Correction:

Spokesperson for Climate change and  Energy Efficiency minister Greg Combet Clare Arthurs writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Contrary to your tip about the minister’s lunch companions — Mr Combet was actually lunching at his desk, alone. Eating crackers and avocado to be precise. With perhaps some home grown tomatoes.

Carbon Tax and petrol:

Simon Wilkins writes: Crikey‘s resident climate sceptic/denialist/pseudo-scientist Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments) claims to read “lots of climate science”. Too bad he doesn’t seem to understand it.

Whatever field of science you are in (or claim to understand), comparing a decade of data to the last 4.5 billion years is not “incontrovertible”, it’s statistically invalid, not to mention irrelevant. Quite simply, a sample size of ten (or thirteen) can’t be meaningfully compared to a number with that many zeros (1 billion = 1 x 10^9), the sample error rate alone would swallow you whole.

This is why (real) climate scientists look at data over a much longer time period to be anywhere near confident of being able to detect and interpret trends. Others with more qualifications in this area have demolished any legitimacy Tamas might have on the climate analysis side, but the idea that we should all just sit back and let the worst happen is to deny the success of great scientific insights such as controlling the use of chlorofluorocarbons (when the effects of CFC’s on the ozone layer were demonstrated) and limiting sulphur-dioxide emissions from vehicles (when emissions were shown to be linked to acid rain fall).

According to Tamas’ logic, we should have learned to adapt to those changes as well, rather than accept a role in their creation and therefore a role in their prevention/control accordingly. Sadly, I don’t think Tamas will ever be convinced by any science, or scientist. Fortunately, on the type of geological time-scale that he seems so keen to identify with, the number of climate sceptics/denialists will also return to zero (if we have to wait that long to convince everyone though, then there are unlikely to be any scientists left to act smug).

In the meantime, all I can say is that I would rather live in a world where we try and address problems of our own making, rather than the fatalistic, anti-science, confusocracy that Tamas wants us to accept. It is time to get over attempting to expose denialists for what they are and start listening to the scientists out there.

Jim Ivins writes: As usual, Tamas Calderwood takes aim at one of his (numerous) opponents … and then shoots himself in the foot. Repeatedly.

First, he bravely admits to having studied economics and finance at University, and cites his literacy and numeracy as sufficient qualifications for engaging in what is probably the most important scientific debate of the decade, if not the century. He then goes on to cherry-pick one or two factoids in order to demonstrate that he doesn’t understand hypothesis testing. (Hint: you can’t prove a scientific hypothesis, you can only fail to disprove it.)

But perhaps most embarrassing of all, he then refuses “to submit to the cult of credentialisation that insists you need a PhD in climate science to legitimately argue these points.”  I wonder how Tamas would react upon discovering that his general practitioner had never actually graduated from medical school, or that the pilot of his next commercial flight had trained exclusively on an Xbox?

Of course, if Tamas has published even a single article in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, he might have some grounds for argument here.  I look forward to reading the citation in the next edition of Crikey.

Wayne Robinson writes: I think I now understand Tamas Calderwood’s “scepticism”. He’s making the following claims simultaneously:

  • Global warming isn’t happening.
  • Global warming is happening, but it’s not due to human influence.
  • Humans taking buried fossilised carbon and burning it has exactly the same effect as a tree burning sugar at night to release carbon dioxide (as opposed to it taking up carbon dioxide during the day).
  • There’s nothing that can be done on Earth by humans’ to reduce humans’ burning of fossil fuels, which should continue unabated till there’s nothing left.
  • Global warming is exactly the same sort of unstoppable process as nuclear fusion in the Sun.

Rod Metcalfe writes: Didn’t we have the same debate about a tax on petrol and compensation around 12 years ago before the GST?

Keith Binns writes: I’m finding it an amusing exercise, when reading or listening to people on the Right make rude remarks about a carbon tax, to substitute the term GST rather than Carbon Tax. I’ve yet to find a comment that makes no sense. Barnaby Joyce has been particularly amusing.

Ignaz Amrein writes: Roger Davenport (yesterday, comments) talks more sense than all those politicians in Canberra combined. I say, put him in charge of the whole debate!

Owning vs. renting:

Roger Wegener writes: Re. “Renting is smart, even if you’re worth $15 billion” (yesterday, item 22). Oh what a can of worms Adam Schwab has opened up. His analysis of the “own” versus “rent” scenario for domestic housing is pretty much spot on.  But it won’t appeal to all the bogans who have already bought near the top of the market — or who are thinking of doing so. Or who are trying to sell 😉 Hell no — everyone knows that real estate prices always go up and that bricks and mortar is always the best investment — don’t they?

Let’s not spoil the party for those poor souls who have already been sucked in by the banks and the commission industry. It must annoy them to discover that not everyone is on the real estate *booster* bandwagon. Perhaps they will soon work out the meaning of that little word “risk”.

US policy:

Guy Rundle writes: My good friend Charles Richardson (yesterday, comments) suggests that it is legitimate to examine US policy in the context of the Arabian uprisings. I agree. I never said it wasn’t. What I suggested was absurd was to say, as Charles did, that US involvement could act as an advantage, a rather desperate attempt to put these categorically historical events into a familiar frame — and a false one, as the repression in US-aircraft carrier Bahrain demonstrates.

If Charles thinks that the death toll in Libya and Iraq are comparable in any way, he completely misunderstands the different character of the events — the Libyans are taking on the risk of death in fighting for their own rights and freedoms, the Iraqis were attacked, bombed and then flung into sectarian chaos by the US. As to the left and Kosovo, well we lost that debate.

That hardly makes the protest irrelevant — and as it’s clear that Kosovo is now a gangster state run by the KLA as a fiefdom, it’s another US humanitarian triumph that may deserve re-examination. If Libya wants to become a liberal capitalist democracy, that’s their choice. It’s fine by me if they en masse decide to join the Sydney Swans supporters-club too, and about as likely.

What is curious is that my piece on Libya barely mentioned the US, because it strikes me as largely irrelevant to what is going on there — and across Arabia, to a lesser extent — day-to-day. By Charles’s light, the mere failure to mention the US counts as anti-Americanism, an example of the mild anxiety many occidentocentrics are currently experiencing.  People are making their own history, and slowly extricating themselves from old power structures. Watch and learn, and see the world change.

Peter Fray

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