Presentations from DEW Energy Symposium

The presentations by Kieran O’Brien, Rory Broderick and Dieter Helm from last week’s energy policy symposium held in TCD have been posted here.

41 replies on “Presentations from DEW Energy Symposium”

I am very disturbed by this Gas / wind puritanism and I suspect it is to a large extent hot air.
I assume we will have some base load needs and so therefore planning should already be in place to install 1 or 2 Moneypoint scale plants yesterday.
My conspiratorial little mind is whispering to me that Gas operators want to supply base load also and thus dramatically increase their profits in the future.
This carbon / bank bonus scheme meme has already did grave damage to strategic planning although when the EU forces Ireland to sell its remaining electricity plants such governmental plans will be obsolete as it will have no power over power.
Also no mention has been made of revenue neutral mainly rural projects that will increase Ireland’s redundancy such as a 5 -10 MW blanket peat power station in Cahersiveen & a ethanol plant in Mallow.
I suspect these carbon penal laws are a function of the Euro – anti peat nonsense or vice versa but lets face it logic is not the point of this excercise.

If the local sub chieftains in Ireland are honest with the people and explain that the European strategic plan is to deindustrialize Ireland not unlike the Act of Union days I would be a happy camper, as most of these intellectual exercises are a nonsense so that functionaries can maintain their jobs withen the pecking order.

This is ominous for a country that sources over 90% of its energy needs abroad and is rather dependent on cars for private transport :

“the International Energy Agency anticipates global oil demand will this year rise by 1.3m b/d to a record above 90m b/d. Opec has already lost nearly all output from Libya, which was pumping 1.58m b/d in January before its descent into civil war.

“The more important story is Saudi Arabia’s ability to raise production to keep pace with global demand growth over the next couple of years,” said David Greely, commodities analyst at Goldman Sachs.

“We think effective spare capacity is much more limited than commonly estimated and we think you’ll likely exhaust that spare capacity next year. This means the prices will then need to move higher to ration demand out of the market,” Mr Greely said. “

If the local sub chieftains in Ireland are honest with the people and explain that the European strategic plan is to deindustrialize Ireland not unlike the Act of Union days I would be a happy camper

If you are referring to de-carbonising society (And across the entire EU), then that’s something that’s going to have to happen sooner or later. Much better to get a head-start now, as dawdling will make it much worse later on.

By the way, if you’re looking for “conspiracies”, here’s one; what particular vested interest would cause the IAE to be pushing hard for those lovely adaptation engineering works, rather than mitigation of climate change?

Answer on a postcard, etc.

Its just another belief system projected onto the peasants so that they can give tribute.
I am however all in favour of massive excise duties on oil importation which will go someway to reduce the crazy personel transport unit culture here.
International carbon taxes were invented by the banking class when they could smell the bacon – they want the money to flow directly to the financial centers.
If you begin to understand that the boom of the 80s was created by oil power plants shutting down and other such inventions such as the Toyota Corolla you may understand where I am coming from.
Any crazy economic theory whether monetarism or otherwise would have been successful in gathering the new surplus for consumption.

Need to tread v-carefully around these topics. So-called ‘renewables’ are merely fossil-fuel extenders. Gas is not a substitute for liquid. Electricity has to be generated! Electricity is only a substitute for electricity!

Carbon emissions will promptly go into the dustbin when the ‘penny’drops with respect to the tight-coupling between fossil fuels and economic activity. You stop (or reduce) fossil fuel use: economy in toilet PDQ!

Price of liquid and gaseous fossils is not a particularly good metric: price up, demand down => price down (for a while), then price up again. Whore’s knickers!!!

Kingdom of SA has mostly heavy sour crude. No salvation there. The most relevant metric is the quality of the crude available – and even more imp: the ERoEI (energy returned on energy inputted). This relativity is declining! Big problem.

Never make the mistake of equating the cost of energy with monetary unit: you have to use energy units (and these can vary somewhat!).

Overall presentations were useful for what they did not contain. Thanks to CMcC for arranging.

Brian Snr.

The presentations by Kieran O’Brien and Dieter Helm provide a flavour of the policy and regulatory dysfunction, respectively, in Ireland and at the EU-level – but, unfortunately, many punches are pulled and we get only glimpses of the underlying problems and what needs to be done to address them.

For an institution that conveys the impression of straining every sinew to complete the internal EU markets in electricity and gas, the EU is committing the state to intervene more and more – both at the member-state level and collectively at the EU level. They have roadmaps, plans and targets coming out of their ears on every conceivable aspect of the energy and climate change agenda.

If nobody shouts stop – and galvanises sufficient support to enforce a stop – it will present a bumper harvest for every special interest seeking to farm subsidies and to reap economic rents. And all EU citizens and energy consumers will foot the bill – at huge cost to the EU economy.

It is particularly unfortunate that, with Ireland’s current diminuition of sovereignty, the EU/IMF is calling the big shots on the restructuring of Ireland’s energy sector. As is their wont, successive governments have layered their own brand of policy and regulatory dysfunction – primarily to protect and advance the interests of the big energy semi-states – on top of the policy and regulatory dysfunction emanating from Brussels. Any room to manoeuvre to remove the specifically Irish layer of dysfuntion is limited – and, to make matters worse, even if it were possible to remove this layer, it might expose Ireland to even more damage from the imbecility emerging from Brussels and put at risk any of the few moderately useful innovations made.

And to top the lot, in the context of further integration of EU energy markets, Ireland has been fated by geography to engage with Britain where, if it were possible to conceive it, energy and climate change policy and regulation are much more dysfunctional than they are in Ireland.

However, Ireland has to clean up its own mess in its own interests. But it needs to engage more forcefully with the EU to highlight the policy and regulatory dysfunction at the that level. This will have to be a ‘policy of small steps’ with the ultimate objective being competitive and efficent markets that generate sustainable benefits for EU citizens and the EU economy.

And as one small step, I would be surprised if the IAE didn’t have sufficient capability and resource to conduct a very high-level study of the likely economic, technical and capex implications of the current intent to generate over 40% of electricity from renewables by 2020. Pleading for government to commission a report that would reveal the lunacy is futile. Put something out there – however ‘ballparkish’ it might be – and force them to respond.

Paul, why on earth must we rely in IAE or any such body to do the Dept of Energy’s work?

Its just another belief system projected onto the peasants so that they can give tribute.

It’s where the reputable science is. You can disagree, but it just shows you as foolish and easily led by cranks and shills for big corporate money.

I am however all in favour of massive excise duties on oil importation which will go someway to reduce the crazy personel transport unit culture here.
International carbon taxes were invented by the banking class when they could smell the bacon – they want the money to flow directly to the financial centers.
If you begin to understand that the boom of the 80s was created by oil power plants shutting down and other such inventions such as the Toyota Corolla you may understand where I am coming from.

The ‘carbon credits’ business was supposed to be the almighty market forces providing an alternative. It’s unsurprising to see ‘Lucy’ free-market economists now taking the ball away, and vastly amusing to hear the sudden converts to outrage over players working a market.

Paul, why on earth must we rely in IAE or any such body to do the Dept of Energy’s work?

An interesting definition of “the Dept of Energy’s work”. Maybe next a call for Shell to come forward with entirely altruistic motives?


Agree. But if Govt., the Department, the CER, the big energy semi-states, the other ‘stakeholders’ – including the subsidy farmers – are hell-bent on preventing the public (who, ultimately, will pay) from finding out about the huge and unnecessary cost burden that will be imposed on them, then who else is left?

The IEA forecast of oil prices look kind of optimistic, slide 6 of the wind presentation indicates that in 2030 it should be less than USD 120.


Why are the opinions of a trade association of interest to readers of this blog? As I recall, an uneasy blurring of the lines between research and commerce was a significant cause of Ireland’s downfall. It’s a fairly safe bet that IAE wouldn’t fund any PR research that didn’t make it’s corporate donors money.

@Paul Hunt

Check out the list of Engineers Ireland’s corporate affiliates — you’ll find quite a few semi-states among them, including Bord Gais (along with Shell), Eirgrid, ESB etc.

As fergaloh mentions the IEA 2030 forcast of oil prices is optimistic, the level of $120 was breached in 2008 and again this year.

Building a massive wind farm off W.Ireland is just not going to work, unless they can use met data to predict when the wind is going to blow and not, and the ability to absorb the power / export it to the UK.

In addition there are other costs, not just spinning reserve. Wind generators can upset the quality of the electricity, the balance of reactive to active power. With households now having more sensitive electronic equipment quality of electricity is important. I believe one way to get around this problem special grid reinforcement points have to be identified and a device which is capable of storing reactive power connected. When the balance gets upset these devices then inject reactive power into the grid. Small devices are about the size of a lorry and contain the reactive power storage vessel in a bath of liquid nitrogen. As to how many of these reactive power injection points would be required for a multiple GW wind farm, I would not have a clue. However perhaps another blogger could elaborate further as my knowledge is a bit out of date due to age.

Cycling 6GW of power up and down will pose huge challenges to any national grid. The only technical solution I can see is several massive HV DC links between Ireland and continental Europe. Not to mention the cost of rectifier and inverter stations.

Or else use the wind turbines to produce hydrogen by electrotrolysis, build a hydrogen distribution network (I believe this is happening in Norway) and either transport or pump hydrogen into UK and Europe.

@Adrian Kelleher,

Everyone is compromised or conflicted to some extent or other. But, as Sporthog points out, the voltage and frequency control issues are going to be huge with a lot of intermittent renewable supply (with priority dispatch) on the system – not to mention the cost of delivering, connecting and transmitting this intermittent load.

We’ve just had 4 years of woolly-brained Greenery in government – and the ESB and BGE have gone with the flow as it helps them build their empires. We lack a competent, independent assessment of the likely costs – and what remedies might abate them. That’s all I’m looking for.

If Ireland is being stretched over the barrel and being forced to make a big contribution that will allow core EZ banks to duck the implications of thier bad lending, there is some scope for Ireland to play hard ball on the energy policy and climate change front. It’s bad enough damaging the creditworthiness of the sovereign to bail out the core EZ banks’ dodgy investments, but it would be truly criminal to load the cost implications of the EU’s cock-eyed energy and climate change policies on Irish citizens and the economy – on top of home-grown policy and regulatory dysfunction.

Ireland needs to open up more than one front in Europe.

@Paul Hunt

None of those EU policies you mention resulted from Green politics. They were in fact touted as market and business friendly solutions that would reduce the costs of emissions reduction.

The lack of competent, independent assessments of costs and the ubiquity of grossly misleading profit-driven “research” are not unrelated. IAE is just another trade organisation pumping out PR in donors’ interests, and those donors just happen to sell gas and electricity and to build power stations but not wind turbines.

You go on to associate energy policy with the banking crisis, something with which it has precisely zero connection. I’d love to know how cheating on its climate commitments now would put pressure on the ECB or on Nicolas Sarkozy as you claim. Please explain.

I find it bizarre how enthusiastically shale gas has been embraced by the engineering lobby. It’s like putting all your chips on red thirteen but it already seems to be accepted dogma judging by the tone of the slides provided at TCD.

France whose lifestyle consists of frogs legs, snails and nuke power has deemed fracking so risky to the water supply that is has banned it.

Shale gas is great in remote areas or dodgy states with weak environmental lobbies. No shortage of them. It will keep the price of gas down but at no small external cost.

I find it bizarre how enthusiastically shale gas has been embraced by the engineering lobby.

They’ll get to break it, and then they get more work cleaning it up. If you’re a profession renowned for sociopaths, where’s the downside?

@Adrian Kelleher,

Oh dear. Where to begin? Much and all as I advocate engaement and debate to advance understanding and to secure common ground from which progress might be made, the frequently pejorative and sarcastic tone sometimes indicates minds that are closed and unpersuadable.

All member-states have discretion in the tranposition and implementation of primary EU legislation and regulations; and all EU policy is subject to review and revision during the implementation process and as events unfold. The Greens while in government seized the EU’s 20:20:20 energy and climate change directives to advance their policies blindly without any reasoned consideration of specific circumstances in Ireland or of the cost impact on Irish consumers and the economy. All I’m asking for is that this reasoned consideration be performed – particularly in the context of the current and likely future state of the economy and the existing extent of policy and regulatory dysfunction in the energy sector.

This is not cheating. It is simply being realistic and prudent. And, on another level, the EU’s 20:20:20 policy was rammed through in exactly the same way as EMU and the Euro. We’ve seen how brilliantly the latter has worked out. The EU’s 20:20:20 policy is heading in the same direction. How many more disasters will we have to experience before national politicians realise that continued ‘governance by elites’ who lack sufficient democratic legitimacy will lead inevitably to disaster?

The implication is that you believe conventional fuel supplies will remain at current prices

GP types do not (and neither does the EU)

Another reasoned study might as well take place at a crystal ball gazer given the scale of uncertainties regarding fuel reserves/ economic growth.

@Paul Hunt

That pejorative and sarcastic tone results from a low tolerance for unfair argument. Climate policy and the banking crisis have nothing whatsoever to do with one another and I note that you have made no effort to back up your claim that we could somehow pressure France or any other country on the eurozone crisis by reneging on climate commitments.

Climate change is an international issue; emissions are local but CO2 is very evenhanded in its effects internationally. There is no direct direct democracy at the UN, WTO, EU or any other multilateral institution, yet GHG emissions remain a problem of growing severity.

In calling for democratic legitimacy, you set a test that cannot conceivably be met and, moreover, I’m certain that you already understand that to restrict GHG curtailment to bilateral or national government action is to guarantee that progress on emissions will be no more successful than the Tobin tax or duties on aviation spirit, each a reasonable measure for efficient taxation that has never been taken precisely because of the fractured structure of international politics.

Your call for democratic legitimacy would be more credible if it weren’t wholly opportunistic. The free movement of capital or goods, or any other EU policies for that matter, are no more democratic than climate policy yet these don’t the argument is only wheeled out when politically attractive.

Incidentally, the Guardian website carries a story today about Willie Soon’s funding and his goal-oriented approach to scientific enquiry. He’s been funded exclusively by fossil fuel interests for years and has repaid his backers with private calls to political allies to ” see what we can do to weaken the fourth assessment report” of the IPCC. Richard Tol claims always to represent integrity in science; can we expect the full fury of his outrage to be directed at Soon in the near future?

Edit: Sub “yet the argument is only” for “yet these don’t the argument is only” and “immediate representative” for “direct direct”.

@ Paul Hunt,

“How many more disasters will we have to experience before national politicians realise that continued ‘governance by elites’ who lack sufficient democratic legitimacy will lead inevitably to disaster”

Well I would go one further. Democracy has to be changed slightly, voting in the village idiot as minister for Energy is reckless and will lead to costly expensive mistakes.

It’s not enough to have democratic institutions controlling everything, the people who are democratically elected should have the qualifications to carry out the role they have been elected for.

Example, the person seeking the job of Minister for Finance should have qualifications relating to financial matters i.e. economics, accountancy, etc.

If the Green party had their way the entire country would be powered by Wind generators. That would be great for a reduction in Co2 emissions etc. But the quality of electricity would be so bad that nobody would be able to charge up the mobile phone, the television would not stay on, the computer would not power up, and people would not be writing on this blog.

With the system we have now, the minister for Dept X does not have to know anything about X. All they require is votes.

This I believe is a major failing in our democratic system. The world has become much more complex and sophisticated place, therefore in the interests of professional quality governance we require elected people to be qualified for the role they are elected to do, within reasonable limits of course.

In my opinion the days of being a minister for dept X because you are good with a hurl, or you have the gift of the gab and can chat your way through things without having any comprehension of what you are talking about should be done away with. We require the right people in the right place, not village idiots.

Well the GP only ever had 5% of the votes so your fears are misplaced

But the chaotic planning policy that has left the nation utterly car dependent has been brought to you by FG/FF


I fear you have missed my point. There is a connection between the EU’s 20:20:20 policy and the Eurosystem in terms of how they were formulated and enacted, but, more specifically, in Ireland’s case, rather than focusing on modifications of the current IMF/EU support (which are unlikely to be granted and even if they were are unlikely to have a material impact on Ireland’s fiscal situation), I believe Ireland should be seeking to enforce the principle of subsidiarity to allow it to modify the implementation of the EU’s 20:20:20 and Third Legislative Package for electricity and gas. This would have a much greater beneficial impact on Ireland’s fiscal position and economy. We can’t afford to protect core EZ banks from the implications of unwise investments and cover ourselves in wind farms at the same time.

@ fergolah,

I don’t wish to get into a GP vrs FF/FG slagging match, all parties have their individual faults and failings. The last paragraph in that post could be more applicable to certain members of FF.

Any thoughts / opinions on some tweaking to our democratic system?
Democracy mark II?

@Paul Hunt

You illustrate how climate policy and finance policy are similar in origin but not how climate policy can be employed to generate leverage on the banking issue.

The principle of subsidiarity suggests the climate issue be handled at a higher level than the EU, viz the UN, not at national level. CO2 molecules do not respect international frontiers; once emitted they are an international problem.

Why no Tobin tax? Why no duty on aviation spirit? I’m not advocating a rise in taxation here, merely highlighting that current fractured political structures globally leave democratic politicians in a weak position relative to multinational corporations enjoying free movement of capital. The outcome is inefficient taxation that even a hardcore Thatcherite should be able to recognise.

These failures, and the lopsided modern global financial system they have created, illustrate that the hundreds of sovereign states globally are incapable of delivering on the democratic will of their electorates when they act in isolation.

Likewise, to restrict climate policy to national legislatures is to guarantee failure.


Not disagreeing with your principal contentions, just pointing out that the EU’s energy policy and climate change objectives may be achieved far more efficiently and that Ireland, rather than following the usual policy of a cunning compliance with the plethora of targets, instruments, measures and plans, should adopt a more rational, efficient approach to fulfilling its role in meeting the overall objective.

The democratic system doesn’t need tweeking at all
On the contrary it needs to be reinforced
All evidence points to the non-elected mandarins having too much power without accountability
The limited experience of the GP in office was how difficult it was to effect change at all when confronted with the vested interests of management/ unions

e.g. Gormley couldn’t even get Dublin council to undertake to stop burning rubbish after they signed a secret contract – how pathetic is that?

No wonder the govt ended up with the bank bailout disaster, all the insiders wanted it and Joe punter is the cash cow

It amazes me to see rational people who want to believe in the carbon token system when more conventional government money systems cannot work because of corruption – using the complexity of the system as a weapon
I would suggest that carbon credits / tokens is a very complex system of transactions that are outside the control of individual states and inside the control of banks.
We are living in a world command economy – but not implemented by states but by banks – I do not want to give the B£$stards any more complexity advantages.
I like to follow the engineering maxim of keep it simple stupid partly because I am a bit stupid and partly because it works.

PS – this is how the 80s worked – technology created a surplus and all of it was blown on personel consumption & not long term capital growth.


The original proposals floated in the late 80s were that emissions permits be auctioned, with each nation, or even each citizen, receiving permits in proportion. This would be fair and simple, but simply by forcing wealthy countries to actually pay their way it would obviously hurt the developed world more.

So instead, we have a variety of bastardised plans in circulation that are manifestly unfair but have a chance of actually becoming agreed policy. Note that the costs associated with action are to the forefront of naysayers arguments; nobody ever asks by what right do GHG polluters get to damage the planet because there’s only one answer to that question and it implies much greater sacrifices on the part of the developed world.

People lack perspective. We live in a mentally constructed 2 dimensional world of routes locations and individuals that lacks strong correlations with the real physical universe. The cognitive delusions get worse from there on; no longer having wild animals or famines or epidemics to fear we’re left with psychological phantom limbs that latch on to other people in the absence of appropriate stimuli.

Most of all, our perception of time and our individual prominence in it is grossly skewed. Centuries ago death was an everyday phenomenon, people were modest for the most part and, conscious of their fleeting existence, planned multi-generational projects like Amiens cathedral.

Nowadays, we live in a death denying society where everyone feels immortal. Even the most savage despot of the 15th Century would feel disgust at the modern world because savage despots of the 15th Century thought in dynastic terms rather than individualist ones because they couldn’t be certain they’d be alive come Christmas time.

Application of first principles to climate change causes all answers to follow from the simple question above: by what right? In 500 or 1,000 years time, this will be the framework within which our actions will be judged. All other considerations are secondary.

A lot of this present complexity comes from oil based economies with very fluid transfers of wealth as oil/gas require less capital intensive operations relative to output.
This is why the old static coal based / gold monetory system failed – it started with oil based navies which led to war & the ending of classical Gold standard.

If we do get a regression to maybe capital intensive nuclear / coal economies then the monetory system may reset to a more redundant standard.
I do not discount a collapse in the oil price however if we get a breakdown crisis – notice the now huge discrepancy between American & European crude – this should have equalised by now but is getting wider.
Is this a sign of something very nasty coming ?
It may make our carbon debate a historical curiosity.

PS – I believe the climate cannot be modeled accuretly not because computers are not powerful but the data inputs maybe flawed ( maybe 200 year weather stations are now experiencing urban heat island effects)
Also there is the little matter of the sun – that great big Fusion reactor in the sky.
So many variables………………….


‘Scepticism’ as it presents itself is nothing of the sort. It is the analogue of “the God of the gaps” that Dawkins etc. (and some religionists) bemoan; as each new straw is blown away another is seized upon… and a great many sceptics fight dirty.

Basically I agree that detailed models are difficult. Climate at different points on the same line of latitude can be very different after all, as a comparison of Alaska with Norway makes plain.

Some basic points are incontrovertible, however: that the feedbacks (clathrates, albedo changes, biomass locked in permafrost etc.) are overwhelmingly positive, that the past warmings have resulted in positive feedbacks, that people already live in the most habitable areas which will shift in future, that GHGs will make the atmosphere more energetic and violent and so on.

Consider one point only: almost no energy is generated in the Earth’s core yet it remains molten. The radioactivity that heated it originally has virtually expired but the accumulated heat built up more than a billion years ago has yet to escape into space. That energy literally has nowhere to go, which will illustrate just how delicate the energy balance in the atmosphere is.

GHG pollution is rapidly turning the atmosphere opaque to IR radiation, destroying this balance. That this could prove dangerous was scientists’ first suspicion, one that lead to measurements and finally predictions about the problem, predictions that have been borne out by all observations since.

Only a very foolish person would bet against the physical sciences. Atoms or crystal lattices or whatever are “first principles” in a way that will never be attainable in the social sciences. They are entirely predictable in aggregate.

Monkeys bashing on typewriters would never come up with a plasma screen TV, let alone a Hydrogen bomb. Physics has demonstrated again and again over the last century that it is a very sure-footed discipline, capable of manipulating and generating phenomena never observed in nature.

The Feynmans or the Fermis of this world are humanity’s finest minds. Fermi was at the Trinity test in 1945 and had a bet with other scientists about the bomb’s yield. Impatient to find out the result, he tore up some paper into confetti and gauged how far the shock wave swept it as it passed. This was all the information he needed, and he knew he’d won his bet weeks before the test results came in. People of that calibre don’t mess up technically straightforward problems like climate change.

I don’t know enough about climate modelling but I know this – it is not Newtonian physics or indeed anything like nuclear reactions.
There are just too many variables to be reasonably certain of your models – its a bit more like economics in that regard.
I used to be interested in ameteur astronomy & the one sure thing you get from that hobby is a feeling of how small the Earth is – I look more to the sun rather then the Chinese for climate change unless of course their economic growth can create Venusian like atmospheric conditions.

Detailed climate modelling is complex. Examination of Sun’s impact on climate is very straightforward by comparison; interaction of cosmic rays with the atmosphere generates very specific isotopes and nobody regards solar variability as a major factor. Even a new Maunder Minimum would only delay the inevitable by a few decades.

Uncertainty about specifics is reasonable, but it has to be remembered that the phrase “uncertainty about the effects of a more energetic atmosphere” is analogous to the phrase “uncertainty about the effects of a more psychotic violent prisoner”. Positive effects are difficult to imagine.

Its often best to examine simpler climates rather then complex monsters such as the Earths climate.
Mars has no oceans or industrial activity & its atmosphere is mainly Co2, 1% the atmospheric pressure on Earth.
Tentative but perhaps still outside the bounds of error atmospheric pressure sensors corrected for altitude have detected a increase in atmospheric pressure beginning with the 70s Viking mission up to & including the mars polar lander(3 decades)
( Martian atmospheric pressure reaches its Martian yearly max during the southern hemiphere summer when its orbit brings it closest to the sun and the mainly co2 southern ice cap evaporates)

Now Mars is not without its complications – its orbit is much more eccentric then Earths giving the present southern hemisphere much more extreme summer / winter variations then the north
Also the axis of the martian rotation is probably more variable then earths given it has no large moons and indeed information from the European mars Express probe suggests that the atmospheric pressure can double from the present values over very short geological time periods but the above data is interesting none the less and could suggest increased solar activity over the last 3 decades.

But the technology has been available for more than three decades to measure solar activity by a more direct and simple method: by looking at the sun. *Baffled*

Maybe they can measure the amount of electromagnetic radiation very accuretly but not so much sub atomic particles hitting the earths atmosphere at the poles.
Also Noctilucent clouds for example seem to vary in intensity with the solar cycle and its intensity – the ratio of electromagnetic radiation hitting the planets upper atmosphere (more infra red / less UV or vice versa) may have a effect on this upper atmospheric cloud formation although the overall intensity of sunlight may be relatively static.
There are just so many variations – how can you be so confident ?

PS – just because I can measure the quanity of something does not mean I can model it accuretly.

It’s not that I personally am so confident, it’s that I’d need to see hard evidence before seizing on solar variation as our salvation.

If the sceptics (the professional ones I mean) exhibited more actual scepticism everything would be fine. The problem is that they exhibit irrational reluctance to accept certain evidence but when they see a glimmer of hope for some idea that provides them with their fixed, pre-selected outcome they construct the most elaborate theories based on the least evidence.

Nobody denies that solar variability is a component, it’s just that CO2 etc totally dominates and is increasing in significance continuously whereas solar variability is cyclical so far as is known.

I should mention that I’m by no means expert on climate science. (On the other hand, I recall enough of my training in physics to understand what expertise in physics actually means, in stark contrast to the travesty of scientific enquiry that is the ‘sceptical’ blogosphere) If I were to provide my personal rationale for accepting the consensus it would ultimately amount to an appeal to authority, albeit a very particular appeal to authority.

Appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, meaning it’s not a reliable mathematical operation. It is a useful process in a lot of circumstances in practical terms, however and actually provably sound in some. Most people do prefer to ride in aircraft flown by qualified pilots, after all, and to have heart surgery performed by an accredited surgeon. Appeal to authority is a form of inductive reasoning, and inductive reasoning is sometimes safe and sometimes not so.

(contd. after)

Suppose you’re faced with a problem like climate change and need to find an answer. Is there no middle ground between blindly following the experts on the one hand and spending a minimum of 6-8 years studying the theory on the other? I would argue yes.

Everyone in the modern world is reliant on expertise in one way or another. This is why society takes so much trouble about proper accreditation; it’s not reasonable for a cancer patient to study oncology in the time available. Nonetheless, cancer patients must make decisions about their treatment that are personally hardly less important than climate change.

So is a layperson (that’s everyone outside of their specialisation) helpless when confronted with the experts? No. One practical step is to check if the experts are in agreement. If not, a second practical step is to compare the experts’ arguments on each side. Are the arguments sound? Is one side or another engaging in sophistry? Do the factions evaluate evidence consistently, applying the same standards to all statements? Applying this practical and useful methodology to climate change is very powerful, and that’s without getting into very obvious points like who’s paying whom and who gains from what policy and so on.

I had a run in with Richard Tol on this very blog and, with a fragmentary grasp of a few economic principles and a minimum of theoretical foundation, proved to my satisfaction that he was engaged in sophistry to minimise the threat. In fact there are at least a dozen examples I could cite where Tol is simply logically inconsistent… and if a person makes two mutually contradictory statements, a maximum of one can be correct.

Tol refused to rule out legal action about my remarks, but unsurprisingly he’s taken no action. He would lose. The sceptics camp is full of Tols. In fact the number of sceptics that cannot be dismissed in this way is tiny.

Tol uses the “appeal to authority” complaint frequently, as do many ‘sceptics’. This amounts to a demand that all observers learn atmospheric physics in its entirety before forming a judgement. This exhibits poor comprehension of logic as his own models are based entirely on inductive reasoning; nearly all economics does as it’s the best that’s achievable in that sphere.

So the tyranny of experts is not absolute. Often, a layperson can reach solid conclusions simply by examining the points of difference between experts and evaluating the soundness of the reasoning. One expert arguing a sound case will always back another one relying on smoke and mirrors into a corner. This sort of process is relied upon in criminal and civil trials, where judges and jurors must often evaluate complex matters. If it’s good enough to evaluate the outcome of a murder trial it’s good enough for most matters, without having to accept information from on high like holy writ.

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