GWPF membership declines?

navy The Evanescent published an article entitled “Global Warming Policy Foundation – the UK home of climate change sceptics – hit by 60% membership fee slump. That link is to an archive of Google’s cache; the article no longer exists [Update: but a few hours later is back: archive].

However, we can still do what the article says: Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, unearthed the figures after they were submitted by the GWPF to Companies House. and see if we can verify These show that the income from membership fees last year up to September 2016 was £5,409, down by 62 per cent on 2011, when the group received £14,300.

The accounts of Global Warming Policy Foundation (Company number 06962749) are available at Companies House and show:

2010  8186
2011 14330
2012 12161
2013 12771
2014  9871
2015  6049
2016  5479

So, the original article appears to be accurate(with a minor typo: 2016 should be 5479 not 5409). The lower value for 2010 presumably reflects them being founded in that year. There was a split, done I presume in a deliberately confusing fashion, for the GWPF into the GWPF and the GWPF, the latter being the Global Warming Policy Forum, which does the non-charitable things that the original GWPF was naughty to do, tut tut. However, the Forum claims to be funded by private donations, to presumably doesn’t get the membership fees.

Membership fees are “at least £100 p. a.” so it seems reasonable to guess that membership is declining. An alternative would be that membership is becoming less generous and was always small.

There’s a Twitter thread on this, so perhaps there will be enlightenment as to why the IndyArticle vanished.


* Ode to Stalin, fragment.

He clearly recognizes that public service sometimes comes at a cost

15977282_10155104671320649_344545953734525921_n Ha ha, fooled you. That’s the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics talking about Rex Tillerson. In more detail:

I’m especially proud of the ethics agreement we developed for the intended nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. Mr. Tillerson is making a clean break from Exxon. He’s also forfeiting bonus payments worth millions. As a result of OGE’s work, he’s now free of financial conflicts of interest. His ethics agreement serves as a sterling model for what we’d like to see with other nominees. He clearly recognizes that public service sometimes comes at a cost. The greater the authority entrusted in a government official, the greater the potential for conflicts of interest. That’s why the cost is often greater the higher up you go.

Note, FWIW, that WS is an Obama appointee. OTOH, you won’t be too surprised to learn that not all is roses on the ethics front. Indeed, he begins

I wish circumstances were different and I didn’t feel the need to make public remarks today. You don’t hear about ethics when things are going well. You’ve been hearing a lot about ethics lately.

(my bold). He continues

We can’t risk creating the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for
profit. That’s why I was glad in November when the President-elect tweeted that he wanted to, as he put it, “in no way have a conflict of interest” with his businesses. Unfortunately, his current plan 16299035_1404467419646308_1072039021676173513_n cannot achieve that goal. It’s easy to see that the current plan does not achieve anything like the clean break Rex Tillerson is making from Exxon. Stepping back from running his business is meaningless from a conflict of interest perspective. The Presidency is a full-time job and he would’ve had to step back anyway. The idea of setting up a trust to hold his operating businesses adds nothing to the equation. This is not a blind trust—it’s not even close… The only thing this has in common with a blind trust is the label, “trust.”… The idea of limiting direct communication about the business is wholly inadequate… <lots more critical stuff> Now, before anyone is too critical of the plan the President-elect announced, let’s all remember there’s still time to build on that plan and come up with something that will resolve his conflicts of interest. In developing the current plan, the President-elect did not have the benefit of OGE’s guidance. So, to be clear, OGE’s primary recommendation is that he divest his conflicting financial interests. Nothing short of divestiture will resolve these conflicts… I’ve been pursuing this issue because the ethics program starts at the top. The signals a President sends set the tone for ethics across the executive branch. Tone from the top matters… I’ve had to ask nominees and appointees to take painful steps to avoid conflicts of interest… Their basic patriotism usually prevails, as they agree to set aside their personal
interests to serve their country’s interests… buoyed by the unwavering example of Presidents who resolved their own conflicts of interest.

This is old news. I’m disappointed by Slate’s failure to cover the Tillerson angle; but CNN does better.


The poem for this post is no time ago by e e cummings.


* Memo To Trump – 20% Mexican Import Tariff Means Americans Pay For The Wall by Timmy. What is funny is how many of my left wing fb friends, who are ordinarily silent on tariffs, have suddenly realised that they’re paid by ordinary consumers.
* India’s Mistaken Policy Of The Day – Rs 1,000 Subsidy For Smartphones -Timmy again; also tariff related.
* China’s Ballpoint Pen Victory – Or Why American Wages Are Higher Than Chinese – guess who.
* Rex Tillerson, Exxon, And When An Oil Subsidy Isn’t Really An Oil Subsidy – bored yet?
* Bank Of England’s Mark Carney – Hard Brexit’s A Problem For The EU, Not Britain – last one.
* Outrage dilution by Scott Adams.
* The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time
* Give Rex a chance – the Econmist.
* A Brief Chat With Elon Musk About Climate Change, Rex Tillerson, and Donald Trump(worth reading for Musk’s views, which are indistinguishable from mine, and Gizmodo’s, which are traditional stupidity)


Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight / Where ignorant armies clash by night

I was going to write something much harsher than this; but then I chanced upon “ignorant armies” and hence was reminded of Dover Beach and it was so gloriously beautiful again that I can’t bring myself to be unkind, at least for a while. 

So instead I’ll just quietly point out that the vast slew of Trump stories are counter-productive. The one that triggered my… I’m being nice, aren’t I? OK, my disapproval, was Trump has violated his oath to the Constitution. But it is just an example; there are many many others. The bit they are worrying about is “emolument”; and they’re worried, for example, that The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. (ICBC), which is controlled by the Chinese state, is currently paying rent for tenancy in the Manhattan Trump Tower (according to mortgage documents filed in 2012, it is the Tower’s largest office resident).

TP says The emoluments clause prohibits any person holding a federal office (such as, for example, the presidency) from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” Notice anything missing? If you’re not familiar with the constitution, or had cause to look at it recently, you won’t realise: the full clause is No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State. You can also read the Economist’s take.

So, the holes in this are near endless. The clause itself is designed to prevent gifts / bribes; it isn’t clear at all it is designed to prevent business transactions9. If it is so designed, since it applies to all office holders, not just the high up, it must (if you interpret emoluments to include commonplace commercial transactions) inevitably have been violated by large numbers of people.

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

And lastly, Trump’s conflicts were known before Congress ratified the results of the election, which probably amounts to “Consent”.

I’m probably getting carried away over-analysing this one example5. The point, in case I’ve obscured it, that all these stories are starting to amount to just so much noise. All the nice left wing people go tut tut and have their anti-Trump opinions confirmed. All the nasty right wing people go suck it up liberals and have their pro-Trump opinions confirmed. And no-one learns anything and nothing is changed, except dialogue becomes that bit harder.

You’re wondering – I know you are – why I bothered write this when it will obviously be ignored. And I have an answer. It’s going to be a great answer… people tell me my answers are great. It is this: many people – for example the Economist – are wondering “What is Donald Trump likely to achieve in power?” They note that one may be tempted to conclude that it is simply too soon to tell. But there is enough information—from the campaign, the months since his victory and his life as a property developer and entertainer—to take a view of what kind of person Mr Trump is and how he means to fill the office first occupied by George Washington. There is also evidence from the team he has picked. However, their “predictions” are rather vague. They note potential upsides to business from corporate tax cuts and deregulation, and downsides to diplomacy (NATO, EU, China) and to trade (protectionism). If they have a conclusion, it is presidents can do a modest amount of good. Sadly, they can also do immense harm. Which (I’m getting there, be patient) chimes with something I recently read via Paul:

Again and again, people imagine that, if their local pocket of order isn’t working how they want, then they should smash it to pieces, since while admittedly that might make things even worse, there’s also at least 50/50 odds that they’ll magically improve. In reasoning thus, people fail to appreciate just how exponentially more numerous are the paths downhill, into barbarism and chaos, than are the few paths further up. So thrashing about randomly, with no knowledge or understanding, is statistically certain to make things worse: on this point thermodynamics, common sense, and human history are all in total agreement. The implications of these musings for the present would be left as exercises for the reader.

However that, whilst wise, wasn’t my point. My point was to make some predictions, ta-da! Not because I have any great faith in them coming true, but because if I don’t, I’ll never be able to look back and see how I thought now. Let’s start with…

Global warming

All the stories about Trump deleting data will turn out to be nonsense6. All the people squirrelling data away will look stupid, and will do their best to quietly forget they ever did it or suggested it, or pretend it never happened. The US climate change programs will not be gutted (in the sense of… of, what’s gutting? I don’t know, let’s say 50% cuts or more1). There will probably be some modest funding cuts, some people will lose their jobs, but the overall momentum of the US (let alone the world) research will be essentially unaffected.

The US will not introduce a carbon tax, or cap-n-trade. It might pull out of the Paris accord, but whether it does or not the affects on the path of its emissions will be minor. Coal consumption will continue to decrease and coal firms will continue to look sickly on the stock exchanges.

Some regulations will be repealed. They won’t be terribly important ones2.

Civil liberties

People will whinge a lot but civil liberties in the US will be essentially unaffected.


Any protectionism, if it occurs, will be minor7. NAFTA will not be ripped up8.


Much harder to predict3. Since I’m deliberately going out on a limb, I predict: Trump will do some dumb / risky / unpredictable things, but will get away with them.


I shall be optimistic, and guess that: Trump has stuffed his cabinet with enough business folk that he’ll manage to do some sensible things4: reduce regulations, reduce corporation tax, perhaps even a tax-holiday for all the mountains that US companies have stashed overseas. Done right, there might be enough money flooding in to manage a mini-boom and make himself look good.


Ha. I am, as you know, no student of USAnian politics. But I guess that his opponents (Dems, liberal media, whatevs) will continue to fail to learn. They will remain so outraged by every little thing – which all the nice people they go to dinner parties with will agree are terrible – that they’ll lack any useful metric to notice anything truely worth opposing. And so they will fail. And even if they could get over that, whilst they disagree with Trump they don’t have any good ideas to oppose him with.


There has to be a chance that Trump simply blows up: he says or does something too embarrassingly stupid or outrageous to be covered up, or some of his prior activities turn out to be too bad to be ignored, or he gets impeached. FWIW, I think that’s unlikely. Do you disagree with me? Excellent! We have the basis for a bet. See just below.


As you can see, my overall prediction is “minor”. Since I’ve mentioned betting, above, I’m wondering if I could interest anyone on a sweepstake on just when at least one of the “predictions” above turns out to be obviously embarrassingly wrong. As judged by me, though you can propose an impartial arbitrator if you like. I have £1,000 sitting around not doing very much. Anyone interested? You can bid (serious offers only, no time wasters) in the comments for a (first day of) month and year. Lowest (i.e., closest to now) bid wins. If my “predictions” turn out to be still plausible on that date, I win. Otherwise you do.


1. That’s in total. Any one programme may get nuked.

2. As measured by impact on total GHG emissions.

3. I’m told it’s looking good so far.

4. Cancelling the FHA Insurance Rate Cut is minor but sensible. It’s also hard to see as anything that Trump cares about, so is presumably something his people wanted.

5. Another is all the fuss over Trump-at-war-with-the-CIA. Now peace has broken out: Graun: Donald Trump seeks to quell feud with CIA: ‘I’m with you a thousand percent’. Short war, few killed.

6. Although it was shitty of him to delete Obama’s “farewell” speech from (archive of dead state). The Internet archive has a copy (archive of that).

See-also The Scramble to Protect Climate Data Under Trump.

7. As Timmy, and doubtless many others, have pointed out, Trump doesn’t appear to understand trade. That’s bad, but it is what he does that matters; I’m hoping he will be restrained by those around him. OTOH, if he actually does some of the mad things he has said it would be very bad.

8. TTP will be, which is probably regrettable, but it counts as minor because it was probably dead anyway: see Timmy for example.

9. The Senate interprets “emoluments” as “gifts”.


* Donald Trump protests: Washington leads global rallies; Washington DC police refuse to give an official count for how many people turned up today. So we’re unlikely to know exactly how many people turned out in the nation’s capital. But it’s clear there were more people on the streets of DC today than when Trump was sworn in as president yesterday. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, also staged protests against Trump in more than 600 cities and towns around the world
* The rise of the Herbal Tea Party– Lexington / the Economist.
* Fascism and the Current National Emergency– Peter Woit
* [2019/08] The Worst – CIP gives the palm to Bush not Trump
* Two Poems by David R. Henderson

* An Interesting Little Political Observation by Timmy, 2022

Other people’s predictions

* Why Trump’s Inauguration is Not the Beginning of an Era — but the End – Peter Leyden: I think Trump ultimately is going to do America and the world a service by becoming the vehicle that will finally take down right-wing conservative politics for a generation or two. Nah.

Turned out warm again

As we all kinda knew in advance, 2016 turns out to be a record warm year. If you read UKMO you get Provisional full-year figures for global average near-surface temperatures confirm that last year, 2016, was one of the warmest two years on record, nominally exceeding the record temperature of 2015 but that’s because they don’t handle the Arctic very well, and the Arctic was very warm this year. NOAA is a bit more forthright (or see Moyhu): With eight consecutive record warm months from January to August, the globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2016 was the highest since record keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA scientists. During the final month, the December combined global land and ocean average surface temperature departure from average was the third highest on record for any month in the 137-year record. If this was some kind of record-setting attempt we’d all be saying “Yeah Global Temperature!” But that’s probably not a very sensible reaction. Aanyway, man+dog has posted that, is there anything else to say?

Sea ice is looking exciting. For the moment the most wow view is the global one:

This has lasted long enough now to be hard to see as a minor temporary blip and might almost be considered a bit worrying.

In other news, Halley VI, having moved, is in some danger of having to move again due to yet another bloody crack in the Brunt Ice Shelf. Note: I think the blue line purporting to be the crack on the pic is just drawn on. There’s some nice drone footage of said crack in the article. Having to shut down the base for the whole winter is a pain.

Meanwhile, just exactly in Cambridge, it is really quite cold: ducks standing on the ice weather. But we’ve been rewarded with some good sunrises and sunsets. The rosy fingers of dawn, as I put it to Miranda, who totally failed to recognise the Homeric allusions.

Update: scraped from via fb, from SR


It just struck me that he is probably right, that diagnosing the slowdown (not, of course, shutdown) from the temperature pattern is more useful than the rather flaky measurements. His link is:


* 2016 Temperature Records – RC by Gavin.

Climate models have proven extremely skillful in predicting the warming that has already been observed…

15874730_1415047378519039_3981464146765466730_o It am Michael Mann, saying

Climate models have proven extremely skillful in predicting the warming that has already been observed and, by many measures (e.g. Arctic sea ice loss, melting of the major ice sheets) it is proceeding faster than climate models predicted…

Notice any problems with that quote? Well yes: model inaccuracy is taken as proof of model skill. You cannot assert simultaneously that models are extremely skillful, and that change is occurring faster than they predicted. You can, of course, plausibly say If anything, uncertainty is breaking against us, not with us but that’s rather different. Can you then add belies Tillerson’s implications to the contrary? Not on the available evidence, because it is a response to Tillerson’s The increase in the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are having an effect, our ability to predict that effect is very limited. Read completely straight, as you are obliged to, our ability to predict that effect is very limited neither under nor overplays the predictions as compared to reality.

FWIW, I think that calling models “extremely skillful” isn’t right, and nor is “our ability to predict that effect is very limited”, except in the trivial sense that neither phrase has defined it’s terms clearly enough and so either could trivially be true by shifting and stretching definitions in plausible ways. The truth is somewhere in between.

This is all against the backdrop of the confirmation hearing on Wednesday for Tillerson. Predictably enough, the hearings are dominated by stupid politics. So the lead question we’re invited to consider is Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia asked Tillerson about Exxon’s decision to fund organizations that put out misleading information about climate science. This is pure politicking. No-one gives a toss what the actual answer is, because anyone who cares already has their own reality and won’t believe anything that contradicts it. Being asked about his own views on GW makes sense, and he managed a vaguely sensible answer: The risk of climate change does exist and the consequences of it could be serious enough that action should be taken. The obvious follow-up questions are: what kind of action should be taken? Would you support a carbon tax? Although to be actually effective that question has to be “would you support a carbon tax, as I do?” Since hardly any US pols can actually ask that question, it falls apart a bit.

Ultimately, the article is disappointing because, like so many others, it is more interested in conflict than in reporting what people said. See-also On the referendum #21: Branching histories of the 2016 referendum and ‘the frogs before the storm’.



* The Buzzfeed leaked document – Rich Puchalsky
* U.S. Needs a Robust Carbon Tax, not an Exxon Carbon Tax?
* Climate Change Deniers: Even Exxon’s CEO Has Abandoned You – make up your minds, people
* Fuckwittery from Bill McKibben – about the kind of warmed-over drivel you’d expected.
* Yet more drivel this time from – get a grip people and stop hyperventilating.
* Don’t fall into the trap of restarting last decade’s ‘climate wars’ – Myles Allen

Derek Parfit, Ex-Philosopher

Or, “philosophy advances one funeral at a time“? Oddly, no-one has ever said that ( – no, I’m right: no-one ever has) because of course it doesn’t fit. Philosophy isn’t like science, with clear progress that rather leaves the Emeritus behind it3. DP says otherwise in his magnum opus, OWM, but doesn’t prove the point.

So: news reaches me of the death of Derek Parfit, Philosopher. I am entirely unaware with his work, although the name is very vaguely familiar. Some people I respect pointed me initially at The whole philosophy community is mourning Derek Parfit. Here’s why he mattered (Vox). I read it and am unimpressed. I am then pointed to HOW TO BE GOOD: An Oxford philosopher thinks he can distill all morality into a formula. Is he right? (NY). Again, I am unimpressed. Today, finding myself surfeited of sci-fi in Waterstones, I browse his “On What Matters”, volume 1. After reading the preface, and then more-and-more rapidly skipping, I got to page 200 without finding anything of interest and stopped.

This post is to record some notes of my reactions. As you’ll see from the above, they hardly amount to a careful review by someone thoroughly familiar with his work, so if that’s what you want, go else where. They are mostly a record for myself, in case I ever wish to revisit (so why on this blog, rather than my personal one? Because the post got too long).


Section: “Why personal identity doesn’t matter”. I suppose I should warn you (if you need warning; you shouldn’t) that I’m reacting to what I read. Whether “Vox” have faithfully paraphrased his work I cannot tell; although some is directly his words. A thought experiment: we take a person (Parfit) and split his brain into two halves, implanting them in two brainless bodies we happen to have handy, and since this is a thought experiment we waive any medical implausibilities. Then “Each of the resulting people believes that he is me, seems to remember living my life, has my character, and is in every other way psychologically continuous with me,” And then proceeds to draw conclusions (of the ordinary semi-paradoxical and totally familiar from various sci-fi novels sort) from this thought experiment. However, the conclusions are only valid if the experiment is actually possible. If it isn’t1, all of the conclusions are null. So I am unable to understand why his conclusion – identity doesn’t matter – is supposed to hold in the real world.

There then follows another thought experiment (the A / A+ / B- / B one, read the link if you care about the details, or you may prefer The Repugnant Conclusion article at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy4) which is essentially a shell game: it works only because, if you’re not careful, you fail to notice that he changes the definition of “better” (which he is careful never to write down explicitly) when making different comparisons. And all of this to get to nothing more interesting than “Z is a world with vastly, vastly more people — 100 billion, or 200 billion, say — all living lives that are just barely worth living. Parfit’s reasoning suggests that this is better than a much smaller world where people are, on average, much happier. This ludicrous-sounding suggestion…” But why is this suggestion ludicrous? It might be, if you’re a nice comfortable philosopher facing the horror of imagining just about scraping by. But if you imaging yourself as a randomly selected one of the 100 or 200 billion, facing a 93-in-100 or 193-in-200 chance of being rubbed out in the transition to a present-day-Earth-population world, it is very easy to see that you might prefer the over-populated world. So again, I fail to understand: Parfit appears to do nothing more than state a commonplace, badly, and with invalid reasoning. [Update: 2018/11: Scott Sumner makes exactly the same argument: “In my view, Derek Parfit’s thought experiment, and dozens of other similar anti-utilitarian examples, is nothing more than a cognitive illusion, artfully presented to lead the reader astray. In this case, the reader is tricked into thinking about the example from a sort of “veil of ignorance” perspective. Which society would you rather live in? But that’s not the question. The question is not which society is preferable to live in, rather it’s whether you’d prefer living in the poor one, or having a 0.01% chance of living in the nice one (and a 99.99% chance of never existing at all.) Most people want to live.” IMO the inability of the philosophers who reviewed P’s work to notice this obvious point means that they’re shit.]

Then there’s a bit about Altruism. Altruism is good, I agree. But Some of us ask how much of our wealth we rich people ought to give to these poorest people. But that question wrongly assumes that our wealth is ours to give. This wealth is legally ours. But these poorest people have much stronger moral claims to some of this wealth. We ought to transfer to these people, in ways that I mention in a note, at least ten per cent of what we earn is to my mind poorly reasoned (see OWM, below, which seemed much the same). There is more blurring of words; “ours” needs a consistent meaning if his sentences aren’t to turn into mush. He introduces 10% with no apparent justification at all. He might, perhaps, justify it from experience: the church used to claim a much-hated 10% tithe and perhaps 10% is an empirically-sanctioned balance between non-trivial and not-too-onerous.


The NY piece is, bizarrely, illustrated by DP costumed as a coal miner (or perhaps a thought experiment blew up in his face?). We start with the same two-brain thought-experiment of Vox, then we get Parfit is thought by many to be the most original moral philosopher in the English-speaking world which seems weird to me. I’d pick Hayek over DP any day. If you don’t think Hayek is a moral philosopher you aren’t thinking.

It then continues with Suppose that a scientist were to begin replacing your cells, one by one, with those of Greta Garbo at the age of thirty. At the beginning of the experiment, the recipient of the cells would clearly be you, and at the end it would clearly be Garbo, but what about in the middle? It seems implausible to suggest that you could draw a line between the two—that any single cell could make all the difference between you and not-you. How dull. This isn’t even new; it’s a version of the paradox of the heap or the ship of Theseus, but with the bonus of not actually being possible and therefore less interesting.

On What Matters

Like I say, I browsed it. The preface was a rather dull attempt to introduce his pet philosopher, Henry Sidgwick. The text… just didn’t stick in my mind, so I can tell you nothing useful about it at all. It seemed, ironically for a book entitled “On What Matters”, not to matter at all.

From the NY piece I read After Parfit finished “Reasons and Persons,” he became increasingly disturbed by how many people believed that there was no such thing as objective moral truth. This led him to write his second book, “On What Matters,” and now I read that, I do recall various places where he did, effectively / implicitly (but I do not recall explicitly) assert the existence of objective morality. This is a familiar philosophical problem, because neither pure objectivism nor pure relativism seem plausible, but I cannot recall anything he wrote that made the issue any clearer.

NY says Parfit believes that there are true answers to moral questions, just as there are to mathematical ones2. Humans can perceive these truths, through a combination of intuition and critical reasoning, but they remain true whether humans perceive them or not and this seems to be much the same as Hobbes’s precept or law of nature:

A ‘law of Nature,’ lex naturalis, is a precept or general rule found out by reason by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life or taketh away the means of preserving the same, and to omit that by which he thinketh it may be best preserved. For, though they that speak of this subject use to confound jus and lex, ‘right’ and ‘law,’ yet they ought to be distinguished; because ‘right’ consisteth in liberty to do or to forbear, whereas ‘law’ determineth and bindeth to one of them; so that law and right differ as much as obligation and liberty; which in one and the same matter are inconsistent… consequently it is a precept or general rule of reason ‘that every man ought to endeavour peace as far as he has hope of obtaining it, and, when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war.’ The first branch of which rule containeth the first and fundamental law of Nature, which is, ‘to seek peace, and follow it.’ The second, the sum of the right of Nature, which is, ‘by all means we can, to defend ourselves.’

I far prefer Hobbes’s language to DP’s.


1. FWIW, I’d go for “it isn’t”, though I’d admit that I can’t demonstrate it. Our current world doesn’t have the surgical ability to split a brain in half, transfer it to two other bodies, and have them live. Quite possibly a future world might. But I think that were it done, the two would be recognisably not two copies of the original. Also (FWIW, and since it came up on fb) I think QM effectively prohibits “copying” brains, to the level of detail that would be required to duplicate people.

2. A slippery arguement to make, when faced with things like the axiom of choice.

3. To be fair, no-one says “mathematics advances one funeral at a time either, and yet it does unquestionably advance, in much the same way as science. Is it, perhaps, less prone to the “emeritus effect”?

4. But notice that the SEP is forced to construct the problem in terms of “All the lives in the above diagram have lives worth living” – they need to have a measureable-from-the-outside “utility”. And this is not possible, even in theory. In practice, all you can tell is whether people chose to commit suicide (their lives were not worth living, at least at that point) or not (their lives were worth living).

5. A comment, from my brother. I don’t quite agree with it but haven’t got around to answering, so ought to dump it here: I can’t agree that people would not chose the 1/100 choice though. People get on boats to cross the Med to get to Italy. They seem happy that the chance is better than the life they would otherwise live. I think in abject poverty apathy keeps people alive more than desire plus the distant hope of something better. In your unrealistic philosophical argument (not ‘yours’ obviously) you know things won’t ever get better. Which is a world no one can imagine. Not even the holocaust Jews imagined it. What would you chose?


* Adjective Foods (XKCD)
* Derek Parfit (1942-2017) Jeff McMahan says farewell to a friend.

On being blocked on Twitter

Warning: tedious navel-gazing. Go elsewhere for substance. Partly this is to explore something I haven’t seen before.

If I attempt to view this tweet I see


And if I then checkup I see:


Obviously, if I actually just want to read it I can log out, or go via some intermediary, such as So I know that the Text I May Not See is I’ve seen a lot of ugly in the climate wars, but Mann’s comments on Curry’s resignation are incredible (not to mention empirically false). JA replies Actually, @MichaelEMann is right on the money here. Who can forget her endorsement of Salby for example? and I think he, too, is bang on the money. If you’re wondering what Mann said, I think it is from Judith Curry retires, citing ‘craziness’ of climate science in ClimateWire:

She has played a particularly pernicious role in the climate change denial campaign, laundering standard denier talking points but appearing to grant them greater authority courtesy of the academic positions she has held and the meager but nonetheless legitimate scientific work that she has published in the past… Much of what I have seen from her in recent years is boilerplate climate change denial drivel.

But why am I blocked? I suppose I could just ask him, but that doesn’t come naturally. I don’t tweet much, so he can’t complain about spam. I don’t think I’ve even been rude about him on Twitter, though I have been on the blog. But then again, I’ve been nice too. Such is the world of false balance.

Incidentally, I should pull out and consider meager but nonetheless legitimate scientific work that she has published in the past. This, of course, is the direct inverse of her own line, the puff that starts the ClimateWire piece (“distinguished herself in the field decades ago with research into the Arctic and the causes of the climate feedback that have shaped the region…”) and Peter Webster’s “Judy ranks extremely highly in many areas of science ranging from radiation theory, cloud physics, thermodynamics and arctic climate… she has major contributions in extended prediction… her extremely high citations and scientific influence”. The truth I think lives somewhere between those two. I’m sure I’ve written this before but can’t find it now: from recollection, she is a medium rank sort of person, who never really made it. So “meager” is rather unfair, but then “extremely highly” is well over the top. It often seemed to me that her obvious unhappiness was in large part jealousy of people she perhaps thought had got undeserved prominence.


* The most important political takeaway from the Mann defamation case against denialists – Brian at Eli’s.

WATN 2016

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan! Did you know that “Antan”, though it now means “yesteryear” (which was itself coined to translate “antan”) formerly meant “last year”, as a contraction from the latin “ante annum”? Fascinating, eh. But not as fascinating as poking at the innards of dead things. Although now I come to it, most of the dead things were dead in 2015 or even 2014.

Before any harsh words here is not quite neige and indeed not antan, but it is a colchique dans le pre which is pretty well the same thing.


Let’s start with a newish thing, Curry’s Climate Etc review of 2016. Notice anything? Yes, it is pretty well all politics; and the ones that might be science aren’t really. Oh well.

[Exciting update! JC in transition says Effective January 1, I have resigned my tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech… I have no plans to join the Trump administration (ha ha). Technically, my resignation is a retirement event, since I am on the Georgia State Teachers Retirement System… The deeper reasons have to do with my growing disenchantment with universities, the academic field of climate science and scientists…]

In a note-to-self last year I reminded me not to forget about the GWPF’s silly “review”. As of now the “news” page has nothing subsequent to September 29, 2015. Moyhu (who cares more than me, even to the extent of putting in a submission, though IMO that did them too much honour and was a mistake) celebrated the “review”s first birthday; AFAIK nothing more has been heard of it since. So although I and Moyhu haven’t quite forgotten it, everyone else including the GWPF have.

On the Farce X front, back in October La Nova was claiming imminent publication; I tweaked them in November and mid-December. But no reply. Could it be they were just blowing smoke? But then why announce the imminent birth? Just jealous of AW? We may never know.

The late-and-unlamented (is that they right way to say it?) “pause” didn’t come back, far from it. And sea ice, whilst not heading for extinction, is looking somewhat shy. PRP remained stiff.

One of the funnier objects around is “the Open Atmospheric Society” which still looks like a dodo. Its fb page still displays my witty comment about spider webs. Can they not even be bothered to tidy up? I shall tweak them harder.

Was that it? I forgot to mention Pachi in 2015 and no-one even noticed. I don’t care where he is now :-). What about updates to RSS or UAH? [Update: ah,; thanks Sou.]


* Judith Curry Is In With The Koch Brothers; contains a link to, as he says, a fairly nasty amicus brief.

Notes for 2017

* closed (archive; h/t RS)
* The OAS seems just a little bit deader than it was before says Sou.

Trump Calls The Majority Who Voted Against Him Enemies And Losers In New Year’s Message?

More politics-via-fb I’m afraid. I wouldn’t trouble you with this except people I know not only post it, but defend it. My headline could instead have been “a plea for toleration”. Some… oh dear, I’m pleading for toleration, aren’t I? So I’d better be nice and choose my words with care. Some website, “” wrote:

President-elect Trump delivered a bizarre New Year’s message where he claimed that the majority of voters who voted against him are his enemies and losers.

Trump is indeed something of a loose cannon and I wouldn’t have been especially surprised to see that he had done this; but it’s always a good idea to check what was actually said; almost invariably paraphrases turn out to be inaccurate, especially when done by people who don’t like the paraphrasee. What Trump actually said was

Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!

Now I’d be happy to argue this is unpresidential and tasteless but does it claim that “the majority of voters who voted against him are his enemies”? No, of course not. It is directed against “enemies” and “those who have fought me” – clearly something far more active in terms of opposition is meant; simply voting against him doesn’t make you his “enemy” nor is it sufficiently significant to count as fighting. Quite apart from that, the basic logic of the claim is also wrong: even if you were to accept the (in my view implausible) claim that “those who have fought me and lost” include those that voted against him, it still doesn’t call those people his enemies; the conjunctive “and” just doesn’t work like that; if it were a ” – ” instead that might be different1

As if to demonstrate a pattern of falsehood the article continues The reality is that the people who voted against Trump know exactly what to do… which is manifestly false. The opposition to Trump exists but it is scattered and confused and is (in my opinion) wildly running around like headless chickens trying to work out a coherent strategy2.

So what is this stuff for? It is there to polarise debate. To convince those that voted against Trump that he is actively their enemy. And therefore to rally them around <someone’s> banner. And these are just the same people who will complain bitterly about how polarised the political debate is (yes, I know. In terms of the GW debate I’m not exactly a shining example of non-polarisation. Perhaps I should think about that a bit).


1. There are, of course, two theories about Trump’s tweets. The first – probably correct, since simplest – is that they are exactly what they appear to be: rather hastily constructed, not always well thought about, and certainly not checked by third parties before publication. The second is that it is all a cunning trick [updated: that is to say, the shonky subject matter and bad structure are all carefully constructed, thereby enabling him] to say carefully pre-meditated outrageous things in public and get away with it. But if the first theory is correct then a careful exact parsing of the tweet is inappropriate.

2. Even that exaggerates the degree of co-ordination of course. There is no one centre of strategy, even within the imited compass of the Democratic party, so the idea that “Trump’s opponents” even exist as a coherent group is wrong. Perhaps this is a good point to link to Partisanship is no substitute for values by Rich Puchalsky who some of the old-timers from sci.env may remember. FWIW, I find his posts interesting and thought-provoking but I often disagree significantly in detail.

More Lindzen, if you can bear it

lindzen-1992 Just a quickie. In response to my last JM points me at The Greening of Planet Earth (1992), featuring luminaries such as Gerd-Rainer Weber of the German Coal Association (featured just in case you were under any illusion that it was only evil USAnian fossil fuel interests causing trouble; those nice sensible well-educated Krauts show similar) and our hero, Lindzen (looking egg-headed to an astonishing degree; but we’re interested in his words, not his looks).

As you’d expect, it is the usual mixture of lies, half-truth, some genuine truth and some things technically true but in practice misleading. The most obvious lie, which L tells with a perfectly straight face, starts at 13:06:

moreover there is virtually no-one who believes that the half degree [of warming this century] is due to greenhouse gases because climate has always varied by itself without man’s intervention

That was published in 1992 so probably made in 1991, presumably in reaction to IPCC ’90. Wiki provides us with a convenient quote from the SPM:

Our judgement is that: global mean surface air temperature has increased by 0.3 to 0.6 oC over the last 100 years…; The size of this warming is broadly consistent with predictions of climate models, but it is also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability. Thus the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability; alternatively this variability and other human factors could have offset a still larger human-induced greenhouse warming. The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect is not likely for a decade or more.

So, indeed, that doesn’t say that warming has – in the technical sense – been detected. But nor does it say the opposite, which L asserts: that no-one believes the warming was human-caused. Since I was around then, I can remember quite clearly what people thought: that the warming was human caused. L, based on the video, was an outlier even then but not so much of an outlier that he didn’t talk to his colleagues: he knew very clearly that plenty of people believed it was human caused. Indeed, there is Hansen’s famous 1988 testimony to the House of Representatives. Could you perhaps argue that Hansen was “virtually no-one”? It doesn’t seem plausible. And anyway, he wasn’t alone. Indeed, the entire point of the bloody video Lindzen is in is to argue against people who did believe it was true; they wouldn’t have bothered produce the video if such views weren’t commonplace.

The rest of the words near there are of the same sort: taking anything inconvenient and not proved as false; and anything convenient and not disproved as true. And don’t miss the appearance of the old and well loved “vineyards in Britain” talking point.