Government has the wrong incentives

By Dr David Evans and Joanne Nova

 

The temptation is all too strong. How many bureaucrats would work just as hard to show that their department was less important, less necessary, and less deserving of funding? It’s the fatal trap of bureaucratic management. The incentives are wrong.

When governments are faced with poor reports, but they write their own report cards, they have many options to upgrade their “score”.  It’s irrational to think that people might not take every opportunity they can to improve their mark. They are human. Saints are rare.

An important method that governments have for dealing with problems is to mismeasure them. By changing definitions, methods of interpreting the data, or through sheer statistical chicanery it’s possible to issue press releases with the words “improvement”, “better than expected” or at least “figures have plateaued”.

For example, the inflation of the 1970s was partly “cured” by defining inflation as the consumer price index (CPI), then changing the way that CPI is measured in ways that lower the CPI. Today, the US CPI is about 3 percentage points lower than it would be if the method of 1980 was used. Another example is unemployment, where governments continually refine what counts as “unemployed” so as to lower the unemployment number.

There doesn’t need to be a conspiracy. There is constant pressure and rewards in one direction and very little incentive to “find” or “discover” errors that increase the CPI. It’s a ratchet effect. Dozens of incremental changes slowly ratchet the CPI figure endlessly downwards.

Governments are going to do the same with global temperature, mismeasuring it to make it appear to be rising faster than it really is.

There will be pressure, tremendous pressure, on those who measure global temperature to show a rising temperature. There already is pressure to show rising statistics in order to justify legislation, and to keep departments as high on the scale of “importance” and status with concomitant budgets.

The minister who commissions a report that finds that CO2 is minor may be right, but he or she is also now a minister of a smaller department. Likewise Directors of Climate Institutes: If they announce a finding that there is less reason to fear carbon, they are also announcing their own budget cut.

The organizations that measure temperature are in government control, because no private group has an interest in measuring global temperatures over the decades required to show significant changes. The government organizations that measure temperatures will tend to produce the answers government needs, because people who do not comply will be effectively forced out of those organizations—their careers will stall, or they won’t be hired in the first place if they don’t have the right “attitude”. The staff will be self selecting. Only true believers, for whom the ends justify the means, and those with a sufficiently flexible attitude to truth, will survive and thrive in those organizations. 

Think a future of systematic cheating of temperature data to justify taxes, profits, and more government is too cynical? It’s already started:

  • 89% of official ground-based thermometers used to measure temperatures in the USA violate siting requirements—because they are too close to an artificial heat source. NOAA has a $4billion budget but it took a team of volunteers to go out and do the site surveys that NOAA ought to have done.
  •  More than half of the worldwide official temperature-measuring stations are at airports, near radiating heat sources like tarmac, and often in the wash of jet exhaust! Land-based thermometers are mainly measuring increased urbanization and increased air travel.
  • The Argo network was started in 2003 to measure ocean temperatures properly. 3,000 buoys roam the world’s oceans, diving down to measure temperatures and radioing back the results. To the surprise and annoyance of the government climate organizations, Argo initially showed ocean cooling. Soon afterwards, the buoys giving the coolest results were excluded from the network – their results were simply omitted.
  • The hockey stick graph frightened the world in 2000, showing a sharp recent uptrend of global temperature after centuries of level temperatures. The scientists were finally forced to reveal their data, last month. It turns out that the hockey stick graph is essentially due to one very unusual tree in Yamal in Russia, plus some biased statistical processing. A decidedly non-scientific attitude in the IPCC and a compliant press made it possible. Basically, it was a fraud. Again, despite billions in research budgets, we wouldn’t know about this fraud if it weren’t for the work of a dedicated volunteer – Steve McIntyre.

How would anyone really know if global warming is occurring? People simply don’t notice changes as small as 0.5°C, the amount of global warming over the last century. Any perceived cooling can be explained away by alarmists as just “regional variation”. It’s beautiful: this scam could go for decades.

Even if snow falls earlier than usual and temperatures are noticeably cooler, what’s to stop them from “finding” warming in the vague tropics, or the deep ocean, or in the upper troposphere? The only thing stopping them is the work of volunteers. This is a crazy way to run civilization.

 

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