Thursday, March 04, 2010

Updates on the politics and finances of warming

The UK's left-wing Guardian has a report on battered warming alarmist Phil Jones, the principle participant in the Climategate controversy. You will remember that Jones was the man who told a skeptic that he wouldn't release his data because the skeptic would be looking for errors in it.

Jones appeared before a Parliamentary Investigation and was asked about his refusal to release data so that it could be scrutinized. Jones said replied: "I have obviously written some very awful emails." MP Graham Stringer asked again: "But you wouldn't let him have the data." Jones replied: "We had a lot of work and resources tied up in it."

The Guardian said that was Jones "digging himself in a little deeper." Truly it is, but does reveal something that is true about human nature that explains a lot about the politics of warming. This is an example of what Tyler Cowan would call the "inner economist." People invest in things, and when they invest, they don't want to know that their investment was wrong or misguided. They want confirmation and don't want bad news. There is a natural tendency to seek out what verifies our beliefs and avoid material that doesn't. Jones was protecting his investment.

Jones admits that he didn't give out the material because he had a "lot of work and resources" invested in his theory and he simply didn't want someone finding the flaws. That is an honest admission. It is also one of the reasons I try to reconsider my positions on issues with some regularity—hence the reason I recently changed my mind on hate crime legislation (which is not the same thing as hate speech legislation which I oppose). My reasoning is at the end of this post.

Jones brought his vice chancellor, Edward Acton, with him as part of his support and defense. Acton made an important concession, and Jones didn't repudiate him when he did so:
Acton conceded that not everything pointed in the same direction. It's acknowledged that several hundred years ago Earth became much warmer. If we knew why, we could explain a lot. "The early medieval period is something we should spend more time researching," he mused. This was probably the first time anyone had said that to a parliamentary committee since Simon de Montfort ran the place.
In a previous interview with the BBC Jones admitted that there has been no significant global warming global warming since 1995. And he said that since 2002 the temperature trend has been toward cooling "but this trend is not statistically significant" as well. Jones also said that the if the Medieval Warm Period "was shown to be global in extent and as warm or warmer than today then obviously the late-20th century warmth would be be unprecedented." This is one reason the alarmists spent so much time and energy trying to eradicate the MWP. Many of them have gone so far as to say the MWP is a myth and didn't exist. So for the Jones "defense team" to admit "that several hundred years ago Earth became much warmer" is a significant concession.

Jones said he collaborated with climate units in the US, Russia and Japan and "We may be using a lot of common date." Telegraph columnist Gerald Warner says that is significant. "It is the raw data that matters. If that is wrong, nuances of interpretation based on it are irrelevant..."

A column published by the Australian Broadcasting Company makes an interesting point that is often neglected in this debate: almost all the funding pushes research in one direction. Joanne Nova looked at the "money trail" of the climate debate and said that the skeptics "are actually the true grassroots campaigners, while Greenpeace defends Wall St." She notes the skeptics are up agains "a billion dollar industry aligned with a trillion dollar trading scheme." Nova notes "that there are no grants for scientists to demonstrate that carbon has little effect. She writes:
...there is no group or government seriously funding scientists to expose flaws. The lack of systematic auditing of the IPCC, NOAA, NASA or East Anglia CRU, leaves a gaping vacuum. It's possible that honest scientists have dutifully followed their grant applications, always looking for one thing in one direction, and when they have made flawed assumptions or errors, or just exaggerations, no one has pointed it out simply because everyone who could have, had a job doing something else. In the end the auditors who volunteered — like Steve McIntyre and AnthonyWatts — are retired scientists, because they are the only ones who have the time and the expertise to do the hard work. (Anyone fancy analysing statistical techniques in dendroclimatology or thermometer siting instead of playing a round of golf?)
Nova notes the corporatist elements, how the State Capitalists (as opposed to free market types) stand to benefit from carbon trading schemes. She says there was $126 billion in carbon trading in 2008. "Every major finance house stands to profit as brokers of a paper trade. It doesn't matter whether you buy or sell, the bankers take a slice both ways. The bigger the market, the more money they make shifting paper." And this poses a problem for the skeptics:
Unpaid sceptics are not just taking on scientists who conveniently secure grants and junkets for pursuing one theory, they also conflict with potential profits of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, Morgan Stanley, and every other financial institution or corporation that stands to profit like the Chicago Climate Exchange, European Climate Exchange, PointCarbon, IdeaCarbon (and the list goes on… ) as well as against government bureaucracies like the IPCC and multiple departments of Climate Change. There's no conspiracy between these groups, just similar profit plans or power grabs.
I have repeatedly tried to point out, to my friends on the Left, that their efforts routinely are corrupted by the political process. Any honest history of Big Business will show that the Left has routinely handed Big Business massive amounts of wealth, via the regulatory process, which they could not earn honestly in free, competitive markets. Nova is correct when she notes that Greenpeace is the ally of Wall Street.

Here is a great musical number from Evita that is appropriate.

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