Riddle-me-ree/open thread

We haven’t had an open thread for a while, and as there seems to be some desire to discuss Matt Ridley‘s recent lecture at the RSA in Edinburgh (see Bishop Hill for the first appearance thereof), here’s your chance. There’s a lot of other interesting stuff around — feel free to roam. But first, I’d like to offer some observations on Ridley, his lecture and the response from the usual suspects.

  • Ridley is a good writer, and knows how to put together an interesting talk. His RSA lecture is well done, in a technical sense, and unexceptional until he starts talking about climate science.
  • His take on climate science is based on well-known sceptic tropes, and counter factual, to be polite about it. The “science” content is the least interesting aspect of the lecture1.
  • He starts his polemic — and explains his conversion to the cause — by accepting without question the McIntyre take on the hockey stick, as revealed by Mountford’s book.
  • He writes about confirmation bias, apparently unaware that he is exhibiting it himself (although he admits “heretics” may be guilty of it too).
  • The gushing promotion of his talk by Mountford and Watts is hardly surprising, given that he praises them:

    “It is left to the blogosphere to keep the flame of heresy alive and do the investigative reporting the media has forgotten how to do.”

  • The most interesting aspect of Ridley’s talk is that it is a great demonstration of how someone with a predisposition2 to do nothing about climate change can delude themselves by buying into an alternate reality where hockey sticks have been debunked, current temperatures are unexceptional, and future warming must be small.
  • Ridley claims:

    “The remarkable thing about the heretics I have mentioned is that every single one is doing this in his or her spare time. They work for themselves, they earn a pittance from this work. There is no great fossil-fuel slush fund for sceptics.”

    Perhaps not: but there is a well-documented and well-funded PR campaign being run from the US, which has benefitted all the brave heretic bloggers he lauds. The alternate reality they help to sustain is a carefully-crafted product of that campaign.

Anyway, enough Ridley. I have a vineyard to spray, a book to finish, and lunch to eat. Have at it…

  1. Ridley’s take on climate science has been extensively debunked by Skeptical Science, in a three part series that deals with Ridley’s books, climate scepticism, and his role in the collapse of the UK’s Northern Rock bank a few years ago. []
  2. Perhaps political, perhaps financial, or perhaps just because of a reluctance to change. []

66 thoughts on “Riddle-me-ree/open thread”

  1. Ridley argues that “the establishment view is infested with pseudoscience.” But look at the examples he lists in his talk.

    Astronomy is a science; astrology is a pseudoscience.
    Evolution is science; creationism is pseudoscience.
    Molecular biology is science; homeopathy is pseudoscience.
    Vaccination is science; the MMR scare is pseudoscience.
    Oxygen is science; phlogiston was pseudoscience.
    Chemistry is science; alchemy was pseudoscience.

    To fit his pattern you would have to say:

    Chemistry, geology, physics, are science, but when they refer to climate change they are pseudo science.

    Doesnt really work does it?

    His talk does not identify any pseudoscience, he just disagrees with the science.

  2. Well, he had a good rant and we should all be sceptical of anything we read, especially it it fits our own theories. I still believe that putting billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere is going to have a profound effect and a nasty outcome.

  3. Ridley is indeed a good writer, and possibly one of the most influential of the last decade. His latest “The Rational Optimist” is a tour de force, and a wonderful antidote to green knee jerk pessimism for political gain. This memorial lecture is another very significant nail in the coffin of AGW.

    1. The Rational Optimist is “cornutopian nonsense … riddled with excruciating errors and distortions” (Monbiot one and two). If his lecture is any kind of nail, it’s one being hammered into the coffin of his own credibility.

  4. “His latest “The Rational Optimist” is a tour de force…”

    I agree we must give credit where credit is due, arguably the greatest work of fiction since vows of fidelity were included in the French marriage service.

  5. Since this is an open thread, I note the latest CO2 emission figures. A rise higher than the worst IPCC predictions, and China now emitting 50% more than the US. Dear God. They only just equaled the US several years ago.

    This result supports those who argue that the IPCC consensus approach means that it has underplayed the risks. I think we are seeing that with the Arctic ice loss figures as well. That consensus approach may turn out to have been a fundamental error when we look back mid century.

    So, bringing it back to the Ridley talk, I agree that we need heretics. The kind that shut down coal ports, thermal power stations, and now also, on any rational basis, oil refineries and airports as well. Non-essential CO2 emissions have to be viewed from now on as an incredibly dangerous pollutant.

    Or to put in another way, when hippies are the ones begging us to think about applied science and the economics of carbon charging, while the serious people in charge are busy discussing and waiting for magical solutions, its time to be very scared.

  6. A heretic:

    “Yasuyuki Fujimura, a doctor of engineering and an inventor, has been advocating a “non-electric” lifestyle that intentionally avoids the use of electricity. The phrase “non-electric” may sound a little unfamiliar, but it is different from “anti-electrification” that condemns electricity on principle. The phrase is meant to communicate the idea that it should be possible to live happily and richly while enjoying a moderate level of comfort and convenience without depending on electricity.

    Fujimura has a Ph.D. in physics and originally got a job at a major equipment manufacturer. He was an elite engineer involved in the development of advanced technologies including plasma processing machines, cogeneration systems and gas heat pumps.”


    1. I think I’d prefer a lifestyle where we each take responsibility for our use and generation of electricity. If I generate my own power through rooftop PV, I can use it as I wish. If I tap into a national resource, I should treat it as a back-up.

      That doesn’t quite gel with the current generation paradigm, sadly.

  7. I guess my point is, its rarely if ever the case that individuals advocating strongly for the status quo are heretics. They are typically called staunch conservatives.

    The examples Ridley gives in his talk are precisely that. I mean, Joanne Nova – come on! BTW As you might expect, she loves his speech: http://joannenova.com.au/

  8. …and haven’t we all progressed such a long way from Manhatten under water a la Al Gore, and The Science is Settled ?

    Matt Ridley, like it, or like him or not, is articulating a viewpoint that does not deny human induced global warming (though I do) he is simply saying FFS – get over it, and stop using yesterday’s tactics of fear and disinformation to attempt to panic the gullible.

    Matt Ridley’s viewpoint – I suggest – is rapidly gaining ground.

    Stay behind if you like, and continue to try to panic the populace into treating a blood nose with a tourniquet.

    Stay behind, get left behind or get real.

      1. Gareth, do you really believe that ?

        Or are you so wedded to visions of climate catastrophe that you simply can’t see any other viewpoint ?

        Can you se yourself sticking to this line indefinitely ?

        1. Ridley denies the evidence. Arguing for inaction in the face of what we know is only going to make matters worse – and therefore means that more cost and human misery is incurred. More than is or was necessary, had we not had a campaign against action. Ridley is part of that campaign.

          He was also a fucking terrible banker.

          1. Does he really deny the evidence ?

            Or does he interpret the evidence differently from you ?

            Is he really such a mental sluggard that he must be wrong ? And is everyone else who shares his opinion deluded, in denial, in the pay of big oil, or just downright evil ?

            Could it be that he may just have a point ?

            1. I’ve looked and looked but I cannot find one piece of data – as opposed to a model – that shows either unprecedented change or change is that is anywhere close to causing real harm.

              That’s denial.

  9. Bennydale

    If you are going to view this through a political lenses, it should worry you that:

    – Some green groups are supportive of nuclear power as a means of reducing CO2 emissions;

    – Conservative groups such as the US military see climate change as an immediate and serious threat.

    Bennydale, what if Ridley is wrong and it turns out my kids face a pretty appalling future as many scientists are now describing. On their behalf I would choose low growth or a reasonably sized recession right now.

    I would be interested in your honest estimation of the balance of risks of our current situation, as opposed to political labeling.

  10. Well thank you Tom.

    I’m very aware that (now) some green groups actually support nuclear energy.

    It wasn’t always the way. In fact it’s only in the last 18/12 that former anti-nuclear zealots like George Monbiot of the UK Guardian confessed…”The unpalatable truth is that the anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all, I’ve discovered that when the facts don’t suit them, the (green/anti-nuclear) movement resorts to the follies of cover-up they usually denounce…Over the last fortnight I’ve made a deeply troubling discovery. The anti-nuclear movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged, and wildly wrong. We have done other people, and ourselves, a terrible disservice…”


    In fact, this recantation is becoming commonplace. Have a look at Mark Lynas of the UK Daily Mail (who notoriously threw a pie in Bjorn Lomborg’s face) who now says, “you mustn’t believe the lies of the green zealots – I know I was one…”


    I believe it is now a clear fact – the green movement has relied on exaggeration, misinformation, distortion and lies to achieve its populist aim.

    This site simply continues that trend.

    1. “This site” does none of those things. Content free assertions like that are against the comments policy. If you wish to continue posting here, familiarise yourself with that, and follow it. (hint: look under “about” in the site menu.

  11. ..and Tom, “the balance of our risks” is really re “the precautionary principle” is it not ?

    And when we assess “the balance of our risks” we have to assess whether;
    our warming is historically unprecedented,
    and whether or not we are totally convinced that it is caused by rising CO2 levels.

    Just as “green zealots” like Mark Lynas and anti-nuclear activists like George Monbiot now admit they were wrong and deliberately misleading, so I think will many global warming panic propagandists.

  12. bennydale

    I dont entirely agree that “balance of our risks” is quite the same as the precautionary principle. But lets proceed with your formulation.

    “And when we assess “the balance of our risks” we have to assess whether;
    our warming is historically unprecedented,
    and whether or not we are totally convinced that it is caused by rising CO2 levels. ”

    First, you of course know that its impossible to be “totally convinced” about anything? The sun might not actually rise tomorrow. We just have a fairly good idea that it will. A requirement to be ‘totally convinced’ about things would mean we could not get out of our beds in the morning – agreed?

    Second, to discuss my proposition fairly, dont you need to add, “And we must compare that to the consequences if the world warms as predicted by 2 degrees or more?”

    Do you agree that that is a fair approach to assessing the current situation ie that if someone (many scientists in this case) says there is a risk of great harm we never proceed on the basis that we must be “totally convinced” that it will occur?

    If we cant agree on this then there really is no useful discussion to be had.

  13. Benny, do you have any point beyond ‘I don’t agree with these people politically, so they’re wrong’ evolving into “Anyone who says something I disagree with is being political, and since my politics are right (and, clearly, Right!), they’re wrong.”

    This is the kind of thinking that is turning allegedly ‘conservative’ movements into hothouses for cultivating anti-science wing-nuttery. When you’ve reached the point that you have to brand NASA, NOAA, NIWA, the Met, CSIRO, and the BoM as ‘socialist’ organizations you haven’t just lost the plot, you’ve obliterated it!

    Prediction: due to reality’s well known ‘liberal’ bias the real world will continue to provide more and more evidence that the – ahem – ‘socialists’ are, in fact, right, over the coming decades.

    The Rightist tribals will, however, only sink further into denial, since this simply cannot be allowed to be true. Their conspiracy theories will become more baroque, and they will form even more blatant alliances with other science deniers – such as the young Earth creationists they so closely resemble – in particular. Like all true fanatics, they will only become louder and more violent as their cause becomes more evidently hopeless.

    As each new heat, drought and flood record piles up, and as the poles melt away, it’s going to become clear that what you’ve labelled as ‘socialism’ was merely the evidence based view of reality.

    At which point you lot are either:

    a (optimistic view) : an utter irrelevance, held in contempt by all educated people, and how can anyone ever have listened to such blatant tripe? or

    b (if, as I fear, people are, on the whole, rather more Stupid than not) : the leadership of a reactionary quasi-totalitarian state that imposes the denial worldview, by force if necessary, all-the-while attempting to manage a crisis of its own making it thus cannot acknowledge the causes of, so it cannot even begin to address those causes and solve the problem. This will quickly devolve into the historical standard for all Governments; merely ensuring the elites continue to thrive as the world falls apart…

  14. Well done Bill ! A tour de force !
    Is it really worthwhile then to get up in the morning ?
    Should we pull the plug on our capitalist society ?
    Is/are any governments on the planet (please give this some thought) implementing a programme that will really help stop global catastrophe ?
    Are we all doomed ?

    Get a grip Bill. I think the hinge is loosening…


    1. “Should we pull the plug on our capitalist society ”
      Yes. It’s largely the greed of capitalism that got us into this mess in the first place – it sure as hell isn’t going to get us out of it. “business as usual” implies an ever increasing spiral into irretrievable Climate Change the likes of which the Earth has not witnessed in 25 million years or more . Earth, and humanity, can no longer afford Capitalism.
      Next question.

      1. bennydale is just the latest in a long line of site visitors with fixed delusions. Of course, he/she/it may just be another alias for an older one – it’s difficult to tell them apart at times. Russell’s quote applies to all of them:

        “If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.”

        The facts are just too uncomfortable for you to face, bennydale.

  15. I don’t think you need to get up in the morning Bennydale as obviously you have no intent whatsoever to be part of the solution of humanities problems going forward. Stick with the Monckton crowd or the Ridley bunch, they suit you.

    In case you do have a moment of actual interest in the science you so much despise, listen to the talk by Pieter Tans of NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Lab in Boulder, given lately in Wellington.
    Gareth had posted it here earlier but you hadn’t popped over then to show us you denier soul yet….

    The link to Pieter Tans lecture works only in Internet Explorer:


    But talking about climate change with a denier is just like talking about evolution with a creationist, its not going to make a difference.

  16. Truffle prices double? OMG, Gareth, you’re one of the 1%! No wonder you have an interest in promoting this alarmist nonsense. That’s it, I’m a skeptic now!

      1. Soo, to summarise.

        The use of panic for political gain hasn’t worked. See international polling on “global warming”.

        “The science is settled” argument has collapsed. Deniers/sceptics are everywhere, even here ! Nobel prize winners among them. Not in the majority yet, I’ll give you that, but persuasive enough to stop Gore/Hansen panic. Even the POTUS has got the message.

        So where to from here for the green/red movement ?

        Take to the streets boys – show anger, burn cars.

        That might work.

        1. Ridiculous bennydale. None of your assertions are actually true. You must be living in some fancy world of fantasy. And science is not conducted by opinion poll nor in echo chambers of the right wing blogosphere.
          Perhaps indeed listen to this talk that PhilliBilli linked.
          I think you are the black due with the $$ shades in the slides and your arguments are well taken care off there.

          1. What a very timely discussion this is !

            You might like to read (or you might prefer not) the latest North and South feature article re greenie doubletalk and hypocrisy.

            I think the more politically aware among you might well realise deep down that the game is up. Everybody of course wants a society that cleans up its act and doesn’t leave rubbish lying around, but I really don’t think many people embrace the guilt, doom, hair shirt philosophy any more. Perhaps this is why the Occupy movement has evolved. The green movement has simply run out of gas.

            1. Timely indeed – Australia’s Carbon Tax became law today. Goes into effect next year. Then we will have a whole year of the world failing to fall apart and the business community normalising it before the next federal election.

              (God knows, we may even start to cut carbon use!)

              During which time it becomes obvious to even his reactionary cronies that Tony ‘Blood Oath’ Abbott has become a waffling anachronism and all-round liability whose thunderous warnings of calamity have failed to materialise.

              (Now, there’s a catastrophist alarmist for you! But the whole Rightist thing is one giant projection, after all.)

              Meanwhile you’re waffling on about something in your sad little epistemic enclosure! Frankly, I don’t give a shit! And I doubt that anyone else does, either…

              Oh, and here’s a quote from a real conservative that I came across today – a man whose public life post-office has outshone his supposedly-more-progressive Labor ex-PM peers in its consistent positive humanism;

              The overwhelming body of scientific evidence supports the need for change. Many countries are well ahead of Australia. We need to act or we will fall further behind.

              Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH
              Former Prime Minister

  17. Hey Gareth, can we get in the SkS skeptics vs. realists graphic? It’s a hoot!

    I’m sure some of our *cough* ‘skeptical’ friends will be delighted to see that John, Dana and co. have been forced to acknowledge a succession of no less than 6 distinct cooling trends since 1973…

  18. Yes, Malcolm Fraser, an all round good joker.

    Lost his pants in Memphis after the attentions of a call girl, therefore qualifies as a good bloke. One of us. Slighty nutty though…

    1. You lost the science arguments hands down, trotted out a predictable mish-mash of ACT-like mantras, and now you’re heading into tabloid territory. Go and inhabit the twilight zone! One can almost feel nostalgic about idiots like Treadgold.

  19. RW, you must have missed something.

    This has not been a science argument, this is a hearts and minds argument. In other words, who believes in lefty global warming any more ? Apart from gravy trainers and useful fools like you of course.

    Remember where this thread began ? with Matt Ridley’s widely publicised piece alleging green hypocrisy.

    I, and millions of others agree.

    1. By “millions of others”, are you referring to your gut flora/fauna?

      I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the major oil companies still have the main gravy train at the moment. Personally I see the tide turning slowly towards truth at the moment, with AU passing a carbon tax, EU passing aviation carbon taxes, and NZ mainstream political spectrum having common ground on it. With large-scale investment in the US and China, turning Solar Industry development into a trade war.

      Seems your argument starts and ends with “you’re a lefty if you believe in global warming, teehee”.

  20. SamV. Teehee ???

    Sam, you write quite well for someone with the mental age of a 6 year old.

    The tide is slowly turning ?

    I don’t think so. Look at this link to the latest Ecologist.

    “…there is an emerging consensus that it is time to drop idealistic hopes of an all-encompassing and workable global deal…The summits in Copenhagen and Cancun continued what a number of observers believe is a forlorn quest to get the major polluting countries to agree a legally binding greenhouse gas emission reduction deal…Environmental campaign groups have been blamed, in part, for the continued push for a target-driven global deal….”


    Sam, you stupid boy, you’re part of the problem…

      1. At least yeast dies in its own excrement (Alcohol) after bumping head long into its “one brewing vet” reality, while our fate in the middle of the Yeast Heads (married to the exponential growth mythology – also known as Ponzi Scheme) will be less merciful as we bump into our “one planet reality” and even Benny sees that the planet is round and its surface (read resources and capacity to dump) limited by simple geometry…. 4 * pi * r^2

        Oh give me back the flat earth and Italy would earn its keep (and pay its debt) by colonizing a few more lands beyond the horizon….. 😉

  21. One more time, for any lurkers who may find themselves tempted by the Dark Path of the Stupid.

    Science is not decided by polling.

    ‘The Left’, in the parlance of our imbecile du jour and his fellow-travellers, is simply a synonym for the evidence-based community. In the long run assigning science and rationalism as a territory of the Left will clearly backfire, as the evidence in favour of both can only keep mounting. Intelligent conservatives recognise this threat. Dim bulbs point to the polls.

    ‘Nobody believes it anymore’ is a classic piece of Stupid triumphalism. One – I think you’re rather overestimating your reach, actually. But secondly, even if you weren’t, people can be herded into all sorts of idiocies, particularly with Murdoch and the Kochs onside. But for how long? That’s the obvious question. The laws of physics have not gone into abeyance while you’re smirking away.

    And ‘all’ we have on our side is NASA, NIWA, NOAA, CSIRO, the BoM, the Met, the NAS, and, in fact, the Scientific academies of every major nation on earth – with no rejectionists.

    Oh, and 97% of those who are actually qualified to make an assessment…

  22. Well yes, that’s all very interesting. But this from Reuters, re the collapse of the European carbon market has even wider implications I think…

    “The investment bank also said the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS), the 27-nation bloc’s main policy tool to fight global warming, “isn’t working” because carbon prices are “already too low to have any significant environmental impact.”

    “We expect the recent carbon-price decline to escalate into a ‘crash’ …”


    1. So lets fix it the Bennydale! Lets stop issuing large amounts of emission permits to our polluting industries as we have done under the political pressure of the business lobby groups who are only to keen indeed to undermine and derail the whole idea that we must make an end to the ability of shareholders to socialize the cost of today’s emissions into the debt registers of our descendants. We must put a decent price on our emissions now and must remove and revoke unnecessary emissions permits and begin to make this system byte as it should and could.

    1. Easy: We have no alternative if we want to avoid overwhelming costs of mitigating the damages of accelerated warming, sea level rise and probable global famine unless we walk into the right direction now.
      There will be countless jobs arising on the way.
      One way or another though, the times of exponential growth and the pseudo wealth we enjoyed while the debt funded consumption rush of the last decades went on will come to an end.
      Times will get tough. We have the alternative now to prepare for these times in advance or be swamped (some of us literally) by the problems. Your pick…

  23. No Thomas. It’s not my pick. I’m only a voter. It’s a political pick.

    Who among all the political representatives in our democracy is going to represent these ideas to the electorate.

    It won’t fly Tom.

    1. Don’t call the people stupid! In the end truth will prevail and action will be popular and will be taken. It is sad though that some people are doing their best to delay this day.

      You say that you are “only a voter” and that you are not picking (the alternatives)… So what for heaven’s sake are you doing then on voting day? Rule a dice? Throw a dart?…. You do live in a Democracy and its up to you to vote. You carry the responsibility of that choice! And as it seems already some 12 to 15% of NZ are thinking that the Greens are making the best point in this debate. Will you join us?

Leave a Reply