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Michael Asten’s novel idea – think first, spend later?

It’s amazing what sensible things turn up in the holiday period. The Australian not only published Maurice Newman skeptical discussion: “climate madness, dishonesty and fraud”, but two days later they published a scientist talking about natural cycles. The scandal! He’s introduced a new term into the debate:  …”residual” anthropogenic driven climate change. Instead of CAGW*, we have RAGW. It’s a term that I could grow to like.

Michael Asten, professor of geophysics at Monash University, is suggesting the Australian government’s “Direct Action Scheme” ought to start with science. (How radical.) Before we spend $5 billion we ought to spend a small part of that on looking at whether we need to spend the rest of it. It’s a starkly obvious point, but almost never said. More than anything,  both the environment and the people of Australia need some action, and it starts with reviewing the research. Where is the cost benefit study on climate action?

Bring science to climate policy

The Australian

THE Senate inquiry probing the direct action scheme to reduce CO2 emissions provides
opportunity for a review not only of the Coalition’s scheme but its underlying justification. Just as the National Broadband Network has been subjected to rigorous review and reframing, we should expect nothing less of the direct action scheme.

Asten lists the top five climate points that need  scrutiny:

First, climate sensitivity is generally defined as the change in global temperature produced by a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere. A range of studies across the past five years indicates this may be below, or significantly below, present values quoted by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in which case published modelling projections of future global warming and sea-level rise become overstated.

Second, the disconnect between CO2 increase and global temperature change since 1900 is especially evident in the global warming hiatus of the past 17 years. The mechanisms for this hiatus are not adequately described by consensus science, but there is increasing evidence to suggest natural cyclic change plays a major role in this dichotomy between projections from climate modelling based on  anthropogenic global warming theory, and systematic measurement using terrestrial and satellite observation platforms.

Third, cyclic variations in global sea level suggest natural cycles of about 60 and 30 years in length. Such cycles, which are deserving of considerable further study, suggest a significant fraction of the observed rate of sea-level rise of past decades may be attributable to the upswing of natural cycles. The consequence, if proven, on projections of future sea-level rise and associated planning and land-use policy is large.

Fourth, natural cycles in climate change are increasingly evident from precise studies of temperature records imprinted in cave deposits, ice cores, corals and deep-sea sediments. These provide mounting evidence that current global warming is not abnormal in a historical context, and variations are subject to a range of natural cyclic phenomena with periods ranging from about 60 years to millennia.

Finally, causative mechanisms for natural cycles in climate change are an essential complement to observational data showing natural cycles in climate change. Mechanisms involving highly complex interactions of solar physics, magnetic fields and cosmic rays are on the cusp of delivering insights into  possible mechanisms.

The Direct Action program will cost $5 billion as Asten remarks:

The Senate inquiry would do well to recommend some thousandths of this sum be spent re-examining which projections are credible, which natural changes require mitigation of effect rather than cause, and what cost-benefit parameters apply to programs targeting residual anthropogenically related climate change.

As an aside, when I looked up Michael Asten, I came across Michael Ashley’s two year old criticism of The Australian for even publishing Asten’s opinion. Though it’s old, the reasoning is classic climate cultism.

Ashley has two arguments (both logical fallacies): the first is essentially that Asten is not a climate scientist. Who knew that only registered anointed Climate ScientistsTM can interpret data and speak about the climate? If that is the case we can only wonder why Ashley-the-astrophysicist’s opinion on climate is worthy of publication? He, apparently, is gifted to decide which climate scientists are right, and permitted to spout opinions on the philosophy of newspaper editorials as well, even though he is also not a Climate ScientistsTM, a JournalistTM or an EditorTM either. It’s one rule for them but “I Am A God.” Right?

The second argument (if you could call it that) is that Asten is wrong because there is “rock solid” evidence. But Ashley’s evidence about the atmosphere apparently is mostly opinion polls, and specifically a blogger opinion survey. He links to Cook’s meaningless keyword search of abstracts, that played word tricks with category names, hid the data, and mistakenly found a 0.3% consensus but called it a 97% consensus. Does Ashley approve of this kind of research? Perhaps not, he might be horrified to know he seems to endorse it. But here’s  the trick: when Ashley wrote that article and linked to Cook’s site, the page it went to was a “consensus” page (bad enough) but it could not possibly have been that “97%” keyword study because it was not done then. So Ashley has linked to a page that John Cook changes, and thus pins his scientific reputation on a blogger’s moveable feast… We hope he checks his own experiments more carefully.

The inanity of the grand hypocrisy is lost on Ashley. In his world, it’s a “War On Science” if an independent scientist speaks his mind in a publication paid for by consenting adults, but it’s worth publishing a b-grade scientist (who doesn’t seem to understand the philosophy of science) who writes unresearched  material outside his speciality on a site funded from payments coerced from a skeptical public. Did Ashley write that unscientific piece during business hours? Were we paying for his personal activism too?

Michael Ashley doesn’t realize that he’s the one waging the war. Why is the ARC funding any scientist who Argues from Authority, or thinks an Ad Hom is worth saying? Moreso we are entitled to wonder  why does The Conversation receive a cent of taxpayer money if it’s editors think articles like Ashley’s illogical, hypocritical and unsubstantiated pieces are worth publishing?

The bottom line: Demand the government assess the science

If we were networked activists with a funding machine, we would be taking an approach like Asten’s to the limit. Any Australian government that did not assess the science for itself on behalf of Australians should be charged with negligence. An international committee does not have the interests of Australian citizens and the Australian environment as it’s first priority.

Why would any reasonable policy maker not establish an Australian investigation designed to assess the cost benefits of direct action? The experts in it should be drawn from outside the usual climate science circles, and given a fixed task, limited in time, and judged by their ability to make predictions that stood the test of time.


*CAGW: Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming



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