Emmott can’t do Sums: Official

Stephen Emmott gave a talk at the Science Museum last night to launch his book, “Ten Billion”. No doubt my harrassment of the guy is bordering on the obsessional; no doubt it seems pretty odd to most normal human beings. I meant to give it a rest, really. But then things happen.

The Guardian covered the debate live last night, with a commentary by John Burn-Murdoch

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2013/jul/18/stephen-emmott-ten-billion-observer-debate-live

I’ll be looking at it later, but  for the moment, words fail me. Here’s the comment I left a Bishop Hill Unthreaded:

From the Guardian’s live coverage of Stephen Emmott’s book launch at the Science Museum last night:

Emmott:

“There is a place for climate change sceptics, but denying it altogether is unacceptable. There are uncertainties in climate models by their very nature, but scientists are working – I am working – at reducing the size of the error bars.”

He also said:

“The view is that if fertility rate was 2.0, population would not increase, is simply nonsensical. It’s not two in, two out. By the time a set of parents has died, they’ve had two children, but so have each of those children, and perhaps even each of those four grandchildren.”

Think about it. The Microsoft Professor of Computational Science is going to singlehandedly reduce the error bars in climate models, and he can’t do sums.

He seems to think that if every couple has two children, on average, the population will go on increasing.

Update:

The video, which was apparently broadcast live last night, apparently isn’t available yet. It’s curious that the Guardian Environment isn’t linking to this Obsever event, which appeared rather secretly on another part of the Guardian’s vast network.

But there are links at the Afghanistan Sun, the Salt Lake City Sun, the Greek Herald, the Kenya Star.

Humanitarian News, on the other hand, at

http://humanitariannews.org/20130719/i-think-we-re-fucked-other-reasons-not-publish-book

reproduces this

http://www.globaldashboard.org/2013/07/19/i-think-were-fucked-and-other-reasons-not-to-publish-a-book/

which is well worth reading and commenting on.

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12 Responses to Emmott can’t do Sums: Official

  1. Vinny Burgoo says:

    This pic somehow seems appropriate:

    pic.twitter.com/GscOQOwBPq

    Prof. Google says that such a smiley often indicates befuddlement. It can also mean death, which might be what Penguin intended.

    (That photo was tweeted earlier today by Peter ‘Pearl Earring’ Webber, who, as I think you already know, plans to make a film based on _Ten Billion_.)

    Such casual, unthinking, uninformed eschatology can also be seen in Example 5 of this lesson by the University of Bristol on ‘Using the Colon to Improve Style’:

    http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/exercises/grammar/grammar_tutorial/page_42.htm

    I don’t like rice pudding. You want to visit Morocco. He says we’re all doomed.

    (That lesson predates Lewandowsky’s arrival at Bristol, in case you were wondering.)

    /randomdump

  2. [Vinny”s link shows the ad for “Ten Billion” currently appearing on the London Underground, apparently]
    Vinny Burgoo:
    Wrong: the country: I want to visit: is: Mexico.
    (and that’s quite enough commentary about my colon, thanks very much).
    As for their first example:
    The only thing mankind has left is hope.
    Mankind has only one thing left: hope.

    Hope is not enough. Before the poor little waif can get out of the box, we’ve got to grind bastards like Emmott into the ground. You think I’m exaggerating? According to the article quoted at Humanitarian News (which I can’t now link to, can you?) “Ten Billion” is the top selling book on Amazon’s environmental list.

  3. Vinny Burgoo says:

    My bad. It was Mexico. But the rice pudding stands.

    And OK I Have now read the piece at Global Dashboard, which is here:

    http://www.globaldashboard.org/2013/07/19/i-think-were-fucked-and-other-reasons-not-to-publish-a-book/

    Your comment suggest that you agree with Evans that we’re facing a global catastrophe. Do you?

  4. Vinny Burgoo:
    No I don’t. But the fact that Green believers like the Evans person (who for some reason, to do with the fact that I linked to him, I think) I can’t now link to, and Chris Goodall of Climate Commentary are suspicious of Emmott and his message, is all to the good, and I think it would be useful to form an alliance with such people to counter Emmott’s message.
    The Evans article, (before it disappeared from my screen with a message suggesting that it was my linking that now made it unavailable) mentioned some Christian source which was similarly concerned about his message, and this got requoted at Humanitarian News, which I assume is humanist and therefore non-Christian (though I may be wrong).
    So let’s form the widest possible alliance to expose the fact that Emmott is a liar and a charlatan. He’s a liar because many (possibly most) of the facts that he cites are simply not true. He’s a charlatan because he refuses to correct them. A correction of fifteen errors appeared briefly on Microsoft’s site a few days ago, and was then taken down a few hours after I indicated its existence in comments at Chris Goodall’s article at Carbon Commentary and Willis Eschenbach’s article at Wattsupwiththat. Two of the errors had comments appended, apparently by Emmott.
    He’s also changed his discourse slightly, apparently in reaction to our criticisms. For example:
    (1) Penguin’s publicity states that all the problems we’re facing stem from us, which Emmott revised on “Start the Week” to: “We are the drivers of every, almost every, global problem that we face”. I mentioned malaria somewhere in a comment. Did someone notice? Or is Emmott just backtracking on every claim as an insurance policy?
    (2) The water content of a chocolate bar was reduced by ten times in the book with respect to the stage play. Was this due to our articles?
    (3) In the disappeared Microsoft corrections, Emmott mentions that a geoscience colleague objected to him interpreting two years of methane plumes as meaning centuries of outgassing. Emmott suggests changing “centuries” to “decades”. In other words, he’s happy to exaggerate by a factor of ten, instead of by a factor a hundred.
    If Emmott was doing market research or selling insurance, he’s be out on his ear, possibly prosecuted for fraud. He’d be fucked, in other words. Instead of which he’s got a Penguin paperback at the top of the environment book charts and is being fêted at the Science Museum. This is wrong. he’s a liar and a charlatan. Let’s get him.

  5. Mooloo says:

    He seems to think that if every couple has two children, on average, the population will go on increasing.

    I think he means in the short term, as we are in a period of sustained increases in life expectancy in the Third World. In fact that is the only reason population is growing in most of the world at the moment, because fertility rates are below replacement already for most of the world.

    Of course only Emmott would take good news — people are healthier and living longer as a result — and turn it into a catastrophe.

    And they are living longer precisely because his “analysis”, for want of a better word, is totally wrong. We are not running out of resources, but are able to produce the really important ones (water, food, medicine, clothing etc) at a cheaper and cheaper rate.

    Of course the long term effect of a fertility rate of 2 is that populations will drop. The replacement rate is well above 2, to account for early deaths and people who can’t or won’t have babies.

  6. alexjc38 says:

    The Guardian live-blogging page hasn’t been very busy, as there’s currently a single comment on it – mine, from this morning (was expecting it to be jumped on, but nothing yet.) The #10Billion hashtag, as John Burn-Murdoch pointed out, has been “eerily quiet” – there are a few tweets but nothing like a debate. Will be interesting to see the video.

  7. Mooloo
    I’ve seen 2.1 quoted as the replacement value for couples, which allows for early deaths and bachelordom,while childless couples get counted in the average, I imagine.
    If Emmott was thinking of the demographic surge caused by improved life expectancy, why does he mention two parents having four grandchildren etc? He says: It’s not “two in , two out”. So what does he think it is? “eight in, two out,” because more people live long enough to see their great grandchildren?

    Alex
    Two comments now. Your comment is very welcome at the Guardian, where most comments about population are even less well informed than those on climate.
    What’s weird is that the article doesn’t turn up on Guardian science or environment pages. Last year the science and theatre correspondents were all over him, and editor in chief Rusbridger praised his show. Now no-one wants to know about him, apparently.

  8. Steve D says:

    (AGW) Climate change by ‘man made’ factors, if the term is to mean anything must mean a change compared to what would have been, not a change measured against the past. Does anyone today understand that simple concept? Anyone at all?

    For example, if sunspot activity decreases the global mean temperature 4 degrees – and increased atmospheric CO2 softens that to a mere 2 degree change, then that temperature decrease is climate change or AGW. Simple right? The opposite is also true.

    So all the climate models today assume as a point of reference that there will be NO change in climate except that which is caused by CO2. Therefore, all increases in temperature are attributed to climate change.

    But what do I know? I’m only a silly protein chemist.

  9. Another of Emmott’s weird statistics:
    According to the professor of computational science, Britons consume 9 billion bottles of water a year. Come on, that’s three bottles a week on average for each man woman and child, summer and winter. You and I may know people who consume that much, because we’re that kind of person. Lots aren’t.
    According to the British bottled water producers’ association, we consumed 2.1 billion litres of spring water in bottles or in office water coolers. Bottles vary from half a litre to one and a half litres (though apparently there are five litre bottles). Taking one litre as the average size, Emmott seems to be out by a factor of about 500%, which is pretty accurate for him.
    Mind you, Nottingham University, who are 50% more shocked by the environmental waste than Emmott, estimates that we consumed 13 billion bottles in 2007, when consumption was only 1.6 billion litres, according to the BBWP. Perhaps they did 12cL miniatures back then?

  10. Paul Matthews says:

    Geoff, have you seen the actual paper version of the Emmott book?
    I “read” it in my university bookshop.
    It’s even worse than the amazon reviews suggest, with lots of blank spaces, double-page spreads of irrelevant B&W pictures, and short non-sentences, plus of course those grotty and misleading line-graphs. It really does end with the ‘teach my son how to use gun’ line (given a page to itself of course).

  11. Paul Matthews
    No I haven’t read it. Should I be ashamed to admit that? The extract published in the Observer amounts to about a quarter of the text, according to Chris Goodall’s estimate. And there’s an Anglican Alaskan blogger living in France who seems intent on serialising the whole thing as part of her mission to save humanity from itself.
    I’ll pick up a copy from Oxfam when I’m in England next month to check if there have been any major corrections in line with our criticisms of the stage show. I notice he’s reduced the water content of a chocolate bar by a factor of ten in line with our suggestion. Do Alex and I get a credit?
    It’ll be interesting to see the Vintage edition which comes out in the USA on September 10th. Amazon.com, which serves the USA, has even the Kindle edition listed as “not available”, so I suspect changes will be made. If Chris Goodall, Alex and I aren’t credited with having spotted the errors, would we be justified in complaining, I wonder?
    Has anyone got a copy? I’d also be interested to know whether he mentions the General Environmental Model which was the subject of his NESTA talk and of an article in Nature. It seems from his talk that it was the failure of the GEM to keep the earth on a sustainable course until 2100 that is the source of his prediction that we’re f*cked.
    We know that climate scientists can be cagey about going into detail about the workings of their General Climate Models, but it seems a bit odd that none of the publicity I’ve seen for Emmott’s book even mentions its existence.

  12. j ferguson says:

    If I were big oil, I’d be funding Emmott, and Dana N. It would be a sort of Milo Minderbinder (Catch 22) variation on the story where an encampment is being inspected, a shot whistles over head, the inspecting general asks and is told it’s a sniper. General then asks why they don’t simply shoot him. And the response is that he might be replaced by a better shot.

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