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Time for some real skepticism about climate change

In his latest piece, Webdiarist and contributing author Malcolm B Duncan presents his critical analysis of Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis Summary for Policy Makers released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, and Webdiary demonstrates that it is a broad church. Now, where have I heard that expression before?


Both scientific method and the law teach one to be skeptical and base one’s conclusions on evidence. Steeped in both, I remain a climate change skeptic in the sense that, save for the effect of CFCs on the ozone layer, I can see no convincing evidence for human induced effects on the climate. By the same token, I remain agnostic on the issue: if there is evidence, I should like to see it. I have asked for it but not seen it. There are quite sensible things we should be doing like promoting our best renewable energy source, the sun. There are good reasons for conserving oil – we’re going to need it for plastics not fuel. We can probably solve our water problems by putting some serious money into generating hydrogen from water using solar power and pumping it to where we need water. Then we burn it. Hey presto – water – as much as you want. Obviously research needs to be done into the effects of the energy use but that’s what science is for. Using less coal would probably be a good idea but in order to do that we have to work out a way of replacing the revenue. We’ll come to that – it’s called policy. Pity none of the political parties has it.

Climate changes all the time and the planet is a dynamic system. One significant eruption would change the face of the planet entirely and there is constant production of greenhouse gas through tectonic plate movement particularly in the Pacific rift. Tim Flannery, who I find incredibly unconvincing, lets the cat out of the bag with a diagramme on p 60 of The Weather Makers. He uses ice core samples to determine greenhouse levels over time but, of course, that is only a measure of what is happening at the surface. There has simply not been a sufficient period of time for atmospheric research to show what has been happening in the upper atmosphere over centuries – we simply did not have the capacity until recently to take measurements. That means that the arguments being propounded surrounding “Climate Change” are relatively short-term.

That brings me to the Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis Summary for Policy Makers released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change. Now, I have little or no time for the UN. It strikes me that it is a convenient way for a lot of parasites to make a much better quid than they could at home. It certainly has not brought peace to the world or an end to poverty or suffering. Sometimes, however, it does reasonable science.

Let’s look at how reasonable this science is. Despite all the rhetoric, as all good science does, this document is hedged with qualifications.

First there is the assertion (p 2):

Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores (my emphasis)

Yet the explanation given includes this:

The annual carbon dioxide concentration growth-rate was larger during the last 10 years (1995-2005 average: 1.9 ppm per year) than it has been since the beginning of continuous atmospheric measurements (1960-2005 average 1.4 ppm per year) although there is year-to-year variability in growth rates

That’s right: they’ve only been doing serious continuous measurements since 1960.

A footnote says:

Climate Change in IPCC usage refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.

Hmmm, so we’re not necessarily talking about human activity as a factor. In the rest of the report, that just gets glossed over and of course it is ignored by every Climate Change nutter activist and journalist who says anything about the issue.

In discussing sea levels, the report notes (p 5):

Whether the faster rate for 1993 to 2003 reflects decadal variability or an increase in the longer-term trend is unclear.

We know, of course, sea levels change radically over time: East of Eden. The limestone in the Atherton tablelands used to be the Great Barrier Reef etc.

Then there’s sea ice (p 6):

Antarctic sea ice continues to show inter-annual variability and localized changes but no statistically significant average trends

You don’t read that in the newspapers.

On p 8 we get this statement which I find interesting:

Paleoclimate information supports the interpretation that the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1300 years. The last time the polar regions were significantly warmer than present for an extended period (about 125,000 years ago) reductions in polar ice volume led to 4 to 6 metres of sea level rise.

I can’t help wondering exactly how much coal humans were burning 125,000 years ago. Oh, and its happened before has it? Happens cyclically all the time over long periods. There is no discussion of the effect the deforestation of either the Australian continent or Europe had on the planet although I should have thought, according to the current popular orthodoxy, there would have to be a significant effect from both which would show up in ice core samples if that were a valid methodology. Its one of the reasons I don’t think it is.

Now, here’s the likely bit (p 9):

The observed pattern of tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling is very likely due to the combined influences of greenhouse gas increases and stratospheric ozone depletion.

Conveniently, there is no attempt to attribute any percentage to either. Perhaps that’s because it’s not possible.

Then there’s the gloom and doom (p 12):

Anthropogenic warming and sea level rises would continue for centuries due to the timescales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized.

It strikes me that there are two points here. First, the idea that the dynamic system adjusts itself over centuries does not fit with a lot of the short-term measurement in the study itself and, secondly, if they’re right, we’re probably stuffed anyway.

In the notes to the diagramme on p 16, there is this gem:

Volcanic aerosols contribute an additional natural forcing but are not included in this figure due to their episodic nature.

Don’t you love scientific rigour? We’ll just leave out a major contributing factor that happens to be natural. Ripper.

For all those reasons, I remain unconvinced but it is a Summary for Policymakers so let’s propose some policy given that there’s a Federal Election on.

The reality is that Australia can do very little but even a little might help. Were we to end coal exports tomorrow, it would not stop China and India sourcing their coal from elsewhere but it would have a significant effect on our overall emissions. If we did it though we would be altering the economy significantly, changing the balance of payments and putting a hell of a lot of people out of work. What to do? Well, here’s an idea: the Commonwealth has constitutional power to resume the railways. Let’s do it. Then, let’s use every kilometer of railtrack and cover all of it with solar panels owned by the Commonwealth. Fund it by using infrastructure bonds. Legislate so that super funds cannot invest more than 50% of their holdings (so that there is still sufficient liquidity to keep the stock market going). Pay 7% on the bonds. Spend all of the money on construction (not bureaucrats). 10% of that goes in GST straight away. In the first year, you make a net gain of 3%. Fast track so that the first power is available by the end of the first year. Sell the power into the grid. By the time the whole project is complete, you have a massive surplus of power. Microwave it by satellite to the Chinese and the Indians – they become less dependent on coal. Invest money in research to improve solar technology and particularly the research for disassociating seawater. Build Hydrogen pipelines. In the course of this, you have created massive numbers of jobs out in the bush where they are needed, you have revitalized country towns and you have placed the country in a position to electrify the rail freight network removing massive numbers of trucks from the roads and allowing money to be spent on improving them (and other infrastructure like schools and hospitals) rather than constantly repairing potholes. It all works kiddies we just have to assess the extent of the energy loss during transmission.

Just because I’m a skeptic doesn’t mean I believe in doing nothing. What we need to do is be bold and brave and, if we are stuffed already, at least we can go down fighting.


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 Ian McPherson:

I was merely talking about your writing and your philosophy, which leave a bit to be desired, FMPOV. Your desire to make it more specific is not part of what I'm talking about.

No, you implied to another person I was wrong about something (you have a habit of doing this). You wrote it was not hard to find fault with? What do you find fault with?


Ian McPherson

I would imagine the comments you indicate would be my efforts to contend with Paul Morrella, who I find to be the worst of the market fundamentalists. You don't have to be an expert to find fault with Paul's utterances.

And what utterances are at fault? Oh yes, the energy war that nations such as China wish to wage against the USA to systematically destroy their number one surplus. A fiendish and devilish plot to be sure. How could I have ever missed it?

The opening of an envelope

And what utterances are at fault? Oh yes, the energy war that nations such as China wish to wage against the USA to systematically destroy their number one surplus. A fiendish and devilish plot to be sure. How could I have ever missed it?

Paul, I don't know that I can help you. You seem to radar in on the mention of your own name.

I was merely talking about your writing and your philosophy, which leave a bit to be desired, FMPOV. Your desire to make it more specific is not part of what I'm talking about.

All the science you need to know ...

1. Carbon dioxide (and other so-called greenhouse gases) let ultra-violet through and not infra-red. Having them in the atmosphere therefore lets the sun's energy in and keeps some of it from bouncing back out. This has been established science since Arrhenius.

2. We have been adding huge amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This therefore increases whatever warming effects might have been happening (see 1). Reducing the carbon content will help reduce warming, whether or not human action is the primary cause. In fact, if the warming so far and to come is also happening from other causes, it is even more important that we reduce carbon emissions to help counteract that.

3. The rest is detailed exposition of specific impacts, and need not concern us here.

Get Serious, Or Fiddle?

David Roffey: Reducing the carbon content will help reduce warming, whether or not human action is the primary cause.

OK. But how to achieve that? All I have seen anywhere are prescriptions for slowing the rate of increase of CO2 emissions. How is that going to affect a remedy?

Emotions and animals

Alga & Bill: another horse story — okay everybody else who is sick of them, just ignore us! — I was on a station out from Tiniroto, out from Gisborne. A sheep station but with a professional horse management setup.  The manager Rod, was from a land owning, horse mad family and his partner Peggy, was a skilled rider and animal trainer.

We were in the feeding yard, horses munching away at their chaff and such and Peggy was petting my mare and saying that while she loved her leggy chestnut mare, Amber, what a horse she would have had if she had a horse like Midge to begin with.

Amber, feeding across the yard wheeled and flew toward Midge, ears flat, all teeth. Peggy yelled at Amber, petted and scolded her and took her back to her feed.      

Jealousy? Nah, probably just bitten by a bot fly!    

Amber responded to Peggy in the manner of a well trained dog.    

Rod was taking the cover of Amber in the feeding yard, and Amber was feeding when Peggy called her from the house, 200, 250 metres away. Amber wheeled away from the feed box to the far rails, turned and flew over the eight foot high rails, over the gate about half way to the house, over the house yard fence and up to the veranda.      

Peggy kept her saddle on the veranda, called Amber when she wanted her and unsaddled and Amber found her own way to stables. 


That should have been Peter I was addressing not Evan. Sorry.

 Alga, it's probably all the fault of those awful Abrahamic ideology ratbags. You have to admit, though, they have a sense of humour.

Scatological Humour, Sometimes

Evan, we're way off topic here, but hey, what the hell?

In my younger days I used to travel around from station to station breaking horses for a living. I remember one lovely little three year old filly, bright chestnut. Colour has a bearing on a horse's personality and reaction to the domestication process. You can get some idea of what they're going to be like, just by looking at them. This one was typical of her coat: feisty and difficult at first, then as she came to realise that I meant her no harm quickly changing to total trust, becoming a fast learner, co-operative and a pleasure to teach.

After shoeing her I took her for a good long ride. We went along a ridge where the ground fell steeply off to one side. When I dismounted, with one arm looped through the reins I took a leak over the edge. While I did it the horse rubbed my back with her head, which I thought was cute. Then she gave an almighty shove, pushing me over the edge. Pee everywhere!

I reckon that was funny, at least from the horse's point of view.

Animals have more humour than humans

Peter Hindrup, I echo your experience with horses and find it hard to understand how people can conceive animals don't have sense of humour. In my experience they exhibit just about every emotion and thought pattern humans have. It would only be elitist ideologists who consider animals as being empty headed. I've had horses that played practical jokes on people according to their attitude, a trail ride herd I had used to love stirring my dog up and playing jokes on him. I was also the butt of their jokes at times much to my frustration and their glee. But they were also so gentle and caring towards their charges.

It's a pity climate change is making existence so hard for many animal species, but I doubt humans care much, they'd prefer to satisfy their greed than think of the species crisis they are to blame for. 


Ian McPherson, I find it strange that you demand climatology qualifications from Malcolm, before he can cast doubt on climate matters. I’ve noticed you comment on matters relating to Petroleum, Mining, Energy Production, Economics and Finance among others in other parts of WD. Does this mean you are an expert in all these areas? Do you have qualifications and/or direct experience in engineering, mining, economics and finance? Now that would be impressive. 


While I sympathise with where you’re coming from, Ian, I personally prefer to stick to commentary in my own areas of expertise (and interest of course). This is why I primarily pop up in topics related to economics and finance. But after all WD is intended as an open forum for views on the issues of the day. On WD non experts can increase their knowledge in areas that interest them simply by posting and then being challenged by others who may (or may not) have extensive experience or knowledge in a particular area. Some of the forums here would be very empty if only experts in the field were entitled to comment.

Qualifications and poor research

Ian McPherson, I find it strange that you demand climatology qualifications from Malcolm, before he can cast doubt on climate matters. I’ve noticed you comment on matters relating to Petroleum, Mining, Energy Production, Economics and Finance among others in other parts of WD. Does this mean you are an expert in all these areas? Do you have qualifications and/or direct experience in engineering, mining, economics and finance? Now that would be impressive.

Hi Gareth, you're quite right to call me out on the matter, as I am quite right to call out Malcolm. I have no qualifications, as you say, in any of these areas (just like Malcolm), but I have a huge personal commitment to the issues of petroleum security and energy production. I would contest your observation that I make any great claim to being an economics or finance expert. I would imagine the comments you indicate would be my efforts to contend with Paul Morrella, who I find to be the worst of the market fundamentalists. You don't have to be an expert to find fault with Paul's utterances.

OK, you can take the view that I have been harsh with Malcolm. But I have been there, and done that before, on climate change. I run a bulletin board at Sydney Peak Oil. We have about 145 members and it is active. I have had to argue down a climate change sceptic on a number of occasions, and it is a thankless task. Educating them, at the expense of my own time and energy, is an exhausting task, and I'm certainly not going to bother with Malcolm, who should know better.

At Sydney Peak Oil, we have an exhaustive thread on the Alternative Energy Discussion. I personally posted a great number of these ideas, and in doing so, and absorbing the material, learnt a little more each time about the enormous challenge facing us in removing the CO2 from our energy supply. Ideas like putting solar panels on railway tracks and distributing hydrogen by balloon are laughable at best.

While I sympathise with where you’re coming from, Ian, I personally prefer to stick to commentary in my own areas of expertise (and interest of course). This is why I primarily pop up in topics related to economics and finance. But after all WD is intended as an open forum for views on the issues of the day. On WD non experts can increase their knowledge in areas that interest them simply by posting and then being challenged by others who may (or may not) have extensive experience or knowledge in a particular area. Some of the forums here would be very empty if only experts in the field were entitled to comment.

Indeed. But I do not see what you infer, which is that WD non-experts are increasing their knowledge in areas that interest them. Do you really think that Malcolm has read the exhaustive piece at New Scientist, where they have debunked most of what he speaks? Of course he hasn't!

"Be careful where you go my Son, for the woods are mysterious and dark".

Well, Ian McPherson, finally

Well, Ian McPherson, finally you have provided a link which, as one would expect any open-minded person to do, I have followed.

One of the things that a psychologist is trained to do is follow the footnotes. All too often they are self-reflexive. As you are not a scientist, perhaps I should explain that to you. They end up referring to themselves - it goes in a circle with A citing B citing C citing A in turn. Then they disappear up their own arse. A good example of this bullshit is NDARK and its "drug studies". Absolute crap for the most part.

Your link is precisely the same. It ends up quoting the IPCC  which is precisely what I was critiquing in the first place.

If you have any persuasive evidence, for heavens sake give it to me and I shall consider it. Otherwise, retire hurt.

Malcolm's enormous ego

I refuse to "retire hurt" to gratify your enormous ego, Malcolm! Of course the link I provided quoted the IPCC; they are the authority on the issue. The IPCC report is absolutely clear as to the cause of climate change.

Why don't you take your issues up with them, and report back when you fail to change their minds? Maybe your efforts will bring some clarity to some areas of apparent contradiction? Or maybe they'll just ignore you?

Who cares. Until then, you're a one-man sceptic sideshow, on a dead-end street, in an empty town.

Cruelty to dog lovers

How rude you are to Mr Turnbull Ian McPherson.

Animal humour?

Bill, if the tin ore project is a fantasy, then it is a NASA fantasy, not mine. I merely reported upon what I  read in correspondence being transmitted and received. However I don’t agree with your observation that if it was discovered in the nineties, that it ought to be in use by now. Or even common knowledge. I’m afraid development usually takes longer than that!

I am intrigued by your question as to whether or not animals process a sense of humour.

I grew up in Poverty Bay, NZ, where  the best sports/hunting/show horses in the country were bred. My father was a farrier and, in a small way, a horse trader  and he had done a stint with a vet so that he could geld colts under chloroform.  The horses were bred in the high country, or as we called it, the big country. Australians would call them mountains. They were left to run wild on this high, steep country until they reached two years old.

A crop of two year olds would be brought in, usually forty odd, and the fee Dad charged was his pick of the herd, and the grazing of it for the next twelve months.

At three years old he would geld it, handle it, which meant that it would lead with a halter and be not too bothered being around people. That is the point at which I usually first saw them, when they were ‘given’ to me.

A seasons hunting, and ‘my’ horse would be sold from under me. Then it began again. Yes, I was a slow learner! However I rode to the hunts on one of the very best horses on the field.

We moved to our first farm, in another province when I was twelve and Dad immediately sold off the last of our quality horses.

Some years later, back in Poverty Bay I acquired a very beautiful little mare. Probably the finest little mare I had ever seen.

I was told that you couldn’t catch her, couldn’t groom her, couldn’t trust her and couldn’t ride her. Beautiful, with a reputation like that how could one not be intrigued?

I caught her, groomed her, tossed a cover on her, dragged it off, crawled around under her feet. Quiet as a mouse.

I was in a little seaside village and I took her out on to the road, that had wide grass verges  and after some talking swung up, bare back.  One minute she was walking, the next she was up in the air. I stepped off, beside her head quietened her down and led her down to the beach.

There in the soft sand, which slowed her up a bit, we began the discussion. She decided that bucking wasn’t getting her anywhere  and bolted.   When she decided that she had gone far enough, I turned her round and galloped her back to where we had started.

Then, as walked her around while she cooled down we decided to be friends. I rode her quietly back to her home.

Back where I lived we had a big ‘home’ paddock on the slopes of a big and steep hill. Out in the morning trying to catch her we did the rounds of the paddock. I was in a fury of the ‘if I had my rifle I would shoot you, you miserable bitch! kind.

Angry, exhausted and disgusted I sat down wondering why I put up with this nonsense. Behind me I heard a snort, and there, 20 or 30 metres away stood Midge, ears forward, eyes sparkling, enquiring: ‘well, where  the hell are you?’

As I stood up she turned and trotted off over the bump in the ridge that had hidden her from view.

I have no doubt that to her this morning ritual was a game. Once she had let me corner her, and I had laid a hand on her neck she followed along like a dog, and from that time on for the rest of the day she would come to me when I called.

The Missing End Bit

Peter, if this was a Bill Cosby monologue it would finish with "And that's how I met your mother".

Why The Scepticism ?

I quote the US lawyer Erin Brokovich who was in Sydney to launch the wondrous Climate Change Coalition political party : (words to this effect ):

"...what have we got to lose by cleaning up the planet? If the threat is exaggerated we simply leave a clean Earth to our children, the alternative is too horrible to contemplate."

Presumption of prudence

Malcolm, the presumption of innocence has a shining glory whose brightness I suppose varies inversely with one's distance from the dock. If you or I were hauled before a court on a charge of high treason, murder, grand larceny or even defacing election campaign posters (once posted Your Honour, they become part of the public property they are glued to) we would sing its eternal praises. (With leave, Your Honour, my argument will become clear in due course.)

You have been arguing before the Court of Webdiary that the defendant CO2 has not been proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt of causing climate change. I think you have made a case for that. I too consider myself a climate change sceptic, to the extent that I allow that other causes of the manifest effects we now see, like the opening of the sea ice blocking the Northwest Passage lying over the top of Canada, may yet displace CO2 from its postition in the dock.

Atmospheric concentration of CO2 has risen since 1970 from 320 ppmv (parts per million by volume) to 376 today. That is a rise of 56 ppmv in 37 years, equal to adding about 10 drops of a coloured miscible liquid like iodine tincture to a 10 litre bucket full of water over that time. On the face of it, that's not much. But it may be enough. Worse, it may have taken us past a tipping point that we don't as yet know about, involving say, sequestered methane.

The circumstantial evidence against CO2 is very strong. According to the best paleoclimatic data available, CO2 atmospheric concentration correlates remarkably closely with temperature over the period covered by the Vostok ice cores; well explained at the Woods Hole Research Centre site.

Roger made a good point. In the absence of certainty the Prudential Principle is best, and it demands that CO2 be presumed guilty until proven innocent, with policy formed accordingly. That is, unless you are willing to bet the planet on its innocence.

The police are continuing their enquiries m'lud, but in the meantime they urge us to regard the defendant CO2 in the dock over there as the lad most likely to have done it. He's in the frame, as they say.

Into the slammer with him then, and bring on the next case.

Waves hit Cornish beach - never happened before

I saw an item on SBS World News the other day about the "unprecedented" tidal surges hitting the UK coast last week.

A somber-sounding voice-over accompanying overlay footage of a tractor shovelling rocks to form a make-shift sea-wall adjacent to a heritage fishing village or other in Cornwall or some place said things like this:

"Local authorities are taking increasingly urgent steps to protect British coastal communities from sea-level rise due to global warming."


A council worker in a Ferguson front-end-loader shovelling a  pile of rocks knee-high in front of some pier in Portscatho or Penzance?

And what sea level rise are we talking about, exactly?

Survive, or Squabble?

Duncan B, except for diagramme [sic] I thought it was a pretty good read. Not an irrational beat up, anyway. All dogma, including the scientific, should be open to challenge. Let's hope your scepticism is justified. On balance, I think not.

I wonder if the lawyer/scientist antithesis can be resolved. They are such separate species. I know they use each other's services, the lawyers using scientists to bamboozle lowest common denominator jurors or judges on the cusp of senility into accepting the interpretation of reality they are pushing; and scientists using lawyers to try to vindicate their latest irresponsibility when their cure turns out to be so much more damaging than the disease could ever be. But the personalities of each are pretty much diametrically opposed.

Law must attract the most conservative disposition — it is dedicated to interpreting and fortifying what is already well established. Science, at least in theory, is dedicated to change; to discovering new and more convincing paradigms.

I have been accused elsewhere of having an obsession with other people's intelligence. (Well, whoopy-do). One of my interests is in animal intelligence, because I like animals, and one of the main things that sets us apart from them is our superior intellect. The other is that we have a sense of humour, whereas they are generally thought to have none. In my area of interest I have looked for evidence of a sense of humour in animals, because like a scientist I am attracted to the idea of overturning accepted paradigms. As an aside, the best evidence I have seen of humour in animals is that displayed by kookaburras. (This is is a scientific breakthrough, not a joke.)

A sense of humour is, I think, a good indication of human intelligence. Lawyers' jokes can be funny, and clever. Scientists' jokes rarely are. Get a group of them together, and one will crack a joke, almost always juvenile. His fellow scientists will chortle; the non-scientists present will curl their lips and roll their eyes.

I must say I agree with your assessment of Tim Flannery. A lot of what he says is irritating, overly earnest rubbish. But a lot of what you say here is inconsistent with other things you say. Climate change over the aeons is quite a different thing from changes observable in a single person's lifetime. And if you ascribe to the idea that the ozone layer has been depleted by human activity (thank you, scientists who gave us CFCs to play with), then how can you be sceptical of human activity having an effect on other aspects of the climate? And if you are a sceptic, why do you think it worthwhile to prescribe remedies for a problem you don't believe exists?

I think you and the sceptics need to get out more. I have seen a large part of this country over the past two years. It is a different country from the one I knew. Lakes where people used to sail and water ski are now mud puddles. Only a few dejected looking pelicans remain in places where birds of all kinds used to abound. Towns where tourists used to throng are dying. In conversation with a man in Urana, where the main activity at the time was trucking sheep away to somewhere else, I said "Perhaps this is not just drought. Perhaps this is the way things are going to be now." The man I spoke to visibly flinched. It has been in the back of his mind for a long time. The people who live with the drought hope it is only a drought, but their hopes become more forlorn week by week.

Your remedy: power generation by solar. I love solar power — lived with it for years. I don't see much merit in your idea of putting solar panels along railway lines though, to feed into the grid. If we're going to use solar power we won't need a grid. Everyone can have their own solar generation system, and the crazy, expensive, dangerous 19th century grid can be dismantled, and good riddance to it.

A small roof covered with solar panels would supply more power than even the most profligate wastrels among us could imagine themselves using. A tenth of what they use would suffice for the sensible people among us. The trouble is, how much silicone is there in the world? It is expensive, so I suppose supply must be limited.

Maybe the stuff can be synthesised, at an affordable cost? According to Peter Hindrup, tin ore mixed into bitumen converts light into electricity in a similar way to silicon, but if that was discovered in the nineties, why isn't it in use by now? It sounds like a pipe dream to me.

Even if we stopped polluting the atmosphere tomorrow, which of course we won't, the problem will continue to get worse year by year, for decades, or for generations. As I have said before, warming of the oceans will cause CO2 to be released from the water into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect. Our choices are to return to nature and live as our pre-agricultural ancestors did for hundreds of thousands of years — which is not a choice at all, because it will be forced on us — or to try to keep this thing we call civilisation going by modifying the planet even further. Modifying it according to a plan, this time. Stop fiddling, worrying about who will win some silly little election, and think, if we think it is worth saving, about how our civilisation is going to survive.

Things Can Be Worked Through

Malcolm B Duncan, for what it is worth I believe people focus too much on the stick rather than the carrot. If one is to accept (which I think you do), changing an entire way a person lives their life, often through need rather than want, is not something that can be accomplished overnight.

Rewards such as cheaper parking for smaller cars (makes sense - they take up less space), tax incentives to use public transport (even making it possibly free), tax incentives for using alternative energy etc are all basic ideas that could be expanded on. Giving people a real reason (self interest) to move in a direction will always have much more success than making them move through force.

Irresponsible city-dwellers are the problem

Apart from that, let's not just propose things to assist, let's do them. “

Well Malcolm, you either can't read others posts or prefer not to. I've been using alternative energies and sustainable systems since 1977 and in commercial (hospitality) situations since the mid 90's. We only need the city drones to get of their bums and do something for the planet, instead of just making noises and expecting others to do it for them. Without being personal, I class everyone living in cities as being lunatics, cities are not sustainable under the current expected situations with changing climate. Your idea of putting solar cells on rail lines is stupid, it's much better to cover all transport with solar cells and have booster solar stations at convenient locations which would service not only transport but small population areas as well. Using Stirling engines would solve a lot of power producing problems everywhere.

I would ask you Malcolm, what are you doing or have done, do you think it would be prudent to actually learn about the technology available?? It appears to me the most vocal sceptics are the ones who don't appear to know much at all and mainly live within the major problems areas causing these climate problems, cities. The biggest problem we face is the ignorance of city dwellers and their desire to just consume and bugger the consequences. Our political system is very representative of this holier than thou attitude to climate change, considering a very big percentage of politicians are lawyers and looking at the direction they and their lackies are taking, its obvious the first thing we need to do is remove the legal professions stranglehold on society. After all I don't see any of them doing anything but feeding their pockets and egos, the same goes for most academics, they do nothing but contribute to the problem.

One of the biggest problems is no one understands how the engine room of climate is being effected and what it will do. The earth's main engine room sits below Aus and is the major driver of weather patterns and sea currents and reactions around the world, it's called the gGeat Southern Ocean. This is the only ocean which circumnavigates the globe without impedance from land, it acts as a big pump and generator that drives the currents and weather patterns of the world. Meteorologists and oceanographers are already speaking about how much this major climate engine is changing and how they have no idea of what it will mean, but it won't be nice.

The facts are, there is nothing we can do about the coming situation, it's too late and it's irrelevant as to the cause, its what to do now to survive which counts. All the semantic waffle won't help you cope with the drastic changes and calamities which may be associated with these changes. As most of the population lives on coastal areas in cities, which are the biggest causes of pollution, the most prudent thing to do for nature is destroy these cancerous growths and that's pretty easy when you have the power of 75% of the worlds surface to use against the cancer. We are seeing this start to occur with localised dramatic storms popping up in cities, as nature tests it's weapons and improves them against the cancer destroying her.

The only sensible solution for city dwellers is to install aquaponics, solar cells and ban fossil fuel vehicles from the streets. Next, turn of the lights of the cities and shut down later night activities as it uses much more energy than day time activities. Then ban the sale and use of useless power consuming commodities, useless polluting products and manufacturing procedures. I bet no one will support the things needed to be done, when you consider the vast amount of monetary resources available are held within cities, yet the people who have these large disposable incomes only spend it on useless egocentricity. Unless we take this action nothing will change, so either do something real to change the situation personally or shut up and take your palliative medicine from nature. Most people in the rural areas are struggling to survive, but the majority of alternative energy and sustainable life styles are found in rural areas. City people have the money, the resources, yet they do nothing but bleat and spend more and more on rubbish and egocentric gluttony. That's where the blame lies and the solutions, it would only take city dwellers to change and the majority of problems would be rapidly reduced. But it will never happen as city dwellers are buck passers and irresponsible in the extreme, you only have to see them on holidays to see how far they live from reality and out of control pollution-wise.

Never Ask You Never Know

Malcolm B Duncan, I believe you are on the track so to speak. A general acceptance that there is a problem is a good starting point. Also an acceptance that people (a great many people) have to make a thing called a living is also very helpful. I would assume that you also accept a return to the year of our lord 1665 (in all but name) is neither going to ultimately help any person nor will a great many people ever peacefully accept it.

One can either join the growing list of environmental doomsday cults or one can get active. I believe the best bet would be starting a trend that is ultimately both positive and profitable. Certainly this is a challenging task, though, certainly not an impossible one. Asking a question is generally the way to finding an answer, and I believe the answer is out there somewhere under the stars (probably shared amongst a combination of people).

It sticks out like dog's balls.

 Malcolm, I am so sorry old chap but your sceptical climate change position is about as convincing as Madonna singing 'Like a Virgin'.

When we are in trouble with the law, we hire lawyers. I know, I've been obliged to hire a few.  When we want clear, objective, rational views about the environment we turn to those with specialist knowledge - scientists.  Scientists, steeped in hard work and rationality, are not generally prone to alarmist positions.  Speak to any Australian scientist about Howard and the issue of ecological degradation and they almost weep with frustration. 

Herewith a link to a document published in 1992 and linked to the Union of Concerned Scientists. While it doesn't mention global warming it is an interesting example of exactly how long the world's best scientists have been arguing for substantial economic and attitudinal changes towards the environment. 

My initial engagement with environmental issues was in 1969 when, as a teenager, I campaigned with many others to bring a halt to the sand mining of Myall Lakes in NSW.  At the same time I was watching black and white television footage of US B52's spraying the defoliant 'Agent Orange' over the jungles and peoples of Vietnam. The link between imperial aggression and ecological degradation has become even more marked and clear over the almost forty ensuing years.  Countless arrests in forests and other places later it is clear that the chickens are coming home to roost, big time. 

I suggest that you extend to the scientists the same sort of intellectual respect that you would expect to command from them were they seeking your assistance with the law.  In short, stop behaving like a silly bloody virgin, dilettante lawyer and do something beneficial.  Like offer pro bono assistance to the Tasmanian Wilderness Society over the Gunns mill, for example.

Above all, do not come the uncooked crustacean with us about how your training in the irrationalities of the received common law qualifies you to credibly claim that the science behind global warming requires a sceptical attitude.

The Way It Is

I wonder if we humans are being a little bit up ourselves?

Most are convinced we humans play a major roll in climate change, and most would agree that over time climate does what climate does; it changes, with or without human activity.

What ever we do to contribute to the reduction in CO2 will probably have little effect on what Climate has made up its mind to do, keep changing.

Could we humans have fallen into the trap of believing that we are so dominant or powerful on planet Earth, omnipresent maybe, that it is we and only we who are responsible for climate change, and it will be only us who can control it?

I fear that trying to control mother nature may be a big ask, but try we will, and maybe must if we are going to say in the game; but for how long?

By all means reduce the burning of coal and oil, that will clean up our atmosphere (then we'll all die from UV rays burning through a depleted ozone layer, without all the smog stuff to protect us) and offer us a less toxic environment.

The big problem will be migration. In the old days we packed up the tent and moved on to find  a more fertile environment, and if we didn't we perished ; bit hard moving Perth, or Adelaide. Oh well, we best get prepared to look after a lot of refugees, or fight the desparate bastards for our little piece of heaven.

But who will be the refos this time round and who will be fortunate enough to own (and defend/share?) a little piece of heaven?

Sooner or later mother nature will (with or without human involvement)close down the human experiment, that is the way of our universe; that is the way it is. It is written in the stars and in the eons; and there is nothing we can do about it.

So drink up dear friends, for tomorrow we all die.

Gulp gulp, slurp gulp, .....

buurrrrrpp...bloody CO2.

Science is blind, and can't join the dots

Science can form hypotheses, loves them to bits, but can't respond until proof is achieved.  It has no intuition, and little or no ability to think laterally.

So, climate change sceptics can alwas fall back on Science to support their scepticism as we are no doubt a long way from being able to prove that human activity has negatively impacted the earth's climate and will do so going forward.

But, the hypothesis that our activity is doing just that is an easy one to frame, support and believe in.  It's completely intuitive.  Orders of magnitudes more carbon is being released to the atmosphere than even a couple of centuries ago, simply because human population has exploded.

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution our use of energy has also exploded as ourability to obtain store and transport it has matched our demand, both per capita and in the fact that the population of big industrialised energy consumer countries has probably doubled in that time.

It's also completely intuitive that a complex system like the climate is dynamic in its own right, but that then introducing an external driver such as human carbon consumption could only serve to alter it's natural behaviour in ways that may or not be benign. 

On that basis it's also completely intuitive, even compelling, that pulling back on carbon emissions is prudent, regardless of the lack of scientific proof.


Exposure to the law and science also cause one to be sceptical about what is declared to be evidence and how evidence can be questioned and re-interpreted.

Ice-cores just because they've only been collecting the things for a few years doesn't mean they don't give good evidence.  Just because archaeology has only been practised for a few hundred years doesn't mean the Egyptians didn't build the pyramids.

It doesn't finally matter if it is human caused.  It is happening and if we don't adapt we are up s**t creek without a paddle.

Leaving out one time factors (such as volcanic eruption) should please you - as it helps to zero in on human causation.  And it can be done with very great rigour.  If you don't believe me talk to a statistician.

Like you I believe in doing lots and very, VERY soon.  I see no technical impediment to improving our lifestyles (not the same as cluttering with more stuff) and relying completely on renewables.  All we need to do is get short sighted vested interests and their political lackeys out of the way!

Old fols and Solar generation

Hell!  I’d given up for the night!
Malcolm: your idea of plating rail lines with solar panels would be damned expensive, and I’m not sure how the panels would cope with the vibration, or for how long.
When I was in Bellingen, — throughout the 90's —  a friend who was already running a web based business, — feeding a wife and a couple of kids on the proceeds — was approached by an ‘old guy’ who said: ‘you have one of those computer things and access to the net, don’t you?’
On being told yes he produced a screed of papers and asked if he would transmit them to NASA. My sceptical friend said, yes, but it will cost you.
He duly sent the material off, and to his amazement received a detailed answer within 24 hours!
The ‘old guy’ had discovered? a lode of extremely pure tin ore. NASA was working on a project of mixing tin ore into bitumen with the intention of turning all road surfaces into solar generators.
    While the process wasn’t very efficient based upon area by power generated, the relatively low cost and the potentially huge area involved made the project feasible. It just so happened that the ‘old guys’ ore was the most suitable of all that they had tested.
    There is some very good work being done, and one has to be very careful of writing off ‘old fools’!


It would be bloody expensive. I don't see that as an argument.   Unlike the North Americans, we built our railroads in the 19th Century at public expense and it was bloody expensive. Cost-benefit means cost-benefit. To govern for the entire nation is to understand that we need rural production (a little more rationally organised than over the last 150 years) as well as allowing people to live where they have been brought up. It would be a quaint idea to have a manufacturing industry as well. The fragile nature of this country does not promote the idea of everyone living in Sydney (or the other major cities for that matter). We need sensible policies that not only care for the environment but allow us to exploit it for all sorts of reasons in all sorts of ways.

I'm happy to entertain any sensible idea but give me the grace to put out ideas of my own to which the rest of you can react rationally. That is what policy development is about. If you disagree with it, fine, but I'd appreciate it if we could keep this thread (which is going to get quite heated anyway) free of outright abuse. Do youse bastards understand that Ian?

Read It And Be Afraid

Malcolm, there is something about what you write that reminds me of the little boys who having lit the fuse to grandpa's stick of dynamite in the woodshed now don't know if they should put it out or stand and watch or run out of the shed and hide.

The discussion about whether you or I are sceptics or believers is moot. We are dealing with evidence that suggests a draconian outcome for humanity by doing what we do. Prudence demands that we err on the side of caution.

What is the oh-so-horrible outcome if the sceptics are correct? The stockmarkets and the world economy will endure a period of reduced profits or maybe even losses. People in the West will have to live a less affluent lifestyle. Big bloody deal! Once business ramps up again they will recover those profits in no time flat and we may come out of it, leaner, fitter and more appreciative of a simpler life.

The draconian aspects of a runaway natural system are very well presented in Dr. Per Bak's book How Nature Works. This book deals with his research into the mathematics involved in phenomena such as earthquakes, volcanos, avalanches etc. He shows clearly that the energy that can be invested in one these SOC events can be anything from minute to all the energy available to the system. What sort of event you get cannot be deduced by looking at system today.

Where global warming is concerned Bak's work shows that it can mean anything from a few years of slightly warmer weather to a runaway that can produce a Venusian climate almost overnight.

If you are sanguine about the possibility of ending all life on earth because profits must be maintained at all costs then you are no longer a sceptic. You are a dangerous gambler and you are standing in the woodshed and watching.

Addendum For Malcolm

Malcolm, I realise that my last paragraph in the 10:27 post is confusing.

My use of the word "you" was not meant to refer to yourself but to sceptics in general.

Reading skills

Roger Fedyk, it might help if people actually read what I wrote rather than what they thought I had written. I thought the last paragraph was tolerably clear.

2,501 against 1

Malcolm, that was truly stupid and not a bit funny. You can add me to the 2,500 IPCC scientists who would undoubtedly consider you a dangerous lunatic.

Consider yourself added

Where's your evidence?

Cherrypicking nonsense

Malcolm, you've just cherrypicked the document for what you see as flaws. Whether or not they are really flaws, or just your misunderstanding or imagination, would have to be explained to you by a real climatologist.

Are you a climatologist? Or are you just a climate change Sunday driver, out to stir up the forum? Would you actually defer to someone with more knowledge of the subject than you, or would you cling to your precipice? You've got an awful lot of scientific weight in opposition to you, old chum.

Then there's the end of your "attack" article, where you fall into a heap of recrimination, pledging to change, adapt and go down fighting, even if we're all doomed.

Man, where the hell are you coming from? You'd confuse the dead...

Analysis always cherrypicks

Ian McPherson:

Malcolm, ...Would you actually defer to someone with more knowledge of the subject than you, 

Certainly would.    And what I have been saying for ages is (a) demonstrate that you have it - which you haven't and (b) let's discuss it rationally.

If you want abuse son, which is all I have had from you (and which I regard as thoroughly anti-intellectual and against Webdiary guidelines and you won't get me complaining about that because I'm big enough to wear it and I couldn't give a flying unless you substantiate what you are saying) I'll give it to you in spades.

If you have any rational data to support what you say, produce it (with proper links). There are two aspects to my commentary: criticism of the science in the report (and of course that is selective - but from a statistician's point of view, I don't see how it is not legitimate criticism); and the policy I propose. Instead of deriding it, if you don't agree with the policy, explain how it is in error and what your solution is. Like any sensible politician I'm prepared to take constructive criticism but if you just want to be abusive, get well and truly. I don't see you spending your hard-earned dosh standing for parliament and putting ideas forward to make it a better country. At the moment, while you say you are a scientist, you aren't displaying much of the general character of the species.

I expected a considerable amount of flack from this article (which is most certainly not a joke but a serious analysis of some of the defects in the report) but I did not expect, on Webdiary, anything other than rational discourse.

Terms like "lunatic" are seriously out of order.

Charrypickers always cherrypick

Listen Malcolm, let's get a few things straight here.

Your article was an irrational "beat-up", provided just prior to a key election, to lend some credence to a widely discredited theory, that of climate change skepticism. That theory, and its adherents, have been abusing the public for years, so don't you give me your "don't abuse me, I'm innocent" line, because it is cynical and hypocritical in the extreme.

Your article, by its very nature, is abusive, because it flies in the face of overwhelming scientific agreement. Your analysis was shallow and unsophisticated – you just cherrypicked a few bits and then, seemingly, agreed with the conclusion! Your fleeting spit at a vital, world-changing document was amateurish at best, and would be rejected outright by any decent peer-reviewed scientific publication.

I've said I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and I will, even though you are clearly no scientist. I may even point out why some of your ideas are impractical and unhelpful. But don't test my patience and try to "wedge" me with your hypocritical nonsense, or I'll kick back, as sure as the sun rises in the morning.

RIchard:  Disagreement with science is not regarded as abusive here.  Some of what you've both said, on the other hand..  In the spirit of things  I've been lax.  Could we steer back towards Marquis of Queensbury rules, chaps?

Disagreement with science

Richard: "Disagreement with science is not regarded as abusive here. Some of what you've both said, on the other hand.. In the spirit of things I've been lax. Could we steer back towards Marquis of Queensbury rules, chaps?"

I can do that Richard, as long as we have an understanding. This is, as far as I can see, an article by an amateur skeptic, criticising the work of 2,500 of the world's best climatologists. This is not a rigorous scientific analysis of a world-changing document.

To claim otherwise, and for Malcolm to allude to some vague scientific qualification in the head of his article, is misleading. Either Malcolm has some relevant scientific qualifications or he does not. I believe it is important that he reveals the truth.

Perhaps then we can move on.

Richard: At the head of the article Malcolm talks of using "scientific method." This isn't a claim to a scientific qualification. It's one of the beauties of Webdiary that we can have opinions without needing to produce academic credentials. Otherwise I, at least, would be stuffed.


Richard, I don't disagree with science as such. The concept is a little confusing. Science is about theory and disconfirmation.     As for Ian McPherson, apart from straight out abuse, and his assertions about 2,500 scientists and what they believe, he has not given me a single link to any study which would change my mind. The shibboleth of auctoritas went out with Chaucer. I'm a scientist so I must know what I'm talking about - nonsense. Try Lysenko. Like anyone properly trained in scientific method, my mind is open. As to qualifications, I have a full major equivalent in psychology and my interests lie in psychobiology, perception and history and philosophy (in the last I got 100% - Sydney not some fly -by-night teaching institute). I also have an HD in Jurisprudence.

If, Mr McPherson, you have some solid evidence apart from a few ice-core samples, give me the links. If I find evidence that changes my mind, I'm happy to change it. By the way, you strike me as someone who might follow the football.

Alga Kavanagh however is not satisfied just calling me a lunatic. Apparently everyone who lives in a city is a lunatic. Well, Mr Kavanagh, politics is the art of the possible. In cities that have been designed around the automobile and which require it to get food and get to work, it's a little crazy to expect people to give the things up. We need better electric cars. The point about the railway idea is that it allows us to establish a reliable cheap rail freight network in the ownership of the Commonwealth and generate income at the same time so that, eventually, we can phase out coal generated power and reduce the tax burden on individuals. As economic rationalism has run wild in this country a greater and greater burden has fallen on individuals as State Governments (who have all sold their State Banks and Insurance Offices) and Local Councils become increasingly reliant on fines as a source of revenue. They act as if it can go on forever. It can't - the average punter only has so much disposable income and he'd rather dispose it on himself than pay parking fines.

The infrastructure of this country needs rebuilding (and I don't see a problem in doing that in a fashion which reduces our overall emissions - might even be more efficient). By all means research any form of alternate energy including wave power and geothermal but it has to be costed and it has to be paid for. Solar appears to be cheaper in the short run and the technology is better developed.

Amongst other things the Commonwealth was created for defence because the States realised that having six or seven different armed forces was not efficient (as NZ has found to its cost). In the same way, national infrastructure would be best handled by a national strategy.

Malcolm's distinguished career...

As for Ian McPherson, apart from straight out abuse, and his assertions about 2,500 scientists and what they believe, he has not given me a single link to any study which would change my mind. The shibboleth of auctoritas went out with Chaucer. I'm a scientist so I must know what I'm talking about - nonsense. Try Lysenko. Like anyone properly trained in scientific method, my mind is open. As to qualifications, I have a full major equivalent in psychology and my interests lie in psychobiology, perception and history and philosophy (in the last I got 100% - Sydney not some fly-by-night teaching institute). I also have an HD in Jurisprudence.

Well, you're quite the special one, aren't you Malcolm? I did notice however, that you don't have an interest or any qualifications in climatology, or any of the earth sciences. Yet you claim to be capable of critiquing a major international work on climatology. I doubt that very much.

Frankly, I'm disappointed in the article. It's awful.

I'm certainly not going to feed your giant ego with a bunch of web links, so that you can gracefully slide off your plasticine podium. I would suggest you read Climate change: A guide for the perplexed, published by New Scientist magazine.

It might help you maintain that open mind of yours, which seems to be suddenly full of fixed ideas...

Eyes wide open

What I am doing, Alga Kavanagh, is evaluating the quality of the science. I'm amenable to convincing but I'm not yet convinced.

Apart from that, let's not just propose things to assist, let's do them.

Open your eyes Malcolm

Malcolm, all you propose has been put forward, along with many other worthwhile ideas. Most freight rail is diesel electric so changes to rolling stock wouldn't be that costly. It would make very good economic sense to put all our resources into developing and producing alternative energy and transport, as we would open up huge overseas markets. By taking large trucks of our roads, we can produce smaller lighter and safer private transport thus reducing our consumption even more and reducing road trauma. We don't need fossil oils for plastics or for that matter just about everything produced by oil. Seed oils are already doing those things, just like biodiesel can replace most of the fuel oils we use without causing any problems, except for the corporate cartels and their vested interests. I use vegetable oils for fuel and lubricants along with solar and wind for energy and we don't skimp on power use. Just about every average house block could produce some seed oils to contribute to powering back up generation for their power systems. When you add flow batteries to the equation, you have a fully sustainable and cost effective system. The reason the lib/lab won't take this path is because it would rob their corporate masters of control and thwart their ideals of attaining full economic slavery and control.

As for their not being any evidence for negative climate change, I wonder if you ever leave the city or, if you do, venture of the main highways. If you knew the Aus bush 50 years ago, then you would see the obvious changes and if you live near the sea as I do, you would see the effects of sea rise on your door step along with the extinction of life all around. People fail to see or accept the destruction of the life giving biodiversity of the planet via growing extinctions of animal and insect life which is paramount to our survival and ability to produce foods and all caused by our pollution and habitat destruction. Climate change may not be as bad as we think, but when you combine it with growing pollution, collapsing environment and biodiversity and peak oil. You begin to see the real problem we are facing. Add ideological blindness and community denial, gives you quite a cocktail of so far unanswerable problems which all add up to coming disaster.

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