Please note that this blog no longer accepts comments (there was
too much spam coming in!). If you're reading this blog and want to
respond then please use the contact form on the site.
You can also follow me on twitter.
The other day at a talk I was asked, as I often am, whether I
agree that only putting the state in control can clean up the
environment. I wish I had then read this, from the blog at Cafe Hayek: a letter
sent to the Los Angeles Times:
My latest Mind and Matter column in the Wall
Street Journal is about the weakening of the magnetic field and,
more generally, the question of how we scare ourselves by knowing
The earth's magnetic field is weakening at an accelerating rate.
It is 15% weaker than it was at the time the north magnetic pole
was "discovered"-and claimed for King William IV-by a British
explorer in 1831. Should we be worried?
There is a lot of fuss about two new papers arguing, from
mathematical models, that extreme downpours have become and will
become more common in thenorthern hemisphereand specifically
inBritainas a result of man-made climate
Let's ignore the fact that this looks awfully similar to
the habit of blaming specific weather events on climate trends,
something we `lukewarmers' (who think climate change is real but
slow enough to adapt to through the foreseeable future) are
reprimanded for doing when we point out that an especially cold
winter or cool summer weakens the case for the alarming version of
the theory. So now we can do that too, can we?
Let's ignore the fact that neither paper comes up with any
actual evidence that greenhouse gases have caused more extreme
downpours - other than circumstantial correlation. Their sole
argument is that they cannot think of any other explanation for the
increase in downpours. Or as the
BBC puts it:
Ever since opening my own eyes by researching my book, I keep a
watching brief for egregious examples of pessimistic bias in the
media. Once your eyes adjust, the media's tendency to spot a cloud
in every silver lining is very striking.
But just as striking is its ability to ignore anything that
reaches optimistic conclusions.
As I have mentioned before, almost nobody has heard of the
CO2-fertilisation effect. There is a new book by the Idsos that is
well worth reading on this: there is a huge peer-reviewed
literature on the benefits of CO2 enrichment and it is skilfully summarised here.
My latest Mind and Matter column from the Wall
Street Journal is on Dunbar's number.
I was on BBC Radio 4's programme A Good Read (the link allows you to listen
again) this week, where I recommended the book that was my
favourite as a child, and probably still is: My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.
The others chose A Game of Hide and Seek and Great
Latest Mind and Matter column in the Wall Street
Journal, on `unlearning':
For adults, one of the most important lessons to learn in life
is the necessity of unlearning. We all think that we know certain
things to be true beyond doubt, but these things often turn out to
be false and, until we unlearn them, they get in the way of new
understanding. Among the scientific certainties I have had to
unlearn: that upbringing strongly shapes your personality; that
nurture is the opposite of nature; that dietary fat causes obesity
more than dietary carbohydrate; that carbon dioxide has been the
main driver of climate change in the past.
I came across a rather good word for this kind of
unlearning-"disenthrall"-in Mark Stevenson's book "An Optimist's
Tour of the Future," published just this week. Mr. Stevenson
borrows it from Abraham Lincoln, whose 1862 message to Congress
speaks of disenthralling ourselves of "the dogmas of the quiet
past" in order to "think anew."
I took part in a debate on whether we can feed the world
on Al Jazeera television with Dvaid Frost. Video here.