Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Send in the bats

What are the risks in the emissions trading scheme? The need for the legislation is driven by a belief that man-made global warming is real and dangerous and that if New Zealand - hopefully followed by others - takes action, the danger will be averted. Is there unequivocal evidence that such global warming is real and dangerous? Well, actually, no. In the opinion of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is a roughly 90 per cent "risk" that climate change is man-made and a 10 per cent "risk" that it is natural.
Hey, ho, away we go: it's in the Herald, it's by Brian Leyland, so we must be in bat country. Indeed we are. Mr Leyland, the proud possessor of a MSc in Power System Design and that stylish lay-preacher look (pudding-bowl haircut, beard, no moustache), has some intriguing notions of "risk" (his quotation marks, not mine). To illustrate his point, I am holding a ten-chamber revolver, specially constructed for the purpose of this argument; it makes typing difficult, but don't mind me. Nine of the chambers have bullets in them. Should I use this unfeasibly large gun to play Russian Roulette? If I were the type who talks of "risk," then I would say that there is only a ninety percent chance that I would blow out my beautiful mind on the first attempt; because of the ten percent chance that I might survive, I should go ahead and play. Fortunately for the cleaners, I decide to play Scrabble instead.

Of course, there is more to Mr Leyland's argument than a reckless notion of "risk." Yes, indeed. He also has that first refuge of a scoundrel, Google numbers. Carbon trading fraud is a real risk and you can see why: an internet search of "carbon trading fraud" gets about 300,000 hits. So, there. QED. Well, no, not exactly. The phrase "carbon trading fraud," put into Google with those pesky quotation marks, produced 203 pages for me. The same words thrown in at random revealed 292,000 pages. That's search engines for you: throw in random stuff, get random stuff out; then publish random stuff as if it proves something. Anyone can do it, and here's how: I searched for catholic treacle factory and received 12,500 pages, in English and Italian. Alarmed, I then searched for corset training feature and received 99,000 pages. Unable to restrain myself, I searched for criminal trope fund and received 21,200 results. Clearly, there is cause for concern.

Never mind, we can put on a happy face and remember that "humankind will adapt - as it has done through past ice ages and warmer periods." Yes, that's right: we survived the four great ice ages, three of which occurred before we existed. Damn we're clever, us humans.

Oh well, at least Mr Leyland got himself a rhyming headline: "Climate adoption a safer option." Quite what it has to do with Mr Leyland's argument is anyone's guess, but then quite what Mr Leyland's argument is doing in a newspaper is anyone's guess as well. No, that's not true. We know what it is doing here: it is doing the Fear Uncertainty Doubt thing. That's what the International Climate Science Coalition is all about.


3 comments:

Pascal's bookie said...

I've just done some researching of my own using Mr Google and found some results that, while not putting the matter to rest, certainly help to clarify some issues:

14,900 for Brian Leyland is a genius.

69,600 for Brian Leyland is a dick.

and a whopping,

428,000 for Brian Leyland is wrong.

Which if I understand the methodology, makes it 128,00 more right than 'carbon trading fraud'. So there.

Peter in Dundee said...

Never fear, the inventor of Mathematica is building a brain:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/03/17/wolfram_alpha/

Whether it will have blonde hair and a tan and be good for relieving his, tendsion. Is not stated.

George said...

The Herald prints this, so by rights they're equally batshit insane.