Penny Wong makes a common mistake in reasoning

19 02 2010

I am certainly no fan of the Australian federal minister for climate and water Penny Wong. 

Yesterday Wong gave a speech to the National Coastal Climate Change Forum.  The first I heard about it was in today’s Australian.  See article.  Apparently Wong has been peddling in her typical doomsday alarmism by saying “many of our sandy beaches could erode away or recede up to hundreds of metres over the coming century”. 

The Australian thankfully provided some common sense statements from geologist Bob Carter:

Bob Carter, a geologist and environmental scientist with James Cook University in Queensland, said Senator Wong’s comments appeared to be an attempt to panic the public.

Pointing to historical rates of sea level rise of an average 1.6mm per year globally over the past 100 years, Mr Carter said it was reasonable to expect a total rise of 16cm in a century.

Dr Carter said: “Have you noticed Bondi beach being destroyed in the past 100 years by that rise?”

He said that in some areas around the Australian coast, the sea level was actually getting lower.

“In some places, the geological substrata is sinking, which adds to sea-level rise, and in other places it’s rising, which subtracts from sea-level rise,” Dr Carter said.

Wong’s speech is full of empty assertion and ad hominem arguments.  But that’s typical of politics. 

Wong pressed my buttons with another comment – the same type of comment I have heard from many alarmists of late.  Climate change scare mongerers are IMO resorting to very weak arguments in order to ignore the Climategate affair, the poor academic standards of the IPCC  and the many other “inconvenient truths” that have been exposed year after year.  I can recall reading papers such as this one “Envrionmental effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide” over 10 years ago.  (I notice the group is still posting an updated version of this paper online, here.

So what exactly erked me to the point of writing this post?  This line: 

Wong: “In 20 years time, can we seriously look our children and grand children in the eye and say we sat on our hands because of a computer hacker?”

This is context dropping.  The important question is what did the hacker actually expose? 

Here’s just one example of what that hacker exposed:

Phil Jones’ promise to keep out two research papers from the IPCC report: “I will keep them out somehow, even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is,”

Seems like serious stuff to me.  I suppose Penny Wong doesn’t care because the words don’t take up much space. 

I’ve noticed similar errors from other sources and from scientist friends of mine.  For example, at Real Climate.org, this statement: 

“The focus of the recent allegations is the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), which was published in 2007.  Its three volumes are almost a thousand pages each, in small print
As far as we’re aware, so far only one–or at most two–legitimate errors have been found in the AR4″

Well I’m not so sure about the validity of that statement but suppose we take it at face value anyway. 

The alarmists are still making the mistake of appealing to consensus and authority as they have for years.  They are also dropping context.  It’s not the number of errors that matters.  It’s the content of the errors in question. 

It’s simply incorrect not to examine the factual content of evidence for errors, fraud, or poor academic standards.  You can’t just brush it off and say, it doesn’t matter because there’re not many problems.  Or in the case of Wong, brush off the Climategate scandal by saying it was just the work of a hacker. 

In concluding, once again Wong makes her socialist adgenda clear in her concluding remarks – the real problem I have with environmentalist ideology. 

Wong: “A big part of the work of governments will be setting the right conditions to help business and communities adapt”

In response, here’s a comment I posted at the ALS a couple of days ago:

“I think many people have been attempting to draw attention to the bigger issue (ie: socialism) for some time, I know I have.
Supporters of free markets should recognise that the IPCC and the environmentalist movement generally, are really about expanding political power. In a sense the science is actually irrelevent.
Effective technological progress and innovation are best achieved in a capitalist system.”

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