Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.


Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Support

Twitter Facebook YouTube Pinterest MeWe

RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe

Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...

New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts


We must defend science if we want a prosperous future

Posted on 3 April 2015 by Guest Author

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Barry Jones, University of Melbourne

Today’s Australians are, by far, the best educated cohort in our history –- on paper, anyway -– but this is not reflected in the quality of our political discourse. We appear to be lacking in courage, judgement, capacity to analyse and even simple curiosity, except about immediate personal needs.

There are more than 1.1 million university students, both undergraduate and postgraduate (about 900,000 of them locals), currently at Australian universities.

Australia also has about 4.5 million graduates (nearly 20% of the population), far more than the total numbers of traditional blue collar workers. Members of trade unions amount to about one million people: 18% of the total work force and about 12% of the private sector.

Inevitably, these numbers will shift our political culture, but the process is occurring slowly.

Australia, like the US, UK, Canada and much of Europe, has undergone a serious decline in the quality of debate on public policy. The British journalist Robert Fisk has called this “the infantilisation of debate”.

In the era of “spin”, when a complex issue is involved, leaders do not explain. They find a mantra (“stop the boats!”) and repeat it endlessly, “staying on message”, without explanation or qualification. The word “because” seems to have fallen out of the political lexicon.

Evidence-based policies and actions should be a central principle in the working of our system and reliance on populism and sloganeering should be rejected, but in reality they are not.

Selling out science

Complex problems demand complex solutions. Examples of such problems are refugees and climate change, which cannot be reduced to parroting a few simple slogans (“turn back the boats”, “stop this toxic tax”).

“Retail politics” – sometimes called “transactional politics” – where policies are adopted not because they are right but because they can be sold, is a dangerous development and should be rejected. We must maintain confidence that major problems can be addressed –- and act accordingly.

A voracious media looks for diversity and emotional engagement, weakening capacity for reflection and serious analysis, compounded by the rise of social media where users, typically, seek reinforcement of their views rather than being challenged by diversity.

Science and research generally are given disturbingly low priority in contemporary public life in Australia. Scientists, especially those involved with climate change or the environment, have come under unprecedented attack, especially in the media.

And the whole concept of the scientific method is discounted, even ridiculed. Gus Nossal sometimes quotes me as saying that Australia must be the only country in the world where the word “academic” is treated as pejorative.

The role of science in policy development is a sensitive issue. I spent years – decades really – bashing my head against a brick wall trying to persuade colleagues to recognise the importance, even centrality, of science policy.

Many, probably most, of my political colleagues had no interest in science as an intellectual discipline, although they depended on science for their health, nutrition, transport, entertainment and communication.

We need to revive the process of dialogue: explain, explain, explain, rejecting mere sloganeering and populism. We need evidence-based policies, but often evidence lacks the psychological carrying power generated by appeals to prejudice or fear of disadvantage (“they are robbing you…”).

Evidence vs. opinion

There is a disturbing conflict between evidence and opinion (“you have evidence, but I have strong opinions”), and political processes are more likely to be driven by opinion rather than evidence in a short political cycle.

Brian Schmidt, our Nobel Laureate in astrophysics, wrote of his experience in this regard in The Age on February 16:

As a Nobel Prize winner, I travel the world meeting all kinds of people.

Most of the policy, business and political leaders I meet immediately apologise for their lack of knowledge of science.

Except when it comes to climate science. Whenever this subject comes up, it never ceases to amaze me how each person I meet suddenly becomes an expert.

Facts are then bandied to fit an argument for or against climate change, and on all sides, misconceptions abound.

The confusion is not surprising – climate science is a very broad and complicated subject with experts working on different aspects of it worldwide.

No single person knows everything about climate change. And for the average punter, it’s hard to keep up with all the latest research and what it means.

More surprising is the supreme confidence that non-experts (scientists and non-scientists alike) have in their own understanding of the subject.

I encourage you to read Thinking, Fast and Slow, a 2011 best seller by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman who, although not an economist, won the Nobel Prize for Economic Science in 2002 for his development of “prospect theory”.

Prospect theory analyses rational and irrational factors in decision making. He demonstrates, regrettably, the extent to which people like you and me use familiar short cuts – “heuristics” – to make intuitive judgements, and discount evidence or rationality in making decisions.

This can apply whether purchasing something, deciding where and how to like something, or taking a political stance on issues. Kahneman became the outstanding authority on behavioural economics and social psychology.

Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, from 2012, is also an important book. I think Haidt could go much further with his thesis, which states that politics and religion tend to be centred on “values”, so people can pick and choose, and can sometimes be blinded to the facts because of their moral worldview. It is clear that many people say: “I reject these particular facts because I don’t trust where they come from.”

Heuristics and confusion

Psychologists confirm that we habitually engage in the cherry-picking of evidence -– we choose the bits that we are emotionally, intuitively, attracted to and comfortable with.

The Cambridge political scientist, David Runciman, argues that “opinion, interest and knowledge are too divided, and no event, whether an election […] or a crisis is clear enough in its meaning to bring closure”.

For example, there is fierce opposition in some quarters to the vaccination of children and the fluoridation of water supplies to prevent dental caries, even though the empirical evidence in support of both is overwhelming. But appeals to fear can be far more powerful than arguing on the basis of hard evidence.

There has been a sustained attack from some quarters – the News Corporation papers, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) to name only three – on scientific research and scientific method, even on rationality and the Enlightenment tradition.

The illusion was created that scientists are corrupt, while lobbyists are pure. One of the false assertions is that scientists who take the mainstream position are rewarded, while dissenters are punished (similar to Galileo and the Inquisition).

In Australia now, and the US until recently, the contrary could be argued. Galileo’s work was based on observation of data -– his opponents were operating from doctrine.

Scientists arguing for the mainstream view have been subject to strong attack by denialists who assert that they are quasi-religious zealots who are missionaries for a green religion.

In reality, it was the denialist/confusionist position to rely on faith, the conviction that there were a diversity of complex reasons for climate change but only one could be confidently rejected: the role of human activity.

It might be nice to see ‘science’ in that list. Takver/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Three fronts

There are three areas of attack against expertise and taking a long term, analytical view of the world: from the Right, the Left and the anxious Centre.

From the Right there have been systematic and well-financed attacks by lobbyists from the fossil fuels industry and electricity generators. This has been highly personal, often abusive, sometimes threatening.

The anxious Centre includes people working in particular industries and regions (such as Hunter Valley, La Trobe Valley, Tasmanian forests), understandably fearful of potential job losses, without much prospect of creating new jobs. The trade union movement is deeply divided on this –- as is the business community.

But from the Left, or some segments of the intellectual Left, a deconstructionist mind-set has partly undermined an evidence-based approach to policy making or problem solving.

The pluralist or deconstructionist or post-modern theory of knowledge is contemptuous of expertise, rejects the idea of hierarchies of knowledge and asserts the democratic mantra that –- as with votes in elections –- every opinion is of equal value, so that if you insist that the earth is flat, refuse vaccination for children or deny that HIV-AIDS is transmitted by virus, your view should be treated with respect.

Similarly, there has been a repudiation of expertise and or taste -– dismissing the idea of people like Harold Bloom, or myself, that there is a “Western canon” which sets benchmarks. “No,” say the deconstructionists, “the paintings of Banksy, the mysterious British graffiti artist, are just as good as Raphael, and hip-hop performances are just as valid as Beethoven’s Opus 131.”

The Welsh geneticist Steve Jones asks an important question: if there is a division of scientific opinion, with 999 on one side, and one on the other, how should the debate be handled? Should the one dissenter be given 500 opportunities to speak?

Yet Graham Lloyd, The Australian’s environment editor – perhaps more accurately described as the anti-environment editor – trawls the web, finds obscure and unsubstantiated critiques of mainstream science, then publishes them as front page attacks on professional integrity.

Science and common-sense

There are major problems when it comes to explaining some of issues in science, and there have been ever since science began. Some fundamental scientific discoveries seem to be counter-intuitive, challenging direct observation or our common-sense view of the world.

Common sense, and direct observation, tells us that the Earth is flat, that the sun (like the moon) rotates around the Earth and that forces don’t operate at a distance.

Aristotle with his encyclopedic –- but often erroneous –- grasp of natural phenomena, was a compelling authority in support of a geocentric universe, and that the seat of reason was in the heart, not the brain, and that females were deformed males. His views were dominant for 1,500 years.

The Greek astronomer Ptolemy, following Aristotle, provided ingenious proofs in support of geocentrism. Then along came Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler who said: “Your common sense observation is wrong. The orbits of sun and moon are completely different, although they appear to be similar.” (Our use of the terms “sunrise” and “sunset” preserves the Ptolemaic paradigm.)

By the 20th Century, electronics enabled us to apply force from a distance, to do thousands of things remotely, manipulating spacecraft and satellites, or receiving signals (radio, telephony, television), setting alarms, opening garage doors and, one of the great labour saving devices, the remote switch for television.

The most obvious disjunction between science and common sense is the question: “right now, are we at rest or in motion?”

Common sense and direct observation suggests that we are at rest. But science says, “wrong again”. We are moving very rapidly. The earth is spinning on its axis at a rate of 1,669 kmh at the equator, and in Melbourne (37.8°S) at 1,317 kmh. We are also orbiting round the sun even faster, at nearly 30 kms, or 107,200 kmh. There is a third motion, harder to measure, as the galaxy expands -– and it’s speeding up, as Brian Schmidt postulates.

But, sitting here in Footscray, it is hard to grasp that we are in motion, kept in place by gravity. Psychology resists it. Essentially we have to accept the repudiation of common sense on trust, because somebody in a white coat says, “trust me, I’m a scientist”. I would challenge anyone to reconcile common sense and quantum theory or to satisfactorily explain the Higgs boson or -– hardest of all -– to define gravity.

The factors that limit the psychological carrying power of much science –- not all -– include these:

  • its complexity, often requiring use of a language known only to initiates

  • outcomes are seen as too expensive

  • outcomes are seen as too slow

  • the history of science has been badly taught, often portrayed as an effortless success story, proceeding from triumph to triumph, instead of the passionate and dramatic reality.

Science at the core

Scientists and learned societies have been punching below their weight in matters of public policy, and they are careful to avoid being involved in controversies outside their disciplines, possible threats to grants being among them.

Some distinguished scientists are outstanding advocates, including Gus Nossal, Peter Doherty, Ian Chubb, Fiona Stanley, Robert May, Brian Schmidt, Ian Frazer, Mike Archer, Tim Flannery and Dick Denton.

Science must be at the core of our national endeavour and you are well placed to examine the evidence, evaluate it, then advocate and persuade. Our nation’s future depends on the quality of its thinking, and its leaders.

There is a wide-spread assumption by industry and government that Australia’s economic, social and technological future will be a mirror image of the past. We can be confident that this just won’t happen. We have not even begun to talk seriously about the threats and opportunities of a post-carbon economy.

I encourage you, whatever your political persuasion, or lack of it, to argue for higher recognition of the role that science must play in our future, and drive your MP mad unless or until he/ she does something about it.

Remember Archimedes and his lever. But first you have to find a fulcrum, then you push the lever.

0 0

Printable Version  |  Link to this page


Comments 1 to 19:

  1. A bit of false balance here.  Deconstructionism is a largely inconsequential movement, though it may be different in Australia, with very little impact on this particular debate.  Any problems produced by the "intellectual Left" pale by comparison with the shameless activities of conservative politicians and their enablers.  

    1 1
  2. Say rather "deconstructionism" is a largely inconsequential technique or strategy.  Unless, of course, it appears as a feature of postmodernity.  Postmodernity isn't a choice, though.  It's what happens when, to quote Jameson, people "attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place."  History becomes a sort of commodity or means to produce exchange value or to protect the flow of capital.  History is altered, taken apart, reconstructed to fit and encourage the dominant narrative of the production of capital.  The more we help people understand their conditions, and help them understand their own roles in developing the historical narrative that contains but is not manipulated by the narrative of capital, the more we help create a culture capable of collectively grasping the reins of the long-term future of the species.  

    It seems unlikely that we'll be able to do that.  Nature, that overarching narrative we think we've moved beyond, will likely lend a violent hand in encouraging the critical thinking skills of the general public, unless such violence ends up associated with various deities.  We're not good at taking responsibility right now.   

    0 0
  3. ralbin @1, in Australia at least, deconstructionism is a pervasive feature of the academic left, and consequently highly influential on policy development if not on the thought processes of ordinary Australians.  Further, the teaching of deconstructionist perspectives has penetrated deep into the pre-university curiculum.  The result is pernicious in both cases.  I strongly suspect the same is true in parts of Europe, particularly France.  The tragedy is that straightforward evidence based reasoning strongly supports a left wing point of view.  The influence of deconstructionism weakens the left wing of politics.

    0 0
  4. I'm also unhappy with the significance attached to deconstruction in this article. The same attitudes to knowledge are also symptomatic of a post-modern world view, and I am not convinced that the post-modern worldview has been signficantly influenced by deconstructionism - I think there are probably plenty of other drivers which may have caused it's emergence.

    It is entirely possible that deconstruction itself was a response to the same drivers which led to the emergence of a post-modern worldview in non-academic circles.

    0 0
  5. Tom@3,

    The tragedy is that straightforward evidence based reasoning strongly supports a left wing point of view.

    Can you elabrate that point? I have not heard such opinion yet. Do you mean, that right wingers are unable/less able to accept evidence than left wingers? Do you mean such observation aplies to Australian/Westminster political system, or any contemporary system in general?

    0 0
  6. I have hard time understanding the authors association of "deconstructionist mind-set" with "intellectual Left". The definition of "deconstructionism" apears in here:

    But from the Left, or some segments of the intellectual Left, a deconstructionist mind-set has partly undermined an evidence-based approach to policy making or problem solving

    and here:

    The pluralist or deconstructionist or post-modern theory of knowledge is contemptuous of expertise, rejects the idea of hierarchies of knowledge and asserts the democratic mantra that –- as with votes in elections –- every opinion is of equal value, so that if you insist that the earth is flat, refuse vaccination for children or deny that HIV-AIDS is transmitted by virus, your view should be treated with respect.

    That has nothing to do with "intellectual Left" which, at least in Australia, means support of pro-labour, pro-social, and pro-environmental policies.

    The deconstructionism, as described above, can be attributed equally to both Left and Right. E.g. current PM, Tony Abbott, a hard-core right winger, can easily be described as a "deconstructionist" literally as described above. As an opposition leader, he used to critique all policies of the governing Labor party very successfully. In fact he built his entire political career on the deconstruction of his political opponents.

    1 0
  7. How can all Labor voters be called intellectual?

    0 0
    Moderator Response:



    If you have something of substance to say wrt this piece fine, but one-liner drive-by's don't cut it and breach site guidelines.

  8. The article deals with why society should take more notice of scientific findings. i am a retired aeronautical research scientist so have an interest in this issue. It is often said that science if advancing the frontiers of knowledge. The reality is that advances in physical science are illustrating how much knowledge of physical operations were unknown, so by extrapolation, how much is still unknown. Science has only fairly recently provided understanding of the deleterious aspects of the combustion of fossil fuels to supply energy. That has been a major failing of science but there are many others.

    1 0
  9. chriskoz @5, what I primarilly had in mind is that on certain key issues in recent Australian federal politics (refugees, global warming, NBN, response to the GFC) the evidence from experts clearly favours the position adopted by the ALP, or more left wing parties (in the case of refugees).  The same applies to certain "cultural wars" where, for instance, the dispute between the so-called "black arm band" view of history, and that favoured by the right amounts the right refusing to accept evidence other than from written documents as regards the treatment of aborigines in the past; and the refusal to teach events that do not bring credit to Australia in Australia's past.  (I believe Australia's history is very creditable, with more in its favour than against it.  I do not think, however, that is an excuse to not teach that Queensland practised slavery (call blackbirding to create a legal fiction) up until federation, or to not teach that the last official (as in carried out by a policeman, and condoned by a later official enquiry) massacre of aborigines occurred in 1928, or the host of other facts inconvenient to Australian triumphalism.  

    However, I think you can go further than that.  Specifically, certain areas of knowledge (and Economics in particular) are, IMO, clearly value ladened, despite a claim to be value neutral.  That value laddened nature is used by the right in support of a lot of their economic policies, whereas a value neutral economics would more strongly favour a left wing (but not Marxist) perspective.  Further, I believe that you can have an objective ethics, which pretty much rules out a right wing perspective in politics.  However, while I think these points are evidence based, the emperical evidence that they are valid would rely on their actually being practised, and even then would be unlikely to be acknowledged by most of those favouring a right wing perspective (for the obvious reason that while society would be better of, the rich would not necessarilly be better of).

    Finally, beyond, that - I think it is trivially easy to show that may right wing politicians act in direct contradiction of their purported values.  This is not directly evidence based as it accepts the purported values at face value.  It is based, however, on reason.  As one example, most right wing politicians in Australia purport to be Christians, and certainly Tony Abbot and John Howard do.  Therefore, they purport to accept the values shown in Matthew 25: 40-44, in particular the value that turning away a stranger in need deserves hellfire.  And what is the coallition refuge policy except the institutionalized turning away of strangers in need?

    1 0
  10. This piece seems to hold up (respect for) science as the solution to global warming skepticism, lamenting the attacks (in Australia, but elsewhere too) on “the Enlightenment tradition.” The last subtitle, “Science at the Core,” could be interpreted in a variety of ways, but any implication that science can serve as the core guiding principle must be avoided. A danger lurks in expecting too much from science & that Enlightenment tradition; in Dutch theology, this expectation has been called “scientism.” Any “ism” exaggerates the place & influence that an activity can take in understanding & solving problems; scientism, in particular, exaggerates the roles science can file.

    In a book in 2008, “Christian and Humanist Foundations for Statistical Inference,” I showed that scientism has led to unrealistic, even mathematically unjustified expectations regarding statistical results such as p-values & confidence intervals (CIs). Mathematically, these results are statements about observable data, whereas statistical inference requires us to extend conclusions beyond data to larger groups (“populations”) & general hypotheses. Therefore, they are not inferential. Yet, the Enlightenment spirit drives the generators & consumers of p-values & CIs to take these results as inferential. The syllogism, implied in standard statistics courses, is that

    1. statistical inference is an objective exercise,

    2. p-values & CIs are objective statistical results,

    3. therefore, p-values & CIs are inferential

    In other words, if one has only a hammer, then when one encounters a screw, the hammer starts looking like a screwdriver.

    We must guard against expecting too much from science in stemming global warming, or even GW skepticism, as well. Science is not the solution; it is incomplete on at least three fronts. First, by itself (without any defensible call for compassion, justice & so on), it gives the present-day First World countries, who benefit most from CO2 emissions, no reason to reduce those emissions. Secondly, it’s impotent to transfer the loyalties of those Kahan et al. (“The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks,” Nature Climate Change 2012) called “hierarchical individualists” from the communities with whom they hold close ties, to any larger group (such as poor countries or future generations) or to acceptance of scientific findings. Thirdly, & most importantly, by itself, science cannot decouple, in people’s views of themselves, the perception of prosperity from economic growth. According to the consumerist worldview that controls most of us, perceived prosperity (my impression that I’m happy, well, successful & so on) demands that growth, & (absent marked improvements in eco-efficiency) thereby leads inexorably to increases in CO2 emissions.

    I agree with Dr Jones that, at present, postmodernism & deconstructionism pose great impediments—perhaps greater than scientism & the “Enlightenment tradition”—to stemming climate change. Yet, if we try to rely only on science alone, we will be disappointed.

    1 0
  11. @amhartley:  There's nothing wrong with statistical inference if our samples are representative of the population to the degree statistics requires (that is, if we can fairly treat the sample as if it were a truly random selection from the target population).  There are conditions under which this assumption has proven extremely reliable— and, of course, conditions under which it isn't.  Serious scientists, whether in medicine, physics, biology or psychology, are aware of this and deal with it.  You claim statistical reasoning is "not inferential" (an odd phrase, which I can only intepret as a very general claim that the premises of such reasonings (facts about a sample) don't really support the conclusions (statisitical claims about the probable level or distribution of certain traits in the population).  But there is no justification for such a generally dismissive view short of Hume's skepticism about induction--a result Hume himself forthrightly acknowledged would never lead us to stop relying induction. 

    2 0
  12. Tom Curtis.  I am surprised at some of the examples you give to illustrate that left is best.  In Australia the actions of the Rudd government in indiscriminately handing out $900 cheques to all and sundry including back packers, deceased Aurtralians and Australians living overdeas, benefitted China much more than Australia.  The "Pink Batts" scheme was an unmitigated disaster.   The BER spent tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds long after the GFC had passed .  The cost  benefit of NBN was never published (was there ever one?) and as has been very clearly shown by the current managementm the roll out was minimal and marred by extremely poor management.  Who can ever  forget Steven Conroy and his remarkable red underpants comment?  

    As for asylum seekers the detention policies currently in force were instituted not by the Abbott government as you imply  but by the Rudd government in July 2013.  The much maligned and excoriated "Stopping the boats" policy has reduced the number of  asylum seeker deaths at sea to three from December 2013 to the present  to three. Compare this with the 208 deaths at sea from December 2012 to September 27th 2013 (20 days afterAbbott was elected), the 242 in 2012, the 330 in 2011, the 71 in 2010 and the 171 in 2009.    And of course the Abbott government has reduced the number of asylum seeker children in detention from just under 1400 when elected to about 200 now.  By  any standards these figures show the policy of the "right wing Abbott" government has done far more to reduce asylum seeker death and detention than anything the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments ever did.  It is very unlike you not to base your arguments on fact and I am rather surprised that you have done so here.

    0 1
  13. Mbryson,

    You seem to have some inkling of what I’m talking about with the non-inferential nature of standard statistical results, although since you express interest I’ll be more specific.

    Most people, both statisticians & others, interpret a p-value (p) as the post-experimental probability of the tested hypothesis; if that interpretation were accurate, it would be inferential, because it’s a statement about the hypothesis based on data. However, the p-value is defined as

    The probability, in a hypothetical repetition of the experiment that was performed, of results at least as extreme as those observed, assuming the boundary between the tested hypothesis & the alternative hypothesis.

    So, strictly speaking, p is a probability about data, not about a population or a hypothesis.

    Only sometimes does p come close to providing an inferential probability. Unfortunately, those conditions are not widely known.

    I don’t think we should go too far afield, though, in this thread, from the Jones article; would you like to take a discussion about statistical inference off-line?

    1 0
  14. ryland@12

    TC's posit was that "[on certain recent issuses] evidence from experts clearly favours the position adopted by the ALP, or more left wing parties (in the case of refugees)"

    To refute that, you need to show that expert opinion on global warming, NBN and the response to the GFC is counter to ALP policies, and that expert opinion on handling asylum seekers is counter to the Greens policies.

    1 0
  15. ryland @12, I almost did not respond to chriskoz because doing so was a clear violation of the comments policy requirement of "no politics".  Responding to you will clearly violate that rule even further, especially if I give the sort of detailed response that is appropriate.  None-the-less I feel compelled to respond to your claims lest my lack of response falsely indicates an inability to respond.  Out of respect to the comments policy, however, I will limit myself to bullet points rather than a full rebutal:

    • As Tristan has already noted, you ignore the content of my claims so that you can slam the Labor party.  You also ignore that I spoke regarding policy rather than administration of policy (where I do not rate the Rudd/Gillard governments highly, though that are better than the Abbot government in that regard).
    • The cash handout was a direct response to the GFC, being designed to maintain consumer confidence in the face of the GFC to avoid a collapse of retail sector employment.  It was successful in its aims.  Suggestions that the mining boom helped in that specific aim are absolutely refuted by the fact that after the GFC, the mining boom created pressure on the retail sector due to the "two speed economy".
    • The "Pink Batts" scheme represented only 10% of a larger scheme that was a resounding success overall.  Further, the "Pink Batts" scheme is considered a disaster largely due to the deaths of four people, purportedly due to maladministration by the Federal Government (despite the WHS aspect already being covered by state legislation).  Of those deaths, the first occurred when an experience electrician electrocuted himself.  Given that he was an experienced electrician, the claim that his death was due to insufficient training is absurd.  The second was when an apprentice carpenter ignored regulations requiring the use of plastic (non-conductive) staples and electrocuted himself by using his own metal staples.  When somebody ignores regulations and training and thereby gets themselves killed, that is not the fault of the regulatory body.  The third was a person electrocuted because they made contact with a screw that prior workers (ie, prior to the installation he was involved in) had driven into electrical wires, ie, of an unfortunate happenstance that training would not have helped avoid.  The forth was of a person "filling in for his mate" who therefore did not have the training the scheme required, who having suffered heat problems and being asked to wait outside of the roof cavity by his supervisor because of it, went back into the cavity unknown to anybody and died of hyperthermia.  The only way the Federal government could contributed to avoiding these deaths would have been by duplicating state regulations, and intensively regulating the activity - both policies their critics strongly object to - objections, however, that seem to evaporate when they had an opportunity to make political hay out of the Pink Batts scheme.  This is not to suggest the scheme was perfectly administered (it was not).  However, claims that it was an "unmitigated disaster" depend either on ignorance, or unprincipled ignoring of their fundamental political principles by those critics.
    • The Building the Education Revolution (BER) scheme was a scheme to maintain employment in the building sector durring the GFC.  Benefits to education were explicitly a secondary consideration, and opportunistic.  Despite that, over 98% of the facilities built under the scheme were welcomed by the schools in which they were built, and improved the facilities available at the shool.  In about 1% of cases this was not the case.  That 1% was focussed on by critics, who ignored the successes in what was overall an exemplary scheme.  Further ignored by critics was that even the failures came about because of cumbersome state based administration of the scheme, especially in NSW.  Again, the Federal government could have avoided those problems only by microregulation and duplication of state based regulation and bureacracy.
    • Finally, the assylum seeker policies inheritted by the Abbot government were less onerous versions of those inherited by the Rudd government from the Howard government (in which Abbot was a minister).  Your little sally without mentioning that fact is somewhat duplicitous.  Further, I do not consider increasing deaths of persecuted people in the land of their persecution a preferrable outcome to the lower number of deaths by drowning resulting from people attempting to find refuge in Australia.  Nor (and this is a value judgement) do I rate the importance of the suffering of people on a scale depending on the colour of their skin, or the remoteness from our shores.  Therefore I consider the current international system in which the vast majority of refugees are left to rot in third world countries in inadequate facilities acceptable.  For that reason I applaud the Abbot governments increase of the standard refugee intake (inadequate as it still is), but deplore the assylum seeker policy of both major parties.

    I will not further respond on any of these issues due to the comment policy.

    1 0
  16. If you found this interesting you'll want to read Lawrence Torcello I believe he does a better job of cutting to the chase:

    March 13, 2014 also at The Conversation

    "Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent?"

    Climate denial funding

    We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.

    Criminal negligence is normally understood to result from failures to avoid reasonably foreseeable harms, or the threat of harms to public safety, consequent of certain activities. Those funding climate denial campaigns can reasonably predict the public’s diminished ability to respond to climate change as a result of their behaviour. Indeed, public uncertainty regarding climate science, and the resulting failure to respond to climate change, is the intentional aim of politically and financially motivated denialists.

    My argument probably raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech. We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions. Protecting the latter as a form of free speech stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept.

    What are we to make of those behind the well documented corporate funding of global warming denial? ...                  Lawrence Torcello

    0 0
  17. I am old enough to have passed the obstacle of counter-intuitive propositions being closer to the way things are than the common sense consensus establishes.
    The observations and deductions made from them and the mathematical modelling of them was bread and butter for my generation.  Heliocentrism, elliptical orbits and so forth were scientific orthodoxy.  But they are all wrong in fact.  The sun is moving rapidly, the planets are going around it corkscrew wise and none are actually undergoing Newtonian motion at all.  The material universe is not matter, energy and space.  If we exist at all it is in a space/time continuum pervaded by the presence of stuff of which we are made and which can only be located by probability functions and field vectors and these omit the vast majority of the existent which we think of as having fallen into black holes or have to use poetry to name as dark matter and dark energy.

    By now, however, I have a different problem.   I am not confident that what is being published as science is truthful.  A vast proportion of the purported science is opinion and/or interpretation which fails to be matched by the data and analysis which is used as the reason justifying publication and demanding serious consideration.

    In my youth, original science was done in Universities and pathways were followed for the intrinsic interest or importance by passionate investigators who distinguised between findings and theories easily and automatically.  Now it is done by Santa's little helpers in the employ of impersonal institutions who have ulterior motives for directing which questions to pursue and vested interests in either positive or negative results depending on the significance of their economic interests or academic status or public esteem.

    Good work is hidden as commercial in confidence secret or so geopolitically sensitive as to be state secrets - (military mathematicians disappear from the maths community never to be heard of again, a personal experience).
    One comentator wonders if climate denial should be outlawed as immoral, I match that by recommending the opposite that human induced biosphere threatening global warming from use of fossil fuel urgency is like calling out fire in a darkened cinema.

    Where does responsibility for this lie and how might this be addressed?

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Welcome to skeptical Science. Please take some time to read the Comments policy, and in particular note the prohibition on accusation of fraud or dishonesty. I frankly find your views somewhat extraordinary and rather than speculate on what informs your opinion, I would kindly ask you to provide evidence to back your assertions. Since this is a science site, then perhaps you could in particular provide an example of "purported science is opinion and/or interpretation which fails to be matched by the data and analysis" and do so on an appropriate thread.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  18. Tom Curtis.  Thank you for your lengthy reply which  I will not emulate.  Regarding your comment "slamming the Labor party" that is merely a matter of view.  What you regard as slamming I regard as providing true facts that can be verified.  With regard to the GFC there are many reports that claim Rudd did  not save Australia.  Below are three references (I can obtain many more of course) to such reports; and  The last one of these is particulary noteworthy as it is from the Guardian a publication that certainly does not support the LNP.

    Due to OT concerns I will not address the rest of your  comments except to note your bringing Abbott's  religion into the discussion is somewhat tacky 

    0 0
  19. ryland @18, Abbot proudly proclaims his religion, and seek political advantage from doing so.  It is only right that he be accordingly judged on the complete inconsistency between Christian ethics, and those of his government's policies.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [JH] I have deleted Ryland's response to this comment because this "off-topic" discussion has run its course. It's time for both of you to cease and desist.

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.

The Consensus Project Website


(free to republish)

© Copyright 2021 John Cook
Home | Links | Translations | About Us | Privacy | Contact Us