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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Monday, 19 February 2007
Formative experiences.
Topic: Misc.

My recent posts about climate change have generated some input from people who seek to mock. A classic example is this:

"David has spoken. He's never wrong so just face facts. The vast majority of us, including the majority of scientists, people who have had a university education and people with plain common sense, are wrong! I know it is hard to believe that someone can look at the evidence, claim to know a bit of maths and says he makes a living from poker but sees the exact opposite of what we are seeing."

This, I hope, is why you read this site - because I'm someone who's prepared to stick his neck out and express a contrary view. But I don't think that I've ever expressed why before. It's time I should.

I left university in 1990 and joined Midland Bank (later HSBC). On the induction day for new graduate trainees, we were given a potted history of the bank. The bit that interested all of us most was the experience of the losses incurred in lending to third world countries. The people giving the training were honest enough to give a warts-and-all explanation. I don't recall the whole story now - the acquisition of an American bank called Crocker seemed fairly important in the story, but that's beside the point. What was interesting was talking to people who'd been in the bank for some time about how it was that so much had been lost through poor lending. A common theme was that 'everyone was doing it' - a sort of safety-in-numbers mentality that is nowadays called "groupthink". It imprinted on my mind the idea that there are times when it's vital to be able to hold a contrary view to the crowd.

The stock market had crashed in the first term of my time at university (Oct 1987) and after that I read a lot of books about markets and their speculative booms and busts. 'Markets Wizards', 'Reminiscences of a Stock Operator' and 'Crashes' were some of them. I was particularly struck by a passage in Market Wizards where one of the star traders talks about the need for a 'variant perception' - that unless you believe something that most others don't, you won't be a successful trader.

After graduating in the summer of 1990, I went to Australia to stay with my uncle and his family for a few weeks. While I was there a building society called Pyramid went bust. There were fears of runs on other banks. My uncle closed his account with another building society and withdrew his money. The idea of a 'run on the banks' in a first-world industrial economy seems hard to believe in the modern age, but as little as sixteen years ago in Australia people were taking their money out of financial institutions in fear of imminent collapse

In the first three years of my employment at Midland, companies were going broke left, right and centre. The Corporate Banking division in London created a team devoted to handling problem accounts. It was called the Lending Services Division (yes, really LSD!). As more companies started facing trouble other LSD teams were formed. At the time when the government was telling people to prepare for the European single market in 1992, a great many of our customers were telling us they just wanted to survive to the end of 1991. It was awful. I don't think that younger people who graduated years later know what it was like. One minute someone's in charge of a profitable enterprise of many year's standing, the next it's in rubble around his ankles. It bred in me an awareness that nothing can be relied up, safety in numbers is an illusion and that things can deteriorate very rapidly.

I'm sure that this thinking affects my views in politics. Remember that story about my school history teacher telling me in summer 1987 that I would not see a united Germany in my lifetime? It took three years! With respect to Iraq, it's bred in me an aversion to the sanctions and containment approach. Critics of mine like Roger Kirkham believe that Saddam was contained and that further pre-emptive action was not needed. I instinctively distrust "containment", because I think it gives the container the illusion of permanence, so when it collapses, the 'container' is the one caught unawares, just as the CIA totally failed to forecast the collapse of the Soviet Union and believed that East Germany was the world's ninth largest economy right up until the late 80s.

I'll mention later why I'm sceptical about some of the claims and proposed solution to the issue of global warming. For now I just want to state the reasons why I'm happy to "look at the evidence" and see the exact opposite of what others are seeing. If I can't make you change your mind about the things on which you and I disagree, at least you should know where I'm coming from. The experts and the crowd are often wrong.

_ DY at 6:02 PM GMT
Updated: Monday, 19 February 2007 8:54 PM GMT
Post Comment | View Comments (9) | Permalink

Tuesday, 20 February 2007 - 3:34 PM GMT

Name: "anonymous"

You put your head on the chopping block every time you post to this blog. Do you only ever expect a haircut?

"The idea of a 'run on the banks' in a first-world industrial economy seems hard to believe in the modern age"

And what makes you think that runs on banks can't happen again? Your belief that we are in a golden age and nothing can wrong with the world now is most amusing.

"The experts and the crowd are often wrong"

I never follow the herd either. But there is always more than one counter-action.

The planet is warming,

1) Do I accept the findings and hope that others come up with a solution but in the interim continue as before.

2) Do I disregard the overwhelming evidence and continue as before.

[Is there any difference between the two people in 1) and 2)? Both have their heads in the sand.

3) Do I accept that the findings could be true and rather than continuing as before, make contingencies that permit me to continue living comfortably (without being stuck with the herd) in a sustainable manner regardless of future events. As you said yourself, nobody knows what the future holds so new evidence may make you think again. City dwellers are in for a rude awakening regardless of belief in global warming, demography, mass migration, resource depletion etc.

I would think 3) is better than 2) (your plan) and 1) (the plan of many others). Your theories are mostly based on the fact that you wish to live an uncompromising lifestyle and then find the evidence to justify why you should continue to live that lifestyle. Plain bad science.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007 - 5:02 PM GMT

Name: "David Young"

Science is at its strongest when it is based on controlled experiments. That's the problem for me of the science of global warming. There's only one Earth and it's a huge entity with thousands of variables. You can't perform an experiment with two Earths and test the effect of allowing greenhouse gases to rise on one of them and not on the other.

The issues remind me of the problems inherent with the social sciences, like Economics.

One thing you could do as a 'placebo group' is look for any signs of 'global warming' on other planets. They at least are free of the effects of man made climate change. A quick good search of 'global warming on other planets' reveals this:

Climate change on Jupiter - 

Climate change on Mars - 

Global Warming on Pluto - 

(Pluto is more complex as its orbit is irregular)

So there you have it - a controlled experiment of sorts where you can rule out one influence (mankind) and examine another (solar variation). Is that scientific enough for you?


Tuesday, 20 February 2007 - 6:26 PM GMT

Name: "anonymous"

You only need look at Venus to see what greenhouse gases can do. Saturn's satellite, Titan, is another example of the effect of greenhouse gases.

Those same greenhouse gases that we are over-producing today.

Now, let me get this straight. You are saying that there is global warming, that man didn't do it, so it's okay to ignore it and hope it goes away.

You're not interested in using science to maybe block a certain percentage of sunlight? Or to have contingencies if the warming goes too far? 

Tuesday, 27 February 2007 - 4:41 PM GMT

Name: "anonymous"

Everything you need to know about this blog


Wednesday, 28 February 2007 - 3:52 PM GMT

Name: "anonymous"

Thursday, 1 March 2007 - 7:52 PM GMT

Name: "anonymous"

I'm waiting for you to jump on the abiogenic oil theory bandwagon.

How about cold fusion?

Anything else you want to champion so as to justify yourself? 

Friday, 2 March 2007 - 2:08 PM GMT

Name: "anonymous"

 The Peak Oil Crisis: The 4 Facets of Peak Oil


Looming just over the horizon are four great storms that soon will have a major impact on nearly all the world’s peoples and their descendents for decades to come. We know these storms are coming, for we can clearly see their outlines and some are already beginning to feel the winds.

We don’t know the exact timing nor the order of these storms’ arrival. We do know that the order in which they come will be important to how these storms interact with what our lifestyles will be like in the years ahead.

The first storm is what we talk about in this column: the balance between oil depletion and production from new oilfields that will determine how much longer the world’s economy can continue in its present form. For the last 140 years, the world has had nearly uninterrupted access to a virtually unlimited supply of oil. Except in times of war and similar crises, if you could pay for the oil, you could have as much as you wanted. Soon, this will not be the case

Our second storm, a corollary of the first, is the balance among the ability and willingness of oil exporters to export, the price of oil, and the demand and ability to pay of oil importers. This is not quite the same as the availability of oil, for there will come a point when today’s oil exporters will not be shipping the desired quantities of oil to today’s importers. This reduction in size of the oil trade can be for any of several reasons.

As production from the giant Cantarell oilfield is dropping rapidly, many forecast that Mexico soon will be out of the oil exporting business. This is not because Mexico’s wants to stop exporting to the US; they simply will not have excess oil to sell abroad. Here we will have a component of storm one directly causing storm two – the reduction in world exports.

As Mexican exports, and those of other countries, start to dry up, either they will be replaced by increased production elsewhere in the world, or the richer countries will simply outbid the poorer ones for the available oil. There are many other reasons, besides inability to maintain production, which might cause a reduction in the oil trade. Terrorists might blow up some vital oil installation. Iraq could deteriorate to a state where no oil is available for export. Or Iranian relations with the West could go really sour. In these cases export flows could slow for reasons other than oil depletion.

Our next big storm is global climate change, which can interact with peak oil and export flows in many ways. Large temperature-induced hurricanes have and could continue to tear up oil production and import or export facilities. A really large and well-placed hurricane might establish the peak of peak oil.

However, there is another side to the “storm” of global warming. Most governments and world organizations, except maybe ExxonMobil, are saying that we really need to do something “serious” and fast about global warming. Serious and fast can only mean major cutbacks in the consumption of non-carbon sequestered fossil fuels. Here the problem is that short of a scientific miracle, large reductions in fossil fuel consumption are almost certain to cause serious economic problems.

For those for whom economic growth has become the Holy Grail of civilization, deliberately slowing economic growth is unthinkable. There are many, who believe they would rather see their grandchildren bake, starve, drown or what have you, than deliberately crash the stock markets with some fool emissions-reducing cap or tax.

Although it does not seem imminent at the moment, somewhere along the line governments are going to start capping the release of carbon from the burning of fossil fuels unless peak oil production or “peak oil exports” do it first. Should governments mandate major reductions in fossil fuel consumption before the geological or geopolitical peak in world production, then we could have global warming induced peak rather than a geological or geopolitical induced peak.

Our final storm is a great economic recession. It’s clear much is out of balance in the world’s economy— deficits, money supplies, world trade, and exchange rates to name a few. Should a major world recession or worse set in before oil shortages begin, then obviously the demand for oil will be reduced, production will slow and oil reserves would be stretched out.

The other side of the coin says that major reductions in oil supplies for either geologic or geopolitical reasons will undoubtedly cause serious economic reverses.

So there we have the great four part mix that will be a major part of all our futures: peak oil production, peak oil exports, global warming, and economic recession. They are all coming and they are all tied inextricably together. It is not yet clear which will affect our lives first. Right now it looks as if recession and peak exports are in the lead but things are changing rapidly. The only thing that’s sure is when these four storms have passed through, life as we have known it will never be the same.

Sunday, 4 March 2007 - 10:41 AM GMT

Name: "anonymous",,2026091,00.html

Which of the other wacky conspiracy theories do you believe in?

Tuesday, 13 March 2007 - 11:12 AM BST

Name: "anonymous"

"Being a crank [DAVID] does not automatically make you a visionary.",,2032575,00.html

The film's main contention is that the current increase in global temperatures is caused not by rising greenhouse gases, but by changes in the activity of the sun. It is built around the discovery in 1991 by the Danish atmospheric physicist Dr Eigil Friis-Christensen that recent temperature variations on Earth are in "strikingly good agreement" with the length of the cycle of sunspots.

Unfortunately, he found nothing of the kind. A paper published in the journal Eos in 2004 reveals that the "agreement" was the result of "incorrect handling of the physical data". The real data for recent years show the opposite: that the length of the sunspot cycle has declined, while temperatures have risen. When this error was exposed, Friis-Christensen and his co-author published a new paper, purporting to produce similar results. But this too turned out to be an artefact of mistakes - in this case in their arithmetic.

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