catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

The cracks are widening

with 72 comments

Yesterday the Australian had a front page story on the IPCC’s reliance on peer-reviewed studies to inform its reports. As we now know, there was no such reliance – it was wishful thinking at best. Today the Australian has a follow-up feature.

It was a sweeping, bold and alarmist prediction by the IPCC, and one that raised eyebrows among many of the small group of experts who study the behaviour of the world’s glaciers.

But the IPCC defended its glacier claims vigorously, with IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri recently describing those who cast doubt upon them as practitioners of “voodoo science”.

Yet today it is the powerful IPCC that stands accused of practising voodoo science in relation to its sweeping claims about the melting of Himalayan glaciers following revelations its apocalyptic predictions were based on little more than “speculation”.

Even the Canberra Times is getting into the act.

Australia’s peak science agency, the CSIRO, has backed away from attributing a decade of drought in Tasmania to climate change, claiming ”the jury is still out” on the science.
The comments follow the issuing of a CSIRO report yesterday, revealing drought has cut water availability in northern Tasmania’s premier wine growing region by 24 per cent, with riverflows reaching record lows. One of the report’s co-authors, hydrologist David Post, told The Canberra Times there was ”no evidence” linking drought to climate change in eastern Australia, including the Murray-Darling Basin.

”At this stage, we’d prefer to say we’re talking about natural variability. The science is not sufficiently advanced to say it’s climate change, one way or the other. The jury is still out on that,” Dr Post said.

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Written by Sinclair Davidson

January 19, 2010 at 11:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Is the National Press Club biased?

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It seems that the Press Club is happy to have the Trade Unionist Paul Howes as its first speaker of 2010, followed by a succession of lefties: Gareth Evans, Peter Coaldrake, Malcolm Fraser, Geoff Lake, Susan Greenfield (who recently lost her job at the Royal Institution), Andrew Pesce but refuses to allow Lord Christopher Monckton to speak on climate change (see report on page 5 of today’s Canberra Times – sorry no link). Surely the Press Club  – dedicated to free speech and debate – is mistaken to silence Monckton. Its aims include:

to provide a genuine national forum for the discussion of the issues of the day

If climate change is not an issue of the day, what is?

Written by Samuel J

January 19, 2010 at 7:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Productivity

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It is very pleasing to see the Prime Minister now pushing for economic reforms to boost productivity growth. 

We should now expect the Government to wind back its labour market re-regulation and to bring back WorkChoices.

Written by Samuel J

January 19, 2010 at 7:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

John Coleman on Temperature

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See part 4, the other segments can be seen here.
(HT: James Delingpole)

Written by Sinclair Davidson

January 18, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The reality of the education revolution

with 19 comments

At the last election Kevin Rudd promised computers for all year 9 through 12 students and also a laptop scheme. At the time Alex Robson and I thought the scheme was underfunded but we got shouted down. It was always part of the Education revolution that computers would be used at school and at home. Here is Kevin Rudd at the 2007 Labor campaign launch.

The final step in the broadband revolution is to link school networks to students at home. For some students, this happens already. However for many, it doesn’t.
And one of the purposes of Labor’s Education Tax Refund is to encourage parents to invest in computers and internet connections at home. Because Labor understands that in the 21st century, information technology is not just a key subject to learn, it is now the key to learning all subjects.

Okay – so what’s happening on the ground? Schools have been provided with laptops. Now just to remind ourselves, remember that laptops are designed to be easily portable unlike desktops that cannot be easily transported to and from home.

After Labor promised to provide access to a computer for every child from Year 9 to Year 12 at the last election, it has emerged that a public school in South Australia, Seaford 6-12 School, is charging a $365-a-year fee to allow students to take the taxpayer-funded computers home.

That’s not the worst of it.

A PUBLIC school is asking parents to pay up to $1460 to lease computers provided under Kevin Rudd’s digital schools plan, while another is urging parents to buy the Apple Mac laptops their child has used for $1200.

While this has the stench of broken promise written all over it.

Another South Australian school, Willunga High School, is urging parents to spend $1200 upfront to lease Apple Mac computers. Parents are being told that, although the offer is “absolutely voluntary”, being able to use computers is “as important in today’s society as being able to read and write”.

Well yes – that’s exactly what Rudd said at the last election.

Mr Howard seems to believe that providing our young people with computers is exotic. Mr Howard just doesn’t get it. Around the rest of the world, providing young people with computers isn’t exotic – it’s mainstream.

It’s not just Mr Howard who doesn’t get it. School kids haven’t got their computers either.

Written by Sinclair Davidson

January 18, 2010 at 8:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Public school funding

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The Australian Education Union has released new “research”  by Jim McMorrow (see also the report ) that purports to show that Government funding of public schools is less than Government funding of private schools. As usual, it looks once again only at Commonwealth Government direct funding – neglecting the fact that public schools are creatures of State and Territory governments and funded by State and Territory governments. Total government (taxpayer) funding of public schools is of course well above that of private schools.  

This is grossly misleading and reflects badly on the credibility of McMorrow who has at once written a hagiography of the Rudd Government while promoting this nonsense. McMorrow writes:  

From the standpoint of public schools, the substantial investment in national education agreements reported in the Budget has begun to turn around some of the funding neglect that characterised the Howard Government’s years.  

The Rudd Government deserves credit for this.  

And hasn’t the media promulgated this misleading report very effectively this morning – effectively acting as an agent of the AEU (listen to the reports on ABC news for example). Yet if (say) the Wine Federal sponsored research into the health benefits of wine consumption the ABC would be either ignoring the research or noting that the sponsor is biased.   

Written by Samuel J

January 18, 2010 at 7:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

ClimateGate and Insurance

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One of the arguments we’ve heard is that global warming has been impacting insurance premiums. Perhaps it has. Here is a short article I wrote for the IPA Review in 2008.

In order to prepare the nation for the introduction of the ETS, the federal government has begun a large advertising campaign to argue that, without action, climate change will have a significant economic impact.

In particular one of their most widely distributed advertisements claims that ‘scientists warn that climate change will cause more severe bushfires, storms, cyclones and floods. This is already pushing up insurance premiums.’ Both these statements may be true in isolation-some scientists are warning of such things, and some insurance premiums are going up-but the federal government invites us to believe that the first is causing the second. This is, however, not the case. The government’s argument can be tested by looking at a more direct measure of damage from climate change-insurance losses.

In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Policy, Ryan Crompton and John McAneney of Macquarie University have investigated the link between insurance losses and meteorological hazards. Using data from the Insurance Council of Australia over 1967-2006 Crompton and McAneney adjusted the insurance losses to normalised 2006 dollars. Doing so involves more than just accounting for inflation. For example, as population and wealth increases the loss from a meteorological disaster increase. Conversely, changes in building safety standards reduce losses from wind damage. Crompton and McAneney have taken these sorts of factors into account to standardise insurance loss data, to ensure they are comparing like with like. The results are quite startling. Cyclone Tracy destroyed Darwin in 1974 with an insured loss of $200 million-in normalised 2006 dollars that would be equivalent to $3.56 billion. It is quite rightly the single largest meteorological disaster in Australian history. But before Crompton and McAneney normalised the data, the ICA data appears to indicate that the 1999 Sydney hailstorm was the largest disaster in Australian history with an insured loss of $1.7 billion, but $3.3 billion in normalised 2006 dollars.

Crompton and McAneney conclude ‘there is no discernable evidence that human-induced climate change is significantly impacting insured losses’. The observed increase in insurance losses is largely due to an increased number of more valuable buildings.

They have a more recent one page description of their work with updates to include Black Saturday.

Collectively all of these studies suggest societal conditions are driving the increasing trend in disaster losses and, at least to this point in time, there is no evidence to ascribe increasing disaster losses to ACC [Anthropogenic Climate Change]. On the other hand, the success of improved building standards in reducing wind-induced losses from tropical cyclones is clear evidence that important gains can be made through disaster risk reduction. Moreover, land planning policies in hazard prone parts of this country that ignore the risk are inconsistent with their public safety obligations.

It is in this context that a letter from the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in the United States is so interesting.

At the same time, proponents suggested that there was little room for doubt that “global warming is occurring,” as a 2008 Task Force white paper unequivocally declared. The white paper disposed of the debate over the extent and consequences of anthropogenic global warming in a single sentence: “[The Task force] believe[s] that there is ample evidence in support of this assumption in a variety of other reports and studies, so we have decided not to focus on the scientific aspects of global warming.”

That decision was certainly questionable in 2008. Today, it is untenable in our view. The unauthorized release in November 2009 of thousands of e-mails containing correspondence among scientists affiliated with the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) makes clear that insurers, regulators, and anyone else with a serious interest in climate change cannot afford the luxury of simply assuming that the “reports and studies” to which the Task Force white paper alludes present an accurate and unbiased picture of what is known about climate change.

The CRU e-mails show that a close-knit group of the world’s most influential climate scientists actively colluded to subvert the peer-review process (and thereby prevent the publication of research by scientists who disagreed with the group’s conclusions about global warming); manufactured pre-determined conclusions through the use of contrived analytic techniques; and discussed destroying data to avoid government freedom-of-information requests.

Viewed collectively, the CRU e-mails reveal a scientific community in which a group of scientists promoting what has become, through their efforts, the dominant climate-change paradigm are at war with other scientists derisively labeled as “skeptics,” “deniers,” and “contrarians.” The insularity and non-collegiality of these climate scientists had previously been noted in a 2006 report to Congress prepared by a committee of statisticians led by Dr. Eugene Wegman of George Mason University. The Wegman Report examined the body of research behind the widely-publicized “hockey stick” graph, which purported to show a dramatic and unprecedented increase in average global temperature during the twentieth century. After thoroughly discrediting the hockey stick graph, the report observed that “authors in the area of paleoclimate studies are closely connected and thus ‘independent studies’ may not be as independent as they might appear on the surface.” The report further noted “the isolation of the paleoclimate community,” concluding that “even though they rely heavily on statistical methods, they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community.” When members of paleoclimate community were asked to explain and defend their work, “the sharing of research materials, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly done.”

In short, because serious questions have been raised about the integrity of contemporary climate science, NAMIC believes it would be exceedingly risky for any insurance company to make important business decisions based on an uncritical acceptance of the dominant scientific paradigm on climate change. Put differently, we believe there is considerable risk involved in an approach to assessing “climate risk” that assumes the validity of any particular theory or set of beliefs about anthropogenic global warming.

If insurance premiums have been rising due to risks of AGW I expect that they should start falling. Indeed this is an oppourtunity for the ACCC to investigate whether or not any firms have made false claims to justify price increases. (Please don’t interpret this as approval of the ACCC as an organsation, nonetheless false advertising falls within their jurisdiction).

(HT: Reason via Chris Berg)

Written by Sinclair Davidson

January 16, 2010 at 10:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized