Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nobody Rules The World

Looking at the news these days I am increasingly reminded of something from one of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's books (probably The Black Swan). He describes life in civil-war era Beirut, with shelling and bombardments a daily occurrence. Taleb had family members high up in the government - he comes from a prominent Orthodox family - and he recalls life in the bunker during a period of prolonged shelling from the other side of the city. He saw senior politicians reading the newspapers trying to work out what was going on - and these same newspapers were assuming that they, as well-connected politicians, could explain it to them. The fact was that nobody really knew what was going on and why. Who was bombing whom? Why this particular outburst of shelling? Nobody knew, it was random, chaotic (which is why Taleb describes it, of course), but the presss and politicians were desperate for a narrative that took away that essential element of randomness.

I see the same things now. Our politicians are in the bunker. They don't have a clue as to what's going on. They avidly devour the newspapers looking for clues. And our mainstream media search for oracular scraps in the half-baked musings of our politicians, as though they have any idea of what's happening. They don't get. Deep in the bunker they're desperately searching for the narrative that will take away the randomness. But the truth is that the global economy is a chaotic, turbulent system that nobody can control. All those who think that Wall St controls the world - you're nuts. All those who think it's the IMF - nuts too. The Jews? The Illuminati? Nuts. Politicians? Nuts. The truth is that nobody runs the world.

But that doesn't stop our political classes meddling. The hardest thing in the world for a politician to do is to stand back and do nothing. That would have been the right thing to do a few years ago. All that bollocks about too big to fail? Well, all that did was making the teetering failures even bigger. Let Greece fail? If it had been kicked out of the Euro and allowed to default, then it might have worked. As it is, now it's the Euro as a whole that's failing.

Of course, in the European bunker the urge 'to do something' is strongest. And the Euro-class only has one game plan - greater political union. And they'll carry on with that script regardless of how bad it actually makes things. Regime uncertainty is a killer - and so long as politicians keep coming up with this initiative and that initiative, that uncertainty will persist. The way to stop that uncertainty is to step back and make no new plans, create no new mechanisms, do nothing. But then to do that means admitting politicians do not rule the world. And it means stopping the moves towards full political integration.

As if that's ever going to happen.

Monday, November 28, 2011

99.9997% impressed

I am always 99.9997% impressed when I see predictions quoted with levels of accuracy that far exceed measurement error. Take for example the latest OECD prediction of a contraction in this quarter (according to the BBC):

For the UK, the OECD's predictions are a 0.03% contraction this quarter, and a further 0.15% next.

Wow, 0.03%. They can measure a massive economy like ours to that level of accuracy? That's impressive.

It's like believing that we can predict global temperatures to fractions of a degree.

Sometimes I think we should just take Excel away from people who really don't have any common sense skills when it comes to numeracy...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shock Horror - BBC Reports On Lowered CO2 Sensitivity

Is this a sign of things to come as the latest UN climate fest Durban looks set to be a wash-out? There's a report on the BBC web site about a new paper in Science that looks again at climate sensitivity. And, as the BBC reports, it finds a much lower range of sensitivity than the current IPCC estimates. To quote the report:

The new models predict that given a doubling in CO2 levels from pre-industrial levels, the Earth's surface temperatures will rise by 1.7 to 2.6 degrees C.
Now what is interesting here, over and above the results themselves, is that the report doesn't come from Richard Black or Roger Harrabin, who are arch climate alarmists and who normally cover these stories. Furthermore, there are no quotes from any of the Hockey team, none from Bob Ward or indeed any of the other usual suspects.

Of course, there are the obligatory boiler-plate warnings about CO2, but even this is relatively circumspect:

The authors stress the results do not mean threat from human-induced climate change should be treated any less seriously, explained palaeoclimatologist Antoni Rosell-Mele from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, who is a member of the team that came up with the new estimates. 

But it does mean that to induce large-scale warming of the planet, leading to widespread catastrophic consequences, we would have to increase CO2 more than we are going to do in the near future, he said.
Could this new cautious tone from the BBC be the shape of things to come. Perhaps the recent spate of reports that show just how compromised the BBC is when it comes to climate change is starting to have an effect. The Climategate 2.0 emails can only help. Hopefully...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Climategate 2.0 - Phil Jones on Judith Curry's 'inferiority complex'

More from Phil Jones and Tom Wigley. As bluegrue has pointed out in a comment below, the capitalised sections are Tom Wigley's. This is from #5256 - where we learn about Judith Curry's 'inferiority complex...' The more interesting bits I've bolded...

     THanx Phil. Some comments in caps ....
     Phil Jones wrote:

         Off tomorrow and not back in CRU till March 10. I'm not supposed to
      talk to anyone of the report authors !  There was a lot of odd things
      said after the presentations in Chicago last week. We're charged with
      writing a report, which will be published, but you get to rewrite the report
      and no-one sees the one we looked at !  What is the point of publishing it !
         Roger Pielke didn't come out of it too well. Some thought he had some
      good ideas but didn't express them very well. Most thought he just didn't
      express them very well. All thought Ben's was the best chapter. Almost
      all think RSS is right. Also why is Fu et al. dismissed as controversial?


       Likely most work will be needed on Ch 6 and 1, then 2-4 and least for 5.
      The Exec Summary was deemed OK, but it isn't a summary of the report,


      so you'll have to do some major reworking.
         Remember I didn't tell you all this. Lots of details to come - not sure when.
      Seems a long-winded process.



Climategate 2.0 - More errors that Al's DVD

From the Climategate 2.0 emails - this from #5215. It's Phil Jones to Kevin Trenberth:

>  Kevin,
>         Just sent an email to Martin and also Renate suggesting that
> when Patchy
>   collects the prize in Oslo, IPCC gets it scanned and sent to all of us
> on
>   AR4. We can then print it off, frame it and put it on a wall!  They
> won't
>   get it for ages. It might be worth a few more of us suggesting
> something like this.
>        I know its for more than just AR4, but for all the Assessments, but
> they
>   will only have these recent email lists.
>         Secondly, next time you see Chris Landsea, maybe you can tell him
> he
>   opted out the prize!
>        All weekend op-ed pieces here were very begrudging in their praise
> for
>   Al Gore.  The award was for IPCC and Al Gore, which most also got wrong
> here.
>   Also, some said it was from Sweden and not Norway. Reporting was quite
> poor.
>      Finally, that idiot Lord Monckton or Brenchly, is making his own
> DVD, based
>   on that awful Ch 4 program 'The Great Global Warming Swindle' !
> Hopefully soon
>   Ofcom (the UK group who assesses complaints against programs) will have
> ruled
>   on that program - which had many more errors than Al's DVD.
>   Cheers
>   Phil

Aside from the snide remarks aimed at Chris Landsea and Monckton, there's an admission that Al Gore's DVD contained errors. Anyone ever hear Phil Jones criticise An Inconvenient Truth before?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Get Ready For Climategate 2.0...

Documents downloadable here: http://files.sinwt.ru/download.php?file=25FOIA2011.zip

Discussions already started by Jeff Id here and Steve McIntyre is also on the case...

Also quick off the mark are the BBC.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prince Phillip Is No Friend

There was some glee in the media over the weekend regarding the Duke of Edinburgh's comments on windfarms. While we can take it in good fun because it pokes one in the eye of the establishment line, let's not go too overboard with whether his comments have wider significance or not. Firsly, the comments are in the Prince Phillip tradition: highly non-PC. Where his number one son is ultra-PC on everything, Phillip delights in mocking the pieties of the day. And, let's not forget, the media takes just as much delight in reporting his comments, with varying degrees of mock outrage attending. So, in this respect at least, it's business as usual. There's the added frisson from diving cracks in the family, but again, that's par for the course when it comes to royal reporting.

And, lest we get too carried away, let's not forget that Prince Phillip is no friend of humanity. He is as misanthropic as they come, with a history of comments on over-population, environmentalism and the like. He might not like wind-farms, but it's only because they get in the way of his view of the landscape. He loves Earth first, humanity are an after-thought, and not a very welcome one at that. For example how's this for a quote:

In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation.

There are plenty more such quotes here: http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/esp_sociopol_depopu12.htm

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Remember, remember the 17th of November

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising against the Junta of the Greek Colonels. It has long been the key date in the calendar for Greek radicals, and often the demontsrations that commerarte the rising end in violence. It was also chosen as the name for the Greek terrorist organisation 17N, which was active for many years.

Given the current crisis in Greece it will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. Both in terms of the size of the demonstrations and also how violent they get - if there was ever a date for expressing opposition to the EUnity government it's the 17th. More interesting will be the response from the state. Will they let things slide or can we expect a swift and violent crackdown?

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Menace To Society

Sprog #1 is a teacher in a primary school in south west London. Her intake this year is a barely socialised rabble of five and six year olds, many of whom have difficulty with things like going to the toilet, getting dressed, eating at the table and so on. The class also includes a small group of boys prone to bouts of quite extreme violence, which, when allied to hair-line tempers, does not make for an easy time. Fights are common, and we're not talking a bit of pushing and shoving. The parents are often as feral as the children, and most weeks the school ends up having to call the police to remove parents who are aggressive or violent at the school.

This week one of the kids got into a fight on three separate occasions. When the kid was removed from the class and sent to the headmistress there was at least some expectation that at the third fight of the week some sanction could be applied. Ten minutes with the headmistress and the kid was back in the classroom, with a pile of play-dough to keep him happy. My daughter expressed her displeasure and demanded that something be done. At the very least the kid should miss play-time. No, the headmistress countered, the child could miss two or three minutes of play-time. Any more, the headmistress continued, would be to infringe on the child's human rights.

Nope, I kid you not. The headmistress really did say that, and she was being dead serious. To say that my daughter was incredulous is to understate things. So, a kid who is repeatedly violent and disruptive cannot miss out of play-time because it infringes his human rights. The teacher has no other sanction. None.

What about the human rights of the kids on the receiving end of the violence? Or the human rights of the whole class? Or even the human rights of the staff? None of those matter. What matters is the human rights of the a child who is violent and disruptive. Indeed, what about his human right to an education?

This child, and the others like him, runs riot at home and school. His parents don't care or can't control him. School is the one place that ought to be able to help him learn that he cannot carry on like that. But no, this headmistress, and the rest of her senior staff, will not help that kid at all. Better to let him trash the place then to impose some form of discipline - even of the mildest sort, such as missing play-time.

What does that kid learn? That being disruptive means you get to play with extra stuff and that there's no down-side. What do the other kids learn? That there's no profit in being good. And what does my daughter learn? That she's in the wrong school and that she can't help these kids, so has to leave for a better school.

This headmistress is a menace to society, as are the others like her, both in schools and in the education system as a whole. She does a disservice to all, including the kids who can't control themselves. She's making sure that the kids in her care are sabotaged in their education, trapped by their circumstances and the misfortune to be born poor in that part of London.

Two of our kids have gone through the system and the third is still working his way through secondary school. We've seen some great teaching and some good schools in the state system. But what we see, year on year, is a steady deterioration. And we look and we despair when we see what's going on.

It's not just the schools, what we see and hear about the next generation of kids, the ones in primary school now, really does scare the hell out of us.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chris Huhne Is A Moron

Chris Huhne does a really good job in the Telegraph. As Andrew Orlowski notes in The Register, Huhne helpfully "shows us why we need a new Energy Minister."

Huhne's contention is that this government will not bow to demands to 'abandon everything else for shale'. This is another example of the straw man argument that environmentalists love to attack. In the same way that they can pretend that sceptics dispute that there has been warming in the last two hundred years - which allows greens to state that 'warming is real' as though that's the end of the argument - so Huhne makes the claim that advocates of shale want to drop all other forms of energy generation. Of course it's absolute nonsense, but it enables Huhne to stand firm and tell us that windfarms are here to stay.

Another of his statements is worth picking out: Government should not pick winners.

Now, a truth almost universally acknowledged is that governments can't pick winners. Neither can most investors or business people. Winners emerge through an evolutionary process, bad ideas lead to bankruptcy and loss (or they would if governments didn't keep deciding that politically favoured industries or companies are too big to fail or in need of some other form of protection). But Huhne is unable to see that what his government is doing is shielding 'renewable' energy companies from the competition that would decide whether they are really winners or losers. In point of fact, even with plenty of subsidy, wind and solar are pretty much losers.

The real question to ask, and one which Huhne ducks, is whether shale will even be allowed to enter the competition. Huhne enumerates the many reasons why gas is a good source of energy, but in his eyes it is clear that what stands in its favour is the ability to provide back-up power for when the wind doesn't blow and the windfarms stand idle. And, to this effect, he states that:

We are keen that the market continues to invest in the capacity, storage and infrastructure to support our import needs, and are working with Ofgem to sharpen the incentives to ensure that suppliers can meet demand.

So, it's OK to import the stuff, but that's as far as it goes.

However, it's also clear that the pressure to go for shale is building. Good. We need to increase the pressure. Once shale is up and running then we'll see just how competitive the windfarms, solar and other 'renewables' really are. Anyone care to bet on windfarms coming out on top? No, I thought not...

Pap Is Gone - For Now...

Do not imagine for one moment that Papandreou is finished. He took a major gamble and at times it looked like he had pulled it off - but in the end spooking Merkozy was a step too far. And the ploy of going to the people with a referendum was never going to play well with the colonial masters in Brussels. However, the fact that he's temporarily vacated the premiership doesn't mean he's finished. Far from it.

First, PASOK is not an ideological party in the same sense as the Greek Communist Party (KKE). PASOK is an organisation based around Papandreou - patronage and nepotism are everything. Parties are assembled around strong leaders, and how they chose to deck themselves ideologically is a secondary concern. Without Papandreou there is no PASOK.

Secondly with a Eurocrat now at the helm, Papandreou can remain on the side-lines until it all goes horribly wrong. When it does, he can rightly point out that he wasn't in charge, that he had been pushed out by the EU and that he's the one who wanted to let the people  have their say. It's a sensible move on his part, even if he was unwilling to let go, he can now side-step some of the blame when it all fails. And of course, he play the martyr card - he has suffered just as the Greek people have suffered...

But, if the miracle occurs and the new government staves off the disaster, Papandreou can still benefit. PASOK was there getting things done. He runs PASOK, therefore he gets some credit. And he could argue that without his interventions things would have been much worse.

It might well be then, that for Papandreou handing over power might only be temporary.

In the meantime, the Greek people are being written out of the story completely. This ought to be a lesson for all the peoples of the EU.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

In Praise of Judith Curry

It sometimes seems that Professor Judith Curry can do no right. She is a prominent mainstream climatologist, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who has broken ranks and has, for a number of years now, been engaging with the sceptic side. One of her interests in this is to get away from the tribal nature of the climate debate, and indeed  her blog 'climate etc', is one that attracts all sides of the debate. Aside from her strong condemnation of the 'team' after the Climategate scandal, she also went on record with some fairly scathing criticisms of the behaviour of Richard Muller and the science by press release around the preliminary BEST results (see her response in the Mail on Sunday, for example).

As you would expect, this has not endeared her to many of her more alarmist colleagues. In the latest spat, former IPCC author Richard Tol has accused her of spreading misinformation because she allowed two sceptical scientists to post details of their peer-reviewed papers on her blog. Apparently in doing this, she has lent her authority and credibility to scientists whose work should have been ignored.

The attacks from the warmist side are what you expect - she is guilty of consorting with heretics. If not a traitor, she is seen as aiding and abetting the sceptic cause, even if she is not herself a sceptic.

However, the fact that she is not an out and out sceptic also gets her flak from some on the sceptic side. For example, prominent sceptics like Willis Eschenbach has been quite forthright in some of his comments. At the moment most of the flak seems to be coming from the warmist side, but that seems to buy her no respite from some people on the sceptic side.

So, Judith Curry get flak from both sides. On the one hand for being too sceptical, on the other for not being sceptical enough.

This 'shot by both sides' perfectly encapsulates the tribalism of much of the climate debate. For two many people there can only be two camps - there's little room for shades of grey. As I have blogged before, there are more dimensions to the science/debate than most people care to acknowledge.

In terms of the science, as a non-climatologist I would characterise her position as increasingly 'luke warmist' - she is rowing back from the alarmism exemplified by the IPCC, the Hockey Stick team and people like James Hansen. In fact, I really do wonder now what the major difference is between Judith Curry's position and someone like Pat Michaels, who is considered firmly on the sceptic side.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Greek People Must Respond

After all of the high drama of last week - political theatre in the birth-place of theatre, rather than democracy in the birth-place of democracy - the dust is starting to settle. What is already abundantly clear is that the referendum was simply a high-stakes ploy by Papandreou. He needed to rein in elements of his own party and to scare the hell-out of the opposition. To do this successfully meant he had to rile the Merkozy monster - which is what happened. The response was swift enough - Papandreou is still in power and the threat of a referendum has been withdrawn. It was a smart game plan, but then Papandreou has got politics in his genes.

What we have to watch for now is the reactions on the streets in Greece and the reactions in Brussels. The Greek people were promised a chance to have a say, that is withdrawn. By rights that ought to lead to even more anger and a refusal of the Greek people to let the political classes have their way. Rather than calming things down, it ought to inflame them even more.

It will also be interesting to see how things develop in the rest of the EU. The prospect of Greece leaving the Euro, and of the EU altogether, has now been raised. Even if the politicians in the EU would want to pretend it never happened, the voters of France, Germany and the rest have seen the prospect dangled in front of their eyes.

The future needs to be decided by the people of Europe, not by the political establishment. It's up to the peoples to make their anger felt - and that doesn't mean more lame 'occupy main street' events designed to appeal to the liberal media, but in real street protests and in voting for those who reject the cosy EU consensus.

Let's have no more talk of 'renegotiations' or 'bringing back powers' - the only way forward is to change our political classes once and for all, and in destroying the EU completely. You can only do the latter by succeeding in the former.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wily old Pap?

Richard North of EUReferendum has some interesting things to say about Papandreou's decision to call a referendum. Perhaps it wasn't such a surprise after all, and that Papandreou had previously signalled his intention to 'go to the people' in some way that didn't involve calling a general election that he'd most likely lose. However, the fact remains that he's playing a high stakes strategy, and the potential is there for the Greek people to really upset the EU apple cart. And, to stop this we know that the colleagues will go all out to cajole, frighten, bribe and otherwise ensure that the Greeks make the desired choice.

But, given the mood in the streets, it's not clear that the old strategies that worked in Ireland, for example, will work here. As a piece in the New York Times notes:
Many Greek voters say they are tired of hearing about decisions taken in foreign capitals and political initiatives that do not represent ordinary Greeks. “The government is no longer in control - others are calling the shots,” said Akis Tsirogiannis, a 42-year-old father who recently lost his job at a furniture workshop in Athens.
He said he would vote against the debt deal in a referendum. “This deal, like all the others, is a life sentence of austerity for Greeks,” he said. “We need to reclaim our country.”
As always, when it comes to the EU, nothing should be taken for granted. They've got plenty of previous when it comes to subverting popular opinion. The question is, can they pull it off when the stakes - and the anger - are so high?

Matt Ridley on Scientific Heresy

An absolutely must-read article is Matt Ridley's Angus Millar lecture at the RSA in Edinburgh, reprinted at Bishop Hill (http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/11/1/scientific-heresy.html).

In discussingwhy it matters that the pseudo-science that is climate alarmism has become so powerful, Ridley points out:

Well here’s why it matters. The alarmists have been handed power over our lives; the heretics have not. Remember Britain’s unilateral climate act is officially expected to cost the hard-pressed UK economy £18.3 billion a year for the next 39 years and achieve an unmeasurably small change in carbon dioxide levels.

At least sceptics do not cover the hills of Scotland with useless, expensive, duke-subsidising wind turbines whose manufacture causes pollution in Inner Mongolia and which kill rare raptors such as this griffon vulture.

At least crop circle believers cannot almost double your electricity bills and increase fuel poverty while driving jobs to Asia, to support their fetish.

At least creationists have not persuaded the BBC that balanced reporting is no longer necessary.

At least homeopaths have not made expensive condensing boilers, which shut down in cold weather, compulsory, as John Prescott did in 2005.

At least astrologers have not driven millions of people into real hunger, perhaps killing 192,000 last year according to one conservative estimate, by diverting 5% of the world’s grain crop into motor fuel.

That’s why it matters. We’ve been asked to take some very painful cures. So we need to be sure the patient has a brain tumour rather than a nosebleed.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Greek EU Referendum

George Papandreou's announcement of a Greek referendum on the latest EU-imposed bail out package seems to have blind-sided everyone. You can almost hear the sphincters tightening in Berlin and Paris. Like a lot of people who want the EU to crash and burn, I'll be hoping for a solid No vote from the Greeks. It ought to be a clear cut decision, but like anything to do with the EU, nothing should be taken for granted.

For example, the Greek political class will do all they can to convince people that beggary under the EU is preferable to beggary outside of it. They'll be all kinds of dire prognosticians in the media, particularly the international media.

We should also expect an increase in civil strife in Greece. There are already significant differences between the forces out on the streets. In particular there's a deep distrust between the Greek Communists and allies, and the anarchists and autonmists on the other. There have been times when this has turned violent, with Greek communists siding with the police to attack the anarchists.

In the case of a referendum the anarchists would be ideologically opposed to it because they distrust politicians and because they will see it as a means of taking the focus away from the streets and back into the formal political process. Perhaps this is one of Papandreou's reasons, because taking the heat out of the street protests is becoming increasingly hard to do. The more he unleashes the police and military forces, the more it ramps things up, and the more dangerous it becomes for the police and military to be involved in politics...

A Perfect FIT?

There have been predictable howls of outrage following the announcement that the UK government is to halve the feed in tariffs for solar panels. It's not just the direct vested interests from the solar industry, it's also those indirect vested interests from environmentalists, climate change campaigners and their supporters in the liberal media. Some have seen this change of policy as the first signs of a deeper change in government. Is the solar FIT a harbinger of change, is the grip of climate change orthodoxy loosening? Unfortunately, I see no sign that this is happening.

Firstly, let's be clear about the scale of this apparent change. The most important point is that it only applies to new installations. In other words those who have already boarded the gravy-train and have installed solar panels are guaranteed the premium rate of feed-in tariff for the next 25 years. In practice, it means that those who could afford to go ahead and install early on, when installation costs were higher than they are now, will continue to benefit at our expense. Who could afford to go ahead and install early on? People with the money to spare - i.e. the rich. Yet again, as with wind energy, the rich are being subsidised by the poor. For those who missed out early on, the FIT is being reduced, not abolished completely. They'll continue to be subsidised by the rest of us, but the level of profit won't be as high.

Secondly, it's also clear that the move to reduce FIT is driven by political expediency and not any fundamental shift in ideology regarding climate change. With fuel poverty on the rise, and all the signs of a hard winter ahead, the government has to be seen to be responding in some way. The really difficult decision would be to stop with the hidden green taxes that inflate our fuel bills. This won't happen. The next option would be to cut the FIT for all of the 'renewables', including wind. Again, this won't happen. What we have instead is a largely symbolic gesture that will make very little difference to rest of us.

It's worth noting that this policy change has occurred just around the same time as the release of the BEST climate change results. Our political classes will have been bombarded with the simple message that global warming is real. They will, without doubt, accept that this is the gospel truth. It will reinforce the dogma. The timing of the BEST message - amplified by the BBC, Guardian, Economist and co - is perfect. It hits the news just before winter sets in, and it's in time for the next climate-fest in Durban.

So, when it comes down to it, I see no reasons to be cheerful. What we have is not a monumental shift in opinion or policy, but a minor piece of political theatre to please the masses.