Tuesday 28 July 2009

Dutch climate skeptical organisations pt 2 : De Groene Rekenkamer (intro)

De Groene Rekenkamer libertarisme pseudoskepticisme
The next organisation which deserves some more attention is The Green Court of Audit or in Dutch : De Groene Rekenkamer (DGR).

As we will see, this is the organisation where different kinds of environmental skeptics (not just in the field of climate change) come together. Clearly, as will be explained later on, DGR is an organisation with a clear political focus.

De Algemene Rekenkamer is the Dutch court of auditors which on its website summarizes its task as follows : The Court of Audit checks that the government spends public funds and conducts policy as intended.

Of course it's this Auditing institute which inspired the name Groene Rekenkamer. Clearly, just from the name itself, one can already see what kind of organisation DGR will be. The organisation was found in 2008 by scientists and journalists and in the statutes DGR describes the aim they were formed as follows (§2) :

The aim of DGR is to critically look at the governmental policy on environment, health, technology & related areas and to encourage scientific analysis of risks, cost-effectiveness of the policy and to spread knowledge to a broader audience.
As a little sidenote i can't resist mentioning that, regarding what's to follow, i was surprised to see that under revenues the very first source the organisation sees is "subsidy". I was amused :-)

Before the official start of DGR in 2008, there already was a coöporation between the different groups which ultimately would join DGR, something MeerVrijheid's Theo Richel (as far as i understand, he became an employee of DGR) was already asking for in 2005 on the website libertarian.nl (sic). The groups which ultimately would form De Groene Rekenkamer are :
  • Stichting Kernvisie, ("Foundation Nuclear Energy") which still exists independently.
  • Stichting Heidelberg Appeal Nederland ("Foundation Heidelberg Appeal Holland") which indeed found inspiration for its name in the international Heidelberg Appeal
  • Stichting klimaat ("climate foundation")
  • vzw de Chlorofielen which, as far as i know, was the one-man personal toy of Ferdinand Engelbeen
For a better understanding of what DGR is about, it is useful to have a closer look at the organisations behind DGR. Which will be the topic of the next couple of blogposts.

Sunday 26 July 2009

Climate change skeptical organisations in the low countries. Part 1 : Stichting Meer Vrijheid

As mentioned many times on this blog, climate skepticism often is associated with libertarian thinkthanks and organisations.

As we will see, this is not only true in the English speaking part of the world, but also in the Low Countries.

There are several organisations denying man-made climate change, but the first one i want to mention is the More Freedom Foundation (in Dutch : Stichting Meer Vrijheid) : The discours used towards environmental issues is just what one would expect to hear from a libertarian movement.

Think of any cliché and it can be found in their environmental statement :

We think the existance of large environmental risks like the greenhouse effect, acid rain or the hole in the ozone layer are exaggerrated.

We think some environmental regulations are unnecessary and are nothing but a result of a hatred against economical growth & technology.

MoreFreedom thinks environmental taxes aren't helping the environment, nor are they meant to do so. They are meant to finance the State Treasury; or to manipulate our behavior. (...) MoreFreedom therefore pleads to abandon all environmental taxes.
As seen very often in climate skeptical environments, MeerVrijheid's climate skepticism fits into a broader picture where other environmental issues also are dismissed, and where regulations are seen as an attempt of the state to gain more power or control over citizens. The skepticism isn't scientific, but originates from a paranoid vision twoards anything governmentlike.

Marcel Roele - The secretary
The secretary of MeerVrijheid is Marcel Roele. Roele is a politicologist who is working as a freelance science-journalist.

Roele is a rather controversial figure. To quote the Dutch wikipedia :
In his article "Our own people first"* Roele argues Hitler got his race-theory from the Jewish people. Meaning the Jewish people fell in the hole they dug themselves. Furthermore he claims it has been scientifically proven black people and women are less intelligent; and that handicapped people make mankind ill.

* in dutch it's titled "eigen volk eerst" and is controversial as this very same slogan was used for a long time by the Flemish ultra right-wing party Vlaams Blok (which nowadays is called Vlaams Belang, as the party was forced to change its name after three organisations associated with the party were convicted for violating Belgian law on racism & xenophobia).

Roele claims Africa is such a poor continent because the inhabitants simply have a low iq and that :
the national iq in african countries is 20 iq-points too low to make it possible to create a western style society.
Marcel Roele copies some of the usual arguments about climate change in this article which repeats the "it's the sun" story.

Us knows us
Other people associated with MeerVrijheid are omnipresent Hans Labohm who is part of the foundation's advisory board and who on a regular basis publishes his climate change nonsense on MeerVrijheid's website.

Other articles on environental issues that are published on the website are from the hand of some other people i mentioned before like Vincent De Roeck. The website was one of the four places where his climate change is a religion, not science got published simultaneously.

On the list of authors, we also find the name of climate change skeptics Theo Richel and the names of some people i didn't blog about yet, like Elsevier-journalist Simon Rozendaal who is well known in the low countries also for his skeptical articles and for this book he co-authors with Hans Labohm and Dick Thoenes.

Another new name is Karel Beckman who in 1992 wrote the book "the greenhouse effect doesn't exist"

And then there's Peter van Maanen, who besides MeerVrijheid is associated with the the Belgian libertarian Murray Rothbard Instituut where he's one of the 7 people of the scientific advisory board. Also on this advisory board are two climate change skeptics i adressed before : Jos Verhulst & Frank Van Dun. (to be fair : as far as i know both gentlemen have completely stopped commenting on climate change ever since i mentioned them on my blog.)

The important thing is that we start to see a pattern of, as we say in Dutch : "us knows us". From now on, the same names will keep returning over and over again.

In my opinion, with the MeerVrijheid foundation we are looking at one of the most important branches of Dutch climate change tree, because in almost every other skeptical group we there will appear one of the people mentioned above as we will see in the next parts of this post.

Yet even now my conclusion already is, as you will have already guessed, that in the low countries the same thing is valid as in other parts of the world : climate change skepticism is seldomly scientific, but is usually originating in libertarism. Science gets attacked because it falsifies a polical worldview.

Thursday 2 July 2009

Climate Change is a Religion, not Science

A while ago i already mentioned that the president of the libertarian Mises Youth org, young Vincent de Roeck considers climate change to be nothing but a hoax.

Under the provocative title 'climate change is a religion, not science' De Roeck draws attention to his latest article on the subject. As he's inspired by libertarism, his conclusion is pretty predictable : it's nothing but a worldwide complot.

His piece got quite some attention as it's been published on four libertarian blogs simultaneously. Therefore i suppose it might be useful to have a closer look at what he writes and see if this time he does get any further than just a renewed belief in a conspiracy.
(As usual, my translation)

Climate change is a religion, not science
Last week the British conservative thinkthank "The Bruges Group" published the paper "Cool Thinking On Climate Change". In some 60 pages the author, the British member of the European Parliament Roger Helmer is trying to convince his readers that the alarmism around global warming is based on lies and dishonesty and that the actions proposed are dangerous and counter-productive.

Helmer starts his paper with a prelude titled "The EU: Fully paid-up Climate
Alarmists" (imho a rather amusing title given the fact he's a MEP receiving a very nice salary from this very same EU) in which the key-quote probably is :
Global Warming? The EU needs more control over energy policy, over tax, over emissions, over industry, over everything.
Of course those words immediately point towards the real reason for Helmers skepticism : it's not based on scientific doubts, but it's an expression of a vision rather common in libertarian surroundings by claiming science is part of a complot set up by the government
Yes Helmer may be a politician and not a scientist, and he freely admits this, his findings nevertheless are most valuable. Helmer doesn't bring new arguments into the debate but summarizes the most important climate skeptical arguments and theories in an easy to read paper.
When having a closer look at the arguments used, indeed there's nothing new in what he's saying. He starts with a three page long attack calling "the Warmists" all sorts of names, mostly in the religious spheres.

His attack on "climate science" is nothing more than a copy of some of the same old skeptical arguments again. Arguments which have been debunked a zillion times before. Honestly, it is getting rather boring and i'm not gonna look at them in detail.

Coby Beck has a nice overview of some frequent heared "skeptical arguments" in his How to talk to a climate skeptic guide and i'm pretty sure Coby Beck's list handles almost everything Helmer says. The only thing Helmers proves is that, indeed, he is not a scientist.

More interesting than the rather silly attempt to discredit science is what De Roeck wrote above (Yes Helmer may be a politician and not a scientist, and he freely admits this, his findings nevertheless are most valuable). I don't understand how one can think the opinion of a total layman can be valuable in a scientific debate and find it remarkable that De Roeck doesn't seem to notice this point. I don't know about you people, but i like my house built by an architect who knows how to make sure it doesn't fall down. My medical problems i prefer to be looked onto by a doctor, etc..

The strong anti-governmental discourse which can be found in Helmers's work closely relates to other libertarian or conservative critics. Like p.ex. the op-ed "The Climate Debate: When Science Serves The State" by professor Joseph Potts for the "Ludwig von Mises Institute" in Alabama or the essay "Global Warming Revisited" by professor Michael Heberling for the "Mackinac Center for Public Policy Research" in Michigan.
The Potts op-ed doesn't get much further than nagging "it's a conspiracy" & the second one does copy some of the usual fallacies, both pieces imho aren't much more than an expression of a paranoid vision to the real world.

These authors rightfully point out, contrary to mistaken neo-Keynesians like a Joseph Stiglitz that the governement, just like privacte actors, doesn't have acces to the "perfect information" and that only the market can handle inherent imperfect information. Something which is fully applicable to the enormous role of the government in dealing with the supposed climate change.

As a result of his skepticism De Roeck obviously overstates uncertainties making him miss the point that the information avalaible is srong enough and clearly states humankind is contributing to present day climate change. It's no longer a question of "uncertainties". The remaining question nowadays is whether "to act or not" and in the second case to which extent to act.

Nowhere in his text De Roeck provides a beginning of an answer how "only a free market" can respond to this situation. Which is no surprise, as we've come to the core dogma, and dogma's need no proof.

The libertarian conservative Roger Helmer in his paper also looks back on his long carreer within the climate skeptical movement and gives some ankedotes about his life. December last year, he represented the climate-skeptical movement as an observer at the
UN climate conference in Poznan and in March he was a guest-speaker at the big climate conference of the American Heartland Institute in New York.

The notorious right-wing thinkthank Heartland has been known to give tribune to anyone who wants to say climate change isn't happening. Whether what the person says actually makes sense from the science point of view is less important.

Furthermore, he demolishes the IPCC and proposes alternative theories like the NIPCC by professor S. Fred
Singer (where the 'N' stands for non-governmental. The movie "An Inconvenient Truth" of course gets crushed, while all criticism on the movie "The Great Global Warming Swindle" skillfully is rebutted

Fred Singer is known as one of those people who not only deny almost every possible environmental issue, but who built their career on being a denier. Bart Verheggen has a closer look on his deeply flawed NIPCC report

Some of the most obvious problems with the Great Global Warming swindle have been adressed before on this blog. De Roeck proves to not have the background to detect deliberate flawed lobbywork from actual science.

Roger Helmer's ideas the last couple of weeks get support of quality newspapers liek "The Daily Telegraph" and the "Wall Street Journal". In the first one Christopher Booker calles the idea of "Global warming" and the melting icesheets "the biggest lie ever". In the second one Björn Lomborg could freely present his theory of the climate-industrial complex and the close connection between "big business" and "big government", unhindered by scientific truth.

Booker is one of those people that are so wrong it's painful to watch. Deltoid had it's fun having a closer look at some of the most evident problems in his work. George Mobiot wrote How to disprove Booker in 26 seconds, which shows where much skepticism already fails : checking your own arguments. One of the first things a scientist learns is to be critical towards your own statements and towards your sources.
Lomborgs story would be more interesting if it weren't so deeply flawed as demonstrated on the website Lomborg errors. A shorter look on some of the most obvious problems with Lomborg's work can be found on The Way Things Break.

Libertarians like myself hold their breath seeing the govenrment tendency to spend money in "green" technologies, because probably the American investment-guru Eric Janszen is more than right when he said in "Harper's magazine" that the "green" sector would be the next bubble to burst

I stick to the conclusion i made in my previous post on De Roeck : Young Vincent *really* will need to learn that a right wing think thank is not the place to get your scientific information. May i feel so free to suggest magazines like Nature, Science of GRL instead ?

Young Vincent did nothing more than demonstrating that for a certain type of libertarians, science looses the battle from their free-market fundamentalism.