I mentioned recently that ‘crisis’ is an overused and rather debauched term. My Shorter Oxford says that it comes from the Greek verb for ‘to decide’, and in pathology means ‘the point in the progress of a disease when a change takes place which is decisive of recovery or death’. In Astrology it refers to the conjunctions of planets that are thought to determine the course of a disease or  course of events. It is now generalised to mean a turning point in the progress of anything. In current Australian political life, it usually means that someone wants you or the Government to do something, otherwise things will be very bad indeed. The assumption is that if you see the word ‘crisis’ you’ll respond ‘Wow! They’d better do something!’

Just for fun I used my ‘favourite search engine’ (careful ABC terminology to avoid apparently advertising anything) and got the following results  for the numbers of hits coming from the phrase ‘crisis in Australian …’ Into the dots I inserted ‘education’ (and got 121 million hits),  ‘economy’ (118 million), ‘environment’ (114m), ‘politics’ (86m), ‘health care’ (62m), ‘climate change’ (45m), ‘nursing’ (21m), ‘industrial relations’ (1m). What about the Australian beef industry? That got 324,000 hits. What fine, mild thing can you think of? Add the word ‘crisis’ to it and see what you get. What about Mother’s Day? The answer: 22 million hits. What is the Mother’s Day crisis? Oh, the first one is how to celebrate Mother’s Day if you’ve lost a child.

Let’s face it. Everything is in crisis. In dear old ‘climate change’, as you just read, everything is in crisis. If you Google ‘Australian climate crisis’ you’ll get 24 million hits. Australia21, a ‘progressive’ think tank, tells us that ‘The problems facing humanity are dire but soluble’. Think about it. Some of its problems are surely dire for some people — those in the path of ISIS, for example. Are they soluble? To some degree only. Does Australia have ‘dire’ problems? ‘Dire’ comes from Latin dirus meaning fierce, horrible, frightful. Can you summon up such a problem currently facing our society?

Well Australia21 can. Here is another passage from the same page:

For the last three decades, the world has done nothing effective to address human-induced climate change. As the science has become more definite, and the evidence of warming more obvious, real global leadership has been non-existent, nations being pre-occupied with narrow self-interest, refusing to face up to its broader implications.

But in Voltaire’s words: “Men argue, nature acts”. Climate change is happening faster and more extensively than officially anticipated. It presents risks that humanity has never previously experienced, as evidence mounts that extremely dangerous “tipping points” are being activated, probably irreversibly. To the point where emergency action will be required as procrastination is cutting off our ability to make the transition to a low-carbon world in a graduated manner.

I’m not into personalities, so I won’t mention the author, but how many exaggerations and errors can you see in those two paragraphs? Here’s a few.

* The science of ‘climate change’ has if anything become less certain, if not increasingly empty of support for the dangers of ‘human-induced climate change’.

*  The evidence of warming has been most subdued in the last twenty years, compared to the twenty years before that.

* It is unclear that ‘climate change’ is happening faster and more extensively than officially anticipated. Certainly the IPCC’s SREX report a couple of years ago decided that it could find no link between greenhouse gas emissions and ‘extreme weather’ events. Tornadoes, storms and so on are less in evidence than in the past.

* There is no evidence of which I am aware that ‘extremely dangerous tipping points’ are being activated, let alone irreversibly. No one much has talked about tipping points for the past few years.

* As to the last clotted sentence, governments have, as I have writtten before, done a lot of talking about combatting climate change, but not a lot of walking, because modern Western societies rely above all on regular and reliable grid power, which mostly comes from burning fossil fuels. They are not going to abandon that practice.

Why do serious and apparently well-informed people put forward such easily countered propositions? I asked that about John Menadue and his website. The only answer I can provide is that they have become believers, not analysts. Or, if you like, they are only interested in how to counter such dire issues, not on whether or not there is any real need to try to do so.

So, as we see all the time, in default of decent argument and evidence, what they do is tell us that there is a ‘crisis’, that things are ‘dire’, that we must act, NOW! There is a nice little aphorism about successful barristers, to the effect that if they’re losing on the facts, they pound the law; if they’re losing on the law, they pound the facts; if they’re losing on both, they pound the table. In our politics today, there’s an awful lot of pounding the table.

Yet we are the best educated version of Australian society that there ever has been. I’ve been through all this in many previous essays, and won’t rehash it now. Maybe there has always been a lot of pounding the table. There certainly was in the 1950s, with the Cold War and the DLP split. There was in the 1960s, too, with respect to the war in Vietnam and conscription.

We may be better educated (meaning that more people have more years in formal education), but it is not obvious that we are more reasonable. There seems to be a willingness to believe, on the part of people who have their university education behind them yet have forgotten what ‘critical thinking’ is all about. I’ve written about this before on a few occasions, and think it has something to do with the decline of organised Christianity, the prevalence of disaster in our mass media, and a pervasive feeling of guilt that we Westerners are doing well when others, less fortunate, are doing badly. And that we are responsible for everything.

It doesn’t matter that we are not responsible for everyone, and it doesn’t matter that we can do nothing much for most of them anyway. What matters is the feeling of guilt, and the offering of expiation if we DO THE RIGHT THING – even if, as I argued recently, stopping burning coal will not reduce temperatures in a discernible way. We will feel better about it, and that is the important thing.

If I’m wrong in this assessment I’d be grateful for an alternative view which carried some plausibility.

Join the discussion 52 Comments

  • David says:

    “…yet have forgotten what ‘critical thinking’ is all about. I’ve written about this before on a few occasions, and think it has something to do with the decline of organised Christianity,…”

    That’s an interesting thought. I would have said the decline of organised Christianity was evidence of increased critical thinking.

    So what is your rrationale.

    David

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Yes, a good riposte. The decline of organised Christianity removed the orthodox form of spirituality. People were happy to ‘believe’ in God, so to speak, and all that stuff, because it was part of the society, there were churches and church schools, and so on. But the church schools are no more — the names are there, but all the teachers are lay people. Church attendance has gone to almost zero. But human bearings have a spiritual side, and into the vacuum has come Gaia, environmentalism and doing good as long as it’s of little real effort.

      I doubt that much critical thinking has gone into the decline of Xianity — much of it is due, I think, to the movement of women into the labour force. I can’t do the subject justice in a comment!

      • Peter Kemmis says:

        Hi David and Don
        It might have more to do with the decline of organised religion, which largely in the Western world happens to be Christianity. Now I think I agree with David, that a decline in the belief that the laws of the natural world are subject to the rule or laws of some spiritual world or being/s, should encourage a rise in rational thinking.

        However, in recent years as I’ve had more time to read and think about current affairs in the world, I have come to think that for many people, most decisions or conclusions are based more on emotion or preconceived positions than careful objective analysis. For example, if I take just a few current examples here in Australia, consider the issues of Aboriginal recognition, gay marriage, or the range of matters associated with AGW, from coal mining to carbon dioxide emissions and RETs. In conversation with people, I find generally that they have not thought through the issues, and/or not ascertained many facts. Simply, they just don’t really know much, and are just following what they think seems “the right thing”. Why? Why is there not to be found that careful attention to rational thought, that public discourse free of emotional baggage and prejudged positions?

        Now here is where Don’s question might be relevant. Is there an unassuaged sense of guilt still remnant in the human psyche? Instead of blood sacrifices to appease the gods, instead of administering the sacrament of communion to purge our sinful lives, are we still seeking absolution, for many of us no longer to be found in a religion to which we cannot subscribe?

        I suspect so.

    • Megumi says:

      There’s videos on YouTube claeld ” the great global warming swindle” this will give you quite alot of evidence that it’s not caused by humans, and all you have to do is watch. Hope it helps. PS dont let Hey Dook bother you, he always acts like that

  • Doug says:

    You say ‘the best educated’ Don, but I suspect ‘the most educated’ is more true, with too little of that education in the university of life. My parents were from large families, products of the depression and none educated past year nine – yet all were literate and none would have fallen for the nonsense that dominates public debate today and news outlets like the ABC.

    They knew, though hard personal experience, that modern Australia was created by lots of knowledge, imported and generated at home, and generations of hard work, that we weren’t ‘the lucky country’ the way some sneering pseudo-intellectual creatures of the Left saw us, and we could loose it all much more easily than we got it. I suspect that the Depression and WWII toughened them up and knocked all the bullshit out of them.

    I don’t believe that discarding supernatural fantasies has had much to do with the current malaise, and agree with David that it is evidence of critical thinking, if only in one area. Unfortunately, decades of good times seems to have made large numbers soft physically and intellectually, thinking and acting emotionally without having to properly face that fact that actions have consequences. This is not true of all, of course, but of too many.

    I don’t have an answer. I would not wish a Depression followed by WWII on anyone, but can only hope the constant influx of migrants brings with it knowledge of the hard realities of life outside the land of Oz, and counters the attitude that the world owes us all living and good old Oz will deliver it.

  • George says:

    “In conversation with people, I find generally that they have not thought through the issues, and/or not ascertained many facts. Simply, they just don’t really know much”

    It is a lack of curiosity – curiosity is being bred out of us, it is a threat to (often poorly educated) teachers and it is a threat to comfort seeking bureaucrats. Yet it is the fuel for a decent future.

  • Matt says:

    “There seems to be a willingness to believe, on the part of people who have their university education behind them yet have forgotten what critical thinking is all about”
    I think the problem starts at university for many people. Many folks arrive at university and encounter a consensus amongst their undergraduate peers and nearly all academics on a number of topics. Unions are always good. Religious people are always stupid. Capitalism is inherently unfair. People like Rupert Murdoch and Tony Abbott are evil and need to be brought to heel. Greens good! Coalition bad! And so on.
    Most 18 or 19 year olds don’t have the maturity or strength of character to question any of this, and so just go along with the zeitgeist. The incredible thing is that many of them then don’t ever critically re-examine these beliefs they formed (or at least adopted) when they first went to university. I personally know many highly-educated people in their 50s and 60s who have an essentially undergraduate world view – aided and abetted by the ABC and Fairfax, which only ever present stories from an ALP/Union/left-wing viewpoint.

    • David says:

      I’m reminded of this quote

      “Universities ‘censor’ bad ideas all the time, It’s called learning” [Time Grant]

      It has become a favorite. 🙂

      • Peter Kemmis says:

        Hmm, David
        No, that is too simple. That neat aphorism summarises what the end result should be, but to reach that conclusion, students need to evaluate a range of ideas, learning to use critical thinking in that process. Universities should not be in the business of censorship, and while I understand what Grant was meaning, I think he expresses it poorly, as if he is equating censorship with learning. The former is anything but learning.
        A major concern many of us have is that our universities are today not operating with that vibrancy and tolerance that indeed was the case in Australia in the two decades following WW2, but suffering a deadening from “political correctness” – i.e. blind prejudice on many social and political ideas.

  • Margaret says:

    I don’t feel guilty or responsible in any way for any wider arena than the family from which I came and that which I have perpetuated. Mistakes were surely made but I and my ancestors didn’t begin either of the world wars. We didn’t create nuclear fission or drop a bomb on Hiroshima then Nagasaki.
    All the statistics in the world will not prove to me that coal is not literally a “fossil” fuel that we are moving beyond to different and better forms of energy that eventually will supersede it.
    The scourge of religion includes the Crusades – not something Christianity can be proud of. Women have every right to be part of the workforce and yet it is they who still bear the biggest burden when part of it.
    Emotions are a validation of being a human being and will never be “controlled” – only the individual human being, who is you or I can decide whether to express or suppress them and suppressing them is by far the more dangerous. Accepting you have them is healthy, managing them is ideal.
    The industrial revolution produced the Luddites (and who could blame them), and it seems that the science of anthropogenic global warming has produced the Deniers.
    Scepticism is one thing – denial is a fixed position and lacks as much curiosity as belief.

    • Peter Kemmis says:

      Hi Margaret
      I agree with your 2nd, 3rd and 4th paragraphs above. (Coal will be superseded, but not for many decades – and it is a life-saver to the world’s poor, whom I know from your earlier comments you do care about.) Largely I agree with your first para as well – but the guilt that Don, I and some others are considering, operates subconsciously.

      Concerning your last para, you are arguing by analogy, and it seems branding all those who do not accept the AGW meme as “deniers”, operating from a fixed position. Now you have previously stated that you do not read the detail of climate science, and are impatient with the “statistics” as you call them (I’d call many of those figures “observations” or “readings”, which may be presented statistically). So if you do not examine what the sceptics or “deniers” are actually presenting, are you not operating from a fixed position? Where is your intellectual curiosity?

      • Margaret says:

        Peter I would say that the fact that I visit this site shows that I have curiosity, not sure of its intellectual component because although I have a graduate certificate in children’s literature, I don’t have an actual university degree.
        I’m not suggesting that everyone who doesn’t accept the reality of AGW and it’s slow, inexorable and deleterious effects are like the Luddites, I guess they were a fairly small group of people fighting against an unstoppable force of modernity, and I didn’t conflate sceptics with deniers either. They are two separate groups.
        As for subconscious guilt, the collective consciousness is why we remember and angst about past events that I mentioned in para 1.

        • Alan Gould says:

          “Slow, inexorable, deleterious effects?” Uh?
          The temperature of the planet has risen by 0.7 degree Centigrade in the past 130 degrees – not surprising in a heavenly body emerging from a series of small glaciations since 1250.
          The CO2 level has risen by 100ppmv in the last century, which is to say one molecule in 10,000, now making CO2 concentration 4 molecules in 10,000 of other gases.
          Sea-level;s have risen by the length of your little finger down to its second joint.
          I have met many sceptics and have been made aware of further numbers iof them, sufficient to show how spurious is that 97% consensus. I have met no deniers, and recognise the term as part of the guileful rhetoric of demonisation that this issue attracts. Its use is an intellectual disgrace.

          • Margaret says:

            Yes I thought too many adjectives also, but had already posted. Which one or two would you like?
            I haven’t met any sceptics, any deniers, and only a few bewildered believers. I think it’s because no one I know or meet is obsessed by AGW – we don’t talk endlessly about it and we’re simply getting on with our lives and enjoying them.

          • aert driessen says:

            Oops Alan, I think you mean 130 years and not degrees; that would be hot!. And we came out of a Little Ice Age around 1850; no need to go back all the way to 1250. But the really big one was the transition from a glacial period to an inter-glacial period and that happened over a few thousand years some 11,000 years ago and that transition caused sea level to rise by 120 metres. Now that is what I call climate change but there is no evidence that it was driven by CO2 in the atmosphere or anywhere else.

        • dlb says:

          “that everyone who doesn’t accept the reality of AGW and it’s slow, inexorable and deleterious effects”
          Whoa! some critical thinking please Margaret. Such clichés are a red rag to us sceptics.

          • Margaret says:

            Quick – in for the kill guys.

          • Alan Gould says:

            Ad hominem, I reckon, Margaret. And there’s nowt ‘endless’ discernible in any of the discussion either here, or on the topic generally. But the issue is a big one because it is infected by widespread panic about the safety of home, and one of the offshoots from that panic is the corruption of Scientific method that converts provisional assumption into orthodoxy.

          • Margaret says:

            I had to look up ad hominem Alan and I rather like this definition: “Whilst in an argument, to avoid the point (thus a cop-out) and to insult the person arguing. Often because the person being insulting has no logical/intelligent point, thus they break down to immaturity.”
            I’m fine with being immature Alan. Last night I attended my six year old granddaughter’s Science Night at her school. We both enjoyed participating in the simple experiments set out on the classroom tables.
            I don’t mind remaining childlike in my sixties.

          • Alan Gould says:

            Margaret,
            You take ‘ad hominem at a level of offensiveness from me that is not intended. My understanding of the term is more simple. It is to argue ‘to the man’ and not to the subject of the discourse. It is a classic tactic of deflection in argument to draw attention away from the matter in hand and to the attributes of the arguer, or in this case, arguers. And so, I think, was fair comment.

          • Margaret says:

            I’m getting the picture of what’s at stake for sceptics – ” the corruption of scientific method that converts provisional assumption into orthodoxy”. If I was a scientist that would be an anathema to me.
            But I’m not, and it’s not as though the issue of ‘climate change’ (!) can be put on a classroom desk and tested in a microcosm experimentally by kids who are eager to do such investigations.
            Just saying that the average non scientist is more likely to believe or deny climate change because people generally feel secure in adopting a position. In this way we are all taken advantage of (that is the general populace) by powers that are beyond our control.

        • Peter Kemmis says:

          Hi Margaret

          Yesterday I read your response above, and haven’t visited this site again till just now. Much conversation has ensued meanwhile. I had two comments to make.

          The first is I apologise for any inference about your level of curiosity, which I did not intend generally. I was specifically addressing the need to be curious about basic climate observations, many of which have been summarised in statements above made by others. Are any of those statements that as lay people we can understand, wrong? Alternately, have you reviewed many of the dire forecasts over the last 30 years that have been made about the climate, which have certainly not eventuated as predicted? If so, have you asked why they have failed? This is what I’m meaning by curiosity about the climate and the debate.

          The second point concerns the very interesting one you raise about the collective consciousness. I was mulling about that yesterday. As I see it, every society has such a consciousness, expressed in multiple forms. If you like, it becomes a series of ‘bodies of opinion’. Exposure to these commonly held opinions can be both necessary and at the same time antithetical to social cohesion and development. The negative effects can arise where the opinion concerned is not evaluated or absorbed with some thought and care, and perhaps simply re-parroted and re-enacted in the normal course of life.

          The concern of many climate sceptics is that the AGW story has become embedded within that collective consciousness, so that there is a great unwillingness by many to challenge, or simply to be curious. To criticise the warmist case has become akin to criticising motherhood!
          However, the sense of guilt I was thinking about is at a deeper level in the psyche; I suspect its well-spring lies in fear of the unknown (for crying out loud, I can’t guarantee that I or you or any individual will be alive or just plain healthy tomorrow), and we are prone to think there is some power outside of ourselves that governs our future. (For example, today how often do you hear someone say “oh, it was meant to happen”? And I mentioned the gods yesterday). So we must propitiate; we have failed somehow. That’s what I see as one of the drivers behind the ready acceptance of the AGW meme.

    • Doug says:

      Largely agree Margaret, but the Crusades were 800 or more years ago and ISIS is now. Christianity is no longer a major problem to this aging atheist. ISIS is. The old Christian world is now the largely secular West with a system delivering the greatest individual freedoms in history and the prosperity to enjoy them. I strongly believe the secular, pluralist, liberal, western democratic way is the greatest social invention of all time and primitives like ISIS who oppose it with violence must be fought and beaten whatever the cost.

      We are emotional beings, but that is no reason for people claiming to be adults to ignore the facts and put heart before head. To me a true Sceptic is one who agrees with the man who said: ‘When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do?’ I aim to be like that and I hope i am.

    • aert driessen says:

      Deniers of what? No sensible person can deny that ‘climate change is happening’ albeit at snail’s pace. But so-called ‘Deniers’ (and we didn’t coin that phrase — you or your side did) can and do refute the hypothesis that ‘man-made greenhouse gases cause dangerous global warming’. Can I sum up in a couple of points?
      1. Of all the green house gases that cause some warming (thank goodness) 95% is water vapour. Of the less than 5% that is CO2, only 3% is man-made; the rest (97% of less than 5%) is natural CO2.
      2. Warming is not dangerous. Indeed it is to be much preferred to cooling and’ as change is what climate does, that is bound to come sooner or later and, I’m afraid, that it might be sooner.

      • Margaret says:

        I don’t really have a “side” Aert, I’m too immature.

      • David says:

        Aert

        See that “Warming is not dangerous.” bit.

        That makes you a denier. 🙂

        • aert driessen says:

          A denier of what?

          • aert driessen says:

            David, you mean anthropogenic global warming? If so, I’m assuming that the only agent of AGW that you have in mind is greenhouse gases and CO2 in particular. The enhanced warming effect of these is 95% caused by water vapour. Of the 3% (anthropogenic component) of the remaining 5% (other-than water vapour), the chemistry of CO2 can’t tell if it is anthropogenic. Minute warming (thank goodness) is caused by total greenhouse gases so I don’t understand where the ‘A’ comes in. Might as well be a chain of undersea volcanic eruptions or any other form of natural variability. Don’t worry, be happy. I absolve you from your wicked use of fossil fuels.

      • David says:

        This sort of argument is child like.

        “Of all the green house gases that cause some warming (thank goodness) 95% is water vapour. Of the less than 5% that is CO2, only 3% is man-made; the rest (97% of less than 5%) is natural CO2”

        What is it that you think you have demonstrated?

    • JMO says:

      Hi Margaret

      I doubt there any “deniers”who visit this site, they join the “dragonslayers”. There is no question about it, I think we all agree the Earth has warmed since 1750 (and the end of the approx 500 years of little ice age -the depths of which was 1645 to 1715) and CO2 absorbs certain IR wavelengths which has a warming effect, However it is a question of quantum. What we are sceptical about is the casandra, catastrophist or doomster view of AGW.

      However 3 out of CO2’s 4 IR absorption wavelengths (2, 2.8, 4.2 microns) are outside Earth’s IR radiation back out to space (and in effect have a slight cooling effect as they partially shades us from those higher energy IR coming from the Sun – in effect a reverse greenhouse effect), it is CO2’s 15 micron absorption line which has only a tiny warming effect for 4 reasons; 1/ it is outside and on the lower energy side of the bulk of Earth’s radiation out to space (which lies between 8 to 13 micron IR wavelength, 2/ water vapour also absorbs a high percentage of this IR wavelength, 3/ the absorption is logarithmic not additive ie most of the absortion is taken with around the first 100 ppm of CO2 and water vapour -addng more CO2 only has a slight increase in absorbtion, and 4/ the 15 micron line equates to quite a low “black body”(think of a lump of charcoal) temperature of minus 80 degrees C (Google Wien’s displacement law calculator – a lot of warming in that one!.

      Despite the above CO2 still has a slight warming effect on Earth’s lower atmosphere – there is no denying it.

      So why is the Earth’s temperature on a warming trend for the last 260 years? Mainly due to the approximate 1000 year Eddy solar cycle (the new twin convection hypothesis in the solar convection zone does explain this). We are currently going though the modern solar maxima which is shortly (according to solar physicists) coming rapidly to an end. This modern warming period is 4th in the last 3000 years, We have had the Minoa, Roman and Medieval warm periods each spaced out approximately 1000 years.

      And finally, the discoverer of IR absorption properties of gases, the late nineteenth century physicist John Tyndell, wrote in his diary CO2 is the weakest absorber of the ” calorific rays” and by far the strongest IR absorbing gas is…..water vapour.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      I was hoping to respond to your last comment before we went into the distant bush and lost Internet connection, but others have more or less done it for me. Like you, and many others, I started off accepting ‘the science’, such as it was in 2003/4. But once I started to examine it, there seemed to me too many unanswered and avoided questions that were really important. That is still the case. I’m happy to go on asking the questions, and accepting that I’m in the minority. It seems to me that the fatuity of wind farms is so obvious, once you get into an examination of them, that it is almost unbelievable that serious people think they’re valuable, and won’t look at the data. But there it is.

      And I have such a fondness for good science, and where it has got humanity in the past 200 years, that I feel angry that it has been prostituted by a few ‘climate scientists’ who have achieved some power. In time all this will come out. Maybe I’m completely wrong, though the evidence seems on my side. Maybe I’ll have passed away by then. But I don’t feel I should simply give up. Hence, in part, this website.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      Until someone can demonstrate exactly how many million (billion?) tons of CO2 correspond to 1 degree centigrade of global warming, I will remain an agnostic. If we do not know this (and there is absolutely no evidence that we do), how on earth will we know whether we we are achieving our goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees?

        • Bryan Roberts says:

          Nope

          • Don Aitkin says:

            I didn’t think it was any help, either.

          • David says:

            Keep trying, I know you can do it. 🙂

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Margaret and David,

            Since I appear to hold views similar to those of Prof Aitken, I am surprised that you both believe that I can be ‘re-educated’, but he cannot?

          • David says:

            I have not given up on Don. 🙂

          • Margaret says:

            Does figure 3.3 help? Or, are you waiting for Divine demonstration followed by Divine intervention to occur?

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            “Global emissions budgets help QUANTIFY the challenge of limiting global warming…They are expressed in terms of PROBABILITIES.”
            Quantities and probabilities are incompatible. Would you accept and pay for a kilo of meat at a supermarket that only ‘probably’ weighed a kilo?

          • David says:

            Bryan, once you get out of short pants you will realize that the adult world deals in probabilities all the time. People make those sorts of decisions all the time.

            Billions of dollars are invested in the stock market each day based on the probability that the company will pay a dividend in 12 months time.

            Do you bring you own set of scales and re-weigh the packaged food when you shop at Woolies 🙂

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            No, David, because I have redress. I can get compensation if the weight is short.

            I do not send my children to Harvard based on a 67% probability that they will get better jobs. They have to demonstrate ability, not present me with a mathematical model of how wealthy they will be in 20 years time.

            “the probability that the company will pay a dividend in 12 months time” Actually, most of the monies ‘invested’ on the stock market are simple gambles on short-term movements in the share price.

            If you want to use that as a justification for investing in climate change, I would prefer you did it with your money, rather than mine.

            You can keep trying, but you would be better served pestering Aitken.

    • Mike says:

      Margaret even though I am totally unconvinced that humans are in fact warming the planet. I would be quite happy not to argue and accept that we should change to renewable energy. A problem is there is no viable renewable energy. So that’s not quite true. We do get hydropower which I would accept as renewable.

      I have been studying the data from NEM. It records a snapshot of the output for every electricity generator on the eastern grid at five minute intervals. Solar is so small it is not recorded everything you see is an estimate. Wind is about 4% and it is an industry despite all its boasts that is useless. A very strong indicator of this is how they react if anyone proposes a cutting of subsidies. The reason for this is every windfarm will go out of business if they stop. This is a technology that is not showing improvement. The reason being they can’t. It is dependent on wind wind will blow fairly evenly for a while and then as a couple of days of nothing. The only way you can cope with this is to have large wind farms. If you want to duplicate a single coal-fired power station you need about 6400 square kilometres. Having that you can then use the excess energy to charge some sort of storage device. In New South Wales something with a capacity of about 0.9 TW hours would work.

      I just don’t think this is viable. My problem is not that people believe in global warming, but that they also think it is simple to fix. The only alternative energy we currently have is nuclear power.

  • Alan Gould says:

    I’ll take up that distinction of Doug’s between ‘best educated’ and ‘most educated’ because I think it gets to the nub. As a relief teacher around the ACT schools between roughly 1975 and 2007, with occasional stints at Victoria’s and Qld’s top private schools as a Writer-in-res, I think I observed changes in curriculum, classroom practice and assessment procedures whose effect was to expel rigour and underlying structure from, certainly the liberal arts subjects, and replace them with soft option and false relevancy, the effect of which has been to make these subjects – history and English Literature concern me most – degenerate as education.
    In English, diligence and testing of comprehension of text – from Shakespeare and Chaucer to Mark Twain and T.S.Eliot – were replaced by ‘units’ called ‘Issues’ where some theme was taken – environment, war, bereavement – and inferior texts and footage brought in to ‘explore’. Creative Writing courses abounded. Sci-fi, Fantasy, and other genres ditto. The result was that any sense of the canon of English speaking literature vanished, meaning any sense of how the past thought differently from, yet recognizably like, oneself, evaporated. Exams vainished, meaning that the small crisis (that word) whereby the student goes over the material of a term in revision and gives it some resilinece in the mind, went too. The critical mind was fed pap, and more pap, and the motivation for all this was that one had to ‘get the kids interested’ and the distractions of their everyday lives were seen as the high road to this. Thus, in quite a short time, the idea of having to construe what a writer meant by a paragraph or a quatrain was no longer required, and the critical approach to thinking morphed from the scrutinising to the affective.
    Something similar occurred in History, sexy units replacing those that unfolded matter closer to how our societies arrived at the formations they have, or how those of our neighbours did so, or how the grand ideas of history took hold of peoples.
    Recipients of this mush passed on to their Tertiary studies where post-modernism and its distractions and deconstructions awaited to further blunt the critical mind while keeping the mind querulous with issues that bubbled from our media.
    Demise of Christianity at one level had nothing to do with this. Those who remained, or returned to Christianity did so by so retaining critical mind as to outflank the critiques made against it. At another level, where the conformity lapsed, it created a need for witness that deity had formerly provided. Witness provides the self with the sense it is authentic. Thus do we have the flood-tide of opinion, a portion of which is the conversion of the old idea of media providing reports to media providing by-lines and commentary. Those who have been much- but ill-educated in the formation of critical faculty, blurt daily at us.

    (that word)

    • Mike says:

      I left school in 1954. We had a very basic set of subjects and the approach to them was fairly rigorous. After that I did go to night school and finished in 66. Much that I’ve read agrees with what you’re saying I am interested in what drove it. I have read some that say what we have in the public system is a bottom-up approach where the teachers drive what is taught and this process of dumbing down helps make it easier for them. I don’t know whether this is true, but for me it is a plausible explanation. Would you think it’s true?

  • aert driessen says:

    Don, you conclude “If I’m wrong in this assessment I’d be grateful for an alternative view which carried some plausibility”. Sorry that I can’t oblige because it fits with me. You also started an interesting dialogue (good one Doug). Keep up the good work.

  • kvd says:

    Don, this default order for comments is really annoying when you get over a dozen or so contributions. What is ‘best’ anyway?

    Please check out this link to see how you can easily change this setting for all your posts to either ‘newest’ or ‘oldest’ instead of the default : https://help.disqus.com/customer/portal/articles/466213

  • John Goss says:

    I have puzzled for decades as to why humans exaggerate risks, and see things as worse than they are, and are not swayed by evidence very much. It happens on both the left and right of the political spectrum. E.g. the right argues the economy is going to collapse unless we get labour market reform or we reduce
    marginal income tax rates.

    I used to think that the collapse of organised religion had something to do with it. The quote attributed to Chesterton that ‘The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything’ sums this view up.

    But I don’t think so anymore. I think it’s fundamentally due to the structure of the human brain. We have evolved to be very attentive to risks. Those who survive are
    those who worry endlessly about things going wrong and work hard to prevent
    those bad things happening, and to respond vigorously if those bad things do in
    fact happen.

    This means, among other things, we find bad news interesting. Therefore the media has an interest in beating things up as bad news sells.

    There are very few people who have the incentive to provide a dispassionate disinterested view of the world. Everyone is pushing their own interests, and
    you don’t sell your ideas by being clinically dispassionate, or by downplaying
    the benefits of following your cause. There is an incentive therefore to exaggeration.

    In fact given how emotional human beings are in our decision making, I am surprised at how often evidence actually does have a major impact on the decision making process.

    So those of us committed to the principles of the Enlightenment will keep plugging away at presenting the evidence (as we see it), but we should not fool ourselves
    that the evidence will have a large impact.

  • Ali says:

    I know you’re trying to be cnsucieotions and do what you think is right, but please, PLEASE look into climate change before you go any further. It’s a proven fraud. Haven’t you heard about Climate Gate? It’s all about money, money, money. IPCC members have admitted that they wanted to create hysteria at the outset in order to get money. Special interest groups lobby, do favors, get favors that’s all this is about. Money makes the world go round. For crying out loud, you can find out that the science in “An Inconvenient Truth” was faulty just be Googling the facts. Al Gore, who started the hysteria with his film, is a lying hypocrite. There are hundreds of scientists in the U.S. alone trying to speak out about this but they’re being blackballed by their colleges (again money). Do you know these scientists held a convention in NYC to discuss how this hysteria is affecting their field and careers? I doubt it. Most people didn’t because the media conveniently overlooks anything that doesn’t fit their agenda.Warming and cooling has been happening cyclically since weather conditions have been recorded. There is absolutely no crisis happening here. If you want to motivate people in positive way, start researching this economic meltdown and what is happening to our nation. Now THAT is a crisis. You can start with a book called “The 5000 Year Leap.” Easy to read and certainly not what you learn in public schools. This is what people need to wake up to and get involved in.

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