Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A splendid example of projection from a Warmist who wouldn't have a clue about science

Paul Biegler below says it is their childish emotional state that motivates climate atheists. He is Australian Research Council postdoctoral fellow in bioethics at Monash University. He may know a lot about ethics but he shows no sign of knowing any climate science. He reveals his inspissated ignorance by his coat-trailing reference to "A truckload of science" in support of global warming -- but he names not one scientific fact from that "truckload". Why? Because no such facts exist. Warmism is prophecy that flies in the face of the scientific facts (See the header on this blog). It is believers in prophecy who are in a childish emotional state

Projection -- accusing others of your own faults -- is good rhetoric but is fundamentally dishonest

He does make extended reference to a concept from social science -- delay of gratification -- but as my paper on that subject showed, most of the generalizations put forward in that research field are false. So he is leaning on a broken reed there too. Deferment of gratification is only weakly generalizable so even if a skeptic were a "non-deferrer" in one way, it would be unlikely to explain his skepticism. So Biegler is ignorant of the facts there too. Perhaps he should do some real research some day, instead of just pontificating

Instant gratification is a powerful, but flawed, human motivator.

IF YOU are down a blind alley searching for that perfect Christmas gift for your climate sceptic friend, you could do worse than slinging them a book on Emotional Intelligence. Why? Research is mounting that your friend is the victim of one of the brain's many computing glitches. More particularly, he has been derailed by an emotional response that is at best unhelpful and at worst catastrophic. He has capitulated to the pleasure of the here and now.

In his recent book Brain Bugs, psychology professor Dean Buonomano summarises a wealth of evidence that when it comes to putting off rewards, many of us suck. In the most famous study, back in the 1960s, Walter Mischel sat unsuspecting toddlers at tables laid with a single marshmallow. They could eat it now or receive an extra one if they waited a short time. Some rug rats unceremoniously demolished the treat without delay, while others exercised supreme self-control and resisted temptation until the appointed moment. Follow-up of the youngsters two decades later found those who showed restraint had better college admission scores. Other studies have linked weakness of will with obesity and addiction.

From a food-gathering perspective, it is simply irrational to forgo a double treat for the sake of a few minutes' wait. But, of course, we expect most four-year-olds to act irrationally and, in so doing, they mirror adult behaviour from our own evolutionary past. In our primordial history, when futures were predator-ridden and uncertain, it made sense to grab the food now rather than wait for a bigger, but later, chow-down. This is an example of temporal discounting, where greater rewards in the future are tagged with lesser value in virtue of their temporal distance.

Adults remain prone to temporal discounting. Given the choice of $100 now or $120 in a month, most take the money and run, sacrificing what amounts to an annual return on their one-month investment of 240 per cent. How could we be so dumb? It turns out that the allure of the immediate reward is strongly reinforced by emotions at the more pleasant end of the spectrum. Put simply, it often feels better to be rewarded straight away than to wait.

Climate scepticism is a strong candidate example of temporal discounting. A truckload of science supports global warming and its attendant perils. Yet, addressing this temporally far-flung threat, while generating distant benefit for our planet's inheritors, will cost us real pleasure now. Self-imposed measures to reduce our carbon footprint do not bring universal glee, and the carbon tax will hit both our wallets and our wellbeing.

But one of the reasons for the astounding reproductive success of humans is our capacity to bring our cortical computing power, and its rationality, to bear on our insistent emotions, Plato's unruly horse.

Many emotions still help and validly guide action, such as the fright one feels when a car whizzes dangerously close as we cross the road. But others need reining in when faced with compelling evidence on future prospects. The ability to apply rational foresight to limit the sway of short-term emotional reward is a true intelligence.

The task is difficult, not least because many of our emotional decisions are backed by post hoc - but aberrant - rationalisation. Nowhere is this writ larger than in the domain of marketing and consumer behaviour. For example, a large body of evidence shows that the emotional reward of status enhancement fuels prestige-car purchases. Yet most of us either wilfully deny this, or simply lack introspective access to our true motivations. Instead we convince ourselves that it was the eight air bags or the stability control that clinched it.

In the climate realm, fabrication is also rife. Enthralled by their emotional biases, sceptics mouth desperate appeals to the corruptibility of scientists, or to the fallibility of climate prediction models.

To err is human and we should forgive many their inability to constrain the draw of the emotions. But this failure is inexcusably egregious in our politicians who are steering the ship for the long voyage, not just around the next reef. To those who still succumb to immediate gratification at the expense of our long-term good, I say welcome any Christmas gifts on brain bugs and emotional intelligence with open arms. Our grandchildren's future could depend on it.


Lots of opposition to wind farms in NSW

The cabinet debated new wind farm guidelines yesterday, with division over whether NSW should follow Victoria and order wind turbines to be set further back from houses.

The Shooters and Fishers Party, which shares the balance of power in the upper house with the Christian Democrats, said yesterday it wanted a moratorium on new wind farms.

Industry sources said a US Tea Party-style "astroturf" campaign, which mimics grassroots local opposition but is at least partly directed from elsewhere, was being waged against wind energy in NSW, which was expected to bring up to $10 billion in investment this decade as it accelerated to meet the national 20 per cent renewable energy target.

Wind farm opponents include a coalition of local groups under the banner "landscape guardians", and the Australian Environment Foundation, which sprang up seven years ago from a conference run by the right-wing think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs, but is now a separate group. "Our role is, if you like, aiding and abetting what local communities are doing and helping them voice their disapproval over wind farms," said the foundation's executive director, Max Rheese.

While local groups say they believe the inaudible noise and vibration from wind farms affect human health, the foundation does not think humans have a role in causing climate change and therefore believes wind farms are an expensive extravagance.

It hosted the British climate sceptic Lord Monckton last year and says it "questions the whole science behind anthropogenic global warming".

Mr Rheese said the foundation had paid for anti-wind signs at public meetings and lobbied the Shooters and Fishers Party, and the National and Liberal parties in NSW.

The Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Borsak said yesterday the party would wait for the cabinet decision but would use its critical position in the upper house to oppose any pro-wind farm legislation that came to Parliament.

The party had discussed wind farms with the foundation but had come up with its own policy calling for a moratorium and public inquiry into wind turbines, Mr Borsak said. "We do probably see eye to eye with them on this and many issues, but this is a party position that we have finalised internally."

The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, said in August it was his opinion that no new wind farms should be built in NSW, but it is understood there are divisions in cabinet about the issue.

The Nationals MP and Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, said yesterday his anti-wind farm views were well known and he hoped yesterday's cabinet meeting "addresses the sins of the past". "I live at Crookwell; we've certainly come under the brunt of poor planning and lack of community consultation of wind farms in the past … It puts friends against friends, neighbours against neighbours."

The Waubra Foundation is a national group arguing wind farms can cause illness because of the vibrations from turbines. It lodged a submission based on perceived health concerns with the government yesterday.

The chairman, Peter Mitchell, said his opposition to wind farms was based on health concerns and nothing to do with his background as a former director of oil and gas companies. "The critics here are really playing shoot the messenger, which I find ridiculous," he said.

The British equivalent of landscape guardians, "country guardians", was funded and supported by elements of the British nuclear energy industry.

Labor's environment spokesman, Luke Foley, said "flat earthers" were running a scare campaign against wind power.


Some electricity generators already on the brink -- with the carbon tax a last straw

LOY YANG POWER, a major supplier to the east coast electricity market, has been forced to ask the corporate regulator for special permission to continue trading in the face of financial strain due to debt refinancing and the carbon tax.

Details of the financial difficulty come less than a week after a federal government report predicted that, should the Loy Yang A plant be forced to close suddenly, wholesale electricity prices would nearly double, with an immediate flow on to household power costs.

The findings, contained in the federal government's draft white paper on energy, said wholesale power prices would surge by nearly 80 per cent in Victoria and by more than 45 per cent in NSW.

Loy Yang Power's chief executive, Ian Nethercote, told the Herald the company had received a "no action" letter from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission - allowing it to continue to trade after debt totalling $565 million due in November became a current liability on its books.

Mr Nethercote said Loy Yang Power was already in talks with federal ministers, the Treasury and the government's new Energy Security Council about its share of $5.5 billion worth of free carbon permits set aside to help electricity generators through the introduction of the carbon tax.

The company, whose Loy Yang A plant in Victoria's Latrobe Valley supplies one-third of Victoria's power needs, was also talking to ministers and the council about the possibility of the government becoming its lender of last resort in its bid to refinance the debt.

Mr Nethercote said this was not "our preferred option" because "we imagine the conditions will be more onerous".

Other energy industry sources said Loy Yang was emerging as the first big test of the government's policies aimed at ensuring the electricity market coped with the introduction of the $23-a-tonne carbon price in July without major disruption.

Mr Nethercote said it was "more than likely" Loy Yang would have had to get a no action letter from ASIC even without a carbon price, which will cost it about $450 million a year.

He said some of Loy Yang's customers had asked for more information about the company's financial situation and were reviewing the conditions they placed on their dealings with the generator. Other sources said several companies had stopped trading with Loy Yang.

Only the chairman of the Energy Security Council - a Tasmanian, Michael Vertigan - has been publicly announced, but the Herald has learnt the other eight members of the crucial advisory body have been appointed and the council has begun negotiations with several generators, investment banks and financial institutions.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, owns 32.5 per cent of Loy Yang, but the company has denied its Japanese shareholder is looking to divest in order to concentrate on the clean-up operations required at home. Another 32.5 per cent is owned by AGL.

Loy Yang lobbied fiercely but unsuccessfully for an amendment to the carbon tax laws that would have allowed deferred payment when generators bought forward-dated pollution permits under the scheme, a provision included under the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme that would have reduced the sudden increase in their working capital requirements.

Loy Yang is ineligible for the government's scheme to pay for the closure of brown coal plants. Plants that could access it are Hazelwood, Yallourn and Morwell in the Latrobe Valley, Playford in South Australia and Collinsville in Queensland.


New patriotic computer game for schools

GRADE 3 students will be asked to play a patriotic computer game as part of a program to help them embrace what it means to be Australian.

The Aussie Clue Cracker game has been approved by the Australia Day Council and will be included in the history curriculum across the nation next year to help students better relate to Australian symbols.

As well as all of Australia's national symbols and days, students will solve questions to identify symbols such as the MCG, the Melbourne Cup, the Sydney Opera House, a didgeridoo and a Digger.

The education program designed by the Australia Day Council includes activities allowing students to design their own individual flags to show what best represents them.

National Australia Day Council chief executive officer Warren Pearson said the program was designed to reinforce the power of the symbols that all Australians could relate to.

"This is the bread and butter of being Australian," Mr Pearson said. "These are the things that resonate in our hearts and minds as Australians. "There is nothing in this list of symbols that excludes anybody, these are things we can celebrate - different aspects of our identity."

The program will be available for all schools and teachers to use in their lessons, but will not be made mandatory.

Similar to a web-based version of the popular board game Guess Who, grade 3 students will work through questions to identify the 24 national symbols, either as individuals or small groups on school computers, or as classes working on electronic whiteboards.

Mr Pearson said the Aussie Clue Cracker would be released next month, before Australia Day. It would be available for schools to use as part of their history lessons throughout the year and was relevant to all national days and events, he said.

The interactive lessons will incorporate sound bites, images and music to reinforce Aussie symbolism.


No comments: