The Economist: Not a Serious Journal

Can anyone tell me how The Economist got its title? I’m guessing it was probably founded in the early 18th century by some crazed charlatan called, perhaps, Zachariah Economist, who, because of the unfortunate coincidence of his surname managed to persuade thousands of gullible fools to part with their shirts on one of the South Sea Bubble companies. The one whose prospectus read “A company for carrying out an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is.”

One thing I know for sure: The Economist’s name can have no relationship whatsoever with the “dismal science” of economics because if it did then never in a million years could it have run an editorial (and feature) as lame, wrong-headed, intellectually dishonest and positively dangerous as the one it produced this week on the subject of Climate Change.

Here is its conclusion at the end of a long article – unsigned, as is traditional on The Economist to convey its weightiness, self-importance and authority – purporting to sift through the science behind AGW.

Using the IPCC’s assessment of probabilities, the sensitivity to a doubling of carbon dioxide of less than 1.5ºC in such a scenario has perhaps one chance in ten of being correct. But if the IPCC were underestimating things by a factor of five or so, that would still leave only a 50:50 chance of such a desirable outcome. The fact that the uncertainties allow you to construct a relatively benign future does not allow you to ignore futures in which climate change is large, and in some of which it is very dangerous indeed. The doubters are right that uncertainties are rife in climate science. They are wrong when they present that as a reason for inaction.

So, let me get this right: as even the Economist admits, scientists don’t really have a clue what the future holds regarding global warming. But that still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t DO something. Anything is better than nothing.

Let’s transpose that level of lame-brainery to the world of business, shall we? The real, decisions-have-consequences world in which, I imagine, most of The Economist’s readers operate.

So, we currently have a proposed scheme by Global PLC to spend around $45 trillion (that’s the International Energy Agency’s best estimate) combatting a problem which may or may not exist. The potential returns on this investment? Virtually nil. As the Spanish “Green Jobs” disaster has demonstrated, for every Green Job created by government intervention, another 2.2 jobs are lost in the real economy. It will also shave between 1 and 5 per cent off global GDP, create massive new layers of business-stifling taxation and regulation, and cause energy costs to rise to stratospheric new levels. Nice.

Alternatively we could look it at from a selfishly British perspective. OK, so UK Plc currently has a massive structural deficit, and knows it will soon have nothing left in the pot to spend on essentials like security and defence, let alone on fripperies. And how is the likely incoming CEO D Cameron proposing to deal with this crisis? Erm, he’s not yet quite sure. But one thing’s for certain: he’s going to stick with the new regulation brought in by the previous regime for this essential new scheme called the Climate Change Act. For the mere bagatelle of £18 billion poured down the drain annually, this will enable UK Plc to stifle its efficiency, drive up costs and wear the smug smile you only get when you know that none of your competitors is nearly SO bound by righteous green regulation as you. Nice.

What renders “The Economist’s” unforgiveable stupidity more unforgiveable still is that for all its ex-cathedra, this-piece-wasn’t-written-by-a-named-journalist-ergo-it-must-be-more-reliable-than-a-bylined-article portentousness, it can’t even form a fair, balanced and reasonable judgement.

Here it is on the Medieval Warm Period:

“Many climate scientists suspect this phenomenon was given undue prominence by climatologists of earlier generations with an unduly Eurocentric view of the world.”

After Soon & Baliunas’s near-definitive paper on this score does any serious scientist outside the warped, biased world of Michael Mann and his Hockey Team really believe this to be the case?

Or how about this outrageous piece of fence-sitting on the utterly discredited Hockey Stick:

In 2006 a review by America’s National Research Council endorsed points Mr McIntyre and his colleagues made on some methods used to make the hockey stick, and on doubts over a specific set of tree rings. Despite this it sided with the hockey stick’s overall conclusion, which did little to stem the criticism. The fact that tree-ring records do not capture recent warming adds to the scepticism about the value of such records.

Given that, as Andrew Montford unequivocally demonstrates in his masterpiece The Hockey Stick Illusion the story of the hockey stick represents one of the greatest exercises in mendacity and fudgery in the history of science, is it really the right thing for the Economist to take this lofty “one side says this, the other says that: who are we to judge which one is right” stance? Could it not for once, on this issue, acquire some cojones?

Some of the Economist’s readers, admittedly, stand to grow very very rich if this AGW scam is allowed to progress to its full and terrible conclusion. Many, many more though, stand to end up considerably poorer.

I know The Economist makes a fair bit of money out of all those taxpayer-funded bribe ads from the Carbon Trust. I know in the world of business dosh is jolly important. But isn’t integrity more so?

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  3. Dear Geoffrey Lean, let me explain why we’re so cross…
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