I watched the much-hyped BBC4 show climate change by numbers and thought it was pretty good. It covered 3 basic numbers; why we think global surface temperatures have risen by 0.85oC since 1880, why we’re 95% (or more) sure that more 50% of the warming since 1950 has been anthropogenic, and why – if we want to have a reasonable chance of keeping warming below 2oC – we can only emit a total of 1 trillion tonnes of Carbon (1000GtC).
The reason that we think we’ve warmed by 0.85oC since 1880 is because that’s what the data suggests. The programme did, however, do a very good job of describing how there are problems with the data and how these are corrected. I hadn’t realised that 1880 was the time when most sea surface temperature measurements were done with wooden, rather than canvas, buckets. It discussed Kalman filtering – more commonly known as homogenization – which is a method for dealing with errors in measurements taken over some time interval, and discussed Kriging, the method used by Cowtan & Way (2013) to account for coverage in the HadCRUT4 temperature dataset. What I hadn’t realised was that Kriging was pioneered in South Africa to estimate the distribution of gold in the Witwatersrand.That we’re at least 95% certain that more than 50% of the warming since 1950 was anthropogenic is probably best illustrated by the figure on the right, taken from this RealClimate post. The figure shows the distribution of the fractional contribution of the warming since 1950 that can be attributed to anthropogenic influences. The most likely contribution is about 110%, and there is only a very small chance that it could be as low as 50%. As the programme explained, this was an attribution study; you run models will all possible factors included and then remove certain influences to determine how much each of the different factors influenced the warming. In fact, the programme claimed that the actual analysis suggested that we should be more than 99% certain that more than 50% since 1950 was anthropogenic, but downgraded it to more than 95% because of other uncertainties. The 1000 GtC that we can emit overall if we want a reasonable chance of warming staying below 2oC is best illustrated by the figure on the left. It shows cumulative emissions (since 1870) with Carbon on the bottom axis and CO2 on the top. As is clear, anything more than 1000 GtC would probably result in more than 2oC of warming. Of course, you could change to some different climate sensitivity numbers if you wish (Nic Lewis’s, for example) but this would only change things by maybe 30% or so (so, maybe 1500GtC if some of the most optimistic estimates for climate sensitivity are right – which I suspect they are not).
I think this whole cumulative emissions issue is quite important and not necessarily well understood, so I thought I would stress a few things that maybe aren’t stressed often enough.
- How much we warm by some point in the future depends primarily on our total emissions, not on how fast or slow we emit. If we increase our emissions, we’ll simply warm faster than if we keep them constant or reduce them.
- Given the above, if there is some level of warming that will do extreme damage (and I think there obviously is) the faster we emit now, the more drastic our actions will need to be in future if we wish to avoid reaching that level. In other words, if there is a level of warming that will be damaging, then that sets the cumulative total anthropogenic emissions that we need to avoid in order to avoid this level of warming. Therefore, the more we emit now, the less we can emit in the future – assuming we want to avoid this level of warming.
- It’s largely irreversible. Once we’ve reached a certain level of warming, it will stay there even if we halt all emissions (which is clearly virtually impossible). In fact, if we were to reach the point where warming is clearly damaging, we can almost certainly not avoid continuing to warm. We could, presumably, start considering geo-engineering, but that carries it’s own extreme risks. Maybe we can find a way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but is that going to be easier than avoiding getting there in the first place?
So, I thought it was a good programme. Explained some really quite complex concepts very clearly. I’m assuming that people outside the UK may not have been able to watch it yet, but I believe there is an international version being produced (although, I don’t know for sure). I discovered that one of the presenters, Norman Fenton, has written his own post with some thoughts about the programme. Some of the final points may illustrate that even someone who can present a programme like this can give some of the controversies a bit more credence than many may regard as reasonable. In fact, that was maybe the one criticism of the programme – a slight focus on controversies that probably exist more in the public sphere, than in the scientific domain.
Those outside the UK can use a VPN like Hola.
The programme’s start worried me. I thought it might be too too simple. I was wrong.
for the next “by the numbers”, why is 2 degrees C the magic number?
That would be interesting. My feeling is that it’s unlikely that we can achieve it anymore.
My wife watched it and found it very interesting (as I did). However when I asked her about what she had learned from it she stressed the uncertainty and then, when I probed further, confirmed she hadn’t taken away any suggestion of urgency in dealing with the problem of climate change.
So interesting though it was, I doubt it will change many opinions. That said, I’m sure it was, carefully, not aiming to do that anyway.
Those outside the UK can watch it on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zqkPmM_hj4&feature=youtu.be
James Annan’s POV about the prog: http://julesandjames.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/climate-change-by-numbers.html
“Once we’ve reached a certain level of warming, it will stay there even if we halt all emissions (which is clearly virtually impossible).”
What about ocean uptake of CO2? In the long run it will absorb ~85% of emitted CO2 (with a decay timescale on the order of 100 years).
“for the next “by the numbers”, why is 2 degrees C the magic number?”
Isn’t it just an arbitrary political target? Also, ATTP’s comment “if there is a level of warming that will be damaging” is a bit overly simplistic in my view. The cost associated with AGW aren’t binary. It is probably better to think of costs as a continuous function of warming such that this continuous function has a positive second derivative.
James’s post is interesting. I must admit I took them at their word with regard to Kalman filters and just assumed it was a fancy word for the standard homogenization techniques. His comment about the 95% issue is also interesting. I’ll have to think about that a bit more.
Yes, but on the scale of 100-200 years, the uptake of CO2 largely balances the temperature rising towards equilibrium. So, if we were to halt emissions entirely, the temperature should remain approximately fixed (ignoring variability). See Steve Easterbrook’s post for details.
Well, yes and yes, but if there is some level of warming that would be an existential threat, we can presumably consider there being some level where the damage would be sufficient so as to avoid it if we can. It might not be possible to define it precisely, but presumably it exists.
Realclimate on committed warming and the effects of an immediate halt in emissions
Thanks, that is a good post. I do think the final few sentences are the crucial point
Just watched it on YouTube. A beautiful program. I especially liked how the show that the methods used in climate science are used in many sciences. Most of the complaints of mitigation sceptics about methods used in climatology would invalid many other sciences as well. In the imaginary case these complaints would have been valid.
The big lines were accurate. Which is all the more surprising given that many, many details were wrong. One of them:
It discussed Kalman filtering – more commonly known as homogenization – which is a method for dealing with errors in measurements taken over some time interval,
Sorry, homogenization is not a Kalman filter. With a lot of good will you could call the quality control for measurements with a clear error a Kalman filter. The removal of non-climatic changes is also linear algebra and also assumes a normal distribution, but that is where the correspondence ends.
They were also very vague about the connection between homogenization and Kalman filters. I guess they realised it was not entirely correct, but the beautiful footage of space rockets was too good to cut this out.
(Alexandra Freeman is the producer of CCBN.)
The Stern Review estimated that stabilising CO2 at 550ppm would limit the damage to 1% of world GDP. He regarded this as the crossover point beyond which it would cause unacceptable economic damage.
At the time of the review 550ppm was regarded as likely to produce about 2C of warming. The latter figure was more comprehensible to the average politician.
Yes, James Annan pointed that out too. I’m going to have to think about the whole prosecutor’s fallacy issue a bit more, though.
The year to year variability of the annual average is about 1 degree locally. Many ecological processes depend on this. With 2 degrees you get outside of the variability such organisms and eco-systems are adapted to.
For some processes, such as the sea level rise or the melting to ice sheets, larger time periods and spatial regions are important. They react to much smaller changes in the climate.
Some processes depend on smaller time scales and will be robust for a longer time. And we should also not forget the systems that are not only influenced by temperature, but also be changes in precipitation and circulation. Thus the above discussion just provides some understanding, but is not fool proof.
The 2 degree limit makes some sense looking at impact studies, you can see more and more systems we depend on being affected by climate change when you cross that limit.
However, the damages grow continually, there is no abrupt jump at 2 degrees. Furthermore, you have to weight damages against the mitigation costs. This is done implicitly in the 2 degree limit. If it were easy to change our energy system, I am sure people would have agreed on a 1 degree limit in 1990 or even less.
Maybe it is better to make an explicit trade of between costs and damages and agree on a price on carbon rather than a temperature limit. This price could then depend on how rich a country is and how much it has emitted in the past. A price is also a continuous number, sounds to me easier to negotiate about it and to adjust it when we understand the problem better.
@ ATTP –
“Yes, but on the scale of 100-200 years, the uptake of CO2 largely balances the temperature rising towards equilibrium. So, if we were to halt emissions entirely, the temperature should remain approximately fixed (ignoring variability). See Steve Easterbrook’s post for details.”
Except, from what I can tell, Easterbrook is using a model that has an effective decay time of ~300 years for CO2 levels towards equilibrium, so temperatures might drop slightly. But in any case, I see your point.
I find it a bit weird that Easterbrook is looking at a linear trend between temperature anomaly and cumulative CO2 emissions, when clearly such a trend overstates future warming.
@Victor – “Maybe it is better to make an explicit trade of between costs and damages and agree on a price on carbon rather than a temperature limit. This price could then depend on how rich a country is and how much it has emitted in the past. A price is also a continuous number, sounds to me easier to negotiate about it and to adjust it when we understand the problem better.”
Why should the price depend on how rich a country is or how much it has emitted in the past? Past emissions are a sunk cost. It’s these kind of ‘policy recommendations’ that people make with respect to climate change that make a lot of the public suspect that people are trying to hijack climate change for the purposes of furthering some political goal. If you want to advocate wealth transfer from rich countries to poor countries on it’s own merits, that is fine. But it would be preferable not to hijack the issue of climate change for this.
The economically efficient thing to do would be to calculate the marginal external cost of emitting additional CO2 and implement a global CO2 emission tax which is equal to this marginal external cost. This is simply the approach of implementing an Pigouvian Tax. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigovian_tax
I had a look as well. My impression is that the program tried to give a picture of, how science approaches this kind of complex issue, and gave less weight on the ultimate results. As others have already said, many details were not fully correct, but that’s not a serious fault in this kind of TV documentary (although it may provide fuel for those who want to argue against the program).
I think that it was a good idea to concentrate on science this one time – as BBC has done with many other areas of science before, but perhaps not with climate science.
The main fault of the program is perhaps that it must be too heavy to people, who don’t know already most of the concepts. So many different approaches were described in succession that a lot of concentration is required to pick even the main points of each of them.
That would be true in an ideal world where markets are perfect, which implies also that the purchasing power of currencies are given by the currency exchange rates in a way that applies to everybody from the poorest to the richest. That’s, however, not even a reasonable approximation. In an open market an equal Pigovian tax might lead to the rich buying the food out of the mouth of the poor (or paying so much for fertile land that the poorest cannot afford to continue subsistence farming).
I’m in favor of Pigovian type carbon taxes, but that requires that problems of the above type are solved by some differentiation of the burden.
-1: Why should the price depend on how rich a country is or how much it has emitted in the past?
Mitigation sceptics tend to worry a lot about genocide of poor people due to increases in the price of energy. So much that the regularly claim that scientists trying to understand climate change are fascists just for doing their work and reporting on their finding. Thus I had assumed that most people agree that it is not a good idea to put a high energy tax on the poor. You are right that this is a moral issue, not a scientific one. Thus if you prefer that poor people die, feel free to express that opinion.
That how much you have contributed to a problem in the past determines how much you are supposed to do to solve it is also a moral principle. I thought a relatively general one, but I must admit that I have a hard time understanding the moral values of mitigation sceptics and sometimes have the feeling they do not want to tell the world what their real aims and values are. The publicly expressed opinions often gives the impression of being inconsistent and illogical.
Good idea for a program, but the light-sticks and light-writing were a bad effect in search of a reason to use it.
Did anyone start counting how often they used the word ‘controversy’ ?
Picking just one problem for this argument is overly simplistic. The industrialized countries have changed the state of the world in innumerable ways, Many are improvements while others have worsened the starting point of the future generations. A moral principle should take all these equally into account as the changes have not been independent parts of the history, but how to do that? Picking just CO2 is most definitely not justifiable in this wider context.
Ah, yes, the light sticks. If I would not know what kriging is, I would now think that it is just a kernel smoother. It is much more powerful and beautiful.
It’s already up on youtube…
Picking just one problem for this argument is overly simplistic. The industrialized countries have changed the state of the world in innumerable ways, Many are improvements
Fine by me, that is up for negotiations. I would argue that it is typical to separate issues, if only because they otherwise become intractable. If you killed someone, you do not get free by showing that you saved 2 children before.
However, the current treaty also basically ignores what was done before 1990. Assuming that people did not know what they were doing before. That is politics. You are right that the West also did a lot of good, but I am not so sure that the people outside of the West see the West as mainly improving the world. If only for the way the borders were drawn in the colonial times that are still a source of regional conflict and internal political conflict. Thus this will be difficult negotiations. Fortunately, past emission contributions correlate highly with wealth, so the same result can be achieved using wealth as argument.
ATTP: Suggesteed edit to second sentence of the final paragraph of the OP. It currently reads:
I discovered that one of the presenters had written their own post with some thoughts about the programme.
Replace “their with “his”.
Ahh, I thought it seemed similar to the kernel smoothing that’s used in Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics, but you’re making it sound much more sophisticated.
I can, but I’m not sure I understand why.
I think JH is referring to the fact that ‘their’ is plural. Although he’s right I think this is one example where the English language is evolving. ‘Their’ is often used nowadays where the writer or speaker wants to make gender non-specific, or where it’s not known. Like when the author is called ‘Jan’ or ‘Kim’.
Oh great and now we get the kinder and gentler Wegman
Any real details of the underlying statistical methods and assumptions. For example, there has been controversy about the way a method called principal component analysis was used to create the famous hockey stick graph that appeared in previous IPCC reports. Although the problems with that method were recognised it is not obvious how or if they have been avoided in the most recent analyses.
“In an open market an equal Pigovian tax might lead to the rich buying the food out of the mouth of the poor (or paying so much for fertile land that the poorest cannot afford to continue subsistence farming).”
So you are suggesting an approach that maximizes utility. That’s fine but it does lead to a number of complications. For one there is the whole issue of defining a social welfare function that everyone can agree upon. Secondly, there is the question of if one world governments should try to maximize global social welfare, then why not do that in the absence of climate change (i.e. why is it only due to climate change that social welfare should be maximized). Thirdly, if you are having all this wealth transfer, then it will become harder to get all countries to agree to some sort of deal.
In any case, even if what you say is correct, it is more efficient to have a single Pigouvian tax globally and just perform lump-sum transfers between countries to deal with these inequality issues (this will result in the largest reduction of emissions for a given global tax burden).
“You are right that this is a moral issue, not a scientific one.”
Exactly. The scientific method alone cannot tell people want to do. 😉
“That how much you have contributed to a problem in the past determines how much you are supposed to do to solve it is also a moral principle.”
This is like christian level morality (original sin + talking snake + rib lady); that people are morally guilty for the sins of their ancestors. Guess what, I wasn’t alive 40 years ago, I don’t own a car, I use public transport + walk, I don’t go on vacations, I can barely afford to pay bills. But I’m somehow ‘guilty’ of past emissions done by people a lot wealthier than me who didn’t even know about the issue of climate change? How does that make sense?
And even ignoring the obvious flaw in being somehow guilty of what other people do, there is the issue of consistency. If developed countries should give ‘climate reparations’ to developing countries for the supposed negative externalities imposed upon them by the climate sins of developed countries, then shouldn’t developing countries give money to developed countries for the positive externalities associated with all the technology that developed countries developed using those fossil fuel emissions?
“I thought a relatively general one, but I must admit that I have a hard time understanding the moral values of mitigation sceptics and sometimes have the feeling they do not want to tell the world what their real aims and values are.”
Why does one need to find some real aim or moral value of someone posing questions about mitigation? If the case for mitigation were that strong, then it would be better just to address the questions and present the evidence. Trying to find some hidden motive seems like an attempt to strawman someone or use an appeal to motive fallacy.
I’m with John Hartz on this one; my pedantic ears cringe every time I see or hear “their” being used as a subsitute for a non-existing third person singular genderless pronoun.
Why no such thing exists is interesting. The second person pronoun “you” is inherently genderless (and also does not imply number) as is the first person pronoun “I”.
So I suppose extending the numberless nature of “you” (like “deer”; one deer, ten deer) to “their” is reasonable but I still don’t like it.
“I think JH is referring to the fact that ‘their’ is plural. Although he’s right I think this is one example where the English language is evolving.”
Except it isn’t.
‘Their’ as a third person singular pronoun is old English usage and can be found in the work of many eminent authors. It is certainly in Jane Austin, and occasionally in Shakespeare, used as a singular pronoun.
It was the grammar police of the Victorian age that decided that it should only be used as a plural pronoun, a ‘rule’ that American English seems to have adopted with more enthusiasm than in UK usage which still retains the old irregularity.
Quite deafened by the piercing blasts of ultra-high frequency whistling…
Secondly, there is the question of if one world governments should try to maximize global social welfare, then why not do that in the absence of climate change (i.e. why is it only due to climate change that social welfare should be maximized).
Wasn’t that the point of the Millennium Development Goals?
Yes, but note that the MDGs don’t require ‘one world government’, just agreements between existing governments.
“This is like christian level morality (original sin + talking snake + rib lady); that people are morally guilty for the sins of their ancestors. ”
I agree, it is not a moral principle that past ‘sins’ oblige later restitution.
The moral justification for the wealthy contributing to the general good by the transfer of benefit is derived from capability not past culpability.
The richer developed parts of the world should contribute to the general betterment of human life in the poorer developing parts of the world according to its ability to pay.
Not because the wealth is in part derived from past slavery or fossil fuel use that requires restitution.
It is deeply ironic that the aversion of right wing Americans to the UN, “world government” and other manifestations of international cooperation exists in tandem with a desire to extract and burn fossil fuel as fast as possible (“Drill baby drill”), thereby leaving themselves dependent on resources from outside their own juristiction and hence on international cooperation.
It shows the power of stories; the story of self – reliance and firearms which supposedly built the US driving current politics.
I didn’t propose welfare maximization. I didn’t propose any definite solution, because all simply defined solutions have their own major problems. I just pointed out that the specific, and in many ways attractive, solution of uniform carbon tax has also severe problems that must be resolved, before it can be adopted universally.
The choices are, indeed, moral choices. My preference is to give less weight on what has taken place in history than on the present and future inequalities and differences in the potential to reduce CO2 emissions and otherwise influence the climate. The global policies should be formulated to be both efficient and to take social justice into account, and that should apply both in the short term and intergenerationally. What these requirements are more concretely, I cannot tell. Deciding that requires thoughtful input from many directions and result in a resolution politically acceptable to a sufficient majority.
I agree that as a general principle wealthy developed nations should have a responsibility to assist less well off countries, but in the context of getting an international agreement to combat climate change the fact that those developed nations gained their wealth in part by exploiting fossil fuel resources without consideration of future implications* is surely relevant because of the general agreement that if we are to have a global reduction in emissions then such a path is not going to be available to poorer nations. Therefore I would say that strengthens the obligation on developed nations to provide assistance to poorer ones to develop their economies in a way that minimises their emissions.
*I don’t mean to imply any “guilt” here, those implications have only been widely recognised relatively recently
Wealthy, developed economies can regard assistance to developing economies as enlightened self-interest – the very essence of free-market enterprise. Helping developing economies evolve along low-carbon pathways is simply an investment in a more stable, more profitable future for developed economies.
Interesting. Thanks. I wasn’t aware of the convoluted history of ‘their’ usage. I was just aware that it wasn’t something to come over all pedantic about, like M2. 🙂
Regarding the programme itself, it was generally pretty good. There are some gripes I could make about the way some of the information was conveyed but they would apply to BBC science documentaries in general, and have to be balanced against the credit due to the BBC for actually making quite a lot of interesting programmes of this kind. In fact one nice thing about the programme was that it did treat climate change as just another interesting scientific issue without the “consensus v skeptics” framing which has sometimes marred the BBC’s reporting of the subject, apart from the occasional reference to CC as being “controversial”, and the brief reference to the “pause”.
In fact in the latter case I think they actually missed a trick – rather than simply say “scientists say periods of now warming are to be expected” (or words to that effect) they could have looked at the issue from a statistical perspective, ie to what extent can we draw conclusions from short term trends in a noisy dataset (touching on the traditional 30 year definition of climate), what do we mean by “statistically significant” warming etc. I guess the danger there is of veering towards reporting the controversy rather than reporting the science, but for lay people who read claims of “no warming since…” or “no significant warming since…” it may have been useful.
Sure, looking at it from a free-marketer’s perspective more stable, relatively wealthy countries means more trade, investment opportunities etc.
You write that you don’t mean to imply any “guilt”, but in my view all references to history rather than the present and the future imply guilt.
Referring to the history is done all the time as the basis for judgments on what’s just and right in international relations. I understand that, but many unnecessary wars have resulted from that.
In the case of climate change the conclusions based on history may be rather similar to the conclusions based on the present and the future. I do, however, think that concentrating on the present and future may allow for more constructive negotiations than what results from bringing in the history.
Speaking of morality…
Is the Environment a Moral Cause?, Op-ed by Robb Willer*, Sunday Review, New York Times, Feb 27, 2015
*Robb Willer is an associate professor of sociology, psychology and organizational behavior at Stanford.
Pekka, if somebody sells me a car which they do not in fact own, I am obliged by law to return the car to its rightful owner. There is no suggestion of my “guilt” in that requirement. Indeed, I am just as much a victim as the true owner of the car, and more likely to be out of pocket. Never-the-less, the obligation still rests on me to return the car.
In a slightly different vein, if I come into an inheritance, but the deceased had outstanding debts at the time of their death, then it is an obligation that those debts be paid out of the estate before I receive my inheritance. Again, there is not suggestion of guilt in this case, either of my guilt, or of the deceased (who may have just made an unlucky investment). Never-the-less the obligation exists.
The notion of obligations falling on the beneficiaries of an action, when said action incurred a debt, is standard in law. Further, the laws in question at least purport to bring about the most moral resolution of such situations. Ergo, prima facie there can be moral obligations arising for such beneficiaries even when no question of guilt arises.
In this case insisting that a presumption of guilt arises, or is implied by intergenerational responsibility serves no purpose other than to throw a cacophonous distraction into the discussion to prevent nuanced consideration of the relevant arguments.
Back to my recommended edit, here is the offending phrase…
“…one of the presenters had written their own post…”
Changing “their” to “his” removes any confusion about who wrote the post. It was one of the presenters, not all of the presenters.
We also know that the author/presenter was male by clicking on the link to the post.
If I had written the sentence, the phrase would read…
“…one of the presenters, Norman Fenton, had written his own post…”
JH, I am sure the Bard would have hastened to accept your superior knowledge of English, rather than writing:
I however, will be more recalcitrant, and point out that the sentences, as constructed leaves no doubt as to the number of presenters writing on the blog when it says “one of the presenters”. The only advantage to your suggested edit, therefore, is that it leaves us in no doubt that the presenter in question is gender male. Is that really such important information? Would we be less inclined to read the blog if they were gender female?
I agree if we can find an equitable solution based on current circumstances and the general principle of wealthier countries having an obligation to poorer ones then all the better. It’s good if we can leave past actions in the past, but where those actions are still having a material effect on the present day situation then that’s not always possible. I can certainly see how some developing countries might want to take past emissions into account – China’s GDP is now (in PPP terms) roughly equal to that of the US (or just over half in nominal terms) but the past cumulative emissions of the US are about four times greater. On the question of “guilt”, Tom Curtis put my view perfectly.
TC: I made a suggestion about how to improve what I found to be a consfusing phrase in a sentence. I made no claims of “superior knowledge of English” and gender was not an issue. The discussion of my suggestion has gone into the Twilight Zone of absurdity.
Okay, I’ve changed the text. Can everyone stop arguing now 😀
@-Okay, I’ve changed the text. Can everyone stop arguing now 😀
Of course not
English usage is infinitely controversial. The imposition of an arbitrary rule that Them, They and Their are plural is one example of this.
Despite the fact that ancient established usage shows all can be plural or singular in context, there are still many people, or one person, and they want to constrain the usage to their idea of correctness. resist them I say!
“Yes, but note that the MDGs don’t require ‘one world government’, just agreements between existing governments.”
I was referring to hypothetical situation of what should be done if the world had a single government. Since there are many governments, there is the whole issue of negotiation and cooperation, which complicates things. If world governments only do what’s in their best interest, then this will result in an overproduction of CO2 than what is globally efficient. This follows from the same principles that describe Cournot competition.
@ Izen –
“The richer developed parts of the world should contribute to the general betterment of human life in the poorer developing parts of the world according to its ability to pay.”
If what you say above is correct, then shouldn’t countries do this anyway, regardless of global warming? Which leads to my point that the issue of global warming is being hijacked to address other concerns. Justify those own concerns on their own merits.
“I didn’t propose welfare maximization.”
Sorry, I thought you did. My mistake.
“I just pointed out that the specific, and in many ways attractive, solution of uniform carbon tax has also severe problems that must be resolved, before it can be adopted universally.”
Can’t these supposed severe problems be solved if you combine the uniform CO2 emission tax with lump sum transfers?
Also, can we please call it a CO2 emission tax rather than a carbon tax?
Then there is the whole question of what to do with the collected tax money. If you let individual governments keep that tax revenue then governments may have an incentive to ‘cheat’ (for example, china may implement a tax on CO2 emissions, but use the tax revenue to subsidize industries that emit CO2). So maybe use the collected revenue for international purposes such as adaptation, geoengineering, development, research and development, space exploration, etc.
“The choices are, indeed, moral choices.”
True, but I think the vast majority of people can agree on the Pareto principle. A uniform CO2 emission tax is potentially pareto efficient and greatly simplifies the space of possible solutions.
“The global policies should be formulated to be both efficient and to take social justice into account”
Social justice is a ‘progressive’ Orwellian word that makes people categorize other people as groups rather than treat people as individuals. Are we going to bring patriarchy, white privilege and all other ‘progressive’ unfalsifiable flying spaghetti monsters in as well?
John Hartz suggested: “Is the Environment a Moral Cause?, Op-ed by Robb Willer, Sunday Review, New York Times, Feb 27, 2015”
To my surprise I find it remarkably agreeable and I’ve saved some of the paragraphs from it. My experience with sociologists is such that I am not easily impressed.
In case people do not follow the link, the short answer is that environment is a moral cause to the liberal left but not to the conservative right BUT that the conservative right is about as defensive regarding the environment if you appeal to conservative values (and notes that the Environmental Protection Agency was created by Richard Nixon, a Republican).
“To assess this, we conducted a final study in which we constructed a pro-environmental message based in moral purity. This message emphasized the need to protect natural habitats from ‘desecration’ so that our children can experience the ‘uncontaminated purity and value of nature’.”
Yes indeed. I’ve hiked the Sierra Nevada and camped in Alaska. Uncontaminated purity ranks a 10 out of 10. It has nothing to do with “morality” it’s just NICE. I think deep inside my mind is assessing every location for its survival potential (food, water, safety or defense potential). I don’t feel any of that, it just pops out as “nice” when my Scandinavian DNA says it would be a nice place to live.
But I have a doubt about whether I am conservative. I am libertarian and I choose to honor the Boy Scout outdoor code of leaving no trace, being responsible with fire, and so on. But other libertarians will likely choose something else.
Ah, yes, there it is — “duty”. That is a very strong concept to conservatives and seemingly invisible to liberals. Duty is such a transcendental function that even Dog performs duties. Duty and honor are inseparable. It forms part of the General Orders for military members of the United States. It forms the Boy Scout Oath. It is extremely difficult to define and explain, but is one of those things that “you know it when you see it”.
The best definition ever, and I wish I could remember it more correctly, was given by a special needs Scout, communication challenged but certainly not mentally challenged. He thought about it for five minutes or so and finally said, “Duty is doing what needs to be done at the time it needs doing by the person that can do it.” Or something like that. I was astonished.
I note that this is similar to the Marxist formula of everyone giving according to their ability and receiving according to their need; the difference is that duty is not inherently a failure but Marxisms *is* inherently a failure when everyone goes into “receiving” mode and hardly anyone is in “giving” mode. Duty transcends that weakness because it doesn’t have a “receiving” mode. It is only a giving or doing thing.
The final paragraph of your most recent post is pure, unadultereated poppycock.
In the U.S., the Republican-Tea Party cabal is built on patriarchy and white privilege.
I am afraid I don’t get the 1000 GtC limit or the pessimism about keeping the T anomaly below 2 K. According to IPCC, human emissions up to 2011 amount to 555 GtC, of which 385 GtC are from fossil fuels. That has produced a T increase of 0.85 K. The dependence of forcing on CO2 is logarithmic, so another 555 GtC should produce something less than another 0.85 K, leaving us well short of 2.0 K. And if the rate of increase slows, the fraction of CO2 remaining in the atmosphere will decrease, providing even more of a cushion.
So it looks like we could burn two or three times the fossil fuels that we have to date, and still be within the magic 2.0 K. There is certainly the potential for a long term problem; what I question is the claim of a near term crisis.
The 0.85K isn’t the equilibriated response.
Just watched it on iplayer, with my 10yo who wants to be a mathematician when he grows up (I kid you not). I thought it was pretty good, and so did he.
I wasn’t aware of wood vs canvas buckets, or, to my shame, of extreme value theory.
Also I fancy one of those light stick thingies to fasten to the back of my bike to transmit rude messages to inconsiderate motorists.
Good to see climate change intelligently presented without faux controversy or Niger Lawson.
I think you have to be slightly careful, because it’s really the change in forcing that is logarithmic in the ratio of CO2. However, if you assume that all of the change in temperature till today is exactly the forced response, then you’re right that going to 1000 GtC would increase the change in forcing by about a factor of 1.75 relative to today, so the temperature increase would be about 1.5K. However, even today the forced response may be larger than what we’ve currently experienced, aerosols are probably producing a larger relative negative forcing than they will when we’ve doubled our cumulative emissions, so the possible range for total emissions of 1000GtC is from below 2K to just above 2K. So, yes, we could emit 1000GtC and not exceed 2K, but it is a reasonable estimate for total emissions that would give us a good chance of staying below 2K. Remember this is TCR also, not ECS or ESS.
the programme actually quoted a 66% probability of staying below 2C at 1 trillion tones, not a certainty of going above.
Yes, good point. I think that’s essentially what’s illustrated in the figure in the post. Total emissions exceeding 1500GtC would almost certainly – according to the figure, at least – produce warming above 2K.
John Hartz “In the U.S., the Republican-Tea Party cabal is built on patriarchy and white privilege.”
Says you. Sometimes I vote Republican because I consider the Democrats more dangerous to liberty and quite a few other things. Zeal is a dangerous thing. Mathematically speaking, the only way to achieve equality is aim for the “lowest common denominator”.
I have many privileges, thank someone very much. I have no intention of giving them up and neither do you. Sometimes I share, but I prefer to be the chooser of recipients, often people that have been shunned by the official systems of sharing.
“Helping developing economies evolve along low-carbon pathways is simply an investment in a more stable, more profitable future for developed economies.”
verytallguy “It is deeply ironic that the aversion of right wing Americans to the UN, ‘world government’ and other manifestations of international cooperation exists in tandem with a desire to extract and burn fossil fuel as fast as possible ”
It is only a “straw irony” of your own making. Even if true, it is at best a non-sequitur, what exactly does a desire to burn fuel have in common with international cooperation or lack thereof?
I think use of the word guilt in this thread is misplaced. It’s not about a guilty party being charged for wrongdoing. It’s about those responsible for the damage cleaning up the mess. We don’t throw our rubbish out onto the street and expect our neighbour to clean it up. We take responsibility for the damage we have caused.
Oh and I would have left the word “their” in the post. I thought it was fine.
izen says “I agree, it is not a moral principle that past ‘sins’ oblige later restitution.”
In Japan, it is obligatory on descendants to pay for a loss created by an ancestor. A Japanese friend of mine that lived in Hawaii (I was stationed there in the Navy) was one of many descendants of an ancestor that burned a village in Japan. Even though his grandparents emigrated to the United States, they, their children and their children’s children honored that code of honor.
As has been identified, Catholics also have somewhat the same sense; you are guilty all the way back to Adam’s transgression.
Conversely, Mormons do not. Adam was guilty for Adam, you are guilty for you. Very libertarian.
Your mileage varies.
Rachel says “We don’t throw our rubbish out onto the street and expect our neighbour to clean it up.”
Oh, how I wish! I am often that neighbor cleaning up OPT (Other People’s Trash). The United States is extremely variable in this regard; with Minnesota and Washington being relatively unlittered, California has rather an abundance of litter and the mountain west somewhat variable in that regard. The worst I have seen is the eastern United States particularly around Washington DC and Maryland, trash so thick sometimes you cannot see the ground.
ATTP: Why are you and others so fixated on the global average annual mean temperature of the lower tropsphere? First of all, it masks all knds of temporal and spatical anomolies occurring in the lower tropsohphere. Secondly, the troposphere is just one component of the Eath’s atmosphere. Finally, the atmosphere is just one component of the Earth’s climate system.
Sure, I agree, but it’s an easy metric to explain, it’s what people associate with global warming, and it’s where we live. I spent quite some time focusing on ocean heat content, but I haven’t discussed that for a while.
One of the last big uncertainty issues for historical GAT is buckets versus engine room measurements for SST
WWII-era measurements are highly questionable and likely still on the hot side even after corrections are applied.
yeah, I was familiar with intakes vs buckets, but type of bucket- that’s seriously geeky!
It’s not about a guilty party being charged for wrongdoing. It’s about those responsible for the damage cleaning up the mess. We don’t throw our rubbish out onto the street and expect our neighbour to clean it up. We take responsibility for the damage we have caused.
Yes, that’s what I was getting at when I said I didn’t mean to imply “guilt” for past emissons. We take responsibility for properly disposing of our rubbish, we don’t feel guilty for producing it.
But even more importantly, this –
Oh and I would have left the word “their” in the post.
Either this is because my post are so beyond criticism that people have to resort to criticising the grammar, or this has become such an echo chamber that all that people disagree about is the grammar 🙂
With apologies to Rhett Butler…
Frankly my dear, I no longer give a damn about “his” or “their”.
“Wealthy, developed economies can regard assistance to developing economies as enlightened self-interest…”
Seems like a good way to delude your self into a belief system that conveniently avoids tradeoffs.
“Pekka, if somebody sells me a car which they do not in fact own, I am obliged by law to return the car to its rightful owner. There is no suggestion of my “guilt” in that requirement.”
Again, even if you frame it this way and this ‘interpretation’ of reality is correct, there is still the matter of consistency. If it is moral that developed countries should pay developing countries for past emissions, then is it not also moral that developing countries pay developed countries for all the technology that developing countries benefit from (which were developed by developed countries using the wealth generated by those fossil fuel emissions)?
@ John Hartz
“The final paragraph of your most recent post is pure, unadultereated poppycock.”
I thank you for your well thought out response. Clearly the best way to refute something is to simply label it as poppycock.
@ Rachel M
“It’s about those responsible for the damage cleaning up the mess.”
Except someone is not their parent or their grandparent or some unrelated person living in the same country. One is not responsible for emissions emitted by other people.
Verytallguy, yes, extreme value theory. Another detail, I would have preferred they had not shown. It is used quite a lot to study extreme weather itself and to give advice on how high dikes or the Thames barrier should be. When it come to changes in extreme weather it is, fortunately, not used much. Most climatologists seem to agree that the observational data is probably not good enough to study how extremes that happen every 10, 20, 50 or even 100 are changing.
ATTP, kriging computes the best estimate for the location of interest. And if you want a field, you do this for many points of interest. Then you get something that looks similar to smoothing, but smoothing does not guarantee that you value is the best estimate. (Kriging naturally also only if your statistical model is right.) In practice the differences are normally not too large, but scientists are suckers for accuracy. The main advantage of kriging is that it also computes an uncertainty for every point you compute. In case of smoothing you would have to determine the uncertainties with some additional ad-hoc method.
“Which leads to my point that the issue of global warming is being hijacked to address other concerns. Justify those own concerns on their own merits.”
Unless you have some lizard people type conspiracy theory then it is very difficult to see what ‘other concerns’ could benefit in any way from suggesting that CO2 emissions need to be reduced. What concerns other than climate change could be effectively advanced by responding to the known effect of CO2 emissions on the basis of the potential harm it may do.
I cannot think of any ‘other concern’ that could benefit from action on CO2 emissions which would not be advanced better by justifying it on its own merits. Perhaps you can help me by pointing out what these other covert or undeclared concerns are that have hijacked (how?) the issue of AGW.
I think the point that the programme made was precisely the same as yours – that extreme value theory has been used successfully to predict the likelihood of extreme events but cannot be into the future as the climate changes, thereby making adaptation much more difficult.
On an application to global warming where using extreme value theorem approach gives a much higher likelihood of extreme events than a Gaussian distribution:
I idly wonder how the size of likely tsunamis was predicted for Fukushima.
As it stands, this is meaningless in response to what I wrote. You will need to explain what you are driving at.
“Mathematically speaking, the only way to achieve equality is aim for the “lowest common denominator”………I have many privileges, thank someone very much. I have no intention of giving them up and neither do you.”
If we define the term “equality” in a meaningful way, then yet again, what we have here is the philosophy of libertarian conservatism or conservative libertarianism that seems to be in a never-ending state of
with respect to the sum total of *all* the facts and data, including those generated from very broad international comparisons of countries – particularly with respect to the great social *and* economic accomplishments of the most socially democratic democracies in history, the Scandinavian countries, especially Norway, the most socially democratic of them all.
(Side note: The nominal GDP measure is used more and taken more seriously than the PPP GDP. Evidence for this? Note that China just passed the US as having the largest PPP GDP in the world, even though just a few years ago it was only half that of the US by this measure. This is a massive change in just a few years, while China’s GDP growth was slowing down. The relative nominal GDPs in international comparisons do not change as much as the relative PPP GDPs can and sometimes do.)
What are these accomplishments? These countries consistently year after year rank among the top in the world in those very broad international comparisons, in terms of per capita nominal GDP, income equality, happiness indexes, and other quality of life indexes including low pollution, among the lowest in the developed world. Here are some links showing what I just said – note that these links allow us to order the list to show clearly what I said (and these citations show merely the tip of the iceberg):
I saw the program in full on YouTube the day after it ra.
Though historically edifying , it also exemplifies why the term vulgarisation scientifique is stil in use in France– while you can illustrate the Monte Carlo method in 20 minutes or less, the merger of natural history and computational hydrodynamics may never be ready for prime time
Pekka’s observation that “ In an open market an equal Pigovian tax might lead to the rich buying the food out of the mouth of the poor (or paying so much for fertile land that the poorest cannot afford to continue subsistence farming).”
Already applies to the harrowing of America to make way for gasohol maize and the replacement of food crops by Green Fuel plantations in the tropics.
A few years ago I visited Zambia to prepare a short report on some aspects of energy development. Some of the discussions with local government officials and NGOs concerned a proposal to sell to some Chinese party land areas for energy crops (mainly jatropha). Those areas were not best agricultural land, but questions were raised on the influence on the local population the deal would have.
I don’t know, what the present situation is, neither whether those particular worries were justified, but this is another example of what may happen in areas inhabited by very poor people.
” Mathematically speaking, the only way to achieve equality is aim for the “lowest common denominator”.”
But economically speaking that is not the way the societies which ARE more equal achieve it.
The Scandinavian nations already mentioned have the best level of income/wealth equality which has clearly NOT been achieved by aiming for the lowest common denominator.
@-“I have many privileges, thank someone very much. I have no intention of giving them up and neither do you. ”
You may have no intention of doing so. But if you are in the US then over the last few decades you have had privileges removed, your income/wealth is now a much smaller fraction of the wealth of the nation than it was for your parents I suspect.
Unless you are one of the 1% who has benefited from the shift of wealth from the majority to the small elite. Which would explain your apparent selfishness.
> One is not responsible for emissions emitted by other people.
This at least implies one is responsible for one’s emission.
But does it?
Depends on what “one” means.
Not really sure what I wrote that made my response to Izen’s question of “other concerns” unacceptable…
Basically, these other concerns are issues of global inequality and wealth distribution that others have brought up in this comment section.
“You will need to explain what you are driving at.”
What I am saying is that rather than admit clear tradeoffs (for example, the economic costs of mitigation vs the environmental benefits) some people tend to pretend those tradeoffs away so that they don’t have to deal with them.
Correlation does not imply causation. High standard of living may cause socialism (or maybe 3rd factors cause both). With respect to more income redistributing countries vs less redistributing countries, one could point to the example of North Korea vs South Korea. And I’d bet that in 20-30 years, South Korea will have a higher standard of living than any Scandinavian country.
Imaginary Number guy,
Why do you always spout off as if you know this stuff? Norway with a population of 5 million has significant oil reserves and is one of the few countries that has a strategic plan on how to exploit that supply to serve their own best interests. South Korea has nothing in terms of energy.
I don’t like discussing econ too much because BAU will of course change in ways we can’t imagine, but your assertions are getting ridiculous.
> Basically, these other concerns are issues of global inequality and wealth distribution that others have brought up in this comment section.
One is not responsible for emissions emitted by other people, -1.
I’m still not clear how this bears on what I said. I’ll repeat it just to keep the comments clear:
You appear to be suggesting that the economic cost of mitigation will be greater than the economic cost of no-mitigation. Is that what you are saying?
izen blurted out: “The Scandinavian nations already mentioned have the best level of income/wealth equality which has clearly NOT been achieved by aiming for the lowest common denominator.”
Thank you for helping make my point. Consider 1/3 + 2/3. The lowest common denominator is still 1/3. In the case of Norway, everyone is Norwegian; 4 or 5 million people in the entire nation, one language (more or less; two dialects), one cultural heritage, one state religion, and so on. Your choice of Scandinavia is coincidentally (or not) also a demonstration of homogenous society.
They have an enormous welfare burden BUT they can afford it because (ta-da!) they have nearly free energy (abundant hydropower).
See if you can find an example of a nation, or at least some land with abstracted borders, having a huge disparity in culture, religion, heritage and racial characteristics — HOW exactly are you going to achieve “equality” and can you even define what such a thing is going to be?
“Basically, these other concerns are issues of global inequality and wealth distribution that others have brought up in this comment section.”
Ah I see. the political impediments to action on mitigating CO2 emissions. They are also the political impediments to much human progress on education, health, safe water, waste disposal etc and are usually raised and action justified to solve the problems of inequality and wealth distribution quite separately and openly from AGW. They are only an issue for AGW because they are the same factors that block human progress in other fields.
@-“With respect to more income redistributing countries vs less redistributing countries, one could point to the example of North Korea vs South Korea. And I’d bet that in 20-30 years, South Korea will have a higher standard of living than any Scandinavian country.”
I have read this a couple of times, but it only makes sense as an argument in your favour if you think that North Korea is a more egalitarian country than South Korea, or redistributes its (lesser) wealth more equally. But that seems to assume a rather profound level of ignorance.
N Korea may have a large proportion of its population that are equally poor, but it would be foolish to interpret that as meaning the wealth of N Korea is distributed more equally than the greater wealth of S Korea.
I note that you made no response to my point that in the US for the last few decades economic privileges have been taken from the majority and redistributed to the 1%
Rachel says “We don’t throw our rubbish out onto the street and expect our neighbour to clean it up.”
Oh, how I wish! I am often that neighbor cleaning up OPT (Other People’s Trash). The United States is extremely variable in this regard;”
In most civilised societies it has long been realised that waste/rubbish/trash disposal is not something that can be done effectively by individuals. Much to the horror of Libertarians it is a clear case where communal collective action with central governance and regulation is the only effective way to prevent cities and towns becoming unlivable.
Such regulation and civic governance is not a new phenomenon, you might want to look up gong-farmers, or the hundreds of regulations applied to trade and business to prevent pollution of the city in 14th Century Elizabethan London.
Pekka Pirilä: “Some of the discussions with local government officials and NGOs concerned a proposal to sell to some Chinese party land areas for energy crops (mainly jatropha).”
200 years ago there would be no discussion and no selling. Just taking. The world has come a long way since then. I wonder what changed?
=>> “And I’d bet that in 20-30 years, South Korea will have a higher standard of living than any Scandinavian country.”
Based on what reasoning?
=>> “And I’d bet that in 20-30 years, South Korea will have a higher standard of living than any Scandinavian country.”
…or – What’s “standard of living”, and how it’s measured
The following article goes a long way to expalining why certain people refuse to accept scientific findings. I highly recommend that everyone particpating in this thread take a few minutes to read it.
Why People “Fly from Facts”
Research shows the appeal of untestable beliefs, and how it leads to a polarized society
by Troy Campbell and Justin Friesen, Scientific American, Mar 3, 2015
Geez, Pekka –
Although I did skip to the end and found this juicy tidbit:
Maybe I just don’t need to read the rest?
“With respect to more income redistributing countries vs less redistributing countries, one could point to the example of North Korea vs South Korea. And I’d bet that in 20-30 years, South Korea will have a higher standard of living than any Scandinavian country.”
North Korea vs South Korea is not a useful comparison, because we have very little insight into what happens in North Korea. There may be an ‘official’ (as in outward) claim of extreme income equality, but it is a typical communist country in that the elite is more equal than the others.
I know of one attempt to determine the gini index, and that one suggests North Korea to be one of the most unequal countries in the world: http://blogs.piie.com/nk/?p=9282
Latest data from 2004, so not really new, but there are more recent stories in Western and Asian media that indicate a massive income inequality.
The published printed version of the report covers only the first 85 pages of the pdf. That’s the more readable part of the report (it’s 176 pages, but much smaller pages).
Pekka, did you HAVE to spoil Eli’s fun by being so serious?
.. by being so serious
That’s my weakness.
Ah, don’t be so serious 🙂
Here’s another example of why -1=e^ipi‘s musings about the costs of manamde climate change are nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
Costs of Climate Change Adaptation Expected to Rise Far Beyond Africa’s Coping Capacity Even if Warming Kept Below 2°C, UNEP News Centre, Mar 4, 2015
“Based on what reasoning?”
Based on projections that use empirical evidence. Maybe my claim was too strong though. I would still put money on it.
But I’m sure these things done account for places like Malmo, Sweden and its implications. Will be very interesting to watch the demographic changes that occur in western countries over the next few decades.
“…or – What’s “standard of living”, and how it’s measured”
Okay, well technically I can’t prove that living in caves isn’t better than having running water, electricity, food, internet, etc. You got me there.
“Here’s another example of why -1=e^ipi‘s musings about the costs of manamde climate change are nothing more than smoke and mirrors.”
Oh wow a strawman argument. How very unexpected. *sarcasm*
Who is living in caves in any of the countries you compare?
People value different things and make different choices. One typical choice concerns the balance between maximal earnings and annual working hours, and there are many more that affect the standard of living.
==> “Based on projections that use empirical evidence.”
The link to the report didn’t work, and the article you linked lacked any direct information on empirical evidence.
Can you help out a bit more?
@ Pekka – “Who is living in caves in any of the countries you compare?”
I never made such a claim. I thought you were trying to make the point that there is no objective measure of standard of living and everything is subjective to the point were you cannot prove that an average person living in a hunter-gatherer society is worse than an average person living today in a developed country. Sure I agree with that, but if you are going that route no progress can’t be made and then you cannot demonstrate that AGW is bad to justify policy.
@ Joshua – I never said the article was my ultimate source of empirical evidence. I could try getting into even basic neo-classical growth models (or models far more realistic) and their predictions based on empirical evidence, but that would take far too much time. My original claim was that I would bet South Korean will have a higher standard of living that Scandinavian countries (i.e. I would put money on it), because I have confidence that it will happen.
OT, but I need a bit of assistance from someone more statistically literate than me.
I’ve been arguing elsewhere about the claim that there has been “no warming for 18 years”. i was asked what the trend was over that time was, including confidence intervals, and using the SkS trend calculator I got 0.096 +/-0.109C / decade for HADCRUT4. The response I got was
“So one standard deviation, 68% of a Gaussian distribution, covers a rate less than zero.
Historically we use 1:20 as a cutoff, p<0.05, for significance, thus we reject that the rate can be shown to be greater than zero."
This seems to me to be saying that because the confidence interval slightly overlaps zero at the bottom end we can't conclude the trend isn't zero. Seems to be a bit of an iffy claim to me but I'm not qualified to judge it properly.
Firstly, I think, the skeptical science trend calculator uses 2 #&963; not 1 #&963; confidence intervals. However, you’re correct that all we can say using the confidence interval is that we can’t reject the hypothesis that the trend has been zero. It doesn’t, however, allow us to conclude that it has been zero. Using the same logic, however, we could propose a hypothesis that the trend is the same as the long-term trend (i.e., since 1970, for example). We wouldn’t be able to reject that either.
As you probably also know, the 2 #&963; confidence interval almost always exceeds the best fit trend for periods between 10 and 20 years, so it’s a little silly to claim that there has been no warming simply because it happens to be true for the past 16/17/18 years.
So again, Eli asks -1 how much he is willing to bet on the proposition he offered.
As a sop to Pekka, Eli also inquires as to what metrics are to be used.
Actually I’ve just read the comment made by the person you’re arguing with more clearly, and they’re wrong. They said “thus we reject that the rate can be shown to be greater than zero”, which is clearly wrong. We can’t reject that the rate has been zero, but we also can’t reject that it’s been greater than zero.
I referred specifically to the work of the group of economists commissioned by the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy. Stiglitz, Sen, Fitoussi, and others working for that project had a concrete goal of determining better, how economic performance or resulting well-being can be measured. The European goals are not identical with those adopted elsewhere. It’s conceivable, or even likely that the relative ranking of various countries is not the same with typical European criteria as it is with some other criteria.
That GDP by itself is not a good measure of well-being is accepted everywhere, but opinions may vary on how bad it is and how it should be modified to be better.
Thanks for the reply – I’ve got my head round it now (and you’re right, it is 2 std’s)
You don’t use statistics on an analysis when the “noise” you think is noise isn’t actually real noise. What I am referring to is the natural variability that is clearly part of ENSO. Please remove that and then go about your business.
Applying rules for statistical uncertainty is only fair if the obvious known factors are removed.
KeefeAndAmanda say: “If we define the term “equality” in a meaningful way,”
This ought to be interesting. My children considered “equal” to each washing 10 dishes; even though the oldest at 14 was certainly more capable than the 6 year old.
“the Scandinavian countries, especially Norway, the most socially democratic of them all.”
No doubt that’s why only 5 million people live there, fewer people than in the Dallas Fort Worth metropolitan area. Norway is so “equal” that prison inmates live as well, or better, than many of their elderly.
“has become such an echo chamber that all that people disagree about is the grammar”
It’s a refreshing break and relatively interesting on an international blog.
After my comment on March 5, 2015 at 10:16 am, -1=e^ipi said:
“With respect to more income redistributing countries vs less redistributing countries, one could point to the example of North Korea vs South Korea. And I’d bet that in 20-30 years, South Korea will have a higher standard of living than any Scandinavian country.”
First, equality and redistribution as defined as I noted via all those links I gave in my comment above can cause more growth than otherwise. (See further below for more.) That is, a high wage economy *that remains a high wage economy* can sustain true long term growth higher than otherwise.
(I’m a close friend of the family of a Korean woman and her two adult kids, so I have some insight as to what’s going on there.) Look at my comment above and the relevant link it contains of all those links I gave. The per capita nominal GDP of the Republic of Korea is presently roughly that of Greece, about half that of the US and roughly one fourth that of Norway, $25,000 vs. $50,000 vs. $100,000. But if their government doesn’t change its ways and start promoting better laws for better collective bargaining for more workers, to create a high wage society for more and more workers (they have only roughly 10% or so of their workforce unionized), they will sometime in the future like the US now start to see more and more people have their wages stagnate and then slide slowly back towards the poverty threshold, and so much for a good standard of living for a legitimately high percentage of the population even if there is a high per capita GDP. Lasting good standards of living for the population in general require a broad distribution of income over the entire population that must be maintained over the long term, and that does not take care of itself – read on for more on this.
You linked to an article on Singapore, to sing the praise of such economies as that. Bad idea:
First, read again what I said in my comment above on nominal vs. PPP GDP – the former is a better comparison of countries. (Again, note that China’s PPP GDP doubled from around 8 trillion dollars to larger than that of the US at 17 trillion dollars in only a couple or so years. It is impossible that this reflects real output, since China has grown only around 7 percent per year over these couple or so years while the US has grown a typical rate of 2 or 3 percent per year. So this article above can be taken with lots of salt, since it uses PPP GDP to make predictions.
Per capita GDP is very important but not everything, which is why I gave all those links in my comment above. On states like Singapore and by extension other high and even super-high per capita GDP states like Qatar (roughly as high as Norway) that along with states like Singapore, actually require large amounts of quasi-slave (as in non-union very low wage – no minimum wage) foreign labor, creating a two-tired society, where the “standard of living” for those masses of low wage workers is poor:
“Singapore’s high dependence on foreign labor begs an alternative model of growth”
“Kingdom of Slaves
In the smallest Gulf kingdoms, upwards of 90 percent of residents are immigrant laborers. Many face unspeakable abuse.”
Quote: “Qatar’s 1.8 million foreign workers-who vastly outnumber the country’s 300,000 native citizens-are frequently deprived of wages, trapped into permanent debt, exposed to hazardous working conditions, and denied the right to unionize.”
By the way, on “standard of living” as measured via upward mobility – the US is now at the bottom of the barrel, along with countries like Slovenia and Chile. At the top of the barrel are the Scandinavian countries. It’s no longer the American dream, but the Scandinavian dream:
“U.S. lags behind peer countries in mobility”
“The notion that anyone in America who is willing and able to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” can achieve significant upward mobility is deeply embedded in U.S. society. Conventional wisdom holds that class barriers in the United States are the lowest among the world’s advanced economies. Motivating this belief is the notion that there is a tradeoff between market regulation and mobility; advanced European economies are characterized by higher taxes, greater regulation, more union coverage, universal health care, a more comprehensive social contract, etc. Because some see these policies and institutions as impediments to mobility, mobility is believed to be greater in the United States…….While faith in the American Dream is deep, evidence suggests that the United States lacks policies to ensure the opportunities that the dream envisions. According to the data, there is considerably more mobility in most other developed economies.”
Finally, for more of the tip of the iceberg, here’s an older but still relevant piece:
“In Norway, Start-ups Say Ja to Socialism: We venture to the very heart of the hell that is Scandinavian socialism-and find out that it’s not so bad. Pricey, yes, but a good place to start and run a company.”
What all this economic information above shows with respect to the climate debate is that it is simply not the case that redistribution and big government in the context of capitalism can be used as an argument against mitigation. The richest human rights respecting democracies in the world, the Scandinavians, show that redistribution and big government in the context of capitalism can actually enhance growth in the very long term if done right.
For those of you who value data-driven, sophisticated, and well-documented analyses of the costs of manmade climate change…
Climate change is a greater driver of change in population exposure to river floods than socioeconomic development, because both the frequency and intensity of river floods is expected to increase due to climate change in many areas. This phenomenon would expand flood-prone areas, and make floods more likely to occur in those areas more often.
Climate change drives populations at risk in the developed and developing world alike – there is no clear distinguishing pattern. In Ireland, for example, 2,000 people face flood risks currently. By 2030, 48,500 more people could face river flood risk, and 87 percent of that difference would be driven by climate change. From the developing world, 715,000 people in Pakistan are at risk today. By 2030, river floods could affect 2 million more people, with climate change driving 70 percent of that increase.
<World’s 15 Countries with the Most People Exposed to River Floods by Tianyi Luo, Andrew Maddocks, Charles Iceland, Philip Ward and Hessel Winsemius, World Resources Institute, Mar 5, 2015
I’m asking you for some evidence on which you base your reasoning.
In response, you linked an article that contained some vague assertions – and which in turn linked an analysis, but that link didn’t work. You said that the basis for your view was empirical evidence.
Again, I’m asking for some help, here.
What empirical evidence leads you to a high level of confidence that in 20-30 years, South Korea’s standard of living will exceed that of any Scandinavian country?
==> “With respect to more income redistributing countries vs less redistributing countries, one could point to the example of North Korea vs South Korea. ”
Do you think that degree of income redistrubution is the most salient difference when comparing North and South Korea since the Korean war?
Are you aware of the highly centralized and regulated policies, and high degree of government involvement in the South Korean economy (i.e., Chaebols), over the past 30 years or so in Korea?
Is your point that less “redistributing countries” on average have a higher standard of living compare to more “redistributing countries” on average?
-1 has broken the piggy bank and is counting his pennies.
> Seems to be a bit of an iffy claim to me but I’m not qualified to judge it properly.
That’s because you don’t channel your inner ClimateBall properly, Andrew:
@ Andrew Adams –
“Seems to be a bit of an iffy claim to me but I’m not qualified to judge it properly.”
A confidence level of 5% for statistical tests is the most common rule across a large number of fields. So if 0 is in the 95% confidence interval, then what you get isn’t statistically significant from zero at this confidence level.
“So again, Eli asks -1 how much he is willing to bet on the proposition he offered.”
-1 asks Eli why Eli is using 3rd person.
So you were trying to say that GDP per capita is not a perfect measure of well-being? Then I agree with you. You don’t need to cite some French economists for me to agree with such an obvious truth.
However, GDP per capita is a relatively easily and objectively measurable and it is highly correlated with standard of living, which is why I referred to it. If you want to propose an alternative measure, then I am always open to it.
“But if their government doesn’t change its ways and start promoting better laws for better collective bargaining for more workers, they will sometime in the future like the US now start to see more and more people have their wages stagnate and then slide slowly back towards the poverty threshold.”
I’m always interested in evidence and theories that challenge the status quo such as Card and Kruger 1993, but if you are going to make such a strong claim about lack of unionization leading to poverty in the long run then I would hope that you would back it up. Unionization causing unionized individuals within a society to be better off is one thing but mass unionization causing a society overall to be better off is another. In the long run, a society can only consume what it produces and a society that determines wages via extortion (i.e. unions) vs the marginal product of labour is not going to be producing as much goods and services (assuming all else is equal). Anyway, I only have so much time in the day and many people are responding to me here, so I don’t have much time to humour your economic ‘theories’. Please forgive my brief reply.
“First, read again what I said in my comment above on nominal vs. PPP GDP – the former is a better comparison of countries.”
No, PPP is a far better for comparing the standard of living between countries because it takes prices into account. Just because it has higher measurement error than nominal GDP, doesn’t make it a worse measure.
“Per capita GDP is very important but not everything”
I never claimed it was.
“By the way, on “standard of living” as measured via upward mobility”
Why would you use this as a measure? This measure is inconsistent with the pareto principle.
“The richest human rights respecting democracies in the world, the Scandinavians, show that redistribution and big government in the context of capitalism can actually enhance growth in the very long term if done right.”
‘Enhance growth’ is a very strong claim. Very long term growth is determined primarily by technological progress and due to technological spillovers, the very long run growth rate should be the same for all countries in the world. If you want to provide a non-growth rate convergent model then please do so. Lastly, correlation does not imply causation, so I’m not really sure what you are able to demonstrate by the existence of Scandinavian countries.
Keefe and Amanda, clearly in love with Scandinavia (as am I), say “The richest human rights respecting democracies in the world, the Scandinavians, show that redistribution and big government in the context of capitalism can actually enhance growth in the very long term if done right.”
Of course. But what is “right”?
1. Start with a small nation that
2. Has only two cities of any consequence and
3. Is nearly perfectly homogenous culturally and
4. Has abundant energy subsidy and
5. Very strong seasonal affects on agricultural production.
1 & 2. Small is important. Norway has 5 million citizens most living in two cities, Bergen and Oslo. City dwellers inherently tend toward socialist ideas. Bergen in particular was founded or maintained by the German Hanseatic League and thus has a “top down” governance culture which is also true for socialism.
3. Norway only recently (in geological terms) became habitable and suffered greatly during the Little Ice Age and the Black Death. As a consequence and as a necessity, the survivors conducted themselves more cooperatively than would otherwise have been the case. Cultural and genetic diversity is very low.
4. Socialism is expensive. It requires abundant energy and/or other natural resource subsidy. Norway has abundant hydropower and of course oil in the North Sea.
5. Norway is subarctic in climate and for much of the year food cannot be grown. It is thus necessary to work the land extensively when one can, and then store the food for the rest of the year, often in barns called “stabbur” elevated from the ground to reduce rat infestations.
As a consequence, farmers seemed to enjoy more honor and privilege in Norway as compared to Ireland where they were considered disposable. Cultural concepts of charity and duty became strong in Norway and remain strong although as I read Norwegian news, they are beginning to discover that many people are happy with the charity but not really able, or willing, to work for it. 200,000 middle eastern immigrants occupy Norway, and incredible number considering Norway’s 5 million inhabitants.
Anyway, I propose that socialism will work well in small nations as I have described but cannot be, and never has been successfully employed in large nations that are culturally diverse.
An implication is created; that many small socialisms could exist, and such a thing would be considered republican where culturally related geographies would largely govern themselves, as was the case in the United States (strong state governments, limited federal government). This is changing of course as more and more of what used to be state business is now compelled to be federal business.
Can I ask a question? (sort of in response to Attp 3/3/2015 at 7.53pm including the Steve Easterbrook-link and vtg /3/3/2015 at 8.01 pm)
My understanding is that the surface temperature (in degrees C) correlates to the concentration of GHG in the atmosphere, and that if we want to stabilize at a given temperature, it is not necessary to stop all GHG-emissions: the ocean-uptake will allow for some emissions. The amount of emissions should be equal to the amount of ocean-uptake, and then the concentration/composition of the atmosphere will be constant.
If my understandig is correct, then this is my question: if we want to stabilize at 2 C,
a) what is the correlating concentration of GHG/CO2eq, and
b) how much can we annually still emit after we have reached that concentration?
Many thanks in advance
That’s a tricky question. I’ll do my best to answer. Maybe we can think of it in two ways “stabilising temperature” and “stabilising atmospheric Co2 concentrations”. If we want to suddenly stabilise temperatures, then that would essentially requiring halting emissions entirely. So, if we think of the 1000GtC issue. That would allow us to have a 66% chance of staying below 2oC. However, it is essentially the total emissions we would be allowed. So, we would need to have some kind of emission pathway in which cumulative emissions did not exceed 1000GtC.
As far as stabilising concentrations goes, this would require an immediate halving of emissions and then continued reductions so that emissions reduced by a factor of about 10 over about 40 years.
So, to answer you b), I think the point is that if we reach 1000GtC and then continue emitting slowly, if the level of emissions is 10% or higher than it had been, then atmospheric concentrations could stabilise and the temperatures would continue rising to equilibrium (maybe 50% higher than when we reach total emissions of 1000GtC).
That’s why I think this is tricky, because the 1000GtC is essentially a genuine total, not some kind of “emit 1000GtC and then continue slowly” type of total.
Okay, this is also a little convoluted, so hopefully it helps a little.
-1=e^ipi said on March 6, 2015 at 11:20 pm:
“…..if you are going to make such a strong claim about lack of unionization leading to poverty in the long run then I would hope that you would back it up. Unionization causing unionized individuals within a society to be better off is one thing but mass unionization causing a society overall to be better off is another.”
Before the citations further below, these observations about my country the US – and these are all facts that we can all observe, not theories:
The reason the WWII generation of retirees will be the richest in US history for a long time to come – and I’m talking about the masses, not a few hundred super rich people – is because of past unions and related pensions to retire on along with Social Security. Conservative ideology started to destroy the US middle class with the rise of conservatism in the 1970s culminating with the election of Reagan in 1980. That year there were 100,000 US companies that gave pensions to retire on. Just 20 years later, there were only 10,000. That’s a 90% drop in just 20 years. What happened? Slowly beginning with Nixon and then from there picking up steam in a big way with the rise of conservatism and Reagan’s first election, we saw new laws that made it real easy to kill existing unions and keep new unions from forming, the exact opposite of what was the case before, starting with FDR. And this reversal in law incentivized almost all the nonunion employers to reverse what they were doing and thus kill their pension benefits. Why were these nonunion employers treating their employees so well? In the 1960s roughly 1 in 3 jobs in the US was a good paying union job with a pension to retire on. The reason for this is that the laws were quite friendly for union formation and maintenance: They made it easy to create new unions and hard to kill existing unions – this created what should be an obvious incentive for nonunion employers who didn’t want unions to keep their employees happy by treating them as if they were union workers. There are many studies over the years documenting this well-known spillover effect.
And what are Americans going to retire on as we go forward through this century? Social Security and personal savings, sort of, which anyone who can and subtract should know will not give as good a retirement income as a pension with Social Security because of the partial redistribution attribute pensions have. So the writing is on the wall for the American worker and future retirees, most of whom will be living in near-poverty, second or even third world “standards of living”. Here’s just part of the avalanche of information out there on this:
Quote: “Americans today are aware that corporate pensions have been virtually eliminated and that the few remaining private, as well as the nation’s public pensions, are in jeopardy. Even if you are among the lucky few that have a pension, you cannot rest assured that it will be there for all the years you’ll need it. Whether you know it or not, someone is busy trying to figure how to screw you out of your pension.
Americans also know the great 401k experiment of the past 30 years has been a disaster. ……. It is now apparent that 401ks will not provide the retirement security promised to workers.”
“No, PPP is a far better for comparing the standard of living between countries…..”
We can stop right here. China’s PPP GDP more than doubled in just a couple or so years to now being greater than that of the US. It is utterly false to say that therefore the standard of living for the median Chinese family doubled in just a couple of years. During this time, the nominal GDP grew as we’d expect in accordance with their 7% or so rate, and so any change in standard of living has changed accordingly only modestly, as would be expected for only a couple of years time.
“This measure is inconsistent with the pareto principle.”
Nonsense. To say that having or not having access to better income than one’s parents has nothing to do with standards of living and especially they evolve is silly.
[I wrote:] “The richest human rights respecting democracies in the world, the Scandinavians, show that redistribution and big government in the context of capitalism can actually enhance growth in the very long term if done right.”
“‘Enhance growth’ is a very strong claim.”
The data I gave (which is not just about the Scandinavians) falsifies the claims of economic conservatism, this data being what we see when look at an evolving list of all the countries of the world ordered by per capita nominal GDP over the past 50 years and compare that to an evolving list of all the countries of the world ordered by tax revenue and other government revenue as a percentage of nominal GDP over the past 50 years. Conservatism predicts that we should see an inverse correlation forming over these past 50 years – the higher the taxes as this percentage, the poorer the country by this GDP measure. But we don’t see this correlation – if there’s a correlation, it’s the opposite, a direct correlation up to the point where half the economy flows through the government.
Here is an example of the studies on unions that I am echoing, and these are mounting in number:
Here is the press release:
“Could Politics Trump Economics As Reason for Growing Income Inequality?
Study finds decline in union strength played key role”
Here is the study:
“Union Strength, Neoliberalism, and Inequality
Contingent Political Analyses of U.S. Income Differences since 1950”
This study above controlled for education and showed that it is not education but unions that made the difference.
An older study from 4 years ago:
“Unions, Norms, and the Rise in U.S. Wage Inequality”
“Do historically contingent political accounts help explain the growth in family income inequality in the United States? We use time-series regressions based on 60 years to detect such relationships by assessing interactive associations between the neoliberal departure coincident with Ronald Reagan’s election and the acceleration in inequality that began soon after Reagan took office. We find evidence for this and for a second contingent relationship: stronger unions could successfully resist policies that enhanced economic inequality only before Reagan’s presidency and before the neoliberal anti-union administrations from both parties that followed Reagan. Politically inspired reductions in union membership, and labor’s diminished political opportunities during and after Reagan’s presidency, meant unions no longer could slow the growth in U.S. inequality. Coefficients on these two historically contingent interactions remain significant after many additional determinants are held constant. These findings indicate that political determinants should not be neglected when researchers investigate the determinants of U.S. inequality.”
“The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest”
Jac, you may find the stripped down version of the GEOCARB program available at the University of Chicago useful. That shows that ongoing anthropogenic emissions as low as 22.7 thousand tonnes of carbon per annum (10^12 moles per annum) will result in a stable CO2 concentration of 400 ppmv, with a temperature increase above the preindustrial of approximately 1.5 C. That is the rate that reaches equilibrium with the rate of chemical weathering in the long term. In the short term rates starting at about 50% of current emissions and declining very rapidly will maintain constant CO2, but even the 10% mentioned by ATTP can only be sustained for one to three hundred years before it will start to see CO2 levels creep up again. In practical terms, therefore, the only practical long term solution is zero net emissions from anthropogenic sources.
thank you very much.
You may remember I have no scientific background and no knowledge of physics either.
I am not sure I fully understand your answer. Maybe I will try to explain myself more clearly later, after more studying your answer.
Just as a first reaction:
I noticed that in most 2C-migitation graphics, emissions ‘peak’ around 2020 and then the emission-line makes a steep decline. Most graphics stop at yr 2100.
I understand that the total surface area underneath the emission-line represents the volume of cumulative emissions. I also understand that this area should not exceed the 1000GtC. That makes it a ‘closed’ volume and hence requires a ‘closed’ surface area.
So, normally, I would expect the emission-line (emission curve) not just to decline buit eventually to return to zero ( returning to the x-ax of these graphics) to “close” the surface area underneath it at the point where the surface area is equal to 1000GtC.
But I have never seen that happen in any graphic. Always this emission line seems to stabilize (= being parallel to the x-ax) on a level slightly above the x-ax. So I gathered that this implies that once stabilized on 2 C, we could still continue unendlessly to have some emissions without getting warmer. That would be conflicting with the idea of a ‘fixed at 1000 GtC cumulative budget’, so I assumed it must be the ocean uptake that would facilitate (in such a stabilized 2C situation) such (be it very limited) emissions.
And I was – still am – very interested to know, how much Gt emissions that would be (annually) in that stabilized 2C-situation, because I want to compare it (I’m working on something) with what we emit now (in Gt) annually/globally (so, not in percentages but GtC).
So my question is not about the different scenario’s how to halt at 2C (including overshoot-scenario’s), but how much we can still emit after we have stabilized on 2C. (But again, maybe you answered this already and is my understanding lacking).
Hope this makes sense.
Thanks again for responding.
thank you. I posted my response to ATTP before I saw yours. Have to go now, but will have a look at it later (but beware, I am scientifically ‘challenged’ and I certainly need more guidance than the average poster here)
I must admit that I’m also trying to understand Tom’s calculator. Let me try this though. As Tom points out, the equilibrium temperature for concentration of 400ppm, is about 1.5K. So, if we want to halt warming at 2oC we would need to ensure that atmospheric concentrations did not exceed 450ppm (and even this is probably not good enough, given slow feedbacks, but I’ll ignore that for now). We’re currently emitting around 10GtC per annum, which is increasing atmospheric concentrations by about 2ppm per year. So, we could reach this in about 20 years at the current rate (and sooner if we accelerate). If we then wanted to fix this atmospheric concentration, then we’d need to halve emissions instantly (5 GtC per annum) and then quickly (decades) get it to below 10% (less than 1 GtC per annum). Also, as Tom points out, this would probably stabilise it for a few centuries, after which it would start rising again.
So, it seems to me that if we want to prevent warming from exceeding 2oC, then if we do nothing for the next 2 decades, we’d essentially have to incrediby rapidly reduce our emissions from of order 10GtC per annum, to below 1 GtC per annum.
I’ll try to work out the calculator to which Tom links and see if I can do better than that.
I’m struggling to work out how 22.7 thousand tonnes of Carbon is moles.
Anders, I completely messed up my arithmetic (it’s late here, so sue me). Would you accept 44 million tonnes of CO2, or 12 million tonnes of carbon? If I’ve got that maths right this time, it amounts to about 1.3% of current annual emissions. The essential point is that within a couple of hundred years at most, we have to bring emissions down to essentially zero, and ideally would do it sooner rather than later to allow some draw down from peak CO2 concentrations.
You should probably double check those figures as well. It’s even later now 😉
jac: Here are three numbers that you can take to the bank while ATTP and Tom Curtis sort out their computations:
There are three really simple numbers which explain this (and if you have even more appetite for the subject, read the excellent July 2012 Rolling Stone piece by the author and campaigner Bill McKibben, which – building on the work of the Carbon Tracker Initiative – first spelled them out).
2C: There is overwhelming agreement – from governments, corporations, NGOs, banks, scientists, you name it – that a rise in temperatures of more than 2C by the end of the century would lead to disastrous consequences for any kind of recognised global order.
565 gigatons: “Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by mid-century and still have some reasonable hope of staying below 2C,” is how McKibben crisply puts it. Few dispute that this idea of a global “carbon budget” is broadly right.
2,795 gigatons: This is the amount of carbon dioxide that if they were burned would be released from the proven reserves of fossil fuel – ie the fuel we are planning to extract and use.
You do not need much of a grasp of maths to work out the implications. There are trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuels currently underground which, for our safety, simply cannot be extracted and burned. All else is up for debate: that much is not.
Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre by Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian, Mar 6, 2015
Thanks, that makes more sense 🙂
If I understand that calculator, the example you showed was a pulse of 1000GtC that produces an atmospheric concentration of 700ppm. If you then continue to emit moles per year, then the system will eventually settle to a concentration of around 400ppm. Such emissions is about 90 million tonnes Carbon per year, which is around 1% of current emissions.
If I’ve got that right, then if emissions were about 6 times greater (so just less than 10% of current emissions) then it will settle just below 500ppm, which would imply just over 2oC of warming.
So, to answer Jac’s question: if we emit 1000 GtC and then fix emissions at just below 1GtC per year (compared to more than 10GtC per year today) we could settle atmospheric concentrations at a level where we’d probably have around 2oC of warming. This, however, probably ignores slow feedbacks and as Tom points out, would eventually lead to rising atmospheric concentrations. So, ultimately, getting to virtually zero should be the long-term goal.
Anders, there are two key controls for the model – the initial impulse (transition CO2 spike), and the simulation degassing rate. Other controls can be left on default values the question we are examining. With the degassing rate, with the rate of anthropogenic emissions equal to the rate set minus 7.5 *10^12 moles, ie, the current volcanic emissions. For very long term emissions (out to a million years), the initial impulse is irrelevant. Consequently I just altered the simulation degassing rate and left the initial impulse on default values.
To simulate more short term effects, you need to alter both the initial impulse and the degassing rate. For example, with duration set at 100 years, impulse set at 260 GtC, the simulation degassing rate set at 67.5 moles per annum, you get near constant CO2 levels at 400 ppmv. That is an overestimate of the actual permissible rate of continued outgassing. Because the initial spike is introduce over a single time step (50 years), 100% of it is initially in the atmosphere. Consequently oceanic uptake is far greater in the following 50 years or so than is the actual case with a gradual increase in emissions over time. So, while playing around with both initial impulse and degassing rate can allow you to get upper estimates of permissible emissions rates for a stable CO2 content, those upper estimates may be overestimating the actual values by a factor of two, and probably by at least 50%.
A third control that can be played with is the climate sensitivity (Delta T2x). Raising it results in higher CO2 concentrations in the short term, as less CO2 is taken up by the ocean, but lower CO2 in the long term because of increased rates of chemical weathering. It is not an important control in that the difference, except for long term values, is small relative to the accuracy of the estimate. That may even be true for long term values, but I do not think it matters. Whether we need to constrain long term emissions to 12 MtC, or 24, or even slightly negative to compensate for gradually increasing industrial heat is something that can be worked out over the next two centuries. All we need to know now is that constraining emissions to match the ocean uptake rate is not even a short term solution. Our final target has to approximate to zero net emissions, and the more rapidly we bring it down to that the less the harm from AGW. As we cannot reasonably bring emissions down any faster than 1 or 2% per annum without harmful economic effects possibly of the same magnitude of harmful climate effects, that means we need to start bringing them down about 10 years ago to avoid 2 C and now to avoid 3 C.
(I apologize in advance for mathematical errors, as it is later still. I just love insomnia ;))
Thanks, very useful.
Yes, I think that is essentially the bottom line.
Tom Curtis and ATTP
Thank you very much to the both of you for your time and efforts. This is very helpful. Tom’s final sentence (quoted by ATTP as well) is, in a way, for my purposes maybe an even better answer than I was looking for (demonstrating once more that getting the questions right is often part of the problem) Also it is a more disconcerting answer than I had expected.
Maybe interesting to know: yesterday, the EU made available to the public their intended pledge for ‘Paris’.
It implies a further domestic reduction form 20% at 2020 (compared to 1990) to 40% in 2030 without international credits. Which comes down to 1.6% per annum.
Thank you also, Those were not the figures I was specifically looking for (and I am familiar with the Carbon tracker Initiative) but it’s appreciated.
-1=e^ipi “-1 asks Eli why Eli is using 3rd person.”
It’s an affectation, part of who he is online.
-1=e^ipi says “I’m not really sure what you are able to demonstrate by the existence of Scandinavian countries.”
It is intended to be “obvious” as if a great proof has just been completed. Such comparisons often fail close inspection which is why I love it when someone does this sort of thing as it invites exactly the analysis the comments are designed to suppress.
The modest success of socialism in Scandinavia stems from a combination of worth ethic, homogenous culture and suitable cultural norms (including religion), and strong seasonal effects stemming from their high latitude. In other words, some degree of communal-ism is most fit in Darwinian terms.
IN the former Soviet Union, and in the United States, there is no universal culture, not even a dominant culture, except regionally. New England has a high latitude, strong seasonal effect and affects, and is relatively homogenous culturally. Hence it should come as no surprise that the location having the strongest sense of socialism in the United States is New England (the far Northeast).
In such places, communal-ism is strong and necessary and not a path to personal power and wealth. But export those ideas a bit south, and suddenly it becomes just that; a path to personal power.
In the middle east, Islam is best, and I believe this because of its endurance. The climate barely permits survival and any time you have that situation you also are going to find strong moral rules among the survivors. What the middle east does NOT have is seasons particularly, and so does not have nearly as strong sense of communal-ism, carrying your farmers during their off season.
Why do most people praising Scandinavia not live there? Well, with socialism comes restrictions on your freedom and some high taxes. Naturally if you are on the receiving end of their generous benefits you love it.
Speaking of Sweden, while most people sing its praises, if you lift the skirts a bit you’ll see some interesting problems:
“After his son was robbed for the third time he started advocating a faster transition to a fully digital economy, if only to make life harder for thieves.”
“Raising Taxes Won’t Be Enough: Sweden Raises Retirement Age Again”
jac, Anders, by an odd coincidence, essentially the same question was asked at SkS by Cool Hand Luke. I have taken the advantage of being more alert to provide a fuller and more accurate response. The key point missing from our discussion above is that for the short term reduction, values significantly below 45 – 55% of current emissions are needed. I calculate approximately 4%, but would not be surprised if that figure was too low by a factor of three or so (nor entirely surprised if they are too high). Given that only 45% of total emissions (fossil fuel and LUC) remain in the atmosphere, and that approximately 25% will remain in the atmosphere after a few hundred years, stabilization requires reduction of CO2 emissions to match a reduction of 20% of total emissions over the 200-300 year period of most rapid natural draw down of CO2. That is certainly inconsistent with a reduction to 45% of peak emissions per annum.
“So again, Eli asks -1 how much he is willing to bet on the proposition he offered.”
-1 asks Eli why Eli is using 3rd person.
Look, a squirrel.
So again Eli asks -1 how much he is willing to bet on the proposition he offered, Eli and others may want a piece.depending on the terms. OTOH, the terms may be so amusing that the wait is worth it.
-1 left, Eli. You might catch him at Judy’s if he accepts the invitation.
Michael 2 said on March 5, 2015 at 4:32 pm:
“Consider 1/3 + 2/3. The lowest common denominator is still 1/3.”
False. The lowest common denominator of the two fractions 1/3 and 2/3 is 3.
“They have an enormous welfare burden…”
False. Up to a point, welfare as in collective payment through government for health care and income assistance and such is not a burden – up to a point, it can increase nominal GDP and economic growth via the well-known multiplier effects that everyone accepts as true (except for of course economic conservatives who can’t handle the truth because their ideology is their religion, which by its very nature is contrary to fact again and again).
“See if you can find an example of a nation, or at least some land with abstracted borders, having a huge disparity in culture, religion, heritage and racial characteristics – HOW exactly are you going to achieve “equality” and can you even define what such a thing is going to be?”
The US during the mid 20th century was much more socially democratic than today, and there was much more economic prosperity for the bottom 99% back then precisely because we were so much more socially democratic. More on this further below.
In my comment on March 5, 2015 at 10:16 am, I gave seven links to Wikipedia pages that contained lists comparing all the countries of the world under many different measures, these being per capita nominal GDP, income equality, income inequality, environmental performance, the world happiness index, the where-to-be-born index, and the human development index. These lists contain the information that falsifies economic conservatism – these lists show that the correlations that economic conservatism says should exist when looking at such lists does not exist.
And in my comments on March 6, 2015 at 6:57 pm and March 7, 2015 at 2:21 pm, I showed with more links that because the US has walked away from the social democracy including pro-union laws it embraced in the middle of the 20th century, it is now in economic decline in terms of the distribution of income (the bottom 99% and even the bottom x% for almost any other x less that 99) and will never recover unless it embraces again the social democracy is walked away from. To amplify:
First, because of the facts I showed on unions, including 1 out of every 3 jobs in the US being a good paying union job and because of the spillover effect, many nonunion jobs were high paying as well, the average black or white person back then could walk into a good paying job right out of high school working in manufacturing or other industry, good paying enough to actually support a family. Now, the labor market via anti-union law has become “Wal-Martized”, meaning the average black or white person has in comparison nowhere to go right out of high school. Also:
Social democracy not only includes such things as government spending programs for food, shelter, medical care, education, retirement, and minimal income security, but also laws that the govern the economy as a whole.
This last point would cover laws that are friendly to the concept of collective bargaining, including what is called co-determination, a labor practice more used in the richer Northern European countries.
It would include bankruptcy laws as generous as reasonably possible so that people could start over and start to contribute again to the demand side of the economy. (This was better in the US before the mid 1990s, when the banks got tougher laws passed even though they had record revenues and record profits. And now the US has been paying an ever increasing price with more and more able to contribute less and less to the demand side of the economy.)
And it would include laws that establish large segments of the financial sector as fully or partly public entities and/or heavily regulated for the purpose of making capital in the form of lower interest business loans much more easily accessible to many more people in the so-called Main Street economy. In the US, before Reagan, we had much more of this last type of social democracy, which could be called democracy in terms of who gets to be a capitalist. In the late 1970s, the percentage of the US population that owned their own businesses was twice as high as it is now.
The cause of this drop was all this banking deregulation that started with Reagan and kept going until the Great Recession. With no regulations to speak of, the banks can now make much more money much more quickly much more easily doing something other than handing out lower interest loans to start, expand, or improve a business, even though such loans are possibly the most important function that banks can do for the so-called Main Street economy. The result is that although the Main Street economy is and will forevermore struggle due to this lack of credit for small and medium sized businesses as long as deregulation stays put, the Wall Street economy is and will forevermore be a booming sub-economy as long as deregulation stays put. (I could not find the citation, but I read that before Reagan and deregulation, roughly 70% of the money that came off the “electronic printing presses” of the central bank went immediately into the Main Street economy in this way via the financial sector, but now only 30% does.)
Thank you once more. I read and am trying to (fully) understand your SkS-post. I am hesitant to ask even more questions (especially as I think you and ATTP already gave me the answer I was looking for initially) but this is what I do not understand yet.
I understand from your SkS-post that ocean-uptake is 55% (maybe it’s better to say, that only 45% of CO2 stays in the atmosphere).
So my first assumption would be, that a reduction of about 50% would be enough to stabilize C-concentration in the atmosphere. This happens to correspond very well with the mitigation scenario’s I know, i.e. a reduction of 50% (compared to 1990-levels) ultimately in 2050. This 50% reduction once we emitted 1000 GtC also seems correspond well with the answer I got from ATTP. Furthermore, your post in SkS shows that on the long term, there is even more drawn-down going on (be it very limited and not on human timescales).
However, you seem to be quite keen on stressing that it is not enough to constrain the emissions to match the ocean uptake.
“All we need to know now is that constraining emissions to match the ocean uptake rate is not even a short term solution.” (Your post here, March 7 at 6.19 pm)
From your post, I do not understand why that would not be enough (for a short term solution).
Is it because there are positive feedbacks that were not considered in the answers you gave me, is it any other scientfici reason, or is it for practical reasons you also seem to have in mind?
Don’t feel obliged to answer if you don’t feel like it and want to enjoy the warmest 8 March on record (at least in the place where I live). I am happy with the help I already got.
I may not explain this all that well, but I think the issue is that on short-timescales, you can think of there being three reservoirs; oceans, biosphere, atmosphere. If we emit a pulse of CO2 into the atmosphere, then this will very quickly spread itself through these 3 reservoirs, some of the excess going into the oceans, some into the biosphere, and some remaining in the atmosphere. At the moment, about 55% of our annual emissions go into the oceans and biosphere and 45% remains in the atmosphere. That’s – in a sense – the short timescale equilibrium. If we were to emit half as much, then it’s unlikely that this would all be absorbed by the oceans and biosphere since to reach an equilibrium between the three reservoirs would require some of our emissions remaining in the atmosphere. Therefore, to stabilise concentrations would require reducing our emissions by much more than half.
Thank you, that is helpful.
jac, Ander’s response is very good, however, I would phrase it slightly differently. The essential point is that to maintain current CO2 concentrations in the short term, our rate of emission cannot exceed the rate at which the surface ocean equilibriates with the deep ocean partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2). The reduction of increase in atmospheric CO2 to just 45% of emissions, however, represents the much faster equilibriation between the atmosphere, surface ocean and biosphere. Cutting emissions to just 45%, therefore, would result in a net build up of CO2 in atmosphere, surface ocean and biosphere. The additional emissions would equilibriate with surface ocean and biosphere just as it does now, resulting in 45% of your net emissions still contributing to rising atmospheric CO2, ie, atmospheric CO2 would rise at approximately 20% of its current rate of rise.
That final figure is biased high, as in the lower the rate of emissions, the greater the proportional contribution of equilibriation between surface and deep ocean to the overall draw down from the atmosphere. The bias, however, is significantly smaller than the uncertainty at that level, so can be ignored. That is, the rate of increase will be somewhere in the order of 10-30%, with a, perhaps, 1-2% bias towards the lower value (at that level of emissions). Those figures are guesstimates, of course, but are probably reasonably representative of the scale of the effects.
There are some more exact figures that do not use the standard instantaneous pulse of CO2 to model future emissions with future CO2 levels, notably those for the RCP scenarios used in AR5:
You will notice that RCP 2.6 only achieves a negative trend in CO2 concentration by having net negative emissions. RCP 4.5, on the other hand, reduces CO2 emissions to a stable (approx) 3.75 GtC per annum in the tail (37.5% of current emissions), which results in a steady but slowly increasing CO2 concentration.
Finally, here is the paper with Archer’s famous quote. You can approximate to the rate of emissions needed for short term stabilization by the formula:
Stabilizing emssions =~= Cumulative emissions * (0.45 – 1KYR fraction)/300
where the units are GtC per annum, and the 1KYR fraction is taken from the final four values from Table 1. Note, however, that different models vary significantly for comparable values. For 300 GtC emissions (significantly less than our emissions todate), that value comes out as 0.282 GtC per annum. For 1000 GtC (the target for staying below 2 C with a reasonable probability), it comes out at 0.94 GtC per annum. Once again, ball park figures because, first, different models, disagree, on these values, second, there are uncertainties in the process above and beyond the differences between models, and three, the formula is a rough approximation in any event.
Many thanks. With ATTP’s response as guidance, I understand what you are saying (even had a glance at the Archer paper, just long enough to scare me away) and how you arrived at your 20%. The RCP-scenario’s from AR5 were helpful also. I will take a look there as well.
KeefeAndAmanda say to (They have an enormous welfare burden…) “False.”
While it is probably obvious that you are not scientists, I will cite your reply as evidence thereof. What exactly is “false”? What word falsifies my comment? Sweden’s welfare burden is approximately double that of the United States on a per-capita basis.
A more correct response would be “I do not believe the welfare burden is enormous. I believe ‘enormous’ describes 90 percent, or greater, of GDP”
I use “enormous” in a relative sense to that of the United States since the implicit comparison is Sweden to Not Sweden, with the United States being the usual enemy.
Benefits in Sweden: http://work.sweden.se/living-in-sweden/social-benefits/
“Sweden is a fairly expensive place to live, and the high rate of taxation on all income, including pensions” http://www.expatfocus.com/expatriate-sweden-retiring-pensions
“Swedes should be prepared to work until they are 75 and to change careers in the middle of their work life if they are to keep the welfare standards they expect, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said.” http://www.euractiv.com/health/sweden-prime-minister-considers-news-518068
Google this phrase “enormous Swedish welfare burden” Got hits? Yes indeed.
“a large fraction of the population is living on benefits rather than working, due to the combination of high taxes, a rigid labour market and generous welfare benefits. Even before the economic crisis hit, for example, almost one out of five children in Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö, were living in a family supported by social security. Sweden has 105 local districts where the majority of the population lives off of various public benefits, and does not work.”
Same source: “As taxes have decreased from 57 percent of GDP in 1989 to 47 percent of GDP in 2009, the incentives to work have improved”
No doubt. Taxes being 57 percent OR 47 percent of GDP seems “enormous” to me. Your mileage obviously varies.
K&A say ” I showed with more links that because the US has walked away from the social democracy including pro-union laws it embraced in the middle of the 20th century, it is now in economic decline in terms of the distribution of income (the bottom 99% and even the bottom x% for almost any other x less that 99) and will never recover unless it embraces again the social democracy is walked away from.”
As you might predict, I do not believe you. Correlation is not causation.
This “walking away from” social democracy is a pendulum; it was not the permanent state of the United States before social democracy. It is hardly any different than careful choice of where you start a temperature trend line.
I have yet to see a good argument why income inequality is inherently “bad”, or that forcing equality on everyone is “good”. I could more easily embrace such a thing if I believed all people were created equal; I find a certain sense of irony in that it seems atheists more than anyone else believe all people were created equal when the scientific evidence is that they weren’t created in the first place and are not equal in the second. I suspect you imagine yourselves to be “more equal” as evidenced by your abundant commentary on these topics.
I believe America’s decline parallels the exhaustion of natural resources combined with the rise of India and China, particulary China whose path to industrialization is similar to that of the United States in the late 1800’s up to the 1940’s or so. The United States exported to the world, now it imports from the world.
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Probably because there isn’t one. You may be mistaking people who are arguing against increasing income inequality (this is happening) with an argument against income inequality (which isn’t really happening).
Inequality is bad because it impacts the happiness of people at all levels of income:
Do I recall Jefferson having opinions on the pursuit of happiness?
Perhaps it could be argued that a low tax low welfare model is unconstitutional, given how well Denmark does in happiness surveys…
The argument against income inequality is happening. Whether it will have an effect is another question. Try Piketty
Based on the Bern multi-exponential model (I have the Maier-Reimer & Hasselmann (1987) coefficients in my Excel spreadsheet), stopping suddenly all CO2 emissions would result in the first year in a drop in CO2 concentration that’s about two thirds of the recent annual increase, after four or five years the drop would be half of the recent increase. In 15 years the rate has dropped to one third.
The carbon input to my calculation is from ORL Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, and includes only releases from fossil fuels and cement manufacturing.
The numbers are not accurate (In my calculations about 60% of releases stays in the atmosphere), but they tell roughly, how important part of the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere goes to reservoirs that are not in immediate contact with the atmosphere.
@ Tom Curtis
Could you please tell me where (in AR5) to find the two figures in your post of March 8 at 3.01 pm? Thanks in advance.
jac, the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios are not developed in AR5. Rather, they were developed for use in the modelling experiments that were conducted for AR5, then published in the journal, Climate Change in 2011. The figure I showed shows the first panel from Figure 6, and the first panel from Figure 9 of that paper. This is briefly mentioned in WG1, Chapter 8, section 8.2.2 of AR5. They are also discussed in greater detail in WG1, Chapter 12, section 12.3, but van Vuuren et al (2011) is the basic source.
That explains. I was kind of feeling stupid I couldn’t find them in AR5. Thanks.
The argument against income inequality is happening. Whether it will have an effect is another question. Try Piketty
IIRC, globally, $35K puts you in the top 1%.
The thing is, GLOBALLY incomes are much more equal, because the low end has risen dramatically – a good thing.
But people in the US don’t believe they should be making much less to be more equal with the rest of the world.
People, like monkeys in the cage fighting over the apple bowl, are envious of those around them more than truly wanting equality.
In reply to my comment on March 8, 2015 at 11:20 am (and prior comments I signified by date, including one in which I gave many links to lists comparing the world’s countries in many categories of economic interest), Michael 2 wrote:
“KeefeAndAmanda say to (They have an enormous welfare burden…) “False.”………What exactly is “false”? What word falsifies my comment?”
The term “burden” – and I explained this in my last comment above. Again: *Up to a point*, it’s not a burden to an economy, but a help to an economy, via the well-known multiplier effect that all economists accept as true (except those conservative economists that can’t handle the truth, par for the conservative course). All these data I cited in all my previous comments above suggest strongly that this point in “up to a point” is where we have roughly half the nominal GDP flowing through government at some level: Those comparisons of all the countries in the world show that if there is a correlation, it’s the correlation such that the closer we get to 50% from either side, the higher the per capita nominal GDP, and the closer we get to 0% or 100%, the lower the per capita nominal GDP. This correlation would be precisely the opposite of what economic conservatism predicts should be the case when we look at this in the 0%-50% range. (Economic conservatism, which puts forth cause and effect claims such that government is nothing but a drag on an economy and thus is just a necessary evil – never mind that there exist no large-scale long-term data that are consistent with this, predicts that we should see an inverse correlation in this range, which would be that the closer we get to 50%, the lower the per capita nominal GDP, and the closer we get to 0% (or some percentage close to 0%), the higher the per capita nominal GDP.)
Here are some more data that shows the same type of thing, where this time instead of comparing all the countries of the world to each other, we compare all the 50 states of the US to each other, to see how the more progressive states and the more conservative states compare economically in the categories in question, especially per capita GDP:
Here we also see data that say the opposite of what economic conservatism says should be the case: If there is a correlation, it’s that the lower the taxes and the smaller the government, the lower the per capita GDP, and the higher, the higher. Not only that, there is massive amounts of redistribution mostly via progressive programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Food Stamps from these so-called blue states (the richer and more progressive states) to these so-called red states (the poorer and more conservative states) via the federal government:
Without this redistribution, these poor and conservative states would have seen their economies collapse like Greece long ago, since like Greece, they do not have their own currencies.
(Greece would have been much better off if there were a built-in guaranteed mechanism in the Eurozone for permanent redistribution as I just described we have in the US from richer states like Germany to poorer states like Greece, which I think will eventually have to happen if the Euro is to be truly permanent. But would the Germans and the other richer states in the Eurozone agree to such a thing?)
All this shows that economic conservatism’s ideal level of government as a percentage of nominal GDP simply does not work as advertised, since all the data in the aggregate – and this includes these all these comparisons of all the countries and all the states in the US over the last half century – argue that this percentage is simply way too low, way too close to 0%. This is true also of economic conservatism’s ideal role of government with respect to what it actually is to do or not to do for a given percentage of nominal GDP, since again, all these data in the aggregate argue that this role is simply way too weak.)
(Side note, for a thought experiment: To see that collective payment for things – any of which inevitably is a form of redistribution of income or wealth or its benefits – is up to point not a burden but a help to an economy, imagine what would happen to a first world economy’s GDP even in the long run if all forms of private insurance – which in the end is a form of collective payment for some things – were outlawed.)
And with respect to your quoting Fredrik Reinfeldt as some sort of “evidence” that Sweden has chosen to undo the progress it’s made over the years via progressive public policy: An important part of the whole story that you left out is the fact that in the 2014 elections the Swedes kicked the guy and his party out:
“Since the introduction of democracy, one centre-right party has always been among the top two parties. Not this time………….Never before have two parties of the centre-left topped a national election in Sweden. This time they did.”
“K&A say “I showed with more links that because the US has walked away from the social democracy including pro-union laws it embraced in the middle of the 20th century, it is now in economic decline in terms of the distribution of income (the bottom 99% and even the bottom x% for almost any other x less that 99) and will never recover unless it embraces again the social democracy is walked away from.”………….
As you might predict, I do not believe you. Correlation is not causation. This “walking away from” social democracy is a pendulum; it was not the permanent state of the United States before social democracy.”
Although of course “correlation is not causation” is true, it nonetheless is a last refuge of the ongoing denial of fact and truth. My country’s walk away from the level of social democracy it embraced in the middle parts of the 20th century with its very high taxes (top bracket at least 90% for two decades and at least 70% for four and half decades), properly high levels of regulations on the banks so small and medium sized capitalism could flourish with much-easier-than-now access to low interest loans to start, expand, or improve small or medium sized businesses, union-friendly laws, pensions for retirement, and so on: It is historical fact that it was all this including the union movement that created the vast American middle class as high as it was above the inflation-adjusted poverty line, higher above this line than at any other time in US history. And with this massive – and I mean massive – walk back, we are now seeing what I documented in part in my prior comments, what has been written on the wall beginning to happen for the bottom 99%, 90% and especially 50%. Here again is the most recent study demonstrating these facts with respect to the union movement:
Here is the press release:
“Could Politics Trump Economics As Reason for Growing Income Inequality?
Study finds decline in union strength played key role”
Here is the study:
“Union Strength, Neoliberalism, and Inequality
Contingent Political Analyses of U.S. Income Differences since 1950?
This study above controlled for education and showed that it is not education but unions that made the difference.
“I have yet to see a good argument why income inequality is inherently “bad”, or that forcing equality on everyone is “good”.
As usual, the terms “inequality” and “equality” are not properly interpreted. The two extremes of only one person having everything and everyone having the exact same amount are of course bad and of course for reasons that should be obvious to all. But the question is what is best for an economy, and it should be clear to all who can add and subtract that when more and more workers and retirees have less and less income in real and not just relative terms – meaning a larger and larger percentage of the country backtracking more and more to the poverty line, including upward income mobility falling behind every other first world country more and more while continuing to head towards absolute 0, – all of which *in documented fact* is happening in the US for the reasons I outlined in prior comments above, then the demand side of the economy will *in the long run* suffer more and more, putting *in the long run* more and more downward pressure on per capita GDP and thus per capita GDP growth.
Finally, here is a another set of numbers to consider: Under Clinton, roughly 43% of all newly created income went to the top 1%, under Bush, it was roughly 63%, and under Obama, it has been roughly 93%. This number closing on 100% this fast is a symptom of all the *severe* structural problems created over decades from this massive walk back in question, documented here and in my prior comments. (Again: The above study on unions controlled for education and showed that education has essentially nothing to do with it: We have more people in this country with college degrees at all levels than ever before and it’s not even making a dent in this decline of the American middle class.)
K&A: I appreciate the time you have taken to write that epistle; hopefully I’ll find time to read it. As one of my goals is to understand the left your commentary will help achieve it partly because of the comprehensive nature of your replies.
I concur that an optimum level of social cooperation exists and I believe that the particular value of the optimum is climate and geography related. In other words, how difficult is it for an individual to live unaided by society? In Sweden, nearly impossible; society must exist for there to be humans.
Conversely in the equatorial belt maintaining social units larger than clan or village serves no particular purpose and the concept of “nation” is not lines drawn on a map by Europeans but rather the extended genealogy of a particular person.
Inasmuch as the United States is large and diverse, the federal government ought not to be heavily invested in GDP but rather each state should arrange its own socialism as needed and appropriate and chosen by its citizens.
Inasmuch as blue state citizens have voted to give their money to red states, a big “thank you” seems appropriate, so, “thank you!”
Eli Rabett says “The argument against income inequality is happening.”
Obviously; but it is a bit strange to encounter it here 😉
verytallguy asserts “Inequality is bad because it impacts the happiness of people at all levels of income”
Why does inequality, per se and by itself, impact the happiness of people at all levels of income? What is the mechanism of unhappiness? If everyone was unhappy because of income inequality, there would be no income inequality. Many people do not have “income” as such but achieve wealth, if they seek it (which Buddhists do not), by other means.
Quite frankly a “wage” is nearly the worst way to achieve wealth due in large part to the “iron law of wages”.
“What is far more important in indicating level of happiness is the level of income inequality. Across countries and over time, they revealed a consistent finding that reducing inequality is the best way of improving the real quality of life in developed economies.”
I will tentatively accept the existence of a correlation but I am interested in the mechanism.
“Do I recall Jefferson having opinions on the pursuit of happiness?”
I have no idea what you recall. I hope you know what you recall.
“Perhaps it could be argued that a low tax low welfare model is unconstitutional, given how well Denmark does in happiness surveys”
That’s a brilliant non-sequitur; but you are right, anything can be argued even on a physics blog 🙂
I presume you are speaking of Denmark’s constitution.
Izen says “Much to the horror of Libertarians it is a clear case where communal collective action with central governance and regulation is the only effective way to prevent cities and towns becoming unlivable.”
Got names? Just three libertarians that are horrified that cities and towns require communal action?
Without communal action you don’t have cities or towns. They are “hives”. Libertarians are free to not live in a city or town; but if they choose to live in the hive, they will be subject to hive rules.
M2, yes, the mechanism is interesting.
I wonder how our feels to live in a gated community.
I wonder how it feels to live in a ghetto.
I wonder how it feels to live in a society where everyone feels valued.
I suspect the mechanism lies in the answer to questions like these.
In reply to my comment on March 9, 2015 at 10:52 am, which continues a string of comments in all of which I give lots of documented information, Michael 2 said:
“I appreciate the time you have taken to write that epistle; hopefully I’ll find time to read it. As one of my goals is to understand the left your commentary will help achieve it partly because of the comprehensive nature of your replies.”
One of your goals is to understand the left and the commentary in question will help and yet you know this even though you did not read it but hopefully you’ll find time to read it and replying to something you did not read is consistent with this claimed goal??
In addition to this I note that in reply to the large amount of point of fact with documentation that I have put forth over a number of comments, you by what you say above evidently essentially have not read them and have almost done nothing except to “respond” with empty rhetoric or “theorizing” every single time, where if you ever actually try to back up this empty rhetoric or “theorizing”, then the links are not really relevant to the documented fact I provide.
I ask that you read *all* of what I wrote in this thread before you reply again to anything else I write in this thread including this comment, and that if you reply after this reading, then you actually specifically address the points of fact that I have given and their documentation, point by point, and back up every claim you make with real evidence with citations and links including to peer reviewed studies, as I have.
(I count as empty rhetoric or empty “theorizing” or fallacious the claim that a country the size of my country, the US, cannot be socially democratic simply because of its size and/or because it’s not mono-cultural – empty, since there is no evidence that it can’t, and fallacious, since not only have we already had much more social democracy than we have presently and there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t change our laws at least back to the way they used to be in the areas in question, but because it’s fallacious in general that “x has not occurred” implies that “it’s not possible for x to ever occur”. And, by the way, if the Chinese communist dictators were to apply your logic that “it’s not been done before and therefore it can’t ever be done” by claiming that no form of democracy could ever scale up to a country their size because of the fact that it’s never been done before, and therefore everyone who has or would want to promote the idea of democracy for the Chinese people should just drop it and accept that the Chinese people will always have to live under dictatorship, then you would say to that…..what? Democracy can scale up to that size but social democracy can’t, never mind that I just pointed out how it would be empty rhetoric or empty “theorizing” or fallacious to say that either couldn’t?)
Making progress! K&A’s lengthy comment is summarized as:
it’s fallacious in general that “x has not occurred” implies that “it’s not possible for x to ever occur
Maybe. It depends on the priors or circumstances.
1. If a thing is possible AND
2. It was tried then
3. It must succeed (*)
1. If a thing is NOT possible OR
2. It was NOT tried
3. It must fail (*)
* Assuming that success solely depends on 1 and 2.
Since “it” (global socialism or socialism on a large diverse population such as the Soviet Union or United states) has failed, either it has not been tried OR it is not possible.
I believe it is not possible and you believe it has not been tried.
I believe it is not possible, particularly in the United States, because the citizens of the United States are “selected” from the populations of the world specifically for the characteristic of preferring liberty over bondage to any single system of social control.
Most religions attempt it and I suspect all governments attempt it.
Because so much of the United States was settled from Europe, what about those who stayed behind? They also are “selected”, but being the remnant, are selected for compliance and satisfaction with their social systems.
As time passes this selection distinction will diminish and eventually the United States and Europe will probably more closely resemble each other; maybe a bit more liberty in Europe (the Eurozone and Schengen Agreement) and rather a lot less liberty already in the United States.
VTG says “I suspect the mechanism lies in the answer to questions like these.”
Maybe so; but your comment falls considerably short of the certainty by which equality==happiness was asserted.
Let’s look at some of your questions.
“I wonder how our feels to live in a gated community.”
Your mileage will probably vary depending on the nature of the community and the nature of the gate. For much of my adult life I lived in gated communities called military bases. I found each both good and bad. Good because nearly everyone inside the gated community has been trained, instructed and had background checks so it is relatively safer and heavily patrolled. Bad because in those rare instances it isn’t actually safer there’s not much you can do; soldiers and sailors do not keep firearms in the barracks, ever. Also, by “heavily patrolled” some of the patrols were the problem to be protected from.
“I wonder how it feels to live in a ghetto.”
I cannot help you with that one; but I suggest that even if you try, it won’t illuminate very much — your experience would be that of a person trying it, rather than being the 15th generation born and raised in a ghetto with absolutely no idea that anything else exists. But when that is the case, a certain kind of happiness still exists. Unhappiness is often envy, and that comes with the perception of having less than your neighbor. Equality doesn’t fix that simply because people measure equality differently; but at some point inequality becomes conspicuous.
What remains to be seen is the scientific reason anyone should do anything about it.
“I wonder how it feels to live in a society where everyone feels valued.”
I don’t. Such a thing is so imaginary it would not qualify as a children’s book. I mean, your comment is subjective, way out there in the Twilight Zone.
“I suspect the mechanism lies in the answer to questions like these.”
Well then we are all doomed, for there is no single answer to any question.
Any implied certainty was unintentional, I was merely trying to help you with your
I humbly hope my offering sufficed.
You also have my blessing to pluralise the terminal “answer”.
You cannot say inequality or equality are inherently good or bad. The degree matters. However, there is a certain point where too much inequality starts to distort the economy. Businesses stop catering to the bottom 90%, because 1)the money is at the top, and 2)if you cater to the bottom, you’ll wind up there. We can see some of this happening now–prices for collectibles and luxury goods are nearing all time highs, while we are facing the threat of deflation in the broader economy. Ultimately, that isn’t good for anyone, including the wealthy.
Snarkrates, while I have no doubt rational arguments can be made for fighting inequality as if it is a bad thing per se, I am hoping to hear from K&A, the advocates of that thinking. I find it amusing when I am better able to articulate why a thing should be a certain way while not being an advocate for it being that certain way.
My commentary about “Render unto Caesar” reflects your comment “Businesses stop catering to the bottom 90%, because 1)the money is at the top, and 2)if you cater to the bottom, you’ll wind up there.”
With that in mind, is there any reason for business to cater to the the bottom 90 percent? DeBeers certainly doesn’t cater to the bottom 90 percent. Is that a problem, if so, why?
Most of my thinking is libertarian. You make your choice of clients and they choose you as provider of something. What prevents a “ninety percenter” from going into business and excluding the 10 percenter? Nothing! Depending of course on the business.
You write “prices for collectibles and luxury goods are nearing all time highs, while we are facing the threat of deflation in the broader economy.”
Is that a problem or is that an indication of “two economies”, one that is pursued by the wealthy, and another economy pursued by those that are more into a survival and necessity mode.
Consider the black market — it is an economic system independent of the nation’s economic system; it is a parallel system. But so is the economics of the wealthy persons and family, such as Forbes, father-in-law to John Kerry. They have their own private economy, rendering unto themselves that which belongs to the wealthy.
I can think of no magical reason why these economies must be merged to achieve happiness. It might work that way but I’m hoping to see a believable explanation (or even an unbelievable one at this point).
This comment shows that indeed you have no idea what it is like to live in a ghetto. In modern ghettos as found in Brazil and the third world, radios and small TVs are common fair, and the programs and advertising on those radios and TVS are aimed at, and therefore depict the lives of the mid to upper middle class. On top of that, a number of their residents will be servants for middle and upper class households (at least from my African experience). Consequently the residents of ghettos know very well that better exists.
They also know that crime exists, that adequate food and health care do not exist, and that they need to crowd into small, often makeshift residences, where whole families must share just one or two rooms. All of this from their personal experience. Finding these conditions inadequate is not a matter of envy, and it is offensive to suggest that it is. As if people don’t want family members dying from easily curable diseases just because they are envious of longer life spans among the rich.
Envy is a far greater cause for dissatisfaction among “aspirational classes”, ie, middle to upper class populations who model their aspirations on what they believe are the standards of the upper upper middle class.
First, vtg’s statement is too strong, and ambiguous to boot. Ambiguous because it is certainly conceivable (and probable) that there exist people who are very wealthy, and made happier because most others are not as wealthy. Their happiness, therefore, would be impacted by inequality, but increased by it rather than decreased (as I am sure vtg intended to suggest). Too strong because it is certainly conceivable, and almost certainly the case that there are wealthy people so venal or shallow that they are indifferent to large disparities of wealth. Even more certainly, there will be wealthy for whom inequality does impact their happiness, in that they would prefer that the poor not be poor – but that by their own estimate as shown by their actions – their happiness will be improved more by buying their third Maserati (or other generic good whose value is set by its being a sign of conspicuous consumption) then by donating an equivalent amount to alleviate that poverty. Indeed, the very existence of Maserati as a commercially viable brand proves this to be the case.
Never-the-less, inequality decreases happiness statically, but increases it dynamically. The primary reason comes down to the law of diminishing marginal utility. Put simply, the more you consume of any good, or any combination of goods, the less utility (or satisfaction, or happiness) you obtain by consuming more. This applies to quality of goods as well. You gain more utility from your first bike than almost anyone will gain from their second Maserati.
There are complexities. People do not gain the same utility from any given good. I gain utility if I get to eat a raw tomato. One of my daughters would definitely loose utility if forced to do the same thing. The reverse applies to cheese cake. However, bearing in mind that free time is also a good, and that as it diminishes in quantity its utility increases, aggregated across all goods, almost all people will have a utility function something like this:
Given that, and given that the scale of the function is approximately equal for all people, it follows that the most equal distribution of goods maximizes aggregate utility – ie, results in the most happiness. That is, considered statically, maximum equality results in maximum happiness.
However, given that a person has a high aggregate consumption (and hence low marginal utility for each item consumed) if they put aside the last unit of consumption, and consume a tenth of it per annum, they increase their aggregate utility over time – for that tenth has a higher utility gain per unit consumption than the whole unit consumed at once. Ergo, wealthy people increase their utility by investment whereas for poor people that investment can drop them into the realm of negative utility. But only by investment can the total aggregate goods for all people be increased. As greater inequality increases the advantage of investment, and hence increases investment, inequality increased the total gain of wealth over time.
Look at note 11 of the Wiki page you linked, Tom.
Willard, note 11 references an extensive essay. Your point is, therefore, obscure because you give no indication what part of that essay you consider germane.
With regard to the capuchins, it is an interesting phenomenon that does have parallels in human behaviour. In general, however, workers on the factory floor do not go on strike if they are paid less than the CEO. The desire for equal treatment, therefore, add complexity but does not undercut the primary consideration.
The note refers to Hu McCulloch, Tom, a reviewer of the essay covered in the Critical Thought? thread:
The capicin has yet to realize that when his fellow gives a rock, he receives a CEO bonus.
Michael 2: In your last reply to me, your statement “assuming that success solely depends on 1 and 2” is a false assumption, and your implications have numerous real world counterexamples.
And your statement that global socialism or socialism on a large diverse population such as the Soviet Union or United States has failed is not an argument relevant to what I have said or, to the degree that it is relevant to what I said, it is false.
First, I have never talked about having total socialism, and you tacitly try to get away with the typical nonsense of equating the attempt at total socialism by the Soviets with the partial socialism of Scandinavia in roughly 50% socialism-capitalism mixed economies. Please refrain from ever mentioning those total attempts again. And by the way, in the mid 1980s, the per capita nominal GDP of the USSR was actually the equivalent of the lower GDP economies in Western Europe, about have of the US and the higher GDP economies in Western Europe. Get the data yourself. They are online.
Second, as I said before, we in the US had much more social democracy in the middle 20th century and it was not a failure but a success as long as we kept the public policy that implemented and/or enabled it. We had better upward mobility, bigger discretionary government, union-friendly laws resulting in 1/3 of the workforce unionized with many more better paying jobs (union and non-union via spillover) than today, an entire order of magnitude more companies offering pensions to retire on, easier access to lower interest loans to start, expand, or improve small and medium sized businesses, more generous bankruptcy laws, more generous unemployment and other benefits, to name a few. But with the rise of the conservative con starting in the 1970s and taking off during the 1980s, and as more and more forgot the horrors of the country under Hoover during the Great Depression, more and more of the public bought the con and slowly and surely voted for the cons who slowly and surely undid more and more of the progress the country made under progressive public policy. The bad effects of this reversal are only now in the 21st century starting to be felt, and I documented that the writing is on the wall for the US middle class workers and retirees over the next half century, guaranteed to get ever worse unless enough people in enough districts and states kick the cons out of office and replace them with progressives as was done starting back in 1932. In some of the comments below I document some of these cons and that progressive public policy was a success when it was in place. Economic failure started only after we started to walk away from these successes due to being conned by the cons.
I again ask and now insist that you address the data, including citations and links, some of which is peer-reviewed, and their implications I presented in these comments below:
March 5, 2015 at 10:16 am
March 6, 2015 at 6:57 pm
March 7, 2015 at 2:21 pm
March 8, 2015 at 11:20 am
March 9, 2015 at 10:52 am
You have essentially responded to none of it. Example: You said that correlation does not imply causation. But in no way does that answer what I actually said, which is that the combination of the international and US data I gave and the same type of data going back a half century does not contain the correlations that we’d expect to be there if the cause and effect claims of economic conservatism were true (which is most simply along the line of “big government = bad and small government = good”). That is, if there are correlations in all these data, they are the precise opposite of what the cause and effect claims of economic conservatism says should be there in the most important parts of these data. No correlation – and if there is one, the wrong one – in the most important parts of the data over all this time suggests strongly that the conservative claims of causation are false, and even have been falsified by this data.
“You have essentially responded to none of it.”
It’s off topic. I am amazed that ATTP has allowed this to go on for so long.
Tom Curtis says “Given that, and given that the scale of the function is approximately equal for all people, it follows that the most equal distribution of goods maximizes aggregate utility – ie, results in the most happiness. That is, considered statically, maximum equality results in maximum happiness.”
Accepting your givens, how can you be wrong? But you see, I do not treat those givens as assuredly true. The utility function is different (IMO) for religious people, and depends on what flavor of religion is being considered. But I get your point.
The second given not overtly stated but implicit, is that happiness should be aggregated and averaged over an entire population, presumably all people on Earth, such that everyone on Earth gets 1.27 happiness, no more and no less, whereas before your experiment some people had 100 happiness and some close to zero, or even negative if we allow the scale to go negative.
This is perhaps the most important complaint libertarians have with socialists — WHY must everyone be forced to be equal outcome when clearly they are not equal by any measure going in? Consider your argument about marginal utility — I agree with the graph you have presented, what you also stated is relevant — any particular person is going to have vastly different marginal utility for any particular good or service. In fact, this difference in marginal utility is what permits trade in the first place. That being the case, I cannot imagine how you propose to maximize everyone’s marginal utility when taken in aggregate. This is where Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” kicks in as each person maximizes her own marginal utility.
Still, I recognize that while trade automatically balances marginal utility, money is the facilitator of trade, and taking too much money out of circulation inhibits trade; just as adding money facilitates trade, provided of course that you have willing sellers and willing buyers. If nobody is producing, money won’t solve that problem. If nobody is buying, money won’t solve that, either.
Consequently I think there’s a nuance to your argument — the problem seems not to be the diminishing marginal utility of the person buying his 100th automobile; rather the problem is that his demand raises the price for all, including the person trying to buy his first or only automobile. This is seen clearly in real estate where people buy dozens or hundreds of houses creating artificially high prices, in fact, that phenomenon is the motivation for doing so.
If it were the case that prices did NOT rise, then I don’t care if you buy 100 houses; you will gain no profit from it and I’ll still get mine at the same price as before you bought 100.
But there’s a problem with that, too; the Soviets tried something like that. If you buy 100 houses, then suddenly none whatsoever exist for me to buy. It is inescapable; if the price is not permitted to rise, you will have a shortage. So what do you do? Don’t allow anyone to have 100 houses for any reason. Everyone gets a house. Is that fair and equal? Sort of; but humans being what they are, some houses will be a lot more equal than others; and at best, everyone gets a house that provides 1.27 happiness and nobody gets the house that brings 100 happiness so why build it? Why go to the moon?
I am happiest hiking in the mountains enjoying nature. I do not need stuff and don’t really have a lot of stuff. What little I have is good stuff; nice camera, good GPS, even a good Brunton magnetic compass.
Flying a man to the moon was a grand experiment in not equal! It required accumulating wealth and concentrating it on the space program, NOT distributing it uniformly across all humans on Earth. For humans to survive the next ice age, or an asteroid collision, or even the sun going Nova, more of the same — NO to universal distribution; YES to concentrating wealth on that which will save the human race. But until then, it is concentrated on what will save your nation (or mine), your state, your city, your neighborhood, your family, yourself; but not perhaps in that order.
“Given that, and given that the scale of the function is approximately equal for all people, it follows that the most equal distribution of goods maximizes aggregate utility – ie, results in the most happiness. That is, considered statically, maximum equality results in maximum happiness.
That was a bit strange.
“Flying a man to the moon was a grand experiment in not equal! It required accumulating wealth and concentrating it on the space program” – by the government, not the Koch bros. Just fer instance. And that wealth was redistributed to a very large number of engineers, pilots, scientists, techs, etc.
It was not, for instance, Heinlein’s “the man who bought the moon” …