Fielding on climate – How to ask a poor question

Chief scientist fails to sway Fielding on climate – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Senator Fielding has been pimping the press recently after his self-funded tour to a climate “skeptics” conference in the USA. Upon his return to our fair shores I wasn’t overly surprised to hear him touting the dead and buried idea that recent climate change is due to solar processes. Ok, the guy doesn’t have the reputation as a great investigator and seems particular poor at finding out climate information however given his political background this is not too surprising. I started to assume he probably didn’t know how to ask a good question.
And then proof arrived over the radio this morning:

“When I put forward the question ‘isn’t it true that carbon emissions
have been going up and global temperature hasn’t?’, they wanted to
rephrase my question and not answer it,” he (Senator Fielding) told AM.

The good senator does not seem to understand what is wrong with this question and why answering it would be stupid and wrong.
This is called a closed question. It’s the sort of question which is put forward when one is trying to find supporting evidence for ones beliefs and not to learn more about the topic the question is meant to address.   It is obvious what he already believes and is thinking he’s got the great earth shattering question that will stump the oh-so-smart scientists. It’s the sort of poor question when you only care about an answer and not how it is supported.
And here’s the specific problem, regardless of the answer, yes or no, that answer will simply reinforce an existing belief and will not lead to any further understanding of why the answer was given. From this type of question it’s a short fall into the biases of confirmation and dis-confirmation. When teaching critical thinking this is the sort of question that people are told NOT to ask. It’s the sort of question little kids might ask and adults are not meant to ask unless they they trying to push a point of view. It is also the sort of question police would not be asking when interviewing a subject and the sort of question a prosecution lawyer would be asking in a trial to bias the opinions of others.

The question the senator should have asked, if he has any skill in finding out information, and to date there is zero evidence for that on this topic is this:
“Why have carbon emissions have been going up and global temperature hasn’t?”

With this sort of open question the scientists can then explain the factors that affect global temperature and their relative impact. It is the sort of open question we try to teach primary school kids to ask when teaching critical thinking. In answering this open question the scientists would point out that the natural variation vastly exceeds the gradual long term trend which scientists believe to be the indicator of anthropomorphic global warming. As such, over any particular short time span less than 20 or 30 years one would expect with 100% certainty to see periods where the temperature does not go up in a nice smooth manner but stays the same or goes down for a while.

This is a worry. Here we have an elected representative in the Senate of all places, the house where issues are meant to be investigated before national legislation is ratified and the Senator does not seem to know how to ask questions. In his defense he’s not the only one. Many, many of our elected representatives display incredibly poor thinking. However, considering they have probably never been exposed to training in critical thinking,especially in their adult lives, and would know even less about cognitive biases in decision making I guess one could argue they are blissfully ignorant. And politicians are not the only ones. Business leaders routinely make poor decisions and don’t ask good questions that lead to rich answers. The current economic woes have exactly the same root cause as Senator Fielding’s ignorance on climate, the inability to ask good questions.

For brief article about asking good questions see this site. It was simply the first site about the topic Google found.
This isn’t rocket science.

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Hi tech “Rain Making” at Willunga?

I noticed in one of the local small newspapers an article about an attempt to artificially make rain down at Willunga. To say that the concept of rain making is controversial is probably an understatement and the whole has a rather sordid past of scams which more than overwhelm the few successes. Now before my dear readers start thinking I’m about to rip into this latest endeavor lets just hold our horses and examine one very well documented place where this happens … for real. Tasmania.

Yes, that little annoying and poky island off our south coast has been artificially boosting their rainfall for many years.

To read it all go to here but for a brief summary, please read on. The basic idea is to seed into appropriate clouds with iodine salts, these form nucleation centers and hence rain falls that otherwise might not have. The two points to making this a success are “appropriate clouds ” and “into”. They hydro guys and gals spend some serious time choosing the clouds they will get best success from considering the prevailing weather and very carefully choose the flight path of the planes which do the seeding. This is not a cheap process and they get their bucks from the extra water generating extra power via hydroelectric generators on the dams. They also did a lot of good research early on with CSIRO to make sure it actually worked. So how do we know when things actually work? Glad you asked, answer is…the scientific method. So what is science, and no, it’s not a list of boring facts dull uninspiring science teachers are wont to trot out, especially those with no background or interest in science, which is most of them. Here’s a list I grabbed from a book many years ago and it’s stood the test of time. (And sorry , I don’t have the name of the name, I really, really wish I did.)

  1. Science is logical and rational.
  2. Science makes well-defined claims.
  3. Scientific hypothesis are falsifiable.
  4. Scientific experiments are repeatable.
  5. Science requires that claims are examined by peers.
  6. Science views unexpected gaps in theories with suspicion.
  7. Science requires caution in examining evidence.
  8. Science requires objectivity.
  9. Science does not accept coincidence as proof.
  10. Science does not accept anecdotal evidence as proof.

In real science at least 9 out of 10 of the items will be supported. If you get less than that, then you soon drift into pseudo-science and once you’re down to not many that’s the land of woo.

So let’s look at Tasmanian cloud seeding.

Point 1, yes, putting nucleation centers into clouds does make sense because that is exactly how raindrops form normally.

Point 2, yes, they explain a lot on their FAQ page. They also state their expected improvements in rainfall and where it will fall. Furthermore the CSIRO also explain under what circumstances this will and won’t work here.

Point 3, yes. When they developed their process their testing included a both seeding suitable and not seeding suitable clouds. This was a test to see if what they did had a causal relationship with what they observed.

Point 4, yes.  As far I can be seen, at least 5 sets of experiments to reproduce the effect. This makes simply financial sense. Hiring planes is expensive. Hiring skilled people isn’t cheap either. Why waste money if it didn’t work?

Point 5, yes. They got the CSIRO to examine the results which has a brief summary here.

Point 6, yes. The theory was robust and they actually ran experiments to close as many gaps as possible. AS such the CSIRO found that cloud seeding would not work in many places in Australia.

Point 7, yes. They repeated the experiments over a long time span.

Point 8, yes. There isn’t hype about this working in Tasmania, it doesn’t have high profile media people ranting on how great this will be.

Point 9, yes. The first results looked promising. Did they just go with this? Nope, the repeated the experiments again and again, looking for a testing the variables that affected the results.

Point 10, yes. They actually did the experiment and allowed for the effect to not work.

So that’s how to do it properly. This latest mob down at Willunga initially had the CSIRO involved but they are no longer in the testing program.

Let’s go through the points for the latest proposal by Australian Rain Corporation.

Point 1,Is it logical and rational? Ok, so what does this thing actually do? It releases negative ions at ground level. These negative ions go up into clouds, react with oxygen and make it rain.  A few questions spring to mind about how rational this is. How do the ions actually get up into clouds and can they get high enough? What sort of clouds? Why don’t the ions bond with oxygen in the air normally before they get up into clouds or doesn’t it really matter where this happens. (In which case, why say it?)

Moving on to point 2, well defined claims. They make no mention of what the conditions need to be for this to work. What sort of clouds? What sort of wind pattern? What humidity? How much do they expect? Without knowing exactly what they are claiming it’s going to be hard to tell if they have succeeded. Even the testing procedure isn’t clear no explained anywhere. This could be done without giving away trade secrets but there is no information given. They don’t even mention how they are performing their test.

Without having a well defined claim it’s going to be hard to prove them wrong so point 3 is a fail. In previous tests in Queensland the results where inconclusive but it appears their experiment was pretty badly designed compared to what CSIRO did. TO make it falsifiable they need to sometimes run the machine when they think it might cause more rain and to also not run it when weather conditions are suitable and compare the results. Comparing rainfall from different areas is pretty poor experimental design when there is a better way to do it.

As for peer review I have been unable to find any peer reviewed reports concerning the Queensland trials. Yes, I’ve seen the summary of claims but I actually need to see the report to see how the experiment was done. Snappy headlines don’t cut the mustard.

With regards to gaps in theory, well there are plenty. It’s simply not supported by any. There is a fundamental problem of how the negative ions cause rain, if they could get to where they are needed, if they didn’t react on the way up, if they are special in quantity or quality from what’s already in the atmosphere.

At least they are being a bit cautious with the poor evidence to date although as I have mentioned there is very little to actually examine. The objectivity aspect they are attempting but there are so many missing facts from a real scientific experiment it simply doesn’t look right. (And I wont go into the structure being comprised of pyramids, if nothing else that’s really poor marketing as it attaches a woo factor to the whole thing.) And we’re not accepting the results from Queensland in case they are just a coincidence and at least unlike many dodgy bits of woo like dowsing, the web site hasn’t an anecdotal testimony page.

So what to make of it all? Based on what has been made public it’s unproven pseudo-science at best but at least they are doing the experiment. Their current experiment is not very scientific as it would appear they are just turning the machine on for  3 months to see what will happen. Hopefully there is moer to the test than this. The problem with this method, which appears to be what was used in Queensland, is that we wouldn’t know what would have happened if it wasn’t turned on. There is so much variability in weather, let alone potential climate change, that comparing side by side areas really doesn’t appear to a very valid approach. Especially when the CSIRO has already demonstrated a better protocol and has it publicly available!

Climate debate and facts

Reading in the local newspaper last week I was surprised to find the following statement in an opinion piece by Chris Kenny:

People are scorned as “deniers” simply for pointing out the scientifically agreed fact that Earth has not warmed for a decade.

Overall the article, “I’m sick of the scare tactics in climate debate”, is concerned with the rhetoric that currently fills any discussion over climate and so I was curious about the offhand way such a simply wrong fact was thrown in there. In the next paragraph we then had the following:

And that no one has yet proved a link between human activities and/or carbon emissions and climate change.

The second half of this statement could be discussed as the word “prove” can be ambiguous but I was more interested in the first statement, which again is simply wrong.

With this in mind I wrote a letter to the editor and assumed , in this case incorrectly, that it would be simply ignored as that is my first hand experience of any complaints about the standard of journalism in The Advertiser. To my surprise I soon received a phone call from the editor advising me that they would be publishing my letter. Unfortunately The Advertiser does not put it’s letters online, unlike opinion pieces from it’s journalists, so I can’t show you the link to the letter. However I can simply show you what I wrote as I kept a copy. What is below is in two parts, the first part is what was published, the second is what was left out.

“Chris Kenny’s latest opinion piece with a subtitle of “I’m sick of the scare tactics in climate debate”, will I’m sure be leading to pots and kettles eying each other off. Chris makes the claim “People are scorned as “deniers” simply for pointing out the scientifically agreed fact that Earth has not warmed for a decade.” This is simply wrong and not a fact. The scientific consensus is currently well represented by the following statement from the Hadley Climate Center, “A simple mathematical calculation of the temperature change over the latest decade (1998-2007) alone shows a continued warming of 0.1 °C per decade.” Now, people can argue about other issues and what this means, however the fact of observation is not, unless you care to deny reality.Chris further states “And that no one has yet proved a link between human activities and/or carbon emissions and climate change.” Addressing the first part of this claim scientist have clearly demonstrated that the increasing CO2 levels correspond with a decreasing C13/C12 isotope ratio which is due to human burning of fossil fuels and not a natural process.
Simply put Chris, what you said is wrong.
Now, no-one is going to deny there are alarmists in both camps on this topic which really doesn’t help but could we please respect the facts and concentrate the debate on areas of uncertainty?”

The section that was left out of the published letter, for completeness was:

“And as for “Why the scare campaign”? Chris, of all people, being an adviser to a government should know. Because they work, regardless of which side of the fence you live on. The media could perform us all some justice by promoting articles that investigate facts and not just hype the spin, confuse people and promote ignorance. And a few less straw man arguments by journalists claiming to be skeptical wouldn’t go amiss. Skeptics seek the facts to support an argument and promote critical thinking, aspects sadly lacking in this present debate. However for those wanting such a debate, then please come along to the Skeptics National conference in Adelaide in October where this very topic will be debated on the Sunday morning session.”

Now it’s fine to cut the letter and with hindsight what was cut will be going straight back to them because I find out today, 1 week later, it would appear Chris has a bee in his bonnet about this issue. And the straw man arguments return which is really sad because I remember the long past days of decent journalism.

Without further ado here is his rebuke:


Sceptics can’t deny the facts

  • Skeptics SA accused me of getting my climate change facts wrong last week. However, the U.K.’s Hadley Centre shows none of the past 10 years has been as warm as 1998. Sure, the centre claims there is still evidence of a warming trend, albeit reduced from a decade ago. But it confirms that each of the past 10 years has been cooler than 1998.
  • The Skeptics SA letter also referred to scientific consensus. We often hear this term now but science is not about consensus, it is about objective fact.
  • Another reader asks what more Australia could do to reduce carbon emissions. If we were serious, the first thing we would do is lift our ban on uranium exports to India.
  • Just to restate what happened, someone made a claim, it was factually wrong and they were corrected. I would have thought that’s the end of the matter, lesson learnt. As a skeptic I certainly was not denying the facts. And no-one is claiming that 1998 was not a hot year. Is stating that “Sceptics (sic) can’t deny the facts” suggesting that skeptics have denied the facts? Who knows. Perhaps Chris is claiming he is now a skeptic and that even he can’t deny the facts anymore? That would be reassuring however it is again misleading to state something out of context and to ignore the factual reason which is given by the Hadley Centre. To get a view of the temperature over the past few years, here’s the graph showing this.

    The temperature spike at 1998 can clearly be seen. And it’s explanation, which Chris does not even hint at:

    1998 saw an exceptional El Niño event which contributed strongly to that record-breaking year. Research shows that an exceptional El Niño can warm global temperatures by about 0.2 °C in a single year, affecting both the ocean surface and air temperatures over land. Had any recent years experienced such an El Niño, it is very likely that this record would have been broken. 2005 was also an unusually warm year, the second highest in the global record, but was not associated with El Niño conditions that boosted the warmth of 1998.

    A picture says a thousand words and anyone can see that 1998 is an usual year. It is also apparent that what the Hadley Centre claims about increasing temperature is also correct. The fact that 1998 was a record breaking year does not invalidate the statement from the Hadley Centre that the average temperature is increasing. And before people jump in with “but the last 6 years hasn’t warmed” I’d just like to point out we are not denying this. We’d also not support it either because the error bars clearly show the error measurement is much larger that what we are looking for. The correct position is “we don’t really know”. Perhaps some of the readings were wrong, perhaps there were other things happening such as what happened in 1960’s with increased aerosols and particulates, who knows. That’s why we have error bars on good graphs, so we know how good the data is and don’t make incorrect claims.

    This leads into Chris’s second point, that about consensus and his incorrect belief it has no place in science. If the world was perfect, measurements never had errors, all factors and processes were well known, humans were perfect and generally the whole place was painted in black or white then this would be a valid statement. However in the reality based world that science lives in we know this isn’t correct.

    When you make a measurement there is error and variation. Sometimes there are competing explanations for observations. Sometimes the world is complex and it’s not apparent exactly what is influencing what and what the processes are. And sometimes people have differing points of view and different backgrounds that enable them to look at the same data but draw different conclusions. However this does not mean no claims can be made, as many post-modernists are want to do, or that nothing can be said until everyone totally agrees. There is a misconception in the general public, and this applies to nearly all journalists, the vast majority of whom have no background in science, that science gathers pure unambiguous facts and then make a dogmatic decree of the new knowledge gained. This might be great for depicting a scientist for Hollywood but reality is different. Vastly different.

    Actual science involves the rather more nebulous concept of supplying the best explanation for the available evidence. There is no place for dogmatic belief, unlike in religion where maintaining the status quo and existing faith based knowledge is crucially important. The “best explanation” involves many scientists agreeing that a conclusion can be drawn from the available body of evidence and, shock, horror this is usually done in a via consensus. Now some people might suggest the data is not accurate enough, or not enough data has been collected, or that it is not representative or a hundred reasons why they personally cannot accept the proposed conclusion. That’s fine and science allows for dissent, in fact it strives on dissent. However when the vast majority of scientists agree on something then that’s good enough. If someone brings along more,better or different evidence and it’s convincing and of suitable quality then the consensus will change. It would be lovely to live in a world of unambiguous objective fact but unfortunately that world only exists in the minds of those ignorant to the scientific method, those used to living in a world of political decree and religious dogma.

    And for a recent discussion about long term trends, see this article I wrote a while ago.

    A note about long term trends..

    As mentioned on Deltoid, there is still the erroneous belief going around that there has been some sort of global cooling over the past few years and hence climate change isn’t happening. A brief mention of the fact that those whose hold this belief use dodgy or simply wrong data could be made and discussed but there is something I’d like to show regardless of this.

    A currently accepted value for global warming is something like 3C per 100 years. This long term trend is meant to be on top of the annual variation of about 1C. To get some idea of what this looks like here is a graph made in Excel. The data on this graph is the the last 20 “years” of temperature with the annual variation superimposed on top of the long term trend.

    As can be seen the temperature goes up and down each year and no long term trend is apparent. Now if this was real temperature it would be difficult to say anything. In fact it sort of looks flat and we could say the temperature has gone down after about the 20th year for a period of 5 years. And this is the problem of looking at this sort of data when the noise, the annual variability of 1C, totally swamps the long term trend of 0.03C. Now we’ll look at the 100 year graph this small graph was taken from.

    Looking over the long term, in this case 100 years, the trend can clearly be seen. The right hand end of the graph shows the small section from the top graph.

    Now if this was the real data one could see that an argument could be made that after about the 90th year the trend had ended because there is 5 years of lower temperature averages. However this would be wrong as another year later the temperature jumps up again.

    This took about 5 minutes with Excel to show. It is not a complex argument. Yet we have people who are claiming that global warming has finished because of a run of lower temperatures. There is three things wrong with this argument, the data does not support it ,even if the data did show a few cooler it means SFA and thirdly what is happening to the climate is change, not just global warming.

    More Evidence for Climate Change and Extinctions

    ABC News is reporting on a presentation in Adelaide today by Professor Alan Cooper , examining some of the reasons for the various mass extinctions we have seen over the last tens of thousands of years. This issue is newsworthy for many reasons, one of them being that more evidence is now being found explaining what has happened to the mega-fauna of Australia. There have been two main sides to this issue, one side promoting the humans are responsible for their extinction and another promoting it was due to the gradual drying of Australia.
    Other places on the planet have had their mass extinctions of large creatures and any principals found that affected them could well have affected ours as well. Issues like the rate of change of the environment and the ability for creatures to adapt, or is usually case go extinct, are crucial if we are going to use science to give an evidence based reasons for changing our current behavior.
    However pictures of cute animals that people are familiar with only go so far and in some cases peoples concern over pretty animals is potentially leading to more important creatures not being saved. Being cute in the eyes of humans is no real indication as to the value of a creature in a real ecosystem.
    Professor Nigel Stork has urged greater focus on invertebrates and local extinctions as reported by the ABC in this story. Unfortunately the bias the media has towards the big creatures means that issues affecting fungi for example are sadly missed. The way things are however ,creatures lost off the top part of the food chain have a much lesser impact than the small but much more numerous animals and plants down near the bottom. However studying fungi simply isn’t seen as sexy by those with the purse strings, even if it does give support that rapid climate in now occurring.

    All in all, the more science the better, the more news the better and if we can gain a better understanding of how the natural world works then at least the process of science is working. Understanding the complexity of the planet we live on might be a huge and difficult task however considering we live in the 21st century one would think this isn’t a too tedious task. At this point in the blog I was going to put a link to the excellent educational material the local newspaper, the Advertiser, put out recently. However when I search their website I again get bluntly reminded that the media does not exist to educate. I could not find it. They don’t even have a menu item for science. They do however have one for Horoscopes under the free stuff section. Complete with a link to an astrologer.
    That’s priorities for you.

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    ‘Earth Hour’ Stupidity

    I have already posted about the previous earth hour in the US and how pointless it was. Now in 2008 this inane concept has spread around the world like some sort of IQ destroying virus.

    Firstly I must say that I’m convinced the earths climate is changing much more rapidly than our current society can handle. The rate of change is extremely unusual over a very large geological time frame and our current agriculture has evolved in a very unusual period of climactic stability. I also can’t see why pumping a lot of CO2 back into the atmosphere that was sequestered a few hundred millions of years ago is going to be anything but very bad for our society. I’ve read untold numbers of papers, examined the raw data and followed the discussions both for and against man made causes of climate change. My brief summary is that climate change deniers are batshit crazy and suffering from either delusion or back-pocket greed.

    However, when I see statements like “Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced” I can a bit annoyed. In fact I get a lot annoyed and would like to smack up the total f%$#ing moron who penned this bullshit. This displays such ignorance about the earths history, even the recent history, that the mere existence of such a concept should nearly be enough to make the entire planet implode. Even though I think rapid climate change is going to screw our civilization over ,I would much rather face that rather than a major impact or super volcano eruption. For a nice summary of bad days see this link.

    Back to ‘Earth Hour’ and we see we are being asked to light a candle rather than use electricity. This got me wondering, how much CO2 do burning candles make? They make hardly any light so lets do the comparison. A 60W incandescent light generates about 72 candela (cd) of useful light. A candle, not surprisingly, generates about 1 cd. Instantly we can see one major problem, candles are friggin dim. So dim in fact, that we have programs in the third world to give them more light (most use dangerous kerosene lamps) so they can study and gain an education at night. It’s most likely one of the best things we can do for the third world, give them an education via the wonders of night lighting. However for now we will assume that you wont be doing much with your 1cd of light. To find out what you can do, see this link where someone did some science to find out.
    Now candles burn about 6gm of paraffin per hour which gives about 19gm of CO2. (Yes, I’m aware some sites are advocating using beeswax candles or others made from renable resources) For now we’ll ignore the health effects of burning candles or any oil based heating inside, we have the planet to save! If we assume we are replacing the 60W incandescent light (ok, I know most people have swapped over to mini fluoros) then we will save 0.06kW/hr of power.

    For gas powered power plants, which the main plant near Adelaide is, the CO2 production is about 360gm of CO2 per kW/hr of power generated. This leads to the generation of 21.6gm of CO2 for one hours worth of light, barely more CO2 than one candle. So basically it’s stupid to turn off even a crappy inefficient bright light and use a candle. In summary:

    We grade the idea of using candles rather than electricity..FAIL

    If you used a CFL the power consumption would be about 15W, generating much less CO2 than a candle burning. Even putting up with the crappy dim lighting it’s still much brighter than a candle.

    Of course there is much more to ‘Earth Hour’ than turning off the lights and using a candle. However this little calculation shows the basic premise of the concept has possibly not had a lot of thinking done on it. The real downside with this concept is that it trivializes the issue and loads peoples head with false impressions about what needs to be done. Save the planet? Easy, just turn off the lights for one hour! Can’t be much of a problem if all we need to do is turn off some lights. etc., etc.

    It’s not that people will actively think that ‘Earth Hour’ will solve the problem of climate change, it’s that when you load people brains with bad memes it affects how they subconsciously think about things. The common media such as newspapers and TV are simply not supplying good information to explain in detail the total picture. They are treating people like morons, catering for the lowest common denominator, which in our current society is verging on the scientifically illiterate.

    The stated aim is to of ‘Earth Hour’ “to deliver a powerful message about the need for action” . Sorry dumbass, we don’t need a powerful message, in just the same way the dot-com’s didn’t need more sizzle to sell the vapourware sausage. What we need is well thought information, presented on real evidence based science. We also need to simply pay the real price for our electricity, gas and power. One that reflects its real cost if were planning on having a sustainable society.

    Do we really need to allow badly designed huge houses that require large AC plants for our hot climate? Do we really need advertising billboards and most of the office buildings lit up at night? Do we really need devices with standby mode built in and no way to disable it?Do we really need power stations to have subsidies for using non-renewable fuel and be allowed to dump CO2 into the atmosphere at no cost?

    What we need is much better education, not just awareness, and leaders with the guts to make the hard decisions based on the best scientific evidence and damn the ignorant lobby groups and business who don’t want to “negatively impact our bottom line”.

    Apathy 1 : Environment 0

    From the BBC we have that UK’s first Energy Saving Day has been a total flop. The basic aim was to encourage people to switch off devices they did not need and they were expecting to see the power usage go down by 2 or 3%. On the day it went up by 0.1%. IMHO this is purely noise.
    Evidently the day had very little publicity even though it had backing from the power companies and Greenpeace.
    This reinforces what I have thought all along, there is no way people will lower their standard of living unless you put a gun to their head. Not using all the mod cons of a high energy use society is so far off the radar of reality it isn’t funny. And the irony is that based on reasonable predictions of power available around the world and what would be sustainable it would appear that is what we need to do.
    In Australia I have seen figures bandied around that our energy requirement for very long sustainability is down around the 10% of what it is today. Even if that figure is highly exaggerated and the real figure is say 50% this sort of test in the UK shows the social limitations of this sort of thinking. It’s logical, rational and makes good economic sense to cut down power consumption but the simple reality is people don’t want to do it. Our power usage per capita in Australia is about 10 or 20 times that of countries like Indonesia or China and this is reflected in our very high (on average) standard of living. The simple fact is people will not cut back on their standard of living and those who currently having low standards of living are going to want, and expect to get, a similar standard of living. That’s just human nature and it will trump rationality and compromise regardless of facts.
    Unfortunately I have no magic fix and I can’t see anyone standing in the wings with one either. As long as we operate the current economic model there is simply no good reason to use less power in most persons minds unless energy suddenly costs a truckload more. However this is at odds with the free market and competition trying to offer lower prices to gain more market share. The actual long term cost of power generation is simply not being paid and power is dirt cheap.
    All of this is really a perfectly good example of a form of cognitive bias called Platonicity.
    The idea comes from the book “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

    Platonicity: the focus on those pure, well-defined, and easily discernible
    objects like triangles, or more social notions like friendship or love, at the
    cost of ignoring those objects of seemingly messier and less tractable

    Power consumption and standards of living fall into the messier end of the world and I have to say I am yet to see anyone with any clout have a serious go at stating what really needs to be done for a modern civilization to be sustainable over hundreds of years.

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