• Sat
  • Nov 22, 2014
  • Updated: 9:18am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 1:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 February, 2014, 12:22am

Why does the global warming debate generate such hot air?


Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.

One of the interesting aspects about the global warming discussions that we indulge in here from time to time, is the nature of the response they generate. They seem to generate a lot of heat and most of it is personal: Responses mostly from those that appear to accept the orthodox views on the matter, that is, the view disseminated by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that science shows that global warming is happening and that at least half of it is supposed to be due to man's activity in the form of the production of C02. The emotion and anger that the subject generates is surprising not just here, but on the science threads that can be found on the internet. Why is it that anyone offering views that differ from received global warming orthodoxy, generates such heat? Most unscientific.

Bumbling bureaucracy mars bars seating arrangements

We hear of more strange tales of the curious bureaucracy surrounding licensed bars.

People will be familiar with the bars at the China Resources Building in Wan Chai. One of the features of these bars is that the building was designed to create an overhang to facilitate outdoor seating, an arrangement for which China Resources is understood to pay the Lands Department a sum believed to be about HK$2 million.

Early last year China Resources closed the bars and tidied up the area, before the bars were invited back. However things were not as before, and the bar owners discovered to their dismay that the Buildings Department would not now permit outside seating. After some time trying to rectify the situation, a grand meeting of all affected parties was convened, which included the government departments concerned.

After introductory remarks the bar owners' representative was poised to make the case for the bars when he was interrupted by a man from the Buildings Department. To the astonishment of the bar owners he said it appeared that the bars had been ill-advised and had not submitted their forms requesting outside seating correctly. All they had to do was to resubmit and permission would be forthcoming.

People were dumbfounded that it had taken a meeting to establish this mundane fact but nevertheless went ahead and resubmitted.

However those expecting an early resolution were disappointed. It took the Buildings Department an astonishing seven months to give its permission. So much for the Hong Kong can do spirit.


Aoni presents

The public relations company Bite Global has been very persistent in attempting to lure us to one of its client's events. It turns out that the Hong Kong owned factory, Guangzhou Daming United Rubber Products, produces a range of condoms under the Aoni brand name. To its credit it has achieved a Guinness World Record in producing the world's thinnest latex condom at 0.036mm. To further our understanding of the product we've been invited to a "live presentation". This, it turns out, involves a chat with the factory's managing director, Victor Chan, "and sharing provocative insights and dispelling myths about sex and love."

Intriguingly the invitation goes on to say that we will able to view Aoni's entire range "To cater for different occasions and individual preferences." Not to be missed.


Hedge fund delight

Asian hedge funds could be in for a good year at least with respect to attracting new funds. More than 50 new funds have started in the region this year, according to the website FINalternatives. The new funds, according to the website, are bigger as investors aggressively add exposure to Asian funds.

Asian hedge funds saw a record inflow of US$4.2billion in the fourth quarter of last year. All told, the industry ran US$112.3billion as of December 2013, which is also a record. But the hedge fund boom is not just occurring in Asia. Research by Deutsche Bank shows investors may triple the capital they invest in hedge funds this year, according to Bloomberg.

Hedge funds may attract US$171 billion of net inflows and generate US$191 billion in performance-related gains, according to 413 investors globally with US$1.8 trillion of industry assets polled by Deutsche in December. The combined effect will help boost assets by 14 per cent to US$3 trillion by year-end.


Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com


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This article is now closed to comments

Mr. Winn,
Given the potential consequences climate change has, it should be of no surprise when scientists and informed citizens are surprised or angered that people, politicians, and particular those in the media would choose to disseminate inaccurate information, continue to politicise the issue and dilly dally, instead of sitting down to try and solve the problem. What is perhaps more aggravating is when people continue to use the same old talking points even though it has been shown to be false over and over again. Most unscientific indeed.
Well put.

I am also beginning to wonder why the SCMP continues to entertain Mr Winn highlighting these fringe climate-change denials in his supposedly light-hearted business corner on the back page.

Why does the editor of this newspaper allow Mr Winn to abuse the Lai See columns to promote his extremist views on a scientific/political topic he holds no expertise in, only a bigoted opinion?

At best his 'scepticism' (much too kind a term for this) belongs to the Sunday Science page, or perhaps he can write an opinion piece for the Comment section. At the very least that would mean he would actually have to put together a real argument and potentially engage in debate with somebody who does have expertise on the topic, instead of just reporting some cherry-picked data points and fringe research publications that at best show only part of the story.

If Tom Holland would suddenly begin denying the theory of evolution in his Monitor columns, the reactions would be angry too.
Dear Mr Winn, regarding my sometimes intemperate comments yesterday, the reason is quite clear - exasperation. I am tempted to ask you what your excuse is. It is scientific if you raise well-supported theories supported by peer-reviewed research. You may question the consensus based on new research that does not fit. But how can you write without doing any proper research and then complain about lack of being scientific? You were not addressing the "global warming debate". What you were addressing was an issue over which there is no real debate. Most, if not all, experts agree that human activities have significantly raised the level of CO2 in the atmosphere which has caused an increase in temperatures due to retention of solar heat. This influence is now dominating most other climate forcings, at least at a decadal scale - el Nino etc are oscillations that do not significantly affect the long-term changes when compared with what we are doing.
Firstly - your examples about the consensus proving to be wrong are hardly good ones - there was very little research carried out on the causes of stomach ulcers. There is a lot of research on climate forcing, and it flies in the face of what we would like to hear, so it is very well-tested.
As for funding - the "deniers" are funded to the tune of US$ 558million from 2007 to 2010 - ****www.scientificamerican.com/article/dark-money-funds-climate-change-denial-effort/. Ars Technica has a great article on the funding smear...
As the piece says, the animosity generated with respect to this subject is not just confined to this column but also occurs on other websites of newspapers and some of the scientific sites, whenever the orthodox view on climate change is questioned. Since billions of dollars are spent supposedly ameliorating the effects of carbon on the environment, the topic seems eminently suitable for the business pages.
Yes, you are correct. Substantial funding is needed to combat climate change, and therefore could be linked to business pages. However, rather than to use his expertise in business to discuss the costs and financial side of climate change. Mr. Winn would much prefer to question the scientific methods instead.
Frustration towards climate change skepticism/denial is shared across the world, because this is not an isolated event, but a well-funded campaign to spread misinformation [1]. Whether Mr. Winn is part of this movement, I would not comment on it and certainly hope he isn't.
[1] ****www.drexel.edu/~/media/Files/now/pdfs/Institutionalizing%20Delay%20-%20Climatic%20Change.ashx
Ars Technica article on the funding smear - ****arstechnica.com/science/2012/05/accusations-that-climate-science-is-money-driven-reveal-ignorance-of-how-science-is-done/. There is no sudden boom in funding climate science, and there is little real bias towards supporting the view on anthropogenic global warming, except in so far as there is very little evidence against it.
Thirdly, your reference to opposition to the IPCC from the Inter Academy Council makes it sound as though they are disagreeing with AGW. This is indeed exasperating. Their main concern is that the message is not getting across properly. You state that "However there is considerable disagreement among the scientific community about the efficacy of the models. The models have difficulty in replicating previous temperature let alone forecasting the future." Wrong! ****www.interacademycouncil.net/24770/28592.aspx**** To quote their executive summary, "Climate change is a long-term challenge that will require every nation to make decisions about how to respond." This does not sound like a body that is disagreeing with the science. And more recently (from the link above), "Their effort provides a scientific basis for decisions that policymakers around the world are making about how best to mitigate and adapt to climate change -- one of the most critical challenges facing humankind."
So, by all means, let's have a scientific debate, but in order to do so, you need to have some scientific evidence.
The funding is an interesting issue. I am sure you are correct that interest groups that are hurt by cuts in the use of fossil fuel are funding the promotion of their point of view. But I think you will find it pales in comparison to the climate change gravy train: the government subsidies, grants, studies, consultancies, university chairs. It is colossal.
Tiresias, you should read the article on Ars - ****arstechnica.com/science/2012/05/accusations-that-climate-science-is-money-driven-reveal-ignorance-of-how-science-is-done/. Alternatively, get someone else to read it to you... (Yes, it sounds like an insult, but I was trying to fit in a reference to your username and couldn't think of a good one... blind seers etc...)
Incidentally, just because there is a lot of funding behind climate research doesn't mean that the conclusions are necessarily flawed. To imply that it is is FUD.
The climate change debate is simply one aspect of an undeniable fact: human population growth has been exponential and a large portion of the earth's people consume many times more energy resources per capita than they did 60 years ago when the world population was less than a third of today's. Malthus had it right. Humans produce pollution and there are too many of them.
More from the recent IAC comments;
"The IAC committee made 22 recommendations for how the IPCC could reform its practices in order to enhance the authoritative nature of AR5 and future assessments. The recommendations focused on issues related to governance and management, the review process, characterizing and communicating uncertainty, communications, and transparency; the IAC did not review scientific conclusions. "
Note that the IAC did not review scientific conclusions.




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