Wednesday, 28 July 2010

True climate threat - Addendum

In the comments to my last piece Mr Choos suggested that the Himalayas cause no problems to the climate so we shouldn't be concerned about buildings. I'm sorry to have to say this but he displays a desperate ignorance of the modern approach to science. Let me take you back to first principles.

In fact, let me start with an example drawn from different fields of study, zoology and modern anthropology. We all know that when lions need food they kill a nice antelope or zebra then tear off lumps of warm flesh and feast until sated. On occasions they might accidentally take a bit while their prey is still alive, but usually they ensure it is dead and the heart has stopped beating because they don't like to drink a lot of claret with their dinner. All aspects of the conduct of lions are to be applauded because they are natural beasts and do what Mother Nature intended they should do. We know she intended them to do it because they do it out of instinct, no television chefs or recipe books lead them from the path of natural righteousness.

Human beings on the other hand are subject to the wicked and unnatural forces of western commerce, a branch of what is mistakenly known as western "culture". Modern anthropology has established that the natural state for human beings is to live exclusively at ground level and eat only vegetative matter. You might have heard some "nature deniers" dispute this fact by reference to human canine teeth which, they claim, evidence a natural inclination to eat meat. Like so many of the denialist smokescreens applied in a vain attempt to deflect from the true path of modern climate science, this is a deliberate misinterpretation of basic facts in order to promote the interests of Big Oil. The true position is that human beings have canine teeth in order to allow them to make holes in babies earlobes prior to the insertion of raffia earrings as a sign of obeisance to Mother Nature and Her most bounteous crop.

We know that this is so because it was tested on computers. To be precise, in 1985 three Commodore 64s were used at the same time in different rooms at the Polytechnic of Mid Sussex and each produced an identical printout saying "yes" when asked "are human canine teeth designed for use in piercing babies' ears (glory be to Gaia)?" They had each been programmed by the Polytechnic's foremost expert in modern anthropology, Miss Camomile Tea, to provide the truth as disclosed in her seminal work Mother Nature's Labia. Of course we could just look the answer up in the book, canine appears in the index between camping and clitoris; but that would only provide partial proof. Those who wish to adopt old-fashioned methodology would assert that it is just Miss Tea's theory (although on this particular point her sister, Rich, helped with the basic analysis). To support her theory it was necessary that computers said the same thing, so she got some computers, set them up to test the hypothesis and they agreed with it. And there you have it, conclusive proof, computers have settled the science.

Having established this fundamental difference between human beings and lions it is necessary to identify the significance and what it tells us about human behaviour. On the one hand we have lions killing with aplomb in order to satisfy their natural instinct for food. On the other hand we have human beings murdering chickens, pigs, sheep, horses and cows in pursuit of an unnatural urge to consume the flesh of other creatures. The difference is that the former is natural and the latter is unnatural. They might seems like the same activities at heart - ending the life of another animal and eating it's flesh - but in fact they are completely different. One complements Gaia's great plan and the other does violence to it. One maintains the natural pattern of things, the other disturbs that pattern and necessarily causes other consequential damage in the process.

So it is also with the natural Himalayas and unnatural human-created buildings. When the Himalayas were developed Mother Nature took rock as only she can and turned it into a perfect form. In doing so she enhanced the balance of nature that, after all, is her job - she is incapable of doing anything else. It cannot be that the Himalayas interrupt the flow of air or cause Earth to rotate otherwise than perfectly because they are natural. The truth is that they steer air to where Mother Nature wants it and they stabilise the rotation of the planet. By definition, because they are natural they help create a perfect system. Human-caused protuberances above ground level, however, are a different kettle of ballgame. They are unnatural because they are the result of conscious decisions of human beings under the influence of Big Oil in comparison to the instinctive reactions of lions under the influence of Mother Nature.

The great Miss Tea has long since passed to the recycling centre in the sky but her book is still available. As far as I know there is now only one source (here).

Monday, 26 July 2010

The true climate threat from industrialisation

Concern has occasionally been expressed in the comments to some of my scribblings about the ability of our planet to sustain many more human beings than are in existence today. Can enough food be grown? Where will they be housed? How will sufficient electricity be generated? Will we run out of plastic for all the additional roll-on deodorants? The questions never end. There is even a body supported by one of the Attenboroughs calling for huge reductions in world population and citing alarming guesses about the dire consequences of allowing lesser beings to have children. Although these modern day eugenicists overstate their case quite pathetically there is a smidgen of truth behind what they say.

Resources are finite and occasionally we run of stuff. At my local fish and chip shop it is usually fish at about ten o'clock on a Friday night. On a larger scale the world has run out of mammoth skins for coats, dodo eggs for omelettes and any number of reptile skins for shoes. So far ingenious humans have found alternatives and we have been able to sustain more and more people in more and more comfort as the years have passed. But it seems to me that along the way we have done far more damage to the earth than has yet been reported. No doubt it is just too frightening a prospect for the powers-that-be to allow it to be known. A recent paper has quantified the damage but it's very technical. Hours of work have resulted in my humble self being able to distill the gist of the problem. Please bear with me while I explain.

Calculations that are central to our understanding of the physical world make certain assumptions - sometimes broad and sometimes narrow. It is, for example, assumed that the planet orbits the sun once a year (or so), that it turns on its axis once a day (or so) and that there are small wobbles in its movement. These assumptions lie behind our calculations of time but, more importantly, they underpin all assessments of how our climate will change.

The problem, recently explained at length in the paper I mentioned, is that human beings have affected each of these assumptions. They have done so by disturbing the weight-balance of Earth and by interrupting natural air flows so as to change both the rate of rotation of the planet and many other things beside. One thing and one thing only that has done this damage - building.

As weight is transferred from on or under the planet's surface in the form of clay, rock, stone, slaked lime, slate and pozzolans into above-ground structures in the form of buildings, the natural balance between that which is at or below ground-level and that which is above ground level is altered.

Artificial height blocks the air that would otherwise flow freely above the ground, pushes it higher and causes it to increase its speed in order to reach its destination at the originally planned time. The buildings themselves act as buffers, slowing the rotation of the planet just as a parachute fired from the back of a fighter jet slows its progress after landing.

In addition removing natural products from the surface thins the crust of the planet and creates man-made hollows that attract water not intended for that place. As time progresses these artificial lakes will erode the surface further because a hollow created anthropogenically is a very different thing from a natural crater. Being a forced tear in the surface of the planet it cannot heal as a natural crater heals and will not retain water because it will not have the natural seal that forms on the surface, of nature's craters. Instead the surface will be weak and flaky and will be eroded quickly by water that settles in it, especially if that water is agitated by human activity such as boating, fishing and ducks-and-drakes.

If that is not already enough, the news gets worse. Where these materials, ripped from the very womb of Gaia, are piled high into monstrous icons to the wickedness that is industrialisation they add weight to the surface, weight for which it was never designed. Albeit it very slowly, ground level at the edges of our largest cities is rising as the weight of the city presses down; but that is a minor problem. Of far greater concern is the effect it has on the balance of Earth's rotation.

It is not by coincidence that we measure rotation by examining what happens to the Greenwich Meridian. When such matters were first thought about it was clear to all that London led the way. Just as a dancer executes a spin by moving the lead shoulder first (the right shoulder for an anti-clockwise spin and the left if turning clockwise) so our planet spins by moving London first. The more weight we add to London, the more difficult it is for the turn to start and the more difficult it is for it to stop at the expected time. Even a minor delay or overshoot can upset the balance of the climate throughout the planet.

Unless we spread weight more evenly and, in particular, reduce the weight of London, we can expect ever more floods, hurricanes, droughts and pestilence because the natural balance will remain disturbed and Mother Nature will take her revenge.

This might seem somewhat far-fetched to those who have not studied the source materials in detail. But if you think this is silly, you should read what people say about carbon dioxide. I urge you to read the detailed paper to which I refer, I think you will be persuaded, you will find it here.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

What's wrong with prostitution?

I've met a lot of prostitutes in my time. The first encounter was as a student looking around Leicester Square. It was one of those places I'd seen on the Monopoly board, so I thought I should take a look. I couldn't see what all the fuss was about, a shabby square full of tramps and litter with a big cinema at one side and nothing else of note. As I wandered back towards the tube station, safe in the knowledge I never need go there again, a woman aged about thirty walked towards me, stopped and said "Hello, nice to see you again, how are you?" Unlike today, at the tender age of twenty my brain was not addled by decades of booze. I was able to discern that I'd never seen her before in my life. I was also able to discern a bra strap hanging from the corner of the bag she was carrying. She must have been pretty desperate to think a fat slovenly twenty year-old would have enough cash to make the exercise worthwhile, but there it is, each to their own.

A few years later my encounters were almost daily as I plied my trade in the Magistrates' Courts of central London learning the rudiments of advocacy. As I waited for my tiny case to be called I would witness the old Toms being dragged up from the cells to face the Stipendiary Magistrate they had faced so many times before. The charge of soliciting as a common prostitute would be read out and met by a guilty plea, all the prosecution advocate had to say was "last appearance three days ago, £30 fine" or "three days in a row, £50 fine yesterday".

Stipendiary Magistrates still exist although they are now called "District Judge (Magistrates' Courts)" - actually the apostrophe might be omitted, but it should be there so I'll keep it. It was so much better when they were "Stipes", there's no handy abbreviation for their new title.

They know about prostitution. They know there are women working the streets who will always do it because they can't find anything better. They are at the bottom end of the trade and the fines are a business overhead. Some of them are funding cripplingly expensive drug habits but far more are funding children. It's their job. The Stipes know it's their job and they know they will go out again to earn the money to pay the fine, so they are realistic. For so long as soliciting is a crime they have to enforce the law but they try to do it realistically. London's cheapest and mankiest tarts might charge £20 for a sight of their boobs and a few moments in which their calloused hand is in contact with the punters excited member, then a wipe with a Kleenex and they're off looking for another customer. Five such deals will be required to pay today's standard fine and some nights won't earn them even that.

There's a better class of business to be seen in so-called "massage parlours". The girls have to look appealing or they won't be selected - unlike the street girls who encounter the punters with very little cash those who own the parlours know their customers will have rather more to spare so they must be offered a better quality of product.

More lucrative still are private arrangements which have been made much easier since the advent of the interwebnet. It is more risky for the girls than the massage parlours because they won't even see the punter until he turns up or she gets to his front door. But the money is better so they can turn way from a deal that doesn't feel right and still earn a living. And, of course, there is a top end as in any service industry, expensive girls for rich clients.

The street girls are arrested frequently and given small fines that reflect their circumstances. The massage parlour girls are in trouble only when the place is raided. It happens, but not often. Private arrangements hardly ever trouble the courts unless the girl steals something or the punter gets violent, and even then the matter is only reported if the punter doesn't mind people knowing he uses prostitutes or the girl doesn't fear loss of her future livelihood.

I raise this topic today because last night I went to my favourite Thai restaurant and found that two of the usual waiting staff were not present, one male one female. They are both students and had been working there for over a year. Being a polite sort of fellow I asked the manager about them and was told they had left in order to do other work. I asked him to pass on my good wishes if he heard from them again, but there was something in the way he said it that set my mind whirring.

Later I collared one of the supervisors and requested further details. He divulged that both were finding it difficult to make ends meet on what they earned from the restaurant so they had started advertising more intimate services on websites a few months ago. Both found it sufficiently lucrative that they could give up their old job. It wasn't surprising to hear that. A couple of years ago the Brazilian chap who made deliveries for the Chinese takeaway close to FatBigot Towers did the same thing. Once he was established it was a choice between six-midnight for £50 or one punter for a hour and £80 the tax man would never know about.

The cheap street girls and boys are often pitiful creatures. They scrape small fees from the lowliest punters because they can't attract a better class of custom. Most are simply unfit or unqualified for any better paid job, so it suits them to work as prostitutes whether or not they are on crack cocaine. The rest are doing very much the same thing albeit without the additional risks associated with working from the streets and having to sell to dubious customers.

Most importantly, each of them is providing a service for which there is a demand. They don't create the demand, they satisfy a demand that is already there. What's wrong with that? We usually think of prostitution involving men hiring women for sex, but women also hire men, men hire men and (I suppose, although I've never heard of it) women hire women. In each case there is a willing customer who is prepared to pay a certain fee for a certain service. He/she is prepared to pay that fee because they want the service.

Say it costs £100. A person has £100 available and is prepared to pay that sum for nookie. They are not prepared to pay it for a curry because it is not their curry money, it is their nookie money. It has been set aside to spend on satisfying a need that can only be met by someone offering nookie. The punter's desire for nookie is not going to subside if prostitution is outlawed. Nor is it going to be satisfied without payment - if it could be he/she wouldn't be throwing a ton at it. So, it's going to happen anyway either within or outside the law. In any situation like that prohibition is absurd. America saw it with booze and every country that outlaws prostitution and/or homosexual activity sees it also. It's going to happen anyway.

I then ask the question that is the title of this piece: "What's wrong with prostitution?" Today's Puritans - you know the sort, they bleat about smoking, drinking and eating meat - claim it's rape in disguise. If it is rape then it's rape and not prostitution, if it's not rape it's consensual conduct between two adults and none of anyone's business.

Others claim is contravenes their god's law. Fine, if your god doesn't like it don't do it, but do mind your own business because your god probably has something to say about those who interfere in things that are none of their business.

My money's on the girl from the restaurant making more money than the boy. He has sticky-out ears. Then again, you never know. What I do know is that I can't think of a single thing wrong with prostitution.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Schneider's "double ethical bind"

Over at Mr Watts' place I read that someone called Stephen Schneider died last weekend. Professor Schneider's name was familiar to me as the man who promoted telling lies in order to get across the message of the Warmists. At least, that's what I had always understood him to have said. On hearing of his death it seemed appropriate to see whether he really had said it.

What he is often reported to have said is this: "... we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public imagination ... we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have ... Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."

On the face of it this is a blatant call for overstating problems, understating doubts and engaging in dishonesty if that is necessary to get the message across. It was surprisingly easy to find out whether he really did say it, all I had to do was go to his own website. There is a section called "Mediarology" (here) in which he addresses this very point (under "The 'Double Ethical Bind' Pitfall" in the left-hand column). He makes clear that he felt the substance of what he was saying was turned on its head by the above words being isolated from a longer paragraph thereby giving them a meaning they did not have. I have read the whole paragraph and struggle to see any substance in his point. Here is the whole thing:

"On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect, promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but - which means that we must include all doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."

Professor Scheider complained in particular about the omission of the final sentence in reports of his remarks and claimed that it qualified what went before. Specifically he argued that the final sentence changed the meaning of the more limited quotation I gave earlier.

One difficulty I have stems from his claim to be in a "double ethical bind". That supposes one strand of ethics pulls in one direction and another pulls in another direction on the same issue. While I can have no complaint about his description of the scientific method being a matter of ethics, stepping into the spotlight to further one's chosen political policy is not a matter of ethics. It is a matter of personal choice but it is not a matter of ethics.

One can test this by asking why the scientific method is a matter of ethics. Just so I make myself clear, my understanding of the scientific method is that scientific investigation should be accompanied by a freely available comprehensive record of what was done and what results came from that work. If a hypothesis is being tested, the hypothesis should be stated, the tests described and all results recorded whether they support or fail to support the hypothesis. If, on the other hand, the investigation has no hypothesis but is just an experiment to see what happens when various factors are combined, the record must state exactly what was done and what results were identified (again, all results). That is a matter of ethics because others might act in reliance on the conclusions of a scientific investigation, and they must have the opportunity to satisfy themselves that the investigation justifies them doing so. They must have the chance to replicate the work and see whether they reach the same conclusion.

It is not the fact that it is science that makes it a matter of ethics, it is the fact that it can affect other people. Medical practitioners are not obliged to maintain patient confidentiality for the sake of themselves, but for the sake of their patients. Similarly, lawyers are barred from competing against their clients or acting for clients with conflicting interests because the client(s) might suffer, not because the lawyers might either benefit or suffer. People working with money must keep their fingers out of the till because failure to do so is of detriment to their employers not because it is beneficial to them.

The second ethical question Professor Schneider raises is, by his own words, not one of ethics at all. It stems from his words: "we are not just scientists but human beings as well ... we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change". This pre-supposes that he concluded there is a sufficient "risk of potentially disastrous climate change" that he should abandon the leafy groves of academe and (no doubt with huge reluctance) rake in fees from speaking and writing on the subject and dine with Presidents. It was most kind of him to make that sacrifice, but it was not a matter of ethics. Either his belief in impending Armageddon was based on science - in which case it was only as strong as the science and should always have been qualified by any doubts he had about the science, or it was based on something else. If it was based on something else there is only one possibility - his personal political values.

If it was based on the science there would be no ethical bind, his belief would be as strong as the science and he should always put it forward in that context. That doesn't mean answering every question with recitation of an academic paper and the provision of a sheet of footnotes, but it does mean explaining briefly the doubts and uncertainties where it is necessary to do so in order not to be misleading.

It is only when you go one stage further and decide to put forward a case that is more certain than the science allows that you enter the realm of allowing your views as a human being to conflict with the ethics of your work as a scientist. Or do the two really conflict? I don't believe they do provided one is honest. Where you are putting forward an argument that it not wholly supported by the science you have to make clear that you are offering your personal opinion rather than a scientific opinion. By all means also say you believe the science is incomplete, that you believe your conclusion is correct and the doubts and uncertainties are likely to be resolved in favour of the position you take; but that is all you can do unless you are prepared to act dishonestly. Argue a position not supported by science and there is no conflict with your position as a scientist because you are not acting as a scientist, you are acting as an advocate of a policy.

In fact there is a potential ethical problem, but it has nothing to do with the absurd notion that policy advocates are subject to some (as yet unspecified) ethical code. The problem arises where a scientist seeks to use his scientific qualifications and experience to give his policy argument authority that science does not give it. In the same way that a lawyer acts unethically if he uses his position as a lawyer to secure a personal advantage, so it is, arguably, unethical for a scientist to use his position to gain leverage for his personal choice of policy.

Professor Schneider's self-justification falls for this reason alone - he sets up a conflict of ethical codes when there is none. It reaches the realms of absurdity when he argues that he was quoted out of context by reason of the final sentence of his piece being omitted.

Having said it is for each scientist speaking on matters of policy to decide on a balance between being an effective advocate and being honest, the damage was already done. One cannot reach a balance between effectiveness and honesty without sacrificing honesty. If you cannot make your point effectively and still remain honest to the science, you should not be arguing the matter at all and should leave it to those (if any) who can. It's not difficult to do, there are plenty of people who argue policies without having any formal qualifications or recognised expertise in the subject, some even write blogs.

The suggestion that his weasel words: "I hope that means being both" changes the meaning of the previous sentence is ludicrous, it does the exact opposite, it reinforces it. By merely hoping for both effectiveness and honesty he acknowledged that honesty might be compromised. It should be of no concern to anyone that effective advocacy of policy is hindered by the advocate being honest, the only people concerned about honesty hindering effectiveness are those interested in promoting a policy that cannot be defended by honest assessment. That was clearly his concern otherwise he would not have set-up a dichotomy between the two and then argued for individual advocates to form their own view of how honest they had to be.

He did not say whether he believed effectiveness or honesty was more important but I think I can guess. The whole passage I have quoted has no point unless it is a call for effective advocacy in preference to honesty and, indeed, a call for effective advocacy of a position that is not supported by science. It seems to me that his attempt to worm his way out of the hole resulted in it being deeper and more shady than it was before.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Think before you do your bit

We all like to do our bit in a good cause. The local primary school needs a new swimming pool, so people chip in a few quid here and there until the requisite amount has been found. As Remembrance Day looms lapels are adorned by little red poppies for which a little bit of loose change was dropped into a collecting tin. An earthquake demolishes the homes of little brown people, so we phone the number on the screen and use our flexible friend to add to the relief effort.

These might all seem like examples of doing our bit by pooling lots of small donations to produce a sufficient sum to help with a problem, probably because they are examples of exactly that, but they are each different things. In each there is an identified current problem which requires money and the solution is to have the little people reach into their pockets, but the difference is in both the scale of each activity and the extent to which the money given will be used for the stated purpose.

The school project is entirely local. It could be advertised further afield but is unlikely to reap much reward because few living in other towns and villages will feel any obligation to contribute. Unless old Iris the bookkeeper is having one of her creative moments, all the money raised will be used to provide a new pool, there will be no administrative costs.

Poppy day is organised by the Royal British Legion which is noted for having very low overheads because it relies substantially on voluntary assistance. It does have employees because it is such a large organisation that it could not operate effectively without some permanent staff. Necessarily this means that not all money donated goes to the care of ex-servicemen and women.

Providing food and shelter for trembling brown people is an international activity because the sums required are substantial and the organisations who get involved know they can tap into goodwill around the world. However, by their very nature, such organisations have large overheads. Some engage in widespread political lobbying and campaigning that eats into the value of donations they receive. And when it comes to delivering aid the results are variable, in part because of the need to pay bribes to national and local officials in order to be able to get any help through at all in some countries.

When we are doing our bit in these three examples, our bit delivers less bang per buck the further removed the beneficiary is from us physically and the larger and more corporate the body to whom we give our money. Yet in each case we give because we are satisfied that enough of our cash will get through to make a difference. Debatable though that might be in some specific instances of international disaster relief, failings are not widely advertised and the anguish of the next natural disaster always seems great enough to persuade many people to donate.

More than that, in each case it is absolutely true that whatever does get through makes a difference. The school might not raise enough for a pool in one year but it gets there eventually. Whatever is raised by the sale of poppies and the plea to help earthquake victims goes through the system and produces a result.

To my mind that is what "doing our bit" is all about. Our individual bit might be very small but it is pooled with other bits and even if the total remains modest it still achieves something because it causes something to happen.

Imagine what the reaction would be if the Royal British Legion promoted its Poppy appeal along the following lines: "Unless we raise £100million we cannot do anything. Once we raise £100million we can provide nursing care for one injured soldier for one day. Every further £1million will allow us to provide nursing care for one soldier for one day. We can only get to £100million if rich and poor alike give 20% of their income." Nobody would give a penny because the whole exercise would be futile. Giving £10 would not be "doing our bit" because it would achieve nothing other than making the donors poorer by £10.

True though it is that they will never get to £100million unless they start by raising £1 and then add to it, no good works will be possible unless everyone joins in and makes a substantial contribution and that will never happen because the cost of the of contribution required (on the hypothesis I gave) is out of all proportion to the benefit delivered.

I write, of course, not about the Poppy appeal (or indeed about swimming pools or quaking brown people) but about cutting emissions of carbon dioxide. On my last excursion I tried to explain why I consider it utterly futile for the UK to make any sacrifice at the bidding of the CO2 fetishists, but some were not persuaded. My resident Warmist, Mr Andrew, fought bravely and suggested that the little players such as the UK should do the decent thing and then seek to persuade (perhaps he meant shame) China and India into following suit.

It will never happen. The very reason they are industrialising is so that they can enjoy some of the physical comforts we have taken for granted for generations. We can only meet our absurd "emissions targets" by making those very comforts more expensive, thereby hitting the poorest members of our society hardest. To suggest that an industrialising country might slow or halt that process because we have made electricity and gas very expensive for our population and have chosen to get a small fraction of our electricity from windmills is pure fancy.

They can only reduce their emissions by reversing the process of industrialisation. Even the direst predictions of what might happen in China and India as a result of man-made global warming are insignificant compared to the benefits they will reap from industrialisation. They are not going to stop nationwide industrialisation because it might (on the worst-case prognostications of NASA's computer games) have a damaging effect on very small parts of their countries. Still less are they going to do so in order to prevent even more of the Netherlands being below sea level than is currently the case (particularly after the dirty Dutch performance in the World Cup final).

It's not like passing round a collection plate in the knowledge that some good will be done no matter how small the donations. The Warmists present an all-or-nothing case. Reduce CO2 emissions below a certain figure and the world is saved, fail to reduce them below that figure and the world is doomed. Anything short of the magic number is of no consequence. When reaching the magic number requires poor countries to remain poor despite them having set out on a path to riches it is obvious what chance there is of that happening.

None of this is about whether the Warmists' so-called science is accurate, nor does it question the validity of the absurd and Apocalyptic pronouncements about the consequences of not making Saint Al of Gore even richer than he is now. I am assuming for present purposes that all that nonsense can be accepted at face value. The proposed cure can never happen.

It is, I believe, obvious and unanswerable that nothing the UK does can make any difference. Nor can the USA and India between them make a difference for so long as China do not also play. China and India can achieve nothing without the US on board. The US and China can do nothing without India. And lurking in the background are Russia, Brazil, Mexico and a clutch of African countries who see what India in particular has achieved and, at long last, have realised they can do the same. None of them can be shamed into playing the de-industrialising game. There is not enough money to bribe them into playing. It simply cannot happen.

Somebody needs to point this out to our new Secretary of State for Energy Shortages and Climate Change Claptrap.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The reason I asked about carbon dioxide

My last missive asked what effect a doubling of the UK's production of carbon dioxide would have. It wasn't a frivolous question, nor was it one to which I expected a precise answer. Nor, indeed, was it asked in the belief that human activity producing carbon dioxide is likely to have any appreciable effect on the climate.

It was asked in the hope that a passing Warmist might undertake a calculation using the same methods they use to estimate the effect on temperatures of world-wide industrial activity continuing uninterrupted by greenie initiatives. Only a fool would suggest they pin their colours to one calculation and one figure of anticipated "global" temperature rises, but they conclude there will be a significant increase according to every one of their methods of estimating these things. So, what is the range of figures for the effect the UK has now and the effect it would have if it doubled its output?

Of course none of the great and good would descend to the grubby depths of this blog, but some of their supporters have chipped in from time to time when I have ventured to question something about the Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming theory (see, for example, the comments here and here). This time no one bothered at all. Maybe they have all given up with me, or perhaps they knew that any figure they might propose would be so pathetically small that it would illustrate the point I want to make.

It is at the heart of the whole exercise that things are measured globally save in the case of countries that produce absolutely bucket loads of CO2. They will be used to illustrate the evil of industrialisation to mother earth, whereas other countries (such as the UK) which produce tiny amounts compared to the whole will be lumped in with the sinners to produce stupendously high global figures for which all bear collective responsibility. This masks a truth that is spoken too rarely (unless you happen to be keen on some of my previous offerings such as this and this), namely that there is absolutely no point the UK taking any step to reduce its CO2 emissions unless all other countries do the same. And even then there is no point unless the big players do far more than us.

There's also no point bleating "but we must do our bit". We don't have a bit to do if the bit we do has no effect. After all, this is a game of cause and effect. If the effect predicted by the doom-mongers will occur regardless of anything done in the UK (which certainly seems to be the case for as long as China and India continue on the wicked path of lifting their people out of abject poverty by providing them with electricity for their homes and industries), we really shouldn't waste a penny on the exercise. Still less should we engage in self-flagellation.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

A question about the effect of carbon dioxide

I used to read lots of things about "global warming", now that "global warming" has been abandoned I read a lot about "climate change". Even a half-educated newt is aware that the "climate change" is the new term for what used to be called "catastrophic man-made global warming". I have had a lot of fun offering the occasional thought on the subject here and commenting about it elsewhere.

What I have never been able to do (because I have neither the inclination to seek the necessary knowledge nor the necessary knowledge to be able to interpret the necessary knowledge) is give figures that mean something. Figures like "if we add so-many giga-tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over the next five years averaged temperatures - as measured by flawed instruments in only a few places - will rise by so-many hundredths of a degree Fahrenheit". I am not in a position to make that calculation / estimate / stab in the dark.

What I can do is read about (and suffer from) additional taxes being imposed on activities that produce carbon dioxide. I recently bought a new car. Out went the "executive saloon" and in came a small car because I no longer have to undertake long journeys for work - that the old car stopped working also came into the equation. The consequences included a reduction in annual road tax from £245 to £155 and a reduction in the cost of my resident's parking permit from £200 to £70. Both discrepancies arise directly from the carbon dioxide fetish. The reason given for taxing big cars more than small cars and for imposing higher charges for parking big cars rather than small cars was carbon dioxide. Nothing else. Some would suggest it is just an excuse to increase taxes but I would not be so cynical.

That is all very well if you believe carbon dioxide to be the deadliest gas since the days of Auschwitz and poor misunderstood Saddam's little Kurdish experiment. Let's assume you do believe that. Please answer me a question.

What would be the effect on the climate from the UK doubling its production of carbon dioxide? I don't ask for a fully-analysed track of all possible consequences, I ask for a real life answer that is comprehensible to Mr & Mrs Ordinary.

In principle there can only be three answers.

First, our additional CO2 would cause an increase in global temperatures. OK, if so, how much? As I recall, the UK produces around 1.6% of global man-made CO2, what I want to know is what effect a doubling of the quantity would have - so please tell me what effect the UK currrently has on temperature and how it would change.

Secondly, our additional CO2 would have no effect because the quantity we produce is so small that any change that might occur would be too small to be measurable and should, therefore, be treated as zero.

Thirdly, no one knows.

It's all very well saying "we're all in this together" and "we must all do our bit because many a mickle makes a muckle", that doesn't address my concern. I want to know what difference would result from the UK doubling it's CO2 emissions.

Unless someone can identify a consequence that is more than de minimis we really shouldn't worry about what we produce today. There is no point reducing something for the sake of the planet if doubling the same thing would make no substantive difference.

Does anyone know the answer to my question?