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« Defusing the methane bomb | Main | Gary Yohe's fictional citation »
Monday
Aug172015

The wit and wisdom of Dr Glikson

A few days ago, there was a rather good article in the Conversation about fossil fuels and development. Written by Jonathan Symons, it covered themes that are favourites at BH, most notably that there is a trade-off between expanding access to electricity in the developing world and emissions targets:

...if the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation were allowed to invest in natural gas projects (not just renewables) it could roughly triple the number of people who gained electricity access from a US$10 billion investment. Whereas a renewables-only portfolio could supply 30 million people, natural gas could reach 90 million and generate around ten times as much electricity.

The comments thread featured a series of critical responses from Andrew Glikson, an Australian geologist who has caught the eye before, most notably when he protested the willingness of an Australian theatre to put on a performance of Richard Bean's The Heretic. This earlier thread also bears looking at. The thrust of his comments can be summarised as "But climate", but they are worth looking at in more detail because Dr Glikson has some truly astonishing views:

A very large part of the poor populations referred to in the article live in low river valleys and delta prone to flooding extreme rainfall, torrents originating from mountain regions and sea level rise, as is the case of mega-floods in Pakistan, Bangladesh and low-lying islands, associated with climate change. The “option” of developing higher standards of living based on fossil fuels is therefore short sighted and no more than a Faustian bargain....

One can take issue with the moral framework that finds it acceptable to let people die now in order that their wealthier grandchildren don't suffer, but for the moment let us note that Glikson seems unaware that the land area of Bangladesh and many coral atolls are currently growing. Pakistan has experienced floods for ever and a day.

Many comments in this blog do not appear to appreciate the catastrophic consequences of runaway global warming. Solar, wind and tide energy-generating technologies, including modern battery storage, have reached a level of sophistication, as well as becoming increasingly economic, so that no justification can be made for the continuing destruction of the climate and thereby of agriculture and the essential conditions for survival of humans, not least in poor regions of the world.

Glikson is therefore also unaware that the IPCC has ruled out the possibility of "runaway global warming" being caused by mankind. His grasp of economics seems equally shaky, since the idea of something being "increasingly economic" is a concept akin to someone being "increasingly pregnant". Either it's cheaper/uses fewer resources or it is not (and of course in the case of wind and solar they are not even close to being cheaper).

A further note: The common argument as if the use of coal and oil would serve the well being of poor populations is to be doubted. More likely the export of fossil fuels would serve the profits of the wealthy, fossil fuel corporations and their share holders. The common argument as if solar, wind and tide utilities are “not economic” is false as the decentralized nature of these utilities ideally serves poor populations in terms of employment and energy production.

Ensconsed in his mashed potato mound of Marxist wishful thinking, Dr Glikson has no doubt been unaware that there is a subject called "economics", the earliest adherents of which noted the connection between the profit motive and societal benefits. From a Glikson standpoint it is no doubt also easy to ignore the state of countries that have tried to eschew the profit motive - Venezuela and North Korea spring to mind. It is also presumably equally simple for him to ignore tricky questions such as what is motivating the solar, wind and tide utilities if not their profits, or how the poor are going to afford to pay for wind and solar power as well as conventional backup. But this is a man who can blank out the millions who are dying from indoor air pollution in the developing world, so compartmentalisation of knowledge seems to come naturally.

Still, there is one area on which Dr Glikson's thoughts seem unassailable:

In the absence of close adherence to the scientific evidence, pontifications regarding solutions resemble recommendations made to medical specialists by those unacquainted with medical science. 

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Reader Comments (42)

The other error Dr Glikson makes is to assume that, as the Great Wise White man, he can tell the natives what to do.

If the Third World asks for the aid in the form of fossil fuels so as they can adapt instead of just hope it mitigates, why not listen to them? Are they considered less human because they are less rich?
The whole approach is so patronising; it ignores local knowledge.

However, I do dissent from our host over this phrase,

Ensconsed in his mashed potato mound of Marxist wishful thinking, Dr Glikson has no doubt been unaware that there is a subject called "economics",

One thing Marxists are well aware of is that there is a subject called "economics". Indeed, historically a fairer criticism may be that Marxists have over-emphasised "economics" over other means of understanding the people.

Aug 17, 2015 at 11:57 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

So in short his attitude is - we'll always have the poor and they'll always be poor, so why bother trying to do anything for them. I'm on the bus, ding the bell.

Pointman

Aug 17, 2015 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

...In the absence of close adherence to the scientific evidence, pontifications regarding solutions resemble recommendations made to medical specialists by those unacquainted with medical science. ...

I'm not even sure that that is true. I may be unacquainted with medical science, but I have a reasonable idea of the outcome I would expect from a clinical procedure, and I am quite capable of presenting that requirement to a medical specialist.

The newspapers occasionally report instances of, typically, mothers requesting medical support for children who are ill but whose illness is not initially recognised by the first-stage medical triage system. In such cases the 'generalist' can sometimes see the issues and the requirements more plainly than the specialist. And, whatever the case, mistaken or not, the generalist position is at least held honestly.

But Climate Change has passed through the phase where proponents of AGW can be seen as mistaken, and is now at the stage where they are either criminally fraudulent or have given up thinking entirely and are simply mouthing meaningless arguments pre-constructed by someone else in order to gain newspaper space.

Aug 17, 2015 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

"Solar, wind and tide energy-generating technologies, including modern battery storage, have reached a level of sophistication,"

1925 POD: Sophisticated - corrupt & adulterated! Says it all!

Aug 17, 2015 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

From the late Anthony Kelly:
Energy sources that are not based on fossil fuels make power and food – both of vital importance for the poor – more expensive and more difficult to obtain. The world is being urged to go much faster than necessary to combat the exhaustion of fossil fuels. The environment may be preserved by many actions without placing prime emphasis on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. In the long term the human race may have to replace fossil fuels as an energy source, but not at present.

The changes imposed thus far have not dealt with the risks of climate change through a sensible, steady and sustained improvement in energy and other technologies and have therefore failed to address the problems of the here and now, of which the abject poverty of large numbers of people is perhaps the most pressing. In this, the consequences of the Kyoto Protocol have been immoral
http://www.thegwpf.org/anthony-kelly-climate-policy-and-the-poor/

Aug 17, 2015 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraigM350ppm

Pakistan's rivers get zero or little dredging so annual sedimentation increases flood levels, given similar rain/snow melt. bangladesh is built on the largest river delta/aluvial fan on the planet. Sedimentation ensures that the land grows every year, but the increased weight of this sediment means more dewatering and compression of lower aluvium. This means annual floods.
Both these processes are blamed, incorrectly, on global warming

Aug 17, 2015 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

A further note: The common argument as if the use of coal and oil would serve the well being of poor populations is to be doubted. More likely the export of fossil fuels would serve the profits of the wealthy, fossil fuel corporations and their share holders. The common argument as if solar, wind and tide utilities are “not economic” is false as the decentralized nature of these utilities ideally serves poor populations in terms of employment and energy production.
Pure C+ A-Level drivel!
How many of us can honestly say, hand on heart, that we didn't churn out this sort of stuff in sixth-form essays because a) it sounded profound, b) it hid the fact (we thought) that we didn't know what we were talking about?
Nobody, but nobody, believes that runaway global warming is possible (or it would have happened millennia ago) and WTF does "destroying the climate" mean?
Fail!

Aug 17, 2015 at 1:16 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

M Courtney

Are they considered less human because they are less rich?

At the risk of courting controversy or falling foul of the thought police, the answer to your question is "no, dey is less human 'cos dey is black." Or at the very least a different colour from Glikson. I'm sorry to say it but a lot of the arguments underpinning the economics of climate are (intentionally or otherwise) racist in their effect if not their conception.

Aug 17, 2015 at 1:21 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Seven million people, so far, have taken a UN poll.

"The top three were ‘better education’, ‘better healthcare’ and ‘better job opportunities.’

"Last on the list was ‘action taken on climate change’. "

https://thelukewarmersway.wordpress.com/2015/08/15/7764300-people-vote-climate-change-off-the-island/

Aug 17, 2015 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

There are some other, quite choice comments made on that article (my bold):

Sorry, Dr Symons, but there is no such thing as a trade-off when you’re dealing with earth’s climate; you may not appreciate this, but nature doesn’t do deals - which means we can be absolutely certain that sea levels will rise by ~20 m if atmospheric CO2 remains at present levels for more than a couple of centuries - let alons if we are so deadset stupid as to actually add to atmospheric CO2 by burning more fossil fuels. [sic]
I wonder if David Arthur (for it be he) blames his disability for his continuing burning of fossil fuels? Also, I wonder where he gets his data, of which he is so dead-set certain?

Aug 17, 2015 at 1:27 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical

I'm not sure the writer has any conception of what a trade-off is. The answer to his point is therefore "In that case the Africans must die".

Aug 17, 2015 at 1:33 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"Solar, wind and tide energy-generating technologies, including modern battery storage, have reached a level of sophistication, as well as becoming increasingly economic ..."

Yeah, my watch is solar powered, and solar lanterns are great, and where would satellites be without it.

Aug 17, 2015 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

A very large part of the poor populations referred to in the article live in low river valleys and delta prone to flooding extreme rainfall, torrents originating from mountain regions and sea level rise, as is the case of mega-floods in Pakistan, Bangladesh ...

Dr Glikson could have substituted "New Orleans" for "Pakistan" etc.. If the Americans had abandoned fossil fuels before the end of the 20th century would that stop storm surges in the Mississippi Delta or prevent the Mississippi from bursting through the levees after heavy rain inland?

Aug 17, 2015 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

@Mike Jackson, totally agree. It's what I call environmental colonialism, though patrician racism would describe it better.

Why the developing world hates environmentalists.

Pointman

Aug 17, 2015 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

[Snip - raise the tone please]

The consequences of global warming, whether from natural or anthropogenic factors, do not in themselves identify the origin of climate change, it is the identification of the external forcings which does, i.e. solar, volcanic or anthropogenic. JN’s information regarding the troposphere hot spot (2006) is outdated. More recent studies (Sherwood et al., 2008) have identified the troposphere hot spot (see Figure 1), stating “stronger warming is shown in the Northern Hemisphere where sampling is best”


"identified the troposphere hot spot" - where.....on - Venus maybe? "Stronger warming in the Northern Hemisphere" - what is he on?

And this:

[...] Clouds follow the laws of atmospheric physics and chemistry, which climate science investigates. As in other fields of science and technology, credibility lies with the respective experienced authorities and is protected, as much as humanly possible, by the peer review system, which attempts to ensure publications are consistent with the data base, direct field observations, correct calculations and the basic laws of physics and chemistry.

The CRU E-mails. Play the ball not the man. That individual scientists used terms in personal E-mails, or objected to publication of what in their view are unfounded claims, as part of the peer review process, hardly reflect on the scientific discipline as a whole and in no way detract from the overwhelming reality of ice melting, sea level rise, the polar-ward shift in climate zones, the increasing frequency of droughts and extreme weather events around the globe.

It will be interesting to know what amount of direct observations and physical and chemical evidence for the past and present behaviour of the atmosphere-ocean-cryosphere system would convince societies to pause before continuing to use the atmosphere as an open channel for the emission of some 8 billion tons of carbon per year.

My bold.

"The CRU E-mails. Play the ball not the man" WTF?

As Pointman avers, Glikson sounds like some pompous patrician, like some colonial governor pronouncing slowly to the piccannies "foss-il fu-well bad, HENCEFORTH -you WILL build big whirlgigs make shinee lampee...some-of-the-timeee."

Sheeesh! I give up, that guy Glikson gives me the megrims.

Aug 17, 2015 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Mike Jackson on Aug 17, 2015 at 1:16 PM
"How many of us can honestly say, hand on heart, that we didn't churn out this sort of stuff in sixth-form essays ..."

I didn't! Writing essays? You must be joking!

Aug 17, 2015 at 2:36 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

[Snip - raise the tone please]

Aug 17, 2015 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernd Felsche

Sometimes I just want to say 'no' to warmists. No arguments, no justifications, just 'no'. They live in insulated little bubbles that assume that sooner or later somebody is going to make the recalcitrant public do as they're told. 'No.'

Aug 17, 2015 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I googled Andrew Glikson, and it says he teaches Anthropology/Archaeology at ANU, not geology. Explains why he's a Marxist, not at all qualified to talk Climate Science.

Aug 17, 2015 at 3:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterEric Gisin

If Bangladeshis/Pakistanis had had access to fossil-fuel power they would not have had to burn such a great quantity of the trees that were helping to consolidate the land in the upper reaches of their flood plains. Just a thought.

Aug 17, 2015 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

I've been to Bangladesh rather a lot in the last few years and with every cyclone there is less human damage (although since there is more material damage they are probably 'counted' as being more devastating each time). The biggest reason is concrete: Concrete shelters for people and their belongings which withstand the wind, rain and flooding so that deaths are a small fraction of what would have occurred just 10 or 20 years ago. Similarly, recovery is much quicker because the infrastructure is in pace to protect vital machinery and get supplies in to affected areas.

The power still goes down regularly in Dhaka, but the same cyclones that are killing tens of thousands in Myanmar result in a few hundred deaths in Bangladesh and cause barely a blip in the economic cycle. Bangladesh has about 150 million very hard-working people who are dragging themselves further out of poverty with each successive generation. That is what development means and the Glickson's of the world are scared of it!

Aug 17, 2015 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

Glikson has apparently fingered man's Original Sin as the discovery of fire, leading directly to runaway climate change.

“ It would take a species possessing absolute wisdom and total control to prevent its own inventions from getting out of hand.”
“Planeticide emerges from the dark recesses of the prehistoric mind, from the fears of humans watching the flames round camp fires, yearning for immortality.” (Quoted by Tim Flannery in reviewing "Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon") http://kayak4earth.com/flannery-reviews-glikson/

Kayak4earth Ltd. which has (mostly) dragged a kayak across Australia, will accept donations to help paddle (but mostly fly) the kayak to Paris to protest global warming.

Aug 17, 2015 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterBetapug

Oh JHC!

He does not even bother to hide his religious/Omen type catastrophe view of Climate Change:-

"Trends and tipping points in the climate system: portents for the 21st century."

See - Projects in Progress

http://cci.anu.edu.au/researchers/view/andrew_glikson/

Looks like it was Homo sapiens fault as soon as we discovered fire as well .................

I wonder if in the future people like this monumental pillock who stop the developing world from having electricity will be happy to stand up to the accusation that NOT getting power to people costs lives.

After all - the Alarmists regularly want to string us sceptics up by the balls on the spurious notion that we have committed a "future crime" by simply questioning their dogma.

If the opportunity cost of NOT getting power to people via fossil fuels is now being assessed - then I would say that the "boot" is VERY much on the other foot now.

Aug 17, 2015 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

Vested self-interest? Glikson makes his living peddling the CAGW meme, see http://cci.anu.edu.au/researchers/view/andrew_glikson/

Aug 17, 2015 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndre

Andre, just because a man has sought to earn his living from something doesn't mean he wouldn't believe it unpaid.
It may well be that he fulfils that vocation just because he does believe it.
In fact, it may be a sign of integrity.

Not sure I can explain Dana working for an oil company though.

Aug 17, 2015 at 4:39 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

As stated Glikson has "previous".

How much longer must we listen to these second-rate "academics", pearls of wisdom?

Is there no sanction that can be imposed on serial liars, like Glikson?

Aug 17, 2015 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

One of several adverse effects of the headstrong headlong expansion of universities is the associated dilution of the concentration of strong, penetrating minds in them. In the olden days a sophist like Glikson would have had a far higher chance of having his guff shredded mercilessly during some tea break or other. With climate science related departments being flooded with money for the right views from the right people, his chances of being corrected in that way have been reduced even further. The more we are dumbed down, the more scope there is for charlatans, sophists, and suchlike opportunists to find a paying-pulpit for their blethers, and to avoid criticism.

Aug 17, 2015 at 6:53 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Perhaps Dr Glikson, Anthropologist, should do a little research in, well, Anthropology.

http://www.timemaps.com/civilization-ancient-india2

"The Indus Valley civilization of ancient India was one of the earliest civilizations in world history. It was located in the north-western region of the Indian subcontinent, and its rise and fall form the first great chapter in the history of ancient India. The Indus Valley civilization covered most of what is today Pakistan and the Indian states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab.

An extensive canal network, used for irrigation, has been discovered in the vicinity of the city of Lothal, near the coast of western India; and it is almost certain, given the vast floods that the Indus river can inflict, that other cities would have had extensive water control systems.

The advanced architecture and construction techniques of the Indus cities is shown by their impressive dockyards, granaries, warehouses, brick platforms, and protective walls. Their massive walls were probably designed to protect them as much from floods as from attack.

The Decline of the Indus Valley civilization

It was once widely accepted that Indus Valley cities were the victims of assaults by Aryan (Indo-European) nomadic invaders from central Asia. However, archaeological evidence seems to suggest a gradual decline, during the middle centuries of the 2nd millennium B.C. The later layers of building at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, as well as at other sites, show a marked deterioration in the quality of construction.

The causes of that decline are disputed. It is probable that a combination of factors were involved. Severe flooding may have been a factor. Some modern scholars suggest long-term changes in the climate. Shifts in the monsoon pattern and changes in temperature may have begun to transform the region into the arid steppe that it has remained for most of recorded history. Rapid changes in types of pottery suggest a series of migrations into the region, which may have been highly disruptive for the Indus Valley cities.

Whatever the explanation, the brilliant achievements of the Indus Valley civilization gave way to a new chapter in the history of ancient India. Large, well-planned cities vanished, and the material culture of the people of northern India declined sharply as society became simpler. It was to be a thousand years before cities, writing and organized states came again to the Indian sub-continent."

Aug 17, 2015 at 7:54 PM | Registered Commenterdennisa

Having endowed a very large part of the poor populations with waterfront real estate, why hasn't God made them Republicans?

Aug 17, 2015 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Thank you for your prompt reply, Your Bishness, and apologies for my tardy reply – the interweb-thingy where I am is somewhat sporadic. What worries me most about comments like that, and your observation, is that, though the concept is something quite simple, it seems to be beyond the perceptions of the writer – and his biog declares that he gained a First in some degree or other, in 1983. Surely, to have a degree (“First” or otherwise, whatever the term might mean), you must have a certain amount of academic rigour, if not analytical perception. That this person can display his own remarkable lack of any kind of intellectual prowess does indicate the rot in our education might have started a long, long time ago.

Aug 17, 2015 at 8:39 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Glikson is just another bog standard..not very bright CAGW sciolist.

Aug 17, 2015 at 10:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrapetomania

"...[H]istorically a fairer criticism may be that Marxists have over-emphasised "economics" over other means of understanding the people." --M Courtney

What passes for economics in Marxism is far worse than what passes for medicine in homeopathy. Homeopathy does a lot less harm.

Aug 17, 2015 at 10:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Russell, did you mean that comment to be quite as weird as it seems?

Aug 17, 2015 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I think he probably hasn't thought it through, TinyCO2. Everywhere I've ever seen, sea-front property costs more than those living just behind, a few inches higher.

If sea-level continues rising at about 12 inches a century, it will not be the poor that suffer.

Aug 17, 2015 at 11:52 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Professor Gliksoin works and presumably lives in the Australian Capital Territory, probably in Canberra.
The ACT (area 2,358 km² ) would be an ideal testbed of ‘renewable energy’ feasibility for a modern city (Canberra: hot summers, cold winters) because it has no electricity generation plant within the borders (heaven forbid) and relies totally on the national grid.

Aug 18, 2015 at 12:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

TinyCO2, that is the type of weirdness to be expected from those who believe in the Hockey Stick.

Aug 18, 2015 at 12:49 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

For real wierdness, look to those who prefer 19th century accounts of 13th century weather to the isotopic record.

Aug 18, 2015 at 1:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

vvussell, do remember that Europe and other parts of the world actually have written historical records prior to the discovery of America.

But feel free to stick with whatever fiction you like from Isotopia.

Are you giving expert witness support to Mann? He appears to need it

Aug 18, 2015 at 4:13 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

[Snip - raise the tone please]

Aug 18, 2015 at 7:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterDesperate Stuff

I wouldn't criticise him for not understanding economics. The financial crash and the cheerleading by the leading economists of the debt-laden lunacy that led to it was convincing evidence to the rest of us that economics is merely a clash of simplistic, dogmatic models that eschew real world observations and basic common sense. It is precisely this abject failure of professional mainstream economists to warn of something that seemed obvious to mere amateurs that engendered such a backlash of anti-capitalism worldwide.

Aug 18, 2015 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

What is very very worrying is the lack of reasoning power among modern academics, be they Marxists, AGW-ers, whatever. Even within the confines of their own strange heads, they seem unable to think straight - or to express themselves coherently, clearly, rationally, logically.

Aug 18, 2015 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

RR "Surely, to have a degree ... you must have a certain amount of academic rigour, if not analytical perception."

Depending on the subject of the degree, that is not a given anymore.

Aug 19, 2015 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterdavidchappell

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