Tim Lenton is silly

timlenton However, I’m inclined to think that he isn’t a tosser, just naive (as someone said, I don’t think Tim understands the policy world very well). He looks a bit naive in his picture, doesn’t he? And that is a sure-fire way to tell. But maybe that is me being naive. Well, let me tell you and you can make up your own mind.

Assuming you can be bothered, go off and read his piece in Nature: 2 °C or not 2 °C? That is the climate question (you ought to; please don’t rely on my biased reporting of him :-). Tim has a laudable aim: he wants to ensure that global efforts to tackle the climate problem are consistent with the latest science. But alas he immeadiately goes off the rails, by talking about the

target to limit the global temperature rise to 2 °C above the average temperature before the industrial revolution…The target is linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which aims to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”

But note the rather weaselly words “linked to”. Where exactly is the scientific basis for 2 oC? Tim is very interested in making our politics consistent with the science, so why isn’t he mentioning it? Is he, perhaps, continuing the rather dishonourable tradition of pretending that because lots of people have taken 2 oC for granted, then it must have a solid basis? I don’t think it has such as basis, and have said so before.

Continuing, Target setters need to take into account all the factors that threaten to tip elements of Earth’s climate system into a different state… Well, Tim is a Tipping Points man, so it is no surprise to see him pushing his stuff. I still don’t believe it though.

But anyway, onto the pointless naive policy suggestions: I suggest that the UNFCCC be extended. The climate problem, and the political targets presented as a solution, should be aimed at restricting anthropogenic radiative forcing to limit the rate and gradients of climate change, before limiting its eventual magnitude… The 2 °C target would translate into a radiative forcing of about 2.5 Watts per square metre (W m−2), but to protect major ice sheets, we might need a tougher global target of 1.5 W m−2″. Wonderful: we can’t meet the existing targets, because we lack political will. So rather than actually address that problem, let us fiddle the targets around and make them harder to meet. That will certainly be useful. Somehow or another this is supposed to connect to regional initiatives, in a way that didn’t appear to make any sense but I didn’t bother thinking about much as it was too obviously doomed to be very interesting.

Update: on reflection, I’m being too kind to Tim Lenton. This kind of get-yer-face-in-Nature stuff is malign.


* It’s not telly if you watch it on a computer, say middle class people.

Vote YES!

av-yes-banner1 For UK folks only, on the off chance that anyone reading this is swayable. Do you need any more than my recommendation (which is, FWIW, that AV is marginally better than what we have now, and voting no-I-want-PR is silly)? Then how about JEB? Or the cats-n-dogs version?

And just to pad out the post, a Q-and-A I had with a doubter:

> I’d heard the gist of the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem and was aware
> tactical voting could happen in AV, I just wanted to know how and
> whether it was significant.

As I read that page, tactical voting is possible in theory (but possibly only under rather implausible conditions: “IRV permits tactical voting if voters have complete and reliable information about the other voters’ full preferences”).

> I have an aversion to hung Parliaments and coalitions.

Ah. I have no such aversion. Indeed, I would marginally prefer it, if that reflected voters wishes. At the moment, no party has a majority of the popular vote, so I would support a coalition, on the grounds that is what people want (well, not what they want, but what their votes lead to).

> I also would like to see extremist parties do less well. I’ve not seen
> an analysis the affect of switching to AV on how, for example, the BNP
> would do. Noting that the BNP are opposed to AV is doing much to
> encourage me to vote for AV. (The BNP are in favour of PR which tends
> to reinforce my rejection of that too).

I think we disagree there, too. Having extremist parties like the BNP crushed by the voting system is (a) unfair and (b) bad, because we rely on that to crush them, rather than actually attacking their arguments and support.

> Actually, as far as I’m concerned, the campaign that’s most persuading
> me to vote Yes is the No campaign. If the arguments they’ve been
> trotting out are the best reasons to vote no then, it’s pretty much a
> no-brainer to vote yes. 🙂

I can go with that.

[Update: well, as you by now know, the result was “no” 😦

* Vote 2011: Greens gain English council seats – Green party leader Caroline Lucas said there is now a sense that the Greens are a real alternative, after gains in the English local elections.
* Vote 2011: UK rejects alternative vote.
* At least Cambridge said Yes.