Climate Science Coalition

You may have seen yesterday’s story about a group of scientists, including former TV3 weatherman Augie Auer, who have formed the Climate Science Coalition, aimed at refuting “exaggerated” claims of climate change.

The group’s website is now up, although it’s fairly rudimentary.

Jeanette responded to the news yesterday by pointing out that the IPCC already requires science around global warming to be subjected to rigorous scrutiny, a sentiment echoed by NIWA who put out a press release saying:

The newly formed ‘New Zealand Climate Science Coalition’ is claiming that human activities have contributed only 3.2 percent of the current carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is wrong.

In fact, about 25 percent of the current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere results from human activities.

The coalition’s claim is a prime example of the value of having a checking process like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC represents a strong, balanced, thorough approach to assessing the science of climate change. The best climate scientists from around the world produce summaries of the latest knowledge. These summaries are then reviewed extensively by hundreds of other scientists.

Hear, hear. Meanwhile, David Farrar has some discussion of the new panel on Kiwiblog, where he says:

One learns a lot about the Green Party thinking when they take they view, yes we may be wrong, but “what would we have lost by trying to prepare to reduce our greenhouse emissions”?

Well a few hundred thousands jobs and billions of dollars of wealth, for a starter.

Or, y’know, the future of the planet…

39 thoughts on “Climate Science Coalition

  1. DPF should be careful about choosing his friends if he wants to retain any credibility on this issue. None of the participants in this collection of the usual suspects are working climate scientists. Some are scientists, and they certainly are not shy of commenting on climate science, but only Augie Auer has any relevant qualifications – and his views on climate and weather are – how can I put this politely? – maverick enough to suggest that he’s either forgotten or is deliberately ignoring the atmospheric physics he once studied.

    I find it risible that this bunch think they have the qualifications to “audit” the forthcoming IPCC report. What is truly alarming, however, is not that these people seek a public platform – let them have it – but that there are those on the right who will latch on to their pronouncements to justify or determine climate change policy.

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  2. Actually – it is not true that Auer is the only one with relevant qualifications. Dr Vincent Gray has been an IPCC reviewer and is a world renowned climate skeptic (a kind way of saying ‘crank’).

    In fact this whole thing seems to be a way of Dr Gray not being happy with the IPCC peer-review process which he was a part of, and now wanting to have another go at getting his fringe views out.

    What is really interesting is the range of views these guys appear to have within their own tight little band. On one hand Dr Gray is on record saying that the temperature readings are wrong and inaccurate, but McShane talks about accepting Global Warming as a fact. But what he disagreed with (and has done for some time) was the Kyoto Protocol which is suited to European countries and not us. It would be good for them to make up their minds.

    It is also interesting how much press these guys can drum up so quickly. I guess conflict is the story and the media wants to appear ‘fair and balanced’ even if we are talking about Flat Earth vs. Round Earth debates.

    The sadest / funniest moment for me was Jim Mora (“The Panel” on National Radio) reading out a quote from Orwell before introducing Dr Gray yesterday. LOL. His voice must be heard damn it. Well it has been heard and the consensus has been that we are better off not listening to Dr Gray and his mates because of the consequences of inaction.

    However if Climate Skeptics Inc. have identified NZ as as soft target for change and withdrawal from Kyoto then they are on to something. This country doesn’t have the backbone or the leadership to introduce even the most modest of market oriented Cap and Trade systems or to even undertake ‘no regrets’ measures like curbing our emissions from transport which could also improve our current account deficit if we can reduce our reliance on imported oil.

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  3. There’s still no-one around arguing the points they make on the facts, just ad homineum attacks based on the presumption that they are wrong.

    I’m not saying they’re right, but at least hear their arguments out. Refuting one number without evidence is not debate.

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  4. Sorry, muggers old chap, you need to do more reading. There are plenty of people around who have taken the time to point out the errors in their facts and reasoning, most notably at RealClimate (http://www.realclimate.org/). An “easier” site which puts sceptical views in context is A Few Things Ill Considered (http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/02/how-to-talk-to-global-warming-sceptic.html).

    The problem, as benw points out, that “our” sceptics are a broad church. You can find just about every common contrarian argument in their writings. I don’t have the time to go through everything they’ve written and do a point-by-point, fully referenced commentary – they’ve spent years at it, and I have a living to make – but for anyone who has bothered to familiarise themselves with the science – that’s the science being done by real climate scientists, subject to peer-review – then reading their stuff or listening to them on the radio is painful.

    It doesn’t seem to matter how many times you point their errors of fact or logic, they bounce back as if nothing had happened. Try it and see…

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  5. PS Vincent Gray was a chemist until he retired.

    The only working climate scientist in NZ who is also in this group, Chris de Freitas, is more of an “impacts” man than a climate modeller. (http://www.sges.auckland.ac.nz/the_school/our_people/staff_url/cdefreitas/index.htm)

    Tim Lambert is especially interesting on Prof Bob Carter (geologist):
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/global_warming/bobcarter/

    Gerrit van der Lingen is a (?)retired geologist.

    Terry Dunleavy is one of the founders of BlueGreens. He edits (or edited) a wine trade paper.

    And Owen McShane is…. Owen McShane. An expert on the impact of the RMA on global warming issues.

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  6. Bucolic, thanks for your first link, that’s certainly more accessible
    information than the obfuscated language on RealClimate. On the way,
    I found a great reference to the claim that only 1/30 of the CO2 in
    the atmosphere is human in origin
    (http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/03/natural-emissions-dwarf-humans.html).

    However, your second response just about defines ad homineum attack by
    offering character profiles of the people involved. So they’re
    retired. What difference does that make?

    So, they’re not climate modellers but a Chemist, a Climatologist and
    two geologists. A large part of the global warming debate is
    chemistry, climatology and geology, branches of empirical science. I
    hold that their references are relevant and politely ask that you stop
    demonising them merely for holding a contrary viewpoint.

    I continue to be suspicious that the whole Climate Change demon is
    like a big smokescreen for the *real* environmental issues facing us
    today. Like overfishing of our seas, like the side effects of urban
    sprawl. ie, forget about using less transport because it’s causing
    the greenhouse effect, use less transport because it’s better for your
    health and the health of those around you. Find good reasons, not
    theories. It you happen to arrive at a good conclusion that aligns
    with the theories you like, great. But stop citing theories as
    reasons for making real changes.

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  7. It’s odd that Jeanette is so big on checking:

    “The coalition’s claim is a prime example of the value of having a checking process like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

    When party press releases are riddled with scientific errors that would make an undergrad blush. Someone should clean up their own nest first!

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  8. Mug: “However, your second response just about defines ad homineum attack by
    offering character profiles of the people involved. So they’re
    retired. What difference does that make?”

    In what sense is describing someone as a geologist an ad hominem attack? You could describe me as a writer. I think I could accept that without considering it an “attack”. Unless, of course, you have a very low opinion of geologists (or writers), especially retired ones, in which case the words “log” and “eye” spring to mind.

    If there’s anything that I feel completely free to attack, it is the opinions these gentlemen hold, as evidenced by their public statements. They are frequently factually wrong and often scientifically nonsense.

    Mug: “But stop citing theories as reasons for making real changes.”

    Ah, but our governments do that all the time when it comes to economics. You’d rather ignore the carefully considered position of thousands of the world’s best scientists in many different disciplines about the risks of rapid global warming on the say so of some people who are simply, and demonstrably, wrong?

    Go read the science. That’s the stuff you find “obfuscatory”, but which is that way for the same reason that legal judgements can be hard to read: precision. Go where the real science takes you.

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  9. Chef

    That’s the NIWA press release ;-)

    Maybe you should read the thing first rather than leaping to erroneous conclusions !

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  10. Mugwump (and everybody):

    I think its fairly straightforward why we SHOULDN’T just debate the facts. its because most of us lack the scientific background to know whether these guys (or any scientists) are right or wrong.

    Jeez, imagine if to judge a person’s position (and thus determine how much media attention they got, to determine whether you’d vote for policies they espouse, etc) you had to be able to understand all the specialist knowledge they present, and understand why their viewpoint was more accurate than all the other people who claimed to share that knowledgeable position.

    Do you dispute pharmacologists or doctors sitting down together to decide which drugs get subsidies, or which medical procedures should be undertaken. Do you give Doctor Nick Riviera equal airtime and pretend his views are up for genuine debate just because YOU don’t understand the arguments of the experts?

    Far better I think to debate the PROCESS for coming to public policy decisions, ie the bureaucratic steps, which experts are engaged and what their influence is, etc etc. The quote from the NIWA guy and from Jeanette F hit the spot in this regard I reckon – rather than asking Joe munter to understand the complexities of climate science, instead to trust the IPCC process.

    Now I’m oversimplifying here, there’s certainly a time and place for public discussion, absorption of different views, discussing which views we should give creedence, which policies to adopt. But isn’t this particular debate (how much Co2 due to human activity) cut and dried?

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  11. Err, yeah so? I’m talking about Green press releases. Jeanette obviously agrees with the sentiment…
    “be subjected to rigorous scrutiny”

    Something lacking in their own releases.

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  12. Chef

    Sounds like you’re emitting more climate-changing gases.

    You’ve failed to provide any link to what you’re on about.

    So, one more time, what are you on about ?

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  13. Quite a lot. The Greens have no factual scientific rigor for even fundamental science. So their judgements are more than a bit suspect on other science topics where they laud the importance of scientific scrutiny while apparently unable to do it themselves.

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  14. Actually, what is party policy on press releases containing factual errors?

    Frog? Can you enlighten?

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  15. Sorry Chef, but you’ll have to explain to us where the factual errors are in those Green PRs.

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  16. I represent the views of literally thousands of physicists whose professionalism I don’t think should be questioned. Take my word for it.

    Just kidding. Thought I’d try the other side of the fence for a while.

    Oh the answers, well I’ll give you a while to browse a few textbooks as a fun research exercise.

    Still curious about that policy though.

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  17. BucolicOldSirHenry, you were stating their occupation with a deliberate and obvious slant to suggest they were has-beens. If that was not your intention I withdraw and apologise for my comment.

    As for the economics argument, you’re right on the money BOSH. This pathetic field called “economics” that we use to justify our complicit devastation of the third world is a much bigger elephant in the room. May I refer interested readers to
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/globaloutlook/GofP.html and http://www.plutobooks.com/cgi-local/nplutobrows.pl?chkisbn=0745323901

    Tom, I am certainly against the dependency on fossil fuels, but because it is not sustainable and represents the ultimate in isolation between producer and consumer. Not because of some scientific theory.

    What I’m certainly against, however, is adding “Global Warming” to the general squeeze of existence, because the extra dollars that all these global warming prevention measures waste come from the third world. Now *that* is a good reason to abandon Kyoto. Not to mention the artificial scarcity market (and its associated service industry fees) relating to the trade in Carbon Credits. There’s big corruption lying just underneath the surface there!

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  18. Mugwump,

    Enough. I’m sick of this “1/30 of CO2″ boojum. It’s both trivially true, and utterly misleading. The important point is that C02 levels are 25% higher than natural levels because of human emissions.

    Confused? Le me help.

    The Carbon Cycle is a cycle. Carbon into the atmosphere, carbon out. So let me give you an analogy to explain this – I’ll all it “The Cash Cycle”. Money into your pocket, money out.

    Suppose you run a business washing windows. Each day customers pay you $100, and you spend $100 on food, rent, etc. You always receive and pay cash, and you keep your current cash in a shoebox under your bed.

    With me so far?

    Now you get a new client, and he pays you an extra $3.50 per day. Since your income of $103.50 now exceeds your outgoings of $100, after a month the amount of cash sitting under you bed has increased by 25%. A friend points out that it’s growing, that in another month you’ll have 50% more money than you started with.

    Then Auer comes along and points out that the new client is not important because only 1/30th of the actual banknotes and coins sitting under your bed right now came from the new client. And then he goes on about how small that amount is – 3 cents on the dollar!

    Auer’s point may well be factually correct. But it’s a meaningless statistic. The important thing is not how many of the actual notes under your bed came from the new client’s wallet. The point is how much more money you have under your bed because of the new client.

    The carbon cycle is like this: naturally we see carbon going into and out of the atmosphere, and then we add on fossil fuels that pump carbon in but don’t take carbon out. Some of the fossil fuel C02 will be absorbed by the tree growing next to your house – and because it’s absorbing that it isn’t absorbing some naturally-emitted C02 that it would have otherwise absorbed.

    Because of the extra C02 emissions by burning fossil fuels (extra as in “above what’s naturally emitted each year”) for years the amount of C02 in the atmosphere has increased by 25%. But that doesn’t mean that 25% of the actual carbon atoms in the atmosphere came out of the exhaust pipes of cars. Auer’s misleading you by focussing on a meaningless statistic – the number of actual carbon atoms currently in the atmosphere that came out of smokestacks and fuel exhausts – instead of on a meaningful statistic – the increase in atmospheric carbon because of burning fossil fuels.

    Now ask yourself: does Auer see that his statistic is the wrong one to use?

    If he doesn’t see that, then he’s failed to understand the most basic facts about the carbon cycle and human influence on it. If he does see why it’s the wrong one to use, then is he truly trying to make people better educated about the climate change debate?

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  19. Mug: “What I’m certainly against, however, is adding “Global Warming? to the general squeeze of existence, because the extra dollars that all these global warming prevention measures waste come from the third world.”

    Oh, this really is tosh. There’s plenty of evidence that reducing carbon output will save money, not cost money. It’s called efficiency. Are we not allowed to use that in our efforts to stop the planet cooking?

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  20. “The Greens have no factual scientific rigor for even fundamental science.”

    Chefen,

    May I recommend that you look up “ad hominem attack”. Though I do say you seem to be rather good at them. Is this a result of great practice?

    You don’t seem to be addressing any actual arguments here (for example, why Auer is saying one thing and Jeanette another above human effects on atmospheric carbon). Instead you are going on (and on) about how bad your opponent is – without giving exact details, of course.

    As for Green policy: like most organisations, the Greens have lots of different people working in different areas. And so the quality and type of policy they have varies from one area to another. There are parts of the Green Party policy that make me wince (their anti-immunization stance, for example). But on the whole they’re pretty good for a NZ political party. I begin to suspect that you haven’t read much of the other NZ political parties policy statements.

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  21. icehawk.

    You seem to be ignoring the fact that the environment is a complex system with equilibria dynamics. The “bank account” analogy falls apart right there. Go find another argument.

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  22. Icehawk, it isn’t ad hominem. I haven’t used the nature of the person as a basis for argument about something else. I’ve TOLD you that at least two Green press releases are scientifically wrong in very basic and glaring terms. It isn’t ad hominem to point this out in a debate on science and how you choose whom to regard as an authority. Is my word as a physicist not enough? Should I not ask for “rigorous scrutiny” of press releases that have the potential to scare people about their health? I’m not saying that the Green argument is wrong because they are bad or I don’t like their politics, I’m saying their claims are unfairly clouded when they fail to live up to their own demanded standards. You can’t debate the outcomes when the underlying science has been presented wrongly. For instance, what is your opinion of power lines and food irradiation if you know that some of the science is wrong in the press releases? How does that affect your judgement of other claims based on science? Now these errors I’m talking about aren’t huge, but they are *fundamental* which stand out to anyone educated on the topics. To use Augie as an example, he is arguing against “exaggerated” claims and Jeanette wishes to use the authority of others to argue him down. But on what basis does Jeanette judge who to choose as an authority, given they make fundamental mistakes or oversights elsewhere? There is no proof by appeal to authority, just as there is no disproof by ad hominem arguments.

    As to other parties, well I’m guessing they have mistakes too. But I haven’t seen any on my travels so far, at least none that leapt out at me. Other Green policies are another matter, I’m only talking about science.

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  23. “what is party policy on press releases containing factual errors”

    well here’s what normally happens.

    Someone spots an error in a PR. They email the Parliamentary Greens explaining what the error is. The Greens correct the error. Everyone goes home, amazed at how great the Internet is at advancing human knowledge and allowing people from diverse backgrounds to communicate with each other.

    Here what doesn’t normally happen, someone spots an error and then they start a pissing contest saying I’m cleverer than you and I’m not going to tell you what the error is nyah nyah nayh.

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  24. I have done that stuey, well Frog at least, haven’t had a reply yet but Frog might be away. I’m in no rush and assume he/she will forward it as appropriate. Nice of you to start with that tone. I know you don’t want to see the equivalence in position between the two cases, but nice of you to show how you deal with arguing from a position of ignorance and how your attitude to authority varies according to rhetorical need.

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  25. “icehawk.

    You seem to be ignoring the fact that the environment is a complex system with equilibria dynamics. The “bank account? analogy falls apart right there. Go find another argument. ”

    Mugwump,

    That complexity is irrelevant to this argument. No, seriously. Think about it.

    Your point is that amount you spend and earn are related in complex ways. That’s true. But the point of the analogy is that Auer is using the WRONG FIGURE. Making your spending patterns more complex doesn’t change that.

    He’s talking about the number of bank-notes under your bed that actually came out of the new client’s pocket. But the important figure is not that, it’s the amount of increase in money under your bed because of the new client. No matter how complex your spending and saving habits, it’s still the overall amount of change that matters not exactly which bank notes came from who.

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  26. Chefen:

    Please list what you consider errors in the press releases you cited. I have no doubt you believe they are errors but I doubt you are correct. If you are willing to stump up, I’ll happily engage – otherwise “y’all have a nice day”.

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  27. jgg, already offered the info to the relevant party so will await that. Otherwise will post the details, they are a bit lengthy for a comment.

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  28. Chefen – oh well. Here’s my take.

    The first one refers to alternatives to the 400kV upgrade. This is an area I know quite a lot about and what it suggests is pretty sensible. Indeed you could have a look at the pricing structure of Orion networks in CHCH which has led to precisely the sort of measures Jeanette has identified. Essentially there is a great deal of potential for peak load shifting in Auckland to defer transmission upgrades. Nothing contrary to physics there and I speak from a position of knowledge in that area.

    The second refers to irradiated food and there is ample scientific evidence of biochemical changes as a result of irradiation. Sue K is simply warning consumers about the downside of our “free trade at all costs” policy.

    The statements in both are pretty simple so please do feel free to state in general terms the broad nature of your concerns.

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  29. jgg, I’m not talking about the policies or details or even conclusions. Go *read* them from a purely scientific point of view. The problem in the irradiation one is the most obvious, there is a glaring inconsistency among other things. Which is what I mean, their conclusions may be correct but the foundation is just wrong. It devalues their own argument.

    Ahh damn, linked the wrong powerline article, should be:
    http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/PR8928.html

    The one you read just suffers from excessive hyperbole.

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  30. Chefen – your original comment said these pressers were “riddled with scientific errors that would make an undergrad blush”. I’ve now had a look at the EMF one you meant to point to, as well as the irradiated food

    I am not sure what the “glaring inconsistency” in the irradiation one is, nor what the scientific error is in the EMF one. I’d agree both are a bit full of hyperbole but that is the nature of political releases in general.

    I would appreciate you sharing exactly what you think at least one problem is with at least one of them. Shouldn’t take more than a paragraph ;-).

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  31. Sorry, been busy… still have a lot to do but dropping in I see climate change deniers are having a heck of a time here. I also see that RealClimate has been discounted as being too complex to be understood. That’s a shame because REAL science IS complex, but there are some simple facts that need to be engraved in a few foreheads.

    Global CO2 is higher than it has as ever been any time in the last 4 interglacials.

    We’ve already burned about half our store of dead dinosaurs, carbon sequestered over the course of several million years.

    The better science (that found on RealClimate is an example) shows that humans have made a big difference over the past 50 years, and as Icehawk explained above, that difference is big cumulatively, not in the day-to-day sense as the die-hard deniers would have it. There’s a balance, and we’ve got our fingers on the scale.

    I need more time, but I will tell you all again. The real scientists are scared spitless. I was at JPL. Several relocated into the mountains. I moved to New Zealand and I’m looking for high ground. Maybe there’s something to this science stuff?

    Finally, the problem is unsolvable in a world addicted to growth, and current economic theories (fantasies) DEMAND growth. This in spite of the fact that there is only so much land, so much food, and so much clean water. Economists do not understand thermodynamics nor can they adopt its principles without destroying the basis of their illusions.

    In a way, this is the greatest tragedy of human civilization… that the “science” of economics denies the limits imposed by the science of physics, and economists run the world.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  32. Look – I don’t know if Augie or Jeanette or right, maybe every time I drive I heat the world up, or maybe I don’t. But noone can deny my local environment would be cleaner if there was less car/industrial/other air pollution.

    Encouraging us to make voluntary reductions in the way we get about/heat our homes/buy products based on more than price and quality can only be good for us. But it’s a movement that needs to start at my level, not Government level.

    A Consumer Society is a society that has consumers with power. We change our spending habits, companies respond or go bust.

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  33. “economists run the world. ”

    Um, no.

    Real economists usually understand how markets work. They understand the concept of market failure. They understand the problems with use of public goods. You’ll find that a vast majority of economists favour both pollution taxes, and congestion taxes (like London’s) – and that they’ve done so for the last couple of decades. Hasn’t made it happen, though.

    Mostly it’s managers of large corporations who run the world, along with lawyers.

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  34. Icehawk… If “real” economists understand all that stuff, then where the hell ARE they? I remember clearly that the guys trying to teach it to me back in the 70’s were outstandingly clueless about the “limits to growth” imposed by thermodynamics. I notice the central banks are still printing money like there wasn’t enough out there already… and the price of gold is responding exactly as it must. I’d reckon that on those grounds the “real” economists don’t run the world… so you’re right… but only sort-of, and I still like the way my rant reads :-) The folks running things claim to understand economics better than I do… which is probably true given the grand theft future that THEY call economics. I haven’t seen a “real” economist since… well actually I’ve NEVER seen one.

    O.T. Do you ever read the Mogambo Guru?
    http://news.goldseek.com/RichardDaughty/1147273620.php

    respectfully
    BJ

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