01 Dec 2009

Tyler Cowen Never Fails to Disappoint: His Evolving Views on Climategate

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For those of you who don’t know, Tyler Cowen is an economics professor at George Mason University. When I realized he had a popular blog, I was very excited because GMU students (whom I liked) had told me, “Tyler is the smartest libertarian alive” and things of that nature. So I was preparing to be dazzled.

Well, just like Star Wars Episode I, Tyler did not live up to my impossible expectations. So I really think that explains why I get so frustrated with him.

Anyway, one of the cute things about Tyler is that his opinions are as unstable as global mean temperatures. Take Climategate for instance. When the scandal first broke Tyler said:

I’ve had many readers emailing me, asking what I think of the “trove” of emails unearthed from climate change researchers. I’ll admit I haven’t read through the rather embarrassing revelations, I’ve only read a few media summaries and excerpts. I see a few lessons:

1. Do not criticize other people in emails or assume that your emails will remain confidential, especially if you are working on a politically controversial topic. Ask a lawyer about this, if need be. “Duh,” they will say to you.

2. The Jacksonian mode of discourse, or mode of conduct for that matter, can do harm to your cause, especially if you are otherwise trying to claim the scientific high ground.

The substantive issues remains as they were. In Bayesian terms, if it turns out that many leading scientists do not practice numbers one and two, I am surprised that you are surprised. It’s very often that the scientific consensus “sounds that way.”

In other words, I don’t think there’s much here, although the episode should remind us of some common yet easily forgotten lessons.

I should add that this episode will seem very important to you, if you conceive of the matter in terms of the moral qualities of “us vs. them.”

OK so the Bayesian response is that this shouldn’t affect your opinion of the underlying science of climate change.

Oops that’s not quite right. After further review, today Tyler now says:

Good vs. evil thinking causes us to lower our value of a person’s opinion, or dismiss it altogether, if we find out that person has behaved badly. We no longer wish to affiliate with those people and furthermore we feel epistemically justified in dismissing them.

Sometimes this tendency will lead us to intellectual mistakes.

Take Climategate. One response is: 1. “These people behaved dishonorably. I will lower my trust in their opinions.”

Another response, not entirely out of the ballpark, is: 2. “These people behaved dishonorably. They must have thought this issue was really important, worth risking their scientific reputations for. I will revise upward my estimate of the seriousness of the problem.”

I am not saying that #2 is correct, I am only saying that #2 deserves more than p = 0. Yet I have not seen anyone raise the possibility of #2. It very much goes against the grain of good vs. evil thinking: Who thinks in terms of: “They are evil, therefore they are more likely to be right.”

(Which views or goals of yours would you behave dishonorably for? Are they all your least correct views or least important goals? With what probability? Might it include the survival of your children?)

I do understand that this line of reasoning can be abused: “The Nazis went to a lot of trouble, etc.” The Bayesian point stands.

So now–if you were a sloppy reader–you would come away thinking the Bayesian response is to increase your estimate of the probability of the severity of manmade climate change.

Now clearly something must have happened to make Tyler change his initial reaction–this shouldn’t affect your opinion of the science at all–to his new reaction: This could very well mean you were previously underplaying the significance of the threat.

I wonder which of the CRU emails made him change his mind? (A Bayesian can only change his mind when new evidence comes in, to make him update his priors.) Remember, the sophisticated Tyler thought people were naive for not realizing how saucy academics could be in the first reaction.

So what method of dishonorable behavior shocked even Tyler–which he read about after his first post–that made him realize this was unusual indeed, and that maybe the problem was more severe than the average person would have initially thought?

I cannot rule out with 95% confidence the null hypothesis that Tyler wakes up every morning and says, “How can I annoy Bob Murphy today?”

UPDATE: Okay I put my finger on something else that really bothers me about Tyler’s latest. It’s not as if these scientists (especially the RealClimate guys) in the spotlight have been meek about telling the public how serious the problem is. So for Tyler’s story to work, the Bayesian would have to reason like this:

“Wow! Before when these scientists were telling me it was urgent that we stabilize CO2 concentrations at x ppm or else our grandchildren were going to drown, I thought they were lying. But now that I see they are willing to delete emails, bully journal editors, and tinker with graphs to remove doubts in the mind of the reader, I no longer think they were lying about how serious the problem is.”

Last point: What is also annoying is that I think Tyler plays favorites. He is a really sharp guy and he uses his creativity to invent (what are in my opinion) absurd rationalizations for things that often increase State power. That per se doesn’t make him wrong, it just annoys me because I think he’s inconsistent and flippant on things that have serious consequences. For example, suppose after the waterboarding stuff broke someone on Fox News had argued, “You see, the critics think this has all been about Bush funneling money to Halliburton, but it really is about protecting Americans. Do you really think they would waterboard someone 100+ times, if they didn’t really think they were saving lives?” Now would Tyler have blogged about what a great epistemologist this hypothetical commentator was? I seriously doubt it.

01 Dec 2009

Gold Flirting With $1,200

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Can it do it? Yes it can!

(My son has been watching Bob the Builder lately.)

30 Nov 2009

Clarification on Climategate

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If you want to follow this stuff on the cutting edge, the site to visit is ClimateAudit, which is run by Steve McIntyre, the intrepid outsider who caught Mann with his pants down on the “hockey stick” graph. (Actually ClimateAudit is overwhelmed right now with new visitors because of Climategate, and so McIntyre is placing his new posts at a mirror site, here.)

The problem with McIntyre is that he shares Ludwig von Mises’ expectations on the knowledge of the reader. Just as Mises would make one-off comments about Bohm-Bawerk’s capital theory or the Weber-Fechner physiological law, so too does McIntyre assume all of his thousands of readers are totally familiar with the history of climate science and just want McIntyre to give them the actual freaking computer code to replicate Jones graph from 1999. (!!)

So anyway, that’s why you have me here. Lately my purpose has not been to invent new material but to translate the work of other giants into a version that you, the unwashed masses, can understand…

Now that I’ve made the opening funnies, let’s get down to business. I had been aware of this (vaguely) but it didn’t really hit me until a commenter at ClimateAudit said it explicitly. To set the context, PaulM first said:

Steve I really think you need to explain things more clearly for the thousands of new readers who are now reading your blog. Most of them will not understand this. I’ll have a go, please correct:

The green line is tree-ring data on the left. On the right it has been smoothly merged into temperature data. This is Michael Mann’s trick, that he falsely claims is never done. The reason they do it is to hide the fact that otherwise the green tree-ring data curve would go down in the late 20th century rather than up, showing that the tree-ring data is useless at representing temperature. Hence “hide the decline”.

Then to endorse this take (which I endorse as well, for what that’s worth), Calvin Ball said:

Paul, that’s my take. And I agree that this is important for the masses to get; the popular interpretation of “hide the decline” is somehow concealing the lack of warming over the past decade. This is completely wrong, but it’s catching on.

Does everybody get what he’s saying? When Jones said in the infamous CRU email that he used “Mike [Mann]‘s Nature trick…to hide the decline,” he was NOT talking about a decline in actual global temperatures that thwarted the claims of global warming.

On the contrary, he was talking about a decline in the proxy for global temperatures based on tree ring observations. So what happens is that from 1960 on, the proxy starts dropping while the actual temperatures go up. (See the divergence in this post.) Ironically then, if actual global temperatures had NOT risen in the last half of the 20th century, then there would be less of a problem to “hide.”

Now you might ask, “Huh? Why do they need to hide the decline in a proxy of temperature, when we already know the actual temperature post-1960?”

Good question; I’m glad you asked. The answer is that to make the claim that the warming of the 20th century is unprecedented in the last x years (I don’t remember the actual number the alarmists use, but it’s big)–meaning it must be due to human activity and not natural variability–we need to know what the global temperature was, say, 800 years ago. And unfortunately all the educated people back then were busy copying the Bible by hand, rather than setting up temperature stations (and being careful to filter out the Monastery Heat Island effect).

So in order to demonstrate that the 20th century warming is unusually rapid, the climate scientists have to construct a proxy of global temperatures going back before the period of modern instrumentation. One of these series is based on tree rings.

Now you see the problem. If the tree-ring proxy diverges sharply from actual recorded temperatures from 1960 onward, then we can’t trust it when it tells us that temperatures have been fairly stable before modern economic growth. Hence the claims of the alarmists are undercut.

In conclusion, Jones was not trying to “hide” the lack of global warming since 1998, as many people are probably concluding. So the problematic phrase in his email is “hide,” not “the decline.”

(I am pretty sure my explanation above is correct, but by all means if someone thinks I have botched a particular point please bring it to my attention.)

30 Nov 2009

Two Honest Opponents on Climate Alarmism

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Part of why I am skeptical of some of the loudest proponents of large-scale government intervention to fight climate change is that, even on their own terms, the suggested remedies won’t stave off disaster.

However, a few of the people on the other side of this issue seem very sincere to me. I still disagree with them, but I think it is truly an intellectual disagreement. One is George Monbiot, who reiterates his feeling “alone” in condemning the leaked CRU behavior. He writes:

I have seldom felt so alone. Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial. The emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, they say, are a storm in a tea cup, no big deal, exaggerated out of all recognition. It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can’t possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.

The response of the greens and most of the scientists I know is profoundly ironic, as we spend so much of our time confronting other people’s denial. Pretending that this isn’t a real crisis isn’t going to make it go away. Nor is an attempt to justify the emails with technicalities. We’ll be able to get past this only by grasping reality, apologising where appropriate and demonstrating that it cannot happen again.

It is true that much of what has been revealed could be explained as the usual cut and thrust of the peer review process, exacerbated by the extraordinary pressure the scientists were facing from a denial industry determined to crush them. One of the most damaging emails was sent by the head of the climatic research unit, Phil Jones. He wrote “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

[Jones'] message looks awful. It gives the impression of confirming a potent meme circulated by those who campaign against taking action on climate change: that the IPCC process is biased. However good the detailed explanations may be, most people aren’t going to follow or understand them. Jones’s statement, on the other hand, is stark and easy to grasp.

When it comes to his handling of Freedom of Information requests, Professor Jones might struggle even to use a technical defence. If you take the wording literally, in one case he appears to be suggesting that emails subject to a request be deleted, which means that he seems to be advocating potentially criminal activity. Even if no other message had been hacked, this would be sufficient to ensure his resignation as head of the unit.

The crisis has been exacerbated by the university’s handling of it, which has been a total trainwreck: a textbook example of how not to respond. RealClimate reports that “We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day.” In other words, the university knew what was coming three days before the story broke. As far as I can tell, it sat like a rabbit in the headlights, waiting for disaster to strike.

When the emails hit the news on Friday morning, the university appeared completely unprepared. There was no statement, no position, no one to interview. Reporters kept being fobbed off while CRU’s opponents landed blow upon blow on it. When a journalist I know finally managed to track down Phil Jones, he snapped “no comment” and put down the phone. This response is generally taken by the media to mean “guilty as charged”. When I got hold of him on Saturday, his answer was to send me a pdf called “WMO statement on the status of the global climate in 1999″. Had I a couple of hours to spare I might have been able to work out what the heck this had to do with the current crisis, but he offered no explanation.

By then he should have been touring the TV studios for the past 36 hours, confronting his critics, making his case and apologising for his mistakes. Instead, he had disappeared off the face of the Earth. Now, far too late, he has given an interview to the Press Association, which has done nothing to change the story.

But the deniers’ campaign of lies, grotesque as it is, does not justify secrecy and suppression on the part of climate scientists. Far from it: it means that they must distinguish themselves from their opponents in every way. No one has been as badly let down by the revelations in these emails as those of us who have championed the science. We should be the first to demand that it is unimpeachable, not the last.

Exacto-mundo. Those people who have been citing the “peer-review process” and “the science is settled” for years should have been shocked by ClimateGate. They don’t have to say, “Wow I guess it was all a hoax,” but to dismiss this as taking “technical terms” out of context is absurd. You don’t need to be a climate scientist to know what “delete any emails” means.

We also have James Hansen–Al Gore’s mentor and head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies–publicly saying that cap-and-trade is a phony solution (HT2 MasterResource):

Science reveals that climate is close to tipping points. It is a dead certainty that continued high emissions will create a chaotic dynamic situation for young people, with deteriorating climate conditions out of their control.

Science also reveals what is needed to stabilise atmospheric composition and climate. Geophysical data on the carbon amounts in oil, gas and coal show that the problem is solvable, if we phase out global coal emissions within 20 years and prohibit emissions from unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands and oil shale.

Such constraints on fossil fuels would cause carbon dioxide emissions to decline 60% by mid-century or even more if policies make it uneconomic to go after every last drop of oil.

Improved forestry and agricultural practices could then bring atmospheric carbon dioxide back to 350 ppm (parts per million) or less, as required for a stable climate.

Governments going to Copenhagen claim to have such goals for 2050, which they will achieve with the “cap-and-trade” mechanism. They are lying through their teeth.

Unless they order Russia to leave its gas in the ground and Saudi Arabia to leave its oil in the ground (which nobody has proposed), they must phase out coal and prohibit unconventional fossil fuels.

Instead, the United States signed an agreement with Canada for a pipeline to carry oil squeezed from tar sands. Australia is building port facilities for large increases in coal export. Coal-to-oil factories are being built. Coal-fired power plants are being constructed worldwide. Governments are stating emission goals that they know are lies – or, if we want to be generous, they do not understand the geophysics and are kidding themselves.

Is it feasible to phase out coal and avoid use of unconventional fossil fuels? Yes, but only if governments face up to the truth: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, their use will continue and even increase on a global basis.

Fossil fuels are cheapest because they are not made to pay for their effects on human health, the environment and future climate.

Governments must place a uniform rising price on carbon, collected at the fossil fuel source – the mine or port of entry. The fee should be given to the public in toto, as a uniform dividend, payroll tax deduction or both. Such a tax is progressive – the dividend exceeds added energy costs for 60% of the public.

Cap and trade with offsets, in contrast [to a carbon tax refunded to the poor], is astoundingly ineffective. Global emissions rose rapidly in response to Kyoto, as expected, because fossil fuels remained the cheapest energy.

Cap and trade is an inefficient compromise, paying off numerous special interests. It must be replaced with an honest approach, raising the price of carbon emissions and leaving the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground.

Are we going to stand up and give global politicians a hard slap in the face, to make them face the truth? It will take a lot of us – probably in the streets. Or are we going to let them continue to kid themselves and us and cheat our children and grandchildren?

I strongly oppose Hansen’s call for a carbon tax and refund, but given his stated views, it makes sense. And in particular, if Hansen really believes we have a very short window to prevent utter climate catastrophe for our children, then he is being heroic for publicly denouncing the fraud of the Copenhagen meetings. (Or at least I think he is: For all I know he Obama secretly loves Hansen’s push for an explicit carbon tax, just as Paul Krugman isn’t really “speaking truth to power” when he says the stimulus is way too small.)

So I want to acknowledge that there are some climate change alarmists who at least have the courage of their stated convictions. If you really believed the computer models showed we have to wean ourselves from fossil fuels quickly to avoid disaster, then you should be mortified by the CRU emails and by the politicians’ discussions of Copenhagen. On that score, I respect Monbiot and Hansen.

29 Nov 2009

More On God and Self-Ownership

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Stephan Kinsella brought this article by Skyler Collins to my attention. Since we have been discussing the intersection of Christianity and libertarianism lately, I thought it would be a good thing to analyze.

I think Collins’ piece is mostly correct insofar as it goes, but I also think he hasn’t proved as much as he thinks he has proved. He writes:

Whether or not you believe that God exists, or that he owns our bodies, it must be understood that libertarian philosophy only concerns the relationships between mortal men. It does not concern the relationship between men and animals, or men and the earth (insofar as it unrelates to other men). And it absolutely doesn’t concern the relationship between men and God.

Don’t misunderstand me. What a man does with himself in relation to anything may or may not be God’s concern (I believe it is), but the libertarian principle of self-ownership is used to distinguish what men can legitimately do to each other. Not what God can do to man.

This quote by James A. Sadowsky is instructive,

“When we say that one has the right to do certain things we mean this and only this, that it would be immoral for another, alone or in combination, to stop him from doing this by the use of physical force or the threat thereof. We do not mean that any use a man makes of his property within the limits set forth is necessarily a moral use.”

It really says it all. The purpose of arguing for self-ownership is to understand if the actions of other men are justified. Though God may own our bodies, this fact would not alter the relationship between men. For example, I own a laptop computer. I acquired this through trade. What I traded was legitimately earned, therefore this laptop computer is legitimately my property. It is an extension of myself. If a man named John took my laptop computer without my permission, that would rightly be considered theft and a violation of my property rights to my laptop computer. God only enters the equation if John claims God told him to take the computer from me because it was his will that John have the computer instead of me. Unless God corroborates this claim to me personally, I can rightly consider it theft and a violation of my property rights.

So as I said, I don’t object to the above per se, but I think Collins believes he just disposed of theocracy. I don’t think he did.

First, what if “God corroborates” the claim not directly to the alleged sinner/property violator, but in a book codifying His views that even the alleged sinner/violator endorses? For example, Jewish adulterers in the time of Jesus. They couldn’t honestly say, “Oh c’mon, you’re telling me God doesn’t want me sleeping out of wedlock? How do you know–did a burning bush appear?”

Second, I think many secular libertarians are taking this type of view to demonstrate that people trying to enforce “God’s will” are necessarily committing aggression. But even if that’s true, it’s not a decisive end to the issue. For example, I’m sure the pagans who were slaughtered by the Israelites when they came into what they called “the Promised Land” didn’t agree that the Lord owned the earth and could divvy it out to whichever people He wanted. But I doubt Collins (LDS) would say the Israelites under Joshua really should have relied on Lockean reasoning as opposed to divine revelation.

OK let me now address the obvious (and horrified) retort. “Is Bob endorsing theocracy?!” No I’m not. Let’s quote from the object of Collins’ critique, Gabriel Fink, who had previously written:

Libertarian theory holds that adultery is not a crime, because no forgery or robbery has taken place. If two unmarried people decide to have intimate relations, there is no property violation, and hence no crime has been committed. A law prohibiting adultery therefore would be considered unjust. If man is the rightful owner of his body, then this understanding would be correct.

As has been shown however, man is not the rightful owner of his body. One of the terms and conditions set forth by the Lord for those who chose to receive the stewardship of a physical body is that sexual relations are only authorized between a man and his lawfully wedded wife. Any person who does not adhere to this restriction has aggressed against the property of the Lord and is in violation of the principle of non-aggression.

This is how adultery was considered a crime, and is defined as such in scripture. The Lord has given man the authority to punish the crime of adultery. Civil laws which punish adultery are not a violation of the non-aggression principle. All acts of adultery however, are a violation.

OK so Collins’ attempt to rebut these types of claims (both in the comments of the original piece, and his own full article) is to state that property rights deal with relations between people. I’ve already shown why I think that’s an inadequate response, and I wouldn’t expect Mr. Fink to change his views based on the argument.

However, there are all sorts of things in the Mosaic Law that are a bit…harsh. Does Fink endorse all of those too? Note that this wouldn’t prove him wrong, I’m just wondering how far he takes the principle he’s supporting.

No, I don’t think the political authorities should punish adultery. Why not? First, I think political government is itself in violation of Christian principles. You’ve got the LORD’s warning–in the Old Testament of all places!–of the dangers of establishing a king, and there is plenty of other Scriptural evidence in favor of Christian anarchy. (Try this, though I don’t necessarily endorse everything Redford writes here.) If this is shocking to you, try this route: I think there is a strong case for pacifism based on Jesus’ teachings; Tolstoy thought the same. If Jesus doesn’t want us to resist evil (especially with swords), then I would argue He doesn’t want us to employ men with guns to throw adulterers in a dungeon.

I find it ironic that Fink would choose adultery as his illustration, since we know exactly “what Jesus would do” when asked whether to enforce the Mosaic Law against an adulteress caught in the act.

Now you might be wondering, “Well what the heck, Bob, why are you bringing this up if you generally agree with the conclusions of the secular libertarian anti-statists?”

The reason is that a lot of libertarians use abstract reasoning to “deduce” the legitimacy of their views, and to “prove” that everyone else is wrong. If my observation about God owning people’s bodies (and everything else physical) is correct, then those “proofs” are wrong and libertarians should stop invoking them.

Stephan Kinsella has responded to my point on this when I made it with Gene Callahan in our JLS critique [.pdf] of Hans Hoppe’s argumentation ethics. Stephan recently wrote:


I’m not surprised you bring this up–you raised a similar notion as some sort of criticism of Hoppe’s argumentation ethics years ago in this piece. In my reply thereto, I noted:

MC introduce supposed “counterexamples” of God and slavery. … As for God – you can’t just posit that God owns everyone and “therefore” we are not self-owners. Moroever, even if God does own us, it could be that we are still self-owners vis-a-vis each other. In any event, this in no way refutes the conclusion that only the libertarian norms can be argumentatively justified in discourse.

If there is a God, since He is Good, we can assume he’s libertarian and has decreed a libertarian moral law within his universe. So even if God owns A and B, A still has a better claim to A’s body than B does.

OK two quick observations:

(1) In our article Gene and I did not “just posit that God owns everyone.” We said that it was a logical possibility, and that Hoppe had not disposed of it in his proof. Since his proof concludes, “…and therefore everyone starts out as a self-owner,” his proof is obviously incorrect. I would give an analogy here, except I think it would just confuse things because we’d then be arguing about why the analogy was or was not analogous. It frustrates me that Stephan still doesn’t get our basic point on this.

(2) What if the parents leave the house and tell the babysitter that the 8-year-old can’t use the computer? Then the 8-year-old starts using it, and the babysitter picks him up and walks him out of the room, locking the door behind him. The 8-year-old, if a fan of Kinsella, could argue, “Sure my parents ultimately own the computer and can lay down the rules of engagement, but as far as my claim on the property versus the babysitter’s, I have the stronger claim–I will inherit it all eventually. For all I know my parents never told my babysitter I couldn’t use the computer. So the babysitter just violated my property rights.”

Yes, the 8-year-old would be right as far as he goes, but what is the proper libertarian response to all this? Does the babysitter have to slap his forehead because he didn’t get a notarized letter from the parents expressing their wishes, or record it on his iPhone? No, he enforces the will of the actual property owners, and dismisses talk of “well excluding the views of the actual owner, my claim is stronger than yours” as irrelevant.

All right, I’ll stop here while I still have some loyal readers. I do believe I managed to disagree with everyone who has chimed in on these matters!

29 Nov 2009

Joe Romm Cuts Through the Lies of ClimateGate

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The most entertaining part of ClimateGate has been to watch the folks at RealClimate and ClimateProgress spin this as a huge disinformation campaign by the “deniers.” The best one I’ve seen so far is (not surprisingly) Joe Romm, who writes:

Michael Mann, one of the country’s leading climatologists, has coauthored a major new review and analysis of climate science since the 2007 IPCC report. Mann…is much attacked by the anti-scientific disinformers because of his work on the paleoclimate “hockey stick” reconstructions of temperature over the past couple of millennia. Contrary to what the disinformers continue to say, however, the hockey stick was essentially vindicated by the National Academy of Sciences…

Since some of his email exchanges were made public by the recent illegal hack of documents from the University of East Anglia, he has also distributed a response to various members of the media and bloggers…

Misrepresentation of these emails is so common that the Washington Post issued one of the fastest retractions/corrections in its history. I had blogged on their November 25 op-ed “Climate of Denial” hereWell, one day later, they “clarified” one of their assertions about Mann…So this should be a cautionary tale to the media to go to the primary source before simply repeating what others have said.

Wow, Romm makes it sound as if the Washington Post spread baseless gossip that is totally unconnected to the hacked emails, doesn’t he? I wonder what scurrilous charges the innocent scientist–just minding his own business, trying to save humanity from climate catastrophe–was accused of, before the WP had to retract their libel?

Check out the WP clarification. I don’t want to spoil it. Let this be a lesson to all those who dare to criticize the world’s leading climatologists!

28 Nov 2009

All ClimateGate, All the Time

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* Here is George Monbiot’s yes-it’s-embarrassing-but-the-deniers-are-still-idiots op ed. (BTW if you don’t know Monbiot, he is a leftist with a purple heart. Seriously, he has street cred. The most I ever did was write internet articles critical of Dick Cheney.)

* That HARRY_READ_ME file is actually more damning than the excerpts I previously linked to. Check out this version. Note in particular the numerous references to “avoid the decline,” and not just post-1960 but in the 1940s as well. That wasn’t a one-off comment in someone’s email. You cannot look at this thing and tell me, “These are some unfortunate phrases taken out of context. There was no ‘trickery’ involved.” And again, let’s recall that the standard line coming from the establishment on climate science has been, “This is complicated stuff. You need to trust us that these fringe guys are making mountains out of molehills. The science is settled, we understand these issues very well, we have high confidence in our models on the important issues that the skeptics attack.” Really?

* So as to be balanced, here’s more of the RealClimate guys’ response. Some of the comments are funny. I could be mistaken, but I think Gavin is letting more critical stuff through than he used to, for obvious reasons.

I am obviously biased and am surely not giving Gavin et al.’s explanations a totally fair shake. But it seems clear to me that Gavin is downplaying the things uncovered in the CRU leak. For a different example, try this. At Comment #51 in the thread I link above, Silke posts a link to that Eduardo Zorita who explained why he thoughts Jones et al. should be barred from the IPCC process. (Just skim the link if you didn’t read it when I posted it here before.) So in response to that, Gavin says:

Response: Unfortunately, this episode is being seen as an opportunity by some to imbue their personal and professional conflicts with particular researchers with a greater importance than they have. I am not going to comment on the history of tension between certain people, nor doubt the sincerity of people’s clearly deeply held views. But talk of blacklisting scientists from assessment bodies is, at best, foolish. These panels require a full spectrum of the community to take part in order to constructively come up with language that all can accept. Excluding people because they have criticised your work in the past (and vice versa) is not the way to go. Lindzen took part in the 2001 IPCC and the NAS 2002, John Christy was on the CCSP panel on tropsohperic trends – excluding them because of a history of disagreements or perceived personal failings would have been a mistake. The same goes for the scientists mentioned in the above link – especially since one of them at least has no apparent connection to any of the issues raised by these emails. This is not a topic for further discussion. Sorry. – gavin

Really? Zorita was merely saying, “Jones and Mann criticized my work in the past, so I think they should be barred from the IPCC process”? C’mon. If Gavin thinks someone leveling charges of “conspiracies, “bullying,” and “intimidation,” in order to “convey a distorted picture” of the hockey-stick graph, is merely complaining of criticism, then he should stop commenting on this controversy because he obviously doesn’t understand the charges. I’m not saying Zorita is necessarily right, but it’s nonsense to dismiss his claims as whining from someone whose work was criticized by other academics.

28 Nov 2009

"By Our Powers Combined…"

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Newcomers to Austrian economics often ask me about the Great Schism. Here’s the short version: Almost a century ago, a dark wizard swept through the economics profession, mesmerizing almost all who came within earshot of his siren song. He and his apprentices–most notably Darth Samuelson–hunted down and exterminated almost all of the practitioners of the bright arts.

In this chaos, a good and very powerful wizard retreated to the Dagobah system, where he lived in a swamp with funding from a private foundation. There he worked on an amulet codifying the spells of the bright magic, which had the power to beat back the forces of the dark wizards.

Upon his deathbed, the old wizard handed the amulet to those gathered around him. In their jealous grasping, they fumbled the amulet and it smashed into three pieces, each going to a different lieutenant. Although the amulet’s powers remain, it cannot defeat the dark wizards in diluted form.

It is prophesied that a young wizard will one day rise from the ranks and reunite all three pieces of the amulet. Then its light will burn brightly, forcing the dark wizards to cower in the shadows of Fed posts.

(For a slightly different rendition, see here.)