Return to Website

Number Watch Web Forum

This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.

Number Watch Web Forum
Start a New Topic 
The Participation Mystique

I've just noticed John's piece on "The Participation Mystique". He gives the impression that Hadley Research Centre, despite their supercomputer funding, are behind this. HRC are involved, but 'credit' where it's due, the project is run by a bunch of climate scientists from Oxford University physics department. In my view, this Oxford University bunch are the world's leading climate change alarmists.

About a year ago, published their first results in Nature with predicted temperature increases up to 11 deg C by 2100 (press release: ). By contrast the IPCC have only predicted a 1.4 to 5.8 deg C rise by 2100.

The originator and principal investigator behind is Myles Allen. Confirming the suspicion that many climate scientists have political activist tendencies, Myles Allen doesn't disappoint. His 'mission' seems to be to gather enough evidence to sue "Big Oil", as shown in this New Scientist article extract:

"Take greenhouse polluters to the cleaners

* 01 October 2005
* Fred Pearce
* Magazine issue 2519

Forget Kyoto. New Scientist spoke to Myles Allen, the University of Oxford academic who believes the only way to turn around global warming is to sue the pants off the oil companies

Forget the Kyoto protocol: it's a waste of time and energy. Why spend a decade arguing over the odd percentage point reduction in greenhouse gas emissions? The only way to get to grips with climate change is to take it to the courts, claims maverick climate modeller Myles Allen of the University of Oxford. If science can nail climate change as a probable cause of deadly weather events, like the heatwave that hit Europe in the summer of 2003, then global warming becomes a matter for product liability law. Get the big oil companies in court, Allen says, and sue the pants off them. Even the threat of action will change their behaviour more radically than any government policy. Fred Pearce talked to the scientist who wants us to stop creating grand plans for stabilising greenhouse gases in the vague future and fight where we stand. In the courts. Now!...."

Also the BBC are not the origin of this activity being misleadingly described as an 'experiment'. That deceptive terminology comes from the people themselves and is used in their press releases.

The members of the public who participate in these kind of distributed computing activities also tend not to be aware of the electricity costs involved.

Electricity costs per year of running PCs according to PC Pro magazine:
normal use/switch off £79 Athlon XP2100 Shuttle £115 3GHz Pentium 4
normal use/standby £142 Athlon XP2100 Shuttle £278 3GHz Pentium 4
left running SETI@home £400 Athlon XP2100 Shuttle £876 3GHz Pentium 4
('normal use'= 8 hours per day, 5 days per week; this use is probably bigger than most home PC users in reality)

Therefore the extra cost of running a number-crunching screensaver program like SETI@home, which is likely to be similar to, could be somewhere between £260 and £760 per year in the UK. currently has 200,000 signed-up participants with 50,000 to 60,000 running the program at any one time. They don't say on the website how long the simulation is likely to take, but I would expect it to be in the order of months.

Re: The Participation Mystique

Wouldn't it be lovely if some of the spin methods uesed by the eco-alarmists and others could be balanced by the equivalent from the more rational view holders? Can't happen of course BECAUSE the other side is more rational, mostly, but it is nice to contemplate it.

On the other hand I think a law that clearly stated that anyone going willingly and aggressively public with alarmist statements should be equally subject to the threat of legal sanction as the people and organisations they target. This would also apply to the alarmists estate after death for a period of, say, 200 years. By that time either people would know whether the alarms had merit or they would no longer be very relevant.

All in the interest of fairness you understand.

Re: Re: The Participation Mystique

I like the idea of confiscating eco-alarmist's estates in 200 years time. That's firing the Green idea of 'sustainable development' (where they're more worried about future generations than the present generation) straight back at them. It might work in particular on the "eco-toffs" like Price Charles and Zac Goldsmith if they thought their descendents could be penalised for them talking rubbish.

But the problem with laws being passed against eco-alarmism is that the UK government derives considerable financial benefit from there being a high profile environmental lobby and a state of eco-alarmism. The government can use concerns about "the environment" to raise revenue through "environmental taxes", which currently run at £35 billion per year (reference: ). Only a small fraction of the environmental taxes are actually used for sorting out any real or notional environmental pollution, the bulk of the tax is simply to raise revenue. If the eco-alarmists disappeared, the government would have to find other ways of raising the revenue.

Re: Re: Re: The Participation Mystique

The Tax thing is a problem - how else would they be able to afford the loss of revenue from smokers?

Ironic perhaps that some of the eco-taxation allows the Chancer the luxury of not squeezing motorists any more. In which case I am slightly happier since at least it helps to share the load more equitably across all who bemnefit from road travel of one sort or another. I.E. most of the population.

Given that this government seems to have managed to about double the tax take whilst claiming to have increased nothing overall - a remarkable feat of prestidigitation - where on earth does all the money go?

Or are the numbers simply numbers?

I mean, if, say, I raise 10 billion pounds here and I say I spend 10 billion pound over there, I would have nothing left in the bank and maybe nothing to show for it. Since most government spending seems to lead to nothing to show for it might it be possible that nothing was spent in real terms? The numbers would look impressive to an international financial community that probably secretly admires the fiscal practices of Enron. But they could be just numbers without substance. Movie set economics where the monumental structures you see on screen depicting a city street are really just timber and paint and a reduced scale shot to look full size.

Perhaps politicians should be expected to have the same level of responsibility as company directors. Retrospective extradition of former ministers to countries where their policies and actions had cause harm, whether that was their original intent or not, might keep their minds focused.

Mr. Bliar being shipped to Iraq in a few year's time to face some sort of suitable charges might send a strong message to those who would build empires.