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« Ditch the greens if you want to keep the wild places | Main | When did Quakers turn bad? »
Monday
Mar092015

The causes of big climate

Judith Curry points us to the draft of a paper soon to be published in the Independent Review, the journal of the Independent Institute. Written by two economists, it takes the idea of the big player - a well-established concept among economic thinkers - and uses it to try to explain the groupthink that plagues the climate debate. As the authors explain:

In markets, prototypical Big Players are central banks and government agencies empowered with discretionary policymaking... [M]arkets dominated by Big Players are prone to herding, where market participants, with little reliable information as to the Big Player’s next move, look to what others are thinking and doing.

As far as scientific endeavour goes, the authors suggest that big players can prevent the feedback mechanisms that provide a wide variety of information to "market" participants. And when it comes to the IPCC the situation is even worse:

Professional success in climate science has become more tied to the acceptance of the IPCC’s pronouncements than with the exploration of contrary possibilities; in fact, scientists who profess competing hypotheses are routinely castigated as “deniers” and some have reported unusual difficulties in negotiating the publishing process.

While a large majority of climate scientists are reported as being in general agreement with the AGW hypothesis and with the IPCC’s pronouncements, the accuracy and extent of this consensus has been questioned. The oft-quoted 97% number may be unrealistic and unsupportable, but the general acceptance by the majority of scientists having any connection to climate science seems real enough. This herding is a predictable result of the IPCC’s Big Player presence.

This all seems spot on to me.

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Reader Comments (25)

I now expect disclosures that the Independent Institute is funded by Big Oil and that this can't be true because the psychology is settled.

Mar 9, 2015 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

It is a different perspective on a subject often discussed here.

I would like to point out that the IPCC has been forced to lessen the drama in their reports. The political side of things keeps getting more hysterical but the scientific one has gotten progressively more moderate. Of course, I mean moderate by IPCC standards. What I'm getting to is that climate scientists are often criticized relentlessly as if they are all conspiring while, evidently, there are those that are working to rectify the situation. I would go as far as to say that a large majority are on the side of true science and they simply don't speak up out of fear. I have personal experience with this sort of thing in other academic/scientific fields. It's very easy to demand courage of others but difficult, even impossible, to muster it yourself in circumstances are polarized as this one is. It is the reasons why I so respect the author of this and similar blogs. It takes unusual courage to stand up. Thanks.

Mar 9, 2015 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

This problem is well known in development circles. When I studied the topic at Birkbeck a decade ago, the tutor clearly explained that every NGO was after UN money so the financing cycles were always identical:

a. Identify what next year's UN conference is about
b. Dress up your NGO's main concern so that it magically addresses exactly what next year's UN conference is about

Herding is enshrined, not just assured. Public money to NGOs can be a major polluter of ideas, simply because there is so much of it.

Mar 9, 2015 at 10:41 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Good article.

Mar 9, 2015 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Beside Groupthink and Gravy Trains another major factor is Legacy, since poverty no longer exists in the affluent West the only thing Left for Lefties (Obama, Rusbridger) to Leave is a climate Legacy, despite the obvious (to most except the legacy seekers) problem that it increases poverty.

Mar 9, 2015 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

" I would go as far as to say
that a large majority are on the side of true science and they simply don't
speak up out of fear. I have personal experience with this sort of thing in
other academic/scientific fields. "

Why would you need courage to tell colleagues what you believe, surely that is the whole point in studying 'science'. I work in IT and will fairly often disagree with a colleague about something, it is expected as different people have expertise in different things. It doesn't have any affect on working with them and doesn't require any 'courage'.

If you can't speak up about your work you are clearly doing the wrong thing, find a better job in that case.

Mar 9, 2015 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Rob Burton,

The academic world relies on patronage. Researchers are graded by how many citations they get in other papers, and how much grant money they can attract to an institution. Private industry encourages robust competition between workers to get the best possible result, it doesn't really compare.

Mar 9, 2015 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Rob Burton
There's a big difference between I wouldn't have done it that way but it works and is reliable and it's wrong and it's not the way we do it these days. The former was common in old hands who have seen many changes, the latter in young whiz kids with the blinkers of youth and out to make a name for themselves. Life teaches you that theories come and go It seems those in academia don't have the ability to learn from experience that their pet theory will be old hat in a few years so accepting that you may not be wholly right from the start might be the way forward.

I don't know about you but when bug fixing old test applications I often had the thought I wonder why I did it that way?

Mar 9, 2015 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

IPCC CAGW science must surely be the first to accept results by consensus of the elite few. So much like a religion. I am an old man, but I cannot remember any other branch of science describing those disagreeing with the currently accepted results as deniers. Surely heretics would be a better word - I can feel the heat of the burning faggots now!

Mar 9, 2015 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

The gate keepers and promoters of the climate obsession have much to held accountable for.

Mar 9, 2015 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Rob Burton, I am not disagreeing with you, but......

In the IT world (absolutely NOT my field) how many people/companies made money out of the fears generated, by the Y2K bug?

Come 01/01/2000, nothing happened. Either because there never was a genuine problem, or because IT professionals were so brilliant.

How many IT professionals spoke out to say Y2K was not as bad as we were told to think it was?

How many major IT projects for the tax payer, NHS, HMRC, MOD etc have ever come in on time and budget? If they have come in at all?

My background is construction, an industry with an infamous track record!

Mar 9, 2015 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

The agenda of the Big Players has nothing to do with science.

The climate scientists have a lot to answer for but it seems that most are prepared to go along with a consensus of some sort that links emissions to warming. The problem is that there is a massive gap between the climate we might well get and the alarmist extremes that drive policy. They are generally silent on that and that is the crux of the problem.

Mar 9, 2015 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Golf Charlie

All the media he hype about Y2K was stupid, planes falling out of sky, nuclear disaster, etc, etc

because that was NEVER what the Y2K problem was about..

I spent a couple of years working on Y2K issues, for existingcustomers in my filed (Banking, Telco's mainly)

and due to the nature of the support agreements - WE HAD TO DO THE WORK, without the customer paying for it!!

There was also hype, with some companies jumping on bandwagon, but all that really meant is older systems that one or more supplier, would not guarantee past Y2K, meant a lot of systems got updated by a fixed deadline.

ie try telling your shareholders well it should be OK, but our suppliers won't guarantee 10-15 yr old hardware /or an older operating system, or old code.

which meant for the few years after, nobody bought anything new!! Because the natural upgrade/new project cycle had been squeezed forward.

That and the dotcom bubble bursting, meant the IT contractors (name the daily rate) gravy train ended (well for a year or 2 ;-) ) I could not find enough ex british Nuclear fuels contractors to sort out various Telco/Banks Tandem Non Stop Kernel systems, they could charge a fortune. ie supply and demand..

And Much like climate science, vs the media version of climate science

the public saw the media version of Y2, not what really was going on, much less exciting, but it cost plenty (suppliers don't fix things for free, unless the had to, we did)

Mar 9, 2015 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Golf Charlie Mar 9, 2015 at 12:29 PM 'Y2K'

This O/T subject crops up every now and then, and it requires the same response, every time!

The biggest problem that the Government had was that it knew that in most non-IT organisations, NO ONE had overall responsibility for the IT within.

Often, there was an IT manager, reporting to the Financial Director, and (s)he was responsible for on-going IT work, but did NOT have OVERALL responsibility. That is why it appeared to some of the Public to be hyped up. It is difficult to get the attention of people who are adamant it is not their problem, when you don't know who they are!

Did it have to be done? Tell a pilot not to bother with the pre-flight check - it delays the flight and everything works anyway :)

I gather that lifts and pumps were prime areas for concern because they were outside IT departments and had dates to ensure routine maintenance. Just think, broken sewerage pumps causing (not nice) domestic flooding, and then the phones didn't work to call the fire brigade and ambulance, and then, if they arrived, the hospital lifts didn't work. And NOTHING would be fixed quickly. How do you think they could fix the phones when those trying to fix them couldn't phone each other. Remote equipment would certainly be remote! (On the day, they had old fashioned analogue systems as a backup, which they knew how to operate!)

Secondly, the deadline could NOT be moved.

Where I worked, an IT company, the Y2K testing was done easily, without any bother, and was a small part of the usual maintenance effort. If a small 'ten minute' change to the code is required, it can take well over a month to release, when everything is taken into consideration, ensuring all affected modules are updated in the right order and works with the existing software. Just like an aircraft missing its takeoff window might have to wait hours for another opportunity to depart, this is true of software systems. So, by starting early enough, problems are reduced, if not eliminated, but it takes elapsed time to do it.

From what others have said, from many companies, there were many, many fixes applied! Yes, the IT professionals were brilliant. Most still are. They know that failing to plan means planning to fail.

It has been rumoured that some of the recent bank IT crashes, since 2000/01/01, have had a Y2K element. For example, an age restricted bank account could hit the Y2K problem when testing a date of birth, which would be in the past.

As for the taxpayer IT projects, they need IT professionals and the right resources! I gather that the specification for the Border Control IT was illegal. It broke the law.

Testing needs to start at the beginning, not after the code has been written. :)

Mar 9, 2015 at 3:23 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

@Rob Burton

The forced exit of competent academic/scientist is a long standing problem, one that has led to a gradual worsening of academic/scientific standards worldwide.

There was a time when I could count with one hand the utterly incompetent at a tenured faculty meeting. Today, these incompetents run the show amid screams and accusations about... nothing! They don't even publish, wouldn't know how to, so they have set up for themselves "institutionalized journals" that accept anything from certain friendly parties. Some of these are relatively new, some of these have been taken over through a gradual replacement of their editors.

Colleagues everywhere joke bitterly (and privately) that they now belong to a "teaching university" because research is low, very low, on the list of requirements for promotion which, in turn, means that tenure is obtained by... no one knows. At a certain university, since there were no recognizable standards left, it was attempted to independently assess the "teaching" skills of the professorship. The same people that imposed the measure, soon denounced, it as they realized that teaching, like research, was not a skill they possessed. The students were to blame, we were told.

For an introduction to how academics deal with plurality of ideas, take a look at what Chomsky and his friends did when they were the ones doing the screaming. It's all documented and, now that the leaders have sublimated to "experts on everything", it has become possible to publicly speak about their deeds with fearing for your job. Their position will be familiar to you... if you were not one of them, you had to be disposed of.

Criticize from the outside as much as you like. It changes nothing. Living through this sort of thing is tough and having the disposition to research does not imply one also has the time or skills to be a backstabbing worthless human being.

Mar 9, 2015 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

Although I didn't know it at the time, I have had a personal experience of exactly this phenomenon.
A supplier of extruded Upvc called a meeting of its top ten customers (my company being amongst that group)
and introduced two so called data base designers to those of us who attended the meeting.All those who were in attendance were directors, but I was the only one who had designed a data base personally.
Our Upvc supplier had bought into the idea that a common data base would be a good thing and the purpose of
the meeting was to introduce the idea to its customers. I admit that the idea did not make much sense to me but everyone else seemed to think that it could be beneficial.
Within ten minutes, I knew that these data base expertswere frauds. They were not even articulate (in my opinion) and seemed to be unfamiliar with the simplest requirements
of a good data base.
I called them out and the meeting continued without me.Driving back the midlands with my partner was not a pleasent
experience; we never spoke.
My partner and the other participants had a further five meetings on the subject before the idea was quietly shelved.

Mar 9, 2015 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Barry Woods and Robrt Christopher, I did write a response earlier, but an IT failure (me) caused a problem!

Separate to Y2K I and many others in construction, had many problems as clients demanded that Millenium vanity projects were completed on time. My problems came from projects that were running at the same time. If start dates had been postponed until jan 2000, many problems and costs would have been reduced.

I am not a pilot, but have flown in 2-4 seater planes many times. Pilots who 'find the time' to prepare proper flight plans, do proper pre flight checks etc, generally cope with problems once airborne, far more calmly, than those who take a gung-ho attitude to boring stuff like plans, and checking stuff. I did a lot of scuba diving years ago, and more recently yacht sailing, and the same principles apply.

Many projects, whether IT, construction or anything else, are doomed to expensive failure, from inception. Most projects
still proceed, because there is 'too much at stake', especially for those whose salary and reputations are at risk. Senior civil servants and politicians are very quick to 'move on' from their disasters

Mar 9, 2015 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

...but the general acceptance by the majority of scientists having any connection to climate science seems real enough. This herding is a predictable result of the IPCC’s Big Player presence....

Actually, my experience in the (somewhat limited) academic field is that most academics in the hard sciences - chemistry, physics, engineering - are profoundly skeptical of the theory. They are amenable to the arguments from the data. Most of the softer skilled academics believe in Climate Change because that is a political requirement of the circles they move in. They will, however, discuss it - usually by quoting news items claiming that the temperatures are at record levels.....

The 'scientists' with a connection to Climate Change - geographers, for instance, are in a classic cynical dilemma - they need to believe to support their grant applications, and thus will not discuss the issue. To them it is like discussing the morality of racism in the 1950s Southern States - a fundamental attack on their way of life.

Mar 10, 2015 at 12:59 AM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

Just follow the money (close to 100% coming from government). No advanced economics needed to grasp that.

Mar 10, 2015 at 7:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterTuppence

Mar 9, 2015 at 12:29 PM | Golf Charlie

My background is construction, an industry with an infamous track record!

But we do deliver ... or we'd be out on our backsides. That's private enterprise.

Mar 10, 2015 at 7:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

'but the general acceptance by the majority of scientists having any connection to climate science seems real enough.'

Why ? let is start with the the issues of what a climate 'scientists' ,actual is, for its clear that to know what they think you must know who they are. And we quickly find that there simple is no agreed definition of a climate 'scientists' , indeed its a term applied failed politicians, railway engineers and host of others who had no training in the physical sciences.
And even if can set this aside , there remains the issue of 'majority,' to know a sub group of the whole represents a 'majority' you have to know both the size of the whole group and the subgroup , that is basic maths . And although the worthless 97% claim has indicated sizes of subgroups they never given any size for the whole group , so these subgroups can in no way be called a 'majority'

Given this is supposed to be 'science' and therefore subject to the scientific method , although I sadly acknowledged that climate 'science' considers the academic standards expected of an undergraduate handing in essay to be to extreme for it . I think its fair to say that we should expect basic maths ideas , such has percentages and notions such has having definitions of what something is , to be present . And in the both of this cases for the claims of 'majority' we simply do not have these. So although it may be true , and there is certainly a augment to be had around even if it is true what does this mean, its has never proved to be true only amused to be .
But then again , within climate 'science' has with seen time and again proving something is no where near has important in 'believe' it to be true.

Mar 10, 2015 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

'but the general acceptance by the majority of scientists having any connection to climate science seems real enough.'

Why ? let is start with the the issues of what a climate 'scientists' ,actual is, for its clear that to know what they think you must know who they are. And we quickly find that there simple is no agreed definition of a climate 'scientists' , indeed its a term applied failed politicians, railway engineers and host of others who had no training in the physical sciences.
And even if can set this aside , there remains the issue of 'majority,' to know a sub group of the whole represents a 'majority' you have to know both the size of the whole group and the subgroup , that is basic maths . And although the worthless 97% claim has indicated sizes of subgroups they never given any size for the whole group , so these subgroups can in no way be called a 'majority'

Given this is supposed to be 'science' and therefore subject to the scientific method , although I sadly acknowledged that climate 'science' considers the academic standards expected of an undergraduate handing in essay to be to extreme for it . I think its fair to say that we should expect basic maths ideas , such has percentages and notions such has having definitions of what something is , to be present . And in the both of this cases for the claims of 'majority' we simply do not have these. So although it may be true , and there is certainly a augment to be had around even if it is true what does this mean, its has never proved to be true only amused to be .
But then again , within climate 'science' has with seen time and again proving something is no where near has important in 'believe' it to be true.

Mar 10, 2015 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

'but the general acceptance by the majority of scientists having any connection to climate science seems real enough.'

Why ? let is start with the the issues of what a climate 'scientists' ,actual is, for its clear that to know what they think you must know who they are. And we quickly find that there simple is no agreed definition of a climate 'scientists' , indeed its a term applied failed politicians, railway engineers and host of others who had no training in the physical sciences.
And even if can set this aside , there remains the issue of 'majority,' to know a sub group of the whole represents a 'majority' you have to know both the size of the whole group and the subgroup , that is basic maths . And although the worthless 97% claim has indicated sizes of subgroups they never given any size for the whole group , so these subgroups can in no way be called a 'majority'

Given this is supposed to be 'science' and therefore subject to the scientific method , although I sadly acknowledged that climate 'science' considers the academic standards expected of an undergraduate handing in essay to be to extreme for it . I think its fair to say that we should expect basic maths ideas , such has percentages and notions such has having definitions of what something is , to be present . And in the both of this cases for the claims of 'majority' we simply do not have these. So although it may be true , and there is certainly a augment to be had around even if it is true what does this mean, its has never proved to be true only amused to be .
But then again , within climate 'science' has with seen time and again proving something is no where near has important in 'believe' it to be true.

Mar 10, 2015 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Golf Charlie
I have never quite understood why government IT projects are doomed to (a) failure + (b) massive cost over-runs.
As any of my colleagues on here who live in France will tell you, the French health system operates through a Carte Vitale which I present to my doctor/pharmacist/nurse/specialist/hospital when I visit.
In most cases I pay for the consultation, the state reimbursement appearing in my bank account within 72 hours and the mutuelle reimbursement shortly after.
In the case of the local pharmacist (who has an arrangement with my mutuelle) I pay nothing.
It is, as they say, hardly rocket science. I agree that this is specifically to ensure that only those entitled to it get free/subsidised treatment and does not include patient records but even so ... I would assume if the French can handle something like this there is no built-in reason why the Brits can't and yet it seems that any attempt at a major IT project by UK plc will go pear-shaped in very short order!

Mar 10, 2015 at 9:10 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

- If you write the specification for the enginering project correctly, then the contractors should not be able to over-run on cost.
- One key thing is to get it right first time and not change the spec once you have awarded the contract ..otherwise they have got you over a barrel.

- Med records are only like a version of Facebook ..so a school class should be able to build a version within 1 month.

Mar 10, 2015 at 9:54 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

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