Human choice and climate change

by Judith Curry

What can public and private decisionmakers learn from a wide-ranging look at the social sciences and the issue of human choice and climate change that illuminates the evaluation of policy goals, implementation strategies, and choices about paths forward? 

Bill Hooke has another gem of a post on his blog Living on the Real World entitled Human choice and climate change.

Hooke refers specifically to a document  “Ten suggestions for policy makers“, with the subtitle “Guidelines from an international social science assessment of human choice and climate change.”  The document, written by Steve Rayner and Elizabeth Malone in 1997, is a version of the final chapter in Human Choice and Climate Change, a four volume assessment of the social science research relevant to global climate change.

Here is the punchline of the document, from Bill Hooke’s post:

“At present, proposed policies are heavily focused on the development and implementation of intergovernmental agreements on immediate emissions reductions. In the spirit of cognitive and analytic pluralism that has guided the creation of Human choice and climate change, we look beyond the present policy priorities to see if there are adjustments, or even wholesale changes, to the present course that could be made on the basis of a social science perspective. To this end we offer ten suggestions to complement and challenge existing approaches to public and private sector decisionmaking:

1. View the issue of climate change holistically, not just as the problem of emissions reductions.

2. Recognize that, for climate policymaking, institutional limits to global sustainability are at least as important as environmental limits.

3. Prepare for the likelihood that social, economic, and technological change will be more rapid and have greater direct impacts on human populations than climate change.

4. Recognize the limits of rational planning.

5. Employ the full range of analytical perspectives and decision aids from natural and social sciences and the humanities in climate change policymaking.

6. Design policy instruments for real world conditions rather than try to make the world conform to a particular policy model.

7. Incorporate climate change into other more immediate issues, such as employment, defense, economic development, and public health.

8. Take a regional and local approach to climate policymaking and implementation.

9. Direct resources into identifying vulnerability and promoting resilience, especially where the impacts will be largest.

10. Use a pluralistic approach to decision-making. ”

Wow, this is just too sensible for words.  Too bad nobody(?) seems to have paid attention to this back in 1997 (or since).   Its difficult to imagine such sensible ideas emerging from today’s currently hyperpoliticized situation.

These ideas deserve to be widely read and discussed.  Start by reading Bill Hooke’s post and Rayner and Malone’s document.

69 responses to “Human choice and climate change

  1. “8. Take a regional and local approach to climate policymaking and implementation.”

    While this sounds like a positive step, there are problems already with this type of approach. If we look at the current state of the EU’s attempt to levy a tax on emissions for airlines using their airspace we can see a massive push back by almost all of the countries involved.

    • Also of course when any local attempt is made to reduce emissions the skeptics start wingeing about how useless it is because the little region will have little relative impact on global emissions.

      • @ lolwot
        Because CO2 has nothing to do with the climate; deceiving the people that: if CO2 is reduced – the climate will stop changing; it’s same crime; committed by the same conspiracy. H2O controls the climate, not CO2.

        Is the climate perfect now, the ”climate from changing Stoppers are constantly pointing now that is bad climate. 2] climate can be improved, only when the misleading is exposed. Money should be used on building new dams, to save more storm-water on the land; instead of squandering those money on climate from changing Stoppers. New dams prevent floods – improve the climate – prevent droughts – provide more ”water vapour” in the atmosphere; which is better for vegetation – extra raw material for creation / renewal of ice, and much more. Lack of water storages, topsoil moisture and water vapour in the air = hotter days / colder nights; Sahara and every other desert are the best proves!!!. H2O creates milder climate; Brazil is the best proof. Loaded articles as the one above, which STILL misleads that CO2 is the offender – are detrimental for the climate and humanity! The King is Naked!!! The truth will win!!!

  2. Judith,

    Society NEVER had a choice!
    Governments paying for bias research generated their own crisis and then put on the brave face to subsidize “green” energy.

    Any scientist NOT following the consensus was given a very hard time for their research or views. Being the “experts” uncertainty is the crutch for bad science practices that must NEVER be questioned.

  3. The major problem with this is that it assumes the Consensus Climate Science is correct with a low uncertainty. That is not the case.

    • A lot of this is valid even if Consensus Climate Science is proven to be wrong, depending a lot on if decisions are made by the side[s] that are proven right or make by the side[s] that are proven wrong.
      History has a lot of science that was proven wrong. This will not change. Much of current settled science will be proven wrong in our future. Some science has been proven wrong and later been proven right. There is no settled science, even after it is settled.

    • Remember this:
      A scientist who is not a skeptic, is not really a scientist.

  4. “In the spirit of cognitive and analytic pluralism that has guided the creation of Human choice and climate change, we look beyond the present policy priorities to see if there are adjustments, or even wholesale changes, to the present course that could be made on the basis of a social science perspective.”

    Am I being slow here, or is this sentence simply pretentious gobbledy gook?

    • No, well-spotted. Another academic speciality seeking to extend its domain? Too much of that happening already.

    • The sentence makes perfect sense. The question is whether they can deliver on the promise. Given that the policy premise is false the answer is no, but that is not the fault of the sentence.

      • The sentence may well make perfect sense David, but it’s format and choice of wording still makes it pretentious gobbledy gook.

    • I don’t think you are being slow Bill, I think you are being observant. Couldn’t that whole paragraph have just been replaced with “Here’s an idea:”?

      They don’t make it easy to understand what their point is. Are they going for word count or something? Even the 10 bullet points seem to be waffle.

      Here’s an idea of my own: If eve climate change is a catastrophic problem, and if there is ever a solution to it, it won’t be found through the medium of thesaurus charged talk, That will only lead to endless discussion and nodding and nothing done. Like one of those meetings that gets out of control and everyone just talks and talks and talks but at the end you realize no progress has been made in understanding or decision making whatsoever.

      • Blimey lolwot, I’m almost speechless. That is probably the single, most sensible comment you”ve ever made here, and I totally agree with every word of it :)

      • Good post lolwot. Too much BS is being bandied around this blog.

  5. Wow, this is just too sensible for words.

    Judith – why beat around the bush – tell us what you really think!

    I didn’t trip up on this one, perhaps because I agree with you. For the most part anyway :)

    This suggestion especially struck me as not only sensible but profoundly important [and commonly ignored] –

    Prepare for the likelihood that social, economic, and technological change will be more rapid and have greater direct impacts on human populations than climate change.

    Funnily enough, we’ve been saying exactly this on the previous thread. The bizarre upshot [at least for the ‘very-alarmed’ among us] is that vulnerability to climatic events is diminishing. It has been for centuries and shows no sign whatsoever of coming to a halt.

    The only way this can be obscured is to see climatic impacts as something to do with climate change which is of course nonsensical. However, forgetting that climate variability is by it’s nature an ‘impacting’ kind of phenomenon leads one into the strange world view that sees climatic events as somehow connected with an globally averaged temperature anomaly of a few tenths of a degree.

    “6 degrees ago” when people walked into Southern Britain, climatic variations would have been a leading cause of death. If the people of that time could see us today they would have said we were climate-impact-free. Our resilience has made us immune to heat, cold, wind and rain – and given us the power to adapt in any direction we choose. Even compared to 3 or 4 generations ago, our resilience has increased by an order of magnitude.

    Where in the world that isn’t the case, the forthcoming changes of importance will be in the people’s resilience, not in the climate.

    And by the way, through what distorting prism can the 6 degrees of warming be seen to have been ‘harmful’?

    • Oh, Anteros, I have been playing with the Antarctic puzzle a little more since I have a computer with real keys and everything :)

      Still have to figure out how to accurately interpolate between the estimates, but it is getting closer :)

      • It looks like you’re making progress..

        BTW – is there any good fishing down in those cold parts? :)

      • Sport fishing capital of the world! The dinner fishing is pretty good too. Though the climate is tough, had to close the windows last night :)

      • Captain Dallas. You might also note that there has been no change in the rates of heating or cooling at the Russian and American stations during their entire occupation.
        One would have expected the rate of cooling to slow and the rate of heating to rise.
        Gavin stated that CO2 doesn’t work in the absence of water; I replied that was odd as the temperature and humidity is about the same as the tropopause. He then edited the thread.

      • Doc said, “Gavin said that CO2 doesn’t work without the presence of water.” That Gavin is a pistol ain’t he :) According to the tropics, CO2 doesn’t particularly kick butt in the presence of water. It does seem to like the right amount of water and the right kind of water, at the right altitude.

        I was doing some research on mitigation techniques, I came up with a totally original Idea :) Well, not totally original, but it is in the public domain.

    • That’s the one that stuck out to me as well.

  6. Is there anyway we can promote him to climate Czar or something like that?

    I still think we should invest in UNtopia though, so we can EXPORT some of our climate expertise. :)

  7. Markus Fitzhenry

    We need to consider these social policies because modern man has discovered that climate changes. Astonishing.

    What have we become?

    Men, so frail, that we cannot control the universe or understand all of it, leading to thoughts, so fearful, we close our minds and hide in caves, sacrificing lambs to Gods.

    For those cognitively challenged here, that ideology is of paganism.

  8. “too sensible for words”? This seems to be another attempt to address the whole human endeavour through the prism of climate change, which is a tiny part of the whole.

    I commented on an earlier post by Bill on his blog, “As for “more sustainable approaches,” everything changes, nothing can be indefinitely sustained, humans have made great progress through their inventiveness and adaptability in the face of ever-changing circumstances. This is our biggest resource, and it is one which is constantly growing rather than being depleted.” The suggestions for policy-makers listed above seem to ignore the fact that the vast gamut of human resourcefulness and invention lies far outside the ambit of policy-makers, who more often impede than encourage it. It seems to me that the authors are not “living in the real world,” but an academic abstraction from it. Policies which encourage freedom, entrepreneurialism and individual initiative would obviate the need for much government and academic intervention, in all spheres of activity.

    • Faustino –

      Well put.

      I think one of the suggestions very nearly makes the leap from academic abstraction to practical reality –

      Prepare for the likelihood that social, economic, and technological change will be more rapid and have greater direct impacts on human populations than climate change.

      All that needs to be changed is the beginning – instead of ‘prepare’ [which in this context means precisely nothing] they could have said either ‘get out of the way so that…….’ or ‘do nothing so that’

      Something that your comment reminds me of is the fact that everyone seems to require a policy of doing something, where in fact the doing something is often the problem. Feeding corn oil to cars, anybody?

      I suppose I’m not a big fan of imposing any kind of ideology on circumstances or pursuing 5 year plans or (especially) having a grand vision of ‘global sustainability’. That last idea seems to me to be directly contrary to everything human, sensible or realistic. It is the product of an ideological imagination and to attempt to impose that ideology on an unsuspecting reality. Completely nuts.

      • Anteros-

        That one jumped out at me too, but I have a different spin to put on it, one that I don’t often see discussed here, so I’ll bring it up. From the later paragraphs of the section of the original report under that headline you cited:

        “The rapid rate of socioeconomic and technical change relative to climate change contrasts with the slower background rate of change of the natural world. Ecologists frequently warn that it is not so much the amount of climate change that is dangerous but that it will occur faster than the rate at which ecosystems can adapt. On the other hand, society itself is changing at an accelerating rate. The implications of the rate of climate change for society may therefore be quite different from its implications for unmanaged ecosystems.”

        We talk mostly about the human consequences of climate change on this site, and good for that. But I wonder – how much of the “irrational fear” that you worry about ;) is really a projection of the sense of doom that ecologists must feel in the face of the natural systems that they study and love getting swept away? Have we simply assumed that the same is going to happen with humans and just not taken note of humanity’s capacity to adapt?

        Humanity’s capacity to adapt – and the frustration of the Malthusians – has been a subject of much discussion on this blog, and I know we’ve all thought about it – but I still feel that the idea above is sort of new to this discussion, though it may be in the back of the minds of many here. It does not seem overconfident to state that humanity has taken over the world, and “untrammeled nature” barely exists. We can argue many levels of meaning here, but I mean something rather obvious – when x% of the world’s land is covered by human habitation, infrastructure or is devoted to human productivity – it seems rather obvious that “wild nature” is on the decline. I am not trying to assign “good” or “bad” to this.

        But the nature of environmental science has been to study these systems that are growing ever more intertwined with humanity. To do this, you have to have a certain love of this “wild nature”, and at the same time watch it become more and more a thing of the past. So – how much of the “irrational fear” of being overwhelmed by the negative consequences is a displaced concern for the “end of nature”?

        “I am the Lorax, and I’ll yell and I’ll shout for the fine things on earth that are on their way out!

    • randomengineer

      This seems to be another attempt to address the whole human endeavour through the prism of climate change…

      Yes, and makes less sense than the Mike Judge prism that envisioned Brawndo, T-Rexes, Charlie Chaplin and the “un.” The argument of proof is the same as the “plants crave electrolytes” scene.

  9. It’s really good to see excellent work by Rayner and Malone getting renewed attention after years on the shelf, thanks to Judith…

    I like Faustino’s comment here because “sustainable development” is an oxymoron. We’re all in the business of continuous innovation and thereby buying more time…and we cannot afford to stop. I very much hope that inventiveness and adaptability will keep on “constantly growing” as Faustino suggests. However it sometimes seems that will depend upon the quality of children’s education around the world and a number of other supportive policies that are perilously fragile.

    • Bill, thanks to you for spotting this!

    • “renewed attention after years on the shelf, thanks to Judith”

      Not exactly. And it is becoming embarrassingly obvious that many who claim to be familiar with IPCC WG reports never actually read them or the recommended literature.

      Elizabeth’s work was a main contribution to IPCC AR4 WG summaries. She is cited in most major American policy discussions in addition to international discussions of adaptation in the context of development issues and examining effective mechanisms for global emissions reductions.

      1997 was a relatively early effort. Maybe you’d like to read something more current such as Debating Climate Change (2009) in which she documents where agreement has occurred. Or UNDP (2004).

      Or AR4. ;-)

      • Martha, many of us are familiar with Rayner and Malone. The sentiments in the document that has languished on the shelf, unfortunately, did not make it into the AR4, and people that publicly speak out in favor of IPCC assessments and UNFCCC policies are not paying attention to this.

  10. May I suggest Canada, having announced we are dropping out of Kyoto, is now on Rayner and Malone Plan path…go Canada!!

  11. Human choice… Pro choice, what’s the difference?
    Who, in their right mind still does not, ‘get it’?
    You aren’t able to see & understand this agenda in print… and yet many scientists are freaked out by 390 ppm of CO2?
    Go figure.

  12. The New West energiacs what to live like Westerners while at the same time adopting views of humanity and the environment that are more like those of the Plains Indians of the Old West.

  13. “views of humanity and the environment that are more like those of the Plains Indians of the Old West.”

    I read some of the Commanche tribes were particularly brutal torturers/killers and any women around were essentially made to be slaves.


    • The ‘Plains Indians of the Old West’ only lived on the Great Plains thanks to the introduction of the horse by the Europeans. Aboriginals without horses could not survive on foot as they could not range far enough to predate Buffalo.
      Juan de Onate brought 7,000 horse in 1598 to establish a colony in New Mexico, and these were the stock that the subsistence farmers got their horses.
      The Comanche and Kiowa both become slavers and both used horses as currency. The upshot was catastrophic ecological damage from overgrazing and constant migration, and so constant conflict and fighting.
      BTW The introduction of the European Earthworm into the Great Plains probably doubled their bio-productivity.

    • ‘views of humanity……. that are more like those of the Plains Indians of the Old West.’ — good heavens, I hope not. I have sat through a talk by one brave Native American (actually a lawyer) who proudly debunked the whole ‘all men are my brothers’ nonsense and displayed artifacts of torture used in the past by the women of his tribe on anyone unlucky enough to be caught – red, white, brown, black, didn’t matter. In his view, they did it as entertainment.

      • Kip and Doc, thanks for chiming in. I hoped someone would. Yours are the two most interesting back-to-back comments I’ve read on this site in months.


      • And I’m not knocking the commenters. We’ve only got so many over-done hamburgers to make chili out of. If you know what I mean.


  14. There is nothing fragile about the quality of education in the USA, much less perilously. It is one of the most stable institutions on earth.

  15. If we wish to have electricity we have a simple choice; burning fossil fuels or undertake a large expansion of nuclear power, including breeder reactors.

    At the moment there is not the slightest hint that the West is changing its anti-nuclear policies and fund new builds and research into areas such as molten salt reactors, high temperature thermal reactors for hydrogen production and research reactors for the uranium/plutonium/thorium cycle.

    At the moment the shrill voices that call for an end to carbon emissions are not raised in favor of nuclear power.

    So we will continue burning oil, coal and methane, until these become more expensive.

  16. Personally, I am angry that the Gavin Schmidts and his ilk have held reigns of power and influence disproportionate to reality. Social thinkers are cast aside like bow waves of a great liner headed to an almost submerged calamity. Poor decisions as “full speed” in moon lit still waters which masked the tragedy unfolding. When will there be a strike, a bash upon the hull and sudden realization that all was a terrible mistake? Many of the higher ups will bail, disguise themselves as women and rely upon tradition to survive. When the entire accompaniment of staff and passengers is put at risk by those committed to their version of idealism and self-worth are consulted, do we realize that entrusting this leadership with their agenda of a fast crossing and prestige is a disregard for a more deliberative process for which most would express caution instead of an imperative, self-aggrandizing, paradigm? The physics of collision with an iceberg remains. Its just that the decision to stand down and await until there is a discernible signal, daylight as it were, as all the other ships have done, and by analogy science, would do, or fall prey to the exhortations of an agenda, blinded, and personally driven few. Our choices need to consider, not only being wrong about man made climate warming, but what are the consequences of making mitigating a head long, full speed ahead, approach; a watery grave in my estimation.

  17. Dr. Curry,

    Replication (failure of, inability to…) of scientific findings again in the news regarding Dr. Mikovits’ ‘mouse retrovirus causes chronic fatigue syndrome’ findings of 2009:

    From the NY Times : ‘In a scientific reversal as dramatic and strange as any in recent memory, the finding has been officially discredited; a string of subsequent studies failed to confirm it , and most scientists have attributed the initial results to laboratory contamination. In late December, the original paper, published in the journal Science, and one other study that appeared to support it were retracted within days of each other.’

    Again we see the importance of full disclosure of data and methods … without replication, any finding just ‘looks reasonable’ ( or not ) but is not conclusive until it has been tried and replicated by more than one other unrelated, unassociated researcher.

    This is the shocker to me regarding Cllmate Science .. . so many findings that can not be replicated as the data is deemed proprietary and the methods remain undisclosed.

    • Kip, even more importantly is that fact that other groups attempted to replicate the work, couldn’t, and were able to publish their works shows how science works.
      No incestuous refereeing, no threats to the editor, no demands of a boycott of the journal.
      First paper in 2009, two years of contradictory findings, investigations, retraction.
      Mikovit’s group were probably a mixture of sloppy and unlucky. It happens, science, real science, is self correcting.


      This will reduce the 1940-1970 cooling in NH temps. Explaining the cooling with sulphates won’t be quite as necessary.
      Getting people we know and trust [into IPCC] is vital – hence my comment about the tornadoes group.

      Useful ones [for IPCC] might be Baldwin, Benestad (written on the solar/cloud issue – on the right side, i.e anti-Svensmark), Bohm, Brown, Christy (will be have to involve him ?)


      the important thing is to make sure they’re loosing the PR battle. That’s what the site [Real Climate] is about.


      The results for 400 ppm stabilization look odd in many cases […] As it stands we’ll have to delete the results from the paper if it is to be published.


      Phil, thanks for your thoughts – guarantee there will be no dirty laundry in the open.


      He’s skeptical that the warming is as great as we show in East Antarctica — he thinks the “right” answer is more like our detrended results in the supplementary text. I cannot argue he is wrong.

  18. –> “4. Recognize the limits of rational planning.”

    Ok! So then, we’re done with central planning and the US will return to free enterprise capitalism PDQ — the system with most efficient and productive method for the allocation of scarce resources that yields the highest net present wealth — and save Europe’s bacon our of the fire once again, right?

    • Item 4 was the only one that I found meaningful too. And it completely contradicts the other 9 “suggestions”.

      That each generation produces people that think they have THE ANSWER to society’s (perceived) ills never ceases to amaze me.

      • Jim S

        You’re right. And most genuine problems are caused by the ‘problem’ solvers haring off in crazy directions trying to implement some delusional strategy. Like taking lots of food (corn) and feeding it to cars! Ding Dong!

  19. –> “10. Use a pluralistic approach to decision-making. ”

    There you go… the UN will pull everyone’s bacon out of the fire. Riiiiiggghnhntt!

  20. Rogelio escobar

    Ot but looks like the germans are dumping global warming climate change big time (*major newspapers) expect major shifts *ie carbon taxes etc(

    • Ah. The light is now shining in Germany! It seems that the bad science behind AGW is finally hitting home around the world.

    • The only surprise is that it took this long to happen. On the other hand, maybe not. People are easily fearmongered.

  21. This is meta-planning. If we can have an argument about how to do the planning before we actually do any planning that would be a wonderful delaying tactic. Can this one be settled quickly so that we can actually get to the planning part, or is it not going to result in a consensus, so that we have to step back further into meta-meta-planning: the process of deciding how these issues are to be resolved? (sarc)

  22. Judith Curry

    This post has brought up an interesting element of the ongoing climate change debate.

    The essay by William Hooke, Human choice and climate change concludes:

    The tragedy is that social scientists have a lot to offer a world seeking to make fullest use of Earth observations, science and services in order to achieve safety in the face of hazards and sustainable development and natural resource use. If more robustly underwritten, social scientists could contribute far more. But what they have offered has all too often gone ignored, and prospects for substantial budget increases look slim indeed.

    We can do better.

    There is an even larger ”tragedy”.

    It is that a group of ”climatologists” hi-jacked climate science in order to bamboozle the “policy makers” and the general public (the ultimate “policy makers” in a democratic society), using the “consensus process” of the IPCC to convey a message of potentially catastrophic global warming caused by human GHG emissions, despite serious scientific uncertainty regarding the evidence supporting such a premise.

    The contribution of the ”social scientists” has largely been to exacerbate the problem, even if (as the essay claims) “what they have offered has all too often gone ignored, and prospects for substantial budget increases look slim indeed”.

    Why should a general public cough up extra taxpayer funding for ”social scientists” whose aim it is to further bamboozle them?

    They shouldn’t.

    And, yes, IMO we sure can “do better” – without all this social psychobabble.

    Let’s fix the science first


  23. ‘What can public and private decisionmakers learn from a wide-ranging look at the social sciences and the issue of human choice and climate change that illuminates the evaluation of policy goals, implementation strategies, and choices about paths forward?’
    Let’s look at the question, unpack it a bit.
    ‘What (items, actions) can public and private decisionmakers (that’s about everyone here) learn from a wide-ranging look at the social sciences (such as sociology, psychology) and the issue of human choice (a ‘higher order’ concept) and climate change (the abject failure/teething problems/results of IPCC) of that illuminates the evaluation of policy goals (what goals, and how well), implementation strategies (board meetings), and choices (2nd use of word – vip status) about paths forward?’
    I do believe blogs of this nature are instrumental in informing major decision-makers. Which social science looks at ‘group theory’ ? (psychology – fund them quick !)
    Human choice. Certainly choice in your average human increases with proximity, possibly as does influence and power. As for ‘preferences’, we begin to look at ideal scenarios.
    ‘Climate change’ – an emotionally charged concept. Whist the science is burgeoning, the overall success of mitigation and adaptation efforts is lacking.
    Choice of paths forward ?
    I choose ‘world’s best practise’, including access to proposed climate actions. My business now includes what you propose to do, are doing, and have done, with my world.
    I would like global internet decision-making accessable to all. I’m assuming 2 of 7 billion people have access to this site. I’d like to see some input from other cultures. I’m thinking that we should be expanding internet access and developing translation programs.
    I do believe that competition for resources has occurred at the expense of the ‘greater good’ of humanity.
    As a global entity, my aim would be to ‘reduce suffering’. A closely following priority would be to clean up and recycle military and industrial waste. I would fight climate change and energy usage at the domestic level. I would dump ‘planned obsolescence’.

  24. If anyone is interested in getting the ‘Human Choice and Climate Change’ set of books, they are available at discounted rates at

  25. Latimer Alder

    @william martin

    ‘I would dump ‘planned obsolescence’.

    Great. You are going to design equipment that has an infinite life? And do this at an affordable price? Or just build it and wait and see which bit will randomly break sometime in the future?

    You can try this at home. Take out all the fuses in your electrical plugs and replace them with the biggest thickest nails you can find. That’ll ensure that when the circuit overloads you’ll have no idea at all where it’ll catch fire…apart from that it won’t be in the fuse.

    Good luck with that endeavour. Planning for things to fail isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

  26. Still a continuation of the meme of false choice between radical AGW warming mitigation and moderate AGW mitigation policy.

    Both should be rejected.

    Scientists and self-proclaimed “experts” role in social planning should be seriously suspect being one of the great AGW confirmations. Especially when the so thin on actual evidence.

  27. @ Latimer,
    Re planned obsolescence, your example of safety fuses misses the point of my suggestion, which was to reduce the amount of waste in our society.
    Given a choice, would you buy something that lasts as long as you need it ? Or would you buy something that that breaks down and you have to replace ?
    It is a complex issue, perhaps to be discussed elsewhere. I’ll follow your lead on that.
    I do agree with the maxim that ‘nothing lasts forever’, (yet).

    • Latimer Alder

      @william martin

      ‘Given a choice, would you buy something that lasts as long as you need it ? Or would you buy something that that breaks down and you have to replace ?’

      It all depends on the circumstances the buyer finds him/herself in.
      Let me give an example from my own experience. A while back, I was unfortunate to suffer a bad house fire and effectively lost everything I possessed. Luckily the insurance paid up, but I still needed to get a lot of stuff in a hurry and cheap. Which is what I bought. Now that stuff is wearing out, my finances are on a sounder footing and I have the luxury of being able to afford to buy better quality stuff that will (I hope) last for the rest of my lifetime. And I now have the time to make the choice as I’m not in full time employment any more.

      So – in the course of the last fifteen years, I have made both decisions that you suggest as opposite poles. But I cannot tell you which was ‘right’ and which ‘wrong’. I like to think that they were the appropriate ones for my personal circumstances at the time.

      It would be sad if the market was restricted only to the ‘last a lifetime’ stuff, since I would not have been able to afford to re-equip myself after the fire. Equally it would be a duisance now if only the ‘cheap and cheerful’ were available.

      But what would be my major frustration if some other person – in the name of ‘saving the planet’ or ‘cutting waste’ or other noble sounding aim used as a cover to stick their noses in where it is not wanted, , took it upon themselves to make those decisions in advance on my behalf.

      You’re quite welcome to manage your personal choices whichever way you like. I won’t interfere or criticse how you spend your money. But the quid pro quo is that you butt out of mine. If I want you to act on my behalf, I’ll explictily tell you so by electing you as my representative. Until then, no deal.

  28. Larimer,
    Your fire experience is pertinent here (are we burning up the planet?). There are parallels in the following to the topic ‘choice and action’.
    I also lost next to everything in a bushfire, aka ‘Ash Wednesday’, in the Adelaide Hills, a rural community with commuting urbanites. I had a 12 acre mixed farm, self sufficient at many levels.
    Hundreds if not thousands of houses were lost. My bit of that fire was started by a 14 year old 15 kilometers away. People died.
    In our valley the wooden buildings were lost, the brick buildings faired better. I managed to save the brick building which I was converting from class 10 (dairy building, built 1946) to class 1 (residence).
    My neighbours helped me fight the fire until their houses were threatened. Volunteer gangs helped to clean up the initial debris but it still took me years to finish the task.
    I’m interested in ‘structural functionalism’. Re houses, we are more or less compelled to use the resources at hand, and fit in with the locals.
    However, earthen buildings withstand most natural ravages, and, if I was building again, I would definitely use rammed earth, concrete, and stone. As an aside, ‘pise’ (italian) and ‘wattle and daube’ (australian) houses are cheap, quick to build, and last a generation or 2.
    Interesting that we are discussing domestic solutions to global problems (a point in my earlier post).
    Let me turn to the general issue of solving problems. Some problems have no apparent solution. We have to make our best guess and come back to it later when we have more information. Better to use a stop-gap measure (adapt) than commit to uncertainty. As you did, ‘appropriately for the time’.
    Confucius said we are responsible for 6 generations – let’s upgrade the figure to 10 generations. at a government level, 100 years might be an ideal to plan for. There is some personal anecdotal evidence that 3 generations is a suitable time-frame for planning. The Confucian idea places us in the ‘sins of our fathers’ (3 generations). Ergo, clean up their mess.
    Some of my neighbours were over-insured, built mansions, bought cars, for the loss of their lined shed, maybe a 20 to 1 return on their policy.
    I bet, in retrospect, you would have accepted some advice re fuses. I used to use tin foil.
    I wasn’t insured but people donated stuff to me – clothes, blankets, food, 10% of my financial loss.
    Re governance, I think it’s time we moved on. Upgrade it to reflect new boundaries. Our community is interdependant. What we don’t need is people feathering their nests at the expense of others.
    Thanks for the discussion Larimer.

  29. Though not addressing CAGW per se, this letter in the Australian Financial Review seems pertinent to me as regards the balance between individual and government action:

    Economic analysts in Monday’s AFR have identified numerous government policies that are preventing or inhibiting growth in productivity and the economy. Warwick McKibbin’s “Catching Europe’s ills” (Opinion) outlines a long list of mistakes by the present government including a reliance on Keynesian economics that involved increased spending on projects with low or negative returns but added to unproductive debt. Alan Mitchell’s “Mood music for boom that’s over” (Economic Briefing) rightly suggests that, after the partial reversal of earlier reforms and the week-end speeches by the leaders of the two major parties, it is now hard to identify the next generation of reforms.

    But neither analyst seems to get to the heart of the matter. Surely that is the unwarranted belief that government is the determiner of our economic and social fate. If Australia is to improve its economic performance, and create a society where (desirably) many more individuals accept responsibility for their own fate, it is behoven on our political and other leaders to recognise the need to reduce the role of government and the accumulation of unproductive debt and, instead, to allow competitive private enterprise to expand and flourish. As McKibbin points out, that is the lesson from the recent experience of Europe and, I would add, also from that of the USA. Nobody believes in unfettered markets, but the dissatisfaction with the performance of political leaders both here and overseas centres on their emphasis on government intervention and regulation –and borrowings.

    Wouldn’t it be marvellous if a political leader enunciated a list of things that his or her party is not going to do?

    Des Moore, Director, Institute for Private Enterprise, South Yarra Vic, Aus

    [Full disclosure: I did some work with Des in 2005-06 and am in regular contact with him]

  30. I suppose, if you must take the deleterious effects of CO2 hypothesis as a given, that this makes sense. Absent that, it’s irrelevant.

  31. Steve Rayner and Elizabeth Malone fell over when they said “on the basis of a social science perspective”.

    Governments have to make decisions balancing all sorts of perspectives. Once we dilute the “social science perspective” with climate science and economics and politics, we get a what we have.

    Actually, I think what Obama did with Copenhagen is pure genius. That the world will take action to prevent warming to 2degC means different things to different people. Clearly accurate measurement and reliable prediction are important. Ultimately, it means that if 2degC isn’t going to happen, then we don’t need to do anything at all.

  32. I’m coming to this too late, but I agree with Judith that it’s a sensible set of recommendations. Taken as a whole, the message is, ‘Don’t go down the global emissions reduction path.’ And we’re not doing that any more, after a series of failures. Another might be, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in the one basket.’ Amen.

    I agree that the recommendations could have been much more crisply worded.

  33. David Wojick wrote:

    There is nothing fragile about the quality of education in the USA, much less perilously. It is one of the most stable institutions on earth.

    If you believe that, you’ve not been paying attention to the state of US education the past four or five decades. See Schools of Education, for example.