Working This Week On A Book Project

I am working on a submission (outline and several chapters) for a book prize that is due December 31, so I may not be posting much over the next week.  The contest is for a novel that promotes the principals of freedom, capitalism, and individual responsibility in the context of a novel (hopefully without 120-page John Galt radio speeches). 

My project is one I have been tinkering with for a while, an update of the Marshall Jevons economist mysteries from the 1980’s.  If you are not familiar with this series, Marshall Jevons was a pseudonym for a couple of economists who wrote several murder mysteries that included a number of expositions on how economics apply to everyday life.  Kind of Agatha Christie meets Freakonomics.  I found the first book, Murder at the Margin, to be disappointing, but the second book called the Fatal Equilibrium was pretty good.  I think the latter was a better book because the setting was university life, and the murder revolved around a tenure committee decision, topics the authors could write about closer to their experience.  The books take a pro-free-market point of view (which already makes them unique) and it is certainly unusual to have the solution to a murder turn on how search costs affect pricing variability.

Anyway, for some time, I have been toying with a concept for a young adult book in roughly the same tradition.  I think the Jevons novels are a good indicator of how a novel can teach some simple economics concepts, but certainly the protagonist as fusty stamp-collecting Harvard professor would need to be modified to engage young adults. 

My new novel (or series of novels, if things go well) revolves around a character named Adam Smith.  Adam is the son of a self-made immigrant and heir to a nearly billion dollar fortune.  At the age of twenty, he rejects his family and inheritance in a wave of sixties rebellion, joins a commune, and changes his name to the unfortunate "Moonbeam."  After several years, he sours on commune life, put himself through graduate school in economics, and eventually reclaims his family fortune.  Today, he leads two lives:  Adam Smith, eccentric billionaire, owner of penthouses and fast cars, and leader of a foundation [modeled after the IJ]; and Professor Moonbeam, aging hippie high school economics teacher who drives a VW beetle and appears to live in a trailer park.  There is a murder, of course, and the fun begins when three of his high school students start to suspect that their economics teacher may have a second life.  As you might expect, the kids help him solve the murder while he teaches them lessons about life and economics.  The trick is to keep the book light and fun rather than pedantic, but since one business model in my last novel revolved around harvesting coins in fountains, I think I can do it.

Anyway, wish me luck and I will be back in force come the new year. 

Climate Biases Still Solidly Frozen in Place

I thought this Google screen shot from Tom Nelson was pretty funny.  You actually don’t even need the second article to see the irony.  The Daily Green headline reads "Arctic Sea Ice Freezes Slowly" while the actual text reads, as you can see even in the Google excerpt, "Arctic sea ice refroze at a record pace."  (click for larger view)


By the way, since this story came out, freezing no longer lags history and Northern Hemisphere snow and ice coverage exceeds the averages of past Decembers.  More on Arctic ice here and here.

Northwest Passage

The other day, when I mentioned the irony of the AP publishing a story about Artic ice melting on the same day it was announce the Artic ice was growing at a record rate, I forgot to deal with the bogus claim in the article that this was the first time the Northwest Passage had ever opened.

This myth is discussed here.   In summary:

the Northwest Passage was successfully navigated in 1906, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1944, 1957, 1969, 1977, 1984, 1988, and 2000.

Global Warming Solutions

Via Tom Nelson, comes this helpful list of proposals offered to date to help reverse global warming.  Note that these were presented by their authors as serious proposals.  A couple of examples:

1. Get rid of humans.

Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson insists we "reduce human populations to fewer than one billion".

2. Put a carbon tax on babies.

Prof Barry Walters, of the University of Western Australia, says families with more than, say, two children should be charged a carbon tax on their little gas emitters.

3. Cull babies.

Toni Vernelli, of green group PETA, says she killed her unborn child because of its potential emissions: "It would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world."

4. Sterilise us all.

Dr John Reid, a former Swinburne University academic, gave a lecture on ABC radio recommending we "put something in the water, a virus that would be specific to the human reproductive system, and would make a substantial proportion of the population infertile".

5. Ban second children.

Says Melbourne University population guru Prof Short: "We need to develop a one-child family policy because we are the global warmers."

Read them all.

Another Government Boondoggle

The NY Times has an interesting article on the government subsidized boondoggle to build a zero-emissions coal plant.  First, we see all the usual aspects of what happens when the government steps in to fund non-economic projects no private investor would touch:

But choosing the location was perhaps the least daunting step. The project, announced by President Bush in 2003, seems to be in perpetual creep mode. The budget, as Matt Wald wrote yesterday, has ballooned 50 percent (because of the worldwide shortage of basics like cement). The timetable has slid. Components are being shed. The portion of the eventual $1.8 billion cost paid by the government is shrinking.

Though I have never studies the numbers in depth, it has been my intuition (from years working as an engineer with power plants and oil refineries) that it will be almost impossible to make this technology economic.  Apparently, others agree:

There are plenty of experts who still doubt that capturing carbon dioxide and putting it in cold storage will ever work at a meaningful scale. Vaclav Smil at the University of Manitoba has calculated that capturing, compressing and storing just 10 percent of current CO2 emissions — here and now — would require as much pipeline and plant infrastructure as are now used worldwide to extract oil from the ground. And oil is a pricey commodity while carbon dioxide is a waste gas.

Handling and compressing gasses are a lot more difficult than liquids, and liquefying them may take almost as much energy as you get out of the combustion.  So, what does the government do if a technology is so uneconomic and unworkable that it can’t even scrape up enough money to subsidize one plant?  Why, it mandates the technology:

Mr. Hawkins said adequate construction of CO2-trapping plants would happen more swiftly if a “performance standard” requiring this technology were added to climate legislation like the Warner-Lieberman bill being considered in the Senate. Such a provision would require new coal-plant construction to incorporate such systems and spread the cost over the economy so utilities aren’t hit too hard.

Such a mandate would effectively end the construction new coal plants, which may in fact be the motive of supporters. 

This is what happens when government tries to pick winning technologies.  If carbon combustion is really bad (a proposition with which I do not agree) then a carbon tax needs to be instituted, so that individuals can figure out on their own which carbon combustion is the most economic to eliminate and with what technologies.  If the government insists on picking winners with subsidized technology programs, then nuclear strikes me as much more fruitfull, as it is already proven and close to economic and investment can be concentrated on marginal problems like waste disposal, rather than fundamental problems like "will this approach even work."

Global Warming Trojan Horse

Investors Business Daily has a great article reinforcing the point many of us have been making for a while:  The Marxists and anti-globalization rioters and other left-wing extremists that have seemed awfully quiet of late have not disappeared;  they have repackaged themselves as global warming activists, but their goals are exactly the same.

The driving force of the environmental movement is not a cleaner planet — or a world that doesn’t get too hot, in the case of the global warming issue — but a leftist, egalitarian urge to redistribute wealth. A CO2 tax does this and more, choking economic growth in the U.S. and punishing Americans for being the voracious consumers that we are.

Eco-activists have been so successful in distracting the public from their real intentions that they’re becoming less guarded in discussing their ultimate goal.

"A climate change response must have at its heart a redistribution of wealth and resources," Emma Brindal, a "climate justice campaign coordinator" for Friends of the Earth Australia, wrote Wednesday on the Climate Action Network’s blog.

In this case, redistribution would be handled by the Multilateral Adaptation Fund, an agency that would use the carbon tax receipts to help countries that are having to deal with climate change.

Since the "complete list of things caused by global warming" now exceeds 600 (see our "Chilled By The Heat" editorial, Dec. 13), there would be few if any limits on the U.N.’s ability to move riches from countries that have created and earned them to those that have done neither.

Still think this is all about halting climate change? We would go as far as to say that anyone who does is either naive or a dupe. Both the rhetoric and the behavior of the eco-activists back us up.

Protein Wisdom adds this:

The “Greens” are no more interested in clean air and water today than the Soviets were in liberty when they rolled tanks into Prague in 1968. We dismiss them as “silly” at our own peril.

A New Political Gambit

It used to be that the Presidential trick was to set goals, such as "balancing the budget" targeted at a date several years after he has left office.  Now, political candidates are going to the next step:  Setting goals targeted at a date several years after they will be safely dead:

…[Clinton’s] plan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of global warming…Hillary would increase fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2030…

By the way, 80 percent below 1990 levels is what? The bottom of the great depression?

First Against the Wall

It appears that civil discourse on climate science may soon not be possible, as folks like this are discussing use of violence against those who do not support the religion of catastrophic man-made global warming. 

These are words to contemplate as we head into a 2008 without any significant action taken by the US government (to say nothing of other countries) on climate change. We are in critical battle for this planet, and we need to think seriously about doing whatever it takes to stop the actions which are destroying the land and seas…and contributing to snowballing (or, more appropriately, snow-melting) climate collapse. Are petitions, lobby days, call-ins, protests, and nonviolent civil disobedience enough?

I hear Galileo had the same problem.  By the way, I certainly found it entertaining that the author signs his call to violence against people who do not share the same science as he "in good heart."

(via Tom Nelson)

Reponse to Greg Craven’s “How the World Ends” Video

Apparently, a video by Greg Craven called "How the World Ends" has been getting a lot of attention, supposedly because it prevents an irrefutable argument for immediatley taking drastic action to fight global warming (presumably by handing the world economy over to the UN).  A newspaper asked me for my reponse, and I thought I would share it here as well:

Mr. Craven’s risk management argument is not a new one, though certainly he is a clever filmmaker.  Mr. Craven argues that the potential outcomes of global warming are so bad that, even if we are uncertain and the risk is small, it is still worth it for the world to take aggressive action to abate CO2 today.  He uses a number of examples, including car insurance.  He argues that one buys car insurance without actually knowing if he is going to crash his car, or how much such a crash might cost.  If I had to summarize my response to Mr. Craven, I would retort "Yes, but you wouldn’t pay $35,000 for car insurance if you only had a $30,000 car?"  Costs matter a lot, as does the magnitude of risk.  They can’t just be shuffled off to the side.

Mr. Craven’s video is a clever kind of sleight of hand, built to disguise the fact that it rests on three very shaky points:

  • At the 5:24 mark, he pins the entire argument that global warming costs and probabilities outweigh the costs of CO2 abatement on statements by the NAS and NAAS.  In the beginning of the video, he says that he will make an argument that does not rely on wading into the scientific debate.  But that is in fact wrong — his whole argument falls apart if one does not choose to rely on these two scientific bodies as authorities, or even if one does not agree with Mr. Craven’s reading of these authorities (which I can attest is ambiguous from having actually read the NAS report).  The NAS study has been portrayed by climate catastrophists as saying many things it did not actually say.  It did say that man was probably warming the climate some (which folks like myself do not deny).  The report did not say, as Mr. Craven claims, that immediate action was less costly than allowing global warming to happen.  It is easy to get the impression Mr. Craven has of the NAS report from reading media summaries of that report, but impossible to have that view had he actually read the report himself.  This is fairly typical of climate journalism (sorry) but the media reports and press releases almost never match the real content of the science.  This is a well-documented problem with the UN IPCC, where the political appointees crafted the summary first, and then sent it around to scientists and asked them to make sure their sections of the science matched the politician’s summary.
  • Mr. Craven’s argument for prioritizing global warming above every other policy issue relies on global warming being, literally, the end of civilization: Climate Armageddon.  He argues for this view at the 8:21 mark by positing that climate has a tipping point, beyond which it goes unstable and bad stuff accelerates.  Tipping points, and in fact most catastrophic climate forecasts, are based on assumptions that the climate is dominated by positive feedback, assumptions for which there is no scientific proof!  Yes, CO2 can warm the world, and most scientists agree that it will warm the world about a degree C for a doubling in CO2 concentrations.  Even catastrophic forecasts begin with this assumption, but then get to 4, 5, 6 degree warming forecasts by assuming there are positive feedbacks that amplify the temperature change.  But the climate system is one that has remained stable, within fairly narrow bounds, for millions of years.  This despite enormous perturbations such as meteors and volcanoes and changes in the sun.  Had the climate been dominated by positive feedback, or even feedback that is greater than one (which leads to tipping points) then the climate would have run away long ago.  Most natural processes are not dominated by positive feedback and most certainly don’t have such tipping points.  Scientists always assume a natural process is dominated by negative feedback until proven otherwise, except, I guess, in climate.  The tipping point argument is an invention of late by climate scientists trying to justify catastrophic warming forecasts that greatly exceed the warming in the historical data.  When one looks at warming over the last century, it is hard to get a forecast much higher than about a degree for warming over the next century.  What if I told you that the relationship between CO2 and temperature is a diminishing curve, such that each additional unit of CO2 has less effect on temperature than the last.  Would you believe me?  Probably not, but it is a scientific fact, even among climate scientists.  Take from it what you will that some climate scientists posit an accelerating effect from a decelerating relationship.

This is another bit of sleight of hand that goes on among climate catastrophists.  They always retort that the science is really strong and complete.  Yes, but for what proposition?  I would agree that the science is good for a first proposition that the world is warming some, and that a part of that is due to CO2, and that we will see some more man-made warming in the next century, on  the order of about a degree C (if the sun doesn’t do anything radical).  But the science is at best equivocal, and more accurately nearly non-existent, for the second proposition that the climate is dominated by positive feedbacks and will run away once it reaches some tipping point.  The weight of scientific opinion is against this latter proposition.  But catastrophists try to hide this tipping point proposition, for which there is no evidence, under the umbrella of support for the first proposition.  And the media (sorry again) lets them get away with it.  By the way, the science really gets sloppy and weak if we get to the arena of projected outcomes, such as sea levels and hurricanes.  For example, most scientific forecasts believe the sea level rise over the next century from even four degrees of warming would be about 15 inches, not the 20 feet Al Gore keeps quoting.  Further, every story about global warming likes to talk about droughts, but if the world is warming, megatons more water will be evaporated into the atmosphere.  Rain on average has to increase, not decrease, in a warming world.

  • Mr. Craven discusses the cost of abating CO2 and fighting global warming in the film at minute, uh, minute….  Oh, wait, he never mentions it.  He does a whole video on costs and risks and prioritization of our efforts without every worrying about this key element.  It would be like sitting though a 10 minute presentation on car insurance talking about potential things that could damage your car and the risks of each and then asking you to buy the insurance without once telling you how much the insurance costs.

I have made climate videos too (both more fact-based but less dynamic than Mr. Craven’s), and I can take you through the calculation that Mr. Craven omits.  The world economy is now about $60 trillion.  If, over the next 100 years, it grows at 3% real, then in 2108 it will be $1,153 trillion in size.  OK, now lets assume that fighting global warming knocks 1 percentage point off world economic growth, for  a new growth of 2% real.  Then, in 2108 our world economy would only be $435 trillion in size.  In other words, reducing world economic growth over the next century reduces the size of the world economy in 2108 by $718 trillion per year.  So, is the cost of global warming greater than $718 trillion per year?  Further, if we begin such an abatement program as was desired by many environmental leaders in Bali, then these abatement costs in terms of lost growth and poverty will be certain.  In our decision-making model, we must pencil them in at 100%.  And how about warming?  If we assume the really harsh results are, say, 20% certainty, then their costs must be five times higher than these abatement costs to justify action. Does anyone really expect that the cost of warming will be 5 x $718 trillion = $3.6 quadrillion per year?

Surely you are thinking I did something wrong in this analysis.  How can it be so much?  Surely I must be estimating that wrong.  Well, yes I am.  I am probably underestimating the cost.  The strong global warming catastrophists are arguing that CO2 output needs to be reduced to 10-30% less than it was in 1990 (update:  Hillary Clinton proposes 80% less than 1990).  Given current technologies, this likely will mean negative economic growth over the next decades.  The advocates for such action even admit this.  There is no way we can meet these targets and let China and India develop.  This means that a billion plus people who are on the verge of stepping out of poverty for the first time ever will have to be told, sorry, you must stay poor.   We’re talking about more disease, more death,  more vulnerability to natural disasters and everything else poverty brings.  The recent Bangladesh cyclone is a great example.  Thousands died in that storm, mainly because they were vulnerable due to their poverty.  Horrendous hurricanes have hit the US in recent decades and we have not had thousands die.  The reason is wealth.  Wealth matters.  We think of wealth as a Wall Street guy buying a new Ferrari, but when we talk about the world, wealth is the ability to build a strong enough house and have good enough emergency systems and transportation to not die in a hurricane.   It is why a very good argument can be made that even if man-made global warming causes a few more hurricanes, it may well be better to be wealthier and ready to deal with them than be poorer and more vulnerable to fewer storms. 

Catastrophists try to lull us with cute little messages about recycling and carpooling that make the solution seem so easy.  But this is just more sleight of hand, to distract us from the fact that all of us will be made poorer by abatement efforts.  If you told folks in the US that their economy would be like India (as did the Stern report), I don’t think the video would have had many takers.  Which is not to say we should never prepare for anything, but that costs matter.  Nothing we have done to date in environmental improvements even comes orders of magnitude within the realm of the CO2 abatement targets being discussed.  Why is CO2 different?  To date, we have always gone ofter contaminants.  Lead in gasoline was bad so we removed it and found different additives.  Sulfur in fuel might cause acid rain, so we took it out. Effluent is polluting rivers so it needs to be disposed of more carefully.  But CO2 is fundamental to combustion of anything but a few elements (like hydrogen).  We can’t keep our economy, which runs on fossil fuels, chugging along by refining the fuel a bit more.  We have to shut down combustion altogether to get rid of CO2.

Finally, it is always interesting to me how the many children of the 1960’s, who used to argue for personal liberties and who now make up so much of the global warming movement, put so little value on the loss of freedoms.  One additional large cost to CO2 abatement will be the loss of freedoms we experience, from the small (reduced choice in cars) to the problematic (limits on airplane flights) to the real hardships (limits on children).  Any crash effort to reduce CO2 emissions will entail substantial erosions in individual freedoms which, if they don’t have costs to climate catastrophists, certainly have a cost to me.  [update]  From here

{Mayer} Hillman, senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute, says carbon rationing is the only way to ensure that the world avoids the worst effects of climate change. And he says that the problems caused by burning fossil fuels are so serious that governments might have to implement rationing against the will of the people.

“When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it,” he says. “This has got to be imposed on people whether they like it or not.” [update]

Postscript: About a century ago, many leading scientists thought there were intelligent, civilization-building creatures on Mars.  Percival Lowell, who had far more prominence as a scientist than any of today’s climate scientists, was sure of it.  Clearly, some thought that these beings posed risks to our civilization.  H.G. Wells and, even decades later, Orson Wells played on these fears.  What if we had initiated a huge program to build defense systems against such a threat.  Sure, the threat was unknown, but could we really wait until we are sure? What if those preparations had cost a full percentage of our economic growth rate, leaving us with only a third of the income we might have had.  Everyone would have only a third of the income they do today, and many of the conveniences and medicines and facilities we take for granted today would likely not exist, or only exist as reach people’s toys.  And would we have been safer from any Martians, given we would have been building defenses with 1900-era rather than more modern technologies?

Update:  fixed Mr. Craven’s name in the post title

2007: The Hottest Year for Climate Rhetoric

While 2007 will be one of the coolest years in over a decade, there is a 95 to 99% chance that it is the hottest year in the last one thousand for climate rhetoric.  If I had to bet, I would guess that Al Gore is probabaly going to be Time’s Man of the Year, giving him the trifecta of politically correct recognition this year. 

The disconnect with actual science couldn’t be any more stark.  While skeptics have been losing the media battles, the science in 2007 really helped add a lot of ammunition to the skeptic’s arsenals.  Almost every major study that actually involved looking at actual climate rather than bits in a computer has tended to undermine or cast doubt on the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming. 

Bali Updates

I have had several emails asking me for more Bali coverage.  Which reminds me that I have never really explained what I am trying to do with this blog.  My goal is to be a reporter of the science side of climate.   There are many skeptics blogs out there, but I didn’t see enough science on them for my tastes.  There are a number of good climate science blogs, but most cater to a knowlegeable community of insiders.  I am working to demystify some of the science and present it for the layman.  This does not mean that I never touch on issues like Kyoto or the Bali conference, but it means that I don’t try to report all the blow by blows, particularly when I have not yet gotten my Christmas shopping done ;=)

If you want to follow all of the back and forth at Bali and day-to-day in climate from the skeptic’s viewpoint, Tom Nelson has been very busy, linking away every day, of late acting like the Instapundit of the skeptic community.

Solving Global Warming Through Squalor

Cross-posted from Coyote Blog:

I really want to thank Michael Tobis at environmentalist hang-out Grist.   For years people have accused me of over-reading  the intentions of climate catastrophists, so I am thankful that Tobis has finally stated what climate catastrophists are after (emphasis in the original, but it is the exact phrase I would have highlighted as well)

Is infinite growth of some meaningful   quantity possible in a finite space? No scientist is inclined to think   so, but economists habitually make this   claim without bothering to defend it with anything but, "I’m, an   economist and I say so", or perhaps more thoughtfully, "hey, it’s   worked until now".

Such ideas were good approximations in the past. Once the finite   nature of our world comes into play they become very bad approximations. You know, the gods of Easter Island smiled on its people "until now" for a long time, until they didn’t. The presumption of growth is so pervasive that great swaths of economic theory simply fail to make any sense if a negative growth rate occurs. What, for instance, does a negative discount rate portend? …

The   whole growth thing becomes a toxic addiction. The only path to a soft   landing is down; we in the overheated economies need to learn not just   to cope with decline but to celebrate it. We need not just an ideology   but a formal theory that can not only cope with reduced per capita   impact but can target it.

Decline isn’t bad news in an airplane. Decline is about reaching your destination. Perhaps there is some level of economic activity beyond which life gets worse? Perhaps in some countries we have already passed that point? Could the time where we’d all be better off with a gradual decline have arrived? How much attention should we pay to the folks who say we should keep climbing, that there’s no way we can run out of fuel, that we’ll think of something?

So there it is, in the third paragraph, with no danger of misinterpretation.  These folks want economic decline.  That’s a fancy way of saying "We want you poorer."

I could spend weeks writing about the fallacies and anti-human philosophy embedded in these four paragraphs, but here are just a few reactions.

The Zero Sum Fallacy

Every generation has people, like Mr. Tobis, who scream that we are all living in a petri dish and this is the generation we run out of Agar.  Of course they are always wrong.  Why? 

Well, first, the prime driver of economic growth is not resources but the human mind.  And the world of ideas has no capacity limits.   This is an  issue that Julian Simon wrote about so clearly.   Tobis is trying to apply physical models to wealth creation, and they just don’t apply.  (and by the way, ask the passengers of TWA flight 800 if decline isn’t bad news in an airplane).

Further, if we talk about the world of resources, we currently use a trivial fraction of the world’s resources.  By a conservative estimate, we have employed at most (including the soil we till for agriculture, extracted minerals, etc) less than 0.0001% of the earth’s mass.  In terms of energy, all energy (except nuclear) comes ultimately from the sun  (fossil fuels, hydropower reservoirs, etc are just convenient storage repositories of the sun’s energy).  We currently use an infinitesimal percentage of the sun’s energy. I wrote much more on the zero-sum wealth fallacy here.  And here is my ancestor blogger in Coyote Broadsheet making the same fallacy as Mr. Tobis back in the 19th century, writing on the Peak Whale Theory.

Wealth Benefits the Environment

Just like actual 20th century data tends to undermine catastrophic climate forecasts, experience over the last century tends to contradict the notion that growth is devastating to the environment. 

We can find the best example right here in the environmental Satan called the USA.  The US has cleaner air and water today than in any time in decades.  Because of technology and growth, we can produce more food on less land than ever — in fact the amount of land dedicated to agriculture has shrunk for years, allowing forests to steadily expand in the US for over eighty years (that is, until the environmentalists got the government to subsidize ethanol).   No one in Brazil would be burning huge tracts of the Amazon if they enjoyed the agricultural productivity we do in the US.  Sure, we have done some things that turn out to be environmentally bad (e.g. lead in gasoline) but our wealth has allowed us to fairly painlessly fix these mistakes, even if the fixes have not come as fast as environmentalists have desired. 

I will confess that the Chinese seem hell bent on messing up their air and water as much as possible, but, just like the United States, it will be the wealthy middle and upper class of China that will finally demand that things get cleaned up, and it will be their wealth, not their poverty, that allows them to do so.   Similarly, I don’t think CO2 reduction will do much of anything to improve our climate, but if we find it necessary, it will be through application of wealth, not squalor, that we overcome the problems. 

Here is a simple test:  Which countries of the world have the worst environmental problems?  Its is the poorest countries, not the wealthiest.

Growth / Climate Tradeoffs

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that man-made global warming increases severed storm frequency by 20%, or by 3 or 4 extra hurricanes a year (why this probably is not happening).  Even a point or two knocked off worldwide economic growth means hundreds of trillions of dollars in lost annual GDP a century from now (2% growth yields a world economy of $450 trillion in a century.  3% growth yields a world economy $1,150 trillion in a hundred years.)  So, using these figures, would the world be better off with the current level of hurricanes, or would it be better off with four more hurricanes but $700 trillion a year more to deal with them.  Hmmm.  Remember, life lost in a hurricane correlates much higher with poverty in the area the hurricane hit rather than with storm strength, as demonstrated by recent cyclones in Asia.  This general line of reasoning is usually described as warmer and richer vs. cooler and poorer

I cannot speak for Mr. Tobis, but many environmentalists find this kind of reasoning offensive.  They believe that it is a sin for man to modify the earth at all, and that changing the climate in any way is wrong, even if man is not hurt substantially by this change.  Of course, in climate, we have only been observing climate for 30-100 years, while climate goes through decadal, millennial, and even million-year cycles.  So it is a bit hard to tell exactly what is natural for Gaia and what is not, but that does stop environmentalists from declaring that they know what is unnatural.  I grew up in the deep South, and their position sounds exactly like a good fiery Baptist minister preaching on the sins of humanity. 

More from Jerry Taylor, who got Tobis started on his rant in the first place.

Postscript:  Here is an interesting chicken or the egg problem:  Do you think Mr. Tobias learned about man-made global warming first, and then came to the conclusion that growth is bad?  Or did Mr. Tobias previously believe that man needed to be fewer and poorer, and become enthusiastic about global warming theory as a clever packaging for ideas most of the world’s population would reject?  The answer to this question is a window on why 1)  the socialists and anti-globalization folks have been so quiet lately (the have all jumped onto global warming); 2)  no one in the global warming movement wants to debate the science any longer  (because the point is not the science but the license to smack down the world economy)  and 3)  why so much of the Bali conference seems to be about wealth transfers than environmentalism.

Hadley: 99+% Chance Climate Sensitivity is Greater than 2

Climate sensitivity to CO2 is typically defined as the amount of warming that would be caused by CO2 levels rising from pre-industrial 280ppm to a doubled concentration at 460ppm.  Via Ron Bailey, here is what Hadley presented at Bali today:

Hadley climate models project that if atmospheric concentrations of GHG were stabilized at 430 ppm, we run a 63 percent chance that the earth’s eventual average temperature would exceed 2 degrees Celsius greater than pre-industrial temperatures and 10 percent chance they would rise higher than 3 degrees Celsius. At 450 ppm, the chances rise to 77 percent and 18 percent respectively. And if concentrations climb to 550 ppm, the chances that average temperatures would exceed 2 degrees Celsius are 99 percent and are 69 percent for surpassing 3 degrees Celsius.

I encourage you to check out this post wherein I struggle, based on empirical data, to get a sensitivity higher than 1.2, and even that is only achieved by assuming that all 20th century warming is from CO2, which is unlikely.  A video of the same analysis is below:

However, maybe this is good news, since many climate variables in 2007, including hurricane numbers and global temperatures, came out in the bottom 1 percentile of predicted outcomes from climate models.

Congrats to the Associated Press

I want to congratulate the Associated Press and the Arizona Republic for running this story:

Scientists fear Arctic thaw has reached ‘tipping point’

On the exact same day that this was published:

Arctic Sea Ice Re-Freezing at Record Pace

The record melting of Arctic sea ice observed this summer and fall led to record-low levels of ice in both September and October, but a record-setting pace of re-freezing in November, according to the NASA Earth Observatory. Some 58,000 square miles of ice formed per day for 10 days in late October and early November, a new record.

Still, the extent of sea ice recorded in November was well shy of the median extent observed over the past quarter century, as the image from Nov. 14 (above, right) shows. The dramatic increase in ice is evident, when compared to the record-low amount observed Sept. 16 (below, right). In both images, 100% sea ice is shown in white, and the yellow line encompasses the area ion which there was at least 15% ice cover in at least half of the 25-year record for the given month.

The re-freeze continues in December, such that the ice coverage is pretty much at the median level today.  The AP/Republic article is admirably free of any new facts except the oft-repeated "Arctic ice at all-time low,"  all-time of course meaning not all-time but in the last 30 years that we have been able to observe by sattellite.  And neither article bothers to mention the high coverage record that was set in the South Pole this very same year.

The AZ Republic article is mostly made up of dueling catastrophists competing to see who can have the most dire forecast:

Just last year, two top scientists surprised their colleagues by projecting that the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040.

This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions."

Anytime you see someone use the word "tipping" point in relation to climate, you should immediately be skeptical.  Tipping points imply runaway positive feedback, something that is a feature of nuclear fission but is generally not a feature of stable natural processes.  TJIC said it well the other day:

Wow, it’s almost as if there are negative feedback loops that keep the system centered, despite occasional perturbations.

Which is odd, because to listen to the global warming alarmists, one concludes that:

(a) the environment is a delicately balanced system that can be pushed, by the least little perturbation, into a runaway positive feedback loop, turning the Earth into another Venus.

(b) over the last 200 million years there have been asteroid impacts, brightenings and darkenings of the sun, and massive volcano eruptions, but the Earth’s environment has always returned to a slow oscillation around a moderate middle point.

Updates:  New NASA study says Artic melting part of a natural cycle.  Post here debunking the myth that the Northwest Passage was never opened prior to 2007.  More on tipping points in this post.

Climate Activism is about Socialism, Not Science

The first is from Ronald Bailey, at Reason, in a dispatch from Bali:

Without going into the details, the Greenhouse Development Rights Framework (GDR) proposal foresees levying the equivalent of a climate "consumption luxury tax" on every person who earns over a "development threshold" of $9,000 per year. The idea is that rich people got rich in part by dumping carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuels into the atmosphere, leaving less space for poor people to dump their emissions. In one scenario, Americans would pay the equivalent of a $780 per person luxury tax annually, which amounts to sending $212 billion per year in climate reparations to poor countries to aid their development and help them adapt to climate change. In this scenario, the total climate reparations that the rich must transfer annually is over $600 billion. This contrasts with a new report commissioned by the U.N. Development Program that only demands $86 billion per year to avoid "adaptation apartheid."

The second link comes via Tom Nelson, and is from Emma Brindal, "Climate Justice Campaign Coordinator" for Friends of the Earth Australia.

A common theme was that the “solutions” to climate change that are being posed by many governments, such as nuclear power, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and biofuels are false and are not rooted in justice. Another point was that as this current ecomonic system got us here in the first place, a climate change response must have at its heart a redistribution of wealth and resources.

I would love to put Emma Brindal on stage and ask her even for a simplified explanation of a good median forecast for climate sensitivity and why.  I’d bet a million dollars she would flounder in any debate on the science.  Because it is not about the science.  Its about Ms. Brindal’s long-standing desire to attack freedom and capitalism, and climate catastrophism being a convinient vehicle, at the moment, to reach that goal.

False Sense of Certainty

Bruce Hall observes that climate forecasters probably need to adjust their confidence intervals.  For example:

  • NOAA predicted a the beginning of this season that there was an 85% chance of an above-normal season.  In fact, the hurricane season was well below average.  I haven’t done the math, but my guess is that if their forecast showed 85% probability of above normal, the year probably came in in the bottom 1% of its expected distributions
  • The UK Met Office predicted that there was a 60% probability that world temperatures in 2007 would be the highest in the last 100+ years, ie higher than temperatures in 1998.  In fact, it looks like 2007 will be among the coolest years in decades, and will come in as much as a half degree C below 1998, a huge difference.  Again, I have not run the numbers, but it is safe to say that this outcome would probably have been in the bottom 1% of the original forecast distribution.

If all your forecasts are coming out in the bottom 1% of the forecast range, then it is safe to assume that one is not forecasting very well.  Which reminds me of Michael Mann, who said with famous confidence that there was a 95-99% probability that 1998 was the hottest year in the last 1000, which is an absurd claim.  (Mann now denies having said this, but he is actually on film saying it, about 25 seconds into the linked clip).

The Maoist Solution to Global Warming

A while back I commented on a local newspaper article that analized the habits of a few families and suggested some nice little things the family could do to go green.  I observed that none of these proposed actions would do anything to abate CO2 in any meaningful way, and argued that the hidden agenda of such articles was to make the discussed aggresive CO2 reduction targets seem easy and painless to reach. 

In that article, they parise a couple of families for their efforts.  I observed that these families had between three and four kids, and that the people running the global warming movement would not be satisfied with their reusing of water bottles.  They would demand that similar families in the future give up their kids.  I wrote:

  • Everything you buy requires fossil fuels to produce, so you may only have half as much.  That means food for you and your kids too. 
  • In the next generation, no one is going to be having five and four kids.  Certainly those green Europeans would never do something as damaging as having four or five kids.  If you had aborted a few of the little darlings, just think how much CO2 you would have avoided?
  • The article says all your kids play sports.  OK, pick half of your kids, and tell them they don’t get to play sports any more.  Gotta cut that driving in half.  The good news is the other half of the kids can still play.
  • Those vacations you took last summer, to escape the heat in Arizona, well cut them in half as well.  That little play area in the mall makes a nice alternative to seeing Yellowstone, and all those tourists are just environmentally damaging Yellowstone anyway.

But cutting through my snark, the actual Maoist proposals for limiting children to save global warming are definitely out there (via Tom Nelson)

A WEST Australian medical expert wants families to pay a $5000-plus "baby levy" at birth and an annual carbon tax of up to $800 a child.

Writing in today’s Medical Journal of Australia, Associate Professor Barry Walters said every couple with more than two children should be taxed to pay for enough trees to offset the carbon emissions generated over each child’s lifetime.

Professor Walters, clinical associate professor of obstetric medicine at the University of Western Australia and the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth, called for condoms and "greenhouse-friendly" services such as sterilisation procedures to earn carbon credits.

And he implied the Federal Government should ditch the $4133 baby bonus and consider population controls like those in China and India.

Professor Walters said the average annual carbon dioxide emission by an Australian individual was about 17 metric tons, including energy use.

"Every newborn baby in Australia represents a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions for an average of 80 years, not simply by breathing but by the profligate consumption of resources typical of our society," he wrote.

So you thought that the socialists, the anti-growth / anti-technology folks, and the anti-globalization rioters all have gone silent over the last few years?  WRONG!  They have all joined the global warming movement — in fact, in many cases, they are driving the movement.  They have found that the global warming packaging can help them resell their failed ideas.  That is why no one in the global warming catastrophist movement wants to talk about the science.  Because its not about the science.  It is about the ends that they desire, and they have discovered that the global warming panic is the best possible vehicle for reaching those ends.

Heading Back to the 19th Century

For all of you who trust environmentalists when they declare that the science of catastrophic man-made global warming is "settled,"  it might be time to start digging into the facts a little deeper.  Because these folks are aiming to send you back to the 19th century:

The Conservatives will also suggest – most controversially of all – rationing individuals to as little as a single short-haul flight each year; any further journeys would attract progressively higher taxes, a leaked document entitled Greener Skies suggests.

via Tom Nelson

This Warning Could Be Attached to All Global Warming Reporting

The NRO has appologized for the reporting and editing surrounding W. Thomas Smith’s recent trip to Lebanon.  But in reading their appology, it struck me that it could apply to nearly all global warming reporting.  Let me show you:

Having reviewed his work, we cannot vouch for the accuracy of his reporting. In general, too much of [the reporter’s] information came from sources who had an incentive to exaggerate the threat [global warming poses to the world] — and these sources influenced his reporting for the whole of his trip. While we agree that that threat is very real, our readers should have had more information about [the reporter]’s sources so that they could have better evaluated the credibility of the information he was providing.

I apologize to all of our readers. We should have required [the reporter] to clearly source all of his original reporting from [Bali]. [The reporter] let himself become susceptible to spin by those [advocating the catastrophist global warming position], so his reporting from there should be read with that knowledge. (We are attaching this note to all his [global warming] reporting.) This was an editing failure as much as it was a reporting failure. We let him down, and we let you down, and we’re taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.