Jacob Arfwedson

Author Archives

  • Where is the green worker?


    Perhaps the most pernicious and pervasive gimmick of recent years is that of “green growth.”  “We need not renounce our worldly goods,” we are told, “green is also good for business and millions of jobs will be created by putting technology at the service of a better environment.”

    Tremendous news: but where are the jobs and how much do they cost ?

  • Allègre con brio: last stance at the OK Corral

    Former government minister Claude Allègre is once more to be hailed for fighting the “consensus”, as his recent book is high on the best-seller lists.

    Yes, discussion is possible; no, scientific progress is not a matter of international voting to find the truth. (This would be comparable to letting the dictatorship countries vote on human rights at the UN; sorry, my mistake, they already do that.)

  • For Lucy (should I find her)

    The recent decision by the French government to scrap the CO2 tax was welcome news: it was from the outset mostly a complicated design to satisfy two major interests, quite removed from any environmental concern.

  • The Pandit, the pundits and the bandits

    The IPCC got another knock
    recently, perhaps from an unexpected corner. In its 2007 report, the predictions for the Himalayan glaciers indicated that they would entirely disappear by 2035.

    In late 2009, at the request of his government, the Indian geologist V.K. Rania (retired) looked into this, and concluded in a White Paper that glaciers (in the Himalayas and elsewhere) advanced and retreated irregularly over the past 150 years, with no direct connection to world heating or cooling.

  • Have you met Mr. Jones?

    We all suffered at the COP-15 meeting Copenhagen last December, especially from the cold: president Obama had to leave early because of a blizzard in Washington DC. No matter; as we all know cold or heat share a common culprit, namely man-made activities.

    If (some) climate scientists were a little less intent on seeking politicised funding and more focused on facts, they would be pleased to discover the recent piecemeal apology from the now-famous professor Phil Jones (CRU, University of East Anglia).

  • This is not an Avatar

    It remains to be seen whether Copenhagen was indeed a watershed; but at least the French mainstream media seem less apologetic in past months. It is comforting for instance to read the columns by Claude Allègre in the weekly Le Point. (He was sacked from competitor L’Express in 2008, presumably for speaking out against the alarmists. Last October he called the self-appointed eco-hero Nicolas Hulot an imbecile.

  • You ain’t seen nothin yet

    If you thought that the Copenhagen jamboree moderated the ambient hysteria, the following items may reassure you that worse is yet to come.


    According to researchers at King’s College (London) future natural disasters are bound to increase strongly stress levels and anxiety among our fellow citizens. The authors did demand that these concerns be addressed by delegates at the COP-15.

    This is no scoop and hardly Nobel Prize stuff: being afraid of the future has long been a staples of our kindred. The question should then be: could government possibly and reliably relieve us of this task? No: but let’s look at the evidence.

    Where is the proof of imminent worldwide disaster? If you are an avid newspaper reader, you may be already be in a state of constant anxiety.

  • Water seeks its own level: here comes that sinking feeling

    photo_5132_20090311What’s the difference between the climate jamboree and the Titanic? At least the latter had an orchestra. Numerous groups are eager to grab the headlines in Copenhagen; the smaller you are, the more original the initiatives. But dressing up as a polar bear is a tiresome business. Better try for direct appeal to bleeding hearts in the north for a rescue operation in the south. Dialectics always work: rich or poor, it’s nice to have money.

    Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Maldives and the Cook Islands will all disappear soon, say shortly after Christmas according to delegates. (Hence probably today’s pledge by the Danish government to receive some of the 20 million (!) people supposedly left homeless in 2008 by the disastrous effects of climate change; no scientific reference or source was given to back this number up however.)

  • Activists without concern: how to use the climate for your own purposes

    As Noël Coward put it in a song, “Why do the wrong people travel?” It should not come as a surprise, yet the cheerful way in which some groups exploit international events to hijack the agenda is quite astounding (just imagine for a second free-market groups doing the same thing, and the reaction that would ensue).
    In today’s Metro (Danish only), a German activist involved in the network Climate Justice Action is disarmingly frank about his presence at the conference :

    “[The conference] does not mean anything. The UN cannot solve the world’s climate problems as it thinks that the solutions may be found in today’s capitalist system.”

  • Pascal’s Wager, Gore’s Wages

    “- Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?
    – Supposing it didn’t, said Pooh after careful thought.”

    (The House at Pooh Corner)
    photo_639_20080906The Economist in its special report argued that the world needs a new climate treaty as an “insurance policy against a catastrophe that may never happen”. A curious statement, especially in view of the sender.

    First, there is little insurance policy against natural disasters; insurers know this and adjust their offer accordingly. Second, any insurance against highly unlikely events does not come cheap (this applies also to any new climate “treaty” but for other reasons).

  • Monsanto, mon amour

    photo_7818_20090819In truth, there is no such thing as absolute safety; but this fundamental human need may explain the excessive search for certainty in particular as the world seems awash with a constant flow of disconcerting events.

    It seems obvious then to assume that risk is the opposite of safety. But it isn’t: as inaction also entails risks, we need instead to properly assess the benefits of risk-taking, such as accepting new technologies, medicines or – yes even – accepting that a global government will not avert all risks.

  • Reversing the burden of spoof

    by Jacob Arfwedson

    One of the less endearing features of government supporters is their general disdain for democracy when eventually popular vote goes against their designs. The legitimacy of consent suddenly becomes irrelevant and a downright nuisance. In Europe, we experienced this in the constitutional negotiations: first with the Maastricht Treaty, and more recently with the Lisbon Treaty: referenda were held twice in Denmark (1992) and not so long ago in Ireland. Voters finally got it “right”.


    The same logic applies to Kyoto and in particular to the upcoming Copenhagen summit and the expected new treaty, i.e. a “deal”. It is then not surprising that advocates seem appalled that the US Constitution requires a vote by Congress to ratify it.

  • The power of forecasting

    by Jacob Arfwedsonphoto_1507_20081030

    In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt asked his administration to undertake a vast exploratory study of future technologies. A group of researchers eventually produced a voluminous report with fascinating insights. There was only one little glitch: the document did not foresee television, plastics, jet planes, organ transplants, laser technology, or even ballpoint pens.

    As Ludwig von Mises stated, petrol is good for many things, but not for slaking your thirst. Similarly, government may be useful in some instances but not in others. The precautionary principle is good, provided it is used appropriately. We should first apply it to politics: our elected leaders should be required to produce impact studies, showing, ex ante, that their planned interventions will have a positive effect. Thus the scope of government would spontaneously be reduced to its congruent portion.

    Here is a formidable source of data on climate change, courtesy of prof. Lindzen (MIT) from a CEI presentation a couple of weeks ago. Once more, he reminds us that many statements bandied about and accepted as gospel truths are in fact serious distortions and sometimes outright contrary even to authorities such as the IPCC.

  • Global warming is no sea change


    It has the odd flavour of a déjà vu: I’m reminded of reading the papers as a child in the 1970s when global cooling was all the rage and the mediatic frenzy was about how we would all, literally and lethally, chill out.

    It is refreshing then to read IPCC author prof. Mojib Latif (University of Kiel, Germany). He presented his latest findings last September at the World Climate Conference in Geneva, showing that the mean global temperature has declined since 2001 and that the planet is entering a period of cooling. Media reports on this rather surprising declaration were scarce, but the blogosphere was bubbling.

  • Mirth in the balance?

    photo_8739_20091015Don’t we all wish for the perfect wisdom and moral rectitude of Al Gore?


    Well no, I don’t, because that would amount to fatal conceit, to speak with Hayek. Would anyone be able to persuade our dear leaders to forfeit their absolute belief in moral superiority in the run-up to the Copenhagen Summit? Probably not, and here are some reasons:

    – fighting climate change is a noble pursuit and talk is cheap (at least we may assume that delegates will pay no extra carbon tax on their perorations)

  • Search and Destroy?

    Climate Data Erased to Save Space

    Memory StickJACOB ARFWEDSON (Paris)

    No need for conspiracy theories about the lack of alleged “consensus” on climate change.

    Just look at the facts. We already know that dissenting voices are being excluded from the IPCC (thankfully, some of them remain vocal in the blogosphere and elsewhere).

    But try this for size:  last August, the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia revealed it had eliminated global surface temperature data, “for lack of space”.