Sunday, September 28, 2008

An Elaborate System of Control (by Phila)

An economist named Sir Allen Peacock worries that addressing climate change will involve "subjecting man to an elaborate system of control."

Given the seriousness of this threat, he feels a duty to force our thinking and our behavior into compliance with the free-market dogma that will liberate us.

No one can blame a freedom fighter for stretching the truth now and again, so we won't linger over Peacock's lame attempt to pretend that there's an equivalence between the "global cooling scare" of the 1970s and the current theory of climate change. What's much more interesting is his effort to counter the claim that there's no equivalence:
[C]limate change scientists is undeniable that the pumping of [CO2] into the air is positively correlated with the growth of industrialisation.

Robinson and Morris demonstrate that this conclusion, when subject to the simplest statistical test, fails.

In theorising, they point out, climate change modellers need not accept that the future will be like the past.

Modellers say: "Is there not sufficient evidence of global warming in the melting of the polar ice caps?"

Here we come to a second reason for scepticism. If true, this can only be, at most, partial evidence in their favour. More generally, policy should require guidance from modelling on the time scale of global warming and its magnitude.
If you're going to ask people to change their views on the basis of "the simplest statistical test," you're obliged to give them a clear sense of what that test entails. Instead, Peacock has cobbled together a series of statements that seem to me to have virtually no relation to one another and to express nothing coherent.

From there, things get even stranger. The environmental taxes and regulations that to Peacock comprise "an elaborate system of control" are "Draconian," which is bad. But they're also "unenforceable," which is apparently even worse. (If we must live under tyranny, let it at least be enforceable!)

Also, there's some uncertainty about the likely effects of climate change. This means that "circumstances hardly justify" taking what Peacock would call drastic action, because as everyone knows the proper reaction to uncertainty is complacency (unless you're talking about the faint possibility that regulating CO2 emissions will lead to a new Gulag, in which case it's very definitely time to panic).

Peacock's evidence -- apart from that simple statistical test -- boils down to his discovery of dogmatic overtones in environmentalist rhetoric (which, for some reason, he fails to detect in his own free-market boilerplate):
To compare their activities with religious extremism is modish, but enlightening. Prophecy leading to identification of sin, salvation and heresy can be identified in their pronouncements.
This, you'll agree, is a bracing antidote to the muddy thinking and wild speculations of the world climatological community.