Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

by John Q on October 20, 2015

I’m writing from the other side of the planet, but there are enough Oz-related links to offer some thoughts on the Canadian election result.

First, taken in conjunction with the recent removal of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, this is a big win for the planet. Abbott and Harper were the only two world leaders who were clearly climate denialists (despite some official denial-denialism) and now they are both gone. That leaves only the US Republican Party as a serious political force dominated by denial (of course, a big “only”). The chance for a decent agreement coming out of the Paris conference in December has improved significantly

Second, as the UK election also showed, the combination of multiple parties and First Past the Post voting is highly unpredictable. If things had shaken out a little differently, Harper might have managed it back into some kind of minority government, or we could be seeing the NDP rather than the Liberals winning on the basis of strategic voting. Applying this to the UK example, the idea that Cameron’s victory was in some sense inevitable is fallacious. Had a few things gone differently, we could all be talking about the mysterious appeal of Ed Miliband.

Third, the supposed dark magic of Oz spinmeister Lynton Crosby did Harper no good. If anything, Crosby’s dog whistle strategy motivated the majority to vote strategically against Harper. But I suspect that people like Crosby are better at selling themselves to politicians than at selling politicians to the public.



Chris Bertram 10.20.15 at 6:45 am

The UK Conservative party is not officially denialist (though many of its members are), but it is doing its best to kill solar and wind by cutting all subsidies whilst retaining those on other forms of generation.


Bill Gardner 10.20.15 at 6:57 am

Yes (!) to your point three. Sadly, dogwhistle politics work just fine in the States. Canadians, however, generally know that they need to be multicultural or the whole thing will unravel.


maidhc 10.20.15 at 8:07 am

You can see the effect of FPP by comparing the popular vote to the number of seats:

Lib: 39.5% 183 seats
Con: 31.9% 99 seats
NDP: 19.7% 44 seats

The Liberals got about 1/3 more of the popular vote than the Conservatives, but they took nearly twice as many seats. The Conservatives got about 50% more of the popular vote than the NDP, but they took more than twice as many seats.

It’s the old question of FPP vs proportional representation. I’m as happy as anyone to see Harper go. Now Trudeau has a free hand to put his policies into effect, for better or worse. Yet that was the same system that gave Harper a free hand to put HIS policies into effect for nine years. Would proportional representation be less extreme overall, or just a formula for stalemate and stagnation?

The NDP are big losers here, as it looks like a lot of people thought that the important principle was to turf Harper out, and the Grits had a better shot at pulling that off. Pre-election polling was showing the NDP with much stronger support than they got in the actual vote. I think that indicates that there’s a sizeable group of voters that could go either Liberal or NDP depending on circumstances. Worth keeping in mind for the future.


Dipper 10.20.15 at 9:16 am

There is no theory of anthropogenic global warming that satisfactorily predicts the changes in climate we see, or that satisfies the basic requirements of making falsifiable predictions, and there is absolutely no theory anywhere that can show on-shore wind farms can make any serious contribution to energy needs on a consistent basis.

Here in the UK on shore wind farms have been highly successful at diverting money from working people into the hands of wealthy land owners, and we now see the benefits of a green energy policy in the massive loss of jobs in the UK steel industry undercut by overseas companies what have cheaper energy. But I’m sure the Paris conference will be good news for people who make a living constructing political campaigns devoid of any firm scientific basis.


Bill Gardner 10.20.15 at 9:29 am

For what it’s worth, Trudeau has promised to try to get rid of first-past-the-post voting.


Pete 10.20.15 at 10:16 am

Well, we got 4 comments into the thread before denial showed up.


Lee A. Arnold 10.20.15 at 10:31 am

Dipper #4: “There is no theory of anthropogenic global warming that satisfactorily predicts the changes in climate we see, or that satisfies the basic requirements of making falsifiable predictions…”

Dipper, this is wrong on two different counts. Go and learn about complex systems, and then, learn about complex systems and their relation to the scientific method.


Dipper 10.20.15 at 10:43 am

@7 some references please?


Dipper 10.20.15 at 10:45 am

@6 what is the predicted number for climate change sensitivity please? i.e. the increase in global temperatures for a doubling of atmospheric CO2?


Sancho 10.20.15 at 11:18 am

Always fun to imagine AGW denialists applying their reasoning to, say, their own health.

“So which cigarette was it, doctor? One I had twenty years ago? One of the hundred I had last week? Oh, you don’t know which one caused this theoretical “cancer”? Well, glad you’re happy with your “risk factors” and “comprehensive longitudinal data” and “scientific consensus”, but if people stopped buying cigarettes the economy would collapse and we’d all be back to living in caves, which everyone knows is your real goal anyway. Good day sir!”


Nick Caldwell 10.20.15 at 11:26 am

Sancho, given global warming denialism appears to have sprung from the same corporate machinery that obstuficated the public health message on smoking, it that reasoning doesn’t sound too far-fetched, unfortunately.


Sancho 10.20.15 at 11:40 am

The tobacco spin doctors simply migrated into the fossil fuel industry when their services were in demand, but to be fair, outfits like Exxon were well ahead of the game both on understanding the science and then denying it:



Val 10.20.15 at 11:50 am

@ 11 is obstuficate a humorous version of obfusticate which the Oxford dictionary defines as a humorous version of obfuscate? Because I like it and think it’s good in the context of climate change denialists. It seems to fit – there’s a sense that they are stuficating us with their carbon pollution.

Also good on the Canadians!


matt regan 10.20.15 at 11:58 am

“Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!”–Bilbo Baggins.


Dipper 10.20.15 at 12:02 pm

I seem to have touched a nerve. Lots of comments, but as yet, no answers to my questions …


Francis Spufford 10.20.15 at 12:08 pm

Dipper, if you go to realclimate.org, you’ll find some scientists who from a combination of personal virtue and public spirit are willing to lead people like you gently through the basics of climate science. The rest of us are less patient.


Dipper 10.20.15 at 12:37 pm

thanks Francis. Meanwhile I am patiently waiting for someone to answer the question posed in 9.


Layman 10.20.15 at 12:52 pm

@ Dipper, your question is not even wrong.


kidneystones 10.20.15 at 12:52 pm

I’m still waiting for JQ to explain what controlled climate change might be.

Re: the election. Oil prices dropped. Nobody has any answers to prime the economy. The NDP opposed banning the burka. The real split is urban/rural. In the hinterland, the choice is between NDP and Conservatives. In urban areas, between the Liberals and Conservatives. Trudeau pulled it out in the end because the monetarily motived determined that Harper really was out of ideas to enrich the already wealthy and moderately wealthy.

The Liberals are the party of entitled Yuppies, or Ouppies, more properly. Liberals and Conservatives run neck to neck in terms of pork and corruption, but the Conservatives are more mean-spirited, but not by much. The NDP are striving to catch-up.


Val 10.20.15 at 12:53 pm

@ 17
Why don’t you go and look it up and come back and tell everybody? Why should anyone here have to do it for you? Or does the fact that a random collection of people on the Internet can’t or won’t give you the answer to that specific question right now this minute definitively prove that climate change isn’t happening?

(Sadly I think you feel somehow that the last is true)


albert 10.20.15 at 12:56 pm

Dipper, are you aware that this comment thread, or even this weblog, does not contain the entirety of human knowledge? I believe the answer you are looking for at 9 & 17 can be found with use of an internet search engine, which can refer you to sources, both trustworthy and less so, that will contain current and previous estimates of this number and the process by which these estimates are obtained and refined.


Val 10.20.15 at 12:59 pm

@ 17
Btw I can say – genuinely off the top off my head without checking it – that depending on the emissions rate this century the expected average global temperature increase is between 2.5 and 5.8 degrees centigrade. That’s from the latest IPCC report and you’re welcome to check and tell me if I’m wrong.


Lynne 10.20.15 at 1:04 pm

What the heck just happened in this election? The NDP got far less than the Conservatives. The polls didn’t predict this handy majority for the Liberals, though they kept saying the Liberals were gaining what the NDP were losing. I’m really sorry the NDP did so badly, but I have hopes of Trudeau. Now let’s see if he repeals Bill C-51.


mds 10.20.15 at 1:27 pm

Now let’s see if he repeals Bill C-51.

That will be something to see, after his party voted for it. I mean, I know at the time Trudeau effectively admitted they were supporting it purely from naked political calculation and rank moral cowardice, not principle, but it will still be interesting to see if they move to repeal it on the grounds of, “Yeah, but now that we’ve won the election, we can be against it.” Canadians really needed to keep seeing more of Anti-C-51 Mulcair, and a lot less of Anti-Keynesian Mulcair. (Balanced budgets no matter what, Tom? Really?)

I’m also less sanguine than Professor Quiggin about the boon to the environment, given that the Liberals officially support Keystone XL, and are amply greased with oil money. Still, they’ll be much less likely to actively muzzle inconvenient scientific conclusions, which is something.


Margaret 10.20.15 at 1:31 pm


For most of the campaign the NDP policies were markedly to the right of the Liberals. The NDP ceased to represent many of the people who had supported them over the years. The Liberal party became the only party of the left with a realistic chance of winning.


Lynne 10.20.15 at 1:32 pm

mds, I agree. With the NDP planted so firmly centre economically, what could the Liberals look but good? I agree also that this govt will be less likely to muzzle the scientists, but I wonder how much of the damage already done will be undone? So much funding cut. Harper has made huge changes in his tenure, and they will not be easy to undo even if there is the will to do them. And the NDP aren’t even the Opposition so they can’t influence Trudeau.


Dipper 10.20.15 at 1:36 pm


Firstly, its not a random collection of people on the internet. It is specifically people who have called me out because I doubted AGW and who then cannot answer a simple question.

The 2.5 and 5.8 degree predictions are for a doubling of CO2 and the spread is not AFAIK due to emission rate. It is due to differences in models. That’s not particularly convincing science.

Everyone on here will know that multi-factor model-based prediction is highly unreliable. There have been questions raised that the processes for producing these predictions do not meet genuinely accepted standards, and I have not seen a graph of someone taking a training set of data and then applying it to a more recent period and producing acceptable predictions.

It is clear that there is climate change, and historically there is a significant link between temperature and CO2. It is not clear whether CO2 leads or lags. Neither is it clear what the dependence is between CO2 levels and water vapour levels, which matters a lot for the final temperature increase.

Given this level of uncertainty, and the evidence of the last 20 years that temperature is rising slowly, taxing workers to pay landowners large amounts of money to have countryside-destroying wind turbines that are completely uneconomic and due to the blindingly obvious variability of supply can play no part in a low-carbon energy supply strategy is just mind-bogglingly stupid politics. There will be a big jamboree in Paris, and lots of politicians can pretend to be useful, but the reality is workers are losing their jobs and old people are freezing in their houses because politicians have backed policies that will fail to meet a need that does not exist on the timescale of their actions.


Dragon-King Wangchuck 10.20.15 at 2:08 pm

The split left strategic voting story is a compelling one – obviously the Leftist parties need to consolidate (notwithstanding the fact that one of them just elected a safe majority government). The difference in policy stances put the Liberals and NDP much closer together than either with the Conservatives. It just makes sense.

That said, I don’t believe it’s true.

The Conservatives outperformed polling as well. Maybe they siphoned off NDP support. No that’s impossible because it doesn’t fit the narrative – it must be the “shy Tory effect” of older Conservative voters being less likely to respond to surveys. Maybe, but that sounds like rationalization to me.

I think people severely underestimate the size of the anti-NDP and anti-Liberal constituencies. The anti-Harper faction gets the most press not only because he was the incumbent, but also because they are the most organized and capable with communications and the media.

I’m in an inner suburb of Toronto that was Liberal until 2011, then Conservative and is now Liberal again. The NDP had a weak showing this time, but historically have done well enough to be considered credible. From what I know of my neighbourhood, I am almost certain that a combined Left party would have lost to the Conservative. There are plenty of voters here who will never vote for either a Lib or an NDP even if it means supporting Harper.

The NDP are proud socialists. And while Socialism! doesn’t carry anywhere near the stigma that it does south of the border, there is a sizable group that would prefer almost anything to Socialism! They also have never formed government and were Official Opposition only once. A lot of people don’t consider them a serious party.

The Liberals have earned the distrust and disrespect of many people over their decades as the “natural ruling party of Canada”. Between the behaviour of Liberal party elites and the never ending smear campaign of the Conservatives, the Liberals have a pretty sizable stable of enemies.

And a united Left party wouldn’t get the same rebranding benefits that Harper’s CPC did. The current Conservatives were united from the PCs and the protest splinter Reform (and later Alliance) party. So Mulroney-hating conservatives could see the “new” party as a return to the Reform minded conservatives they love and a repudiation of the Progressive Conservatives that gave them Meech Lake or the GST.

A united Left is instead two parties that are portrayed by the media as buddy-buddy teaming up in a cynical grab for power. I think that united Left boosters haven’t thought through the implications of that.


Bartleby the Commenter 10.20.15 at 2:13 pm

I could engage with Dipper on this issue. I could show them the science and the work done. I could walk them through it step by step.

However I prefer not to.


Dave Maier 10.20.15 at 2:31 pm

Re: Bill 51, I went to Wikipedia to see what the heck you all were talking about and it says there that the bill was passed “with support from the Liberal Party, which promised to amend the bill to increase oversight if elected”. So there’s that.


mds 10.20.15 at 2:37 pm

So, someone named “Dipper” is spouting climate denial in comments to a post about the Canadian election. The NDP’s nickname is “Dippers.” The NDP officially accept the existence of anthropogenic climate change, and AFAIK have the most environmentally-friendly views of the major parties. My question is, does this qualify as irony? Because thanks to a certain Canadian, I can no longer tell.


afeman 10.20.15 at 2:38 pm

I could engage with Dipper on this issue. I could show them the science and the work done. I could walk them through it step by step.

You could also do this until Dipper acknowledges that you and many others had done so.

However, you prefer not to.


Dipper 10.20.15 at 2:41 pm

Well you could start Bartleby. I’ve looked for a book which is an independent unbiased view of climate and climate change but there appears to be no such thing. Everyone is funded by vested interests. So please, go ahead.

I note that no-one has stood up for on-shore wind (comment 1) which is where this started.


MPAVictoria 10.20.15 at 2:43 pm

Wow what a night. I was up late at a local campaign party. Some quick thoughts:
-So glad to finally see the back of Harper. He was an awful combination of mean spirited and incompetent.
– Hopeful about Trudeau the Younger. He seems to have his heart in the right place and he ran an excellent campaign.
-Sad to see the NDP lose so many seats. Personally I think they made a huge mistake trying to tack to the center. They let the Liberals be the party of bold change and played it safe. And they paid for that.
– On a more personal note, I canvased and volunteered for both the NDP and the LPC this election in different ridings. It was a great experience and everyone should do it. More importantly for me though, my partner also got out and canvased. I am so proud of them I could burst. As I have mentioned previously here, my spouse suffers from depression and anxiety and has been off work for quite awhile. Getting out and doing something positive was just so great for them. So I might be one of the few Canadians who is sad that this campaign is over.

Anyway I am pretty happy with how it all turned out (would have preferred a NDP/LPC minority) and am looking forward to some change.


Dipper 10.20.15 at 2:44 pm

mds the post made reference to climate denial and the first comment to wind power and subsidy.

In bird-watching parlance if you fail to see a particular bird you have dipped it. Hence a dipper is someone who misses their (birding) objectives, so perhaps an appropriate name for the NDP.


Niall McAuley 10.20.15 at 3:02 pm

Dipper writes: I seem to have touched a nerve.

Autovivisection live on CT! Getcher tickets here!


Lynne 10.20.15 at 3:21 pm

MPAV, I’ve missed you here. Glad your absence was in a good cause, and very glad to hear about your partner. Yes, it is a relief to be done with Harper, and it was and is sad to see how centrist the NDP have become. That even the Conservatives got more seats than the NDP is hard to swallow.

Anyway, I feel hopeful about Trudeau. I quite like him—I liked his stance when thise sexual-harassment allegations came up involving some of his MPs. I agree his heart seems to be in the right place, but he caved sadly over Bill C-51. Also, I’m not sure how objective my judgement is of him because I remember his parents, I remember when he was born, and and especially his eulogy at PET’s funeral…We shall see.


Lyle 10.20.15 at 3:23 pm

Ugh , smells so much like sea lion around here.


will 10.20.15 at 3:27 pm

‘I’ve looked for a book which is an independent unbiased view of climate and climate change but there appears to be no such thing. Everyone is funded by vested interests. ‘

Well, for instance, there’s Kerry Emanuel’s What We Know About Climate Change. Are you familiar with it? If so, which vested interests are funding Prof. Emanuel?

More generally: have your concerns been raised in the scientific literature? Could you point us to the journal articles that raise them? You see, I’d like to follow the citation trail in the literature. It would be helpful to see what specialists working in the field think of these questions — rather than Random Internet Dudes doing your Google homework for you, which isn’t really how science works.


MPAVictoria 10.20.15 at 3:28 pm

Thanks for you kind words Lynne. I agree it was tough to watch so many good NDP MPs lose their seats. Paul Dewar especially was a blow. Anyway I am with you. Lets be cautiously optimistic and see what happens.

/I really hope Trudeau follows through with his promise to reform our voting system…


mds 10.20.15 at 3:43 pm

You could also do this until Dipper acknowledges that you and many others had done so.

And in the meantime, global warming will take care of itself, because the sun will have become a white dwarf.


Roger Gathman 10.20.15 at 4:00 pm

NDP, in my opinion, made a giant mistake by embracing austerian economics. Why should one run a balanced budget in a downturn? That’s not socialist, that is economically ignorant. The liberals dared to say, that’s crazy, and they won. This was not some sub issue either – it was the main stick used against the Liberals in the campaign.
The Liberals can be proud. After nominating Ignatieff last time, it did look like they were trying to go the way of the Liberal Dem party in the UK. But this time they kept their cool and did an excellent job kicking the terrible Harper in the butt. Great work!


MarshallPeace 10.20.15 at 4:28 pm


Matt 10.20.15 at 5:04 pm

Not that anyone here needed my help to see that Dipper is a liar, but on the subject of wind power in the UK:

-Dipper is perhaps obliquely referring to constraint payments to wind farm operators, which compensate operators for energy that can’t be used due to electrical transmission constraints. This would be the most charitable (least untrue) interpretation. But constraint payments are not the primary incentive for wind power generators, nor are wind operators the only recipients of constraint payments.

-The primary support mechanism for onshore wind is (was) the Renewables Obligation Certificates system, which pays out for energy actually delivered. If wind ROCs are really making landowners rich, that’s only possible because wind is actually generating a lot of megawatt hours. If landowners were installing Potemkin wind farms that looked the part but didn’t generate output, they wouldn’t be paid.

-There is a near real time visualization, with links to historical data, of electricity statistics in the UK here. You can see the dips in fossil generation whenever the wind rises. Since wind is not dispatchable it does not directly retire fossil generation capacity but the fossil capacity generates additional emissions when it actually burns fuel. The foregone use of fossil fuels caused by increased renewable output is clearly visible in the real time statistics and year-end summaries.


CJColucci 10.20.15 at 5:20 pm

The last time I was in Canada, I looked through Will Ferguson’s Bastards and Boneheads, a history of Canada’s PM’s, and found it amusing. But I never heard from Canadians what they thought, either about the book or about the reputations of their various PM’s. Any Canadians care to weigh in?


Bartleby the Commenter 10.20.15 at 5:26 pm

“The last time I was in Canada, I looked through Will Ferguson’s Bastards and Boneheads, a history of Canada’s PM’s, and found it amusing. But I never heard from Canadians what they thought, either about the book or about the reputations of their various PM’s. Any Canadians care to weigh in?”

Love that book. Steven Harper is perfect Bastard as described by Ferguson. Not sure what Trudeau will end up being classified as.

/Maybe it is time for a new Edition?


Bartleby the Commenter 10.20.15 at 5:26 pm

I mean I would love that book but I would prefer not to.

/Yikes that was close!


Lee A. Arnold 10.20.15 at 5:34 pm

Dipper #8: “@7 some references please?”

1. The climate is a complex system; complex systems are multi-compartment systems with lots of connections:

Ashby, Introduction to Cybernetics.
Simon, The Architecture of Complexity.
Gell-Mann, What is Complexity?
Many things published by the Santa Fe Institute.
von Bertalanffy, General System Theory.
Heylighen et al., Complexity and philosophy.
Rescher, Complexity: a Philosophical Overview.
Juarrero & Rubino, Emergence, Complexity, and Self-Organization.
Heylighen et al., Complexity and Philosophy.
Rescher, Complexity: a Philosophical Overview.
Bunge, A World of Systems.

2. On the irrevocable condition of imprecise prediction in complex systems, including in the climate:

Michael Hopkin, Climate sensitivity ‘inherently unpredictable’ (Nature 2007).
Murray Gell-mann, Fundamental Sources of Unpredictability (1996).
Murray Gell-Mann, The Quark and the Jaguar.
Beckage et al., The limits to prediction in ecological systems (Ecosphere 2011).
Almost anything by Stuart Kauffman.
Almost any discussion of the N-body problem.
Rescher, The Limits of Science.
Rescher, The Stochastic Revolution and the Nature of Scientific Explanation (Synthese 1962).
Toulmin, The Return to Reason.
Oreskes et al., Verification, Validation, and Confirmation of Numerical Models in the Earth Sciences (Science 1994).
Liu et al., Observability of complex systems (PNAS 2012).
Sugihara et al, Detecting Causality in Complex Ecosystems (Science 2012).
Robert Logan, What is Science? – The Language, the Non-Probativity Theorem and the Complementarity of Complexity and Predictability (2000).
Testa & Kier, Emergence and Dissolvence in the Self-organisation of Complex Systems (Entropy 2000).
James Wilson, Scientific Uncertainty, Complex Systems, and the Design of Common Pool Institutions (chapter in National Research Council, The Drama of the Commons, 2002).

3. So it will never be precisely predictable. But we know that the previous REAL history of the climate gives us a lot of EVIDENCE of extremes and abrupt change which would now be devastating and much more costly than CO2 reduction — and which happened both in the Medieval Warming Period, and BEFORE the rise of our agricultural civilization. A few of many citations:

Donnelly et al., 700-yr. sedimentary record of intense hurricane landfalls in southern New England.
Donnelly et al., Climate forcing of unprecedented intense-hurricane activity in the last 2000 years (AGU 2015).
Mark Lynas, Six Degrees (on the Medieval Warming Period, especially his research biblio).
Schmidt & Hertzberg, Abrupt Climate Change During the Last Ice Age (Nature Education Knowledge 2011).
Wikipedia, Dansgard-Oeschger oscillations.

4. So then, we go to what is known about abrupt and unpredictable change in complex systems, and find that accelerated extremes are often indicators of tipping-points, and the climate is unlikely to be an exception to the rule:

Peters et al., Cross-system comparisons elucidate disturbance complexities and generalities (Ecosphere 2011).
National Academies of Science, Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises (2013).
Bestlemeyer et al., Analysis of abrupt transitions in ecological systems (Ecosphere 2011).
Biggs et al., Turning back from the brink: Detecting an impending regime shift in time to avert it (PNAS 2008).
Brandt & Merico, Tipping points and user-resource system collapse in a simple model of evolutionary dynamics (Ecological Complexity 2013).
Charlesworth, Tipping Points, Inertia, Ethics and Policy (2008).
Crutchfield, The Hidden Fragility of Complex Systems— Consequences of Change, Changing Consequences (Santa Fe Institute 2009).

5. And here are just a few of the huge number of reports (they are coming almost weekly) indicating that extremes have begun:

Easterling et al., Climate Extremes: Observations, Modeling, and Impacts (Science 2000)
Smith et al., Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change (Nature Climate Change 2015)
Science News, Climate Change Occurring Ten Times Faster Than at Any Time in Past 65 Million Years (2013)
Diffenbaugh & Scherer, Observational and model evidence of global emergence of permanent, unprecedented heat in the 20th and 21st centuries (Climatic Change 2011)
Barnosky et al., Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere, (Nature 2012)
Study finds early warning signals of abrupt climate change (PhysOrg 2014)

7. And indeed, climatologists have been erring on the side of caution:

Brysse et al., Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama? (Global Environmental Change 2013)

So that’s what you need to know about complex systems and their relation to the scientific method.


Lee A. Arnold 10.20.15 at 5:44 pm

Oh, I almost forgot! You can also watch my stuff, which is a lot easier than reading all that stuff:


Dipper 10.20.15 at 6:13 pm

thanks Lee A. Arnold for the list – that’s a lot of work which is appreciated. I will select and read. I trust will this will help explain why although prediction is not possible in complex systems (section 2) the IPCC publishes lots of predictions to make their case.

And thanks to Matt (43) for reassuring me that Landowners do not receive subsidies, in which case withdrawing the subsidies won’t be a problem.


Matt 10.20.15 at 6:38 pm

I don’t deny that subsidies exist. Earlier you said:

“Given this level of uncertainty, and the evidence of the last 20 years that temperature is rising slowly, taxing workers to pay landowners large amounts of money to have countryside-destroying wind turbines that are completely uneconomic and due to the blindingly obvious variability of supply can play no part in a low-carbon energy supply strategy is just mind-bogglingly stupid politics.”

Onshore wind is paid less than other newly built low carbon energy sources, hence wrong about “completely uneconomic,” and “can play no part in a low-carbon energy supply strategy” is also wrong as you can see from Gridwatch data or your favorite government statistics agency. The UK set a new record for share of electricity coming from wind in 2014, at 9.8% of consumption up from 7.8% in 2013.

If you have some non-combustion electricity supply strategy for the UK that is cheaper per megawatt hour than onshore wind, suggest away. Solar might be there in a few years but it’s still generally more expensive than onshore wind in the UK. Offshore wind is more expensive, Hinkley Point C is more expensive, and tidal energy is more expensive.


Matt 10.20.15 at 6:41 pm

Correction: onshore wind supplied 9.3% of 2014 electricity demand in the UK, not 9.8% — transcription error on my part.


Murray Reiss 10.20.15 at 7:09 pm

As well as what he does with Bill C-51, another indication of where our new Prime Minister’s heart might be located (is it on the left, in the centre, on the right?) is what he does with the contract Harper signed to provide the Saudi government with Light Armored Vehicles. Will he allow the sale to go through, greatly benefiting southwestern Ontario industry, or cancel it, greatly benefiting Saudi civil society?


Marc 10.20.15 at 7:09 pm

The basics of climate change are remarkably straightforward.

First, the Earth (on average) emits as much heat as it absorbs from the Sun (no, that quantity is not changing significantly; yes the changes are included in the models.)

Second, the atmosphere of the Earth is more transparent to visible light than it is to infrared light, creating a greenhouse effect that makes life possible.

Third, the magnitude of the greenhouse effect depends on the composition of the atmosphere, which is changing due to human activity. We know both are true beyond a reasonable doubt: the key direct evidence for human-induced origin is the changes in the isotopic abundances of carbon and oxygen. Living organisms, or fossil fuels made from dead ones, have different isotopes than volcanoes and the like.

Fourth, this must have a direct warming impact on the planet, which is measured with numerous direct and indirect diagnostics.

Now feedback can amplify this, and different models predict different feedback (within a range that is shrinking). But the basic physics is more than a century old and the evidence is simply overwhelming at this point that it’s occurring.

If someone disputes points 1-4 above they’re either arguing with the data, physics, or both. So it’d be good to see what precisely the question is actually about: is “maybe we’ll be lucky if we do nothing?” supposed to be a serious position?


mds 10.20.15 at 7:36 pm

I trust will this will help explain why although prediction is not possible in complex systems (section 2) the IPCC publishes lots of predictions to make their case.

In summary, Mr. Arnold, though your willingness to impute good faith is admirable, I hope you’re wearing a face guard.


Lee A. Arnold 10.20.15 at 8:17 pm

Dipper #49: “…although prediction is not possible in complex systems…”

No, PRECISE prediction is not possible. Nor does the IPCC claim to make any. All of their predictions are given with various degrees of uncertainty.

In your comment #4 you wrote, “There is no theory of anthropogenic global warming that satisfactorily predicts the changes in climate we see, or that satisfies the basic requirements of making falsifiable predictions…” But both of those statements are false, and the only way to make those statements is to hold the unrealistic expectation that a precise prediction will be forthcoming (and/or must be forthcoming, in order to act).

In the case of complex systems, we usually go with the observation that they all TEND to go haywire when disturbed, (and until they settle into a new regime, a regime that we may not like), and then after that, we attend to the preponderance of evidence.

In the case of climate change, the preponderance of evidence is overwhelming.

That evidence is composed of BOTH real measurements (of all sorts of things, not just air temps) and the outputs of models, models which are continually updated when falsified by the measurements or by retrodiction, within the allowable uncertainty.


afeman 10.20.15 at 8:44 pm

You could engage with Dipper on this issue. You could show them the science and the work done. You could walk them through it step by step.

However, you prefer not to. [Jedi wave]


ZedBlank 10.20.15 at 8:50 pm

Short-time reader, first time commenter: perhaps this is an inauspicious place to start, and I won’t claim to have fully apprehended the rules of the subculture that is the comments on this blog, but here goes:

At first glance, it seems like there is an awful lot of troll-feeding going on here. I mean, I’ve been around the block, and Dipper seems like exactly the kind of would-be gadfly who scrapes together a couple of long-discredited talking points and them plops them down like turds, trying to irk those who he correctly perceives will be irked by his nonsense, all the while sitting smugly back and saying “see? Nobody wants to engage! Ergo, climate change is a myth and a conspiracy! AHA!”

And that did occur, to some degree; however, it also happened that he WAS engaged with, and with more patience than I could imagine mustering, and appears even to have considered considering the evidence. Is it possible? Are there actually good-faith skeptics of climate change? (In truth, I don’t doubt that there are. I just doubt that there are many, or any, who wander into a blog like Crooked Timber and start talking about how “the models don’t prove anything” and “Wind Power is intermittent” as if that hasn’t been talked to death; as if nobody ever noticed that the wind doesn’t blow all the time, or that the weather is complex.)

I am humbled in your presence.


Bartleby the Commenter 10.20.15 at 8:56 pm

“However, you prefer not to. [Jedi wave]”

Hey! I am the joke commenter in these parts Bub! Find your own shtick. Unless of course you would prefer not to.



TM 10.20.15 at 9:11 pm

My heartfelt congratulations to all Canadian friends! As much as I hate FPTP voting, it sometimes just feels cathartic to see a party humiliated like that. A bit sad for NDP but they lost most of their seats in Quebec, which had never been an NDP base. Meanwhile NDP won the provincial government of Alberta which gives them ample opportunity to prove themselves.

That the conservatives still ended up second shouldn’t surprise anyone. There is no other party that would have split the right wing vote, and you can’t expect there not to be a right wing presence, even in Canada. It is in fact hugely impressive that the left liberal parties together won more than two thirds of the popular vote. In the 1990s, liberals could only win because conservatives were split.


Bruce Wilder 10.20.15 at 9:21 pm

Harper changed Canadian politics pretty radically, and not in a good way. His Conservatives, after 9(?) years in power were pretty much bound to go, but their electoral base held together remarkably well — something I would regard as ominous.

Trudeau strikes me as a nicer version of the neoliberal Harper, but just as neoliberal. The NDP austerian turn, like the cynically calculating Trudeau stance on C51 and the burka nonsense suggest to me that the relation of Canada’s electorate to its leading politicians is dangerously superficial and reactive. Leaders are not even pretending to have a conversation with the country about the economy or the environment — they are just pushing the hot buttons, sending signals based on reading focus groups reacting to sound bites.

Canada’s housing bubble cannot be unwound without some major stress and until it is unwound it is hard to see how the economy can be usefully reformed. Trudeau will spend his term dithering on economics, fearing the bubble will burst, but probably going along with TINA neoliberalism while hoping energy prices rise, to revive Harper’s model. If the bubble bursts on his watch, it takes the Liberals out; if it doesn’t, Harper’s legacy remains largely intact. Neither left party is doing anything to erode the core Conservative coalition in the meantime, so the Bubble bursting might well bring back the folks who blew the bubble in the first place — not exactly a formula for Canada learning from its mistakes.


Bartleby the Commenter 10.20.15 at 9:43 pm

I would say you are quite a downer here Bruce considering that Trudeau is the son of the man who created the liberal, left wing Canada I love and hope to get back. But I would prefer not to.


Lynne 10.20.15 at 9:47 pm

” Leaders are not even pretending to have a conversation with the country about the economy or the environment — they are just pushing the hot buttons, sending signals based on reading focus groups reacting to sound bites. ”

Yes, sadly, I think that is true.


Mike Furlan 10.20.15 at 10:34 pm

In reply to Dipper #4

“There is no theory of anthropogenic global warming that satisfactorily predicts the changes in climate we see, or that satisfies the basic requirements of making falsifiable predictions…”

You have it exactly backwards. Ignorance would seem to me to demand that we be cautious.

See page 8 of http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/pp2.pdf


Tabasco 10.20.15 at 10:48 pm

I was surprised to read that Justin Trudeau is Pierre’s son. Pierre must have fathered him very late in life.


Dave Heasman 10.20.15 at 10:52 pm

Not that late – he was 52..


John Quiggin 10.20.15 at 10:53 pm

As ZedBlank @55 says, trollfeeding is generally not a good idea.

In this case, there’s even less point in responding to Dipper. As I point out in the OP, Dipper’s thoughts on climate change are about as relevant as his (I’m pretty confident of the pronoun) opposition to equal marriage (also a pretty safe bet). Dipper-style denialism is now politically irrelevant outside the US Republican Party, and is rapidly being replaced by “I’m not a scientist” lukewarmism even there.


Eric Blood Axe 10.20.15 at 11:08 pm

EMS claims that her father was a noted scientist, in Solar physics. The claim is that the Sun’s output can vary, most of the temperature changes can be attributed to the Sun.


Lee A. Arnold 10.20.15 at 11:38 pm

ZedBlank #58: ” Are there actually good-faith skeptics of climate change? (In truth, I don’t doubt that there are. I just doubt that there are many, or any, who wander into a blog like Crooked Timber and start talking about how “the models don’t prove anything” and “Wind Power is intermittent” as if that hasn’t been talked to death…)”

You never know. Crooked Timber is pretty well-known. There are always new young intellects in exploration of the world who are encountering ideas for the first time, and there is a lot of disinformation out there particularly on climate change, and things should first be done right. I think many Crooked Timber commenters often seem to think that everybody already knows what they already know. It ain’t so. It may well be that Dipper is either a troll, or a denialist in the employ of the Blog-Comment Management Dept. of a major p.r. firm hired by the oil lobby. It hardly matters. Someone ELSE, who IS honest, may come through here to read, and then be misled by Dipper’s arguments: and so, a proper response is always called for, first. If one asks for citations, by all means commenters on an academic blog should respond with citations. If Dipper is recalcitrant, then by all means, shit-can him.


Tom Hurka 10.21.15 at 12:19 am

A couple of things.

Reports are that Lynton Crosby had very little input into the Conservative campaign. For one thing, he wasn’t here. They also say the two main Conservative campaign heads were at each other’s throats, which may account for some of their bad campaigning. The Liberal campaign, by contrast, was masterly, moving smartly to the left when the NDP, convinced they were front-runners, moved stupidly to the centre. How can a supposedly social-democratic party refuse to raise taxes on the rich, which Trudeau said he’d do, and also insist on balanced budgets?) Two bad campaigns and one brilliant one led a party that started the campaign in third place to end up with a majority government.

From a political scientist’s lunchtime talk today: Trudeau plans to take the provincial premiers with him to the Paris climate talks. His climate policy has long been not to implement some national program from the centre but to coordinate possibly different programs at the provincial level. Right now British Columbia has a very successful carbon tax while Quebec and maybe Ontario are (I believe) implementing cap-and-trade schemes. (Ontario’s Green Energy Plan, on the other hand, has been an economic disaster.) Taking the premiers with him is very much in line with that policy, though exactly how much the premiers of e.g. Alberta and Saskatchewan will commit to on climate change remains to be seen.

The election was a good one for Canadian democracy. The voter turnout was pretty high, the huge advantage the Conservatives had in money — they made the campaign extremely long in order to get the maximum benefit from that advantage — didn’t help them, nor did their relentless anti-Trudeau advertising (“He’s just not ready”). If anything, it alienated voters.

There are a whole lot of Harper policies Trudeau can reverse, e.g. about crime, the muzzling of scientists, the long-form census, etc. I just worry that with all he’ll have on his plate he won’t be able to do all of them.


Dragon-King Wangchuck 10.21.15 at 12:32 am

I hope you’re not basing your opinion of Ontario’s Green Energy Plan on Ross McKitrick’s assessment. Sure he found that Green Energy Plan was a financial disaster, but what would ou expect from this guy: http://www.desmogblog.com/ross-mckitrick


The Temporary Name 10.21.15 at 1:08 am

I was surprised to read that Justin Trudeau is Pierre’s son. Pierre must have fathered him very late in life.

His last child was fathered in 1991.


John Quiggin 10.21.15 at 1:38 am

My impression is that Trudeau’s support for Keystone XL is like the support being offered by our local Queensland Labor government for the appalling Adani coal mine project. They don’t want to be blamed when the project falls over, but (unlike their predecessors) they won’t lift a finger to save it.

To spell this out, my reading is that Trudeau has said he’ll stop pushing Obama on Keystone, and Queensland Labor has killed a proposal for public subsidies to a rail line Adani needs to build for its project. In these circumstance, their support for the project, plus a few dollars, will buy the proponents a cup of coffee.


John Quiggin 10.21.15 at 1:42 am

@Lee There really aren’t any honest denialists left, and haven’t been for years (I’ve checked fairly exhaustively). Without exception, anyone who turns up in a CT comments thread asking rhetorical questions like Dipper’s is a fraud or a troll.

There are plenty of conservative voters who don’t pay the issue much attention and accept what their opinion leaders tell them, but those aren’t the kind of people who read CT, let alone the comments. And even those people mostly understand that climate denialism is about conservative identity politics, not a real scientific dispute.


Nick Caldwell 10.21.15 at 1:51 am

Val @ 13, I wish I could claim some genius in that, but really I simply had a colossal spell-check breakdown. Oh well.


maxhgns 10.21.15 at 2:38 am

Frankly, I think the NDP would have taken the same hammering if they’d skewed to the usual left economically and admitted they’d be running a deficit or two. Trudeau took a serious risk on that front, but it had the potential to pay off big time (and it did). And he could get away with it because the Liberals have had quite a decent deficit-related record (they balanced the budget, after all). The NDP can’t get away with that because the prevailing line of criticism against it is based on running deficits and economic mismanagement.

It’s worth pointing out that Canadians have only every voted in the Liberals or the Conservatives (under one name or another)–except in 1917, when they voted in the Union party (a coalition of Liberals and Conservatives). So while we have the appearance of a multi-party system, it’s really not. That’s the root of my disappointment here: we had a real chance to try something different, and we didn’t take it. We would probably have been dissatisfied with it (everyone always is), but it would have legitimated the existence of other parties going forward. As it is, why do we even bother?


Bill Gardner 10.21.15 at 2:39 am

Tom Hurka @70:

Trudeau plans to take the provincial premiers with him to the Paris climate talks.

That’s great news. Maybe he will also work with them — as Harper wouldn’t — on improving Canadian health care.


kidneystones 10.21.15 at 5:01 am

Putting Harper’s defeat in perspective. If you like President Drone Strike, you’re going to love Justin Trudeau. First, Harper’s defeat is pretty much par in Canada’s parliamentary democracy after about a decade in power. The two parties change places every decade, or so with some exceptions. Harper defeated the Liberals in 2006. Jean Chretien, Pierre Trudeau’s more than able street-wise crony, defeated the hapless Kim Campbell, the Conservative PM, in 1993, as the Canadian political landscape fissured. Campbell, the Conservative, retained just 2 seats for the Conservative, losing her own seat in the process. Chretien won with 177, 22 fewer than the 199 Canada’s Conservative party now holds in defeat.

I realize that the giddy may actually believe that political and other skills are passed through the genes and that the son will rule as the father. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I strongly recommend the fact-free read up a little on the bios of both men, because the comparisons end with the name. The only people who loathe Justin more than the Conservatives are his liberal enemies, who rightly point to Justin’s lack of intellectual heft, spotty employment history, and questionable career path.

If you want to know what Canadian royalty is, you’re looking at it and clapping.



TM 10.21.15 at 7:28 am

78: “Chretien won with 177, 22 fewer than the 199 Canada’s Conservative party now holds in defeat.”

Your learned Math is off a bit but I will let you figure this out yourself. Don’t want to spoil the surprise.


TM 10.21.15 at 7:36 am

76: It’s true that Canada at the federal level has effectively been a 2-party system but at the provincial level, there’s a lot more diversity. And 70, the government of Alberta is NDP so maybe they will address climate change. Especially now that the oil industry is in mega crisis. In any case, this is the opportunity and the challenge of the new government – can they free Canada from being a hostage to the oil industry? (Surprised Bruce isn’t even mentioning the elephant in the room).


kidneystones 10.21.15 at 9:27 am

79 Out by only a hundred! I’ve done worse.

Still, being completely wrong about a missing digit (note to self, wear reading glasses) doesn’t deflect from the satisfaction of watching ‘lefties’ cheer for a millionaire yuppie who inherited his father’s wealth, but none of his father’s drive, intellect, and ambition. The changing demographics present some intriguing possibilities for positive change, but I doubt any will come from JT. The NDP, the last party I voted and volunteered for in Canada, is famously inept. The talent they attract is normally from the second tier at best. The liberals were in third place for a reason. Someone who does know and who emailed me from Canada pointed to the advance voting and the higher than average turnout.

The election was about money on one level, but also about optics. Harper was too old, white, male, and boring. That said, had Harper been able to offer a plausible case for economic recovery, he’d have won.

JT fits the bill for the facile.

No wonder so many are happy. Thanks for the correction!


Lynne 10.21.15 at 12:25 pm

JQ: “There really aren’t any honest denialists left, and haven’t been for years (I’ve checked fairly exhaustively). Without exception, anyone who turns up in a CT comments thread asking rhetorical questions like Dipper’s is a fraud or a troll.”
“In this case, there’s even less point in responding to Dipper. As I point out in the OP, Dipper’s thoughts on climate change are about as relevant as his (I’m pretty confident of the pronoun) opposition to equal marriage (also a pretty safe bet)”

I find this level of hostility quite depressing. Last winter in one of Belle’s threads I said I thought there were things that couldn’t be said among leftists, including here, without there being a lot of hostility, and she then posted her “Safe” thread. Here you are, JQ, illustrating my point.

It is inaccurate to call Dipper a “denialist” since he acknowledges climate change at the outset. I don’t know all the details about climate change that some of the people here do, but surely it is permissible, even desirable, to discuss what are truly green energy alternatives.

As I say, the reaction here is depressing.


Niall McAuley 10.21.15 at 12:36 pm

According to wikipedia:Between 2002 and 2010, nearly $120 million (£77 million) was anonymously donated, some by conservative billionaires via the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, to more than 100 organizations seeking to undermine the public perception of the science on climate change.

I hope Dipper is very well paid, writing this kind of immoral propaganda must be soul destroying.


ZM 10.21.15 at 12:38 pm

Lee A Anderson,

I am actually making a systems theory argument at the moment at VCAT (this is the tribunal that decides on planning permits in Victoria).

Is there anything in particular you would recommend on systems theory and changing courses of action?

The main systems theorist I have read is Andreas Faludi as the then Minister wrote he was influence by Faludi in composing the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Faludi’s key ideas I am looking at are the ideas of regular reviews, integrated decision making, and that planning is not only physical land planning but involves various different resource budgets.

So my argument is that the 1.2 million bird capacity broiler farm that is being proposed by the developer, while not exceeding the land resource budget, exceeds the GHG emission resource budget.

One of the Tribunal members said this was an argument that ultimately led to a conclusion there should be no new broiler farm developments in Victoria.

I used case law about a gas power plant, where the VCAT decision was a proposed extension could only proceed with the condition that another gas facility of the same size of GHG emissions would shut down.

The developer’s lawyer is going to argue that while this raises an important issue of sustainability it is ultimately outside the jurisdiction of VCAT.

So what I want to be able to argue is that there is a good reason that GHG emissions should stabilise and then reduce – which means in agriculture too, especially livestock production and consumption.

But Faludi is a bit broad on that – I think it is the logical outcome of integrated decision making and resource budgets – as if you are exceeding a budget you have to turn expenditure around, as the treasurer is always saying.

But I think I need some additional arguments, if I am allowed to make a reply next week.

Do you have any ideas from systems theory that would help? The idea you have to brake and change courses sort of thing..,.


Dipper 10.21.15 at 12:55 pm

Well that was fun.

Firstly, apologies to Canada for having inadvertently hijacked this thread. The original thread commented on the Paris climate change conference, and the first comment lamented cutting wind and solar subsidies in the UK, so I commented and off we went!

As Matt says (54), the basic physics is straightforward. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and increasing levels of CO2 decrease the amount of heat the earth radiates back into space, leading to an increase in the temperature of the earth. But if it was that simple we would have a CO2 – temperature relationship which we could test. We don’t have that, because as Lee A. Arnold says (48), the climate is a complex system, rendering a classic theoretical prediction innappropriate. Instead we have a range of predictions, but Lee also states that a switch of regime is imminent. So not only is any measurement within the predicted range consistent with AGW, but any measurement outside the range is also evidence of AGW because it is a CO2 induced regime change. In short, current AGW theories explain everything after the event, and predict everything before it. There are no measurements that cannot be explained from an AGW perspective. This level of uncertainty is not acceptable in any other branch of science.

And then those subsidies. In 2012 the UK parliament produced a report which states that CO2 emissions from imported goods are going up faster than CO2 is being cut in the UK. In other words the green taxes simply transfer CO2 production to other countries at the expense of UK jobs. Note that the CO2 emissions from the recent forest and peatland fires in Indonesia exceed the total carbon output of the UK for this year, and we have a situation where green taxes are at best irrelevant, and at worst counter-productive.

But none of this matters in the great debate that is due to occur in Paris. It is clear that what we have now is a full blown religious cult of AGW. The climate gods are angry because The West has been bad. The high priests call for sacrifices to appease the gods, so something must be seen to be done now, even if the science says we have much longer to act. Taxes are raised and (other people’s) jobs lost despite these actions having no effect on global CO2 production. All must chant the mantra together, so all scientists believe in AGW as the only funds available are for those who repeat the mantra, even though no-one can agree what AGW actually means in real terms; to state the obvious, there is a huge difference in the appropriate response to a 1C carbon sensitivity and to a 6C carbon sensitivity, and a huge difference in the science that leads to those two predictions.

Anyone who questions the cult must be publically excoriated and banished; I have been called a liar, immoral, a troll, told I don’t believe in same-sex marriage (my view is not relevant for this thread), and been told I am being paid post this stuff. I wish! Do you really think that this is how intellectual debates should operate? Is this the level of debate you bring to other stuff?


Nate 10.21.15 at 1:10 pm

Regardless of whether you think climate change is happening or not, isn’t it just a good idea to take care of the planet, and not do things that could potentially damage it? I don’t know why this is even an issue for people :/


Lyle 10.21.15 at 1:19 pm

Ah, so 97+ % of scientists say “AGW” is happening because funding won’t come their way if they don’t say that. Gee thanks, I’ve never heard that (canard) before!


Bartleby the Commenter 10.21.15 at 1:35 pm

” but none of his father’s drive, intellect, and ambition.”

I could point out that running a flawless campaign, holding more campaign events than any of his opponents and beating a better funded opponent who had the support of the Media could show you may want to look at your argument.

But I would prefer not to.


ZM 10.21.15 at 1:38 pm

“And then those subsidies. In 2012 the UK parliament produced a report which states that CO2 emissions from imported goods are going up faster than CO2 is being cut in the UK. In other words the green taxes simply transfer CO2 production to other countries at the expense of UK jobs.”

You are not correct about the science, and I don’t know how you expect tests since there is only one world with one climate, but this a good point.

Measuring ghg emissions by production rather than consumption is unfair, as it works in favour of advanced economy countries where manufacturing is offshored. Counting by consumption and especially including air travel and accounting holiday emissions to the nationality of the holidayer means most advanced economic countries have higher ghg emissions than the official figures.

I saw an article about a wearable like a Fitbit that would count emissions of a persons daily life, it is still in the development stage, and there is not enough data now, but eventually something like that could give a more accurate figure of national ghg emissions, even when nationals go abroad. I don’t know what you do abou people that don’t like to wear them though, unless you send them to live somewhere altogether where every thing is rationed instead of counted by a wearable…

You are wrong that science says we have longer to act, science says we should act now, rapidly decrease emissions through the low hanging fruit reductions, then work to decrease the more difficult emissions until 2040 or 2050 then draw down emissions til 2100 or so.

For your earlier question, a rule of thumb is

350 ppm CO2 equivalent = 1 degree C of warming in average temperature

400 ppm to 450 ppm = 2 degrees (400 is a high likelihood and 450 is a 50:50 likelihood of not exceeding 2 degrees)

550 ppm = 4 degrees

800 ppm = 6 degrees


Lee A. Arnold 10.21.15 at 1:43 pm

ZM #84: “Is there anything in particular you would recommend on systems theory and changing courses of action?”

James Wilson’s chapter in The Drama of the Commons edited by Elinor Ostrom et al. (which I listed above) is a very good example and has a superb bibliography. As to whether this will convince local politicians in advance of convincing the local voters, I doubt it.

One of the problems is that, as a troll-denialist just confirmed here, lack of understanding of complexity and imprecise predictability is also a cognitive issue, and it is intimately bound up with confusion, misunderstanding, short-sightedness and self-serving misdirection about economic policy. Even the most honest tribunal member–if there are any–is fighting against enormous psychological and economic forces.

This gets us back to the essential nature of the reactionary “social-cognitive bias” which has bred climate denialism, a widespread and systemic phenomenon having general parameters which Corey Robin writes about, and which I listed from the political science literature under another John Quiggin post (at comment #36), so I think that maybe you should read this first:


ZM 10.21.15 at 1:53 pm

Thank you, I’ll have a read of the chapter.

There are two tribunal members, one of the tribunal members has ruled on at least one case I used for case law in my argument of merits on a climate change case in Gippsland, where the tribunal used the precautionary principle to rule out a coastal development, so I think he is knowledgable about climate change already.


Jerry Vinokurov 10.21.15 at 2:35 pm

I find this level of hostility quite depressing.

And I find it quite depressing that we ought to feel compelled to offer any level of respect to this bullshit:

It is clear that what we have now is a full blown religious cult of AGW. The climate gods are angry because The West has been bad. The high priests call for sacrifices to appease the gods, so something must be seen to be done now, even if the science says we have much longer to act.

Dipper is not making any kind of argument. He does not know anything about AGW or climate science or anything at all, beyond regurgitating tired right-wing talking points about “complex systems” and “computer models” as though he had any notion of what those terms meant. This isn’t a good-faith discussion or even medium-quality trolling; this is a person who just decided to show up and shit on a thread with his ignorance.

It’s not my blog and far be it from me to tell its proprietors what to do, but people who come here making those kind of idiotic worn out arguments should be banned outright. The level of discourse has improved measurably since the exile of Brett Bellmore, so the system works.


Dipper 10.21.15 at 3:40 pm

Blimey Jerry. Just relax

Sadly I cannot claim the comparison to religion is my own work. At least one other person has got there first. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/30/james-lovelock-environmentalism-religion


Mike Furlan 10.21.15 at 3:51 pm

82 Lynne, If you have not, find a copy of “Bullshit” and read it. “Digger” is taking advantage of the kind nature of the people here, and is making fun of their devotion to a fact based reality.


Dipper 10.21.15 at 4:14 pm

ZM – 84. Many thanks. At last something tangible. I’m surprised given the number of experts on here it took so long to get this.


Dipper 10.21.15 at 4:15 pm

sry 88


ZedBlank 10.21.15 at 4:41 pm

@ Lee A. 69:

Although I still doubt The Dipster’s honesty, and more of his comments downthread bolster my doubts, I agree in principle with what you’re saying. If there’s even a chance that someone is honestly confused and seeking more info, it’s worthwhile to explain things.

@ Lynne 82:

Here’s what makes him a denialist: a) his stance is exactly consonant with the general stance of the professional denialists. That is, now that it has become untenable to claim that warming isn’t occurring, the tactic has shifted to “maybe human’s aren’t doing it.”
b) If you look at what he’s saying, it basically amounts to denialism, ie. “yes, the climate is warming, but human’s aren’t doing anything to contribute to it (despite all the CO2 we’re pumping into the atmosphere), and since the models don’t count as scientific proof (according to his *wrong* definition of the scientific method), it’s possible that the warming will stop, or reverse, or start jumping around like a jumping bean, because, hey, man, we just don’t know. It’s basically saying “yes, the climate is warming, but what I’m suggesting is, maybe it isn’t?” That’s denialism.
c) He responded exactly to the troll-feeding as you would expect him to. He comes in demanding “answers” to his “simple widdle kwestion” – as if that’s all it would take to clear up, once and for all, this brave personal skepticism re. the scientific consensus. Lee A Arnold patiently provides him with REAMS of links and references, and, knowing he will now look the part of troll too well, Dipster claims that he is satisfied, that he will look into those links, thanks. But what happens next? He comes back in, now playing the persecuted Galileo role, and starts raving about how “AGW has become a religion.” Does anyone here honestly think he is looked at ANY of that data?
d) he’s obviously literate, and yet he believes that articulating worn-out denialist talking points is going to persuade people that he is also some kind of scientific maven. Except he’s obviously not – he’s full of crap on wind power (as another commentator has pointed out), and his ideas about science and complexity are completely wrong. Again, this is right out of the denialist playbook. The idea is that since the weather is complex, and there are no alternate Earths with which to do controlled experiments, climate science is ipso facto impossible. Notice the contradiction: he is asking to be directed to the part of the science where it says “AGW = real,” but he has decided in advance that AGW can’t possibly be real, because the climate is too complex to do science on, and anyway, it’s a religion, so there.

Hence, in short, and apologies for the length, but if it walks, talks, smells, and quacks like a denialist…


Jerry Vinokurov 10.21.15 at 5:00 pm

I’m charmed by the idiocy of people who seriously think that “If I just show up in a comment thread and post some nonsense on a topic of great scientific complexity, surely that will show them the error of their ways.” Because that’s how we settle scientific questions and not in, I don’t know, peer reviewed publications or something. If you’re so sure you’re right, put your money where your mouth is and write the definitive set of papers that will surely demonstrate that tens of thousands of climate scientists worldwide have no idea what they’re talking about. It must just be a short hop to there from cavalierly posting in CT comments.


Yama 10.21.15 at 5:07 pm

Dipper 10.21.15 at 12:55 pm

“Do you really think that this is how intellectual debates should operate? Is this the level of debate you bring to other stuff?”

Welcome to teh internet, Dips. Lefty academics are not immune (though I bet you already knew that).

Pay attention to Bruce Wilder, though!


Tom Slee 10.21.15 at 5:10 pm

Zedblank – as someone who has not read into climate change in any depth I have been following the thread with interest, including especially Lee Arnold’s set of links. But I do notice that (so far as I can see) Dipper didn’t actually say any of the things you attribute to him/her, including but not limited to the things in quotation marks.


Nick 10.21.15 at 5:20 pm

Tom Slee @ 99

Dipper: It is specifically people who have called me out because I doubted AGW and who then cannot answer a simple question.

Dipper: It is clear that what we have now is a full blown religious cult of AGW

There’s two for you. I’m sure you can locate the rest if you look a bit more closely.


Dipper 10.21.15 at 5:29 pm

my comments on science as religion were about politicians making a religion out of it. Some scientists seem to have been drawn into it, which is unsurprising given the clear incentive to create scares and so get more funding. This is a bad environment in which to do science. Scientists would be far better off being left alone to do science, not being engaged as cheer leaders for glory-seeking politicians.

As I noted above (85) the response of politicians in the UK has been entirely detrimental. Industry in the UK is now paying roughly twice as much for electricity as German industry, largely down to the building of wind turbines, and overall not a single molecule of CO2 has been conserved. We would be far better off building nuclear power stations.


Dipper 10.21.15 at 5:30 pm

Nick – I got an answer in 88.


Matt 10.21.15 at 5:31 pm

Measuring ghg emissions by production rather than consumption is unfair, as it works in favour of advanced economy countries where manufacturing is offshored. Counting by consumption and especially including air travel and accounting holiday emissions to the nationality of the holidayer means most advanced economic countries have higher ghg emissions than the official figures.

With other sorts of environmental disasters we don’t hold the buyer responsible for the action of larger organizations, and it would be a recipe for ridiculous inaction if we did. BP: “It’s not our fault that oil rig exploded, that was just the outcome of trying to serve our impatient, cheap customers! Fine them instead.”

Of course a patchwork of national solutions will not solve a global emissions problem, if the problem just gets offshored. The West blaming poorer countries for manufacturing export goods while poorer countries blame the West for buying them is also a recipe for ridiculous inaction. Emissions must be curbed before decisions reach the level of an individual shopper, looking at competing products A and B and trying to guess at their embedded energy content and associated emissions. I would favor tariffs on imported products in proportion to the emissions of their manufacturing. If supply chains don’t provide enough transparency to verify actual emissions, presume the worst and set tariffs accordingly.


The Temporary Name 10.21.15 at 5:36 pm

Some scientists seem to have been drawn into it, which is unsurprising given the clear incentive to create scares and so get more funding.

This is why the funding in chupacabra studies is through the roof.

It’ll be interesting seeing Canadian government scientists free to speak about their work again, assuming Trudeau will follow up on removing their muzzles.


Joe 10.21.15 at 5:38 pm

Couple of things. The comments about Canada being held hostage by the oil industry are just plain stupid, or to paraphrase John Quiggin a marker for left wing academic identity politics. Maybe you should compare Harper to Putin as Putin is replacing Hitler on the internet?

Second, good luck to Mr Trudeau in working with the premiers. I am assuming Bill Gardner is not Canadian but we have a constitution that give the provinces control over health care in their jurisdiction. (Yes I realize the Feds provide health care to certain jurisdictions) One thing Harper did was he did not interfere in provincial areas of responsibilities, for better or worse. Blaming Harper for anything to do with health care is nonsense. The health care issues in my area are directly the fault of our previous premiers.

BTW the luck above is not snark. With change we should all be positive and hope for the best, especially in the first period of good will. Maybe Harper’s period of ignoring the provinces, coupled with massive political provincial change since the last set of federal provincial nastiness mean Canada can enter into a period of going forward on a bunch of long term issues that have been outstanding for a while.

John Quiggin – as far as Keystone goes Harper and crew pretty much have bent over to the Americans on every issue – and we did not get our pipeline. Maybe a different approach is required? Removing troops and planes from Syria is a start, as would be cancelling the F35. When the Americans say jump it is hard to negotiate when you are in the air. The Aleyeska pipeline is instructive as to how internal American politics trump common sense, so Keystone is likely a lost cause. And let’s hope Alaska’s remaining production gets stranded. Serves them right.

One thing I would like new Government to do would be to make travel within Canada more enjoyable. Removing the intrusive and wasteful air traffic security would be a start. A friend was denied entry on a Alaskan Cruise out of Vancouver by Homeland Security as his passport was about to expire. I get the Alaskan part of the cruise but at least the Government of Canada can do is insist Homeland Security treat Canadians with respect and dignity.

As far as trash talking Putin lets hope Mr. Trudeau comes to his senses and treats a leader of a nuclear armed nation with some respect. This demonizing of Putin is becoming worrisome – unfortunately the Russians are real and we share arctic interests with them so lets hope to to constructive relations with our Northern Neighbor.


Jerry Vinokurov 10.21.15 at 5:49 pm

“I want scientists left alone to do science” says a person who has literally accused climate scientists of being in it for the sweet sweet cash. I’m sure this is an entirely sincere desire on your part and that you are prepared to accept the scientific consensus flowing from said uninhibited practice of science!


Lyle 10.21.15 at 6:20 pm

Well, Dipper certainly succeeded in one way: derailing a discussion about the recent dethroning of a powerful friend of climate denialists.


Dipper 10.21.15 at 6:34 pm

well I was happy just to post and go but was hauled back by popular demand.


Jerry Vinokurov 10.21.15 at 6:54 pm

“I was happy to shit on a thread and bow out forever but then someone had respond as though I were worth engaging, and now I have to come back to shit on this thread some more. P.S. Stop hitting yourselves, nerds!”


Lyle 10.21.15 at 8:58 pm

In case anyone here hasn’t seen it:



Bill Hamlin 10.21.15 at 10:17 pm

It is more refreshing to assume that we choose clean energy (solar/wind/nuclear(?)) over dirty energy (coal) — and then debate how we do that.

There are vested interests in keeping the status quo. People work in coal mines. People broker sales of coal. And so on. I suppose the cost of energy from coal is less than the cost from clean sources — so we have to account for that.

Just trying to raise the level of the discussion….


John Quiggin 10.21.15 at 11:34 pm

I’m deleting all further comments from, and responses to, Dipper. If anyone would still like to discuss the OP, feel free to jump in.


Eli Rabett 10.21.15 at 11:37 pm

David Archer has a number of excellent books on climate.

Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast, a textbook for non-science major undergraduates, Blackwell-Wiley, 2006 with Second Edition 2011. A companion web site provides access to Open Climate 101, an interactive on-line class based on video lectures followed by reinforcing quizzes, and on-line interactive models with tutorials based on the labs our students do.

The Climate Crisis: An introductory guide to climate change, December, 2009, Cambridge University Press.

Links at the link. The interactive models are especially instructive to play with. Recommended to all.


Eli Rabett 10.21.15 at 11:38 pm

To paraphrase George Box: All trolls are wrong. Some are useful. Most not.


ZM 10.22.15 at 1:06 am

Deleted, as advised. Please, nothing more from you on this thread


TM 10.22.15 at 6:28 am

Wow, they allowed that idiot troll to derail the thread. Left intellectuals in action.


TM 10.22.15 at 6:39 am

Joe 106, do you wish to dispute that Harper’s government was a government of, for, and by the oil industry? Seriously, on what grounds? Muzzling scientists, espousing climate change denialism, and abolishing Canada’s environmental protection laws, but none of that has anything to do with the oil industry?

Quite apart from Trudeau’s person and ideology, what this election has done is reduce the oil lobby’s influence. Harper’s base was Alberta, the new government’s base is Quebec and Ontario. It would be delusional to think that the oil industry won’t still have a lot of power in Canada but maybe now there is fighting chance. One can hope.


Maria 10.22.15 at 9:09 am

MPA, I am so glad to hear that news about your partner. It takes a LOT to get out and canvass at the best of times and I’m glad it was a good experience for them. Makes me very happy to think of you celebrating together in a win your partner had a piece of. (And I agree with Lynn, we’ve missed you.)

I’m hopeful Trudeau will be a force for positive change, though I think he has clear limits. We used to be friendly when I was an exchange student at McGill in the early 90s and on the debate team there. It was really strange to watch how, even in egalitarian Canada, he always had this aura around him of people reacting to being Pierre’s son. (I think he’s gotten a lot better at debating since those days…) Anyway, his chief of staff is a good friend from that time and is smart and with his heart in the right place. Fingers and toes crossed for you all.


John Quiggin 10.22.15 at 10:17 am

Also glad to read your news, MPA.


MPAVictoria 10.22.15 at 2:01 pm

Thank you both for your kind words.
I have to admit I was so proud of my partner I thought my heart would burst. :-)

And thanks for sharing a little bit about your personal experiences with JT and Gerald Butts Maria. I found it comforting.


Jerry Vinokurov 10.22.15 at 6:49 pm

Is there any hope that a more sensible Canadian government might be able to halt or slow things like tar sand development?


MPAVictoria 10.22.15 at 7:07 pm

“Is there any hope that a more sensible Canadian government might be able to halt or slow things like tar sand development?”

The slowing has already happened with the plunge in the price of oil. As for halting extremely unlikely. People got to work. Hopefully improved regulation can reduce or offset tar sand emissions though.


John Quiggin 10.23.15 at 7:02 am

While policy is important, it is the price of oil that will really determine what happens to oil sands. My reading is that the current price is far below what is needed to make new oil sands projects viable (abput $80/bbl) and below what is needed to keep most existing projects viable in the medium term (about $50/bbl). If current prices are sustained, I’d expect that no new projects will happen, and the projects that are under way but some distance from completion will be mothballed. I don’t know how long existing projects can keep pumping before they run into difficulties.



kidneystones 10.23.15 at 7:56 am

@88 Thanks for your two cents. Agreed. I’m listening right now to an excellent discussion on precisely these questions on bhtv. http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/37400

I’ve listened once already. It’s excellent.


kidneystones 10.23.15 at 7:57 am

Excellent. That’s the Canadian in me. It really is worth a listen!


TM 10.23.15 at 9:25 am

“As for halting extremely unlikely. People got to work.”

There has already been a massive loss of jobs. The cost benefit calculation looks bleak, *even when you disregard the biggest external cost of all, the climate crisis*.

If the NDP government tightens environmental regulations and the federal government is less inclined to act as the oil industry’s foot boy, and add to that the resistance of BC and other provinces – and perhaps the US – to building new pipelines, there is a real chance that the tar tide is turning. The argument that clean energy creates more jobs and more economic benefit than fossil fuels becomes more compelling every day. The oil industry is just one fraction of capital. There are other fractions with competing interests. The election not least reflects that competition between the fossil fuel industry and other industries.


Tom Slee 10.23.15 at 11:50 am

TM @127:

I don’t see that a slowing of tar sands development due to low oil prices makes the argument that clean energy is a better alternative to fossil fuels. Low oil prices make fossil fuel consumption more attractive compared not only to tar sands oil but also to alternative energy sources.

Here in Ontario, the NDP has tried in successive campaigns to make environmentally sensitive noises around oil production while promising to keep oil prices low at the pump so as not to hit “regular hardworking Canadians”. Even as an NDP voter, I have yet to see how that circle can be squared.


kidneystones 10.23.15 at 12:14 pm

127 Thanks for a fact-free celebration of magic ponies. Being just about as bone-ignorant of the Alberta NDP’s energy policy I took the radical step of downloading and reading their platform. As I expected, the Alberta NDP is committed to keeping oil revenues pumping. Indeed, the NDP want to increase oil refining in Alberta

“Through these policies, we’ll reduce our province’s over-dependence on raw bitumen exports and create more jobs with more upgrading and processing here, rather than in Texas.”

The changes the NDP wants to make aren’t directed towards reducing oil revenues. Quite the opposite. The NDP’s position is that the Conservatives have been stealing oil revenues for their cronies (true), so now the NDP argues, it’s time for regular folks to start getting their fair share of cash from carbon fossil fuels, cause with the decrease in fuel prices, who knows how much longer the citizens of Alberta will be able to feed off the fossil fuel tit.

Canada’s prairie provinces have socialist roots that run deep. Tommy Douglas, the socialist Baptist minister and leader of the CCF, introduced single payer health care to North America when he formed the first socialist government in North America. Yes, again we have to thank a bible-thumper for positive social change. MLK wasn’t really a Christian, was he? I digress.

It’s possible that with a large majority and good advice Justin Trudeau can actually get something done. Canada’s geography and demographics impose severe constraints on political choice. Alberta’s NDP can’t afford to shut-down, or otherwise do anything to hurt the oil industry and remain in power. Other provinces present their own unique challenges. Without Asian money and the black economy in weed, for example, BC’s economy would likely tank.

Nothing in Justin Trudeau’s history suggests he possesses the skills to pull the levers of policy. He’s surrounded by plenty of Liberal cronies looking to profit off the change in government, but these folks should not be regarded as anything but self-interested hacks.


Lynne 10.23.15 at 1:09 pm

“Canada’s prairie provinces have socialist roots that run deep. Tommy Douglas, the socialist Baptist minister and leader of the CCF, introduced single payer health care to North America when he formed the first socialist government in North America.”

Very true. And for those who don’t know, Tommy Douglas was the grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland (and former father-in-law of Donald).


kidneystones 10.23.15 at 2:02 pm

JQ. If I pursued a doctoral degree in a particular discipline, worked with many academics who shared similar views, described all criticism or dissent of these views as ‘denial’, should I then nominate myself as objectively suited to judge those opposing views, on the merits, no matter how outlandish these views?

The fact that you evidently find nothing incongruous or questionable about your own ‘neutrality’ confirms your own confirmation bias. I read your CV. Your intelligence and mathematical abilities are beyond question. I just wonder how someone like you can be so convinced in the righteousness of an ‘objectively’ grounded view.

I personally see nothing wrong with freeing ourselves from fossil fuels, conservation, and reducing the number of pollutants in the environment. However, I find your own ironclad beliefs in your own judgments and those of your fellows, and your really bizarre assertions regarding managing/controlling climate change, to be the best argument for skepticism. The CRU and a host of similar organizations are now staffed by an entire population of ‘academics’ completely dependent for funding on the proposition that their arguments are beyond criticism.

That doesn’t strike me as the best way to foster honest inquiry and debate. Factor in the shunning that is the norm here and elsewhere, the threats to employment, future publishing, and to funding, and we end up with a rickety structure unable to withstand mockery, criticism, or contempt. And that’s the ‘reasonable’ position. There are plenty who’d like to see critics prosecuted and proscribed.

Would any hiring committee today risk employing a new hire who openly questioned established orthodoxy and published to that effect?

You may well be entirely objective. But I hope you’ll at least allow that some might not see you as a dis-interested third party. Unfortunately, in the binary Bush-world of ‘climate change’ you’re either with us, or against us.


MPAVictoria 10.23.15 at 2:14 pm

Plot idea: 97% of the world’s scientists contrive an environmental crisis, but are exposed by a plucky band of billionaires & oil companies.

H/T to Scott Westerfeld


Lynne 10.23.15 at 2:26 pm

MPAV, Clever, but not really the point, eh?


Yama 10.23.15 at 2:34 pm

kidneystones 10.23.15 at 2:02 pm

Excellent points. I understand the frustration with the denial stance, but the urge to call out opposing opinions as trolling has demolished credibility on all sides.


MPAVictoria 10.23.15 at 2:39 pm

“MPAV, Clever, but not really the point, eh?”

Rule of funny Lynne. :-)


Lynne 10.23.15 at 2:47 pm

Oh. Sorry. {blush}


kidneystones 10.23.15 at 2:50 pm

133 You must have missed MPA’s all ‘A’ are sociopaths world view. For her and for others of here, there is no middle ground. There are no responsible Republicans or conservatives. For JQ, there are no dissenters, only ‘deniers.’ He states so explicitly.

The argument, of course, takes on additional urgency (for some) when the threat of mass extinction is injected into the timeline of action and deliberation. When I receive an email or I’m informed that ‘unless I act NOW’ all caps, the world is quite literally going to come to end, I simply bin the email. Unpacking the 97% number has been done on numerous occasions. The point is the science is settled. I don’t know how many of the ditto-heads have said so explicitly, but given their penchant for group-think, my guess is that many of those employing the term ‘denier’ today were stating unequivocally as recently as 201o that the ‘science of AGW is settled.’

So quit yer complaining and get out your check book – world’s burning up!


MPAVictoria 10.23.15 at 2:57 pm

“There are no responsible Republicans or conservatives.”

Of course there isn’t. Have you been watching the Republican presidential debates? Have you been following their behavior on the Debt Limit? Their attacks on food stamps? The fact that Red States are LITERALLY spending billions of dollars to deny health care to poor people?

These are not the actions of responsible people. These are the immoral actions of sadistic bastards. It does the world no favours to pretend these are simple policy disagreements.


RJ 10.23.15 at 3:07 pm

Lynne, I have some sympathy for your views about unnecessary and destructive left-wing orthodoxy (and not just, or even mostly, among the far left). But this issue is unrelated. Climate change denial is like evolution denial, HIV denial, the belief that vaccines cause autism, the belief that UFO aliens are pulling the strings in the Trilateral Commission, and so on. It does not deserve discussion at Crooked Timber, and anyone who advances it should be banned from the thread. Quicker than Dipper was. There are real issues to consider here, and the alleged super-orthodoxy of climate scientists is not a real issue, because it is not true, period.

I’d basically encourage all right-wing views to be quickly banned actually. Every minute spent reading right-wing and libertarian views is time that could be spent on something worthwhile, instead. This is quite different from your thesis, which I happen to accept, that there are worthwhile views the left refuses to discuss to its cost. Climate change denial and libertarianism are not examples, because they are not worthwhile.


Sebastian h 10.23.15 at 3:24 pm

RJ, Hiv denial and vaccine denial were both incubated, nurtured and spread by the left. HIV denial especially–in the West it was all about the CIA trying to trick gays and in Africa it was all about colonialists trying to trick Africans.

Being for “your side” is a strong impulse. Republicans are definitely convulsing in it at the moment. Left wing views have done a lot of damage convulsing in it too. Being aware of it in yourself is the first step toward combating it.


mds 10.23.15 at 3:30 pm

Tom Slee @ 128:

I don’t see that a slowing of tar sands development due to low oil prices makes the argument that clean energy is a better alternative to fossil fuels.

I don’t know if this was what TM was getting at, but I’d see a tentative argument from the domestic production and employment side: the economic benefits of tar sands development are fragile, highly dependent on the price of oil. So employing people in clean energy production might offer more economic stability from the boom/bust cycle. (Yes, clean energy currently suffers from some of the same “only economically viable when oil is expensive” effect, but it has the virtue of serving additional long-term interests. There are big wind farms in Texas, for goodness’ sake.)


RJ 10.23.15 at 3:32 pm

‘The Left’ =/= crazy conspiracy theorists who make left-wing noises. Neither HIV denial nor vaccine denial ever have been platform positions of any centre-left party nor any longstanding far-left group I’ve ever heard of. So no, I don’t accept your childish ‘tu quoque’. Totally untrue with any intelligent context. Bullshit, Seb.


RJ 10.23.15 at 3:40 pm

By the way, I don’t actually accept it, but the thesis that HIV was deliberately developed to hurt gays and Africans has some plausibility – unlike HIV denial, which is not the same thing.


TM 10.23.15 at 4:46 pm

128 et al, if I really need to spell this out, the argument is that the oil industry is extremely environmentally destructive while also providing very little economic benefit, especially long term. Of course here in the US, the oil industry has been heavily subsidized, by orders of magnitude more than clean energy ever got. The same is probably true in Canada, certainly when the external cost is factored in. So the economic case against the oil industry isn’t that hard to make, or wouldn’t be if the powers that be actually cared about economic rationality. And that’s where governments matter. Canada doesn’t have to be a petro-state.


TM 10.23.15 at 4:50 pm

kidneystones 129, 131, 137: irrelevant banter, nothing to respond to.


John Quiggin 10.23.15 at 10:46 pm

Kidneystones, nothing more on this thread. Any further mention of climate denialism and you will be permanently banned.

Sebastian since we seem to be stuck on denial, it’s something of an own goal to raise vaccine denial when so many candidates for the Republican nomination (Trump, Carson, Paul, Christie) are pushing it in one form or another. And the most prominent HIV denialist of whom I’m aware is Tom Bethell, whose Politically Incorrect Guide to Science appears to be a standard text on the right.


Brett Dunbar 10.24.15 at 12:31 pm

The fairly mainstream bits of typically left wing anti science are anti-nuclear and anti-GM activism.

In the case of GM the procedure of making precise controlled alteration carry rather less risk than the use of mutagens in conventional breeding, as that can produce genuinely dangerous traits. So the scaremongering lacks basic logic.

The post Chernobyl epidemiology does not support the use of a linear no-threshold model for the risks of radiation exposure. Areas within the plume show no measurable difference in mortality to similar areas outside the plume.


afeman 10.24.15 at 8:02 pm

Brett, considering the fate of the assumption (which I once shared) that anti-vaccination is a peculiarly left-wing trope, what would you present as evidence that rightwingers are more rational with regard to GMOs and nuclear power?

Considering that LNT is the admittedly conservative assumption used for industry radiation safety in the US, it hardly does to suggest that as crankery. On the other hand, we have Ann Coulter promoting hormesis, which seems to be widely rejected.


Art Deco 10.24.15 at 9:13 pm

And the most prominent HIV denialist of whom I’m aware is Tom Bethell,

I gather you’re not aware of Peter Duesberg.


The Temporary Name 10.24.15 at 9:35 pm

Mike Adams is an HIV denialist and anti-GMO maniac with a higher profile than Bethell and Duesberg.



djr 10.24.15 at 9:36 pm

The American right has been quite strongly opposed to nuclear power facilities being constructed in Iran. Is this anti-science, or does it point to the fact that nuclear power isn’t purely about low-carbon power generation in the short to medium term?


John Quiggin 10.24.15 at 10:44 pm

I covered this tu quoque stuff a year or so ago, before antivax was as clearly a rightwing thing as it is now. A couple of points now

(i) The anti-evidence position on nuclear is the (largely rightwing) pro-nuclear position, that disregards ample evidence showing that nuclear power is economically unviable. The centre-left (eg Obama Administration) position “all of the above” gives nuclear more benefit of the doubt than it deserves at this point, but is within the range of reasonable viewpoints.

(ii) Anti-science opposition to GM tech, based on spurious claims about health risks, is a fringe position. There are plenty of reasonable anti-GM arguments that don’t rely on this.


John Quiggin 10.24.15 at 10:49 pm

@149 OK “the most politically prominent”. The point is that HIV denialism, like anti-vax, climate denial, creationism, tobacco denialism, voodoo economics and much more is a rightwing phenomenon. It differs from some of the others in that it’s a minority view even on the right.


subdoxastica 10.24.15 at 11:12 pm

I was really looking forward to reading what the regulars at CT had to say about an election that meant a great deal to a lot of Canadians. So thank you to JQ for the OP.

Lynne, MPA, good to hear your reactions. Seems Kidneystones might be Canadian, given his strong opinions on our politics.

Not my preferred choice for Prime Minister, but allowing myself to hope that some really positive things can get done before the entitlement of Canada’s naturally ruling party sees the window of opportunity close.

Regarding worthwhile Canadian initiatives:

18 months until their platform’s promise on electoral reform comes to fruition by the introduction of legislation after review of various forms of voting. Such a change, had it been in place prior to the most recent election might have influenced the role strategic voting played in giving the Liberals their majority.

Happy that he’s taking May and the premiers to Paris for the summit on climate.

I’m also hoping to see the Party’s platform promise for the creation of the national public inquiry on MMAW. Given his collaborative efforts on the climate file perhaps this can include a range of ideas of how to improve what is an unacceptable status quo. Here on the left coast we have a minister who figures he probably won’t resign for his office’s routine triple deleting of emails. One specific instance of which is alleged that 14 emails were deleted after an FOI on the highway of tears was received. Public Safety minister of Quebec was in tears the other day over the new allegations in Val d’or and Cree groups seem to be mobilizing.

Lots of tough, important work to be done. Hope the 42nd is up to the job.


Sebastian H 10.25.15 at 1:07 am

John, I have absolutely no problem with the suggestion that the right is having a particularly bad anti-thought/conspiracy theory moment. The Republican Party definitely is. I’m as dismayed as anyone that anti-vaxxers have gained traction recently in the idiot brigade of the nomination race. But RJs position is much stronger than that, and much more wrong headed. Even your position seems to overlook some key points.

Re anti-vaxxers: Even as recently as February of this year, there was evidence that in the US at least, anti-vaxxers were on the left. See this post by Kieran Healy on Crooked Timber which strongly suggests that traditional religious schools have low rate of PBEs while private lefty schools had very high rates of PBEs. To the extent that the movement had a political valence before 2015, it was very much on the left. It appears to have been adopted by crazies on the right, which isn’t comforting, but it was incubated for decades on the left.

AIDs denialism isn’t very big in the West, thank heavens, but is HUGE and very damaging in Africa, and absolutely a feature of the anti-colonialist left. The idea that it isn’t a big deal seems like it just missed your attention (which is admittedly typical of things in Africa for me too).

You’re being weirdly dismissive of the GMO thing. Whether or not there are theoretically other reasons to be seriously worried about them, you can’t dismiss the importance of “spurious claims about health risks” as a fringe position. The spurious claims about health risks are THE important selling point to the public any time the issue comes up and they are almost entirely propaganda games from the left. The proposition 37 campaign in California is demonstrative. All of the ads in 2012 involved scare tactics about GMO health problems (Do you know what your baby is eating???) From their website: “Are Genetically Engineered Foods Safe? GMOs have not been proven safe, and long-term health studies have not been conducted. A growing body of peer-reviewed studies has linked these foods to allergies, organ toxicity, and other health problems. These studies must be followed up. However, unlike the strict safety evaluations required for the approval of new drugs, the US Food and Drug Administration does not require safety studies for genetically engineered foods. The United Nations/World Health Organization food standards group and the American Medical Association have called for mandatory safety testing of genetically engineered foods — a standard the U.S. fails to meet. ”

When the cornerstone of your appeal to the public is definitely a lie, there is a problem. GMO opposition definitely has that problem.

Again my point isn’t that the left is currently awash in worse scientific stupidity than the right. Especially in the US, the right is currently embracing crazy crap. But some of the crazy crap got its start in the left and was nurtured on the left until very recently. So RJs “right-wing positions should be banned” concept is silly, especially since some of the very positions he decries were incubated on the left, and in the case of HIV-denialism appear almost exclusively on the left.


Sebastian H 10.25.15 at 1:09 am

Ugh I really do know how to close tags.

this is Kieran Healy’s post on anti-vaxxers in California.


John Quiggin 10.25.15 at 1:44 am

OK, so Kieran’s post shows that the highest rates of Personal Belief Exemptions are in a group of 30-odd Waldorf and Montessori schools (out of 7000-odd schools in CA). Striking but numerically insignificant. Next in frequency are Charters, Christian private and general private schools (about 1200). These have about 3 times the PBE rate of the 5300 public schools.

Accepting for the sake of argument your assumption that you can translate Waldorf/Montessori as “lefty” (I think this is problematic), I assume you’d accept that the next three groups are “righty”. So, you get the conclusion that, while there antivax pockets among wealthy cultural leftists, the weight of antivax action in the population is on the right. That’s obviously true of the political class, as we’ve seen recently


John Quiggin 10.25.15 at 1:50 am

But I agree that the dominance of rightwing craziness is a relatively recent phenomenon, pretty much coinciding with the rise of AGW denialism in the 1990s (though working out the direction of causality is tricky). Go back to the 1970s, and the problem was bigger on the left. I was making this point when I first started blogging in 2003



RJ 10.25.15 at 4:51 am

If it’s a private school, it isn’t lefty.

My position, which didn’t even cite any right-wing nuttiness, is that neither HIV denial nor unevidenced vaccine-injury claims are properly characterized as fostered and nurtured on the left. What’s more, I did not claim that there is no left-wing nuttiness. In fact, there are some more common left-wing positions I’m inclined to view as nutty.

I’m all for a wider scope of allowable discussion in leftism. I said that directly. However, just as HIV denial, vaccines causing autism, UFO aliens controlling the Trilateral Commission are not appropriate topics for informed left-wing discussion, neither is Climate change denial.

As to the stronger claim that right-wing opinions ought to be strongly discouraged by blogs like Crooked Timber, well, it’s not the same as saying that people should never listen to conservatives ever. No one is going to suffer from failing to hear some worthwhile conservative position because it is not discussed at Crooked Timber. For conservative voices are already drastically overrepresented, relative to their intellectual merit, on the local news, on the National News, on the Internet, frickin’ everywhere. I just really think there can be a more fruitful discussion if folks aren’t pausing to argue against, for the thousandth frickin’ time, theses that most educated leftists already know inside and out.

I already read Nozick, already read Gauthier, already read Locke, already read Hayek, already read Burke, already read Kirk. I would prefer now to read now a discussion of ideas concerning a different and more just kind of society. This is what a blog like Crooked Timber sometimes offers, and what I’d like more of.

Though I realize this is just, like, my opinion, man. Seeing as I’m not the one doing the work to put this together.


RJ 10.25.15 at 4:59 am

As to the Canadian election: I’m going to get more involved in my Riding Association and urge the Oranges to advance a position unambiguously defending public property and institutions as a positive good and not the pork barrels they are constantly accused of being. I don’t see a realistic chance of turning the party back to an explicitly socialist one, but if the party is unwilling to discuss fundamentals at election time, the voters already have another pragmatic centre-left party available, one with a longer track record.

Same goes for last year’s Provincial election in Ontario.


RJ 10.25.15 at 5:12 am

I re-read the most recent posts from Sebastian H. Look, I’m not claiming that leftism is all holy or super-rational or anything, but you are relying on claims that are simply false. It is simply false that any of the positions I named are distinctively leftist.

HIV denialism is not almost exclusively on the left. Period. I’m prepared to be proved wrong, though, if you can provide me with records of NDP resolutions condemning AZT as a fraud, records of Labour Party UK resolutions calling for an inquiry into the HIV hoax, a Z Magazine article claiming that HIV is the means of surplus value theft in modern America, or even a This Magazine editorial claiming that the HIV hoax is the means to insuring the cooperation of the working class, etc., etc. All of these things and many more will be found easily if the thesis that HIV denialism is almost exclusively leftist.

By contraposition, if a search fails to find these documents with ease, then the thesis is conclusively falsified and should be withdrawn. I await the evidence eagerly.


TM 10.26.15 at 8:12 pm

159, strongly agree. Liberals have this misguided view that refusing to give the right a platform in our publications is akin to censorship. Nope. We are not obliged to take seriously and discuss any BS that anybody brings up. These 160+ comments have been almost empty of serious debate of the Canadian election and its implications, because CTers have allowed a clique of rightist obstructionists to derail the thread from the start. And to be clear, I don’t blame the rightists for that, I blame the liberals. And frankly the right is winning, at least in this country, precisely because they know how to stick to their talking points.

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