Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nick Palmer's Radically Different Economic System

Clameur de Haro? notices that, over on his Elect Nick Palmer 2008 blog, Mr Palmer regales us with his evident pride at having signed a Friends of the Earth petition “Call Time on Global Greed”.
Excoriating those who created “a crisis caused by a greedy, reckless and under-regulated economic system”, “biased against the poor and the environment”, the Petition calls for “a radically different economic system”: one that “reduces inequality, creates jobs, protects vulnerable citizens, preserves the environment, and works to eradicate poverty”.
How very noble and apparently altruistic. CdeH? however is reminded of a few realities.
First, Friends of the Earth, despite the misleading title, isn’t an environmental organisation. It was once – but no longer. Like Greenpeace, it was long ago taken over by the economic and political collectivist left, who perceived that, while socialism would never be permanently accepted as the prevailing economic system per se, if it could be cleverly cloaked in an environmental camouflage, then, to a deliberately under-educated populace, it just might be.
Secondly, the present financial crisis has, in actual fact, several origins, and many, many different culprits, ranging from fiscally irresponsible governments who directed central banks to hose unlimited credit at economies for no other reason than to cynically maintain an illusion of prosperity for political advantage, to financially illiterate consumers who foolishly lapped up every offer of credit lobbed their way, with no thought of ability to repay. The very thing that the present system has not been is under-regulated: over-regulation, but inefficiently conducted and misleadingly targeted, has played its significant part.
Thirdly, despite inequalities in degrees of betterment, no other system has ever delivered greater overall advancement, for the majority of the time, to the majority of humankind, than has capitalism. FoE’s “greed” is, of course, the leftist translation of the natural aspiration towards improving one’s lot possessed by all mankind. In the leftist lexicon, the desire for something as fundamental as a better education for one’s self and one’s children becomes “greed”.
Finally, Clameur de Haro? recalls that the FoE’s appealingly-labelled “radically different economic system”, the one which purports to “reduce inequality, create jobs, protect vulnerable citizens, preserve the environment, and work to eradicate poverty”, but which actually does the opposite, isn’t new (although it certainly is radically – and in more than one sense of the word – different). It’s been tried. It’s called communism, or its watered-down variant, authoritarian socialism.
And it doesn’t work.
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Nick Palmer said...

Bollocks, you prat (I've read your rules)...

Laissez-faire capitalism, driven by Gecko-like "greed is good" ideologies, always leads to boom and bust cycles and the couple of decades we've had of a planned and stimulated hyper-rush for globalisation means that the "bust" cycle will involve just about the whole world for a long time and will undoubtedly overlap with the first effects of peak oil, forecast to be within five years, whereby the energy that fuels and feeds our 6.66 billion strong civilisation will start to get less available and rapidly increase in price.

Financial engineering through interest rate controls etc, a la Greenspan/Bernanke, gave the illusion of semi-stability for a long time but in reality it just allowed the pressure to build up - now it is blowing up in our faces.

Any one who can't see that we need to transition to a sustainable economy needs their head examining - instead we hear, from too many of the self satisfied, a whole lot of "it's not our fault" self-justification and eschewing of responsibility for the god-awful mess that unfettered international finance has got us into, despite the warnings from those with a wider, deeper, wiser approach.

All the forthcoming mess has been caused, indeed engineered, by the short-sighted, massively over-paid, under-conscienced, highly schooled (but not genuinely educated) one-dimensional outlook types that some idiots (beg pardon - they are not idiots - they are worse than that, they are actually anti-intelligent) look up to.

CdeH? makes reference to the alleged virtue that "no other system has ever delivered greater overall advancement, for the majority of the time, to the majority of humankind, than has capitalism". Possibly true but if you actually bothered to look at the ignored small print you would see something like "past performance is no guide to future returns". We have reached the end of the age of simple minded growth - more of the same will be catastrophic.

Your views on climate change, judging by the blogs and websites you quote on your side bar are ridiculous but also dangerous. One has to point out that the South African government's denial (until recently) of the scientific consensus on AIDS has lead to 100's of thousands of deaths. Similarly, your promotion of the views of isolated denialist mavericks and other low credibility sources, if they caught on, would also be responsible for the deaths of many, except in this case it may reach the billions. Fortunately, every major scientific institution in the world officially says you and your sources talk bollocks (still within your rules, CdeH?).

Your views, which are undoubtedly regurgitated propaganda, uncritically accepted, about Friends of the Earth shows exactly where you are coming from and the sort of highly selective information and sources you choose to give credence to. There are all sorts of people in FoE with varying poitical beliefs, both ordinary members and those who run it. I know this for a fact because I used to be Jersey FoE's coordinator and met loads of English/ International members and administrators at Conferences. The "opposition" used to circulate black propaganda that we were funded by the Russians at a time when the sinister truth was that the majority of our financial support came from little old ladies who were worried about their grandkids' future.

You strongly resemble the Libertarian personality found in the States where it is recognised that people like that are impervious to reason because their minds are shut and they will not look at or countenance any evidence that runs counter to what they want to believe - bit like religious fundamentalists actually...

Clameur de Haro? said...

Interesting, but in no way surprising, that Mr Palmer indulges, even if only partly, in the usual green-campaigner tactic of attacking the writer ad hominem, rather than the writer's arguments.

The final comment about religious fundamentalism is a bit rich, though, bearing in mind that no group believes and proseletyses with such religious fervour as the climate alarmists.

Pressure of time regrettably does not at present allow CdeH? to provide the full response, which will follow, but as a start, could Mr Palmer explain why, if Climate Audit's Steve McIntye is merely a propagandist, he eventually forced James Hansen to admit that his infamous and now discredited Hockey Stick was based on false interpretation methodology applied to questionable data?

As for the much-vaunted scientific consensus - ah well, yes, we have been here before, haven't we? Such as in the latter part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th, when there was scientific consensus that the quality of the human gene pool was dropping, and that sterilising the poor was a feasible option to arrest the decline.

Nick Palmer said...

The "fundamentalism" of the "alarmists" is based on established 100 year old peer-reviewed science. Peer reviewed science is humanity's most powerful tool for ascertaining the credibility of any idea - far more powerful than the rhetoric, misrepresentation and sophistry of the denier/inactivist lobby who use techniques of spin and misdirection that Goebbels would have been proud of to fool the gullible

This site gives a reasonably balanced view of the so called debunked hockey stick controversy. More importantly, it emphasises that the hockey stick is not that important to the overall case for man-made global warming. The text follows but the graphs wouldn't paste into this blog box

Objection: The Hockey Stick graph -- the foundation of global warming theory -- has been shown to be scientifically invalid, perhaps even a fraud.

Answer: The first order of business here is to correct the mischaracterization of this single paleoclimate study as the "foundation" of global warming theory.

What's going on today is understood via study of today's data and today's best scientific theories. Reconstructions of past temperatures are about, well, the past. Study of the past can be informative for scientists, but it is not explanatory of the present nor is it predictive of the future. The scientific foundation of global warming theory contains much more than a few tree-rings and the temperature during the Medieval Warm Period.

RealClimate has an interesting article about what it would mean for today's climate theories if the MWP had indeed been warmer than today.

Now, about that pesky bit of sporting equipment ...

The infamous "Hockey Stick" graph was featured prominently in the IPCC TAR Summary for Policymakers. It was important in that it cast serious doubt on the notion both of a global Medieval Warm Period warmer than the 20th century and of a global Little Ice Age, both long-time (cautiously) accepted features of the last 1,000 years of climate history. It seems these periods were regional, not globally synchronized -- though the LIA seems to have been more widely experienced.

This caused quite an uproar in the skeptic community, not least because of its visual efficacy. Two Canadians, an economist and a petroleum geologist, took it upon themselves to verify this proxy reconstruction by getting the data and examining the methodology for themselves. They found errors in the description published in Nature of the data used -- errors that prevented them from duplicating the study. Mann et al., the hockey stick's creators, published a correction in Nature, noting where the description did not match what had actually been done. The Canadians, McIntyre and McKitrick, then published a paper purporting to uncover serious methodological flaws and problems with data sets used.

Everything from this point on is hotly disputed and highly technical.

All the claims made by M&M have been rebutted in detail by many other climatologists; M&M insist they are completely in error. All of it fits nicely with the expectations of both sides of the global warming issue, both the conspiracy theorists and the champions of peer review.

The rebuttals have been objected to and the objections denied and the denials rejected. The specific issues are highly technical and require considerable time and energy to fully understand. Steve McIntyre has a website devoted to his continued probe of this study and Michael Mann is a contributor to RealClimate, which consumes considerable web space refuting his attacks.

In short, M&M raise many specific and technical objections, and climate scientists seem pretty unified in denying the charges. To my knowledge, the worst indictment from the climate science community came from a study led by Hans Von Storch that concluded M&M was right about a particular criticism of methodology, but that correcting it did not change the study results.

If you want to evaluate the issue for yourself, and do it fairly, you must read the copious material at the sites mentioned above. You must also be prepared to dig into dendrochronology and statistical analysis.

Where does that leave the rest of us -- you know, the ones with lives?

I confess immediately that the technical issues are over my head. I don't know PCA from R^2 from a hole in the ground. But the most critical point to remember, if you are concerned about this for its impact on the validity of AGW theory, is that the fight is over a single study, published eight years ago, focused on paleoclimate. It verges on historical minutia. If you feel the study may be tainted, simply discard it.

The fact is, there are dozens of other temperature reconstructions. They tend to show more variability than the original hockey stick (their sticks are not as straight), but they all support the general conclusions the IPCC TAR presented in 2001: late 20th century warming is anomalous in the last one or two thousand years, and the 1990s were likely warmer than any other time in that period.

Here's a superimposition of numerous global, hemispheric, and regional temperature reconstructions for the last 2,000 years, together with an average. References can be found at the bottom of this Global Warming Art link. Regional variations are of course greater than global, so don't be surprised by how wavy some of the lines are.

(Disclosure: one of the reconstructions used in that page is by the same team that did the infamous hockey stick -- but it is not the same study. To the best of my knowledge, M&M have claimed no problems with that one, though they have expressed some concerns that span the entire field of dendrochronology).

Does the 20th century stand out?

Recently the National Academy of Science in the U.S. did a report on the hockey stick study and found it "plausible," though more uncertain the farther back in time it went. But then, true to form for this debate, another report commissioned by another Senate committee came out right afterwards and condemned it. Sigh.

I have read as much about this controversy as I ever intend to, and come to the firm conviction that I don't have the technical background and/or time required to make a scientific judgment on the issue one way or another. I suspect 95% of the people arguing about this have chosen their position ideologically and won't be able to explain the merits of the various arguments.

So while in my mind MBH are in no way guilty of fraud or incompetence (many of the accusations do go that far), judgment of their research must be approached in reverse: given reason to doubt, I will reject it until it is proven to me that the criticisms are invalid. I can't decide for myself until I devote the required time to both the statistical background and the technical details of M&M vs MBH98. That isn't going to happen!

So where does that leave me and (I suspect) most of you?

Well, it leaves me with dozens of other proxy reconstructions, some by the same team or involving some of its members, some by completely different people, some using tree rings, some using corals, some using stalagmites, some using borehole measurements -- all supporting the same general conclusion. That general conclusion is what's important to me, not whether or not one Bristlecone pine was or was not included correctly in a single eight-year-old study.

The general conclusion is:

Although each of the temperature reconstructions are different (due to differing calibration methods and data used), they all show some similar patterns of temperature change over the last several centuries. Most striking is the fact that each record reveals that the 20th century is the warmest of the entire record, and that warming was most dramatic after 1920.

End of story.

To conclude where I started: study of the past can be informative for scientists, but it is not explanatory of the present, nor is it predictive of the future. The science of global warming is rooted in what we know about today.

Now, can we all get off of the hockey rink and back into the lab?