objecting to the countermammalian proposition of failing to protect their offspring. Whether we can prevent climate change is probably a moot point, but abatement is going to be pretty expensive. So fly while you can, because I suspect the young are going to appropriate your super before they inherit a dispoiled planet.

  28. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    Clive’s paper looked at currently realistic political solutions.

    But not considered is what would happen if we put ourselves on a ‘major war’ like footing.

    For example, Australia could reduce its emissions by 20% within two years if it wanted to. I’m not saying that this would be easy, but it could be done.

    So from a technical perspective it may not be too late. But from even the most optimistic but realistic political perspective, then Clive’s paper is spot on.

  29. Julius

    Assuming that the critical question of whether postitive feedback on top of CO2 emissions is serious is answered affirmatively then it is virtually certain that we are well beyond possibility of preventing warming that will melt Arctic ice, and eventually, quite a lot of Antarctic ice because emisions of CO2 are going to go on increasing for decades. The consequences will be more bad than good or even acceptable. The Barrier Reef may take a very long time to adapt, even with human intervention, and acidification of oceans may likewise be very destructive to human interests. Food production in the far north should increase. Australia’s tropics will receive more rain and maybe we will have invested in ways that allow us to do things that now seem outlandishly expensive, like piping water to the south or using nuclear power (as well as renewables including wave and tidal energy) to desalinate water – and power the airconditioning we will need a lot more of.

    All that assumes we don’t benefit from engineering interventions to create more aerosols, even albedo, and that nature doesn’t do it for us. The genetic engineering of carbon eating trees anticipated by Freeman Dyson looks like taking a bit too long for immediate comfort but is certainly worth pursuing.

    As a sufferer from the great south eastern drought, now longer than the Federation drought, I am interested to know if anyone can give a clear reason for believing it is connected to CO2 emssions rather than the sort of thing the IPCC reports say caused the greening and drying of the Sahara which were to do with long cycles affecting the oceans as I understand it. Since heat can just as readly produce rain clouds (from evaporation from the ocean surface) as it can dry out land it is not obvious why the water evaporated from the Indian Ocean and driven west by the prevailing winds should fail for evermore to bring rain to southern Australia. I know one can produce a hypothetical model to show what could be happeniing, but where is the supporting evidence?

  30. Nanette Kerrison

    I have to agree with M W-H. My personal “oh shit (so this is it – we’re going to die)” moment was when the Govt launched it’s response to the Garnaut report.

    But my dreamer side still wonders whether Australians would go into mobilisation mode if they were denied denial as an option.

  31. Andrew


    Professional climate scientists have/continue to study these questions for many years.

    Unless you accept the claim of the so-called “sceptics” as if they climate scientists are ignorant or corrupt or both, I suggest you look at the IPCC-2007 Report, the CSIRO reports, Copenhagen Synthesis Report, Oxford conference reports, Hansen et al.’s papers and other peer-reviewed literature published in science journals for answers, as for example in the references:

    Schellnhuber, Oxford meeting, 28-30.10.09 http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/4degrees/programme.php
    British Antarctic Survey http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/press/press_releases/press_release.php?id=989 NASA/GISS). http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/
    Copenhagen Synthesis Report http://www.anu.edu.au/climatechange/content/news/copenhagen-synthesis-report-released-today/
    Hansen et al. 2008. Target CO2: Where Should humanity aim? http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf
    Lenton et al., 2008. Tipping points in the Earth climate system. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204172224.htm
    Reports by NASA/GISS, Hadley_Met, Potsdam Ocean Institute, NSIDC, CSIRO, BOM.

  32. Altakoi

    I would be happy to be told otherwise by someone genuinely schooled in climate science, but to take stab at it my understanding is that there is a band of dry air extending around the globe at subtropical lattitudes. This formed by the convection process of hot-moist air rising in the topics, cooling and dumping its water (hence the monsoons) and then falling back down as dry air in a dessert band which includes central Oz, the Sahara and the dry bits of South America whose names I know not.

    The upshot is that the rain will indeed continue to fall, it just gets pushed further south as this central dry band expands – so you can plant wheat in the middle of the great southern ocean and it will get rained on. This ‘Great Australian High’ in the centre of the continent also tends to deflect southerly fronts to the south which, again, means lots of rain in the middle of the ocean where nobody lives.

  33. john2066

    Deniers – morons with blood on their hands.

    The hundreds of deaths from heat stress last January in Melbourne probably pleases them.

    After all, they see these deaths as ‘natural and normal’. No doubt they’re looking for more deaths and misery to come.

    I really really hope the deniers are given the full rich feedback from the rest of us they all richly deserve.

  34. Julius

    Well the homework from Andrew Glikson is a bit heavy for something that isn’t going to affect any decision I am about to take soon but thanks Andrew. [If the drought has broken or does so soon in a really big way, good, but not vital to my welfare. I will be at least equally attentive to the prospect that it might mean something really important for the welfare of SE Australians.]

    As to Altakoi’s lucid answer to my third par. query it gives detail to what I had vaguely understood, which was that something was pushing the rain cloud carrying prevailing winds to the south so they were missing us. However it seems to follow, as we look for reasons why increasing quantities of dry air are descending in the low temperate latitude bands and pushing the rain bearing winds further south. that it must be happening because there are larger quantities of moist air and rain bearing cloud in the north. Perhaps there is evidence of that. Perhaps of the most obvious kind which would conosist of pretty well offsetting additional rainfall in our tropics. (On top of which one would have to build all sorts of variations owing to precise geography. Maybe it is all there in Andrew’s homework list)

  35. john2066

    Oh Michael James, just have to respond to your bit about how in the middle ages they grew wine in England and raised sheep in Greenland.

    You’re running the usual argument that they used to do these things but dont any more so it was warmer then.

    BUT They are growing wine in England NOW and raising more sheep than ever before in Greenland NOW.

    Another bit of denialist garbage debunked.

    Wont stop you repeating it, though.

  36. Tom

    During the cold war I moved to Manchester (Lancashire) because they were a nuclear free zone so whatever might happen with the Russians and that, at least I’d be safe. Purely by chance I’ve now moved to Australia (avoiding getting killed by AIDS, Bird Flu, Swine Flu and something else that I can’t remember but was going to kill us all horribly and IMMEDIATELY) so can again sleep soundly knowing that if I cut down on the fags and moderate my drinking a bit I just might not die of global warming, sorry climate change under the watchful eyes of Kevvie, Penny or (herein) Bebop (who seems to have been driven mad by having given up farting of behalf of humanity).

    I’m with Mr/Ms Pearl Harbour analogy, until something / anything actually happens which can without any argument be attributed to climate change as a consequence of carbon based emmissions, I’m simply going to carry on not unnecessarily polluting the environment. I’l be buggered if I’ll abandon the 7:27 from Windsor for a bloody Prius (filthiest car in the world to actually manufacture).

    Even if I were to join the apocolyptites, get a smug-mobile and stop farting, I’m guessing the Americans, Indians, Chinese, EU (en masse), Indonesia etc etc won’t be joining me (anyone running a book on the outcome of Copenhagen?).

    Was also wondering what the criteria are for being recognised as a ‘new’ religeon? Seems to me that if I did set up a sort of Heavens Gate / Haley’s Commet sort of thing, I’d be flooded (not by rising sea levels) with devotee’s. After all if that branch or organised insanity can attract more than a majority of the worlds population on the basis of a just a couple of old books, the mountain of evidence I could stump to prove a point would surely be enough to convince the most hardened sceptic that it’s an arc I’m building in my shed not just a shoddy big boat!!

  37. marky marky

    Pity their wasn’t one earth for the people who do not care and another for the people who do.
    It takes courage to state it and Clive thanks for being realistic..
    The problem is that it takes time for things to happen and that is the problem most people will only wake up when it is to late..

  38. Tony Kevin


    Impressive paper, thank you.

    It would be nice if you could find the time to review on your website or elesewhere my new book “Crunch Time”(Scribe) . It is a conscientious and, to the best of my knowledge, scientically well-checked (as of July 2009) attempt to take these sorts of insights about the climate crisis to a mainstream generalist book-buying audience (for whom Christmas gift-giving is coming up) . We need to reach such readers and voters, if our work is going to make any difference to Australian goverbment policy. Every bit helps, and my new book could use some more oxygen in the marketplace at this point.

    You might like the chapter on climate change denialism.

  39. Tom McLoughlin

    It is a matter of ethics: People have a right to know how and why they are going to die. So we can make peace with the time left like an adult. It’s a final freedom. I don’t think feeling guilty or as a failure is really appropriate. Like all animals we boom and bust. As Hansen might say it’s an historical forcing. Really we’ve had a great run. Some of us are smart enough to see above the ruck but most can’t/won’t. It’s honourable to make our voices heard but no point to go hoarse either. Incredible what humanity has done this last few thousands years. Sure nothing exceeds like success, and we really could have skipped those last few desserts, but you know, it’s fate.

  40. stephen

    Hi Tom McLoughlin, from one nihlistic, existentialsitic dadaist to another, that’s easy to say but what about my 5 yo? Maybe self interest will kick in before chaos does, I’m hoping.

  41. john2066

    Ho ho the deniers are so funny!

    Hundreds dead from heatwaves in melbourne – ‘Climate always changes’

    Murray river dies and our food production with it – ‘Climate always changes’

    Victoria turns into a filthy desert – ‘Climate always changes’

    Southern Australia in permanent drought – ‘Climate always changes’

    Lets hope they get the full, rich caring feedback they so rightly deserve!!!!

  42. Robert Barwick

    I’m in Victoria, what permanent drought? (A bit ironic–climate change will bring permanent drought, i.e. no more change to climate?)

  43. john2066

    Yo Robert, the drought we’ve had since 1996, haven’t you noticed ?

    No real irony Robert (except for the extremely stupid) – the change is from regular rainfall to much reduced rainfall.

  44. Robert Barwick

    Plenty of rain lately.

  45. john2066

    when Robert, we had average rainfall in sept, october is below average, whole year is below average.

    But come on, I reckon you need to branch out in your denial. Start handing out leaflets in country victoria telling them we haven’t been in drought since 1996. I would love to see that!!! Go on – do it!!!

  46. Robert Barwick

    Drought ain’t “climate change”. Ask county Victoria about climate change.

  47. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    I am wondering why the climate change deniers are here.

    I’m here because I fear climate change, I have been shocked but also inspired to act by Clive’s paper, and I want to know what others think about this.

    But I feel no urge to spend my time denying that Elvis lives on a site devoted to this. And I don’t spend my time on a sports site saying that their sport is a waste of time.

    The sad fact is that given the politics of today, their is no credible threat that the policies that I would like to happen will happen. So it is not as if we are threatening their ‘rape and plunder the planet’ lifestyle.

    So why are they here?

  48. Robert Barwick

    We’re all Crikey subscribers.

  49. Michael Wilbur-Ham


    1 – I’m not a subscriber

    2 – Of the free content, I don’t look at stuff I’m not interested in, and

    3 – You are not just looking at this once, you are posting comments, and keeping up-to-date with new posts. Why are you here?

  50. Evan Beaver

    Someone way up the page mentioned the Liberty ships. I can’t find a reference (I’ll look tomorrow) but I’m pretty sure there were major metallurgical failures in the hulls. Brittle transition temperature failure like the Titanic. I’ll see if I can find something more concrete tomorrow.

    All I’m saying is that rushing things may be productive, but not make the bets result. This makes the problem more complex.

  51. jeebus

    We’ve got the technology and the resources to deal with this in a rapid manner, and we’ve got the historical precedents. World War 1 and 2 showed us that global industrial production can be hijacked for an urgent cause, so if this cause truly is that urgent, then I guess it comes down to political will.

    There’s no shortage of the materials used to make wind turbines and solar panels. There’s also no shortage of factories around the world currently churning out useless knickknacks. And if countries like Britain can pony up two thirds of their GDP to bail out banks, I don’t see why they would have difficulty finding similar amounts of money for the survival of civilisation as we know it.

  52. Tim nash

    This paper has two results.

    1. You accept this is true and prepare for the day of judgement to arrive warning people to repent their climate denying ways and when the oceans begin to swamp our major citys you turn to your climate denying neighor and say ‘I told you so’.

    2.You ignore this paper completley and continue living your life, enjoying every moment you can ;working hard to build a better future.

    which option is better?

  53. JamesK

    The last two twits to write a book expounding similar drivel to Clive Hamilton and Andrew Glickson were Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren in the 70’s.

    Ehrlich and Holdren were convinced we were all going to die from freezing rather than roasting but also blamed overpopulation and suggested the solution: Forced abortions and mass sterilization of humans though drugs in the water supply.

    Otherwise….. sound familiar?

    Both are laughing stock scientists but John Holdren is rather frighteningly Obama’s Science Czar………..

    The left rewards its own no matter how discredited.

  54. Tom


    Deniers – morons with blood on their hands.

    The hundreds of deaths from heat stress last January in Melbourne probably pleases them.

    After all, they see these deaths as ‘natural and normal’. No doubt they’re looking for more deaths and misery to come.

    I really really hope the deniers are given the full rich feedback from the rest of us they all richly deserve.

    and …

    Lets hope they get the full, rich caring feedback they so rightly deserve!!!!

    Not only bonkers but nasty angry bonkers. Are you a member of the Taliban, am I as a sceptic an infidel that should be killed?

  55. john2066

    Tom, hey man your message upset me……

    Look, relax Tom. You guys have won! Nothing will be done to cut emissions!

    Now, according to you, this is all fine, because there is no such thing as human caused climate change, and therefore in a few years time, we’ll all be able to say to you ‘well done guys, good thing we did nothing, we were worrying over nothing!’

    What on earth is wrong with giving rich, proper credit where its due? Where people reap the just and rich rewards of their behavior? This is (rightly) a core belief of conservatives.

    So why are you so upset? The feedback you’ll be getting will in your opinion be positive and grateful – so whats the problem?

  56. Altakoi

    The main problem I have with the skeptical posts is that “You are wrong, therefore I am right” is a logically flawed argument. If I accept that what I think about climate change might be wrong and decide, for example, that Barwick might have a point I am left none the clearer about what it is that Barwick actually thinks – other than I am wrong. So what is there to agree with?

  57. Michael Wilbur-Ham


    You are lacking in imagination.

    Once you accept that Barwick is right, you can start to think about why the scientists and their supports have got it so wrong.

    As you don’t need to worry about evidence or logical thinking, you should be able to imagine all sorts of conspiracies, leftish plots, religious cults, and more.

    Barwick thinks it is a British conspiracy. But maybe you can decide that there are some aliens behind it all. Or maybe it is both, because Barwick thinks that Thatcher was involved, which as this cannot be a left wing conspiracy, must prove that Thatcher was an alien.

  58. Mark Duffett

    Nanette @ 4:39, are you aware of this site? AFAIK it’s currently the closest thing you’ll get to an encapsulation of the “basic concrete examples” that scientist groups have actually come up with. The way things are tracking, I’d be looking first at the ‘high emission’ scenarios contained therein.

  59. Julius

    Non-cientists sometimes give the impression that they think of some great scientific profession existing in a black box where things go on aseptically according to the best of scientific method and principles even when they are really quite sophisticated about human nature and institutions.

    I have heard very distinguished scientists giving their qualified assent to what, for brevity, I call IPCC science because they know many of the senior people involved or at least a lot closer than six degrees of separation, club members so to speak, of whom one would make assumptions of competence and good faith, extending therefore to their proteges. Very understandable. But it isn’t intellectually satisfying. So, if one knows that their MIGHT be a large element of group think, PC, careerism or whatever else short of outright corrupt paying for lies in any scientific consensus on either or any side of an issue it is interesting to explore the possibliites on the IPCC side as well as amongst the deniers. One way is to try to find illuminating analogies or precedents. For the moment I offer just one.

    Look at the collaboration of many highly expert people, necessarily accepting the expertise of others as Michael Wilbur-Ham has noted of scientists, working without coercion towards the goal of winning the war against Germany by blowing German cities to pieces with huge civilian casualtie and not much effect on the production of war materials. Could that be a case study for comparison of a giant collaboration of experts to piece together a model for destroying cities and winning the war that should surely have provoked more doubt one would think. Before that there were the Germans collaborating to create a blitzkrieg on Poland and the bombing of England.

    The point is simply to try and see how it might be that a large number of scientists could be collaborating in piecing together a model of the whole which is misconceived. One could also start historically with a look at astrologers and alchemists (remembering that Newton practised alchemy, if practise is the word, as a sideline)… For those who resist the religious analogies as insulting, though more usually applied to bloggers and writers of letters to newspapers than scientists, the kind of analogy I have proffered might be more fruitful.

  60. Michael Wilbur-Ham


    Science (and Engineering) is a tool. It is a rational way of looking at the world, which allows us to find out more about the world and to do things.

    How the results of science get used is a political question.

    For example, the Manhattan project was a scientific and engineering triumph in that they made the atom bomb. Whether or not it was right to do so, and whether or not it was right to use these bombs twice in Japan, etc is politics.

    Science is built up by evidence – either experiment or observation, and the work of other scientists is included. If you look at Clive’s paper he has lots of references. If you look at these references, and the papers they refer to, you find lots of data.

    This data is not made up, it is real, and from that, unfortunately, come the conclusions of Clive’s paper.

    Of course many scientists have been misconceived. They thought that once the scientific case had been made, action to prevent climate change would follow. Clearly I am misconceived because in my heart I still feel that this should matter to most people, and yet all the political evidence is that it does not.

    But can Clive’s paper be misconceived? Only by showing that the data or its interpretation is wrong.

  61. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    Note that my last post shows how science can change its view – new data or a better interpretation of that date.

    If a denier can point to a recent peer reviewed scientific paper which casts real doubt on the view that climate change is happening, that it is caused by man, and that the consequences are not good, then we could have a real scientific debate.

    So far I remain unaware of the existence of even one such paper.

    One of the reasons that most climate change deniers can so easily be dismissed is that they are either making political points which are irrelevant to the science, or they cherry pick a factoid or two as “proof” that the science is wrong.

    Most denial claims based on a factoid have been debunked, and so a quick internet search is all that is needed to find out how that factoid fits into the overall picture, and thus why the interpretation of the denier is wrong.

    Other times all that is needed is common sense. For example, Robert Barwick’s denial that Melbourne is in drought because, for the first time in ages, we have had a month or two with above average rainfall. Of course it is far too early to call the drought over, and if this call was not tied up with the political discussion about climate change I am sure that Robert would agree that Melbourne may still be in a period of below average rainfall.

  62. JamesK

    @Michael Wilbur-Ham

    I’m not a ‘denier’ which is a term used by slime merchants, but I am a sceptic so I’ll give you a paper nevertheless.


  63. richard52

    Growth Fetish, Affluenza and your “outing” of Howard’s climate mafia are all reasons to support Clive Hamiltons work. ” Brumby’s dirty secret: coal for export”, (brown coal that is), “Brumby in cash plea for polluters” are both Age headlines which I doubt any reader, skeptic or not could dismiss. The odd thing is that these “projects” at present require a facility for the completion of this criminal act.

    The “facility” is at present a near pristine Westernport Bay and the port that delivers this euthanasia to the world is yet to be built. The Port of Hastings redevelopment is scheduled to be built over the next 25 years and will also facilitate an increase in container imports to Victoria from the current 2 million TEU’s to 8 million TEU’s by 2035.

    5 kilometers of the most southerly stand of Tropical mangroves in the world are to be replaced by 5 kilometers of concrete wharf to facilitate John Brumby’s economic drivel – behold the executioner.

    The birds that fly 10,000 klms from Siberia, Russia, Korea to this RAMSAR listed site to feed on the highest value ecosystem there is (equal to tropical rainforest) are instead to be fed on the particulate emissions from the bunker fuel (almost bitumen) that is burned from the proposed 2,500 freight ships that will deposit this rubbish on our shores and carry the brown death to the world.

    Please, if this future disgusts you as much as it disgusts me, write to the Premier if Victoria, john.brumby@parliament.vic.gov.au to stop this pathway to extinction.

    thank you in anticipation,

  64. AR

    Bebop is factually correct if not ethically right.
    “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die”
    On tuther hand, “knowing one is to be hanged in the morning concentrates the mind wonderfully”

  65. Evan Beaver

    JamesK, ay, you’ve posted a paper by Lindzen. Tell us in your own words what it means.

    I’ve got no idea how it is relevant.

  66. MichaelT

    Evan, Lindzen is going to the heart of the matter. There is general agreement that CO2 has a positive influence on temperature, and that solar radiation also has a positive influence on temperature. However neither influence is strong enough to produce the observed rise in global temperature.

    In order to reach the alarming conclusions reinforced by Cive’s paper, climatologists rely on modelling which makes certain assumptions. The assumptions are that the solar effect is *not* magnified by other factors, and that the CO2 effect *is* magnified (‘positive feedback’). These assumptions are questioned, for example, by Professor Nir Shaviv of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who concludes that the climate models are not able to correctly estimate the all-important influence of clouds, and as a result differ greatly in their estimates of feedback: http://www.sciencebits.com/OnClimateSensitivity

    Lindzen is examining the actual data – i.e. the evidence about whether there has been any change in the balance between the amount of incoming heat and the amount of outgoing heat. Positive feedback from CO2 would cause more heat to be retained in the atmosphere. He is saying that the data doesn’t support this, that it shows much less positive feeback than is assumed in the models, and that any imbalance that might occur is temporary and tends to return to equilibrium over time. This is because CO2 is not an impermeable ‘blanket’ preventing heat from escaping the warm body of the earth. Convection in the atmosphere carries heat away from the surface and it is then emitted back into space.

    This is as far as a poor English graduate can understand the matter!

  67. Kevin Herbert

    Evan Beaver (this time on topic): your invitation to JimmyK fills me with dread…..

  68. James Bennett

    Tim Nash,

    I wholly support your option 2 but insist i retain my right to follow these intense discussions and related comments which range from crazy to brilliant in order i might proffer the more memorable as my own during lulls in sport and sex analysis with fellow drinkers at my local golf club.

    Suprisingly my plagiarizsed input is mostly ignored in favor of a medium to funny joke or even an unexpected burp or fart.

  69. meski

    The usual suspects, quoting the same urls at each other. From the top of the power / influence tree down, everyone seems to want to talk, and someone else to do the walk.

  70. Michael Wilbur-Ham


    I second the request for you to let us know why this paper puts into doubt that the climate is changing or that this change is man-made or that the consequences are not bad.

    That details within this big picture are “debated” in the literature is how science works. If scientist thought that they had it all perfect then there would be no need for further research.

  71. Altakoi

    Re Meski

    I have also lost all interest in the discussion about whether APW is real and hence the ‘talk’. Regarding the ‘walk’, however, the tendency to want someone else to take action is why CO2 reduction can never really be a question of individual choice. Its too much of a ‘free rider’ situation in which you benefit from my CO2 reduction and so don’t do anything yourself (nothing personal, just an example). That is why it must be driven by governments so that everyone, wailing skeptics included, gets on board.

  72. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    Further to Altakoi, many of the big things can only be done by Government.

    Something as simple as ending old growth logging would instantly make a significant reduction on Australia’s emissions. Scrapping the billion dollar annual subsidiary on company cars, and putting this money into public transport would be another simple act which would make a big difference.

  73. Roger Clifton

    To throw some light on the question of how long it would take to install a nuclear reactor…

    I quoted Ziggy Switkovsky above as saying that in some places a reactor can be built in four years. In an earlier thread I quoted the Switkovsky report as saying that the first reactor in Australia would take between 10 and 20 years, given the need to change regulations and install licensing procedures.

    Admittedly in the several years since the Report, Australian public opinion and international licensing procedures have improved considerably. However, it may well be that the first production reactor in Australia would still take 10 years to get over public concerns and bureaucratic obstacles, activate engineering skills and get reliable supply to the grid. ANSTO probably has already updated Canberra on the timespan.

    On the other hand, the wider technically inclined public ought to know that (subsequent) modular reactors may take as little as four years from first concrete to first electricity.

    Worldwide, the time required to propagate engineering skills means that the conversion of a country’s grid to nuclear would have to start with one, then two, then four, then eight, etc rather than all at once.

    Once those engineering skills are in place, our industries have the capacity to supply nuclear energy to other processes than electricity. By installing an increased number of reactors, hydrogen might be distributed or transport fuel might be synthesised. That may imply 200 GW for 30 million people by 2100.

    Ziggy’s envisaged fleet of 50 reactors by 2050 had better start soon!

  74. Robert Barwick

    So, now we know why Crikey’s been plugging Clive so much. Labor’s probably not running in Higgins to strengthen the Greens long-term, so it keeps them in power with their preferences. Smart plan Graham Richardson cooked up. Poor Greens–Labor doesn enough to keep getting their preferences, but not enough to save the environment. It’s called getting screwed. Any self-respecting person would leave a relationship like that.

  75. meski

    What can we do individually? Well, *use* public transport instead on snivelling and complaining that it isn’t good enough.

    Re nuclear reactors, it’s still in a talk stage, if we’d started building them when France did, we’d have them by now. Instead we had a *moratorium* on the use of nuclear power, and councils around Australia had a w*nkfest of declaring their area to be ‘nuclear free’

  76. Altakoi

    Yes, we can use public transport or, as I prefer, private pedalled transport, but this still requires governments to actually provide the trains. Sydney could run trains India-style and still not have enough for everyone to use PT, let alone the urban tracts which have no line at all. I didn’t mean to denigrate individual choice – rather emphasise that these choices have to be made possible by collective action.

  77. JamesK


    What Linzen shows by measurement is that there is much more radiation from the planet back into space than the IPCC assumptions for their models.

    If accurate, it means essentially their computer models are meaningless and are likely to be even more inaccurate as they’ve proved to be over the last decade.

  78. Evan Beaver

    So, despite it not being explicitly mentioned in the paper, you think that a difference in the radiative reflectance means the whole model is meaningless? But how much different is it? This sort of science is neither right of wrong, but different. How much different? And where is this stated in the paper? Also, does one paper, written by a known IPCC protagonist, overturn the whole body of science?

  79. Evan Beaver

    Also, RE positive feedback loops. The relationship between radiant reflectivity and heat stored can be expressed in some sort of equation. This must be balanced against the relationship between CO2% and increase in temperature. Anyone with an understanding of chaos will identify that you’ve got 2 related equations governed by non-linear variable; classic chaos.

  80. MichaelT

    I wouldn’t start ‘banging on’ about chaos if I were you Evan. If ever there was a system characterised by chaotic non-linear relationships it would have to be climate, which ought to make everyone concerned particularly cautious about making confident predictions of the future direction of the global climate.

  81. JamesK

    Evan, the whole Lindzen paper is hyperlinked at the end of the article referenced by me above.

  82. Julius

    I found the blog attached to the Lindzen article quite a striking contrast in intellectual level, and, particularly, proof of scientific knowledge, to almost everything that appears on Crikey whenever Clive Hamilton is given space. This is partly because of the links given in blog contributions. Have a look.

    My attempt to test Michael Wilbur-Ham’s idea that the piecing together of lots of discrete bits of scientific work by people who are not specialists in more than one or two of the areas covered is not in any way problematic by analogy with the co-operation involved in the massive area bombing campaigns of WW2 could be answered as Michael does with the distinction that the objective was chosen by political process. However, that is not good enough. Apart from noting that the political element in the IPCC process has been criticised as dominant there is the fact that, amongst all those experts who contributed to the bombing raids there must surely have been some who doubted the efficacy of what they were doing, quite apart from not thinking it a good war aim to kill lots of civilians. Those higher up the chain of decision making – equivalent perhaps to those preparing IPCC summary reports for politicians – may well have ignored the doubts that pathfinder flares to pinpoint factories were actually going to contribute anything useful to the defeat of Germany or even the reduction of its industrial capacity. So, part of the planning included the latest and best ways of pinpointing with flares the principal targets, but the latest and best, though included in the product, was just not up to standard. So, many suspect, with the IPCC’s cut and paste jobs.

  83. Michael Wilbur-Ham


    Now that we have a candidate for the by-election in my seat, I don’t have time to get into lengthy discussion.

    If you are in Higgins (or in Nelson’s seat), then you have an important decision to make later this year on this matter.

    You can either decide that the probability that the scientist are right is high enough, and the effects if they are right is bad enough, that the moral and prudent thing to do is vote Green.

    Or you can decide that you are happy to do nothing about climate change and wait to see what happens. (If the scientist are right then the effects of climate change will be much worse and more expensive to adapt to, and if they are wrong then we can all sit back and relax.) In this case you will vote Liberal.

    This is called democracy.

    And if the electorate gets it wrong, the people should accept the moral and economic responsibility for their decision.

  84. Julius

    Good luck Michael W-H. [BUT ESPECIALLY FOR THE ATTENTION OF ANDREW GLIKSON] I shall enjoy the spectacle of seeing how Ms O’Dwyer handles the climate business and how the “doctors’ wives” end up responding to Clive.

    In the meantime, as someone who reads the science, you might care to look at this link from the blog to that Lindzen link:


    The rate of increase in temperature seems about the same as William Kininmonth’s figure. Have a look especially at the Summary, including:

    “An underlying temperature trend of 0.062±0.010ºK/decade was estimated from data in the tropical latitude band. Corrections to this trend value from solar and aerosols climate forcings are estimated to be a fraction of this value. The trend expected from CO2 climate forcing is 0.070g ºC/decade, where g is the gain due to any feedback. If the underlying trend is due to CO2 then g~1. Models giving values of g greater than 1 would need a negative climate forcing to partially cancel that from CO2. This negative forcing cannot be from aerosols. [There is a citation given on the aerosols point in the main text].”

    If Andrew Glikson is still with us maybe he would care to comment, if only on the full implications of that article which deals, inter alia, with latitude bands and the big climate shift of about 1976 which I have seen shown on a chart as the major numerical explanation for the shift in global temperatures to a higher plateau (not excluding some slope of the plateaus before and after).

  85. JamesK

    @Michael Wilbur-Ham

    Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT.

    He’s a scientist. Just not your class of scientist apparently.

    Also the Labor Party has ensured that your vote will be a meaningless gesture vote whether Liberal or Green.

  86. Stephen Moreland

    As a sort of connecting link between this on-going debate and the one generated by Clive Hamilton’s previous article, I’d like to suggest two Wikipedia entries. These offer some insight into how and why AGW deniers/sceptics/contrarians reach their conclusions.

    Skip over to Wikipedia and look up:-

    Confirmation bias


    Dunning-Kruger effect (with a special hello to Julius)

    I may have started a new thread to this discussion – “Is psychology really science?” That’d be a hoot.

  87. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    As I said before, I now don’t have time to evaluate papers.

    For my personal views I believe I can put my trust in the science, and that those who really know there stuff have looked at this sort of thing. Those who have doubts are right to look at the papers.

    The challenge is, you not only need to understand the paper, and how its conclusions relate to the big issues (Is climate changing? Is this due to us? And Will the effects be bad?) but you then need to know how this fits in with other papers in the field, and what has been the response to this paper.

    This is why finding an expert in the field makes things from extremely difficult to quick and not to hard to find out what it all means.

  88. Julius

    @Michael Wilbur-Ham

    The articles, like the one I cited from Energy & Environment which was provided by a blogger commenting on Lindzen’s paper, are too recent for published responses other than online, probably in blogs, and that is why I ask those who claim familiarity with the accumulated literature to tell me if there is an answer to what is put there.

    The Douglass & Christy article, and, it seems, the one linked by MichaelT go absolutely to the heart of whether the recent (and possibly current despite the 10 year hiatus) warming are something to worry much about and spend a lot of money on. The questioning of positive feedbacks is just about the only game in the end.

    As to STEPHEN MORELAND’s notes on the psychology underlying argument over issues the problem is that they are, though not perhaps truisms, of such generality that they could explain folly and error on both or all sides of many a contestable issue. I saw a marvellous Geoffrey Ricardo painting recently where one caricatured figure with a ridiculous nose was pointing to the ridiculous ears of another caricatured figure who was pointing at his nose. It would make a good cover picture for many a set of conference or symposium papers.

    But thanks for the Dunning-Kruger reference. I had no idea that D & K had been so clever as to get their names attached to something in 1999 which must have been a common place well before Shakespeare’s eye and ear caught the absurdities of mankind on the hop. I think it might have been put more pithily by a few primary school principals I have known. Nonetheless interesting in reminding of connected ideas, e.g. that an IQ difference of 25 points between leader and led was said in the Britsh Army long ago to be too great for good communication (as a very general rule), and the observation that 15 or 20 points IQ difference can be enough to ensure that a person with the lower one can’t tell which of two people with the higher is actually smarter (admittedly that observation can be confused by the capacity of some people who can perform on an IQ to make a mess of their lives).

    My hunch is that a habit of confirmation bias is probably about ten times as common as a habit of determined contrarianism practised either by those who are genuinely rigorous in their reasoning and value it in others and also those who aren’t but have perhaps been brought up in a household where one was expected to be able to sound smart. Any opinion on that?

  89. Julius

    PS I have read quite a bit of the material ANDREW GLIKSON linked and I described as a bit too much homework, but I really would like a spot-on relevant answer to what is raised (about feedback) in the very recent papers cited by me and MichaelT. It is not as though I don’t expect sceptics to come up with answers to e.g. the questions I recently derived from info on ocean acidification which seemed to me to lead to a possible explanation for the oceanic signature of much of the last few decades rise in atmospheric CO2. That I haven’t sought an answer to it on this blog is because the oceanic signature theme is only to be found in a technical article in a peer-reviewed journal to the best of my knowledge.

  90. JamesK


    Coral reefs were exposed throughout geological history to higher temperatures and CO2 levels than at present and yet have persisted althiugh calcium and nagnesium conc were different also.

    Ian Plimer wote a blog article on the topic. Obviously he is a sceptic but also a respected relevant scientist:


  91. Michael Wilbur-Ham


    Do you think that what Ian Pilmer wrote is right because:

    a) You have looked into what the other (mainstream) side of the scientific debate has said, and having weighed up the evidence you are comfortable that the majority of experts in the field are wrong, or

    b) Pilmer reinforces your belief that climate change is wrong, so therefore, even though you believe that mainstream science is wrong, you are comfortable to use the views of one controversial scientist to support your case?

  92. JamesK

    I’m scientifically trained but not in the c=any of the climate sciences.
    I do know that the IPCC is not a science body and certainly does not publish as such.
    This is Plimers secialty and he is highly regarded.
    None of that makes him 100% right but then neither does ‘scientific concensus’

  93. Julius

    @Michael Wilbur-Ham [and Andrew Glikson for references that I can’t find online]

    A question and a challenge.

    Q. What do you think the ALP will be plotting to do about Higgins? Would you care to comment on my supposition, that, to start with, it doesn’t think Clive can win, and is far from sure that it would want him to? (It doesn’t want any encouragement for the idea that inner urban ALP seats can be won by Greens). So, it’s objective will be to cause maximum pain for Greens and for the relationship of Greens and Liberals. The ideal would be to make sure the Liberals had all the material to humiliate the Greens in such a way that the hard core of Green supporters would be thoroughly antagonised by the Liberal campaign. Make sense?

    My challenge is for you to find time to read three articles cited

    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/mscp/ene/2009/00000020/F0020001/art00006 [or the last digit may be 3] wherein Martin Hertzberg in a January 2009 article purports to show that cloud albedo explains all the warmings we are interested in. Then
    http://www.sciencebits.com/OnClimateSensitivity where Nir J. Shaviv explains why (although he is all in favour of reducing the burning of fossil fuels) he doesn’t find the sensitivity of the global atmosphere to CO2 to be great enough for alarm (maybe one degree by 2100 or maybe that is in another linked article by him) and says that there is an alternative explanation to the AGW and CO2 one for recent warming, namely variations in cosmic ray flux caused by variations in solar radiation and (possibly anyway) variation in the CRF in our galaxy. This would link to the cloud/albedo explanation of Hertzberg because the place of CRF in all of this is in its ionising effects leading to more water vapour and cloud droplets when the increased solar radiation hasn’t pushed the CRF out of the way.

    I haven’t been able to find adverse comment on or answer to this by searching the Internet despite at least part of Shaviv’s work to the above effect being several years old.

    Shaviv is also strong on the uncertainties to be found in the IPCC’s reports, on which he relies for a lot of the data he cites.

    Then there is the paper calculating low climate sensitivity that I cited earlier

    As you would know that is also the line of one of Australia’s most respected meteorologists Dr William Kininmonth.

    And that peer-reviewed article is very recent.

    WHY THE CHALLENGE? When the Higgins by-election is over and you have time to consider whether you have enough evidence not only to believe that the most probably course of climate change this century is disastrous but also caused by emission of CO2 from fossil fuels but that it is better for Australia to attempt things we know will be futile by way of reducing CO2 emissions in Australia (and preaching to the rulers of some billions of our fellow human beings most of whom would vote for their leaders rather than Kevin Rudd) than to pursue a hard-headed approach to making ourselves rich enough to provide for the care of an aging population, a revolution in Aboriginal affairs, ensuring water supplies for a much enlarged population etc. *will you not want to have another look at whether the scientific basis for making such a decision is sound?*

    You may find that there really is too much doubt about the predictions that we are in grave danger unless we reduce our own and/or the world’s CO2 emissions for it to be responsible of you to promote radical changes to our economy. Perhaps you would give more time to brushing up your maths and physical sciences and following up on the latest sceptical papers rather than putting so much trust in one major sect of the priesthood of Athena whose sects have been so often in the past intellectually corrupted by every variety of human folly and weakness. There have been so many conventional wisdoms in science (including medicine not least – and who has ever accused a medical researcher of being off-centre ethically or intellectually!!) that have been exploded even if you only start with the domolition of ideas about the lumeniferous ether in the late 19th century.

    Destroying Australian jobs and prosperity, or, it it is an alternative successfully promoted by an ETS, keeping poor c0untries underdeveloped so we can buy carbon credits from them, seems to be a goal, or mere possible outcome, which needs constant reviewing against the evidence. You don’t sound like someone who is prepared to be a mere footsoldier like a crusader going in to destroy the Muslim cities because the Pope and his bishops told him it would save his soul for eternal life. And if you were, maybe you could find your way to choosing a different scientific Pope and College of Cardinals.

  94. meski

    Whether a scientist is controversial or not is not the point. Galileo was controversial, but right. Plimer? time will tell. It’s unfair to call him a denier, when sceptic is a more reasonable label. It’s akin to calling Galileo a heretic. Yawn. Lets get on with it and build some nuclear power stations, that’s going to take a while.

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