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« The Left does abhorrence - Josh 321 | Main | BBC joins Guardian divestment campaign »

Climatologists and moral choices

Yesterday's posts seemed to generate quite a lot of heat, with several commenters reading rather more into them than they should. The object was not to blame climatologists for the actions that their climate models are used to justify, but to ask them what they thought about those actions. I had hoped that we might get some condemnation of the attempts to prevent Africans getting access to fossil fuels, but there was nothing along these lines.

As an aside, I should point out that it is my understanding that these attempts span more than just coal - it's the whole range of fossil fuels that politicians are now seeking to sideline, as this paper makes clear.

...under US Senate Bill S.329 (2013) the Overseas Private Investment Corporation – a federal agency responsible for backstopping U.S. companies which invest in developing countries – is essentially prohibited from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels...

Nevertheless, the question of whether climatologists should carry any blame for the use to which their climate models are put is an interesting one. Echoing commenters on the original thread, I certainly think we should not blame Sabatier when one of their carving knives is used to kill someone. A climate model is a virtual world. It is therefore entirely amoral. How could one possibly attach any blame to someone for the mere fact of having written some computer code (campaigns against computer games manufacturers notwithstanding)?

I think that climate models should be mere academic playthings, a guise in which they are entirely harmless. Moreover, there may even be a degree of cross-party agreement here: just a few days ago, Richard Betts commented that

...models are useful for understanding the climate system but cannot predict the future of climate, as it's just too complicated.

I certainly agree with the statement as written, although I think we disagree on the implications. I would argue that it implies that we should discount any virtual future coming out of the climate models very heavily, or even entirely. Richard, however, disagrees:

...for me, the very fact that we can't predict the results of our influence on climate is a reason for concern not comfort. I don't see convincing reasons to trust projections of small amounts of future warming any more than those of large warming - current understanding doesn't allow us to rule out either of these possibilities.

(Exactly how to respond to this concern is of course a further issue. Recognising that there is a risk does not mean that steps to reduce the risk are themselves easy or risk-free.)

In other words, Richard thinks we should not be discounting the climate predictions very much or even at all. He is there with the low-discount approach advocated by Lord Stern and others. One's choice of discount rate is a personal preference and a reflection of moral values, worldview and other things, so Richard and Lord Stern are entitled to make this choice. Many others - environmentalists and climatologists alike - make the same choice. They call for mitigation of climate change, repeatedly so, and they condemn those, like me, who dissent.

We need to examine carefully what is implied by calling for action. When presented with a problem like climate change we can do something or do nothing. As Lomborg repeatedly notes, if you do an old fashioned cost-benefit analysis and you discount the future in traditional fashion, it turns out that there are umpteen other humanitarian crises that should be addressed before the climate. For Lomborg, the answer is "do nothing" (or "do nearly nothing" - perhaps just some technological research).

But if your moral/ethical compass directs you to discount the future not at all then climate change in the distant future becomes the most pressing issue bar none. You should be mitigating climate change in any way you can; money should be diverted from helping people alive today to helping people yet to be born. You should be raising energy prices for everyone and you should be keeping fossil fuels out of the hands of poor people in the developing world. These things are unpleasant but are simply the road of least harm. It is not an immoral choice, although it is certainly different to the moral choice I would make.

So my message to climatologists is this. If you are quietly working away at your climate models and publishing your papers then no blame can attach to you. But if you are calling for mitigation of climate change and demanding that politicians leap into action, you have made your moral/ethical choices. You have assessed the alternatives; you have chosen your discount rate and it is a low one. And as I have just pointed out this necessarily means accepting more harm now in order to avoid harm in the future.

So when those present-day harms are pointed out to you, you must accept that they are the consequences of the choices you made.

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Reader Comments (213)

@Radical Mouse

I am truly sorry about shattering your dreams mate ^.^

Apr 19, 2015 at 6:24 PM | Registered CommenterDung

In my little comment which was sadly so unsettling for Radical Rat I suggested that what needed to change was politics. His Grace said:
"I had hoped that we might get some condemnation of the attempts to prevent Africans getting access to fossil fuels, but there was nothing along these lines."
How is it possible for anyone to deny fossil fuels to Africa without the agreement of its leaders? The African leaders are themselves not only responsible for the mess they are in but also for not solving the problems and they are well paid for that.

Apr 19, 2015 at 6:33 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I'd claim that what we are discussing now is not off-topic. It's the essence of the problem. The climate change alarmist's dilemma may be real, but it isn't a problem. Policy is the problem and needs to be addressed.

There is no limit to the potential of Africa except the limit imposed by its leadership. Those outside can't fix it.

Apr 19, 2015 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

We're drifting off-topic. What we in the west should or shouldn't do in aiding africa and the third world is an interesting subject, but only of tangential relevance here. What we're supposed to be discussing is the active blocking of avenues the third world can use to help themselves. Loans are being denied for the building of fossil fuelled power stations (loans are loans, not charity) purely as a result of campaigning by NGOs and others. It's all very well stating that the best way to help Africa is to leave it to Africans to do it themselves, but you should at least recognise that the rest of the world has to let them have the tools with which to do so. So, simple question: Are you in favour of allowing third world countries to use fossil fuels to drive improvements in their economies, health and lifestyles, or do you believe they should be forced to use other methods, even though that will inevitably lengthen the timescales of those sought for improvements?

Apr 19, 2015 at 6:56 PM | Registered CommenterLaurie Childs


Whilst I would agree with you about many of Africa's leaders, loans made by such as the World Bank are beyond their control. This is more to do with international financing.

Apr 19, 2015 at 7:01 PM | Registered CommenterLaurie Childs

The Medupi powerplant in South Africa, when completed, will be a 4800 MW monster. Medupi was opposed by the US, 'Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and Norway' at the World Bank, which however approved the ~$4 billion loan.

At approval, this is the US treasury:

"We expect that the World Bank will not bring forward similar coal projects from middle-income countries in the future without a plan to ensure there is no net increase in carbon emissions,"

This is Germany's KfW Bank's policy on loans for coal plants;

Projects will only be pursued in countries which have a national climate mitigation policy and strategy which is supported by a targeted policy to expand renewables and/or to enhance energy efficiency.

What is the implication of the US Treasury and KfW's statements? Countries that want loans for coal-fired power plants better open up and create mandatory renewable energy markets, i.e., an additional burden. The bank/s will lend only if a fraction of the productivity from the coal plants is diverted back toward inefficient energy systems.

(Interesting fact: The capacity of the Three Gorges dam in China is a mind-boggling 22,500 MW!)

Apr 19, 2015 at 7:13 PM | Registered Commentershub

Laurie Childs, simple question, should African nations be allowed to develop, using fossil fuels

Simple answer YES!

Obviously! (to me, anyway, I would not wish to use rhetoric, semantics, dodgy tricks, concocted allegations, false accusations, creative science, artistic licence etc. Not even a single tipping point, tripping point, or tripping joint.)

No polar bears have been damaged, in ripping this tripe.

I think, therefore I am ...... not a climate alarmist.

Apr 19, 2015 at 7:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

I don't see why the financing should, or can only, be done by the World Bank. I don't see how any of the current players are in a position to ask 'Should they be allowed to use fossil fuels?' except inasmuch as they have promoted themselves to be moral arbiters with absolutely no justification.

I do see trade with China, exchanging access to assets for development money, as a positive thing. Western aid with unreasonable conditions and careless distribution of money and influence has not worked.

Oh, in case it isn't clear, they ought to be able to use fossil fuels or anything else they can get. Who am I to even suggest they should not? I benefit immensely from the efforts of previous generations who built the world I live in in comfort. But when they did it they weren't thinking of me, they were doing the best they could in their own interest with whatever they had. Which is the solution for Africa.

Apr 19, 2015 at 7:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Rhoda, I absolutely agree, and now that China is offering the loans that the world bank won't, how long before the US loses its position as the worlds dominant power? China does not need to invade anywhere, and unlike the USSR, is not likely to go bust.

All because of Tiny CO2, and Dung!

Apr 19, 2015 at 7:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Obviously the scary thing about the Chinese, for climate science, is they may find the missing data, that was used by Phil Jones of UEA CRU to dimiss Urban Heat Island Effect, as a cause for recorded higher temperatures.

Obviously, if the Chinese did find their original data, it would blow a larger hole in UN IPCC credibility.

Obviously UEA CRU P Jones would denounce the rediscovered data as fake, but obviously that would be difficult to prove, as P Jones lost the original data, obviously.

Was the rhetoric obvious enough? I think the made up doggy data trod on my obvious key.

Apr 19, 2015 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Sorry to prick your bubble, Dung, but you have not unsettled me, just pleasantly surprised me. Generally, I have no argument with your opinions; it is only when you start applying your own…erm… particular… logic that I tend to drift away.

That said, the latter part of your last comment is yet another pleasant surprise. However, to get back on track, we should not be trying to solve the complex politics within Africa, but stop patronising them with aid and start encouraging them with trade.

Apr 19, 2015 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Quite right, RR.

African nations can quite legitimately turn around and ask the US and Europeans (and others) to stop running a rigged world market in food production which makes use of large fossil fuel-derived inputs. A protectionist market which is rigged against poor third world farmers for domestic political reasons of the industrialised nations. Western hypocrisy must sometimes appear breathtaking.

Apr 19, 2015 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

michael hart, but Progressives only do it for their own good. That is the Progressives own good, I am not sure they care about the poor and needy, unless they can blame their deaths on Big Oil.

Hence some of the faux outrage over the word moral, in the thread title. They have no concept of what it means.

Apr 20, 2015 at 12:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Mike Jackson: ‘So it is not unreasonable to ask the climate science community whether or not they agree with the environmental stance that Africa should be denied access to fossil fuels.’

Radical Rodent: ‘do you think it immoral that people who have all the benefits that ready access to affordable energy can give should actively discourage those who do not have such benefits the right to gaining their own affordable energy?’

Both of you are simply reiterating the original loaded question. No informed discussion can follow such a demand.

If you are suggesting a conversation about the best form of development for the third world, then you would be inviting a discussion, one that even third-worlders could take part in.

Apr 20, 2015 at 1:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Golf Charlie: ‘Brendon H why both? Especially when anybody else can look it up just as easily as you.’

What is the ‘both’, and what is the ‘it’ you want me to look up?

Apr 20, 2015 at 1:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Lord Beaverbrook: ‘You really must be attending the most 'swell' parties.’

Some, not all. One of the swellest would have to be Her Majesty’s garden bash with a select group of 3000 others.

She stopped by to say a couple of words. I did not understand either of them.

Apr 20, 2015 at 1:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Ben Pile: ‘Hoping that a discussion would result in a condemnation doesn't preclude a discussion.’

No problem with people inviting a discussion even if the desired end-point is the unmasking of one’s opponent.

But the original question does not invite discussion. It is a rhetorical question, merely a device where third-world suffering is used as a sledgehammer to force acquiescence.

Apr 20, 2015 at 1:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Funny, I can answer the original question. Loaded or not, I just do not see a reason to divert the discussion to parsing the question. I see that as mere avoidance. The question is legit. If you don't accept the premise, you can argue that.

Personally I'd like a better chain from climate policy to poor people burning dung. I think that is arguable.

Apr 20, 2015 at 2:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

michael hart

African nations can quite legitimately turn around and ask the US and Europeans (and others) to stop running a rigged world market in food production
Which is, of course, another aspect of the problem but there's only so much I could put into one comment without boring you all to tears.
We are supposedly opening up trade throughout the world by doing away with tariff barriers but the US and the EU insist that their barriers (or some of them) need to remain, the usual excuse being to avoid dumping. While the EU was for a long time subsidising the export of its surplus agricultural products ... which I always thought was dumping, but what would I know?

Brendan H
Do stop talking rubbish. You simply make yourself look ridiculous. The question as posed was quite simple. NGOs (and western governments and their agencies) are dictating to Africa what feedstock they are to be allowed to use to generate electricity. Do you approve of that course of action or not? There is nothing "loaded" about it and there is nothing in the question that prevents discussion.
The reason you don't like the subject being raised at all is because climate science has turned it into a "have you stopped beating your wife?" question and you're wriggling.
I'm happy to say 'no' and argue my corner.
I'm sure there are people out there who would answer 'yes' and be prepared to argue theirs.
You've all got yourself into the position where whatever your answer you're going to take stick from one side or the other. That's not the fault of the question; that's the fault of those who see climate science in terms of "my way or no way".

Apr 20, 2015 at 8:44 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Brendan H,

I suspect that is why you are out of touch with the real world......
The question only seems loaded to you because it makes you reassess your belief, the rest of us find it quite a simple question with a very simple yes or no answer, it requires very little thought along the lines of other such:

Do you love your partner?
Would you give a close friend money if they needed it?
If you saw someone get injured would you help?
Would you die to keep your child alive?

Apr 20, 2015 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

These faux-greens won't answer the question simply because they can't perceive themselves as ever being morally wrong. In their blinkered, sanctimonious, 2-variable, linear world of right and wrong where any big business is always wrong by definition, such a thing simply cannot be possible. Therefore their defence mechanism is to avoid even thinking about it at all and painting the other side as bad simply for trying to make them think about the moral consequences of their actions. Exactly the same juvenile attitude was displayed by right-wingers over the Iraq war. In both cases the big ignored question was/is; "just how many people have to die to achieve this desired endpoint"?

But why start and stop at the Africans? The poor in this country are going to feel the full brunt of the barmy UK energy policy pdq.

There is a clear ideological divide whereby the right-leaning prefer to believe that government action and taxation makes everything worse while the left-leaning prefer to believe that big business and over-consumption are the real root problems. Neither gives an inch lest the other side takes a mile. This is why a fairly simple science-based question of hypothesis versus reality has morphed into a truly pathetic war of the flawed dogmata of left versus right. If both sides think just a little bit harder then there is a very easy common path we can follow. Alas common sense will never break out because it is never so common and the only game-changer will be a drop in temperature.

Apr 20, 2015 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Brendan: you are telling us an awful lot about yourself, and not much of it seems pleasant. You have been invited to a Garden Party (“Be impressed that I can mix with such nobs!”), but you have a low opinion of the Queen (“Be impressed that I have met our head of state, and can say that I did not find her impressive!”). Rather sad, really.

As to the question: you say it is “Loaded”. As Lord Beaverbrook has said, is it? And, even if it is, so what? Why do you fear that? Because you feel you ought to say, “Yes,” but but feel it should be, “No”?

The reason the question that you are studiously avoiding answering is loaded is that the entire situation is loaded: “greens” of all shades insist that Africa should not be allowed to develop cheap forms of energy, yet claim that they are doing it for the benefit of Africa. Even more ironic is the insistence that what energy they be allowed should be “renewable”, which is not only horrendously expensive – in other words, outside the price of the general populace (as it still is in the western world, too. How odd…) – but does quite monumental damage to the environment that the “greens” insist they are dedicated to preserving.

Now, recover some credibility, and just answer the question (whichever version you want) with a simple yes or no, with no codicils.

Apr 20, 2015 at 10:18 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent


illustrates the situation very well.

"And as fear of starvation fades, Aba Hawi faces new demands. "People want electricity now," he sighs. "

Apr 20, 2015 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Lord Beaverbrook: ‘The question only seems loaded to you because it makes you reassess your belief...’

I have no blanket opposition to the use of fossil fuels by the third world, and nor do I have any fixed beliefs about energy development in the third world.

As for ‘a simple question’, I count at least four to date. So I will add to the total and ask one of my own: What are the most effective ways of meeting the energy needs of the third-world poor?

In my view, that sort of question would provide a much more fruitful discussion, and also provide a lot more information than the simplistic questions posed above.

Apr 20, 2015 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Radical Rodent: ‘Brendan: you are telling us an awful lot about yourself, and not much of it seems pleasant.’

Radical, you are assuming ‘an awful lot’. Just as the various questions presuppose an awful lot.

Apr 20, 2015 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Brendan H, if you really can't see anything wrong, despite reading this thread, I would suggest that your concept of 'moral' means you are over qualified to become an arms dealer. Try to avoid the humanities.

Apr 20, 2015 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Brendan H, what about your assumption of a provable link between global warming and CO2?

You can quote all the links you like, but the Hockey Stick Graph just looks like a fossilised relic of a bygone age.

Apr 20, 2015 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Golf Charlie

Try to avoid the humanities.
But politics should be OK, I reckon —
I have no blanket opposition to the use of fossil fuels by the third world, and nor do I have any fixed beliefs about energy development in the third world.
I'll be charitable and call that an answer because what Brendan is saying is that deep down he does not agree with the West (government or NGO) holding a gun to the heads of the poor in any part of the world to stop them making their own decisions about their futures.
At least I think that's what he is saying.
But then the question remains, why not just come out and say that — no, we should not be telling Africans how to live their lives. Trouble is that the eco-activists' raison d'être (or one of them) is just that: to tell people how to run their lives according to the Gospel of Green. They can't help themselves.

PS I've been to the Royal Garden Party at Holyrood twice! So?

Apr 20, 2015 at 11:47 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

If you don't really understand energy and metabolism of countries but want to mess with them anyway, what difference do your intentions make? As Mike Jackson points out, the greens might have been drawn to environmentalism and climate activism because of a tendency to tell other people how to run their lives. You just pretend backwards - that you are forced to tell people how to run their lives because of the science.

Apr 20, 2015 at 12:05 PM | Registered Commentershub

Brendan H

I'm amused by your attempts to convince me that I have asked a loaded/complex question. I have not said anything like "Only a bad person would be believe X,Y,Z about policy ABC". I have asked for an opinion. If I asked you for your view of ISIS, it would no more assume that you supported them than anything I have said assumes you or anyone else supports the policy on fossil fuel investments.

Nevertheless, if you really still think it's a complex question, take a look at the Wiki page on the subject which advises on how to respond to complex questions. It advises that one should deny whatever it is that is assumed in the question. So if you think I am making an unwarranted assumption that you support bans on FF investments in the developing world, all you have to do is say "I think the policy is wrong/bad/abhorrent".

Apr 20, 2015 at 12:39 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Mike Jackson '...... but why not just come out and say that?'

Possibly because that would mean accepting responsibility for failed political and economic doctrines.

And then, of course, there's the physics, which seems to have got it wrong too.

Apr 20, 2015 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Brendan: the original question does not invite discussion. It is a rhetorical question, merely a device where third-world suffering is used as a sledgehammer to force acquiescence.

It hasn't invited discussion? And yet there was Ken Rice, and the man dressed as a rabbit speaking in the third person, and here you are, discussing it. But using it, it seems, to try to say the topic of debate is AM's bad faith, not the issue he raises.

Suffering in the third world has been used as a 'sledgehammer to force acquiescence' in the climate debate, especially in the run up to Copenhagen. One claim was that 150,000 people die a year from the consequences of climate change. It was used heavily by the UN, by many big NGOs and campaigning organisations, in the media, across campuses, and Gordon Brown used it in an attempt to mobilise public support for climate policy, and to the delegations at the COP meeting.

I was fairly sure that the use of this figure reflects the bad faith of those involved -- their intellectual dishonesty, their moral cowardice and historical illiteracy and their self-deception. I found it to be a cynical and instrumental use of other people's suffering -- a kind of moral blackmail.

But in order to say something about the organisations and individuals making use of this figure, I had to take issue with the figure itself. I wrote dozens of articles about poverty and climate, and how preoccupation with climate causes poverty to become misconceived as a natural process, how the putative consequences of climate change were in fact lower-order consequences of poverty, and that intervening to protect people from climate change would yield much less benefit than good, old fashioned unsustainable development.

Environmentalists ignored it.

Seven years on, and having had no meaningful discussion with anyone of a green persuasion about that green, statistics-abuse and moral blackmail, behind the green hijacking of development issues, I see your complaint as simple prevarication. There is a debate to be had about development and environmentalism, and three is resistance to it because it embarrasses environmentalists. The easiest way for members of a movement which is better known for its explicit misanthropy than for its good faith is to try to put the moral question mark back over the head of the questioner.

It is axiomatic that environmentalism is actively anti human. Even the term 'sustainable development' -- the central stated policy objective of environmentalists -- is an explicit caveat on development as such, or an injunction to limit it, necessarily.

Hence, those erstwhile environmentalists who have, finally, realised that environmentalism's anti-human, anti-technology, and anti-progress character, have now established themselves apart from environmentalism, as eco-modernists, as 'new environmentalists', and having declared 'the death of environmentalism'. Andrew does not need to defend himself for criticism of greens which has long been understood as a question they have avoided.

Apr 20, 2015 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Brendan H

I have no blanket opposition to the use of fossil fuels by the third world, and nor do I have any fixed beliefs about energy development in the third world.

See that wasn't so hard now was it, position ascertained with an eloquent answer.

"What are the most effective ways of meeting the energy needs of the third-world poor?"

A more complex question requiring more than a yes/no answer dependent upon knowledge of where the third-world poor were situated but as a rule my answer would be;

Coal or gas fired electricity plant provided by a Chinese growth loan with no green strings attached. Obviously a generality as it would be too much for small Island nations, but you get the idea.


Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to unveil a $46 billion infrastructure spending plan in Pakistan that is a centerpiece of Beijing’s ambitions to open new trade and transport routes across Asia and challenge the U.S. as the dominant regional power. The largest part of the project would provide electricity to energy-starved Pakistan, based mostly on building new coal-fired power plants.

Don't know all the detail but this is the sort of thing!

Apr 20, 2015 at 1:19 PM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Lord Beaverbrook, it is amazing how communist China has reinvented itself, and is set to assume the role of the world's dominant power, made possible by deluded (arrogant?) attempts by the developed West, to maintain peasant lifestyles, for foreigners.

Children who won't touch the mealtime Greens, forced on them by adults at home, school and the BBC, may be onto something.

Obviously none of this progress could have been made, if the Chineses had kept holding faith with the wisdom of Chairman Mao, when all the peasants wete so happy with their impoverished lifestyles.

Apr 20, 2015 at 2:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Ben Pile

Wot you sed!

Apr 20, 2015 at 3:28 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Golf Charlie,

Their influence is rapidly spreading especially now that they are such a huge manufacturing base. Markets are required to keep the growth. Don't know how Communist that is but they intend to lead the world,

Apr 20, 2015 at 3:53 PM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

You are all putting words in Brendan H's mouth but it's clear to me that he hasn't even thought about the question; He would rather it was rephrased first. Clearly there is nothing on realclimate or sKs that can be parroted in the endearing way that the faux-greens answer so many of these tough questions. If pressed, Gavin would no doubt loftily say (as he has before) that their mission is only to warn of CO2 levels but its for the rest of us to decide how to reduce them. Governments must surely 'act' but exactly how they act to perform this magic is not really the concern of scientists.

Apr 20, 2015 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Lord Beaverbrook, I am not sure about the politics either. But it is amazing how much progress China has made, without Green NGO's present to advise them, how to do everything better.

The Chinese block vote, by the time of Paris, may have risen faster than ever before, and it will be difficult to adjust the votes of the hungry, when asked to support starvation as a western policy.

Apr 20, 2015 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

JamesG, "....... we are all putting questions in his mouth ......"

Well possibly yes. But whilst there is a Wikipedia entry for Loaded Questions, that coincedently mentions Gotchas as a means of rebuttal, most of us have been expressing what we think, sometimes quoting other people.

I only looked at Wiki Loaded Questions, because I thought I misunderstood, or had missed something obvious. I had. It was almost as though Realty Climatology had written it to defend themselves, against attacks on their moral integrity.

Obviously RC have a bit of form at Wikipedia, having recognised (correctly) its power.

Apr 20, 2015 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Apologies, Reality Climatology, not Realty.

I would not wish to slur the name of Realtors, unless they are profiteering out of property prices, artificially depressed by false claims of sea level rise. I think there is a precedent for that in the US, if that is how you spell it.

Apr 20, 2015 at 6:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

May I ask just exactly who Brendan is?

Apr 20, 2015 at 9:26 PM | Registered CommenterDung

It is possible that this discussion will become academic. The new China Development Bank is likely to be enthusiastic about funding the nuclear, fossil, and hydro projects that western environmental groups have over 30 years pressured western governments and financial organizations (IMF, World Bank) to not fund. See:

It seems to me that the idea that developing countries should accept electricity needs far below those of places like Bulgaria is a form of imperialism, and is viewed that way. The near stampede to join China's new bank suggests the hunger for cheap electricity and corollary economic development.

Apr 20, 2015 at 10:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

John 10:14 bizarre isn't it, that western green/lefts have had it in for anything tinged with imperialist capitalism, and have used those tactics to impose their glorious vision on the rest of the world, only for the Chinese to recognise that to be genuinely progressive, does mean offering people what they want.

Applying the Precautionary Principle, and hence deliberately choosing to ignore all the 'helpful' advice, as a precaution, about what not to do, seems to have done them some good.

Apr 20, 2015 at 11:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

The US is likely to play divide-and-conquer, dangling the IMF Chair in front of India, whose current Reserve Bank chairman Raghuram Rajan is a former Chicago School of Economics guy, former IMF and apparently next-in-line. China and India don't play very well together.

Apr 21, 2015 at 12:43 AM | Registered Commentershub

May I draw EVERYONE'S attention to the important comment ..


Apr 21, 2015 at 12:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterPlanetaryPhysicsGroiup

shub " .... China and India don't play together very well"

Playing together peacefully is less likely now that China and Pakistan have decided to invite each other for sleepovers.

No more incursions into Pakistani airspace for US Special Forces.

More sleepovers in Pakistan for those who need a safe place to hide.

Unintended consequences, of declaring CO2 World Enemy No 1.

Meanwhile Climate Alarmists keep themselves busy trying to flog polar bears to death.

Apr 21, 2015 at 1:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Bishop Hill: ‘So if you think I am making an unwarranted assumption that you support bans on FF investments in the developing world, all you have to do is say "I think the policy is wrong/bad/abhorrent".

Appreciate the tip, Bishop, but the issue is the assumption that taking a particular position on fossil fuel use in the developed world is ineluctable evidence of moral monstrosity.

Absent that assumption, you have a genuine question.

Apr 21, 2015 at 1:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Ben Pile: ‘I was fairly sure that the use of this figure reflects the bad faith of those involved -- their intellectual dishonesty, their moral cowardice and historical illiteracy and their self-deception.’

These are standard accusations that you see across the internet, including on this blog.

In fact, a large number of establishment characters have been paraded across Bishop Hill as examples of swinish self-indulgence, sleaze and corruption. Since I’m not very familiar with most of these people – peers, politicians, scientists, corporate and media types, etc – they have no resonance with me and so I cannot confirm or deny their perfidy.

Nevertheless, given the distribution of human traits, it’s unlikely the UK establishment can be so riddled with swinish chancers. I take a similarly sceptical attitude to your broad-brush claims about the anti-humanism, intellectual dishonesty, cynicism and moral cowardice of your enemies.

For what it’s worth, I take the same attitude to anybody – including environmentalists – who paint their foes in such Manichean terms.

Apr 21, 2015 at 1:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Lord Beaverbrook: ‘Coal or gas fired electricity plant provided by a Chinese growth loan with no green strings attached. Obviously a generality as it would be too much for small Island nations, but you get the idea.’

Thanks for that. So there you go. With a properly worded question, you’ve got the start of a conversation.

Apr 21, 2015 at 1:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Environmentalists are not the 'enemies' or 'foes' of climate skeptics. It is also quite possible that establishments of all stripes are riddled with swinish characters. What sceptic goes 'oh, there must be some good people there so I'll take what they say at face value'? Secondly, why do you assume questioning your opponent about energy supply to Africa would automatically put him or her in a fix? Aren't renewable energy sources capable of providing abundant, cheap and clean already on the market? Isn't that the official line? Why would blocking access to coal be a dirty question?

As must be evident from a quick review of the latest news on coal plant financing, this is no more an abstract issue whose relevance extends to how bad you can paint your opponents to be. Real decisions involving real power projects have been made for about 4-5 years based on this philosophy. The US government is now faces a backlash and its strategy dubbed a foreign policy failure on this account (don't take my word for it, see Foreign Policy). You still want to pretend this is all just the Bishop painting his 'enemies' bad?

The point is there's no subtlety involved: sure, if there were some anti-greenhouse gas produced by unicorns just as good as oil or coal we'd all be using it, but there isn't and the next best thing is available. Why on earth would a sceptic tiptoe around a rhetorical minefield criss-crossed by the tripwires of environmental correctness to figure out the 'right question to ask' climate activists? The activists ought to know the right answer.

Despite your posturing the reality is, the question has plagued the UNFCCC since its inception. As it flowed out of its Malthusian roots, the first leaders tried to imply global food supplies would be threatened by ever-increasing population in the third world. The early science, controversially, attempted to pin blame on Indian paddy field methane emissions for global warming. Stung and suspicious, India and China fell back on the "historical emissions" and "common but differentiated responsibilities" doctrine. The reason developing countries participate in the FCCC is the prospect of extracting 'reparation', the participatory pressure of preventing decisions made about their economic futures in absentia (re fossil fuel access) and the possibility of technology transfer. The central purported question - of solving global warming - is simply thrown off to the next year/session/meeting, because there is no answer.

Anthropogenic global warming is a question that has no answer. It does not matter how well the question is asked.

Apr 21, 2015 at 2:56 AM | Registered Commentershub

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