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Nov 6, 2013

Why understanding John Howard's climate cognition is important

John Howard’s speech overnight justifying his commitment to emissions trading as a mostly political move should not serve as a moment to disparage the former PM, but to think like him.


In reading about John Howard’s speech delivered yesterday that downplayed the threat of dangerous global warming — entitled “One religion is enough” — one has to despair about the politics surrounding the issue.

As the title of the speech implies, Howard suggests that those advocating decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are akin to religious zealots. He suggests the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change incorporated “nakedly political agendas” in its advice. And the former prime minister states that his decision to proceed with an emissions trading scheme was driven by political imperatives to respond to a perfect storm of public concern about global warming, rather than any genuine belief of his own that it was the right thing to do.

For those concerned that unmitigated global warming poses unacceptable risks to human welfare, it might be tempting to launch a tirade of abuse against Howard. But it will get you nowhere — and will in fact be counter-productive.

Howard is a hero to a large section of Coalition MPs and their supporter base. To make meaningful progress on reducing Australia’s emissions we need policy that can support power generation investments lasting multiple decades. That means policy that will last through changes in government between Labor and Liberal.

So it’s not so much about belittling Howard, as getting into his head and those of his supporters to understand what it is that makes him and them dismissive of the risks of global warming. There were a few things I found interesting from his speech in trying to understand where he’s coming from.

Firstly, he sees addressing global warming as being opposed to economic growth, and that it would hinder the alleviation of poverty in the developing world. Secondly, he said the first book he’d read about global warming was one written by a former Margaret Thatcher government minister with no qualifications in climate science that was dismissive of the threat. It’s reported he said:

“I don’t know whether all of the warnings about global warming are true or not … I instinctively feel that some of the claims are exaggerated.”

This seems to suggest to me that his views, like those of most people, are not based on a detailed and dispassionate review of the balance of evidence. Most of us, and particularly a former prime minister, are too busy to thoroughly inform ourselves about the nature of a complex issue such as global warming. Instead, we are partly driven in essence to “instinctively” select sources of information which fit with our pre-existing beliefs. A source of information we tend to agree with on other issues is probably viewed as more credible and trustworthy than someone we’ve disagreed with in the past.

Thirdly, he made the following revealing statement:

“I have never rejected, totally, the multiple expressions of concern from many eminent scientists, but the history of  mankind has told me of his infinite capacity to adapt to the changing circumstances of the environment in which he lives. Most in this room with recall the apocalyptic warnings of the Club of Rome, more than 40 years ago. They were experts; they predicted that the world would run out of resources to sustain itself. They were wrong.”

And he concludes with a point which I find profoundly important to this debate:

“Always bear in mind that technology will continue to surprise us.”

Looking through Howard’s points I am struck by the fact that, while I strongly disagree with Howard on the degree of threat posed by global warming, I am completely in accordance with him on both the importance of relieving poverty in the developing world, and the infinite capacity for human ingenuity to invent technologies that get us not just out of a bind, but overall, leaving us much better off. I, just like Howard, am not particularly worried about peak oil or running out of resources because I think humans can come up with substitutes and means of being much more efficient in our use of resources.

The thing is that I think that Howard actually underestimates the capacity for technological surprise. He has been drawn to believe that only with the use of lots more coal and lots more gas will the masses be dragged out of poverty.

It seems Howard and many of his conservative peers have come to see the debate surrounding global warming through the prism of older battles led by left-leaning hippies for us to retreat from technology. Yet many of the people who are most passionate about addressing global warming are also some of the most enthusiastic about the wonders of technology. These people will revel in different technological features of our energy options and enthusiastically tell you about what scientific advances are in the pipeline.

Yes some of these options cost more, but these technological enthusiasts will point at mobile phones and computers and explain how they used to be expensive too. Through the wonders of economies of scale and ongoing innovation they explain how these products could even be cheaper than the low-tech, high-carbon option dominant today.

I suspect that to shift the current political impasse it is not scientists, environmentalists, or even economists or bankers we need to hear from. Instead, it is optimistic and innovative engineers that could be most persuasive.

*This article was originally published at Climate Spectator


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107 thoughts on “Why understanding John Howard’s climate cognition is important

  1. Peter Bayley

    To sum up the wizened, dessicated little coconut… “She’ll be right, mate”

  2. leon knight

    Getting inside the head of the climate sceptic/LNP supporter (generally one and the same) is difficult, but I agree that is what is needed.

    They have a clear vision of their grandchildren struggling to pay off an awful Labor debt, but no understanding of how those grandchildren might struggle with irreversible climate change….how to convince them to chart a careful course just in case their scepticism proves to be wrong 50 years down the track?

  3. Jimmy

    Howards positions that action of climate change will stifle economic growth and that “technology will continue to surprise us.” seem contradictory. He seems to think technology can overcome the effects of climate change but not sustain economic growth while preventing it.

  4. Jimmy

    Also it is telling that Tony Abbott sees Howard as his mentor – and that for both of them a position on climate change is wholly political.

  5. @chrispydog

    Irrationality is not just a conservative thing.

    Ironically, many on the green left “do a Howard” when the likes of James Hansen et al tell them solar and wind will not provide enough power to replace fossil fuels and nuclear must do the heavy lifting.

    Deniers, deniers everywhere, and none will stop to think.

  6. Dogs breakfast

    The reality, and this has been a much studied phenomena of recent times, that no amount of facts will change a person’s mind, and the heaping of facts upon someone showing their thinking to be backward only entrenches the in their position.

    The deniers are just today’s luddites.

    The belief that technology will save the day is just another intergenerational inequity that the conservatives seem unable to comprehend. The growth for all mantra denies the simple mathematical reality that growth cannot continue forever.

    Mr Knight (2) suggests that they understand that paying off an awful Labor debt shows a clear vision of the inter-generational thing, but I doubt that is at the core of their motive. If the coalition were at all concerned they might have put a few bob away during the boom years rather than pee it up against the wall as they did. No, the ‘good economic managers’ myth has no substance.

    Education won’t work, and Howard was yesterday’s man whenhe was elected. Today he only wishes he was yesterday’s man.

  7. Jimmy

    Chrispydog – many on the Green left are not the Prime Minister of the country!

    Currently we have a situation where many in the conservative govt have views that are at odds with the vast majority of the credible scientific community and those that do agree that climate change is real hold a view on dealing with it that is at odds with the vast majority of the credible economic community.

    This is hardly comparable to the views on the left (that aren’t in a position to make policy) that renewables could not replace fossil fuels (after all Howard himself said “technology will continue to surprise us.”)

  8. David Hand

    It’s refreshing to see a contributor writing in Crikey without the smart-arsed moral superiority I am used to – as illustrated by the comments already posted.

    I would point out however that your observation that “Most of us, … are too busy to thoroughly inform ourselves about the nature of a complex issue such as global warming. Instead, we are partly driven in essence to “instinctively” select sources of information which fit with our pre-existing beliefs.” is a characteristic of humanity, not a symptom of right-of centre views. This is in my view the central failure of the climate lobby and why it can’t shake off the pejorative insult of being a religion.

    The other point I take issue with is that it is not Howard’s belief “that only with the use of lots more coal and lots more gas will the masses be dragged out of poverty”, it is what is actually happening today. Asia, and particularly China and India, are building coal fired power stations at a huge rate. The introduction of electricity to those huge societies is the greatest single contributor to absolute greenhouse emissions today and also to the alleviation of poverty.

    I think Howard sees the potential for much more innovative solutions than a blind commitment to coal.

  9. Jimmy

    Dogs Breakfast- I thkn technolocgy will save the day, we just need to create an environment in which investing in creating greener technology is economically beneficial – a price on carbon does that – direct ation does not.

  10. Jimmy

    DAvid Hand – “The other point I take issue with is that it is not Howard’s belief “that only with the use of lots more coal and lots more gas will the masses be dragged out of poverty”, it is what is actually happening today.” That doesn’t mean that such an event is exclusively related to coal and gas.

  11. bluepoppy

    Howard mindset sees the world through prism of economic growth and no matter how much evidence there is for climate change, like-minded will ignore it due to corporate pressures. Governments are so corporatised now that environmental or other concerns like animal welfare don’t register. They don’t want them to.

  12. Andybob

    An ETS is still the best policy response to the issue. Even if Howard now wants to pretend he was dragged to it kicking and screaming. Technology that might save us needs market conditions that encourage it to be developed. No one thinks Direct Action will be the mother of invention.

  13. drmick

    When a proven liar speaks, very few, other than his supporters and people that will make money from what he says listen. This liar mouths what the people who will give him money to say what they want him to say and will out of what he says, regardless of the science, accuracy, honesty or integrity of what he says.
    That little bag of dirt was not only chucked out of office but out of his electorate and politics; resigned forever to be a skid mark on underpants of democracy. Why would anyone pay to listen to him?

  14. Lady White Peace

    I Just can’t help disliking this guy. He should stay out of our political life unless, like one of his predecessors Malcolm Fraser, he begins to get wisdom!
    Otherwise, he should go away again.
    What makes him think that he has a right to inform us of his outdated, musty opinions.
    Oh he wants to help those poor nations, how kind of him..then he should tell Abbott to reinstate the AID funding!!

  15. Jimmy

    Bluepoppy – “Howard mindset sees the world through prism of economic growth and no matter how much evidence there is for climate change” But his view is also at odds with economists.
    His view then and now is all about political benefit, his speech was simply trying to make things easier for Tony and stop the ALP from saying “your view is at odds with the policy Howard, your mentor, took to the 2007 election.

  16. Cyndi

    “I am completely in accordance with him on both the importance of relieving poverty in the developing world…”

    Howard thought that was so important he cut aid funding to the developing world if it went towards sex education, reproductive health and contraception. Wrong then, wrong now.

  17. Merve

    Howard is master of unintentional irony.

    “technology will continue to surprise us.”. Global warming certainly was a surprise, a direct effect of our use of fossil fuel technology. It will continue to surprise.

    He says that global warming is a religion, yet he is perfectly content to by satisfied with his imaginary being in the sky. He admits he has not even looked at the evidence for global warming, yet accepts a god for which there is no evidence.

  18. inkblot

    “Always bear in mind that technology will continue to surprise us.”

    Except if it’s ‘renewables’, in which case the sceptics will find it disappointing and not up to the job.

    Religion: a particular system of faith in something that isn’t renowned for manifesting itself and saving the day when it comes to crunch time.

  19. Warren Joffe

    @ Jimmy

    “Dogs Breakfast- I thkn technolocgy will save the day, we just need to create an environment in which investing in creating greener technology is economically beneficial – a price on carbon does that – direct ation does not.”

    If it’s all so simple (and almost any scheme to give people a bigger net income stream for emitting less CO2 is going to work to some extent of course) what about giving us some facts and figures which paint a realistic scenario. How much tax on what (and do you include imports which embody, as nearly all do, masses of CO2 in the processes leading to their production and import)? (Those great leaders in the EU don’t seem to have got anything right). Where are the critical points for making someone substitute something suitably green in their business or domestic expenditures, including transport, so we can tell what policy settings will achieve worthwhile results? Who will pay as between taxpayers contributing to the general revenue, consumers of power and what power is used to produce, and even investors though the theory is supposed to work largely by affecting large utilities at the margin so they just find other ways to make as much money? How much less will GDP be reduced (and you could account for the known years – say the last 10) compared with what it would have been if the price of electricity hadn’t been forced up to pay a tax (or will individuals and businesses all prove able to adjust perfectly and get the same benefit from lower consumption of power? Like h**l!). You do of course make adjustment for the time value of money don’t you? So the benefits you expect to flow in future will exceed the costs in the short to medium term – but at what discount rate? Nicholas Stern’s one or zero per cent?

  20. Jimmy

    Warren Joffe – I never said it was simple, but it a pretty obvious and unoriginal statement to say that by putting a price on carbon and increasing that price over time by reducing the supply of permits as required to meet a pre-determined target, along with creating long term certainty over the regime and target you drive funds into investmewnt into alternative technologies and as Howard says – technology continues to surprise.

    As for you other queries there are far more qualified people than me to answer those questions – like the 86% of recenlty surveyed economists who supported a price on carbon, John Hewson or Malcolm Turnbull just for starters.

    As one economist said recently – any economist who does not think a price on carbon is the best solution should hand back their degree.

    NB (The only economists who didn’t support a price on Carbon also didn’t bel ieve in climate change).

  21. Warren Joffe

    @ Tristan Edis

    What is the ground of your lofty confidence? I see you attended Melbourne University from 1994-97. Did you get say first class honours in physics which would have given you some of the basics for doing s serious review of published work on climate science and even to do some serious work your self for a supervised PhD? No, I didn’t think so.

    So your views are as derivative as 99 per cent of Crikey blog commenters and I wonder if your sources of information are, after you have closely questioned them – as you should, as sound and solid as the kind of people John Howard can get to advise him – or Nigel Lawson. BTW Lawson’s book only gives about 15 per cent to discussion of the science.

    If you claim expertise as opposed to employment in fashionable PR for a particular point of view can you provide answers to (comparatively) recent work suggesting that most of the CO2 increases have derived from warming of the oceans and that most of the fossil fuel emissions have been taken up in extra tree growth? Also, something I have just come across, the views of one Bob Tisdale, on the place of ENSO in global warming (his video is so long that I haven’t seen it all but it does appear to be very thorough – at the very least making it possible to falsify his views if someone has the expertise required)?

  22. Boerwar

    ‘Instinctive’ behaviour is not learned. It is genetically determined.

    If Howard is effectively saying that he can’t help himself when it comes to climate science, who are we to doubt him?

  23. Warren Joffe

    @ Jimmy

    I note that you agree that things aren’t simple. But you did say “just” in “we just need to create an environment in which investing in creating greener technology is economically beneficial”. I’m sorry if you expected others to edit your work for you, and I failed in that obligation.

    And in case you are inclined to quibble again let me point out that you believe in a simple tax to create the disincentive to investing in anything but greener technology. So “simple”…..

  24. Jimmy

    Warren – If your argument is so weak you have to hang it on the pedantry you really should review it.

    But yes I did say “just” and in the context that the 1 act of putting a price on Carbon would be all that is required to increase the flow of funds to green technology and that flow of funds will increase the rate at which technology surprises us, I never said that 1 act would be simple or that the subsequent research and technological breakthroughs would be simple, but only that we need just one act.
    And I don’t believe in a simple tax but a market based mechanism – which is not simple – if you can’t distinguish between the 2 you have no place in the discussion.

  25. graham churcher

    “Civilisation exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice”….Climate changes, crikey (!) it would be slightly boring if it did not.. Wake Up! it is cod’s wallop of the highest dimension…Get over it…the world will survive…let’s get on with the economic pudenda / agenda… prosperity and humanity… It is not ‘deniers’ who are ‘luddites’…it is the warmists (I thought we called it ‘climate change’ now..!!) the ‘warmists’ are flagrant flat earth advocates… See you in 100 years…

  26. Michael Jones

    Apologist garbage to gratify people who will rightly be seen by future generations as the willing and enthusiastic engineers of a holocaust from which the human race might never recover.

    Grovelling to conservatives will do nothing but drag us further from a viable policy. Spending endless time reflecting on their stupidity is just another way to promote their vicious, monstrous agenda. You don’t seek to understand Howard, you seek to normalize him.

    In fifty years time young people will ask ‘why weren’t you treating these people like the mass murdering lunatics they so clearly are?’ and if we answer “we were too busy trying to look clever and ‘even handed’ for the false centrist set”, then we will be rightly damned.

    I’m all for learning how to ruin these people. How to fight them, how to undermine them, dirty secrets they have, it’s all good and it’s all fair game.

    But you’re not doing that here. What you’re doing is perpetuating some of the key myths that cripple a proper retaliation against these criminals.

  27. graham churcher

    Good grief!!.. what astonishing vitriol.!!..another few lines of unmitigated drivel>>. …Have a cold shower whilst we still have some cold water.. obviously we will be incinerated before the break of whenever…

  28. Warren Joffe

    Those who might find it more interesting to read what John Howard said than the comments of the Editor of the Climate Spectator on it can find what is presumably the same text at


    BTW, who finances the Climate Spectator and what are its annual receipts and outgoings? That seems a fair question to those who imagine that someone paying a fare for Prof Bob Carter to speak at a conference in the US, long after he took up, for no academic or financial reward, a sceptical view of “the science”, is dodgy.

  29. Hamis Hill

    Howard is repudiating his own 2007 policies of necessity.
    Remember how, in the interregnum between his first and second challenge to the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull and those same Howard ETS policies, Abbott famously petitioned Howard for his support and then only won by one vote with the old man on his side?
    This dissembling from Howard is aimed at settling the conservative pack, but by going in the face of climate reality as he does, he only highlight Abbott’s weakness.
    As did that one vote win with Howard’s support.
    They will probably do some sort of non-lethal John Paul I on Abbott, and put Malcolm back.
    It is clear that, in the long run, Howard and Abbott and not Turnbull will be the losers in repudiating the ETS.
    Then there is the fear and loathing of The Greens.
    More unseemly weakness.

  30. Ryan Akers

    “Always bear in mind that technology will continue to surprise us.”
    Except that the technology isn’t given a chance to run:
    * Wind turbines – Not within 2km of a protesting landholder
    * Concentrated Solar Thermal – No-one to back it, needs grants, etc
    * Solar PV – Got a bit of a run, but not really being supported much anymore

  31. Warren Joffe

    @ Jimmy

    You make another elementary error. I am not even remotely interested in arguing with you. My expressed pedantry was simply a response to your purporting to answer something I said but, instead, stuffing it up. I half hoped to be helpful to you and other people who might waste their time on Crikey blogs. So far from pursuing an argument with you I didn’t finish reading that emission of yours nor your latest.

  32. Jimmy

    “am not even remotely interested in arguing with you” No apparently you are more interested in posting statements that add nothing to the discussion in the misguided belief that they make you seem superior to others.

    I don’t need your help nor did I ask for it, so if you don’t have anything constructive to offer keep your pedantry to yourself.

  33. Scott

    You on the left can understand the skepticism though can’t you? The science profession, especially in the climatology field, has taken a big hit in credibility over the last few years. Climategate’s 1 and 2, the hockey stick, the IPCC AR4 issues around environmentalists being chapter authors, Peter Gleick; it’s all been a blow to the science.
    And even with the science, while the theory is relatively sound, the statistical analysis of the temperature records and the climate forecast modeling has been crap. The dealing with uncertainty and errors has been rubbish.
    There is a reason why most of the leading skeptics/lukewarmers have advanced mathematics/statistical backgrounds…They look at the statistical analysis in the peer reviewed reports (the peers usually don’t include statisticians, though they are starting to now) and see the flaws.

  34. Warren Joffe

    @ Ryan Akers

    Why should Solar PV need government/ taxpayer support? The Chinese have, I accept from secondary sources, reduced the price of solar panels by 80 per cent over the last 6 years. No need for those fashionable giveaways to the relatively well off who could install solar panels 5-10 years ago and receive feed-in tariff concessions.

    Forget about wind, despite the theoretical possibility of linking up sources of windpower in widely distant locations: it’s never going to make sense if competing against the cost of coal fired power in Australia.

    Agreed that concentrated solar thermal seems attractive but what sort of case is there for Australia to leap in with subsidies instead of waiting for the Spanish, or French or whoever to market a proven package at half the price we could achieve starting from near scratch. To enliven the imagination, just think how much could have been saved if we bought our submarines from competent established foreign builders rather than indulging in the Collins class folly.

    Anyone serious about cutting our CO2 emissions would be (a) buying up vast areas of tropical rainforest which is otherwise going to be burned – and thereby contribute a huge proportion of the world’s annual CO2 emissions from burning organic fuels; and (b) buying proven nuclear power plants from the French or Canadians or Chinese.

    I have to qualify my put down of wind because, without anything but my own imagination, I can see storage by lifting water as being a serious contributor to making wind, wave or tide viable.

    Apart from the creating of potential energy in the shape of water stored well above hydro power turbines there will surely be rapid developments in chemical storage and other techological surprises and unsurprising steady progress. Then solar should really come into its own.

    In the meantime I can think of better things to do with taxpayers’ money than make futile gestures that will have no practical benefit for Australia under 99.99 per cent of imaginable circumstances.

  35. Warren Joffe

    No Jimmy, only superior to you…..

  36. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Warren, I appreciate that you can mount a serious objection to more or less every single plan (except nuclear) that has ever been floated to attempt to combat AGW (and I don’t mean or intend to argue about semantics). I wonder though, if you think ANY response to AGW is necessary? You say you can “…think of better things to do with taxpayers’ money than make futile gestures that will have no practical benefit for Australia under 99.99 per cent of imaginable circumstances”, but I wonder if you think ANY taxpayers’ money should be spent on AGW? Any at all. Apart from buying Chinese nuclear power stations (would that be private or “taxpayers'” money) is there anything at all that Australia should do to adapt to rising sea levels and predicted changes to regional climates across Australia?

  37. bjb

    It’s rather curious that Mr Howard can on the one hand claim that climate scientists have a naked political agenda, then on the other hand claim that we’ll be saved by technology. Technology is basically the implementation of scientific research (physics, chemistry and increasingly biology). Maybe these scientists working in technology may also have a naked political agendas. Better beware Mr Howard !

  38. Paul

    “is a characteristic of humanity, not a symptom of right-of centre views”
    Sorry it is not a characteristic of humanity but mainly of Anglo Celtic laziness and decadence. Villagers in Cambodia, Afghanistan and India have a better understanding of politics and social dynamics than we do.
    I have always said Howard never believed in global warming he simply reacted to community pressure, Abbott will do the same if he fears losing an election on this issue. That is why he will not defend his direct action fiasco.

  39. dazza

    Is Mr Howard a (climate) scientists. I know he’s a hypocrite and a war criminal, but a scientist?

  40. Electric Lardyland

    Yes bjb, to me that was always one of the most tedious of Howard’s spin techniques, that is, claiming that almost anyone who disagreed with him had a political agenda and therefore, should be automatically discounted. It always seemed to discount the fact that Howard was a somewhat obsessed politician since the early 70’s. Somehow, his own viewpoint and that of his spinning colleagues was totally untainted by all that nasty politics.
    Also, another turgid bit of conservative spin that I find tiresome, is the labelling of concern for climate change, as some sort of green religion. It’s interesting that the origin of this particular confection, was the Bush Jr era Republicans and its original form was that it was ‘a religion for urban atheists’. The implication being that rural Christians were the superior real Americans, as opposed to those nasty liberals who lived in cities near the coast and voted Democrat.

  41. Kevin Herbert

    The Club of Rome did not predict as he claims. Howard claims that:

    “They were experts; they predicted that the world would run out of resources to sustain itself. They were wrong.”

    He needs to do some research before shooting off the mouth.

  42. Terry Simons

    Hmm it’s a pity that “I instinctively feel that some of the claims are exaggerated” wasn’t the case when he considered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The same mindset really, he had decided to go to war and found the evidence to suit, now he doesn’t believe in climate change and finds the evidence to match. The death toll as a result of his deceit and incompetence in Iraq is estimated to be as high as 500,000, what will the cost be of the denial of climate change?

  43. Lee Miller

    Howard is an ex politician, ex prime minister. Politicians have trained and become experts in their own sides of politics on the basis of what they believe is good for the economy. All policy roads lead to economic growth or one kind or another. Climate change has thrown a spanner in the works and none of them are prepared for the kinds of challenges this presents so they just continue with the old ways they know and hope for the best – somewhere, somehow.
    They’re all just politicians now. Same old same old. Leadership on climate change is being left to the fates.

  44. PaulM

    Interesting that Howard should quote the writings of a former Margaret Thatcher government minister, because the Iron Lady herself was an early recogniser of the threat of climate change, not just to the environment, but to the British economy. His latest views are typical of the short-sighted, narrow-minded view of the world which he displayed in Government. Remember, it is only now that everyone is waking up to the unsustainable fiscal situation which he and Costello left their successors, Abbott and Hockey included.

  45. Jimmy

    Warren Joffe – It may be that your comments To seem superior only to me but they are still misguided and add nothing to the conversation, but as long as you get that smug inner warmth of self satisfaction from your inane comments than I guess that’s all that matters.

  46. Ed

    @warren – you don’t need to be a physicist to be a journalist – being a journalist is a profession. Besides i doubt physicists can write as eloquently and articulately as Tristan.

  47. supermundane

    The belief that technology will come to our rescue ‘just in the nick of time’ is akin to an unsubstantiated religious faith. It is naive to the extreme Bernard.

    Foremost, the problems that beset us have been brought about the by instrumentalist approach to the world – that the world is malleable, orderable and subordinate to our (economic) and materialist interests. The problem will not be resolved by shifting merely from capitalism with fossil fuels to capitalism with windmills.

    Secondly, there is invariably a considerable lag and disconnect between the development of a technology against the implementation stemming for cultural, economic and social legacies that impose inertia. And technologies will never serve as a perfect solution when the economic imperative to a technology’s development outweighs all other considerations. The Ingenuity Gap by Professor Thomas F Homer-Dixon and Future Hype by Bob Seidensticker are excellent works on the subject.

    At to Howard, I would say it’s rich in the extreme to hear this man pontificate about alleviating global poverty as a practitioner of an economic globalist paradigm (neoliberalism) that indebted the poor, the working and middle class and 3rd world nations across the planet to a global elite – the kind of people in attendance at his speech.

    The man sickens me.

  48. supermundane

    In the end, I actually think we’re screwed no matter what. We’ve overshot massively so that there’s no way we can sustain out current lifestyles – the upgrading of our mobile phones every 6 months and our ditching of our 80″ TV for the latest 100″ TV’s – and resolve climate change, acidification of the oceans, soil fertility depletion, mass extinction, water constraints, overfishing, bee colony collapse (I could go on). All are syptomatic consequences of our ‘ingenuity’

    This world or TV’s, fridges, gadgets and having it all now is an aberration in the course of human and geological history. We can’t have our cake and eat it too, to use the old analogy.

    Your faith in technological solutionism is ultimately the religious POV Bernard.

  49. supermundane

    Sorry, I thought the article was by Bernard Keane for some reason. It read very much like one of his articles. My responses are addressed to Tristian.

  50. Ken Dally

    @Warren Joffe
    “what sort of case is there for Australia to leap in with subsidies instead of waiting for the Spanish, or French or whoever to market a proven package at half the price we could achieve starting from near scratch.”

    A very valid economic reason. Those who are the first with technology and develop it generally make the most money out of it by selling the technology to others. With the natural resources and brainpower we have in Australia we are crazy not to be in on the development and refinement of such technology.

  51. Ken Dally

    Intrigued that Howard doesn’t think combating climate change will help the poor. The poor are generally located in areas that will be most adversely affected by climate change. Africa, India, land that is already of questionable value and areas subject to flooding. Through lack of wealth they are also those least able to afford to live safely and comfortably if/when we get more extremes in weather and disruption to existing food production areas and water supplies.

  52. Merve

    There are so many levels of fail in that speech, it defies all logic.

  53. David Hand

    Well, there you go Tristan,

    Utter the name “John Howard” in Crikey and you take a scab off the continuing sores of all those Howard haters who are then only capable of semi-coherent ranting.

    It’s a characteristic of the left that I continue to study – how disconnected from normal people they are with their distorted world view that is a product of only talking to each other. They end up in the paradigm that voters are generally sub-intelligent who don’t really deserve the vote, as evidenced by their willingness to elect people like Howard and Abbott.

    Sad really.

  54. drmick

    And attract the right wingnut sub species that writes the “most widely read column in australia” and exists in the sigmoid position. With their heads firmly planted against their anatomical s bend and the sound of their own voice reassuring them in their anatomical echo chamber that the majority are unwashed and ignorant, they continue to believe in the born to rule joke and as evidenced by huckeys little trick yesterday, looking after their 16,000 financial supporters and penalise 3 million others in a democracy.

  55. Jess Thrankson

    For Mr. Howard to state IPCC showed ‘naked political agenda’ is ironic in the extreme. Mr. Howard admitted (almost bragged) about his own submission to a political agenda in this speech. As for his dismissive attitude about ‘climate change zealots’, I would ask if he applies this label to the CSIRO, NASA, NOAA, Union of Concerned Scientists, 95% of all Oceanographers, meteorologist, environmental scientists, etc. Mr. Howard, science is not a faith, it is a methodology like engineering is a methodology. One can do it badly but it is always subject to review unlike faith or politicians who act according to the mass sentiments of the day.

  56. Merve

    @David Hand

    If I had a few spare days, maybe a week, I could analyse why Howards opinion is so comprehensively wrong on so many levels. It’s not a matter of hate, I read his article, and it is just a collection of internet memes that have no basis in fact, connected with some aw shucks homilies that have nothing to do with science.

    In fact, he explicitly states, there is no place for science in policy. One minute he is saying something that is completely absurd, that we have an infinite ability to adapt. That needs no rebuttal, nothing about our abilities is infinite. Since his whole thesis rests on this assumption, for it is nothing more than that, it all falls apart at that point.

    What we have achieved in a material sense is based to a large extent on science, not politicians, not the judiciary, not media. The politicians continuously complain about funding it, the media relentlessly fail to understand it, the judiciary are called into to arbitrate the disputes about how to divvy up the rewards that business reaps from it.

    Every single paragraph such contains absurdity and ignorance.

  57. CML

    @ Jess Thrankson – You beat me to it!! No one except you has pointed out that Mr. Howard’s speech ‘heading’ is totally wrong. Religion is characterised by FAITH/BELIEF. Science has nothing to do with faith/belief. And the difference is stark.
    By that very statement, Howard’s speech should signal to all that he has no understanding of how Science functions. If you are that ignorant, then what follows must be nonsense.
    If all these skeptics/deniers want to have ‘skin in the game’, then let us see YOUR scientific evidence refuting the climate change/global warming theories put forward by the IPCC and others. That is the test which has not even been attempted, let alone produced any results. The remainder is just hot air!!

  58. drmick

    They are chasing rudd for the pink batts, but no mention of chasing ankles for the claytons war.

  59. Myrtle Tuttle

    Typical Howard sophistry. You can’t have it both ways and doublespeak.

    If technology will lead the way then why be at war with climate scientists simply for reporting their research? Why abolish the science ministry? Howard and Abbott have no interest in tech solutions – it’s just lip service.

    If he’s concerned about lifting living standards of those in developing countries, why keep cutting foreign aid? In all of the above areas we are lagging behind comparable nations.

    If we are smug and continue to rely on the land without tech investment and market structuring to encourage tech solutions then we will soon see how desperate China is to replace coal with cleaner energy sources. The bottom will fall out of our coal market in the medium term.

    If we continue to lag we will fail to make the adjustments other nations are making and will have to spend so much to catch up for a low carbon infrastructure that it WILL significantly affect Australians’ standard of living.

    At present I see this as the most likely scenario – there are no indications we will wise up in time to adjust. Look out for the second half of the century (long after I’m dead) when the methane reserves get released. I feel sorry for our grandchildren.

  60. Myrtle Tuttle

    Oh, and the “religion” comment is completely invalid. Is it religious to believe doctors if they diagnose cancer?

    There is a wealth of evidence that our climate is changing due to all the greenhouse gases we’re releasing into the atmosphere … it’s as though we think we can terraform large chunks of the globe without affecting the natural balance.

    Meanwhile, there is no evidence for any form of god, unless you count the writings of superstitious bronze age peasants in the Middle East.

    As always with Mr Howard, it’s all just politicking. That’s his forte, but he has always been one to say whatever gets the result. The convictions of this “conviction politician” are all based on the Bible or rationalist economics (both lacking credibility), but you have to read between the lines because he never admits it.

  61. Merve

    “Oh, and the “religion” comment is completely invalid. Is it religious to believe doctors if they diagnose cancer? ”

    Howard is the one who believes in a religion, I don’t believe in any. Then he lectures people about not needing another one. If he is so contemptuous of the concept of religion, he knows what he can do with his one. If there is any logic in that statement, I’d like to know what it is. Yet there it, and it’s the actual title of the speech.

  62. Observation

    In regards to the comment of technology. What if, somewhere in the world the answer to replacing fossil fuels had been tested and proven. Something that would cost very little to run caused no environmental damage and was virtually free. Imagine who would possess this wonderful answer to our problems. Who would have the money to own such a world changing item. And then ask yourself, what would they do with it? When would they show the world. What would such an invention do to the economy and the interested parties with the most to lose?

  63. Venise Alstergren

    John Winston Howard-never a beacon of logic-comes out with the anti-global warming caused by man screed. Clearly the poor man is mentally constipated, or, when as Prime Minister, only traveled to first world countries. Had he taken some of his valuable (?) time to visit the Middle East, Africa and India, he could have seen women-in some remote village staggering under the weight of water cans, having just got back from the only source of water within a radius of ten kilometers.

    Yes Johnny Howard, in saying that new technologies will appear out of the ether, you have missed the point entirely. Not only is global warming a by product of man; it is man’s continual over breeding which will destroy him.
    (was it you who came up with the idea of a baby bonus?)

    WATER, WATER, dear Johnny….How are the poverty-striken masses of Africa, Yemen, Algeria and almost all of Africa, not to mention our very own Murrayville in Victoria going to build a desalination plant-let alone piping the water over some of the driest parts on the planet? Going on Australia’s track record we would leave the pipes open so that the ever rising temperature will suck up the water long before it reaches its destination. It’s called evaporation stupid.

  64. Liamj

    Tories don’t “do” science, it contradicts their anthropocentric vanity. Once Gens X, Y & Z realise that the Tories ate their future there will be a terrible reckoning, but will it be too late to save our species?

    Howard posing his own religion (money/neoliberalism) as the solution when it is the pathology is ironic, God has a singular sense of humour. The voluntary human extinction movement appears unstoppable.

  65. David Hand

    I’m impressed by the continuing deluge of anti-Howard bile flowing through this thread. I could say a lot but will limit myself to one point around the science/religion question.

    It amazes me that people here invoke the gravitas-laden word “science”, peppering their opinions with it as though the word itself adds legitimacy. The reality is that most of the pundits, spruikers and angry young people pushing the climate change gospel on TV etc. are not scientists.

    For example, we have Bandt announcing that the repeal of the carbon tax will increase the frequency of the terrible bushfires recently in NSW. Such an utterance has all the hallmarks of religious dogma utterly unsupportable with science. If no humans ever walked on the earth there would still be recurring bushfires in the Blue Mountains.

    We have John Connor, lawyer, spruiked by the ABC as a scientist.

    This is where the religion analogy comes in. Having a belief system that is immune from facts has the hallmarks of religion. Climate scientists will be looking at the recent data and seeking to understand why their modelling is wrong. They will be assessing the observed data and refining their hypotheses accordingly. Unfortunately, few of them get in the media, squeezed out by shrill activists with an agenda.

  66. Warren Joffe

    @ Ken Dally

    “Those who are the first with technology and develop it generally make the most money out of it by selling the
    technology to others”.

    And you have a proven investment record to back up this flight of optimistic imagination? I am open to be convinced that you can prove the generality of first mover advantage, and even, much more to the point, could argue persasively for its applicability to solar thermal in Australia, but, on the whole, I am glad that you are not managing my money.

    Apart from a variety of experiences over many years with technologically based investments my mind turns to Blacberry, Nokia and Netscape for recent examples of front runners which have, in the end, been far from the biggest money makers out of the new technology.

    Many successful entrepreneurs of my acquaintance have headed off to other countries in order to make serious money, often going to California but also to China or Europe. If they had more dubious projects no doubt they would not have stayed home and milked the taxpayer through the inevitable ignorance of politicians and bureaucrats who are the last people to pick technological winners.

    You seem to ignore – though I am open to your correcting the impression – that first mover advantage depends on many factors when it does prove to be an advantage. Adequate protection of intellectual property is vital, assuming that there is something patentable or copyrightable. A market of adequate scale, which may mean that only the countries with really big domestic markets can succeed, ability to defeat free riders, access to risk and cheap loan capital, and many many other factors.

    Finally, even if you were to show your willingness to invest money in Australian star-ups, and relevant skill, your choice of example to support your argument is fatally flawed. France and other countries already have a huge lead over us in nuclear power technology. Spain has a similar lead in solar thermal. Are you willing to invest your money in an Australian stsrt-up that aims to come from behind and overtake them? No, of course not. Then why should you trust the results of bureaucratic favouritism or selective tax incentives and subsidies? Anyone for BioFuel rorts in National Party electorates?

  67. Warren Joffe

    @ Paul

    Your “I have always said….” is a pretty good introduction to an entry for Solipsist of the Year Prize, but mere pomposity can explain it. What on earth can explain “Villagers in Cambodia, Afghanistan and India have a better understanding of politics and social dynamics than we do.”?

    On the face of it, it is mad even by crazy blog standards but maybe you know something, even have experience, which would enable you to enlighten and persuade us.

    Mine you the Anglo-Celtic decadence bit is a trifle apocalyptic and tends to confuse. Is this from the right, the left, or somewhere to which those labels are inapplicable?

  68. BSA Bob

    I never believed much in that stuff but I said I did because there were votes in it. But trust me, I’m telling the truth now.

    Jimmy @ 15’s right. This is about propping up Abbott’s line.

    One of the greatest of many free kicks the media gave Abbott was to never pick him on not only reneging on the policy his party had taken to the election but going much much further & actively ridiculing & opposing it.
    So if the issue didn’t much matter then it doesn’t much matter now.

  69. Warren Joffe

    @ PaulM

    You seem to have overlooked that among Margaret Thatcher’s changes of mind (if not U turns) was her resiling from the early support she gave in the late 70s to the AGW cause. When she had a bit more time, and perhaps influenced by Nigel Lawason and friends, she became very critical.

    As to the unsustainable fiscal legacy that you say Howard and Costello left (and mostly Howard who treated Costello as he had been treated by Malcolm Fraser before the 1983 election) that is just partisan sniping from the back benches. Remember that Rudd promised to maintain exactly the tax cuts which no doubt Costello would have been doing his best to counteract if still in office in late 2007. And the only problem of sustainability is a political one. Nobody is going to be impoverished by taking back some unnecessary handouts and concessions but it will cost a few votes and Rudd and Gillard made it all muchj much worse though, admittedly a school hall building program that they couldn’t find a way to linit strictly in time to a couple of quarters was only really profligate because of its size, whereas concessions to people who get part pensions but shouldn’t go on for decades. Like the National Disability Scheme – unfunded and not likely to be given much meat for quite a while; Like Gonski without proper attention to priorities (w.g. good teaching rather than smaller classes) , like superannuation handouts to people who will be receiving the full OAP. And it does occur to me that Labor’s defence cuts are building up liabilities for future budgets to have to bear……

  70. Warren Joffe

    @ Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    I’m sorry that a bug of some kind prevented me giving you quite a long answer but, to our last question which seems to buy the IPCC package but sensibly uses the word “adapt” I say, generally that we should buili up our reserves so that twe can afford sea wall or whatever is needed for us or neighbours in case the very small amount of sea level rise we have experienced in the last 50 years begins to be a problem. As to regional climate changes we shold certainly have the reearch bass to know what is happening, how fast and when if ever something can and should be done about it. So far it is quite unclear that anything unprecedented has hit us, though temperature records stand only until broken, and I think a lot of hard thinking should go into fire proofing development in areas with lots of eucalypts and other burnables.

  71. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Thanks Warren. Who should build up the “reserves”? Should the Commonwealth prepare to pay for storm surge damage in coastal cities in Queensland or should that be up to local government? What about beaches on the Gold Coast? What if Gladstone’s $70 billion investment in CSG refrigerators (LNG plants) and the nearby alumina plant and refinery, cops a direct hit from a Cat5 cyclone? Will taxpayers (Queensland, Commonwealth?) pick up the tab or should we just leave it in the hands of foreign re-insurers? These are questions that need answers now, not sometime in the future when the shite has already hit the fan. You seem rather blase even though you know for a fact that sea levels are rising steadily and predictably and will continue to do so regardless of the views of the Australian (newspaper), the Australian government or the Australian people. If we are going to “build up our reserves”, when do you think we should start and how much is enough?

  72. Hamis Hill

    “Anglo-Celtic” seems to be a proposition that only exists in Australia, everywhere else most people understand that the cultural antagonism between these two groups would never permit anyone to seriously link them together.
    But, beyond that quibble, Howard is simply that high school debating champion who never needed anything more to become leader of his party and then leader of the country, with a bit of lawyering thrown in to polish up the act.
    Everyone else forgets that Howard speaks to his “audience”, and in that regard is a champion.
    Debates have very little to do with facts and the truth, it is more that prejudices and opinions are the winning ingredients.
    Howard is the champion of his own game.

  73. Warren Joffe

    @ Hamis Hill

    Interesting observation about the “Anglo-Celt” usage. If you are right, as I suppose, without doing a malicious search to try and prove you wrong, it should be regarded as a mark of an Australian achievement. Mind you, if you meet both the Irish and English while travelling, or even in London, you can’t help noticing how much the English and Irish have in common. The self-interest of local Scottish politicians is another thing….

    You seem to noticed, however grudgingly, that our political leaders who weren’t teachers’ favourites at school for their high IQs and exam results are often effectually far more intelligent than their less focussed and determined contemporaries. Humble enough (though not very humble)to make maximum use of time in the job, that’s why you find leaders like Malcolm Fraser, Jeffrey Kennett, Paul Keating (though one suspects a pretty high IQ would have been recorded if it wasn’t for his dyslexia) and lots of others… The Malcolm Turnbulls can only hope to get a second chance after it turns out that just being clever is not enough: boring time on the job is needed too.

    Howard applied himself from an early age for a very long time and became effectually a very capable political leader. Given that today’s politicians are not thick (not many of them anyway) and are pretty well educated – and ambtitious – it would be foolish to denigrate his abilities. (He doesn’t appear to have been, by the time he was PM, one of those insecure people who fails to take advantage of his access to the brightest and best informed people).

  74. eggmcgreg

    Thanks Tristan
    I agree with the central thesis of your article, namely that if those who advocate for action on climate change wish to win the debate they need to engage with and persuade Howard and those who think like him.

    I can’t help thinking that there is a contradiction inherent in Howards’ position which may be a way into that persuasion. His gut tells him that the effects of climate change won’t be as bad as the doomsayers suggest. Why? At least in part because “technology will continue to surprise us”. That is an argument for, not against, an ETS since the underlying rationale for an ETS is to provide economic incentives to develop the technology which will surprise us.

    Unless one is prepared to say that the climate science is so overblown that the future risk can be discounted (absent or with minimal technology intervention), I just don’t understand how Howards’ argument doesn’t lead to a (classically liberal) economic solution such as an ETS.

  75. Coaltopia

    Technology won’t save you. It won’t save you. Sharks patrol these waters.

  76. Liamj

    @ eggmcgreg, good question: “..I just don’t understand how Howards’ argument doesn’t lead to a (classically liberal) economic solution such as an ETS.”

    Politics & big business in Oz these days is a game of picking winners from amongst your ‘mates’/allies/patrons, and Abbotts bizarrely titled Direct Action plan is exactly that. Its not corruption when it is plain as day, its just BAU crony capitalism.

  77. Hamis Hill

    Warren’s prose might benefit from a little “Waffle-ectomy”.
    The Anglo-Celtic?
    Perhaps some understanding of the Celtic nations of the UK wouldn’t go astray, before totting out this Australianism.
    The flags may have been united but the cultures are distinct, but making that distinction seems to be large problem for the local pseuds, whom the use of the term Anglo-Celtics tags as hopeless ignoramuses, unfortunately.
    And this lack of discernment hurts the understanding of local “cultural” prejudices among Australian politicians.
    Keating’s apparent necessity to make a “victory ” tour of Ireland, being as unremarked as it was irrelevant to Australians.
    Who did Keating think he was? that famous scion of the “Anglo-Celtic” Joseph Kennedy, who as ambassador to The UK, pre Pearl harbour, is implicated in the successful spying, via the US military attaché in Rome, which killed so many Australians in the North African campaign.
    Better off dropping it Warren, it is indefensible, as well as particularly moronic.

  78. Warren Joffe


    Aren’t you begging the question despite your “Unless….. ” which admits contingency? I mean it is all very well to say one would go for a market solution but the right quantities and timing would still be very big issues.

    At least you don’t sneer at Howard’s gut reaction as those who affect intellectual superiority (on a Crikey blog for Crissake!) to the second longest serving PM in Australia’s history, but I would point out that, though it might be more elegant and certainly cautious to avoid speaking of one’s gut it is exactly what 99.999 per cent of us, including the “great and good”, do rely on – indeed have to rely on if we take a position on climate science. In the end even a Nobel Prize winner in medicine or economics or literature is going to have to admit that he simply trusts certain people for gut instinct reasons when he declares adherence to a view on climate science.

  79. Warren Joffe

    Well we know that Hamis Hill thinks he can inform us on matters to do with the Anglo-Saxons and Celts, presumably for at least the last 2000 years, that he thinks that we don’t know. I’m always pleased to learn from someone who has no doubt read his Caesar, Tacitus, Suetonius and on to Beowulf and the Venerable Bede while checking them out against the extraordinarily interesting work by Prof Brian Sykes on the DNA distribution in the British Isles which, quite astonishingly, seems to find no place for the Anglo-Saxons. Beyond DNA and biological ethnicity there is a fair bit that HH might know that we ignoramuses could learn from him.

    One might even think he had a duty to help us given that he thinks something, not made entirely clear because he doesn’t seem to have read what I wrote, but possibly just using the expression Anglo-Celtic in any way. approving its use or finding any significance in its use, to be “moronic”. (In this respect he seems to put me in surprising company because whatever other dyslogistic remarks one might make about Keating, to call him “moronic” would appear to be, well, foolish).

    HH may of course have been only concerned to ventilate something, from one end or the other, which was internal and personal to him, but he might have turned on the brain enough to recognise that the remarkable reconciliation of those of English and Irish descent in Australia – by no means evident in the relations of e.g. Bradman and O’Reilly in the 30s is nicely symbolised by Australian use of “Anglo-Celtic”.

    HH’s willingness to assume the high ground and to preach from it, if not to instruct in detail, suggests that he could expand his scope a bit. Perhaps he could take on “Judaeo-Christian” next.

    Still, while fresh from asserting that “the cultures are distinct” he might care to enlarge on this. I haven’t noticed much need to forsake St Patrick’s day celebrations if one decides to enjoy a Burns night and sing along with audiences at the Proms who belt out Land of Hope and Glory or the great Welsh anthems. That’s certainly true of Australia but maybe HH the cosmopolitan can tell us in detail why it would be wrong to suppose that it applied to the UK too. Yes David Cameron, like Alec Douglas-Hume, and Harold Macmillan for that matter, were all Etonians, and sound like it. Moreover Tony Blair doesn’t sound like a Scotsman and Gordon Brown had to try hard to keep Scots thinking he might be one of them. All obvious starting points for the superficial but then you might want to look at who actually lives in Scotland, for how long they have lived there, where they came from and where the people who were born in Scotland between say 1940 and 1980 are now. But still you say that Scotland (because it has to be true of Scotland to make sense of your thesis) has a distinct culture which is definable, with only a little bit of fuzziness, historically traceable and persistent.

    The Scotland of today has huge rates of welfare dependency, alchoholism and typically low SES health problems. What does it now have in common with the greatnesss of the Scottish Enlightenment during which the likes of Hume and Adam Smith gave so much to the making of the modern world? Ah, but once you have begun to get your head about that you might want to consider what cultural similarities there were between the educated of Edinburgh and Glasgow, Aberdeen and St Andrews, and the illiterate clansmen who were being variously slaughtered by Cumberland’s English soldiers or forced to leave their crofts by great (Scottish) landlords.

    It is really a bit easier to sound off in superior tones isn’t it HH?

    However, let me tap into your claim to knowledge of something on which I have none at all. A succinct summary, or an extended account, of how the American activity in Rome led to the deaths of many Australians in the North African campaign[?s]. As close family members were captured early in those campaigns and interned in Italy I have reason to want to know more. Nothing much good seems to be known of Joseph Kennedy apart from fathering a man who for all his faults and limitations, undoubtedly showed remarkable courage and fortitude in pursuing his political career burdened by appalling pain and chronic disease. So, I’m all ears to hear the worst about Joe Kennedy.

  80. Kevin Herbert

    Hamis Hill:

    Warren Joffe is what I refer to as a front bar polymath..if you word or phrase search his copy you’ll find that most of it is lifted straight out of a Wikipedia entry.

    I realised the futility of trying to reason with this fellow when, as a last resort, he accused me of Holocaust denial, because I dared question his tsunami of superfluous dross concerning Jewish over-representation among Nobel Laureates…which for the record has been well analysed by many Jewish & other commentators as being a one off performance curve due to sociological factors peculiar to early 20th century migration to the US.

    Good luck..but you’re feeding an obviously bored retired person who should be down at the Temple Emmanuel doing something constructive for his community with his time.

    Of course I mean that in the nicest possible way.

  81. Kevin Herbert

    Hamis Hill:

    WJ’s last effort above was 750 words…..his best during my final encounter with him was over 1000 words…which added up to virtually nothing of substance.

  82. Warren Joffe

    @ Kevin Herbert

    Well now we know you know how to get your computer to do a word count so let’ move on and ask what would qualify anything said to be “of substance”. And then, if you know anything of substance, you might care to pass it on.

    And you may have noticed that I put a question to HH on something that he said about which I know nothing. Can you answer it? Are you interested, or do you regard HH’s assertions to be lacking in sufficent substance? refer to myu last par which read:

    “However, let me tap into your claim to knowledge of something on which I have none at all. A succinct summary, or an extended account, of how the American activity in Rome led to the deaths of many Australians in the North African campaign[?s]. As close family members were captured early in those campaigns and interned in Italy I have reason to want to know more. Nothing much good seems to be known of Joseph Kennedy apart from fathering a man who for all his faults and limitations, undoubtedly showed remarkable courage and fortitude in pursuing his political career burdened by appalling pain and chronic disease. So, I’m all ears to hear the worst about Joe Kennedy.”

  83. Warren Joffe

    @ Kevin Herbert

    Aha, yes I vaguely remember your problem with Jews but obviously you don’t remember much about what I wrote (or maybe just don’t understand) judging by your second par in which the idea that your ignorance or wrong-headedness about the proofs of Jewish intelligence, certainly as measured by IQ, could be proof of Holocaust denial or otherwise held out as having a strong logical connection with it, is just plain nonsense.

    But you make a testable assertion, namely that what I (in fact) rely on my memory for, together with many years of reading and correspondence, comes from Wikipedia. You yourself describe the test. You say “if you word or phrase search his copy you’ll find that most of it is lifted straight out of a Wikipedia entry.” Right, put up or shut up. Just show that you are not abusing the right to waste people’s time on a blog like this by showing that what you said can be substantiated. I have written a lot on Crikey so it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to produce 6 substantial examples for your case. Having trouble with one? But still not willing to shut up? I’m afraid so.

    In case anyone wonders about this odd anti-Semite’s obsessions I think you’ll find that he is a half-baked (and error-prone) version of the learned Kevin Macdonald whose interesting three volume book on “A People That Shall Dwell Alone” (or maybe that was just one volume of it) would, if one were truly obssessed like you KH, be an essential primer for your writing on Jews.

    About 2005 Greg Cochran, Henry Harpending and Jason Hardy came out with the very interesting thesis that the undoubted fact that Jews score higher on IQ tests (or any g laden tests) than any other ethnic group was in part a product of the need of Ashkenazim in perhaps 500 years up to about 1650 to survive on their capacity to earn a living with their brains, employing literacy and numeracy at least until the Ashkenazi population grew well beyond the availability of banking, finance and estate management jobs. As they put it, the solution the solution included, in computer geek language, the “quick and dirty” even though Darwinian. They pointed to the prevalence of about half a dozen neurological diseases which were characteristic of Ashkenazim, and few outside Ashkenazim, and associated, in the heterozygotic manifestation of the relevant genes, with high IQ. They suggested, plausibly, that it accounted for perhaps 5 points of the then assumed 15 point superiority of Ashkenazi IQ over the average Northern European. Less plausibly they denied the influence of dumb Jews failing to find Jewish spouses and have children brought up as Jews. By contrast, Kevin Macdonald, whose work I was reminded of when Googling to recover the name of Cochran and Harpending’s co-author, points out the similar kind of selection for intelligence in Jews much earlier than the foundation of Ashkenazi communities (or their predecessors in the remnants of the Western Roman Empire before the great move to Poland). In a brief look at
    he makes a case for the superior intelligence (judged of course by the requirements of a society where literacy is at least valuable) of Sephardim but seems to say that it was the less bright Jews who were kicked out of Spain in 1492 and became the Sephardi of Turkey, North Africa etc. He also says something that Cochran & co would contest about superior Jewish intellect in ancient times resulting from effectively eugenic practices of the Jewish elite who returned from Babylonian exile/ If that did produce an effect which persisted through the days of Jews as Aramaic speaking subjects of Herod in the time of Jesus, it was not a phenomenon that was remarked on as the amazing achievements of Jewish scientists in the last 120 years have been.

    But you seem to think that there is evidence which explains the extraordinary proportion of Nobel Prize winners (just as one obvious index of scientific achievement) by some “sociological” causes and effects which precludes any substantial genetic advantage for cognitive activity amongst Ashkenazi Jews. Of course the Jewish traditions in favour of scholarship, even amongst the illiterate, were an obvious factor. That, combined with exclusion from land owning no doubt helped explain the huge disproportion of Jews in law and medicine in Poland before 1940 – but only helped because it still took special ability to get into universities 100 plus years ago.

    Moreover a series of American Conservative articles, by a Jew, has shown that the low IQ scores in some nations and ethnic groups has obviously been a function of their rural backgrounds before urbanisation, though one cannot take that as much evidence for what you would perhaps like to believe, namely that all ethnic groups average genomes are as productive of cognitive ability as any other. That the Irish and English are not separated by a standard deviation or more in average IQ just makes common sense, just for one of his most obvious cases to prove his point using test results over extended periods of time.

    So far you may think I am agreeing with you and I could go further on the basis of an American Conservative article, The Myth of American Meritocracy, which convincingly shows that (East) Asians have largely displaced Jews in the standard tests of superior ability amongst the young. But yes, it is probably very much a matter of the Tiger Mother having taken over from the Jewish Mother now that Jews have made it, big time, in the US. But you really have to be a contortionist to get out of the fact that Jews not only measure higher than other white people on IQ tests by a substantial margin (now I understand thought to be more like half a standard deviation than one SD – 7 or 8 rather than 15 points on a Wechsler or Stanford Binet scale)but do better at activities with a high g [Spearman’s “g”) coomponent. Then you have to explain how 2 per cent of the US population won 25 per cent (or is it 40 per cent?) of its Nobel Prizes, and no other groups which were discriminated against and arrived poor and often illiterate managed anything like that achievement. (Ever heard of a gypsy scientist? What about the Irish-Americans?

    You say you know how all that achievement has been explained in “sociological” terms. So, again, put up or shut up. Links at least please. BTW, you only get half marks for citing Jewish Marxists, even Harvard Jewish Marxists, like SJ Gould, Leon Kamin, Lewontin, etc.

    BTW, are you the Kevin Herbert whose profound contributions to Antony Loewenstein’s include the terse “Yanks go home” and “Ashamed to be Australian”? That level of brevity suits you.

  84. Hamis Hill

    Warren “Waffle” Joffe.
    Completely incorrigible, and incapable of understanding that anything of worth in his offerings might be lost in the verbiage.
    A sad waste really.

  85. Hamis Hill

    The US Military attaché to the British Eight Army sent his presumably secure detailed reports back to Washington via the US Embassy in Rome where they were intercepted and decoded and delivered to the Desert Fox.
    To presume that Joseph Kennedy as US ambassador to the UK at the time was uninformed, or as a vengeful Irish Catholic American, uninterested in the down fall of the nation to which he was the US ambassador, and unwilling to be intimately involved in aiding the enemies of the nation whom he infamously urged to surrender to the Nazis, is beyond belief.
    And this US caused spying debacle, with “catholic” written all over it, was virtually buried until the details appeared in a recent Australian movie on the North Africa campaign.
    Anglo-Celtic Warren, Anglo-Celtic?
    Give it a break.

  86. Hamis Hill

    And Warren, you might want to check the “Illiterate Clansmen” claim.
    Columba might be the clue that you want.

  87. Warren Joffe

    @ Hamis Hill

    I think we are talking at cross purposes judging by your reference to Columba. I think I was probably making a contrast with the Edinburgh establishment which gave us (a a large part of) the Scottish Enlightenment when/if I referred to illiterate clansmen. My point having been to answer your implied assertion that there was (and, more to the point is) a Scottish culture, distinct from the English.

    It would indeed to be interesting to discover that the clansmen of the 17th and 18th centuries were the beneficiaries of the much lauded Scottish devotion to education but you seem to be taking off at a tangent and making something of the place that Irish missionaries played in Christianising or reChristianising Continental Europe. I don’t see much connection.

  88. Warren Joffe

    @ Hamis Hill

    Thanks for your note on the way information got to Rommel. I don’t know if my prejudices against Jo Kennedy can compete with yours, but I would be interested to know what the now available archival evidence shows about Kennedy knowing that there was a leak through Rome to Rommel of damaging military intelligence.

    There is bound to be better evidence than one’s imagination about what Kennedy would have wanted to happen to Britain.

    Then it occurred to me that the British cracking of the Enigma codes (Ultra or whatever it was called) would surely have put them on to German knowledge of what the US military attaché was sending. A bit of a search and I came up with the fascinating


    It does include reference to Allied casualties in North Africa in early 1942 resulting from the deciphering of Colonel Fellers’ despatches but there is little else to support your account.

    Indeed suspecting that your prejudices had been substituted for anything even remotely approximating scholarship, or just plain thorough fact checking, I looked for the dates of Joseph Kennedy’s ambassadorship to the UK. Sorry, the dates don’t fit your fantasy. As Wikipedia says, he was Ambassador from 1938 to late 1940. According to the following v. interesting link (including Jo telling Hitler that he fully understood his Jewish policy) he formally resigned in January 1941 by which time FDR was already by-passing him in his contacts with the UK government. So the dates aren’t consistent with your version so far as Jo Kennedy is concerned. Moreover….

    The only reason that Feller’s communications were intercepted in Rome was because the Italians had broken into the US Embassy and copied its code books. They didn’t need help from anyone in the Embassy. A little later the Germans cracked the code Fellers was using and didn’t actually need to the Italian intelligence. However the important point is that even if the source had been intercepts in Rome there is no way for Kennedy to have known about it.

    Interesting that, until Fellers was removed in July 1941 as a result of an amazing German radio broadcast (it seems), Rommel held a considerable intelligence advantage over the British in North Africa. Why, one wonders, was Ultra not keeping the Brits ahead despite the need to use the information obtained sparingly so the Germans wouldn’t twig to the code breakers’ success. By the time of Alamein it was Rommel who was in the dark and Montgomery had the intelligence edge as well as far better supplies and more tanks and guns.

  89. Hamis Hill

    Thanks warren for that effort.
    The Scots moved to what eventually became Scotland from Scottish Ulster, and Columba was one of them.
    Kennedy is a fine old Scottish name.
    And The Declaration of Arbroath will provide an unedited explanation of their history, unedited by the amateur Wikipedia editors who dislike the facts of an early independent Scottish church which taught Europe how to read and write.

  90. Warren Joffe

    @ Hamis Hill

    I’ve never been as interested as perhaps I should have been in Scottish history despite having a cousin who was a historian of Medieval (or particularly Medieval) Scotland and boasted famous Scottish names and ancestry. But my own large helpings of Scottish (and Irish) ancestry has enlisted my interest from time to time so I was aware of the Declaration of Arbroath although hadn’t remembered it by that name. Consequently I have looked it up and, at


    I find (from a reputable Scottish historian), inter alia:

    “In its mixture of defiance and supplication, nonsensical history and noble thought, two things make the Declaration of Arbroath the most important document in Scottish history.” and also
    ” it asked for the Pope’s dispassionate intervention in the bloody quarrel between the Scots and the English, and so that he might understand the difference between the two its preamble gave him a brief history of the former. The laughable fiction of this is irrelevant. What is important is the passionate sincerity of the men who believed it….”

    You could have been one of them perhaps. Indeed perhaps we are both descendants of the 8 earls and 45 barons who wanted to settle things as Scots after the rough times they’d had largely caused by the ruffian hero Robert the Bruce.

    But back to “Anglo-Celt” which you seem to want to use as cause for objecting to everyone else’s take on aspects of history that entertain you. As I tried to point out I merely thought it had merit as a way of drawing attention to something good that Australia’s eventual melting pot achieved. “Good” unless you count it as bad that Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and, for that matter English** cultural distinctiveness as maintained in Australia is a bit of a joke.
    ** Poms singing “they all live in a convict colony” to the tune of the Beatles “Yellow Submarine” is about the level of all of them since the confected indignation of IRA (pretended) sympathisers in the early 1980s: hang your heads in shame some MPs who signed up to mendacious sentimentality and worse. We’re all so lacking in culturally distinctive consciousness now that the differences are at about the level of NZ fury over underarm bowling. And, as a test question, how many people in America or Australia, or, indeed the Celtic fringes actually know any significant amount of their countries’ histories which matters? If they rely entirely on Wikipedia they wouldn’t advance their knowledge far as you say but what about the films and docudramas on TV which, e.g. portray Elizabeth the First as having actually met Mary Queen of Scots…..

  91. Warren Joffe

    Modest thanks to one or two for what could be a happy last night at the proms.

    Mostly Crikey wastes one’s time though I look forward to occasional contributions by Noel Turnbull and Charles Richardson (setting aside Charles’s astounding view that we ought to give votes to 16 year olds – or is it 14 year olds? – why not foreigners I say if we can’t make it only 23 to 73 year olds and make it difficult to cast a formal vote at the same time…..)

    I can’t see Crikey having anything useful to communicate now that there is a Liberal National Party government so won’t be resubscribing. At least on this thread I have been pushed to look up one or two things of interest. So thanks for that.

  92. Kevin Herbert

    Warren J dear chap:

    Browsing this article today for new ideas (it’s why I subscribe), I counted 19 comments (i.e. 21% of the 92 total) by you amounting to circa 7000 words….most of it clearly superfluous verbiage.

    Putting on my sleuth’s cloak, I’m tipping you’re possibly a failed Talmudic or Vatican or Koranic scholar…on medication
    on the old marching powder…again.

    Talk to your counselor about your ever pressing need for attention from strangers.

  93. Kevin Herbert

    Warren J:

    Of course I mean that in the nicest possible way…”there but for fortune go we”…believe me…..

  94. Warren Joffe

    @ Kevin Herbert

    Happy to leave you to your delusions as I will be permanently soon when my Crikey subscription runs out.

    I’m sure you are as impervious as you are to speculative insult so I shall confine myself you teasing you with the information which you will probably choose to disbelieve that, while there is an element of displacement activity in my long posts, I have none – not one – of the characteristics you mention (medication being entirely to do with the basics of preventing artery disease and other problems which creep on with the years) but keep extremely fit with lots of exercise and a very healthy diet, plus I don’t need much sleep and would rather knock off a few typed words than worry about not sleeping.

  95. Warren Joffe

    “as I will be doing permanently” and

    “I’m sure you are as impervious to speculative instult as I am….”

    Sorry, typing at 130 words a minute comes with typos…

  96. Jimmy

    Warren – “Happy to leave you to your delusions as I will be permanently soon when my Crikey subscription runs out.” Are you saying that your subscription forces you to come here and post, that you cannot leave prior to the subscription running out?

  97. Kevin Herbert

    Warren J: only 130 words per minute !!!!….when I was an ABC News cadet, that was the newsroom standard…or was that per day?

    I saw a PA on first grade Bolivian marching powder at a top 5 ad agency in the early ’80’s, top 190 wpm……but she had to be restrained when she started hammering the keyboard with her fists…impressive though I think you must admit.

  98. Warren Joffe

    @ Jimmy

    Why would you think so, or is your black and white thinking such that you can only conceive of a couple of simple alternatives?

  99. Warren Joffe

    BS Kevin Herbert! Or do you give it as your excuse for no longer being with the ABC that you couldn’t demonstrate sufficient finger speed?

  100. Jimmy

    Warren – “Why would you think so, or is your black and white thinking such that you can only conceive of a couple of simple alternatives?”
    Well when you say “Happy to leave you to your delusions as I will be permanently soon when my Crikey subscription runs out.” I assume you mean you will be “happy to leave”. Also as you don’t need a subscription to post on a lot of articles on this site (eg this one) plus your not renewing your subscription indicates you don’t value what this site (which is backed up by the relevance of your many posts).

    So altogether the evidence at hand suggests you don’t really want to be on the site but because you have paid for it you feel you have to get your money’s worth.

    As an aside, I simply asked you a question, you could of just answered it but instead you choose a persoanl attack and avoidance – you won’t be missed.

  101. luokehao

    The issue is the belief that Australia can, at reasonable human cost, adapt to already-occurring radical climate changes over a long period through its monopoly on both flat land supply and essential mineral resources.

    Already, the runoff into Perth’s dams has declined by a whopping 83 percent over the past decade compared to the figures from 1882 to 1974. In fact, the total runoff into Perth’s dams in the seventeen years since 1997 (1.41 cubic kilometre) is less than the combined runoff of the two seasons of 1945 and 1946 at 1.7 cubic kilometres, including 0.55 cubic kilometre in the single month of July 1946. In fact, the average of 0.083 cubic kilometres since 1997 was underdone ONCE in 93 years before 1974 (and that with large uncertainties in the date before 1911).

    That evidence, far more than the popular focus on melting sea ice, is what should be publicised for dealing with climate change. People abroad, however, have no idea of what Perth was like under the climate that nature had given it for thousands of years before the car industry bullied Australia’s governments into building freeways that do absolutely nothing to help the problems they claim to solve (traffic congestion) and create enormous ecological problems in by far the most fragile continent in the world.

    Continuing reductions in rainfall in southwestern Australia would lose Australia’s status as a “megadiversity” nation, and would also potentially wipe out a large farming sector (though Abbott no doubt believes pipelines from the Kimberley/Pilbara and desalination will keep it running) especially since extremely hot summer temperatures will be lethal to the high-value crops least unsuited to Australia’s extremely old and nutrient-deficient soils.

    The issue of “their grandchildren struggling to pay off an awful Labor debt” makes sense, but the problem is totally different from the crippling debts that plague all of Eurasia, the Americas and New Zealand. Whereas most of those nations have a large comparative disadvantage in agriculture and have lost their mineral resources to either extensive orogeny, glaciation, or exhaustion due to ease of smelting, Australia has not only an extremely profitable and labour-efficient agricultural sector but a potential tax base from its mineral resources far beyond anything the northern and western hemispheres might gain from taxing industrial capital.

    Global warming is an international issue, and Australia is unquestionably the worst offender who has every duty to pay costs incurred by foreign nations. If foreign nations stopped quibbling over minor details and demonstrated our responsibility – to put pressure for uncompromising 100 percent emissions reductions in Australia alone – much would be achieved. The free market encourages a very high level of energy-efficiency in the resource-poor northern and western hemispheres, but very little in old and fragile Australia; thus, showing and remedying Australia’s responsibility for climate change is what will produce decisive action.

  102. Stuart Coyle

    It seems odd that while trying to proclaim that addressing climate change is a political issue not a scientific one,
    Howard does it under a title that belies the fact that he actually sees it as an issue of religion.

  103. Warren Joffe


    Are you pulling our legs?

    “the crippling debts that plague all of Eurasia, the Americas and New Zealand. Whereas most of those nations have a large comparative disadvantage in agriculture and have lost their mineral resources to either extensive orogeny, glaciation, or exhaustion due to ease of smelting”

    You mention one “nation”, viz. New Zealand and that is a nation which, so far from being at any kind of disadvantage in agriculture compared to Australia, has the vast advantages of very fertile soil and high rainfall.

    As for Eurasia how do you justify what you say about debt or loss of mineral resources (assuming of course that they were “resources” at some point, or maybe not – maybe you are just saying that the countries of Eurasia once had what would have been mineral resources now but for being pushed south by the glaciers of one of the major Ice Ages)?????

  104. Warren Joffe

    @ Stuart Coyle

    Even if there were any evidence that Howard saw it as “an issue of religion”, rather than a subject concerning which belief was like religious belief for most people, what would be odd about that when contrasting matters of science and matters of politics? Or did it just seem a smart think to allow to fly off your fingers at the time?

  105. David Hand

    Howard does not see climate change as an issue of religion. He sees the activism in the climate lobby as being similar to religion.

    I agree with him.

    And action on climate change is clearly political. It’s about public policy and changes our community will make to address climate change – clearly political issues.

  106. luokehao


    what I am saying is that the limited paleopedological record in Europe and North America shows very clear evidence that the large iron, aluminium, and titanium ore resources and extremely low soil fertility of Australia today were as recently as 20 million years ago almost globally universal.

    Thus, Australia is no aberration, it is from a geological perspective a relic of normalcy: in fact the soils of Eurasia, the Americas and New Zealand are geologically about as fertile as Shaquille O‘Neal is tall.

    The mineral resources Eurasia did have were of metals that are:

    1) easily smelted by pre-industrial technology due to low affinity for oxygen
    2) easily exhausted because their geochemical characteristics cause them to be concentrated in the core and moved into the crust only under extreme tectonic stress
    3) examples of such metals are copper, lead, tin, antimony, mercury and silver
    4) in contrast, manganese, aluminium and titanium have such affinity for oxygen that they could never be smelted with pre-industrial technology – indeed titanium metallurgy is a post-World War I development – but because of their high affinity for oxygen tend to concentrate in stable, unglaciated cratons in the crust, as in Australia, and to be highly enriched in the crust relative to the core.

    The sole reason New Zealand (and Argentina and Chile which have even more fertile soils) lack a comparative disadvantage in agriculture from their mountainous terrain is one simple historical accident. New Zealand was the last major landmass to be peopled and southern South America has no native domesticable plants or (owing to their egalitarian social structures) animals. As a result, despite having on average more fertile soils than even the north temperate zones, southern South America before European colonisationwas populated by hunter/gatherers at very low density. Consequently, New Zealand and the Southern Cone acquired a high ratio of arable land to population, yet the scarcity of minerals and land meant they never received the migrant inflows Australia did.

    Another reason that New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay have never acquired the comparative disadvantage in agriculture of other “Enriched” lands is that persistent currency overvaluation over the past century has inhibited the industrial development that would make agricultural labour unaffordable (as in Eurasia). This overvaluation reflects their extreme urbanisation (even today) vis-à-vis Eurasia or the Americas, because it resulted and results from a demand for cheap imported consumer goods. Australia, in contrast, is essentially extremely rural, when one considers how its suburban densities are lower than many rural areas of Eurasia.

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