Monday, March 28, 2011

The Strawman Cometh

A quick post tonight – because I want to have a week off (well at least until Friday). There’s not much news really happening (well not much that I usually write about).

Yesterday the ALP got slaughtered in NSW. Everyone knew this was going to happen, everyone had predicated it for a long long time. Barry O’Farrell ran a good campaign, he spent the last couple of years being sensible and safe. He took the NSW Libs from being an infighting party-machine, to one that won an absolute shirt-load of seats. Tony Abbott give him bugger all credit (most likely because Abbott knows that O’Farrell saw him as a liability), and instead he gives it all to the climate tax decision by Julia Gillard.

Now look, I have no doubt that it was a nice cherry on top of an already big chocolate cake for B’OF, but take away the stinking mess of NSW ALP, and take away B’OF and say put in place Peter Debnam, and the ALP would’ve won – carbon tax or not.

The reality is NSW ALP did stink to high heaven (and I mean really stank), B’OF was very good, and well there you go. Tony Windsor suggests maybe the carbon tax added “a bit” to the swing, but I think that was more because the inertia against the ALP was already so strong.

I also wonder if the ALP knew the carbon tax announcement was going to cause a hit in the polls, and saw no reason not to delay announcing it till after he NSW Election – given it was a lost cause.

On the topic of inertia a pathetic little debate is getting a run in a couple places (Andrew Bolt’s blog and The Oz) – namely that Tim Flannery for some dopey reason went on MTR and talked to Andrew Bolt. In the interview he said:

If the world as a whole cut all emissions tomorrow the average temperature of the planet is not going to drop in several hundred years, perhaps as much as a thousand years.

This line apparently is so stunning that it even got a run today by Tony Abbott in his suspension of standing orders motion he moved this morning so he could “take the fight” up to the Government.

Bolt was also contrasting it with what was said by climate scientist Andy Pitman on ABC last week (an excellent interview by the way – well worth a listen) (cheers to Dave C for the transcript):

Louise Maher: If we stopped all human activity on the planet tomorrow, what would be Earth’s temperature fall? What would be the drop in the Earth’s temperature?

Andy Pitman: And here’s our problem. It wouldn’t drop. If we could stop emissions tomorrow we’d still have 20 to 30 years of warming ahead of us because of inertia of the system. It’s like a juggernaut going up the freeway. You slam on the breaks, but it takes a long time to stop. We are already committed to the climate of 2040. What these emissions reductions are about is how much we can reduce warming into the medium term to protect, for instance, the planet for our grandchildren. It’s on those timescales that we’re terrified. On the timescales of 20 to 30 years, I’m sorry but we have already hard-wired the warming into the system.

Now firstly, I have to say I don’t think much of Flannery’s ability as an advocate. Sure he is smart and passionate, but for example when he is on QANDA I usually am screaming at the TV for him to say the statement made by the climate change sceptic was bullshit. Too often he’ll also forget that people like Bolt are looking for any slight exaggeration or inconsistency to argue that his entire argument is false (because of course, Bolt himself is a big one for facts and research…).

But here’s the thing: what Flannery has said is not that big a deal, because it pretty nicely accords with what was reported in the IPCC Fourth Assessment released way back in 2007, and it certainly doesn’t make Pitman wrong either.

Here was how the IPCC plotted the likely temperature rises for the next century.image 

The  orange line is what they expect would happen if we were able to keep emissions at 2000 levels from 2000 (ie something that obviously has not happened – and would be a bloody miracle if we could achieve it).

As you can see it ain’t dropping – it flattens out.

Today Flannery wrote in a letter to The Oz that he meant that if the world stopped all emissions it would take hundred of years – if not thousands – for the temperature to get back to the same state it was when we were not emitting carbon – ie pre-industrial world.

Bolt and others of course won’t buy that, but to be honest who gives a damn? The point is not whether or not Flannery flubbed a line, but what is the science. The science is that if we all cut all emissions the temperature would keep going up for a good 30-40 years and then it would decline – but it would take a bloody long time to decline to even the temperatures we are at now. If Flannery didn’t make himself clear that doesn’t change that fact.

The point of doing action to combat climate change is not to decrease the temperature – hell we’ve given up on that – but to arrest the increase, and hopefully (if somehow we can get the world to act) to have the temperature flatten.

But here’s the other thing – no major party has ever suggested as a policy that we should cut emissions to zero tomorrow (sure the Greens may have dreams for it by 2050), and no one has ever suggested that a carbon tax would decrease the temperature – ie get it to go below what we are at now. As you can see from the graph just keeping emissions at Year 2000 levels does not see the temperature decline – at best – at very best, we may hope that temperature will peak – in 30-40 years and then start to go down. So why in the hell would any “journalist” or politician think that such a point is at all valid? The entire thing is a complete straw man augment – no one has suggest that temperatures will go down due to the carbon tax, and no one has suggested we stop all emissions to try and get the temperature to go down.

Anyone who thinks such a point is worth quoting or repeating merely betrays their own ignorance of not only the science but also the intent of putting a price on carbon. Which brings me to Barnaby Joyce who came out today with this press release:

Well I do not know whether William the Conqueror was governing for me when he knocked over poor old King Harold but according to Tim Flannery he should have been.
As absurd as it is, here is the quote, Res ipsa loquitur and 1000 years ago that would have been well understood around the castle.

Professor Tim Flannery, the Commissioner for Climate Changesaid on radio on Friday,”If the world as a whole cut all emissions tomorrow the average temperature of the planet is not going to drop in several hundred years, perhaps as much as a thousand years...”.
By the time this proposed carbon tax has had its affect Jesus will have come and gone, again!

The two great mysteries in 1000 year's time will be, “Is Stefano DiMera from Days of Our Lives really dead?” and, “Who in the Australian Labor party honestly thought they could change the climate from a room in Canberra?”

Days of Our Lives and William the Conqueror. Yeah, we really should be listening to this guy on this issue.


Today the House of Reps was back to pass some NBN legislation – and pass it it did (so much for Malcolm Turnbull’s ongoing campaign to destroy the NBN). For those who love the absurdity of parliament, today was a golden day. Have a look at this:

Mr Albanese, 10:39:42 AM, moved—That the amendments be considered immediately.

Mr Turnbull, 10:40:11 AM, Mr Pyne, 10:55:55 AM, Mr Hartsuyker, 11:10:50 AM, Mr Truss, 11:26:43 AM, Mrs B. K. Bishop, 11:38:23 AM, Mr Fletcher, 11:51:12 AM, Mr Albanese, 12:06:25 PM, by leave, again addressed the House, without closing the debate., Mrs Prentice, 12:21:28 Mr Wyatt, 12:27:52 PM, Mr Neville, 12:37:56 PM, Mr Billson, 12:50:28 PM, Ms Rowland, 1:05:36 PM, Dr Southcott, 1:20:44 PM, Mr Husic, 1:27:03 PM, Mr Oakeshott, 1:41:56 PM

Personal explanation, Mr Pyne, 1:57:26 PM

Personal explanation, Mr Albanese, 1:58:26 PM

Dr M. J. Kelly, 1:59:17 PM, Mr Albanese, 2:14:24 PM

Question—put, 2:19:42 PM.

The House divided (the Speaker, Mr Jenkins, in the Chair)—

And so it was resolved in the affirmative.

[Div No. 73], 2:19:48 PM to 2:27:48 PM, Ayes 68, Noes 65

Yep, a motion was moved at 10:39am for the amendments to be considered immediately. Three hours and forty minutes later the house voted to agree to do that.



firstdog said...

So you are a climate scientist now? I didn't think so. Typical.

Greg Jericho said...

firstdog - it its the only way to ensure I never get invited on Qanda

Gordicans said...

Well spotted Grog on the nonsensical conclusions being put on Flannery's comments. As you've shown, what Flannery said is absolutely spot on.

Bolt was laying a trap, and as soon as Flannery saw the trap they turned off his microphone. Bottom line is it takes hundreds of years for nature to remove excess C02 out of the system, but not many years for man to tilt the balance. But this concept is impossible for the loons to grasp.

Which begs an interesting question; why are right wing loons so hostile and narrow minded towards the concept of anthropogenic warming? I mean Allan Jones is a very intelligent guy. I don't get it. There is something fundamental about the idea of AGW that makes right wing loons foam at the mouth. What is it?

The scary thing about C02 increase is the in built accelerators. What we are seeing now is just the bit before the accelerators start to kick in.

On the positive side, I listened to house of reps today, and Bob Kater especially (who I discovered is a very powerful speaker on the floor), Tony Windsor and Rob Oakshoft made several really good speeches and showed up this vacuous hypocritical opposition up for what they are.

Russ said...

And like you, I get to suffer the satire (it is that, isn't it?) of Barnaby once each week in the Canberra Times. Oh God.

Doug said...

Gordicans asked why intelligent people like Alan Jones don't get AGW.

I think that they probably do understand what it is all about but they are so committed to not having a Labor govt that they don't care what the issue is, so long as it is divisive and simple to sell, to wit - "Labor is going to increase your taxes". Nothing difficult to understand about that - same as "boat people are Muslim terrorists and are taking over our country".

What, I wonder, would be their position if Howard were introducing an ETS. My memory is not good but where were Minchin and Abbott when Howard floated the policy?

The problem Abbott has created for his successor, be it Hockey or Turnbull, is how do they turn the Liberal Party's policy around without looking silly, and what will the dogs bark at then?

Mish said...

I cannot understand why Tim Flannery has been chosen to give climate science a voice. Great scientistic - terrible science communicator. Woeful.

Anonymous said...

Surely all Gillard has to say is that not having a carbon tax was a "non-core promise".

Antipatico said...

Like your work, another fine commentary. On the NSW result: it’s a wonder/worry that there was such staggering swings in places chock full of miners, coal miners generally. Bathurst, all of the Hunter, Wollongong, Wollondilly even. I’d be fun if the CFMEU and/or the narcissistic AWU popped down and perhaps asked their members if they were upset at the demonisation of carbon dioxide (monoxide’s next I hear). Was it the Anti-Periodic Table Tax or were the big miners blowing smoke about the effects of the Mining tax on their ongoing employment. Maybe I’m just grasping at straws to provide an answer to the question: 36.5%?
Before I go, I have to ask (as my inner-pedant is struggling) "...inertia against the ALP..." can you have inertia against something?

Gordicans said...

Mish, I disagree. There is something a lot more fundemental and primeval to this than just political advantage.

I'm not sure what it is, but suspect it is something along the lines that conservatives can't cop the idea that the environment is in control of them, rather than the other way around.

Casablanca said...

Gordicans wrote:

Which begs an interesting question; why are right wing loons so hostile and narrow minded towards the concept of anthropogenic warming?

Tim Dean, science journalist & philosopher, in an article for The Drum entitled “Why conservatives are climate change sceptics” poses and attempts to answer the question:

Why is it the odds of someone being sceptical about climate change shoot up if you find out they’re on the conservative side of the political spectrum?

wizman said...

So I'm not saying that all conservatives are willfully ignorant AGW sceptics, but all the willfully ignorant AGW sceptics (on TV and radio) are conservatives.

Brett Donald said...

There are those who believe climate change is fantasy.

My view is that the science is solid, and that we should be making marginal changes to discourage carbon pollution and promote the viability of cleaner energy alternatives. Why? Because it makes economic sense to be ahead of the pack.

But to hope that there is enough collective will in the world to make the enormous changes which would be required to positively influence climate outcomes in the medium term, is also utter fantasy.

Andrew said...

Newspoll 29-10-10: Coalition 63 - ALP 37

Morgan 03-12-10: Coalition 65 - ALP 35

Newspoll 20-12-10: Coalition 61 - ALP 39

Galaxy 22-01-11: Coalition 66 - ALP 34

Nielsen 16-02-11: Coalition 66 - ALP 34

Newspoll 22-02-11: Coalition 62 - ALP 38

24-02-11: PM announces plan for pricing Carbon

Galaxy 04-03-11: Coalition 64 - ALP 36

Newspoll 11-03-11: Coalition 63 - ALP 37

Newspoll 24-03-11: Coalition 64 - ALP 36

Galaxy 24-03-11: Coalition 66 - ALP 34

Nielsen 26-03-11: Coalition 64 - ALP 36

Newspoll 26-03-11: Coalition 64 - ALP 36

26-03-11: NSW Election Result (estimate)Coalition 63 - ALP 37

Effect of Carbon Tax on result = 2/3s of 3/5s of SFA.

ernmalleyscat said...

I still can't quite believe that people who can't understand (or choose to confuse) the difference between 'temperature falling' and 'temperature not continuing to rise' are not laughed off when they parade their ignorance.

I'm sure I saw a segment of Sesame Street where Grover went through the difference between 'up' and 'across' and 'down'. "Now pay attention, boys and girls."

Amazingly, the Oz today gave their environment guy Graham Lloyd space to actually explain it quite well, but on page 6.

NotZed said...

It seems to me the Dolt's of this world actually do not understand what science is. To them it is no different to religious belief, or probably less than that - merely personal opinion.

In that light, a vocal gaff by a leading proponent of any idea has a great deal of weight. And it seems they genuinly believe the `faithful' can be `caught out' by talking to one person who isn't interested in playing their word games.

Mish said...

Gordicans - I agree with you, there is a fundamental problem here. I'm not sure what it is either.

My comment was about Tim Flannery generally though. I find it frustrating that right wing "science" messages resonate with my moderate, middle of the road, well educated friends. We need a powerful science communicator on our side - Tim Flannery is not that person.

llordlloyd said...

It's not just the science, its the advocacy. Over 20 or so years we have lost the expectation of, the ability to value, disinterested, opinion/information. Doug is right, for the commentators, it's just about getting their team into power. They have discovered that right and wrong count for nothing, are immediately forgotten. Winners write the history, and the facts.
Garnaut has done more in a few months than Labor has in two years on this. If Gillard etc learnt that they have to only argue the case, then they are the words that the public will engage with.

The ease with which the argument is drawn here and there, like a guerrilla war, is sad. Flannery is a serial offender in wandering out into the bushes, losing control of his own words, which are echoed around by conservatives until he is more their spokesman than his own.

Greg Jericho said...

Andrew - what's the MOE on SFA?? :-)

Anonymous said...

Actually, the orange line is what they expect would happen if we were able to keep *concentrations* of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 2000 levels from 2000, ie which would require ZERO emissions.

Andrew said...

"Greg Jericho said...
Andrew - what's the MOE on SFA?? :-)

MARCH 29, 2011 10:43 PM"

+/- a bee's dick

Link said...

. . ."the CSIRO Baseline survey reported that those most likely to think climate change is happening due largely to human activity were Greens voters (82%) and Labor voters (63%).? In contrast, those most likely to think it is a normal fluctuation in the Earth's climate were Liberal/National voters (59%). This political division emerged regardless of whether respondents were asked about political preferences or intended voting behaviour."


I now wish the CSIRO would conducta survey comparing political preferences to baseline I.Q. then perhaps we could clear this up once and for all.

I read somewhere that Liberal/Nationals got information about climate change from 'university experts' and their doctor. (ffs) Bwaaahaaa.

Gordicans said...

Mo, I hear what you are saying but I disagree with you though on Tim Flannery not being a good science communicator. I think he is one of the better science communicator's out there. But his style is not suited to or practiced at shock jock radio, 15 second grab and vulnerable to selective misquoting from news limited. He is gentlemany, academic, and suited to a longer form of intellectual debate with a longer time frame to debate ideas. But this type of forum is not one generally available to the public, so he'd be better off deligating to someone else with a more combative ruthless streak (a Richard Dawkins if you like).