Michael Duffy spreads his wings as the ‘right wing Phillip Adams’

I was very pleased to read Michael Duffy’s latest column in which he laments the tribalism of the Australian right and the extent to which it is driven by the desire to score points off the left rather than build its own contribution to our life. As he says Howard’s tenure is in danger of going down as a repeat of the economically ‘wasted opportunities’ of the Fraser years. Couldn’t agree more Michael. I think you’ll hear more about that.

John Quiggin hopped into Duffy recently here, here and here for reporting, rather gullibly I expect, on a greenhouse warming denier. I don’t know if Duffy believes in greenhouse denialism, and I’d be saddened if he did, but I’ve liked quite a bit of his style.

I like the music on the show a lot. It gives it a particularly enjoyable ambiance. I like his deadpan Dorothy Dix questioning on his program, as indeed I like the feel of the show – “where we climb the Everest of contrary opinion, sometimes because we believe in it passionately, and sometimes just because its there”. Sounds fair enough to me Michael.

He had me on the show talking about regulation. I warned him before the show that I didn’t really want to argue that we should have less regulation (though undoubtedly we should in various areas). But in the areas where regulation is important – where there are existing and substantial market failures – I wanted to argue that we should have very different regulation to the kind we have.
He was completely uninterested in where this fitted on the ideological grid, but said he thought my argument was very interesting. He wanted to treat the argument on its merits.

Last week’s program contained Des Moore (whom I didn’t hear) and a panel discussing the ABC which consisted of Margaret Simons, Geraldine Doogue and Richard Neville (would you believe). Not a RWDB in sight. And more to the point, no innane ABC bashing (or boosterism for that matter). Simmons was good. Doogue was teriffic as she so often is. She argued in effect that there was bias on the ABC (arising from selective curiosity!). She also suggested that the ABC made a contribution to national unity (not something that had really occured to me) and constrasted this with the absence of a national broadcaster in the US. Even Richard Neville (greatly to my surprise) made interesting and worthwhile points.

The program ended with a conversation with Eric Von Hippel on ‘user driven innovation’ such as open source software which was fascinating. An excellent program – at least what I heard of it – and growing well beyond any knee jerk anti-left propaganda.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
51 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
C.L.
2022 years ago

Help me out Nicholas. You praise Duffy for not being preoccupied with scoring points off the left and then, a few pars later, celebrate the absence of ‘RWDBs’ from one of his programmes. Your definition of a good right-winger seems to be that said right-winger must not be a right-winger.

Duffy can’t possibly have missed the worldwide leftist tribalism which this week raised the possibly anti-semitic, certainly dodgie George Galloway to cult status. And he surely can’t have missed the phenomenon of the left being actuated by nothing more profound than scoring points off the right – unless he slept through the last four years. Is he aware that Bolt, Henderson and Albrechtson are vilified almost weekly by a dozen bloggers? Or that Media Watch punched up Arthur Chrenkoff for daring to buck MSM orthodoxy?

I’m no expert on Duffy but the phrase ‘housetrained’ is coming to mind. Can’t agree with you on this one, respectfully.

jen
jen
2022 years ago

how old are yuo and how many kids and a wife? and where do you live and any other sundry biographical details you care to mention

Parry made me do it.

love jen

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Just ignore her. She’s been watching soapies all night and it’s fried her brain even more than normal.

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

OK, I’ll try to help you out. (Though I’m not too clear what you’re saying in your comment). Firstly, in a sense you’re right – the comment about RWDBs is kind of saying ‘look it wasn’t a right wing show’. I guess there’s nothing too special about a right winger chosen to put on a right wing show not putting on a right wing show, but I really do like surprises. It suggests depth, tolerance and moderation – though of course it doesn’t prove any of those things, and who knows which if any of those qualities you approve of in political conversation.

I have no interest whatever in political debate as tribal contest. For me the principles inside ideologies are starting points which give clues to ways of organising what’s in front of our eyes. They are not end points. Duffy is making that point when he laments the tribalism of the right. It’s important for rightwingers to make the point because a right of centre govt is in power. They’re its intellectual base and its conscience. They’re the anti-bodies in the system.

And we’re trooping off to wars that we have very little understanding of and we’re tearing up hundreds of years of history which have given us the precious freedoms we have. Maybe we have to do these things – but if we do them, I want to know that they’re the end result of really vigorous debate, not tribalism.

Guess what I think they are now?

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“I don’t know if Duffy believes in greenhouse denialism, and I’d be saddened if he did, but I’ve liked quite a bit of his style.”

I can see what you mean, Nicholas. Your segment went well and the last program was one of his best.

I have to sadly inform you, though, that Duffy is a climate change denier pure and simple. He put Bob Carter on as THE authority to answer all the questions raised by the panel discussion of the previous week, along with comments about the “re-education of Australia”. Climate change denial has been a theme of his.

Similarly Peter Saunders is his authority on welfare.

His biggest fault is that he puts on people with highly contested views without a hint that there may be a different view around.

I listen because I like to see what he’s up to, because there are genuinely interesting segments on the show and it is just interesting enough (but only just) to keep me away from Classic FM in the time-slot.

He’s not really comparable to Phillip Adams IMO who covers a lot more ground, contributes more himself while giving all opinions a really good airing, with a better sense of timing, more skilled at handling panels etc. Altogether a more experience radio broadcaster, though he can be quirky and sometimes his propensity for humour gets in the way.

Cameron Riley
2022 years ago

On Eric Von Hippel, I did an article, “Userspace Innovation” which covered his book;

http://www.southsearepublic.org/story/2005/4/24/2441/29964

His book, “Democratizing Innovation” can be read online as well;

http://web.mit.edu/evhippel/www/democ.htm

Not surprised it peaked your interest Nicholas, after reading your article on opensource and economics.

C.L.
2022 years ago

“I’m not too clear what you’re saying in your comment… Firstly, in a sense you’re right…”

?

Nicholas, I guess what you call tribalism I call democracy. If there’s one argument for which I have next to no time it’s the idea that the rigorous contestation of politics is somehow to be lamented. It’s only ever lamented by the side that loses. John Howard won both houses of parliament in his third outing at the polls; Newspoll rates Costello’s budget as the best received in 20 years. Some tribalism.

And why is it OK that Quiggan “hopped into Duffy” (“here, here and here” etc) when you imply that you want the right to lay down its arms? Why on earth would we do that? The left can’t panhandle its way back to power. And why can’t peoples elsewhere in the world enjoy the “precious freedoms” of which you speak?

Alexander Downer was right. The left has a “little Australia” view of this country and of its role in promoting freedom and democracy abroad. I think it’s immensely exciting to have three anglophone leaders talking (and doing something) about advancing these things.

Phillip Adams is a better broadcaster than Duffy, as Brian points out. Wonderful voice, natural flow – a real expert. And he’s never apologised or explained his “where are the bodies?” column denying the scale of Saddam Hussein’s holocaust. I’d rate that as more disturbing morally than whether anyone subscribes to global warming theory.

The right will fight on, thanks all the same.

Cameron Riley
2022 years ago

C.L. Downer made his “little Australia” claims in 2003, I covered that in a k5 diary;

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/11/26/1540/3341

Quoting myself from then;

“The Liberal Government’s foreign policy has been dominated by the return to the “Anglosphere” view. In Australia this is the “great and powerful friends” policy of Billy Hughes, Robert Menzies and John Curtin. It is a naive and inept foreign policy that places Australian foreign policy subserviently in the hands of the current superpower for basic security guarantees. In Australia currently this is the ANZUS agreement.

It is a lazy policy that trades away Australian Independence in foreign policy and defence. It is easily fixed a Defence White Paper that enumerates the goal of an independence military will fix it. Once the paranoia that the politicians have over defence is gone they can act as the Australian people want them to ie independently in foreign policy. ”

and;

“And there in lies the crux of his rhetoric. According to Downer we are validated by an outside force not an inner one. He didn’t say the Australian people are comfortable with our decisions and that we reflected the beliefs of the Australian people in freedom and liberty. There is no claim to that. So instead Downer validates his and Howard’s policy because the Presidents of China and the USA turned up to say a couple of words and avoid Australian protesters.

Australians are an independent people, there is no cultural cringe for those overseas. There is political cringe as Australian leaders act small. The politicians behave at odds with the Australian people, Australians are comfortable with being independent and making their own minds whether domestically or internationally. It is the politicians that aren’t.

This current government helped kill a referendum on a Constitutional Republic. Moved back to US dependence in foreign policy and defence. Isolated refugee’s as undeserving of rights. The current crop of politicians are incapable of acting in a manner that removes oppression and values independence and freedom.”

You can piss, bitch, and moan at me for tribalism all you want, but I dont vote Liberal or Labor – I think they both get far too much undeserving encouragement from the electorate as is.

Australians are practicing “Greater Australia” now, you only have to look at the diaspora to see how comfortably they stride the global stage. Our politicians arent, they practice “little Australia”. The cringe is our politicians. They are extracting a rent from Australia, enforcing a drag on us, that is holding us back from transcending the littleness of a pre-enlightenment political system.

Both parties follow the inherently little “Great and Powerful Friends” doctrine; both parties are happy to have our military incapable of independant operation; both parties want the near absolute-power of the parliamentary executive to remain (none of the enlightenment seperation of powers stuff); all parties at the federal level are anti-federalist.

Downer’s little Australia claim is rhetoric, and nothing more.

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

Brian,

You say “Peter Saunders is his authority on welfare.” How do you know? He has, presumably had Saunders on and presumably more than once. And Saunders has been asked Dorothy Dixers – as I was. Am I Duffy’s authority on Regulation? Would another appearance make me that.

You may be right, but there are other hypotheses. One is that his broadcasting style is not particularly combative, that he likes to help his subjects to get to say what they have to say, and that he wants these perspectives on the radio – as he says he believes some of them passionately and with others, he just lets them on air because they are there. Counterpoint and all that.

Perhaps time will tell. Then again, perhaps it won’t.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Nicholas, I know that he is Duffy’s expert because he is announced as such. It is as bald-faced as that at times.

But seriously, I think Duffy is learning the trade, so I cut him some slack on these things. He seems to be improving. Anyway it is a waste of good emotion to get upset about such things.

C.L. I make a distinction between Phillip Adams’ broadcasting ability and PA as a writer. He’s pretty ordinary at the latter.

mark
2022 years ago

CL, there is a difference between a right-winger and a RWDB. You are a right-winger, but Tim Blair is a Death Beast.

Tribalism is not banding together with people you agree with. It’s taking the side of people you would ordinarily see through in an instant because they claim to wear the same political colours; it’s all the things that logically extend from such behaviour.

Tribalism is Australian right-wingers calling American Democrats “traitors” because, even though they share the same opinions, they’re nominally on different sides (because the Republican Party is *the* right-wing fan club). Tribalism is Australian left-wingers praising Stalin, even though he’s the antithesis of everything they claim to believe in, because he said he was a Communist.

Tribalism is right-wingers saying “well, if big Georgie likes torture it can’t be too bad” (I’m so, *so* sorry…). Tribalism is left-wingers saying “well, if big Georgie hates Saddam then maybe Iraq used to be in good hands”.

Tribalism is intelligent people pretending to be stupid because a person from their “tribe” thinks it would be a good idea. Tribalism is every time you waver between being a sensible right-winger and a RWDB because you don’t like agreeing with lefties.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I meant ‘bare-faced’ of course. I should have been in bed.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Tim Dunlop also has a thoughtful post up on Duffy’s column:

http://www.roadtosurfdom.com/archives/2005/05/rusted_right_on.html

Warbo
Warbo
2022 years ago

“the possibly anti-semitic … George Galloway”

That’s a big claim, CL. There’s much about Galloway I like, so can you substantiate it? (I’m not trying to score points here – it’s a genuine query. I’ve not seen or heard of anything he’s said about Jews.)

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

1. ‘Denialism’?

Is there a hint of ‘Holocaust denialism’ in that moniker? Oh well, fair enough. I s’pose that it’s a bit like my fondness for the term ‘useful idiots’ with respect to the nuanced thinking of the leftariat.

Here’s a tip, Nick. Have a read of Bjorn Lomborg’s ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’. It’s a fine cautionary tale for those inclined to swallow the hysterical pessimism of every next ‘big scare’.

2. National unity? ABC? Sigh, this scales new heights on the ladder of pretentiousness. I guess ‘nationalism’ is what the brownshirts on the right preach, and ‘national unity’ is the far more wholesome, inclusive, positive yah yah yah diddely blah version practised by the left.

3. Richard Neville is a dill. Read the transcript where he gets to comment on the goodness of ABC On-line.

RICHARD NEVILLE: And it’s free!

Er, is there a large corps of unpaid volunteers putting together the ABC’s website that I’m unaware of?

As for him making ‘interesting and worthwhile points’, that very much depends on whether you subscribe to his worldview –

“I really think that if there was no ABC then the creatures from the black lagoon would have finally won and Australia would be a kind of cultural desert…”

Mm, yeah. Imagine life without the cultural enrichment of a bevy of dramas from the UK and politically loaded documentaries from the BBC.

meika
2022 years ago

Lomberg is a lost cause…

particulates, if the sun is shining more we’re in deep shit, particluates, soot in the air, reflecting sunlight, and the temperature is going up despite the evidence that sunlight reaching the earth surface has decrease due to particulates in the atmosphere, little bitty bits in the air, we’re could be in deep deep watery do-do

current reasonable estimates of global warming on sea level change may well be wrong, remember if they are arguing about 2cm or 2m it is nothing compared to the total worst case senario, which is near 100m, it would be unreasonable to say sea levels will rise by 100m but the thought of it gives a certain perspective, something which tribalists never have, they have their eye on the football, and in this sort of politics the ball is the man.

economists tend all perspective, they dominate, they lord it, they are never wrong, much like religious fundamentalists, growth is good, growth is god, the strength is their weakness and if Lomberg had some perspective he’d realise his trust in a robust nature was a bias, and wanting it does not make it so

goodness me it smack down time!

meika
2022 years ago

should read

economists tend _to lack_ perspective

John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

Duffy has aired a string of climate contrarians/denialists/sceptics, and hardly anyone representing the mainstream viewpoint. As Brian says, this is a fairly consistent fault.

CL, as others have said, the point is not that the right should refrain from criticising the left, or vice versa, but as Duffy himself says, that individual members of the right should be more willing to criticise each other, and the Howard government, on specific issues.

Look at the recent swing towards centralism, for example. Presumably a lot of rightwingers oppose this on principle, but only a handful (Andrew Norton, John Stone) have been willing to speak up.

zoot
zoot
2022 years ago

“Er, is there a large corps of unpaid volunteers putting together the ABC’s website that I’m unaware of?”
Probably the same volunteers who put to air all the “free” television and radio we get from the commercial networks.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

It’s very insulting to compare Michael Duffy, or indeed any decent person, with Phillip Adams.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Good point from Duffy here:

“The pity of this is that while the Government can automatically dismiss criticism from the left, it might have listened to it if it came – I mean real criticism here, criticism that is passionate and persistent – from the right.”

There was never a chance that Howard would have listened to the daft left on Iraq – he dismissed them as irrelevant years ago, and rightly, IMHO. But he might have listened to the principled right, and avoided participation in a ruinous war.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Lomborg simply tries to take the Malthusian negativity out of the discussion, Meika. His point is that not there aren’t environmental challenges that need addressing; it is the question of where the resources are going. Billions get squandered on media-driven hysteria like Greenhouse, while real challenges – like power and clean drinking water in developing countries is relegated to the too hard basket.

We will save more lives by addressing tangible problems like corruption and socialist inefficiency in third world regimes than by running around like apoplexed flippertygibbets worrying about whether Greenland will one day be ‘green’ again.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Zoot, you are confusing ‘free’ with ‘free-to-air’. Along with the commercial broadcasters, this latter definition encompasses the ABC and SBS.

Neville’s idea that the ABC website is ‘free’ is simply another manifestation of the hive-mind’s inability to comprehend that, somewhere out the other side of the tax equation, some poor sod is getting fleeced.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Al, I know you have followed the climate change issue in the past. I’m not going to look up all the references, and you may know all this stuff already. The difference between now and 20,000 years ago, when we were in deep ice-age, is only 5 degrees C. Then there was a great slab of ice over Manhattan. So increases of one or two degrees can be quite significant. If Greenland melts the sea goes up by 7 metres. With a rise of only 15cm in recent times something like 10% of the population of the UK has been subject to flooding.

Mt Kilimanjaro lost its snow this year, 15 years earlier than was predicted only five years ago. Only yesterday I heard a news item that Greenland was melting faster than expected.

With respect, I think some people are a bit complacent.

mark
2022 years ago

<troll>
Al, I think you mean “some *rich* sod is getting fleeced”…
</troll>

observa
observa
2022 years ago

Alright alright, I’ll get stuck into that limp-dick Howard for failing to take on serious moral issues head on like this bloke here http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,15369583-23109,00.html

And another thing! I don’t want to see Saddam in his jocks washing out his socks. I want to see Osama in his socks washing out his jocks, so get cracking Johnny boy!

Warbo
Warbo
2022 years ago

“But he might have listened to the principled right, and avoided participation in a ruinous war.”

There *was* opposition from the principled right to the Iraq war – plenty of it – and from non-partisan players such as former military officers and senior public servants. Howard didn’t listen to their arguments (or at least take any notice of them) any more than he did those of the “daft left”, so I don’t know what you mean, Rob.

Rafe
2022 years ago

I think that Michael Duffy and Nicholas Gruen are both taking the line that people should address issues on their merits and not according to which team people think they are playing on. That is important as an alternative to tribalism and of course it does not stop them from being wrong on particular issues. The important thing is not so much being right first time but being prepared to reconsider the position.

Rex
Rex
2022 years ago

Rex has a thoughtful post up on the greenhouse matter also.

http://rexinthecity.blogspot.com/2005/05/ready-steady-gloat.html

zoot
zoot
2022 years ago

Al – what’s the difference between ‘free’ and ‘free to air’?
I think Neville, in saying “It’s free” is making the perfectly valid statement that there is no fee to access it, just as there is no fee to access free to air television. He may be a prat, but he knows it’s paid for by our taxes.
Is it hive-minded on your part to not recognise the way people like me (non consumers of commercial media in the smaller states) are fleeced by the commercial equation?

MarkWW
MarkWW
2022 years ago

Rob says: “There was never a chance that Howard would have listened to the daft left on Iraq – he dismissed them as irrelevant years ago, and rightly, IMHO. But he might have listened to the principled right…”

That’s some high-strength hubris you (and our Dear Leader) are smoking Rob. If you were looking for the definition of arrogance – look no further than your own words, and the actions of the humble man you adore.
The ‘principled right’ indeed! So principled that they are incapable of constructive criticism when it matters most.

Were the ‘daft left’ abandoning their principles when they turned against Beazley in 2001. I think you better check your dictionary Rob. If there ever was a ‘right’ to whom the word principled can be applied in this country they have been expounding their principles to the Tasmanian Tiger since 1996 (if not long before). Michael Fluffy is just saying so in his own “of course I would never refrain from criticising the govt” way.

Mork
Mork
2022 years ago

“I’d rate that as more disturbing morally than whether anyone subscribes to global warming theory.”

“Is there a hint of ‘Holocaust denialism’ in that moniker?”

I dunno. I think there is a considerably better than even chance that global warming, specifically through crop failures and water shortages combined with resulting mass migrations and wars, will result in deaths that number in the millions, if not the hundreds of millions.

I think that 30 or 40 years from now, the climate change “deniers” WILL be seen as the moral equivalent of holocaust deniers, or worse.

I also think that on that timescale, George W. Bush will be remembered as an historical figure of evil of the stature of a Hitler, Stalin or Mao – not for his conduct of foreign policy, but because for the basest of motives, he actively prevented humanity from responding to the looming crisis even after its dimensions were unarguably clear.

blank
blank
2022 years ago

The National Geographic is hardly a denier, but according to its web page http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/09/0923_030923_kilimanjaroglaciers.html
there is more than just global warming in the loss of the snow on Kilimajaro.

“According to [Douglas] Hardy [climatologist at University of Massachusetts in Amhurst], forest reduction in the areas surrounding Kilimanjaro, and not global warming, might be the strongest human influence on glacial recession. “Clearing for agriculture and forest fires–

blank
blank
2022 years ago

The National Geographic is hardly a denier, but according to its web page http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/09/0923_030923_kilimanjaroglaciers.html
there is more than just global warming in the loss of the snow on Kilimanjaro.

“According to [Douglas] Hardy [climatologist at University of Massachusetts in Amhurst], forest reduction in the areas surrounding Kilimanjaro, and not global warming, might be the strongest human influence on glacial recession. “Clearing for agriculture and forest fires–

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Warbo, the intervention of the ‘the 43’ came much too late, if my leaky memory serves. And unfortunately it was calculated to irritate the government, rather than change its mind – as it did: ‘Daiquiri diplomats’ was its response. Historically there has often been tension between senior diplomats as to who acutally makes foreign policy. The fraught relationship between Woolcott and Peacock is a case in point – Peacock resented Woolcott’s assumption that it was he (Woolcott) who was in charge of the relationship with Indonesia rather than the Minister sworn to office to exercise the foreign affairs power that the Constitution conferred on the Executive. Downer’s response to the 43 would have been pretty much the same.

That aside, I think Duffy is quite correct. In the main, the right reserved its energies for getting stuck into the left rather than seriously questioning what the government was proposing to do. I know a very senior, very well-regarded (by the government), very conservative bureaucrat who said had he still been in government service at the time he would have felt compelled to resign. Conceivably that might have had some impact.

But only conceivably. I agree that whatever the right might have said, it probably would not have swayed Howard, because, whatever he said in public then and since, the principal reason for joining the coalition of the willing was the alliance with the US. And the WMD figleaf was still in place at that time, albeit shakily.

Warbo
Warbo
2022 years ago

Rob: On the substantial point, I think we’re in agreement.

Gary
2022 years ago

Why not, instead of sounding like Mike Tyson complaining he was to old after a fight he willingly joined and using the old tactic of shaming consideration. Lift your selves up and revue what went wrong. It may not be the massage but how and who dominated conveying it. Just changing the the rhetoric from global warming to climate change aint going to do it and possibly harm the massage since most beleave the climate has changed since the creation of earth. I agree with Duffy about political tribalism but it isn’t new,one sided or there is any proof that it has got larger. If you think that without listing supporting data then ‘projection’ is the [ism] you belong.to. And another thing all roads don’t lead to Baghdad, letting the loudest tie everything to Iraq diminishes local policy initiatives.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Nicholas, I was reflecting again on your post and I wonder where the ‘right wing Phillip Adams’ tag came from. Almost certainly not from Michael Duffy or the ABC. His bio is quite interesting:

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/counterpoint/presenter.htm

He is very deadpan and I think sometimes he has a vague attempt at humour that isn’t really funny as when, as I reported, he was talking about “re-educating Australia” on one program. Taking the notion that it’s a show “where we climb the Everest of contrary opinion, sometimes because we believe in it passionately, and sometimes just because its there” I think he does well on the last part (ie he looks for opinions that are a bit different and are intrinsically interesting) but can come unstuck when he believes in something passionately. Then he can be quite dogmatic which ill-becomes him and the ABC.

A recent example was his recent declaration that any arguments about the value of free trade were over. The World Bank had shown unequivocally that hundreds of millions of people had been lifted out of poverty by the sole means of free trade. So there was no longer any doubt. This, he declared, was the best news you’ll hear all week.

A bit over the top I would have thought.

But I sincerely hope he settles down to become as you described him in your post. He’s nearly there IMO.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Mork – As bright chap Tall Dave pointed out on an interesting Tim Lambert thread, we have a three way ‘AND’ here.

http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/science/peiser.html

The argument goes something like this. International agreements like Kyoto will only achieve anything worthwhile if the following conditions hold true:

1. The globe is warming beyond normal fluctuations, AND
2. That warming is actually being caused by anthropogenic gas emissions, AND
3. A small rise in global temperature will actually cause the catastrophic harm predicted.

All three have to hold true. The catch is that the jury is still out on any of these issues.

There does appear to be some evidence of recent warming. But there’s always frustrating ambiguity. For example, the dramatic rise in temperatures experienced in the 1990s just happened to coincide with an equally dramatic reduction in the global distribution of weather stations. Historical measurements of global mean temperature rely on some dubious proxies, along with extrapolation techniques that seem to closely reflect whether you’re in the for camp or the against camp. As Blank kindly pointed out, what at first seems like blindingly obvious evidence of alarming global warming can suddenly become open to doubt. Regardless, pick a figure for the probability of condition 1 being a boolean true. Let’s say 90%.

Condition 2 is far more problematical. Ad hominem dismissal of scientific skeptics receiving oil industry funding is just plain hypocritical. There are base motives just as compelling that can be ascribed to the ‘yes’ case. That the amount of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has risen since the dawn of the industrial revolution is not in dispute. What is unknown is the causal relationship between trace gases and the complex feedback mechanisms that climate modellers simulate. Correct me if I’m wrong, but nobody yet has come up with an equation that neatly states Global Mean Surface Temperature in degrees Kelvin as a function of PPMV of CO2 and other gases. IF condition one is true, then it’s still a grand jump of ‘post hoc ergo proctor hoc’ to hang it on anthropogenic trace gases. Still, let’s be generous and pick a figure of, say, 75%

And would an increase in temperature really result in the dramatic sea-level rises and crop failures feared? Dramatic scare stories might sell papers, but here’s a tip – look for the number of weasel words like ‘could’, ‘may’, ‘possibly’ etc in these reports. This is the most doubtful of all three propositions. I’m not willing to give this one any more than 60%, sorry.

So the probability of lining up all three of these ducks in a row?

=0.9*0.76*0.6 = about a 41% chance. That is, mankind’s addiction to cheap energy will probably not be responsible for Tuvalu drowning and the extinction of the fur seals. This, despite the generous probabilities ascribed to each of those individual conditions holding true.

The point of this exercise is not to derive an exact figure, it’s to get you thinking about risk assessment. That’s what responsible policy makers rely on when faced by an imperfect world. They have to say, “Right, there’s a possibility of danger ‘A’ occurring. Let’s look at what we can do to mitigate that threat, and how it will impact on our ability to deal with dangers ‘B’ through to ‘ZZZZ’.”

You see, Mork, that’s the sort of dilemma faced by the US administration and the Australian government. They have to weigh up the POSSIBILITY of LA or Sydney pulling the Atlantis caper against the possibility of significantly undermining their global economic competitiveness. They don’t have the luxury of decontextualising policy responses like Greenhouse abatement from the unintended consequences such moves might have like inflation, unemployment and handing the baton of global leadership over to more calculating countries like the PRC.

Last and far from least, there is the question of just what you’re hoping to achieve. Australia is more than meeting the targets for reduction in greenhouse gas emission that would have been set had we acceded to the Kyoto Protocol. Yet I’m not hearing any pats on the back for the government, and that’s probably because the calculations are getting rubbery with figures. My question? So what? Do you seriously reckon any of those eager signatories who actually stand to lose a cent are being any more honest about meeting targets. Indeed, accession is hardly evidence of consensus as Russia demonstrated. But the bottom line is this: How much impact will even the most honest and enthusiastic embrace of the Kyoto Protocol by all nations make? Not much, from what I’ve heard. And it’s just a touch too convenient to claim that the whole thing is a failure because of the reticence of the world’s favorite whipping boys, the US and George W Bush.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

“I wonder where the ‘right wing Phillip Adams’ tag came from.”

Brian, it’s been a common catchcry among those who believe that Janet Albrechtsen, David Flint, Christopher Pearson, Frank Devine, Miranda Devine, David Barnett, Alan Jones, Paddy McGuiness, Piers Ackerman, Stan Zemanek, Andrew Bolt, Imre Salusinszky, Gerard Henderson, Michael Duffy, Howard Sattler et al are all outnumbered by Phil. Clearly he’s more of an op-ed…um…heavyweight than we all realise.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

“They have to weigh up the POSSIBILITY of LA or Sydney pulling the Atlantis caper against the possibility of significantly undermining their global economic competitiveness. They don’t have the luxury of decontextualising policy responses like Greenhouse abatement from the unintended consequences such moves might have like inflation, unemployment and handing the baton of global leadership over to more calculating countries like the PRC.”

That’s actually a pretty damn good concise summary of the anti-alarmist position there Al. I’m more than half in agreement with you in some ways.

However, if the possibility does manifest itself, then we’re all ‘rooned. That, plus economic and geo-political considerations (eg: having our biggest stocks of what is currently our most vital resource in a notoriously inflammable part of the word and China buying up whatever it can), would suggest that we all get real Manhattan Project-like now on alternative energy sources. Simple prudence if nothing else suggests this.

So if emitting greenhouse gas theories gets Governments and industry excited enough to pull their finger out about being energy self-sufficient, then I say emit away.

I mean this is not the first time scare tactics based on insufficient evidence *cough*WMDs*cough* have led to Governments taking actions that you think will pan out for the better in the long run.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

I agree on the results front, Nabs. There’s certainly no harm in investigating alternative energy, but I’d prefer it if the private sector picks up the tab.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Nabs, I meant, who tagged Michael Duffy that way? I know the rest of the mob have been calling for one and I’m vaguely aware that Imre S had a go at one stage. I wasn’t particularly aware of Duffy himself prior to his appearance on the ABC and I’m wondering whether he sees himself that way. He did say recently that he had been listening to the ABC a lot, because of what he happened to be doing, and how impressed he was. He even had a special compliment for the bloke who normally occupies his time-slot, meaning 4pm, meaning the PA repeat. Maybe he’s learnt how easy it’s not to conduct a good interview.

I’ve listened to him quite regularly for the year or so he’s been on air. At first he irritated me heaps. Lately he’s improved.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

“I’d prefer it if the private sector picks up the tab.”

Yes, and they can buy me a solar powered pony while they’re at it. The private sector is sorta getting into it in some ways. Like the Toyota Prius now outselling SUVs per capita in the US, but a private sector driven by the need to keep growing those quarterly profit margins has not had the best track record to date in doing that core R&D.

Take nuclear power, which is now being revisited as an option. The public sector did all the initial heavy lifting there, and when Westinghouse, GE, Framatome, Siemens et al started flogging the technologoy around world, sales were underpinned by a complex web of goverment subsidies and heavy breathing down neck of potential customers.

Neither the public or private sector can come up with the solution on its own. And even the most avowedly free market economies like the US and the UK don’t hestitate to fly the dirigisme dirigible when it suits them. Ask Boeing or BAe.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Al, I don’t have your scientific literacy and maybe I scare too easily. I note, however, that our outgoing chief scientist, Robin Batterham, has bought the story, if not Kyoto. He reckons that we’ve got to reduce emissions by 50% by 2050. That was in a very enlightening enlightening interview with Terry Lane:

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/natint/stories/s1374134.htm

I’ve also been impressed with the likes of Hans von Sporch, a statistician I believe, and a careful German. He believes that the anthropogenic effect can’t be proved beyond reasonable doubt, but is nevertheless secure enough and the consequences serious enough that we should take action both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

James Hansen of the Goddard Institute at NASA is similarly disposed and has written impressively about the problems of ice-sheet decay. Both these gentlemen stress the long time-lines involved. What we have done already can have effects a hundred years down the track.

Von Storch and his workers have now done a paper (reported in Wikipedia) that seems to give climate modeling a big tick. Indeed they found the climate sensitivities to be significantly higher.

I only mentioned Kiliminjaro as a instance where things are moving more rapidly than previously thought. In itself it doesn’t mean much. The bigger picture counts. The way I see it the earth has been a snowball over 500 million years ago. In the last 3 million it has been mostly ice-ages. No-one out there is orchestrating things for our benefit. Indeed we have been in an unusually sweet spot climate-wise for the last 10,000 years during which as a species we have reached plague proportions on the planet. The most successful predator by a country mile, we’ve organised our very own mass extinction for our fellow species.

Now a scientist called William F. Ruddiman (see March edition of the Scientific American) has worked out that by rights we should be well-advanced towards the glaciation leading to a new ice age. It is just that 8,000 years ago or so we started knocking down the trees in lots of places and growing rice in a big way in Asia. It’s not certain, of course, but the initial data fits are impressive.

It seems that by inventing agriculture we have inadvertently extended our climatalogical sweet spot. So we, homo sapiens, the partly wise animal may have been the biggest modifying influence on the climate for eight millenia. If we want to extend our good fortune as well as our global hegemony over other species I think we ought to spend a fair bit of money on finding out how to do it.

Kyoto isn’t much, but there is a premium on co-operation and you need to consider the difficulty of proceeeding further down the co-operative path if we kill it off now.

In the end for poor ignorant folks like me it is a question of who you believe. With all due respect I have chosen to give some credence to the above-mentioned scientists.

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

“the dramatic rise in temperatures experienced in the 1990s just happened to coincide with an equally dramatic reduction in the global distribution of weather stations”

There you go again, Al. Apparently you believe that all climate scientists are morons. If you think for more than about ten seconds about the matter you will realize that if there really was a dramatic reduction in the global distribution of weather stations, all you would have to do is look at the stations that measured continuously over the period. You intimate that climate scientists (all of them) could not think of something this simple. Of course, if you actually bothered to read Hansen et al on how the GISS average surface temperature number is calculated then you would know that that is what they did.

The rest of your “science” is just as ill-informed as, well, Michael Duffy’s.

meika
2022 years ago

AL

My concern is that worries about competitive economies receive no market signals from the environment, no ecological signals, that their is no feedback between them except in politics, in fact as currently constructed there is no way outside of sovereign consumerism (spend it on demolishing socialist military governments i hear you say) to do it, except when the water floods all major stock exchanges, i suppose that is natural justice but i would prefer to avoid the reality where the market signal from the environment is the arrival of doom,

oops, we went bust!!

the extreme of this will be when boyle’s Law is denied in some Lysenkoist frothing because the economic effect on reducing green house emissioins would hurt us too much, and anyway a techno fix is just around the corner so we need not worry about boyle’s law

some global warming sceptics are close to this in their zeal

blub blub blub glug!

and thanks for coming

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Sigh…Tim, Tim, Tim.

I don’t believe I’ve ever accused climate modellers of being ‘morons’. And if I give that impression, than I apologise. I’ve no doubt they’re smarter than a humble digger like me.

But IQ isn’t the issue here – let’s talk about something rather more fundamental. Honesty. This is an area where scientists are just as fallible as the layman.

The other day you accused me of believing that scientists didn’t know how to use statistics. While that allegation was unfounded, it got me to thinking – What was it that I so disliked about the science and computerised jiggeryp0kery behind climate change?

I mean, I grew up as a complete geek. Science was God. I was programming in Basic on a 48K mini-computer hooked up to our old black and white tele before anyone had even heard of Atari. Carl Sagan was Jesus and Isaac Asimov was St Peter (you can probably guess that my love life was, shall we say, less than spectacular).

How is it that the skepticism I once reserved for astrologers, mediums and hippies selling crystals came to be aimed at those magnificent men in their white coats and their pocket protectors?

Well, it was a slow transition, but you could say it started at university. That’s where I learned the peculiar duality of statistics. On the one hand is the rigorous mathematics – means, medians, deviation, variance, significance, hypotheses testing, regression, modelling – but, on the other, the rather less rigorous art of actually applying that science to the real world.

The truth is that statistical method is fairly simple. Hell, it was the only subject I ever got a distinction for at that particular sandstone university. But what stuck with me was the stern warnings imparted on us by our lecturers:

1. Poorly chosen sampling data run through reliable statistical testing will produce results irrelevant to the larger population.

2. The reliability of statistical tests is dependent on the data meeting the assumptions underlying the testing.

3. Statistical testing cannot ‘prove’ a null hypothesis. It can only show that the samples chosen do not provide sufficient evidence to indicate an alternative hypothesis.

Here’s where it all comes to grief. Let’s start with rule 2 above. Weather, for example, is not only a complex system, it is chaotic. That spells real trouble when it comes to modelling. It cannot be predicted even a week in advance. Similarly, climate data just doesn’t conform to any known distribution patterns. Climate is the result of a huge number of very poorly understood feedback mechanisms. There are no rules to conduct testing with.

And that’s why climate modellers are working for a lousy academic’s wage, instead of turning their rat cunning programming skills and fearsome supercomputers onto, say, the stockmarket.

Yep, if the ‘science’ behind modelling chaotic systems was as good as is being claimed, there wouldn’t be any greenhouse effect. Because all the climate scientists would by now have made a killing on the Dow, and either be snorting cocaine on their yachts in the Bahamas or gadding about the world in the company of nubile girls while busily oversighting their Formula One teams.

Instead, these veritable canaries of the world climate coal mine are eking a living on a government salary warning that the end is nigh – Honest! They’ve got the computer models to prove it.

I’m not buying it.

But let’s return to the issue of weather stations and the remarkable rise in global mean temperature that coincided with the decline in weather station numbers in the nineties.

Turning to your disagreement with Ross McKitrick’s position on the matter, do you recall who said this?

“Average temperature has a real, physical meaning. For example, if I have one kg of water at 20 degrees and another at 30 degrees, then their average temperature is 25 degrees. This is the temperature I would get if I mixed the water.”

Of course you do.

http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/2004/04

Well, suppose I had a kilogram lump of (admittedly rather hard) water at -0.1C at sea level. Then I added a kilo of water at 20.1C. What do you suppose the temperature would be (rounded off to the nearest integer)?

Mm, that phase change throws a spanner in your theory about averaging temperature, no?

But, as is my weakness, I digress. You said above that:

“you will realize that if there really was a dramatic reduction in the global distribution of weather stations, all you would have to do is look at the stations that measured continuously over the period.”

Correct me if I’m wrong here Tim, but didn’t you say:

“I looked at the GHCN data and while the number of weather stations in the former Soviet Union did drop from about 270 to 100, but the TOTAL NUMBER FELL FROM 5000 TO 2700 so the decrease there was only a small factor in the overall decrease.” (my emphasis with the caps)

Um, I’d say a 46% decrease in the number of GCHN stations ‘really was a dramatic reduction in the global distribution of weather stations’, wouldn’t you?

And did those scallywags at Goddard simply ‘look at the stations that measured continuously over the period’?

Unfortunately, I am unable to get to the Hansen paper. I know the link is on the abstract page you linked to, but I can’t get it to open. But I find this passage from your page interesting –

“If you look at Hansen et al’s paper that describes how the GISS graph was constructed, you will find that of course they noticed and accounted for the change in the number of stations:
“Sampling studies discussed below indicate
that the decline in number of stations is
unimportant in regions of dense coverage,
although the estimated global temperature
change can be affected by a few hundredths
of a degree.”

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Brian,

We Westerners live in a largely secular world, but the human condition does not change. We still look to shamans and oracles to foretell our future. In these Grunhausian days, we follow the word of scientists with the same fervour that we once devoted to our priests.

Have a read of this page – it won’t take long to get the gist:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/end_wrl2.htm

Climate change has all the same ingredients of apocalypse and penitence. The hysteria generated over what is probably a perfectly normal swing in surface temperature reminds me of the effect of a decent comet winging past the Earth in the Dark Ages would have had on the mental state of Europe’s inhabitants.

As a Greenhouse skeptic, I simply liken myself to one of those peasants gazing at the wonder in the sky above, but who remained quietly unconvinced that the event proved that the priests had the good oil on the ‘End of Days’ gig.

zoot
zoot
2022 years ago

Someone’s touched a nerve. Now Al, about the difference between “free” and “free to air”?