Bidder 70 is Innocent!

February 28th 2011 Salt Lake City, Utah:  Probably one of the most heroic episodes of the new geological era unfolds in a Federal Courthouse here today with the opening of the notorious Bidder 70 trial against activist Tim De Christopher.

The story begins on 19th December 2008 the day that DeChristopher, an economics student completed his exams. Wandering down to a protest outside the U.S. Government's Bureau of land Management who were auctioning oil and gas drilling rights described as a ‘fire sale’ and ‘the Bush Administration’s last great gift to the oil and gas industry’.

Originally given bidder card number 70 in error the penniless student's protest turned in to a bidding war against the oil and gas industry.

DeChristopher enjoys the support of famous names such as Dr. James Hansen , Bill McKibben and film maker Robert Redford who all recognize this to be a turning point in the climate movement.

At first DeChristopher used bidder card number 70 just to drive up the price of real estate, but realised this was probably his one and only chance to make a difference he started to bid higher eventually winning . Although a spontaneous result of erroneously recieving the bidder card DeChristopher bid a total of 1.7 million dollars to win twelve lots of 22 000 acres of Red Rock Desert which he has saved from development.

Despite originally intending to make an example of him  the Federal Prosecutor's camp seems to have caught a cold, it has been reported* that the U.S Attorney for the State of Utah has said "maybe a plea deal can be worked out" something DeChristopher is unlikely to accept despite facing ten years in Federal Penitentiary if convicted.

*     2:31

Further reading :  This is a video of bidder 70 winning an actual plot.

Rachel Maddow show :

Deniers, get over it.

Does Prospect magazine have it in for global warming? Take this which argues that uncertainties are reason enough to prevent action. They gave us "global warming will save lives"  from Bjorn Lomborg. And Prospect's lopsided notion of balance meant a fawning review of the Hockey Stick Illusion by Matt Ridley of the GWPF no less.

Now, add to that list philosopher Edward Skidelsky's edict that 'all liberal-minded people should be alarmed by uses of the denier tag' which includes global warming denial in the list.  Along that road we reach this juncture

"A charge of denial short-circuits [ ] debate by stigmatising as dishonest any deviation from a preordained conclusion. It is a form of the argument ad hominem: the aim is not so much to refute your opponent as to discredit his motives."

What about a charge of denial to highlight a distinction from skepticism?  Skepticism is an honest search for truth conducted with an open mind.   Skepticism is not wholesale rejection of a canon of scientific knowledge based on ideological motivations coupled with revisionism of minor points. What word does Doctor Skidelsky offer for that? None. In the AGW debate the word denier is used more to tag motives than to discredit them.

In essence the vocabulary is being loaded . Proper skeptics have nothing to fear from a word, it's just a word .  But the AGW debate has become polarized and, desperate not to lose credibility to the casual observer whilst manufacturing uncertainty the deny-o-sphere feigns offence at the use of a mere word. 

Doctor Skidelsky is giving academic credence to this canard and his entreaty deserves to be dismissed as Orwellian , at best.

Pantomime Horse makes about turn

I should grudgingly credit Andrew Montford for this.  I'm barely a third of the way through the Hockey Stick Illusion which I am finding a little tedious. Montford is telling the story of McIntyre's efforts to unpick Dr Mann's work. But the importance of the Mann et al ( Hockey Stick ) graph is widely overblown , it is not as if climate science rests on it. A major premise of the book is that the Mediaeval Warm Period was warmer than current estimates, which supports the view that recent warming is part of natural variability. And this can be used to support the argument that recent warming is not anthropogenic which can then be used to imply that claims by climate scientists that warming is anthropogenic are dishonest which is the sort of logic that underpins the Cuccinelli case and indeed much of climategate.

A rational person would get off that particular rhetorical bus before it steers off the improbable cliff of absurdity.  

I wonder therefore what the causes of the MWP are, and expecting to find the phrase 'Milankovitch cycles' consult Skeptical Science.  Regrettably, the answer is not so simple. The Mediaeval Warm Period was ( I think) regional not global and, it is due to solar irradiance which IMHO would bathe the entire planet. This presents a contradiction. I have posted at 27 and 31 and until I get a satisfactory answer will consider myself a climate skeptic.  Does this shake my acceptance of AGW? Yes, like a fruit fly landing on a slab of granite. My understanding of climate science is incomplete and imperfect just like everyone elses. I don't know whether SkS will answer my questions in this regard to my satisfaction but my fellow skeptics I have to tell you that the political issue is the sharp warming of modern times and whether we allow that to go on into the future, not what the weather was like half a millenium ago. Allowing our concerns about uncertainties in the paleological record to systematically influence our politics is denialism not skepticsm.

A climate hero about to go on trial

What a hero. Tim DeChristopher goes on trial on the 28th of February on a Federal rap in Utah. He is facing ten years for bidding on an auction without intending to complete the purchase. According to The Times he has bought 220 acres of the Utah desert for $1.8m of imaginary money. Watch the video here. What a superb way to stuff the system. DeChristopher's account is compelling after wrestling with the notion of going to prison if he bid, he then wrestled with the notion that he would probably never get an opportunity to stop Big Oil's land grab ever again. DeChristopher won 14 lots in a row using bidder card number 70. Should be an interesting trial. Tim DeChristopher's website is here.

My badge of honour from the Deny-o-sphere !

Hmmm Looks like it's time to upload a new avatar 'cos I've been caught in the spotlight of contrarian cartoonist Josh . Josh's previous three targets were Dr Gavin Schmidt, Dr Kevin Trenberth and President Barack Obama so I am in good company. Thank you Josh.

Ive got to say no one actually reads this blog normally but thanks to a link from Bishop Hill my hit rate has gone up like a hockey stick.

Ive tried writing more but cut it 'cos it sounded dangerously  like a Gwyneth Paltrow Oscar acceptance speech .

Adventures in the Deny-o-sphere

Been upbraided by Andrew Montford for calling his website the deny-o-sphere.  "Hengist" writes the man who styles himself Bishop Hill and whose followers address him as Your Grace "I discourage use of terms like denier and ecofascist. That includes variants like denialsphere and so on. Please don't - it just makes the threads deteriorate." Trouble is the thread has already deteriorated from the get-go, Montford called mainstream science the warm-o-sphere in his original post.

All in the context of the Lisbon Conference on Reconciliation I have posted

What an utter sham. It's supposed to be a conference on reconciliation , yet what gets discussed is why mainstream scientists don't attend. A mainstream scientist (Dr Schmidt) has been decent enough to give his reasons and that gets interpreted by tallbloke who passes it on to the press (Pearce) and it's the main story coming out of the so-called "conference on reconciliation". There's no reconciliation going on here, it's really a conference (funded by fossil fuel according to Eli) between a few skeptics and deniers who put together a cheap stunt to discredit Dr Schmidt . A lot of time is wasted but please don't pretend this is anything to do with science or indeed reconciliation.

None of that has been refuted but I've had to deal with an army of the Bishop's trolls taking me on on such matters as big oil funding and the protocol of the word denier. A saturday afternoon spent on the deny-o-sphere seems wasted. But hang on, my complaint that Bishop Hill is using an assymetric argot goes unanswered. The deniers are basically dishonest because they paraphrase to their advantage. The thread is here if anyone cares. I am entirely unrepentant, I have been told by one commenter to 'sling your hook'. So much for reconciliation.

What I didn't say in my email to the President of Peru

Having just read John Vidal's latest post in the Grauniad I see that the uncontacted Amazonian tribe story is in the news again. I find it fascinating , so I click on the link to Survival International and email the President of Peru as they ask, and I urge you to do too. Ive added my name to a standard mesage that goes like this

President Garcia: Oil drilling and logging in uncontacted tribes' territories could wipe the Indians out. Please protect these peoples' right to live in peace and security – stop the loggers and oil companies from entering their land.

But it occurs to me there is so much more to be pondered. Our civilization could  learn something from them. They have developed independently from us in a similar environment yet entirely outside the support of human civilization. Our civilization spends billions looking for extra terrestrial intelligent life yet here is intelligent life on our own doorstep that is about to be decimated by loggers and oil prospectors. You might accuse me of being a yoghurt eating, sandal wearing, woolly minded liberal, but there are potential benefits to mankind that risk being destroyed. The bark of the Peruvian cinchona tree for example provided the cure to malaria. I have to suggest the casual destruction of these peoples raises more ugly questions about the philosophy of our so-called civilization than would be comfortable. So please email President Garcia too.