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PM’s Science Advisor worried PM doesn’t understand science

Written By: - Date published: 9:42 am, April 5th, 2013 - 74 comments
Categories: john key, Minister for International Embarrassment, science - Tags:

Why else would he say:

that he is particularly concerned by the trend for the complex nature of science to be ignored or misunderstood in societal debates, leading to the argument that you can find a scientist to support any given position. This, he says, totally misinterprets the way that scientific consensus is achieved and can engender serious mistrust in the scientific enterprise. Society will be better served when science is used appropriately.

I only know one prominent quote that you could find scientist to support any given position

hat-tip: P’s b

74 comments on “PM’s Science Advisor worried PM doesn’t understand science”

  1. Populuxe1 1

    Well he might say it because the scientific literacy of the general public is pretty woeful – in part because many concepts are so abstract as to be beyond most people. However, given that it’s Gluckman’s job to educate the PM, and he would hardly be undermining his own efforts, the headline is bullshit.

    • Roy 1.1

      Key is the only person on record as saying that you can find a scientist to support any given position. This is obviously a polite, but not subtle, shot at the PM. However, I don’t think Gluckman is necessarily saying that Key does not understand science. Rather, I think he is clearly saying that Key is misinterpreting science and using it inappropriately. It is very possible that Gluckman thinks Key is doing this very deliberately, in order to engender mistrust in science and scientists.

      • Ugly Truth 1.1.1

        Science doesn’t have a a monopoly on truth, and as others have said ethical considerations don’t fall within the scientific paradigm.

    • Pascal's bookie 1.2

      Has someone else recently made ‘the argument that you can find a scientist to support any given position’?

      It’s a fairly specific thing for him to say, and Key’s quote got quite a lot of play. I’d be surprised if Gluckman was unaware of it. Maybe he ‘forgot’ the PM made that argument then I guess.

  2. Peter 2

    You can find a scientist to support most positions, or if they won’t go that far, you will be able to find a scientist able to at least throw doubt or uncertainty over something. Sometimes this is necessary, but most of the time, it’s used against progressive ideals.

    Working in resource management as I do, I find that often science is a hindrance to an outcome, rather than a help, as it delays making decisions that need to be made. Science is also not a particularly good guide for decision-making, particularly when knowledge is lacking.

    • r0b 2.1

      Science is also not a particularly good guide for decision-making, particularly when knowledge is lacking.

      Nah I’m going to have to object to that!

      Science is an excellent guide to decision making. Where it is hindered in the real world by a lack of data then sometimes other methods have to be used (yay “gut instinct”), but the ideal is always to get the data that is needed for a scientific approach.

      The mess that the world is in today is in large part due to people ignoring / disparaging science in the decision making process – just like our PM. (I’m sure that wasn’t Peter’s intention!)

      • Peter 2.1.1

        That’s interesting, because we both work with highly complex systems (you are in computer sciences, I’m in the environment), whereby there will almost always be a shortage of data, or even before the shortage of data, a shortage of methods to even get the data. Some phenomena may not even be explainable. With complex systems, you could study them for one hundred years and not get anywhere near certainty, in fact you’d probably get further away from it.

        Therefore, whilst science can guide a decision, at some point, someone has to step in and make a decision, often against the wishes of the scientists, who will want to see their jobs/enquiries preserved by investigating further.

        So, the principles on which the decisions are made are non-scientific. They relate far more to ethics, advocacy for values, and judicious application of the precautionary principle. If you were asked to defend them scientifically, you probably couldn’t…

        But yet, that’s how decision making in complex environmental systems happens – every day. I also find it interesting that generally, the decision-makers are not scientists.

        • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1

          Therefore, whilst science can guide a decision, at some point, someone has to step in and make a decision, often against the wishes of the scientists, who will want to see their jobs/enquiries preserved by investigating further.

          You buying into the right-wing meme that scientists are corrupt?

          The science jobs will still be there after any decision because there’s still question s to be answered. If the jobs disappeared then it’s because someone has made the wrong decision.

          They relate far more to ethics, advocacy for values, and judicious application of the precautionary principle.

          I suppose that would be nice but from where I sit most decisions from this government have none of that in them. They’re pure ideology and designed to prop up the rich.

          • Peter 2.1.1.1.1

            Far from corrupt – I haven’t met many corrupt scientists (although I question paid consultants).

            My issue is that there are two different things at work here. Science – which deals in uncertainty, and when applied to complex systems, will often result in more uncertainty, and decision-making, that requires certainty, and certainly doesn’t have the time-frame or budget required for science.

            There is some overlap, but at the end of the day, one will always trump the other.

            • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1.1.1

              It doesn’t mean that you ignore the science. It’s that you make the decisions with the knowledge that you have now which you get from the science. Later studies could either prove the decision correct or incorrect. As you say, there is uncertainty in it but there’s more certainty using the information derived from science than what you get from reading a horoscope.

              There is some overlap, but at the end of the day, one will always trump the other.

              No, they work together.

              • Colonial Weka

                “It doesn’t mean that you ignore the science. It’s that you make the decisions with the knowledge that you have now which you get from the science. Later studies could either prove the decision correct or incorrect.”

                And thus we have thalidomide babies.

                “As you say, there is uncertainty in it but there’s more certainty using the information derived from science than what you get from reading a horoscope.”

                Why on earth would you compare science with horoscopes? There are many other ways of knowing in addition to science that don’t depend on chance.

                • McFlock

                  Thus we also have a smallpox vaccine.

                  Mildly intrigued as to the methodology that gives knowledge untainted by chance. The concept is alien to me.

                  • Colonial Weka

                    I didn’t say untainted by chance though, did I 🙂

                    Small pox vaccine… not sure what your point is. That science does some good things therefore we can excuse it the inevitable fuck ups?

                    My point with the thalidomide example was pretty much what Peter is saying – that other things come (and should come) into play when making decisions, not just the science. In the case of thalidomide, or any drug, it would be better if people understood that science is fallible and taking drugs comes with risks, and made decisions from an informed place rather than one that says science is best. We still do this shit btw, put dangerous drugs on the market before we know the dangers. We, as a society, might deem that ok (the benefits outweigh the risks and damages), but why do we not just be honest about it and give people a choice?

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Why on earth would you compare science with horoscopes?

                  One way finds actual knowledge and the other doesn’t and yet the one that doesn’t is the one that’s been used for most of human history.

                  There are many other ways of knowing in addition to science that don’t depend on chance.

                  Name them.

    • Mike S 2.2

      You’ve just done exactly what he says in the statement. You’ve completely misinterpreted the scientific method. Throwing doubt or uncertainty over something is not about taking any particular position on something, it is simply about trying to disprove an hypothesis, which is what science is about.

      “Sometimes this is necessary” – No, it’s always necessary. If a scientist can throw doubt or uncertainty over something and has evidence to back this up then that is good science. If they don’t have the evidence based upon their research to back up their doubts, then they aren’t applying the scientific method and should be ashamed.

      Of course science is a hindrance to an outcome in business decision making. That is because the sole basis for decision making in business is profit, whereas science does not concern itself with profit. (If it does, then it ain’t real science) Science is a great guide for decision making where you’re using proven scientific laws, but economics (not a science) and science often don’t mix well.

  3. r0b 3

    This was supposed to be a reply to Peter 2.1.1

    With complex systems, you could study them for one hundred years and not get anywhere near certainty, in fact you’d probably get further away from it.

    “Further away from it” in the sense that you might have generated more questions than you started with (recently re-read “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance” which makes much of this point). But they will be more informed, more specific questions, which does represent progress of a sort. Here’s one of my favourite quotes which seems to sum up so much of science / teaching / learning in the real world:

    “We have not succeeded in answering all of our problems. Indeed, we often feel we have not completely answered any of them.

    The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions.

    In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever,

    but we believe we are confused on a much higher level and about more important things.”

    Therefore, whilst science can guide a decision, at some point, someone has to step in and make a decision, often against the wishes of the scientists,

    Yes in the real world we can’t make every decision based on sound science – but I repeat that it is the ideal that we should be aiming for, not disparaging.

    I also find it interesting that generally, the decision-makers are not scientists.

    Indeed. And have our decision making processes brought the country / world / economy / environment to a good place? I would argue no.

    • Peter 3.1

      Yeah it does, until a new paradigm comes along and shatters all of the old assumptions. In this regard, science isn’t a neutral arbiter at all, it’s as much part of the times as anything else. After all, it’s people, acting as scientists, doing the work, who are embedded and inculcated with the values of the present day.

      So, there’s always a value judgement, even if its hidden behind layers of mathematics and referencing of past studies. A particularly controversial study, even if completely accurate, may not be the wisest career move. I found this with my Master’s thesis, because it challenged a number of deeply held beliefs within the department. The assumption that I question massively is the pervasive belief throughout much of science that *technology*, either invented or as yet uninvented, will solve existing problems, when it’s pretty easy to see that’s trying to solve something with the same thinking that created it.

      As for decision-making processes, you may have a point here, but again it depends on the paradigm of those scientists placed in charge of it. Say it was the 1970s, and the world had just done the Limits to Growth analysis, and placed those people in charge of planning and environmental decision making. That may have made a difference, and humanity might have weaned itself off fossil fuels in time. It would have been very unpopular, and politically, hard, but it would have generated results

      But, place another group of scientists on board, who were convinced that whilst the limits were there, that the rapid expansion and search for new energy sources on the planet would bear fruit, and we would have had a very different future, one much closer to what we have now. Resources might have been wasted on fusion power, fast-breeder reactors, microwave solar power from space etc. On hang on….

      So, science is as human as the people doing it 🙂

      • r0b 3.1.1

        So, science is as human as the people doing it

        True, though I would still argue that it’s the best tool in our toolbox.

        • Colonial Weka 3.1.1.1

          Isn’t the point of having a toolbox with tools in it is that we can choose the most suitable tool for the job? To say that science is the best tool in the toolbox is like saying the spanner set is the best tool in the box. Well it’s not if you need a screwdriver.

          Saying science is the best tool seems like idiology to me and as such is also anti-science. If science at its core is about observation and testing those observations then surely we should apply that to the choosing of tools also?

          • Peter 3.1.1.1.1

            Absolutely. I have a science degree, I’ll choose a scientific method when it’s the best tool, and when I need a good rational analysis.

            But if I’m faced with an angry bunch of farmers who won’t face facts on some aspect of water quality, but I need their support, you can bet I won’t be beating them over the head with science. Instead I’ll employ some more subtle tools that work, or attempt to work, on the non-rational mind that governs most basic human decision-making.

            • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.1.1.1

              But you would have got the facts using science right? And then you’d probably use a different science, say, psychology, to persuade them to change.

              And all of that would have been known through the scientific process of observation, hypothesis, theorising, testing and more observation.

              http://xkcd.com/54/

            • Mike S 3.1.1.1.1.2

              Whatever tools you use to get support from the farmers is just a choice of which tool to use based upon your knowledge of what works best in persuading farmers, it’s hardly a decision you’d have to use science in order to make. (Although on a subconscious level, your decision will probably be based upon proven scientific theories surrounding psychology no doubt)

              As far as the farmers decision making process goes, science might be a hindrance, except they won’t be using science to base their decision on, they will be using economics. (Otherwise you wouldn’t have to persuade them using more subtle methods) If they were using science to make their decisions, then they would already be in agreement with you, unless you were talking about unproven science.

              If it’s the decision to go and talk to the farmers in the first place, then no doubt you based that decision on science, you couldn’t have done otherwise.

              So science isn’t a hindrance to the decision making process, if science is used to make the decision.

          • emergency mike 3.1.1.1.2

            Well said CW. And like any tool, science can be used for good or evil, (I’m looking at you Monsanto).

            I also have a science degree, and get a little frustrated at the assumption by some that science is the be all and end all of our understanding of things. Scientists don’t work with some kind of perfect objectivity, they are just as prone to clinging to their own conceptual biases as your nearest blogger. And as Peter said, they are slaves to the current paradigm, (including the current paradigm for the process of reporting results). And I believe Thomas Kuhn when he argued that we have no way of knowing whether the current scientific paradigm is any good, nor even if it’s any better than the last one.

            Also, the pressure scientists face to ‘get results’ and advance their careers is very real. As is the pressure to avoid investigating fringe areas of science or anything that questions fundamental assumptions.

            That’s not to ‘denigrate’ science nor to argue that it should be ‘ignored’. That’s ridiculous. I just don’t like science being referred to as some sort of ideal final arbiter like it’s all we should need to make decisions. That’s an unscientific leap of faith. I’ve even heard people saying, “I don’t belive in God, I believe in science,” which, to me, implies a pretty sad concept of both.

            I also find it interesting that generally, the decision-makers are not scientists.

            Indeed. And have our decision making processes brought the country / world / economy / environment to a good place? I would argue no.”

            No the self-serving careerists, narcissists and psychopaths we keep electing haven’t brought us to a good place. But thank God we aren’t ruled by scientists, or we surely would have found a quicker way to mess ourselves up.

            As TLAM implies below, what Aristotle called ‘wisdom’ and ‘values’ should get a higher rep – imo we would be better off consulting the philosophers. Fun fact – “The word “philosophy” comes from the Ancient Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means “love of wisdom”.”

            • McFlock 3.1.1.1.2.1

              I agree that the scientific method cannot do everything, and is incapable of e.g. giving moral guidance.

              But many of those decisions need to be grounded in reality. Science is the best and about the only tool I know of that can separate reality from delusion.

              Assuming the chair I am sitting on exists, of course. That’s still a philosophical point.

              • Murray Olsen

                Science is the only thing that can decide about the things that it’s applicable to. It is not omnipotent. Science, as you say, can often separate reality from delusion. It can’t give moral or spiritual guidance, but can sometimes be used to have an idea of the consequences of different options.

                At the end of the day, a scientist’s results are checkable by other scientists, and many predictions are falsifiable in practice. Scientists are human and have the same human frailties as other humans, but this is not so important as with a politician, for example. A psychopathic scientist solving an equation, if she does it correctly, will get the same results as a bipolar scientist, a Maori scientist, or a dwarf lesbian scientist. This is where its power lies and why it is a useful tool.

                On the point of the angry farmers raised above: showing them some graphs and/or numbers may not persuade them to follow your advice, but the advice you give would presumably have been obtained using the scientific method. Communication of the results is another question altogether.

                • Peter

                  Not always. If you are dealing with environmental problems you can always throw the “not enough data” problem at the question, and delay any action. That tactic is employed successfully by lots of people, and intriguingly, it’s the anecdotes, such as “I remember swimming in this stream when I was young and now I can’t”, that actually offer the most powerful tools for changes. The data is second.

                  And that I guess is the central part of my point. Science is a tool, it can deliver results, but those results are largely value-free, or reflect the value judgments of their author in some way. But what I see here for Standard posters (well, some of them) is for people to capitalise science, calling it Science, and as such, they ascribe to it all the values that they see as “good”, and then conversely, all the things that they don’t like go in the category of “anti-Science”.

                  To me, that’s a belief system 🙂

                  • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                    The “value” expressed is that it’s better to establish policy (or at the very least to make the attempt) on the basis of evidence than faith, or prejudice. This gives rise to such aphorisms as “reality has a liberal bias”.

              • emergency mike

                I’m a fan of science, I think you miss my point. My only point was that the things that, as you say, science is incapable of doing, are too often marginalized, and/or left in the hands of politicians who might have their own agenda. Science is a powerful tool, but it’s only a tool – how and for what purpose tools are used is a higher cognition to me.

                I just don’t like seeing it put on a pedestal as some perfect way of understanding. It has limitations (such as the limits of empirical observation for one) and problems both practical and theoretical. That’s all I’m saying. I’ll leave this here. I like this quote:

                “…a popular quote attributed to physicist Richard Feynman goes, “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.” In response, some philosophers (e.g. Craig Callender[1]) have suggested that ornithological knowledge would be of great benefit to birds, were it possible for them to possess it.”

                Ouch. Btw nice one about the armchair.

              • Mike S

                “Assuming the chair I am sitting on exists, of course. That’s still a philosophical point.”

                To me, it’s more scientific than philosophical. It is proven science that your chair is made up ,at the base level, of atoms. It is proven science that the atoms that make up your chair are 99.999 percent empty space. Your chair does not exist, except as a vibrational frequency of energy, that your brain interprets as a chair.

                • McFlock

                  And when Bishop Berkeley visited his friend Jonathan Swift and knocked on the front door, Swift refused to let him in on the grounds that if the door didn’t exist it didn’t need to be open for the good Bishop to enter.

                  Given that by the same logic our brains are 99.9999% non-existent (99.99999999% for tories), what is there to perceive the energy vibes? And how helpful is that when you stub your toe?

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.2

        So, science is as human as the people doing it 🙂

        And the people funding it.

        • Murray Olsen 3.1.2.1

          I agree 100%. You just need to look at the anti-human climate denial rubbish funded by the fossil fuel industry to see the truth of your statement.

          • Ugly Truth 3.1.2.1.1

            The politics of need. You didn’t mention government funding of climate change research.

            http://joannenova.com.au/2009/07/massive-climate-funding-exposed/

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 3.1.2.1.1.1

              Hardly relevant, since the fossil fuel industry was being criticised for spending money on propaganda, whereas science funding spends money on enquiry.

              • The IPCC isn’t a scientific body, it is a political one, and is just as vulterable to allegations of propaganda as the oil industry.

                The UN body that advises world leaders on climate change must investigate an apparent bias in its report that resulted in several exaggerations of the impact of global warming, according to its former chairman.
                http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2010/02/former-ipcc-chair-ipcc-has-a-warming-bias.html

                • Peter

                  The warming bias is new to me, but it’s certainly biased towards infinite assessments of carbon left in the earth to emit…

                  • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                    Nope.

                    Professor David Archer, for example, in his “Open Climate Science” lecture series, estimates the oil and gas left to burn at around 50Gt, and the coal at around 5,000Gt (from memory). Authors at RealClimate devote considerable time to discussion of such estimates.

                    PS: oh look, the IPCC does too.

                  • Murray Olsen

                    Infinite amounts is actually quite a lot. I can’t see how the IPCC would be biased towards something so demonstrably wrong. On the other hand, if carbon can be extracted and emitted without any supply problems during a finite period of time, during that time the amount might as well be infinite. Is this what you mean?

                    • Peter

                      Yeah, their models for carbon in the earth assume that the only brake on carbon emissions is human behaviour and regulation. They have not assumed that the carbon supplies themselves may be limited, or at least, that the carbon reserves remaining are so large that they can be discounted.

                      Look up Aleklett’s paper on this. He worked out that the IPCC assumptions on carbon are even more positive than the oil/coal companies own scenarios, and that the real reserves are far less than what the oil/coal companies state (naturally).

                      Coal is a concern, but it’s basically the coal policy of about four or five nations that will dictate its future.

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      Another easily debunked assertion from Peter.

                      Reality check:

                      Kjell is way out of his element on Climate

                      To be specific, Kjell adheres to the following:

                      1. PO is now, climate change is FAR in the future.

                      I suggest he observe more of what’s happening in the Arctic Circle.

                      2. If it’s not in the IPCC, it’s not legitimate science.

                      It’s been explained to him – ad nauseum – that the IPCC reports simply survey and analyze the research available, and doesn’t actually *do* any science, thus, whatever the current science is is what the current science is. He can’t seem to accept this very simple logic.

                      3. He has accepted the findings, starting with Rutledge, perhaps, that there simply aren’t enough fossil fuels to do what we all fear via AGW.

                      First, Rutledge’s work is flawed in its climate assumptions. Second, Kjell’s assumptions about climate are flawed. E.g.:

                      450, 550, 650 ppm or more are OK levels.”

                      Further discussion can be found at Realclimate

                • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                  “A scientific intergovernmental body…” Wikipedia

                  The IPCC is a scientific body under the auspices of the United Nations (UN). It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters.

                  IPCC

                  IPCC AR4 underestimates actual average temperature rise, the decline of Arctic sea ice coverage, actual sea-level rise, and actual economic impact. A better picture of climate-related financial losses is presented by Munich Re, who point out that while insurance payouts due to geological events (earthquakes, eruptions etc.) have remained static, those associated with weather events display an ongoing rising trend.

                  Yep, you’ve been letting yourself get duped. Again.

                  Nota bene: to err is human. They won’t get everything right nor will they do everything perfectly.

                  Keep on ticking the boxes 🙂

            • Murray Olsen 3.1.2.1.1.2

              I don’t see a problem as long as it’s research that’s funded. The fossil fuel industry buys propaganda, which is quite a different thing. Remember that, whenever they trot out an academic, usually from an only tangentially related field and with a piss poor CV, that academic has had their research funded by the government as well. Funding research is not the same as buying results. If the results were already known, it wouldn’t be research.

  4. AsleepWhileWalking 4

    Isn’t the psychology a science?

    • Murray Olsen 4.2

      I appreciate what Rutherford said about this, but I admit to some bias: “Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting.”

      • ghostrider888 4.2.1

        some substance to that Murray, biased or not; even for a lay theologian, physics is the book we hold and read.

      • Pascal's bookie 4.2.2

        That quote always reminds me og another. Mountain Climbing and Motor Racing are the only real sports, everything else is just games.

        • ghostrider888 4.2.2.1

          could read mountain climbing (pass) and motor “-cycle” racing; ever watched bar / helmet cam footage of a road-race, say Isle of Man TT (wow, even the learned C.S posted an appreciative video of a ZX10 on a hill-climb recently). yet, all good things must come to an end, otherwise “growing old disgracefully” caricature it can be. 🙂

  5. Lloyd 5

    Don’t worry. George W. Bush didn’t trust science and look at the wonderful decisions he made.

  6. TLAM 6

    Sorry, can’t fault Peter. He understand complex adaptive systems, the history and philosophy of science, the value-ladeness of theory, question and intrpretation, and even connects with Aristotle. Scientific ‘fact’ (Episteme) and technology (knowing how -techne) were not profound knowledge to Aristotle. The queen was the practical wisdom (phronesis) to know what science and technology was relevant, alongside other considerations, within a particular and contingent context. And overriding the ability to make such a judgment was a considered world view – the nature of the world, what is ‘good’ ontology etc. to Aristotle Wisdom and values are paramount. Science & technology are good servants and appalling masters. Frankenstein. Add money and power and you get a potential disaster. That’s why the commercialisation of science weakens its standing. That, and the insistence by some in science that it is always objective, value free, and should lead rather than be one source of informing a policy.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      basically, yeah.

      Man abdicating his best moral judgement to the publication of the next research study, while not realising that the proportion of our civilisations problems solvable scientifically or mathematically are tiny.

      In 1913 people lived hungry every night in countries which produced excess food. After 100 years of technological and scientific advancement, in 2013, that continues. Do we think that after another 100 years of scientific advancement (assuming it occurs) anything will have changed?

      • Jenny 6.1.1

        Defeatist to the end. Eh CV?

      • Mike S 6.1.2

        “In 1913 people lived hungry every night in countries which produced excess food. After 100 years of technological and scientific advancement, in 2013, that continues.”

        Yes, but only because the science has been disregarded. The decision to not feed people or give people money for food in countries producing excess food wasn’t and isn’t based on science, it is based upon economics.

        If we used science as the basis for the decision making (people are hungry), then science will enable you to make a decision. (feed them or don’t feed them, depending upon whether you wish them to be hungry or not) Any further decisions are not based on science so you can’t sy science hinders the decision making process in this example.

        We have the technology and ability, mainly thanks to science, to comfortably feed every human being on the planet right now. The fact that we don’t, has nothing to do with using science in any decision making processes and everything to do with using economics as the basis for decision making.

        Science told us well before 1913 how to solve the problem of someone being hungry. (Feed them). The fact that we choose not to do that can’t be blamed on science.

    • Rhinocrates 6.2

      Science & technology are good servants and appalling masters. Frankenstein. Add money and power and you get a potential disaster.

      Arguably, that’s the problem – when you try to make science the servant, consciously or unconsciously.

      http://songandsin.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/tumblr_ln848w2ooq1qztkl8o1_400.jpg

      Dr Strangelove is a very funny film, but also profound in showing that people will use the means of reason to pursue deeply irrational impulses.

      Richard Feynman defined science as the art of not fooling oneself, but it’s damned tricky in practice.

  7. Jenny 7

    That Sir Peter Gluckman is convinced of the terrible danger of global warming, and has advised the Prime Minister (and the country) to urgently take extreme actions to cut our country’s CO2 emissions. Is not irrelevant here.

    The fact that the Tiwai Aluminium is up for closure may also have some bearing on the timing of Gluckman’s statement.

    The Tiwai closure would represent a huge reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions.

    To achieve this huge cut the PM doesn’t even need to follow his scientific adviser’s call to take action.

    All the Prime Minister has to do…. is nothing.

    Let the market decide.

    What he mustn’t do, is give huge subsidies to support the increased destruction of the natural climate that we rely on to sustain our civilisation.

    The science is screaming out the fact.

    Even the most case hardened and loyal civil servant would be moved to give a veiled sigh of despair at the pig headed ignorance of a PM dead set on a course of spending tax payers money unnecessarily to worsen climate change.

    As a civil servant Gluckman in his desparation has sailed as close to the wind with this comment as he can dare.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      The Tiwai closure would represent a huge reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions.

      2% or 3%?

      • Jenny 7.1.1

        Thank you for pointing out this error CV.

        The point you make goes to the heart of what we can and should do.

        Most of New Zealand’s green house gas emissions come from agricultural emissions, mostly methane.

        What I should have more correctly written is “The Tiwai closure would represent a huge reduction in our CO2 emissions.”

        As most commentators agree, closing Tiwai will release so much electricity onto the market that Huntly and the other fossil fuel generators will become uneconomic to run, and will have to close.

        This would be not a 2 or 3% reduction but a 100% reduction in our CO2 emissions for power generation.

        Making New Zealand the first industrialised country in the world to achieve such a target.

        And don’t forget that Tiwai is also a major emitter of CO2 in its own right.

        • ghostrider888 7.1.1.1

          It will close Jenny, sooner rather than later i imagine.

        • Peter 7.1.1.2

          Got to be careful about that scenario though. Huntly is on track to be used less and less, after new geothermal is built in the Central North Island. It’s also getting older. So basically, more and more, Huntly is sitting there as backup for Auckland. We don’t need to waste that one off boon of surplus Manapouri power on a Huntly shutdown, we just need to use Huntly less as renewables replace it. Geothermal is now at over 1100MW of installed capacity and steadily rising. Not hard to keep that trend going, given our resources. Yeah, geothermal isn’t emissions free (some CO2 and heavy metals), but its so damned close that it’s the best bet.

          I’m with Transpower – we use that Manapouri power to electrify our transport network as much as we can. That’s where our biggest chunk of greenhouse gas emissions comes from, and unlike Huntly, the trends are for it to stay that way. So, it needs a programme and direction.

          • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1.2.1

            It will take a long time to get rail and bus routes fully electrified. While we’re doing that we could shut down Tiwai Point which allows the Manapouri power station onto the grid which shuts down Huntly and other fuel burning power stations. We would also continue to build more renewable power generators so that as the buses and trains came online we’d have the generating capacity to power them.

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