The climate of the past

Richard Alley and Gavin Schmidt, currently two of the best climate communicators, recently gave presentations at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, about how we study paleoclimate and how this understanding can help us to project what will happen in the future. The presentations themselves are quite short, and then there is a discussion session, moderated by Rachel Gross, at the end in which Richard and Gavin answer various questions.

At one point in the discussion they were both asked which climate misconceptions was their favourite, and Gavin made what I think is an important point. The biggest issue is really that people don’t understand how science works, and so arguing about individual misconceptions doesn’t really help. I do think that we should probably be spending more time discussing how we actually do science, rather than simply trying to address various misconceptions (although, there is nothing wrong with also doing the latter).

However, an interesting discussion point might be what Richard Alley highlighted in his talk

Compared to “business as usual”, efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs, improved health and greater national security in a cleaner environment more consistent with the Golden Rule.

This is very like the argument Patrick Brown makes in his post suggesting that reducing greenhouse gas emissions helps the economy. Essentially, emitting less than we could will almost certainly have economic benefits. Of course, there are extreme scenarios where this would not be true, which is why it needs to be an “efficient response”. Defining this may well be difficult, but given what we’re currently doing I would argue that the starting point would be “do more than we currently are.” Also, in this context, “business as usual” essentially means a future in which fossil fuels are the dominant energy source and emissions continue to rise.

I do think that it is pretty clear that doing something is better than doing nothing and that the discussion should really be focussing more on what we should be do, rather than on whether or not we should actually do anything. However, I still don’t really have a good sense as to how to achieve this, but maybe others have some ideas.

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181 Responses to The climate of the past

  1. Greg Robie says:

    #RedPillReal, it is less a matter of doing “more” or “less”, and more, as physics defines, an unbiased observation of what is being done. The neural pathways that constitute our motivated reasoning are well established and trusted slides into observer bias. Once one is not seeing objectively, one is, in a scientific sense, imagining. And this includes systemically seeing the problem.

    Consider the “talking solutions and motivating actions” thread. Who is doing the extending of it the last couple of weeks is preponderantly retired American smart guys. The means of our retirement are sacrosanct within the thinking that is then used to debate … or such is what I observe motivating this conversation-as-action. Aren’t berks, berks no matter what the vocabulary of the verbosity used when straining a gnat and swallowing a camel whole?

    CapitalismFail.

    Get over it (if that is possible). Metanoia. The hope of the Easter story is trashed when the thinking that creates a problem (GREED-as-go[]d) is used to imagine the solution to that problem. But such engenders trusted delusions and this systemically hubristic and irresponsible ‘civilized’ culture will, lockstep, follow all our previous attempts at structured injustice, into the trash bin of our history … while feeling we are doing otherwise.

    theurban* mindscape stutters; repeats rebooting as all systems fail

    * I wrote this haiku for a nephew who is a street artist to reflect back to him what I see as his muse for a body of work he has produced on canvas (www.rubicon1.org). “Urban” could just as easily, but for syllable constraints of the haiku form, have been academic, or high carbon privileged, or economic.

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCeDkezgoyyZAlN7nW1tlfeA

    life is for learning so all my failures must mean that I’m wicked smart

    >

  2. wmconnolley says:

    > efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs
    This doesn’t make sense. The most efficient economy, for a given output, is the one with the least jobs. Unless this is some strange new definition of efficient. This is why you shouldn’t let physical scientists do economics.

  3. WMC,
    To be fair, I suspect that there isn’t a way that this could be expressed that you wouldn’t find reason to criticise, given your campaign against physical scientists discussing economics. You may want to reflect on the possibility that he wasn’t suggesting an “efficient economy” but an “efficient response on climate” (I think the comparison was between a larger economy with more jobs and a smaller economy with fewer jobs, rather than between two economies with the same output but different numbers of jobs).

    My own take on what he was suggesting (which I tried to express in the post) is that there is a response (an efficient one) that will lead to a stronger economy than would be the case if we chose to do nothing. I, however, do try to be charitable when interpreting what other people say. You could always try this yourself. Old dogs, new tricks, though.

  4. The biggest issue is really that people don’t understand how science works, and so arguing about individual misconceptions doesn’t really help.

    I find it incredibly hard to write about this. It is tough to explain how science science works in a way that is a pleasant read. There are so many ways to do science, which makes it easy to get lost in the weeds. On the other hand, maybe I am overthinking. It is everyday stuff and feels so trivial, but the posts I do manage to write on this a typically well received and read.

    Tips from real writers and science communication experts are welcome on how to do this well.

  5. William: “This doesn’t make sense. The most efficient economy, for a given output, is the one with the least jobs. Unless this is some strange new definition of efficient. This is why you shouldn’t let physical scientists do economics.

    That is because you are thinking on the level of one corporation. At the level of an economy having unemployed people is inefficient.

  6. Victor,

    At the level of an economy having unemployed people is inefficient.

    This may well be true, but I don’t think that Richard Alley was suggesting that an efficient economy was one with more jobs (as WMC implied). He was suggesting (as I believe economic analyses indicate) that the global economy will probably be stronger if we follow a future pathway in which we emit less CO2 into the atmosphere than we would if we simply allowed fossil fuels to dominate and emissions to – as a consequence – continue rising.

  7. Chubbs says:

    The economic point is a good one, if hard to communicate. To address WMC, “efficiency” is probably not the best word. I prefer sub-optimal. By ignoring long-term fossil fuel carbon impacts and resource depletion our economic path to the future is becoming increasingly sub-optimal.

    It is also important to recognize the economic difference between fossil fuels and energy technologies like solar, wind and batteries. Fossil fuels costs tend to increase with time as low cost reserves are depleted, while energy technologies decrease in cost along well established cost-learning curves. Already fossil fuels are struggling to compete even when their negative long-term costs are completely ignored. In the past, our fossil fuel addiction was providing large short-term economic benefits, now the short-term benefits are much smaller, while the long-term costs continue to mount.

  8. mt says:

    I don’t generally like William’s approach to economics but on this matter I agree and was going to say almost precisely the same thing.

    The key question is, what is an economy for? Related: Why do we want it to grow without bound? If it does grow without bound, what is it that is growing?

    On such matters, William is stubbornly conventional.

    But the answer to full employment remains to dig canals with teaspoons, an old answer but still on point. On this, we agree.

    To suggest that there are more jobs in renewables than in energetically comparable fossil fuels is essentially to admit that renewables are the opposite of growth, moderate left shibboleths notwithstanding,

  9. BBD says:

    To suggest that there are more jobs in renewables than in energetically comparable fossil fuels is essentially to admit that renewables are the opposite of growth, moderate left shibboleths notwithstanding,

    +1. There are much better arguments for energy transition.

  10. Hold on, but let’s at least clarify that Richard Alley did not say what WMC suggested he had said. I’m not disagreeing with what WMC said about economics. I’m suggesting that it isn’t what was being implied. Am I missing something?

  11. To suggest that there are more jobs in renewables than in energetically comparable fossil fuels is essentially to admit that renewables are the opposite of growth, moderate left shibboleths notwithstanding,

    While at the same time the published opinion fears that machines will soon take our jobs and the libertarians claim there is a war on work as evidenced by less labor participation of “prime-aged man” to justify their war on workers.

    I fail to see why a higher percentage of the investment going towards local labor costs makes a business less good for economic growth. If that is the most efficient way to produce cheaper energy that is fine. Let the market decide how to solve the problems most efficiently.

  12. mt says:

    The point at issue is “Compared to “business as usual”, efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs,” which struck me as much weaker than anything else Richard said, which nevertheless you highlighted.

    I am utterly unconvinced that growth OR full employment are useful goals for advanced economies, for what it’s worth.

  13. mt,

    which struck me as much weaker than anything else Richard said, which nevertheless you highlighted.

    Well, I was trying to highlight something that was a step away from simply discussing our scientific understanding; we keep getting told that we should move away from discussing the science towards discussing solutions. I also didn’t find it all that objectionable. I thought it was simply highlighting that doing something would be economically better than doing nothing (i.e., the economically optimal pathway is one in which we do not emit as much as we possibly could). I thought the debate would be more about how much we should do and how soon we should start, rather than about some interpretation of what he meant by “more jobs”.

    I am utterly unconvinced that growth OR full employment are useful goals for advanced economies, for what it’s worth.

    Even given this, it would still be true (I think) that avoiding a high emission pathway would be preferable. The problem I can see, though, is that we are in an environment where the assumption is that we should aim for economic growth. It’s hard enough to motivate climate action even given that economic analyses suggest that avoiding a high emission pathway is preferable. It would seem even harder if we were arguing against economic growth and full employment. Of course, I don’t really know quite what you would be arguing for, so please correct me if I’m interpreting this incorrectly.

  14. There remains a big difference in the way science works when comparing climate science versus many other scientific disciplines, and that is in the ability to do controlled experiments. Likely much more progress would have been made if a laboratory earth were available to experiment with in a controlled fashion. But that is not possible, so earth scientists do the best with the data that is available.

  15. That reducing CO2 emissions efficiently is good for growth is rather trivial, isn’t it? Even Tol or Lomborg admit that the costs of reducing emissions are much less than the benefits due to less expensive adaptation and the damages of climate change.

    Do I remember it right that Bjorn Lomborg (after changing parameters to his favor) still found that every dollar invested in climate action would save us 16$? Our professorial bunny had a post on that. That is one of the best investments you can make.

    We can invest those profits in more wealth or in more free time. I like having to do less to achieve the same goal.

  16. wmconnolley says:

    > a stronger economy than would be the case if we chose to do nothing

    Unfortunately, his words are ambiguous, as words often are. They might mean what you suggest. Or they might mean the all-too-often expressed view that green jobs are good jobs because you get more of them per megawatt, which I was trying to point out as a flawed argument.

    Your version of his argument – efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs – is pretty well motherhood and apple pie. Who could disagree with the idea that we should do something efficient, rather than something inefficient? And the answer, of course, is that we don’t know what is efficient – in terms of choices – so as far as possible we should let people make their own decisions; or Carbon Tax Now! as I’ve said before. Specifically, German’s approach is inefficient.

  17. WMC,

    Unfortunately, his words are ambiguous, as words often are.

    Possibly, but why choose then to interpret them in an uncharitable way? His exacts words were “Compared to “business as usual”, efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs….”. Unless you think (as MT seems to) that we shouldn’t aim for economic growth, it seems unobjectionable.

    Your version of his argument – efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs – is pretty well motherhood and apple pie. Who could disagree with the idea that we should do something efficient, rather than something inefficient?

    Indeed, but the argument isn’t about whether or not we should do something efficient, rather then inefficient. The argument is really about whether or not there is a need to do anything at all. Okay, there is formal agreement that we should do something (Paris, for example) but little sense that anything is really happening. So, if you judge people on the basis of their actions, rather than their words, it would seem that the prevailing view is still that we should do little.

    Carbon Tax Now!

    Yes, but we’re not doing this Now! So, it seems entirely reasonable for people to highlight that doing something (a carbon tax, for example) is more economically efficient than not doing this.

  18. mt says:

    Regarding what we should do, we have a menu of choices. Holdren suggests that some combination of “mitigation, adaptation, and suffering” is in our future, but of course it’s not just having them sum to 100%; the less we mitigate the stronger the adaptation and suffering costs, but in a worse-than-zero-sum way.

    In fact, if we sensibly decide to go all-out on mitigation (despite all apparent odds, I’d say) we have a very big choice between 100% renewables and substantially nuclear. That decision puts efficiency or economic growth up against job growth. Nuclear will not employ that many people, precisely because it is what my engineering side would call an elegant technology.

    Convincing people that Something Needs To Be Done is only part of our daunting problem. We have to figure out what that Something is. Arguing, following Jacobson et al., that it’s a simple matter of replacing an obsolete and dangerous technology with an utterly marvelous clean new one may make the sale with some people, for a while. But it has the minor drawback of being untrue.

    The manufacturing and land-use impact of low-intensity renewables at scale will be enormous, and if as climate advocates we agree to sell renewables as drawback-free, we are buying an immense backlash in the future when people come to realize that it ain’t so.

    So my intent in backing WMC up here is not merely to be a curmudgeon here.

    Richard seems to be choosing his words carefully to avoid treading on this debate. Perhaps the words are put together in a way that makes them arguably true. But they hide a can of worms, and I think it’s reasonable in this venue to look into the can and count the worms.

  19. wmconnolley says:

    > The argument is really about whether or not there is a need to do anything at all

    Well, I’m not sure about that. As you’ve said, there is near-general agreement – among respectable people – that we should indeed do something. I’d prefer a carbon tax, no surprises there, because I think that would help towards an efficient approach. I’d also prefer people to stop winding up the Right by being trigger-happy on proposing new regulations (http://mustelid.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/talking-past-each-other-trump-pick-for.html), but I’m not holding my breath on that. As to whether we *need* to do something (as opposed to doing something being more efficient) the recent growth in solar (e.g. http://mustelid.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/photovoltaic-growth-reality-versus.html) gives me some hope that we don’t *need* to do anything. Which cheers me up slightly, given our apparent inability to collectively do much.

    > there is formal agreement that we should do something (Paris, for example) but little sense that anything is really happening

    Indeed. And this is because, as I certainly and I think you maybe have noted, that while there’s general agreement to do “something” there’s little specific agreement on anything. Economists are near-universal in agreeing on a carbon tax, but I only have to say that for any number of nice Leftward type folks to jump up and point out numerous flaws; and this in minature is a reflection of the world at large, so no-one can agree to anything; nor is there much in the way of leadership on this from the scientific community. Whose leadership on this issue, to be clear, in my opinion ought to be: “if you want to understand the science, listen to us and read the IPCC. If you want to understand the economics, don’t listen to us, listen to economists”. Unfortunately, that isn’t what they are saying. To venture onto perhaps uncharitable grounds, I might suggest that having got used to the limelight they are reluctant to cede it.

  20. mt says:

    “If you want to understand the economics, don’t listen to us, listen to economists.”

    If only there were some well-established economic theory that actually applied to the circumstances at hand, that would indeed be good advice.

    Alas, that is not the case. We are presented by mainstream economics with a small-signal linearization where large-signal nonlinearities are clearly at issue. This idea that “growth” is a well-defined quantity is prominent among many errors that come from economists knowing, basically, precious little about general system dynamics.

    Small-signal linearization methods are often used in fields which do understand nonlinear dynamics well enough of course. But understanding dynamics well enough includes understanding dynamics well enough to know when the methods do not apply.

    Presumably this hasn’t escaped ALL economists, but discussions of this problem (what a fluid dynamicist would consider a regime boundary problem) are sufficiently rare that I haven’t been able to find any.

  21. Willard says:

    FWIW:

    Economic efficiency is, roughly speaking, a situation in which nothing can be improved without something else being hurt. Depending on the context, it is usually one of the following two related concepts:

    – Allocative or Pareto efficiency: any changes made to assist one person would harm another.

    – Productive efficiency: no additional output can be obtained without increasing the amount of inputs, and production proceeds at the lowest possible average total cost.

    These definitions are not equivalent: a market or other economic system may be allocatively but not productively efficient, or productively but not allocatively efficient. There are also other definitions and measures. All characterizations of economic efficiency are encompassed by the more general engineering concept that a system is efficient or optimal when it maximizes desired outputs (such as utility) given available inputs.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_efficiency

    To echo McCarthy’s conjecture, i.e. He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense, let’s introduce this other one: He who refuses to read Wiki entries is doomed to raise many concerns regarding nonsense on ClimateBall blogs.

    If an economist tells you that the most optimal market is one where noone works, please shoot him into the Sun for me.

  22. Mal Adapted says:

    wmconnolley:

    If you want to understand the economics, don’t listen to us [climate scientists], listen to economists.

    I’m with William here. If you’re a genuine skeptic and know you’re not an expert on a topic, you’ll acknowledge there may nevertheless be genuine experts, whose collective understanding of their specialty is not only greater than yours, but greater than any individual expert’s, and who are best qualified to recognize their peers because they’ve all put in the time to vet each other’s work. The Dunning-Kruger effect ensues from a soi disant skeptic’s failure to apprehend that.

    The trick for honest skeptics is to distinguish genuine from fake experts. That’s why John Nielsen-Gammon argues for teaching scientific meta-literacy:

    We scientists rely upon a hierarchy of reliability. We know that a talking head is less reliable than a press release. We know that a press release is less reliable than a paper. We know that an ordinary peer-reviewed paper is less reliable than a review article. And so on, all the way up to a National Academy report.

    I’m not an expert on anything (good thing I’m retired), but my prolonged formal education left me with a modicum of scientific metaliteracy. Otherwise I wouldn’t dare comment on this blog!

    MT:

    If only there were some well-established economic theory that actually applied to the circumstances at hand, that would indeed be good advice.

    There is, Michael. Try this 2002 National Academy report: The Drama of the Commons. You might also like E. Ostrom’s ideas on polycentric approaches to the drama of the global climate commons.

  23. Ken Fabian says:

    In an “efficient economy with few jobs” where do the people who lost their jobs fit in? An efficient, competitive company’s balance sheets can look excellent but the burden of costs of the competing companies that failed along the way to it’s success don’t disappear; they are still on the economy’s books. Economies are also societies and I’m not sure economic efficiency is inarguably and always socially beneficial; these are complex systems and there will be some feedback mechanisms in play, both positive and negative.

  24. Willard says:

    Interestingly, Mal, Elinor was a political scientist, not an economist. Yet she won the Nobel Prize for economics. I suspect that if political scientists can make sense out of economics, physicists can too.

    Interestingly also is the fact that the only persons feisty enough to challenge Elinor were Freedom Fighters themselves:

    Elinor Ostrom thinks she has discovered a third way apart from private and government property: the commons. In her view, there is no “tragedy” associated with this third option. The present article takes strong issue with her. Our claim is that she has not properly distinguished between a commons and partnership arrangements. In the former case, outsiders cannot be excluded from entry; in the latter, they can. The reason for this confusion between the commons and private property in Ostrom’s work is that she believes private property is possible only if government protects and enforces it. We show by using various historical examples that this assumption is wrong, and hence the central tenet of Ostrom’s model of the commons fails.

    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ajes.12141

    Walter Block is quite an entertaining character, and he’s not shy of using the “effective” word:

  25. mt says:

    I like Ostrom’s ideas, sort of the way I like Arthur C. Clarke’s or Isaac Asimov’s. They are pleasant, reassuring, inspiring ideas, but it would be childish foolishness to take them literally as a guide to what to do, now, under our current difficult circumstances.

    I like the idea of a hierarchy of reliability, but in my ranking, economics is low on the scale. Show me a successful prediction of macroeconomics operating over decadal or longer time scales, anything like a proper Popperian test, if you want me to revise my opinion.

    I don’t know if an epistemically sound theory of long time scale economics is even possible. I have seen no convincing evidence that it exists, and not for lack of looking.

    This is not to say that practitioners don’t make claims about economics on long time scales. But a science is more than a bunch of credentialed practitioners making claims. In particular such claims I have seen seem to be based on an unjustified linearization, a small signal analysis that has substantial utility on short time scales but is utterly broken on long ones.

  26. izen says:

    I sympathise with WMC and MT about the ambiguity in Alley’s comment about an economy with more jobs. Shirley the best economy would have NO jobs that required people to be payed to do them, and no workers who had to do a job to obtain at least basic food/shelter/welfare.
    Or Bread and Circuses.

    But taking the claim as correct in the context, that a transition for mitigation would produce a ‘better’ economy than BAU, there is a problem.
    It is not better for everyone.
    Specifically it is not better for one of the largest finacial business on the planet with consequent political influence.

    Reduced consumption of fossil fuels can never be an improvement for those organisations that only exist to extract, refine and sell the product.

    The technical, economic and political problems in constructing a cleaner, sustainable alternative energy sources are large.
    They may be equalled by the difficulty in dismantling the existing system which is unlikely to respond favourably to any attempt to reduce consumption of its product.

    Changing a deeply embeded aspect of the world economy is unlikely to be conflict-free. Like the slave-owners before them, those dependent as producers and consumers will probably obstruct and retaliate.
    Eventual resolution will probably require generous compensation for all that ‘Lost Wealth’ in the stranded assets of fossil fuels. Estimates of how much they are NOT producing will be inflated, and any economic benefits of the transition will be absorbed by the damages claimed by those who would have done better under BAU.

  27. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    Interestingly, Mal, Elinor was a political scientist, not an economist. Yet she won the Nobel Prize for economics. I suspect that if political scientists can make sense out of economics, physicists can too.

    Or even psychotic mathematicians. I, for one, see no reason to postulate noumenal academic departments at the outset.

  28. Nathan Tetlaw says:

    Gotta say there are some people saying stupid things here… In the name of ‘Economics’

    Prime example:

    “The most efficient economy, for a given output, is the one with the least jobs.”

    Where does this definition come from? It looks made up. And I doubt economic efficiency even has a definition. Probably, as with his Law vs Regulation definitions, there’s nothing to it other than the ‘vibe’.
    So on the Economic dictionary it says:
    Definition of efficiency:
    Efficiency is concerned with the optimal production and distribution of these scarce resources.

    Hmmmmm nothing about jobs there.

  29. Nathan Tetlaw says:

    Here’s a thought experiment, Let’s say we have two process available: the Alley Process, and the WMC Process.
    The Alley Process is most efficient at solving Global warming in a scientific sense
    The WMC Process is most efficient at solving global warming in an economic sense.

    What’s the difference between the two?

  30. Mal Adapted says:

    MT:

    Show me a successful prediction of macroeconomics operating over decadal or longer time scales, anything like a proper Popperian test, if you want me to revise my opinion.

    You’re entitled to your opinion, Michael, but in my irrevocably mediocre opinion (IMIMO) “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” meets your requirement.

    As I said in another thread, IMIMO Popperian falsification is an artificial obstacle for data-driven historical sciences like Geology, Biology or Economics. The data are chiefly records of past conditions and events, that can’t be replicated because they already happened. Any falsifying evidence is likely to be counter-factual! What would falsify Evolution? “Rabbits in the Precambrian” (Haldane): nice try, but none have been found. Show me a stable economy in which all goods and services are available to all individuals on demand at no price, and I’ll revise my IM opinion of the ‘market’ model of economics.

  31. Mal Adapted says:

    Me:

    Or even psychotic mathematicians. I, for one, see no reason to postulate noumenal academic departments at the outset.

    Without the link I had intended to insert to John Nash, one might infer I’m a psychotic mathematician. I assure you all that the last time I checked, I was neither.

  32. Mal Adapted: “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch

    A walking economist would ignore a 20 dollar bill on the pavement because it cannot exist. 🙂

    The university of Bonn has a day for the public twice a year where new professors give a talk (and if there is space also other scientists). An economist here freely explained that none of the main German economic institutes had ever predicted a recession in advance.

    Economists have a difficult job. And predicting a recession is also somewhat unethical as it may provoke one.

    It would be nice to have an IPCC-like report on macro-economics. I am sure they will agree that a carbon tax is the best solution for climate change. I am less sure they will do a WMC and claim with confidence that no other measures are worthwhile.(I hope I am honestly summarising Williams position.) On other economic topics I expect a lot less confidence and agreement.

    “Rabbits in the Precambrian” is a perfectly fine way to show that evolution is falsifiable and thus a scientific theory. That none have been found just shows that the theory of evolution has passed this test for now.

  33. Willard says:

    > Show me a stable economy in which all goods and services are available to all individuals on demand at no price, and I’ll revise my IM opinion of the ‘market’ model of economics.

    There’s no such thing as a market model of economics, although there are many market models in economics. The concept of market can describe anything and everything:

    In mainstream economics, the concept of a market is any structure that allows buyers and sellers to exchange any type of goods, services and information. The exchange of goods or services, with or without money, is a transaction. Market participants consist of all the buyers and sellers of a good who influence its price, which is a major topic of study of economics and has given rise to several theories and models concerning the basic market forces of supply and demand. A major topic of debate is how much a given market can be considered to be a “free market”, that is free from government intervention.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_(economics)

    This definition falls back on the notion of structure, which again comprises just about anything and everything:

    Structure is an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in a material object or system, or the object or system so organized.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structure

    Thanks for PZ’s mediocrity principle, Mal.

  34. mt says:

    People should watch the video linked in the parent article. Gavin makes strong claims for climate models, claims which are correct. What can comparably be done with economics on climate change time scales? Very little, if anything, I believe,.

    But I’m an honest fellow and would be happy to see a sound refutation of my doubts. Can anyone help?

  35. Mal Adapted says:

    Victor Venema:

    “Rabbits in the Precambrian” is a perfectly fine way to show that evolution is falsifiable and thus a scientific theory. That none have been found just shows that the theory of evolution has passed this test for now.

    Yes, and I could have explained myself better. My point is that the model of Evolution is inferred from what’s known from the fossil record, and predictions of the future are impractical to test because of the time spans involved. So too with the basic concepts of market, supply and demand, and price: show me credible evidence for a historical contradiction of TANSTAAFL within von Thunen’s Isolated State, and I’d have to re-evaluate my market model. If you’re setting up a controlled experiment to test TANSTAAFL, however, we’ll be waiting a long time for the results.

  36. Willard says:

    Are you looking for examples of falsification or successful predictions, MT? Perhaps my favorite of falsified crap would be the following:

    Walrasian equilibrium is one of the more absurd pieces of theory in economics (which is saying something). There are two (rational) agents with endowments of two factors of production, which they hire out to two profit-maximising producers. The producers use these factors of production to create two consumer goods, then the consumers purchase them. Everyone behaves as if they are perfectly competitive (they can’t influence prices) and everything happens simultaneously. There is no direct trade; instead individuals trade through the market (which comes from god outside the model).

    The behaviour of consumers in this model is tautological. They consume based on a predetermined utility function that cannot be observed. Hence, they consume what they were always going to consume based on the chosen, non-empirical parameters of the model. This doesn’t tell us anything.

    The behaviour of producers in this model is observable in the real world and hence not tautological. It is also not what happens in the real world. Some firms maximise profits, but most don’t; those firms that do maximise profits equate MC and MR is clearly false.

    The only prediction this model as a whole makes is that the initial distribution of endowments will affect what is produced, how it is distributed, how much is produced and the price of what is produced. In other words: the initial resource distribution of a market economy affects its subsequent workings. This is trivial, and easily shown by theories that are based on more realistic assumptions (such as Sraffa).

    https://unlearningeconomics.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/falsification-in-economics/

    It’s even better than the Solow GRRRRROWTH model.

    You should follow the guy’s tweeter.

  37. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    There’s no such thing as a market model of economics

    “You do too know what I mean!” -Hank Roberts.

    Willard:

    This definition falls back on the notion of structure, which again comprises just about anything and everything

    Why, yes, it sounds quite like my discussion of ‘Economics’ (capitalized) within the scope of ‘Science’ (capitalized) in the interminable thread. That’s OK, I don’t read all your stuff either ;^D.

    Willard:

    Thanks for PZ’s mediocrity principle, Mal.

    You’re welcome. I happen to think he’s articulated a ‘cosmic’ truth, i.e. with the broadest possible scope. That’s in addition to the more prosaic but equally profound

    an essential skill everyone should have [is] algebra

    Spread the Word 8^D!

  38. Greg Robie says:

    I didn’t hear Alley say the AGW problem had a scientific solution, his section of the presentation ended with a repeat of that opening slide ATTP quotes, AND a slide saying the rate of change that CapitalismFail has effected has no predictive president. What that point means was not elucidated – beyond an earlier slide that noted 15′ of sea level rise cannot be ruled out relative to 2100.

    I also don’t see where WMC has offered an economic solution to AGW. So, there is no difference between the two since neither claims a solution. And Richard infers that any definition of a solution is subject to change as natural feedbacks kick in. He was explicit that the discovery from ice cores that the system can tip in three years was complacency disrupter. But, as knowledge it is not included in either the introductory and summary assertion.

    At the end of the Q&A I think Alley gives a contectual framing regarding a more nuienced use and/or understanding of the term “efficiency”. He talks about the Town of Easton’s regulation of deforestation in the late 1600s in very much the same way he references the ‘more jobs’ assertion: a relative social good. In the production of sea salt needed for creating salted cod to ship back to the London investors that the plantation residents were initially contractually bonded to compensate, and, later, as freemen, banana republic-like, the harvesting of trees to boil off the sea water had denuded the Town. A shift to a wind/solar process became mandated. In the minutes of the Town of Hampton, (now) NH (then part of the Massachusetts Plantation), the cutting of trees was a regulated activity at its establishment (1638). I therefore feel the point Richard attempts to make with his example is not quite as straightforward as he seems to think. Isn’t it equally arguable that vested economic interests in Easton effectively delayed regulations adopted elsewhere, until the scarcity of fuel, and a replacement technology, made the shift economical?

    I would observe that a similar alternate view can be made concerning the jobs and growth claim. Doesn’t Richard tip his hand when talking about the fear of regulations and a person’s pickup truck? Had he related such regulation and an academic’s flying to conferences, then maybe I could give more credence to the assertion. The oil era’s 100/capita energy equivalent slaves Alley talks about will not be replaced 1:1 by less dense and less mobile energy sources. This means less productivity, higher prices, lower wages, and economic contraction (CapitalismFail). Aren’t the pickup and jobs reference intended to fool [twice] the expendable deplorable; suggests a less than reasoned analysis concerning the efficacy of the assertion about either jobs or growth?

  39. Willard says:

    > “You do too know what I mean!”

    No, I don’t.

    ***

    > I happen to think he’s articulated a ‘cosmic’ truth

    I’ll try to articulate the “expanded brain” version of it soon.

  40. David B. Benson says:

    Nobody has brought up the Maximum Entropy Principle yet.

  41. MT,

    The manufacturing and land-use impact of low-intensity renewables at scale will be enormous, and if as climate advocates we agree to sell renewables as drawback-free, we are buying an immense backlash in the future when people come to realize that it ain’t so.

    So my intent in backing WMC up here is not merely to be a curmudgeon here.

    Richard seems to be choosing his words carefully to avoid treading on this debate. Perhaps the words are put together in a way that makes them arguably true. But they hide a can of worms, and I think it’s reasonable in this venue to look into the can and count the worms.

    Indeed, and I sympathise with Richard in this regard. It now seems clear that doing something will be economically better than not doing something. I, however, have no real sense of what we should be doing and, other than imposing a carbon tax, no real sense of how we do it. I’m with WMC when it comes to a carbon tax, but with the caveat that I’m not convinced that it alone would be sufficient. On the other hand, given that imposing one would be far better than what we are currently doing (very little) I’d be more than happy to support simply imposing a carbon tax.

  42. “If you want to understand the economics, don’t listen to us [climate scientists], listen to economists.”

    If we are discussing the economics of climate change, then it would be more sensible to listen to both economists and climate scientists. I do a lot of collaboration with scientists from other fields and what makes a good collaborator is the ability/willingness to find out enough about the other field to really understand what they are telling you. I suspect there are many climate scientists with an excellent grasp of economics and economists with a good grasp of climate science*, and those are the people most likely to be able to give a well informed opinion as they have a foot in both camps. At the end of the day, what matters is whether their arguments hold up, and if you have to use an uncharitable interpretation of what was actually said to criticize it, then what was said was probably quite sensible.

    * There are some climate scientists and economists who clearly don’t fit into these categories ;o)

  43. zebra says:

    Why do economists have to “predict” anything, and with what resolution if they do?

    We do not need high predictive resolution in climate science to have high confidence that BAU will lead to what most would consider negative outcomes. So, instead of endless repetitive and circular “debate”, isn’t the worthwhile question: “What can actually get done?”

    Since I am in the USA, I think about what things can be accomplished given the USA political realities, that will have the most impact. Please read that carefully…first, it must be possible, then you think about the impact.

    So, maybe a $1,000 carbon tax would not be possible but a $10 carbon tax could pass.

    Cue Nirvana Boys objections….

    The point being that a list of “what could be realistically done” is the logical place to start. That list would involve (I hope this isn’t a forbidden term) compromise. And as I’ve commented previously, if the people on blogs like this can’t let go of their ideological purity in the service of what they consider an existential threat to large numbers of humans, the prospects are dim.

  44. zebra,

    The point being that a list of “what could be realistically done” is the logical place to start.

    Yes, I agree. That’s largely why I think we should start with something like a carbon tax. It may not be enough, but it seems like a good place to start and it would seem to be a reasonable compromise.

    And as I’ve commented previously, if the people on blogs like this can’t let go of their ideological purity in the service of what they consider an existential threat to large numbers of humans, the prospects are dim.

    I’m not sure what ideological purity is being held on to here. I have mainly tried to steer away from commenting too much on policy, as it isn’t really my expertise.

  45. Greg Robie says:

    @ATTP

    It now seems clear that doing something will be economically better than not doing something.

    If the problem this is true for is a symptom of the problem that is being ignored – left undiscussed – how is this clarity assertion supported relative to the constraints of physics?

    The problem, as best I’ve been able to discern, and including the “how” of doing something scientifically significant, is the systemic debt-slavery in which all the devotees of CapitalismFail trust (thanks to motivated reasoning). For reasons that would likely benefit from open discussion, #GREED-is-go[]d. To the degree this is so, greed, as a given human propensity, needs to be leveraged and aligned with the need of reducing the existential social need that physics defines: a zero carbon economy with negative emission technology … and regardless of the felt efficacy of the outcome.

    This solution is currently in the pipeline of [any?] BAU derived scenario: the thaw of the flash-frozen collapse of CapitalismFail, the playing out of the unfolding sixth planetary extinction event, and the natural system-as-technology doing its thing relative to re-sequestering carbon that is in the active phase of the carbon cycle.

    I do not have on rose colored glasses in my advocacy for a sustainable carbon-credit currency based economy. But it is all that I have been able to imagine that frees the human psyche from the shackles of debt-slavery of BAU thinking; all that can reclaim the sovereignty lost to the Too-Big-To-Fail banks rule of CapitalismFail; can reclaim for humanity the agency of the right to be responsible.

    The means to do this reside with the citizens of the United States. Our 1913 Federal Reserve Act was, and is, unconstitutional; a #sovereigntyLOST. A third to 50% of our citizenship have taken an oath to protect and defend our Constitution. All of us/US are bound by a similar constraint concerning our social behavior. To the degree doing something is something that needs imagination, imagine discussing an economic boycott of the US to force this abided discussion here … and as a matter of honor, to invoke honorable action.

  46. Greg Robie says:

    Missed autocorrect
    “Avoided” not “abided”
    Yet, avoid abides

  47. zebra says:

    @ATTP,

    I didn’t mean you, I meant various commenters– you are obviously on the pragmatic end of the spectrum, as am I.

    As an example, my suggestion on the other thread, which elicited lots of “markets bad capitalism bad” even though it had very little to do with the arcana of modern mainstream economics, but was intended as a compromise among the various camps.

  48. zebra says:

    @ATTP,

    I think, after getting my second cup of coffee and re-reading, that I will take some issue with your framing “we should ‘start’ with something like a carbon tax”. I would say:

    -Start with winning elections, then
    -Create a number of policies that have a good chance of being implemented, and work on all of them simultaneously.

    So, EPA restrictions on CO2 from electricity generation, greater fuel economy standards for autos, small increase in gas tax, and so on, including some policies I have already suggested. But, none of them are individually expected to accomplish some extreme, immediate reduction in CO2. Rather, (and I think we’ve seen this work already), rely on synergy and “nudging” to amplify the positive outcomes.

  49. zebra,

    -Start with winning elections, then
    -Create a number of policies that have a good chance of being implemented, and work on all of them simultaneously.

    True, we do need to have elected officials who will actually implement something. As to the second point, certainly. However, other than a carbon tax, I’m not sure what other policies could be effective and could also be implemented.

  50. zebra says:

    @ATTP,

    other policies:

    https://www.epa.gov/nsr/clean-air-act-permitting-greenhouse-gases (Implemented by a rational government.)

    And, again, mileage standards for autos, and my suggestion about electricity generation, and so on.

    Anything which moves the paradigm is “effective”. None of these policies will lead to zero emissions in 30 years, individually or collectively, sorry. But the results will be greater than the sum of the parts.

  51. izen says:

    @-Nathan
    “So on the Economic dictionary it says:
    Efficiency is concerned with the optimal production and distribution of these scarce resources.
    Hmmmmm nothing about jobs there.”

    Try under Productivity.
    Especially Labour productivity.
    ‘Obviously’ the most efficient production is that which has zero worker input.

    I would have more confidence in a Carbon tax if the other example of such an approach to reduce damaging high consumption levels of an energy source looked like it worked.
    https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/IEA%20Sugar%20Taxes%20Briefing%20Jan%202016.pdf

  52. Mal Adapted says:

    Greg Robie:

    I do not have on rose colored glasses in my advocacy for a sustainable carbon-credit currency based economy. But it is all that I have been able to imagine that frees the human psyche from the shackles of debt-slavery of BAU thinking

    I’m sympathetic to wishes to free ‘the human psyche’ from debt-slavery and BAU thinking. Sadly, I’m not confident that will happen in my lifetime, or at all (“The poor ye shall have with you always” -attrib. Yeshua of Nazareth, early first century CE*). BAU thinking, debt-slavery and ‘the human psyche’ are all complex phenomena with ramifying ultimate and proximate causes. IMIMO, economic injustice will be with us (in the eyes of the losers, at least) until philosophers are kings and kings are philosophers.

    AGW, OTOH, is a clear and present danger, with a proximate cause identified in specific human behavior: namely, the failure of ‘free’ markets, in the 300 years following the cultural innovation of digging up fossil carbon and burning it for supplemental (i.e. non-food) energy, to internalize the marginal climate-change cost of the waste CO2 emitted. By the same reasoning, it’s pragmatic to focus on AGW mitigation by proximate collective actions, e.g. carbon taxes.

    As a ‘survivor’ of the 1960s, IMIMO the revolution is on hold until we get past the imminent existential threat of AGW, when more of us may be willing to tackle capitalism among other ultimate and/or proximate causes of business as usual in global human society. In that time scale Greg’s sustainable carbon-credit currency proposal, for example, might be expanded to internalize other ‘environmental’, i.e. social, costs.

    * not going down the rabbit holes of chronological numbering or the source’s historical accuracy.

  53. Mal Adapted says:

    mt:

    But I’m an honest fellow and would be happy to see a sound refutation of my doubts. Can anyone help?

    Admittedly these aren’t formal refutations, but how about “perfect is the enemy of better”, or the more proximate “all models are wrong, but some are useful”?

  54. Steven Mosher says:

    “> efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs
    This doesn’t make sense. The most efficient economy, for a given output, is the one with the least jobs. Unless this is some strange new definition of efficient. This is why you shouldn’t let physical scientists do economics.”

    ditto, I love Alley when he sticks to the paleo, absolutely the best.

  55. Steven,

    ditto, I love Alley when he sticks to the paleo, absolutely the best.

    1. He didn’t say what WMC claimed he had said, so not quite clear why you said “ditto”.

    2. We keep hearing how we should move on from discussing science to motivating action, and the minute a scientist does this, everyone says “talk about the science”.

  56. wmconnolley says:

    > We keep hearing how we should move on from discussing science to motivating action, and the minute a scientist does this, everyone says “talk about the science”.

    But you’ve confused your referrent (if I’ve got the terminology right). You’ve used the word “we” to refer to different things. Expanded, what would be more reasonable is: “We (scientists, the general public, pols) keep hearing how we (we-the-discourse) should move on…”

    So there is no contradiction. “We” should indeed move on; but the people then talking shouldn’t be the physical scientists. Per my comment of April 1, 2018 at 6:29 pm.

  57. Steven Mosher says:

    ““What can actually get done?”

    Since I am in the USA, I think about what things can be accomplished given the USA political realities, that will have the most impact. Please read that carefully…first, it must be possible, then you think about the impact.

    So, maybe a $1,000 carbon tax would not be possible but a $10 carbon tax could pass.

    Cue Nirvana Boys objections….”

    Yup.

  58. “2. We keep hearing how we should move on from discussing science to motivating action, and the minute a scientist does this, everyone says “talk about the science”.”

    Indeed, it’s almost as if we (as a society) didn’t want to actually do anything about climate change ;o)

  59. Steven Mosher says:

    “So there is no contradiction. “We” should indeed move on; but the people then talking shouldn’t be the physical scientists. Per my comment of April 1, 2018 at 6:29 pm.”

    yup.

  60. BBD says:

    Or if we do, then to be accused by the promoters of near-useless minimalism of committing a Nirvana fallacy simply for pointing out that doing almost nothing will produce almost no result.

    Zebra should note who is now endorsing his position.

  61. BBD says:

    That was @dikran’s “Indeed, it’s almost as if we (as a society) didn’t want to actually do anything about climate change ;o)” btw.

  62. Mal Adapted says:

    izen:

    I would have more confidence in a Carbon tax if the other example of such an approach to reduce damaging high consumption levels of an energy source looked like it worked.

    The results of ‘the carbon tax approach’ depend critically on detailed distinctions; in more global terms, “the devil is in the details”. That’s not special pleading: AFAICT we’re talking about an anthropogenic, i.e. explicitly teleological, process.

  63. Couple of comments – two main points – and I will try to be brief.

    As several commenters have suggested, typically references to “efficiency” in economics are about allocative and productive efficiency.

    There is also an arguable (weaker or stronger) assumption that a properly functioning market (e.g. effectively free enough, pricing in externalities “enough”, etc.) will tend to seek an equilibrium where those efficiencies are maximized.

    This is part of the problem with comments like Richard Alley’s along the lines of “efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs”.

    It seems to suggest a world where we can have our cake and eat it too. I.e., apparently we have no real sacrifices to make, because if we would just come to our senses we would realize that what is required to decarbonize our industrial and residential and commercial and energy and agricultural systems not only lead to positive climate outcomes, but that they can grow both our economy and jobs*.

    There is really virtually no evidence for this: In almost every economic modelling exercise, there is a direct cost to the economy – a drag – associated with the otherwise unnecessary transition to decarbonization.

    And this makes sense strictly from a common sense point of view. Say you have a perfectly functioning bridge over a river that does what it is supposed to – moves people and goods across the river. But it turns out that the bridge is inherently contributing carbon to the problem. So we are going to have to either scrap the bridge and build another, or undertake (possibly impractical) retrofits.

    This additional cost – which the mainstream economists suggest represents about 2-3% of GDP starting now and ongoing – is necessarily a net drag on economic output. Sure, when we build the new bridge, there are jobs and demand for steel and profit, etc., etc. But at the end of the day, you aren’t delivering additional benefit to the economy (goods and people could move across the river before and after) and furthermore, you had to divert investment spending from the next best use had this new bridge not been required. Maybe the new hospital doesn’t get built, etc.

    Now, you can say that by building this special mitigating bridge we are avoiding future damages, but make no mistake, we have had to make some sacrifice – say, the new hospital – to do so.

    And I am going to even make the generous assumption (which most of the IAM’s make) that this works out to a one-time speed-bump for the economy – that once the 2-3% reallocation of annual GDP spending is embarked on, that the economy shifts to a one-time lower output level, but then resumes compounding at the prior roughly 2% rate.

    But nevertheless, there have been real sacrifices made to accomplish this shift. It’s not a case of, well, if we build the new bridge, we get the new hospital too and maybe even sooner!

    I promised brief, so enough on that point, but make no mistake: decarbonization has real costs and sacrifices, and NO, the economy is not going to be automatically bigger than it would have been had the decarbonization not been necessary.

    And it is somewhat misleading when Alley and others frame it as “cake and eat too” stuff, intentionally or not.

    The other point I want to touch on, is this from the original post: “given what we’re currently doing I would argue that the starting point would be ‘do more than we currently are’.” In other discussions, here and elsewhere, I see the same vague rejoinder to, say, climate sensitivity discussions, along the lines of “In the end, none of this matters, because what is clear is that what we need to do is reduce our emissions as much as possible and as fast as possible.”

    The problem with these slogans is that they really obscure what is required to avoid 2°C, say. As long as we start and it feels like we are ambitious, that seems like a victory.

    Stealing framing from Bill McKibben’s December 2015 Guardian piece:

    In fact, pace is now the key word for climate. Not where we’re going, but how fast we’re going there. Pace – velocity, speed, rate, momentum, tempo. That’s what matters from here on in. We know where we’re going now … But the question, the only important question, is: how fast.

    To put it in slightly more familiar terms, think about deciding that you’re going to run a marathon. Any healthy person can learn to do it as long as they set a very relaxed pace – in fact, there’s a whole club of people who just happily run slowly… The average finishing time for the Los Angeles marathon: five hours and 15 minutes.

    But in the case of the climate talks, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about going fast. Limiting the temperature increase to 1.5C would be like setting a new world record (which is two hours and two minutes); even managing to hold it to 2C would be like running a marathon way under three hours, something only 2% of marathoners ever accomplish. “Running a marathon is hard,” running writer Mark Remy has written. “Doing it in less than three hours is really hard. No, I mean hard. Like really freaking hard.”

    What it requires is devoting yourself single-mindedly to the task. You don’t get to drink beer with dinner and run a three-hour marathon. You don’t get to skip training days. You go to bed early every night, because you’re bone-tired. You have to run even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.

    Maybe it is just me, but when I read the equivalent of “train as much as possible and as fast as possible!”, I feel like I am reading a coach who really has no idea of what it would take to coach a decarbonization athlete to a sub 2° marathon, so just waves his or her arms instead with a platitude that is pretty well guaranteed to fail.

    And, of course, knowing whether the budget is 400 GtCO2 or 800 GtCO2 sure as hell does matter when it comes to pace…

    ========================================================================

    * Of course, the “relative to baseline” is usually left out of this framing. That, and/or the fact that virtually all economic projections assume positive economic growth as inviolate under virtually all scenarios, so of course there are going to be more output and jobs in the future if that is the assumption. I still remember Nicholas Stern pointing out that in the early iterations of Nordhaus’ DICE model, that economic output would increase by a preposterous 50% even in a no-action case where GMST temps rose by 17°C. (Seventeen degrees Celsius, in case you think it is a typo.)

    So, it is non-specific to the point of meaninglessness if we are in a situation where the claim is being made that the economic output and jobs will be larger in the future under “Scenario X” if, in fact, for every instance of “X”, it is tautological that economic output and jobs will be larger.

  64. Steven Mosher says:

    “Compared to “business as usual”, efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs, improved health and greater national security in a cleaner environment more consistent with the Golden Rule.”

    ATTP, this is either trivially true or meaningless. what is an efficient response on energy?
    easy, one that leads to more jobs, improved health and apple pie and motherhood.

    Its strikes me as the same kind of nutty optimism that Matt Ridley engages in.

  65. Steven Mosher says:

    “Or if we do, then to be accused by the promoters of near-useless minimalism of committing a Nirvana fallacy simply for pointing out that doing almost nothing will produce almost no result.”

    its far easier to increase a tax that is in place, than to get it in place in the first place. At least that’s the theory. Gosh I dont know how many times I’ve suggested that some states in the us (like california) should follow the BC experiment on taxes.. ya know, so we have some some actual data from more than one place. Germany is experimenting with reshaping their energy system,
    china is experimenting, UK is experimenting. The US might do well with trying Hansens approach on taxes. The point is to get started. Overcome the inertia. The political will to do exactly what is needed is lacking. So start by getting what you can get today. Tent, camel nose, stuff.

  66. Steven Mosher says:

    “AGW, OTOH, is a clear and present danger, with a proximate cause identified in specific human behavior: namely, the failure of ‘free’ markets, in the 300 years following the cultural innovation of digging up fossil carbon and burning it for supplemental (i.e. non-food) energy, to internalize the marginal climate-change cost of the waste CO2 emitted. ”

    failure of state controlled economies as well, duh.

    The excessive burning of fossil fuels is not only a sign of the failure of ‘free markets’, every form of economy has burned the stuff with abandon. duh.

  67. WMC,

    “We” should indeed move on; but the people then talking shouldn’t be the physical scientists.

    Ahh, yes, I keep forgetting about your campaign to stop physical scientists discussing anything remotely associated with economics. Let’s think about this for a moment, though. We’re talking about people who choose to communicate publicly about this topic. It’s clear that economists cannot be the only people who are entitled to motivate action. That would be bizarre (I’m assuming you don’t mean this, but then I don’t really know anymore). If others want to get involved, that would be fine, but there’s no reason why scientists should make space for them. There’s also no reason why scientists can’t talk about other aspects of the topic. The key thing is mainly whether or not what they said was a reasonable respresentation of our understanding.

    In some sense, however, I think you’re illustrating the catch-22 that some scientists face. Focus on the science and people suggest they should move on. Focus on something else, and they get told to focus on the science. They could stop altogether (which is what I think some would like) and if others were taking over, that might actually be fine. Since this doesn’t really seem to be happening, I suspect many are reluctant to simply stop communicating.

    Let’s also remind outselves that in this particular instance the physical scientist said something so unobjectionable that your immediate assumption was that he can’t have meant something so obvious. You then thought that he must have meant something else and assumed it was something silly. So, in your world, a physical scientist can’t even say something boringly mainstream without you deciding that they don’t understand economics and should avoid discussing it. It’s almost as if you’ve become bored with fighting with the dork side and so have just decided to fight with others, and to do so you to make up things that they’ve said (this isn’t the first time, either). It is rather tedious, to be quite honest.

  68. Steven,

    ATTP, this is either trivially true or meaningless. what is an efficient response on energy?
    easy, one that leads to more jobs, improved health and apple pie and motherhood.

    Its strikes me as the same kind of nutty optimism that Matt Ridley engages in.

    Okay, as I see it the point is that there are still those who believe that the optimal way forward is one in which we simply keep burning fossil fuels and keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. There are numerous economic analyses that indicate that this is probably not true; that the economically optimal pathway is one in which we emit less CO2 into the atmosphere than we otherwise could. It may well not be easy to achieve this, but a start would be getting people to accept that this is probably the case. Just because something is trivially true, does not mean that there is no value in highlighting it.

  69. I have a comment in moderation, if it could be released, thanks.

    SM, re: “its far easier to increase a tax that is in place, than to get it in place in the first place. At least that’s the theory… The US might do well with trying Hansens approach on taxes. The point is to get started. Overcome the inertia. The political will to do exactly what is needed is lacking. So start by getting what you can get today… “

    The problem I have with this generalized commentary (not uniquely yours) is that I get the sense that it seems to operate somewhat oblivious to carbon budgets that don’t conveniently respond to human procrastination.

    The federal proposal that Citizens Climate Lobby (US) has had on offer for almost a decade now has never really changed: “Start with a $15/ton CO2 fee, and add $10/year.”

    So, you know, roughly 400 GtCO2 ago, $15 + $10/year was considered effective/adequate, and now it still is? How does that possibly correspond to the physical dilemma?

    Going back to the athlete training regimen, how would the original plan work if the athlete didn’t train for the first 6 months?

    God, I remember listening to the weepy CCL national leader on the monthly conference call immediately after Trump was elected. Promising! that he was personally committing to get legislation introduced (and passed) to the floor of the congress by the end of 2017. Ok, so (surprise!) another year passes.

    And the plan stays the same? How can this be serious?

    Think even what it implies to your activists. Hey, even though we are completely failing, the task and the ask never change. Huh?

  70. attp says: True, we do need to have elected officials who will actually implement something.

    I would suggest instead that we need a system to create sensible, longterm public/global policy.

    The electoral system has shown itself to be incapable of responding appropriately to problems like AGW. The electoral system was also incapable of addressing slavery. Do you see any parallels?

    To the extent that I make any effort these days, it tends to be in the realm of state and local initiatives. To date, we have been pretty unsuccessful with initiatives in WA State, but it seems like success might be driven through that process that asserts public will. Even if an initiative fails, but is close to passage, with promise of being attempted again in the next election cycle, the legislative system may respond to enact watered-down legislation that appears to produce similar results, but serves entrenched interests better than the initiative legislation might. I am tired of seeing the two party system play its charade and fail us over and over. I am not playing that game anymore. I understand that Lucy will always take the ball away at the critical moment. (it’s unfortunate that the Charlie Lucy field goal meme has gender stuff built in, is it not? It’s such a useful image otherwise.)
    https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fi.pinimg.com%2Foriginals%2Fe5%2F87%2Fe2%2Fe587e2d598cdd255acc09aea0a4b3242.png&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pinterest.com%2Fpin%2F484770347368655914%2F&docid=R2ykk7x-yceXRM&tbnid=dtBZL-9qzfEMZM%3A&vet=10ahUKEwi6oZmb9pvaAhVIzVQKHVbwCnAQMwiOASgCMAI..i&w=740&h=520&safe=active&client=firefox-b-1&bih=748&biw=1131&q=charlie%20lucy%20football&ved=0ahUKEwi6oZmb9pvaAhVIzVQKHVbwCnAQMwiOASgCMAI&iact=mrc&uact=8

  71. By the way, clicking through via the comment in the original post:

    “This is very like the argument Patrick Brown makes in his post suggesting that reducing greenhouse gas emissions helps the economy. Essentially, emitting less than we could will almost certainly have economic benefits.”

    That argument seems to be largely derived from this schematic:

    Ok, so it is a schematic, but based on the way the curves are drawn*, it is essentially a tautology that “reducing greenhouse gas emissions helps the economy”. (And it is a tautology that should probably read “reducing greenhouse gas emissions a very tiny bit helps the economy a very, very tiny bit”, which probably speaks to mt’s point about linearization…) (* i.e. where “total social costs due to emissions” are negative, and their absolute value is much less than the positive “total private gain from emissions”).

    The way that is plotted, you are never going to see an economy where limiting carbon emissions significantly is ever even on the table. Because assumptions. About economy, So there.

  72. Mal Adapted says:

    All: in no way do I wish to insult Michael Tobis or dozens of other smart, articulate people thoughtfully addressing AGW @aTTP. However cosmically mediocre, you are collectively what make this forum extra-ordinary in the blogospheric scope ;^).

    Do we all agree, at least, that there may be people who know more than we do about at least some of this stuff? Like any capitalized* Science, Economics is neither better nor worse than it is. Yet presumably we all recognize the role motivated reasoning has played in causing the problem. As we’re focused on capping the warming by any realistically expedient means, we ‘should’ (normatively speaking) be wary of the Dunning-Kruger effect in aggregate. IMIMO, no academic department should be peremptorily spurned (bearing in mind what I said about Social Text a while back ;^}).

    * No double entendre intended. Y’all can go down that rabbit hole if you want.

  73. Mal Adapted says:

    Smokin’ Steven Mosher:

    The excessive burning of fossil fuels is not only a sign of the failure of ‘free markets’, every form of economy has burned the stuff with abandon. duh.

    Oh, Steven, I know that. Should I say it in every comment I make?

  74. rust,

    The way that is plotted, you are never going to see an economy where limiting carbon emissions significantly is ever even on the table. Because assumptions. About economy, So there.

    Yes, I agree, but this is where I think the whole issue becomes tricky. What’s a reasonable starting point? What about simply getting people to accept that emitting less then we otherwise could would be beneficial. There’s a great deal of complexity that this ignores. There are details about how we should do this that we’re ignoring. There are details about how how much less and how fast that we’re ignoring. It is, however, a start. Maybe people think that this truism is well accepted. As far as I can see it is not, either because of outright denial, or indifference.

    Furthermore, there are people on this thread (WMC, for example) who seem to think that thinking about this economically is the way to do this (if I’m misrepresenting WMC’s views, happy to be corrected). There are others (MT, for example) who seem to think that we shouldn’t be aiming for growth and full employment. You also seem to think that we should be limiting CO2 emissions on the basis of something more than simply economic arguments (again, correct me if I’m wrong). How do we achieve something if we can’t even really agree of what we should be aiming to do?

  75. Mal Adapted says:

    Come to think of it (h/t Smokin’ Steven), the old parsimonious Usenet convention “#include ” might be useful for blogs if suitably updated. Maybe a link to one’s WordPress profile? Is this already a thing, and everyone knows it but me?

  76. Mal,

    Do we all agree, at least, that there may be people who know more than we do about at least some of this stuff?

    Of course. I’m certainly not suggesting that physical scientists *should* be the ones discussing policy/economics. I just see no real reason why they can’t, as long as they are careful to do so in a way that is consistent with our best understanding.

    As we’re focused on capping the warming by any realistically expedient means, we ‘should’ (normatively speaking) be wary of the Dunning-Kruger effect in aggregate.

    Indeed, and I think we should be careful of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. In a sense I’m surprised by the response to what Richard Alley said. It seemed obvious and unobjectionable (essentially, we’d be better off if we end up emitting less than we could). It’s not perfect. It lacks many details. But – to me – it’s an attempt to highlight a simple point – emit less. If we can get this accepted, then we can move in what will probably be the right direction. Details can come later and can be motivated by those who better understand the complexities.

  77. Mal Adapted says:

    Crap! My ” got rendered out 8^(. I hope this one isn’t also.

  78. Mal Adapted says:

    Arrghh. There’s presumably a way to escape special HTML characters here. Fuck it.

  79. I can fix it, but I’m not sure what it is that’s gone wrong.

  80. rustneversleeps: “It seems to suggest a world where we can have our cake and eat it too. I.e., apparently we have no real sacrifices to make, because if we would just come to our senses we would realize that what is required to decarbonize our industrial and residential and commercial and energy and agricultural systems not only lead to positive climate outcomes, but that they can grow both our economy and jobs*.

    There is really virtually no evidence for this: In almost every economic modelling exercise, there is a direct cost to the economy – a drag – associated with the otherwise unnecessary transition to decarbonization.

    Sorry, you could make this drag-claim about any investment in the future to grow the economy. All the hard work that goes into the construction of a factory or a road.

    And the transition is necessary. Reality does not care about what WUWT & Co. think. The damages are real.

  81. Mal Adapted says:

    aTTP:

    But – to me – it’s an attempt to highlight a simple point – emit less. If we can get this accepted, then we can move in what will probably be the right direction.

    Sigh. It’s a shame and a national disgrace that truculent AGW-deniers dominate the 115th US Congress.

  82. Dave_Geologist says:

    I just want to kill the minimum number of people.

    I don’t really care about whether efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs, or one where hardly anyone has jobs, machines do everything and unemployment benefit is renamed The Social Wage.

    Whatever floats the economy-minded rather than people-minded folks’ boats is fine by me.

    What the economy or society will looks like in 50 or 100 years’ time is vastly more difficult to predict than what the climate will look like. But unless you think we’ll have a Trantorian-scale retreat from the biosphere, you can be pretty sure that climate will still have a major impact on our wellbeing.

    I say fix it whatever the cost. Let the people who think they can predict and optimise the economics of getting there, do so. They’ll turn out to have been wrong, but who gives a damn?

    It’s probably more productive to come up with bones to throw to those who are politically, ideologically or religiously opposed to action than to optimise the action to add a few fractional points to GDP.

  83. Mal Adapted says:

    Thanks aTTP, it was angle-braces that I wanted to be literal. It would be grandiose of me to imagine it was worth fixing.

  84. I think you have to use “& lt ;” and “& gt ;” – without the spaces.

  85. Mal Adapted says:

    Dave_Geologist:

    Let the people who think they can predict and optimise the economics of getting there, do so.

    This. IMIMO the all-but-laissez-faire simplicity of CF&D+BAT, in concept and implementation, is its principal appeal.

  86. VV

    Sorry, you could make this drag-claim about any investment in the future to grow the economy.

    No, sorry, you can’t.

    Consider, say, a hotel/motel owner considering where he/she might re-invest in their property for the next year. And they conclude that they would like to add wi-fi to the rooms, which would make them more attractive to tourists, etc. But instead, because of regulations or to avoid increase costs due to a carbon tax, they instead choose to use that money to install a heat pump. That is a drag on the economy relative to the base (first) case.(And this is not a bug of the regulations or tax, it is a feature!). I am not going to point to the Broken Window Fallacy except to point to it. :p

    Nor am I going to dig up the paper by, I think Steve Davis and Ken Caldeira (and maybe Damon Matthews) – which is just one example – that points to the reality that in order to avoid 2°C, we have already built all the carbon-emitting capital that we can use to the end of its useful life and still stay within the emissions budget. So, although presumably we could avoid “further” misallocation of resources to building more of the stuff still, it still says that to make the switch to zero carbon alternatives, we have to retire the extant supply chains developed to deliver such goods. There is no way that waking up tomorrow and writing off/mothballing these assets is anything but a drag on the economy. Perhaps, as you allude and I agree, a “necessary” drag, but a drag nonetheless.

    Reality does not care about what WUWT & Co. think.

    Don’t know where that is coming from, but as far as my claims about drag, I am pretty much reciting bog standard understanding by Nicholas Stern, Martin Weitzman, William Nordhaus, Frank Ackerman, Chris Hope or any other “climate economist” out there…

  87. Mal Adapted says:

    rustneversleeps:

    In almost every economic modelling exercise, there is a direct cost to the economy – a drag – associated with the otherwise unnecessary transition to decarbonization.

    I do think it’s important for decarbonization advocates to understand that. OTOH, effective ‘framing’ for mass audiences entails accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative.

  88. The difference between investing in WiFi or a heat pump only illustrates the tragedy of the commons. The hotel owner may not notice the benefits of the investment, but humanity does. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

    That incentive problem is efficiently solved with a higher carbon tax and lower labour taxes. (This would make labour cheaper. Mainstream economists would say that if it is cheaper it is normally used more. Also known as “more jobs”.)

    The article below just came by on Twitter. Even for mild cases of warming there is a clear decrease in GDP due to climate change. (And most of the risks are in the tails and thus most benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well.)


    From the article: Uncertain impacts on economic growth when stabilizing global temperatures at 1.5°C or 2°C warming. By Felix Pretis, Moritz Schwarz, Kevin Tang, Karsten Haustein, Myles R. Allen.

    For comparison the energy sector is about 6% of the GDP globally. The energy transition would thus be more expensive if the new system were two times as expensive. Given that sun and wind are nowadays about the same price as dirty power that seems to be a bad assumption for this decade.

    Not reducing damages from climate change is the de-growth strategy.

  89. Now that this thread is mostly about economics. The last Forecast podcast was with “world-famous economist Michael Greenstone tells Mike about his main professional mission: to apply the tools of economics to reduce human suffering.”

    http://forecastpod.org/index.php/2018/03/21/michael-greenstone-environmental-economics-basketball/

    Well worth listening to.

  90. wmconnolley says:

    > It is rather tedious, to be quite honest.

    Oh. OK. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

  91. WMC,
    I was maybe hoping that you’d try harder to not simply make stuff up, but maybe that was expecting a bit much.

  92. Joshua says:

    Has anyone seen WMC and Richard Tol in the same time at the same place?

  93. Okay, maybe best to drop this. FWIW, I often appreciate what WMC says. I would just appreciate it more if it didn’t regularly involve knee jerk criticisms of things that people haven’t actually said.

  94. Mal Adapted says:

    rustneversleeps:

    I would suggest instead that we need a system to create sensible, longterm public/global policy.

    The electoral system has shown itself to be incapable of responding appropriately to problems like AGW. The electoral system was also incapable of addressing slavery. Do you see any parallels?

    Parallels are everywhere in the US, because our electoral system wasn’t designed to create sensible, longterm public/global policy. It was designed first and foremost to forestall tyranny, i.e. “government at its worst”. That required persuading a bunch of rich, powerful white guys to agree on the language, by carefully codifying checks and balances on each other. It still took 10 amendments guaranteeing freedoms, i.e. rights, for all citizens before it was ratified.

    Is another Constitutional amendment, guaranteeing that social costs will be internalized in the market for all goods and services, one of the answers to our predicament? Dunno.

  95. Wrongly attributed quote to me, Mal. That was smallbluemike you are talking to.

  96. Dave_Geologist says:

    VV

    he favors applying agnostic cost-benefit analyses to identify the most efficient ways of reducing suffering and increasing well-being

    Easy if all options offer the same amount of reduced suffering and increased well-being. But what if one option involves a 50% decrease in suffering but costs three times as much? Then you surely need a cost-benefit analysis. What quantum of suffering is worth spending s dollar to eliminate it?

    Although I admit that (a) I read the web blurb but haven’t listened to the podcast so perhaps the answer is there, and (b) per my previous post, I’m of the view that once you get more than a decade or two into the future, you might as well toss a coin.

  97. Mal Adapted says:

    Like everyone else, WMC and I are libertarians. I, along with everyone who isn’t is a deontological libertarian like WMC, am a consequentialist one: I want the maximum liberty consistent with my higher priorities, in my case the capacity of the global biosphere to sustain human life without a precipitous population decline (h/t Dave_Geologist). I sometimes say I’m an ecological conservationist first and a political libertarian second. William, at least when triggered, appears to be a libertarian first, last and foremost.

  98. Mal Adapted says:

    rust:

    Wrongly attributed quote to me, Mal. That was smallbluemike you are talking to.

    A thousands pardons, please. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, whether or not you agree with them.

  99. Mal Adapted says:

    Dave_Geologist:

    I’m of the view that once you get more than a decade or two into the future, you might as well toss a coin.

    In that case, modeling farther out is wasted effort. But what we’re projecting are future probability distributions. That requires using an informed prior PD. For example, we start with expectations for sign of the modeled trend, and refine from there.

  100. Willard says:

    > Zebra should note who is now endorsing his position.

    As predicted. Zebra should also note that strawmen like “if the people on blogs like this can’t let go of their ideological purity” are ways to play the ref, which goes against AT’s policy.

  101. Willard says:

    > Like everyone else, WMC and I are libertarians.

    I’m quite sure I’m not a libertarian. I hope it does not mean I’m not someone.

  102. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard, if you’re not a deontological libertarian, you’re surely a consequentialist one: you want the maximum freedom (even if it’s zero) consistent with your other priorities.

  103. Dave_Geologist says:”
    VV

    he favors applying agnostic cost-benefit analyses to identify the most efficient ways of reducing suffering and increasing well-being

    No idea who you are citing, but it is not me.

  104. Willard says:

    > if you’re not a deontological libertarian, you’re surely a consequentialist one

    Having an ethical stance doesn’t imply being a libertarian, Mal. In fact, I would consider myself an anti-libertarian more than anything, and believe that every libertarian doctrine on the market falters one way or another around issues of self ownership. Social democracy is tried, tested, and perhaps truer than any alternative I’ve seen so far. Overall, I distrust these self-identification exercises. Notice how our Stoatness, whose formation is in physics, doesn’t shy away from voicing economic opinions while frowning upon physicists doing the same.

    None of this matters much regarding RichardA or GavinS’ presentations.

  105. Mal Adapted says:

    Having an ethical stance doesn’t imply being a libertarian, Mal. In fact, I would consider myself an anti-libertarian more than anything

    I see. Is that like being an anti-Scotsman?

    Our difference may be due to a matter of scale, or perhaps scope. To you, liberty appears to be categorical, whereas I see it as dimensional. Or maybe we’re looking at orthogonal dimensions, or something. Just sayin’.

  106. Willard says:

    > Is that like being an anti-Scotsman?

    It’s rather like being an antirealist – I am not optimistic regarding finding a coherent version of libertarianism. Here’s NoamC invoking Adam Smith to criticize it:

    As you already know, I prefer Freedom Fighters.

  107. Greg Robie says:

    Mal, isn’t libertarianism just a dream some of US have? My foulhouse wisdom would say libertarianism is an ideology built on an ideology (as Jordan Peterson defined ideology: a parasitic meme built on a religious substructure). But see this irrational claim, I no longer wonder why you feel the quote about the poor applies as you used it. Is the “God helps those who help themselves” quote that is similarly misattributed to the Bible a trusted one? To consider how much of TheCamel you may have swallowed whole, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, might be an interesting read. And, as a quote of the same, and in in context, Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8. Ain’t “but”s [and motivated reasoning] a pisser? 😉

    BTW, the first ideology in the lineage of libertarianism is limited liability law enabled CapitalismFail. It’s symptom is AGW. Seeing the problem any other way is ________?

    +1 @rust re marathon metaphor. Pragmatism a marathoner will never make … only honor can do that./?

  108. Mal Adapted says:

    Greg Robie:

    Mal, isn’t libertarianism just a dream some of US have? My foulhouse wisdom would say libertarianism is an ideology built on an ideology (as Jordan Peterson defined ideology: a parasitic meme built on a religious substructure).

    As no one owns the word, my friend, you’re as free as I am to declare what libertarianism is or is not. I for one, opine we all like liberty more, or less.

    But see this irrational claim, I no longer wonder why you feel the quote about the poor applies as you used it.

    I take that quote to mean there will always be poor people. For ramifying, interlacing ultimate and proximate causes. Do you anticipate otherwise?

    Is the “God helps those who help themselves” quote that is similarly misattributed to the Bible a trusted one? To consider how much of TheCamel you may have swallowed whole

    Since you chose to dive down that rabbit hole: the Bible is a work of literature, not a historical record. Each of the Books had multiple, mostly anonymous authors and translators, over centuries. How can any attribution to the Old or New Testaments be considered ‘trusted’? I quote what sounds good in context! If I had my own quote boy, I could be still more obscure ;^).

    BTW, you’re aware that business about swallowing camels is a poetic metaphor, aren’t you? I’ve found the Bible to be full of those. Every reader assigns their own meanings. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed…” – I know, right? That’s what makes it a popular source for so many disparate doctrines.

    the first ideology in the lineage of libertarianism is limited liability law enabled CapitalismFail

    If you say so 8^D!

  109. Nathan says:

    Economists aren’t capable of coming up with solutions to global warming – all they can do is rank them according to costs. It then becomes up to Governments to determine which path to choose.
    Scientists have a role in every part of this; they should not be excluded.

  110. Steven Mosher says:

    “I just want to kill the minimum number of people.”

    suicide does that in most cases.
    If you feel guilty about your actions causing the deaths of others, then check out.

    I had a friend once who had a “use by” date, like meat in the market.
    It was a noble idea. Pick a date, dedicate yourself to live life to the fullest up to that date,
    then check out. It does force you to consider that every day is precious and not repeatable.

  111. Nathan says:

    “Like everyone else, WMC and I are libertarians.”
    What is a libertarian? Seriously… what does it mean? I have read WMC’s stuff and that’s pretty poorly defined; mostly bogged down in Hobbes rhetoric-o-rama… Seems to fail at the practical level as to live in a society and work as a community we need to have common rules and compromise some level of freedom.

  112. Steven Mosher says:

    “Ahh, yes, I keep forgetting about your campaign to stop physical scientists discussing anything remotely associated with economics. Let’s think about this for a moment, though. We’re talking about people who choose to communicate publicly about this topic. It’s clear that economists cannot be the only people who are entitled to motivate action. ”

    I don’t want to speak for WMC, so I’ll just voice my own concern. I don’t think we want to stop physical scientists from expressing their opinion. It would be nice if they said
    “I’m no economist, and have no expertise in the area, but if you asked me for my opinion, I’d say
    that a carbon tax would be a great idea”

    Maybe its a foolish dream for a more well structured discussion. once upon a time I worked as an analyst. Examine case A and case B and give the results

    A) 4 missiles cost X, and deliver effectiveness Y
    b) 2 missiles cost X-4, and deliver effectiveness Y-z

    The job was to run models and give answers about the what ifs. what if we do X, what if we do Y.
    The expertise resided in making sure the tests were fair and the data was reported accurately.
    end of story. You never rendered a decision about what to choose. You were not the decider.
    you were decider SUPPORT. not decider. Naturally at the water cooler as you shot the shit
    with other analysts, you engaged in discussions about what you would do if you
    were king decider. But you are not King decider. The decider must weigh other factors, he has other concerns, problems, limitations, constituents. one hopes he is expert decider. In the usa, we know that this is not the case.

    Of course this is a democracy and not a business or the military or the royal court. And people gunna talk and shitpost. So physical scientists get to talk about their preferred economic approach. They get to talk out of their ass, and in some cases they might know a thing or two. They are citizens and they dont have to shut up about economics simply because they are experts about the physical sciences. Still, there are some of us who think that being recognized as an expert in one area comes with certain benefits ( people should listen to experts with deference) and certain responsibilities. The responsibility is to treat other experts ( say in economics) with the same deference that you’d like to get– or not. free country and all, shitpost at your pleasure.

    However,even stupid skeptics know enough to preface their remarks with “I’m no scientist but..”

    So, I’m no expert on how experts should conduct themselves when speaking outside their area of expertise, but..

    Lastly, long ago on Keith Kloors when I was laying out what Lukewarmism was, folks ( maybe it was BBD or mt) kept asking me what that meant in terms of policy. Here is what I found. I found that its really hard to step away and say “policy aint my thing”. I try to stay away from it ( Tom fuller made numerous requests for me to join him in writing a book on lukewarmer policy), but in some sense folks wont leave you alone until you make a comment or take a stance on policy. To be quite honest the only thing I know is this: we cant burn it all. we have to get to zero. How? when? don’t ask me. not my job. This should not be construed as ‘delayism’ or ‘do nothing’

  113. Nathan says:

    Mosher the issue here is not that they were speaking outside their area of expertise

    Rather that some people saw the words “efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs, improved health and greater national security in a cleaner environment more consistent with the Golden Rule.”

    and assumed that the person saying them meant that the efficiency was about economics, rather than the response to climate and energy.
    So in this case an efficient response is one that happens sooner and reduces emissions faster. It’s more efficient at limiting the effects of global warming.

    “Lukewarmism ” – isn’t that dead yet?

  114. Steven,

    “I’m no economist, and have no expertise in the area, but if you asked me for my opinion, I’d say
    that a carbon tax would be a great idea”

    Yes, I think it would be good if most acknowledged their expertise, or lack thereof. Economists too. However, I also think that people are entitled to express their views without caveats when acting as individual members of society. On the other hand, I would be very concerned if a climate scientist started expressing strong views about eonomics if giving evidence to some parliamentary committee. Of course, if all they did was supply some relevant context that was entirely mainstream it would be fine (in my view, at least).

    Let’s again bear in mind that the context was someone who presented a talk about past climate changes. They were highlighting that we could induce a change of similar magnitude to some large past changes, but could do so much faster. They then decided to highlight that avoiding some of this would probably mean a stronger economy and more jobs than if we just carried on regardless. Seems unobjectionable to me and provides some relevant societal context.

  115. Steven,
    I should probably have commented on this too

    To be quite honest the only thing I know is this: we cant burn it all. we have to get to zero. How? when? don’t ask me. not my job. This should not be construed as ‘delayism’ or ‘do nothing’

    Well, yes, this is my problem too. However, I think it’s an important thing to discuss, which is I thought I would highlight what Richard Alley said. The discussion got somewhat derailed unfortunately, although I should probably have done more to bring it back on track. My own view is that an important step is to get people to recognise that emitting less than we could will probably be better than carrying on as we are. We can then discuss how to do so, have fast to do so, and when we should be aiming to get to zero.

    I’m all for a carbon tax, because it would be better than what we’re doing and will probably avoid us trying to pick winners. On the other hand, I’m also all for us simply trying to do something, even if it turns out to not have been the best thing to do. My main concern is that we will carry on as we are and suddenly realise in 20-30 years that we’ve left things far too late and that we have to then do things that are drastic and far more damaging than if we’d simply started earlier, even if we didn’t initially get things right.

  116. SM wrote “I’m no economist, and have no expertise in the area, but if you asked me for my opinion, I’d say that a carbon tax would be a great idea”

    As I pointed out, it isn’t necessarily correct that climatologists have no expertise in economics, just as it isn’t necessarily correct that economists have no expertise in climate science. Indeed there are initiatives, such as the Tyndall Centre in the U.K., that bring together climate scientists and economists so they can collaborate. This inevitably ends up with an exchange of expertise (otherwise the collaborations tend not to work).

  117. Dave_Geologist says:

    Apologies for my lack of clarity, VV

    The quote was not from you but from the linked Michael White webpage with the Michael Greenstone podcast.

    Although I assume it’s White’s summary rather than Greenstone’s own words, hence the “haven’t read the podcast” disclaimer. It could be an imperfect summary. Since from his bio White comes from a plant biology background, as per some of the earlier comments, he may be a good editor/summariser on plant biology and phenology, and the link to atmospheric CO2 and climate change, but a poor summariser of economics.

  118. verytallguy says:

    I’m not an economist but…

    a couple* of observations.

    Firstly, as I understand it, there is no consensus in the field of economics of the way to evaluate changes over centuries. So to say, as WMC implies, “economics rulz, everyone else shuddup”, is bunk.

    Secondly, even were there to be agreement on methodology, the assumptions that go into this methodology make far more difference than the methodology itself. These include how to value the future against the present, how to take into account uncertainty, how to value ecosystems, how to value human life. These are value-based, and physical scientists have every bit as much to say about them as others. The difference in how they are quantified economically makes orders of magnitude difference to the net present value of different economic policy approaches to climate change.

    Thirdly, quantitative methodology, such as it is, generally assumes a continuous impact of climate change on a background of economic growth. This is also bunk, as richly evidenced by previous examples of resource depletion (see newfoundland cod), civilizational collapse, and the economics of bubbles.

    Fourthly, what is “optimum” economically may not be optimum or even possible politically. What is done will be a political choice influenced by values and economics, not an economic optimisation puzzle with a single solution. The way that smoking has been tackled in most Western democracies with a mixture of pricing, regulation and education is one model which, whilst doubtlessly not economically optimum, is pragmatically possible. Economists may not always be the best politicians.

    It could be argued that physical scientists, who have the best understanding of the physical changes we are imposing on the planet, far from shutting up and leaving it to economists, have an obligation to engage in the policy debate. The same, of course, is true of economists. And ecologists. Etc.

    I want to emphasise that I’m not at all trying to say that economists have nothing relevant to say about climate policy, far from it. Merely that theirs is one contribution amongst many, and they don’t remotely all agree with each other anyway.

    * OK, more than a couple.

  119. vtg,

    I want to emphasise that I’m not at all trying to say that economists have nothing relevant to say about climate policy, far from it. Merely that theirs is one contribution amongst many, and they don’t remotely all agree with each other anyway.

    Agreed, I’m certainly not arguing that economists should be ignored in favour of climate scientists. However, as you say, this is a highly complex situation and I don’t think one can draw simple boundaries that essentially say “climate scientists stop here, economists start here”.

    BTW, do you want me to delete the duplicate parts of your comment?

  120. Dave_Geologist says:

    Mal

    In that case, modeling farther out is wasted effort. But what we’re projecting are future probability distributions.

    Again I may have been unclear. I was specifically referring to economic modelling to decide the most efficient (whatever that means) way forward. I’m fine with climate modelling. Physics is much simpler than the actions of people, and we have the scientific advantage and humankind disadvantage that although we don’t know where the tipping points for things like EAIS, permafrost or seafloor hydrates, lie, we know that all of the known ones have negative consequences. So at least we know they’ll make the curve steeper not gentler.

    With economics we get people arguing minutiae like whether option A will deliver 95% growth by 2050 vs option B’s 91% or option C’s 102%, when the baseline should probably be 100% with uncertainty bounds of +100% and -70%.

    Things like the 1920s crash, WWII, the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Moore’s Law, China joining the WTO, the dot.com crash, the IPhone, the 2007-8 crash, all had far more than a 2-10% impact. We didn’t see them coming, and if history tells us anything, it’s that we can expect several more of them this century, even without climate change. Hence the coin-toss comment.

    My bet (but remember I’m not an economist so this is just for fun)? The combination of a longer than expected run of negative or zero interest rates, stalling of real earnings growth so children are poorer and feel poorer than their parents, and a recognition by investors that there are a lot of stranded assets out there that will need to be abandoned early or moved at a cost of trillions, will lead to people introducing very low or even negative rates of return into their calculations when you get more than a decade or two ahead. IOW that the belief in Grrrowth! forever turns out to be a Ponzi scheme. I don’t know what the consequences of that would be, but I’m pretty sure it would overturn lots of stuff we take for granted. Investment allocations, pensions, cost-benefit analysis, long-term vs, short-term, the social contract between governments/employers and voters/labour….

  121. verytallguy says:

    BTW, do you want me to delete the duplicate parts of your comment?

    It was so good I thought everyone would want to read it at least twice!

    [actually, yes please, no idea how I managed to do that]

    [Mod: done.]

  122. angech says:

    VV
    “I fail to see why a higher percentage of the investment going towards local labor costs makes a business less good for economic growth. If that is the most efficient way to produce cheaper energy that is fine. Let the market decide how to solve the problems most efficiently.”
    Very touchy, complex subject.
    The market decides a lot of things in an efficient, financial but basically amoral way, letting the market decide is very good financially but horrible in its effects on people.
    We had an American company operating in Australia, multiple factories in multiple small towns.
    Financially best to close a couple, devastating effects on the small towns and communities involved.
    Happened a lot in America too in the last 20 years but who cares?
    Sometimes the common good outweighs the financial or in this case the global harm concerns.
    I care about people now (most important) whereas everyone else here cares about great grandchildren they will never meet and forgets their family, friends and community now.
    We can and must do both.

  123. angech,

    whereas everyone else here cares about great grandchildren they will never meet and forgets their family, friends and community now.

    Nonsense.

  124. Dave_Geologist says:

    vtg

    Fourthly, what is “optimum” economically may not be optimum or even possible politically

    Is in line with my comment about throwing a bone to the political right. Although of course, doing it too obviously or expressing it that way would be counter-productive.

    The reality is that currently (from my perspective; YMMV), the US and several east European democracies are run by the populist* far right, or rely on them for a majority. The UK government is in hock to them (and to religious fundamentalists for the last few votes). Same in Israel. Maybe soon in Italy, without the religion. Germany and France are ruled by the moderate right (despite the perception from the U.S. that Merkel and Macron are liberal/left, that’s only because the U.S. has a completely different Overton Window to the rest of the democratic world). Spain lies between them and the UK. Where is there a left-wing government? Greece, but that doesn’t stop them getting most of their electricity by burning filthy lignite (although as a plus side, it does give the opportunity to do some excellent geology – Google fault zone lignite mine Ptolemais Basin).

    So for better or for worse, whatever eventually gets done will have to be acceptable to the right.

    * I make the distinction because the populist right is more likely to mess up the planet than the corporatist right. No offence meant to Joe Six-Pack, but he doesn’t have the same stake in the world economy as Bezos, Musk, Cook, the boards of Goldman Sachs et al. and even Woods, van Beurden and Dudley. A trashed economy is bad for them and their successors, and for their companies. And they’re used to dealing with flim-flam merchants and have the resources to test whether they’re genuine. Whereas someone who feels that life is hell and sees no prospect of it getting better is more vulnerable to scammers and scapegoat merchants. Even if he doesn’t trust the scammer, the refrain in the U.K. and U.S. has been “so what? things can’t get any worse for me and even a slim hope is better than no hope”.

  125. zebra says:

    @Dave G, Mal,

    I’m with Dave on this one…quoting myself from above:

    Why do economists have to “predict” anything, and with what resolution if they do?

    We do not need high predictive resolution in climate science to have high confidence that BAU will lead to what most would consider negative outcomes. So, instead of endless repetitive and circular “debate”, isn’t the worthwhile question: “What can actually get done?”

    Since I am in the USA, I think about what things can be accomplished given the USA political realities, that will have the most impact. Please read that carefully…first, it must be possible, then you think about the impact.

    Mal, even if there were the same consensus and resolution among economists, with respect to your version of a carbon tax, that exists in climate science, with respect to climate change, (again, read that carefully), do you think that would change the political realities?

    Every once in a rare while, my wife (who is also quantitatively rational) and I will buy a lottery ticket, despite the odds. And then we have fun debating the nature of our several yet-to-be-built vacation homes. But the next day, I get back to repairing the leaky faucet or the lawn mower or whatever task reality imposes, and she tends the gardens, because we can’t afford to have others do those things.

    Many of these comments are lottery-ticket arguments, about what “we” should do when “we” gain absolute power. Wouldn’t it be more useful come up with a carbon-tax plan that has more than, as you say, “a non-zero probability” of implementation, and forget about the amenities in the new mansion?

  126. Chubbs says:

    Agree with Dave, economic or energy modeling beyond 5-10 years is useless. Some examples of missed trends: fracking, recent oil and natural gas pricing, and energy technology cost and penetration (solar, wind, EVs, batteries etc.). Currently “green” technology is being driven by China and the motivation is geopolitics. A lower carbon future is coming along for the ride.

    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-02-13/green-giant

  127. Greg Robie says:

    @Mal Edited (which, as I think about it, is a synonym for Adapted): 😉

    Do you anticipate otherwise regarding ramifying, interlacing ultimate and proximate causes, and “the poor you will always have with you…” assertion?

    My wish is that after getting that doubling down on the motivated reasoning that informs your homeostasis and observer bias, that you thought twice and read the referenced and relevant parts of the “peer-reviewed paper”/Bible.

    • Aren’t we a storied species?
    • Aren’t metaphors a linguist tool that can create cracks in impervious motivated reasoning for “the light to get in”?
    • Doesn’t physics define knowledge as action?

    • Doesn’t action-as-knowledge mean that we are all economists, and, if fully self-aware of the stories we act out, potential experts (& in this time of #tyrannyNrevolution, tyrant or revolutionary ne’er-do-wells)?

    So, yes, I not only anticipate otherwise, I perceive it as wise to do so.

    FWIW, I only knew there was an ignored context to the “you will always have” thing as libertarianism misapplies it. Thanks to the search protocol of the Internet, yesterday I learned that Story of the woman pouring oil on the itinerant rabbi Yeshua just prior to Passover that includes that quote is itself a quote (BTW, in the context of the story, and with three concurring witnesses, for some a fact).

    Personally, and perhaps this is because it falls into an area in which I have some degree of mastery, I’d love to go down that so called “rabbit hole”. But unless you choose to remove the pile of libertarian dung now blocking it, what’s the point of doings so … other than a passion to understand; to get our story right [together]?

    The intractableness of AGW, relative to politics enmeshed in the ideology of CapitalismFail and effecting scientifically significant economic responses within our debt-slave paradigm, lies in the religious dictums codified in the 15th chapter of Deuteronomy/section of that book of the Torah.

    Doesn’t both “talking solutions and motivating action” reasonably need, and, but for motivated reasoning (if the goal is to do anything other than engage in a metaphorical debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin), require, including the peer-reviewed literature of ALL human philosophies? To the degree the root cause of the “intractableness”/”ramifying, interlacing ultimate and proximate causes” can be postulated to be due to a trusted academic effeteness and a pious failure to do so – and simple or not – isn’t it simply what truth demands?

    #DisruptAcademia./?/!

  128. BBD says:

    Many of these comments are lottery-ticket arguments, about what “we” should do when “we” gain absolute power.

    The US is not the world, thank God. US ‘political realities’ are not global constraints. The US may well become even more of an international climate pariah because it is too corrupt and dysfunctional to upgrade its grid and so actually have an energy transition. That doesn’t mean the rest of us are stuck in the mire, unable even to think about what is necessary to make an energy transition actually happen. Either sort it out or don’t. but you don’t get to tell everybody else at the table that your political realities mean we all better shut up and fall in line. I repeat, since it is clearly necessary: the US is not the world.

  129. verytallguy says:

    I repeat, since it is clearly necessary: the US is not the world.

    Sure, but what’s your view on the impact of US (in)action on what the rest of the world will do?

    As one of the biggest emitters, both per capita and in absolute terms I find it hard to believe US leadership makes no difference. Perhaps you differ?

  130. Mal Adapted says:

    Greg Robie:

    So, yes, I not only anticipate otherwise, I perceive it as wise to do so.

    IMIMO, the latter clause doesn’t justify the former. I perceive the elimination of poverty on Earth as wise. I do not anticipate it will ever come to pass [std. disclaimer: neither am I certain it will not -MA]. That’s because within the scope of cultural adaptation, all human ‘wisdom’ is irredeemably mediocre (IM).

    One of my favorite Books of the Old Testament [I prefer the KJV for its lyricism -MA] is Ecclesiastes (Koine Greek for ‘the Preacher’, who was ‘king over Israel in Jerusalem’). AFAICT, it’s a poetic précis of the mediocrity principle. The first chapter opens with:

    Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
    What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

    and closes with:

    And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.
    For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

    Amen 8^(. Whatever else AGW is, IMIMO it’s a yu-u-u-ge vexation of the spirit!

  131. Mal Adapted says:

    Hmm, I have one more thought to add to my previous comment. For me, the salient wisdom of Ecclesiastes was lately expressed by Aldo Leopold: “That the situation is hopeless should not prevent us from doing our best.

    However IM our best, by definition we can do no better.

  132. BBD says:

    very tall

    As one of the biggest emitters, both per capita and in absolute terms I find it hard to believe US leadership makes no difference. Perhaps you differ?

    I didn’t say that it won’t make any difference, but that it won’t derail global progress. I also suspect that the US will be politically and economically penalised if it stays a climate pariah for too long. Right now it can get away with it, but that won’t last forever, especially not in the face of increasingly visible climate impacts.

  133. Greg Robie says:

    @Mal, setting aside that dialectic obfuscation, ATTP expressed a wish that how to [pragmatically] do something more hadn’t gotten sidetracked down the economic rabbit hole. So a metaphor:

    A poker table.

    The game of the evening, Michigan Rummy.

    Five card stud with duces and one eyed jacks as wild cards is being played as as the final hand to resolve ownership of the residual chips on the board.

    Unlike my childhood memories, there is betting with each round.

    Our Mother, Dame Nature, is at the table, and seated to the right of the dealer.

    In each round of this closing hand, she is dealt a duce.

    Against all odds, everyone else is getting a repeat of their previous deal.

    In the final betting round every hand is four of a kind.

    The US hand is four aces.

    No one-eyed jacks have been dealt.

    Accessing pragmatism-as-reason, everybody decides to go all in.

    As the last card is flipped to each player, no one-eyed jack appears ….

    Until the last card.

    Sorry, ATTP.
    And the ‘science’ of economic is the flat-world theology of the ideology of CapitalismFail … on my honor! 😉

  134. off topic, but https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-018-0082-z
    study on Antarctica ice melt is behind a paywall. Guardian and WAPO are reporting the study ways coastal glaciers are melting from below at faster rate than had been predicted. It happens almost every time that when the calculated rate of change has to be adjusted because actual occurrence is varying from predicted rate of change that the adjustment has to be in the category of “happening faster than expected.” I would love to see a post about that topic. If this is true, as I think it most assuredly is, then climate scientists should be asking themselves, why is the variation from prediction is happening so much in one direction? All models are wrong, but some are useful is a pleasant aphorism, but when the majority of the models are wrong in one direction or another, it suggests a systematic problem with the models, does it not?
    keep up the good work here, feed the trolls sparingly if at all,
    Mike

  135. mt says:

    “My main concern is that we will carry on as we are and suddenly realise in 20-30 years that we’ve left things far too late and that we have to then do things that are drastic and far more damaging than if we’d simply started earlier, even if we didn’t initially get things right”

    My main concern (or one of them anyway) is that these words might well have been spoken 20-30 years ago.

    Let me quote Bob Dylan: “Let us not talk falsely now. The hour is getting late.”

  136. verytallguy says:

    What MT said.

    We’re behaving like a recalcitrant teenager in exam season.

    Lots of time optimising and colouring in revision plans, no effort put in to actually doing the hard hours.

  137. mt,

    My main concern (or one of them anyway) is that these words might well have been spoken 20-30 years ago.

    Absolutely.

    vtg,

    Lots of time optimising and colouring in revision plans, no effort put in to actually doing the hard hours.

    Yup, but I really don’t have any sense of how to change this. It just seems that we (humans) are very good at arguing about how to do things, or if we should do something, and far as less good at actually doing anything.

  138. Willard says:

    > no effort put in to actually doing the hard hours.

    ClimateBall takes more dedication than you may presume, Very Tall.

    FWIW, here would be a more plausible interpretation of RichardA’s point:

    An analytical job creation model for the US power sector from 2009 to 2030 is presented. The model synthesizes data from 15 job studies covering renewable energy (RE), energy efficiency (EE), carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear power. The paper employs a consistent methodology of normalizing job data to average employment per unit energy produced over plant lifetime. Job losses in the coal and natural gas industry are modeled to project net employment impacts. Benefits and drawbacks of the methodology are assessed and the resulting model is used for job projections under various renewable portfolio standards (RPS), EE, and low carbon energy scenarios We find that all non-fossil fuel technologies (renewable energy, EE, low carbon) create more jobs per unit energy than coal and natural gas. Aggressive EE measures combined with a 30% RPS target in 2030 can generate over 4 million full-time-equivalent job-years by 2030 while increasing nuclear power to 25% and CCS to 10% of overall generation in 2030 can yield an additional 500,000 job-years.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421509007915

    Let’s hope these authors did not need to abolish Euler’s theorem to specify these stoopid modulz.

  139. Willard says:

    > It just seems that we (humans) are very good at arguing about how to do things

    We are not alone:

    Efficiency may be overrated.

  140. Mal Adapted says:

    Greg Robie:

    @Mal, setting aside that dialectic obfuscation, ATTP expressed a wish that how to [pragmatically] do something more hadn’t gotten sidetracked down the economic rabbit hole.

    No, if by “dialectic obfuscation” you mean my emphasis on the mediocrity principle. the MP is the heart of the matter. Its inescapable insight is recorded no later in human history than the book of Ecclesiastes was written: that absent the presupposition that the universe is teleological, there is no a priori reason to expect a less than globally tragic ending to the Drama of the Climate Commons, now playing near you; or be confident of the success of anything else humans may attempt, individually or collectively. IOW, the ‘null hypothesis’ (it’s a metaphor, duh) is that the poor will be with us always.

  141. Mal Adapted says:

    smallbluemike:

    All models are wrong, but some are useful is a pleasant aphorism, but when the majority of the models are wrong in one direction or another, it suggests a systematic problem with the models, does it not?

    The implication that a minority of models is correct suggests that the modeling discipline, e.g. Economics, inherited the methods of self-correction from its prototype, Science. IOW, there’s no systemic problem with ‘the models’. The definite article matters, you see.

  142. verytallguy says:

    Willard,

    more jobs per unit energy = lower productivity. That’s not good news. It means fewer humans can be as inactive as those ants.

    AT, I don’t thing there’s one simple answer to that one!

  143. Mal Adapted says:

    aTTP:

    mt,

    My main concern (or one of them anyway) is that these words might well have been spoken 20-30 years ago.

    Absolutely.

    I wish to associate myself with mine host’s remark.

    mt:

    Let me quote Bob Dylan: “Let us not talk falsely now. The hour is getting late.”

    I wish to express my vigorous assent! Like I said earlier, the sheer number of informed, thoughtful and articulate commenters on this blog, while IM in the scope of human culture, is nonetheless superlative within the ‘blogosphere’ (a neologism I won’t try to unpack). I’m OK with flattering ourselves that the less we talk falsely, the longer we can delay the hour.

    sbm:

    keep up the good work here, feed the trolls sparingly if at all

    Hey, I resemble that ;^D!

  144. Willard says:

    > more jobs per unit energy = lower productivity. That’s not good news. It means fewer humans can be as inactive as those ants.

    Or that inactivity is better distributed, moar energy is being produced, and therefore everything converges toward GRRRRROWTH.

    Since efficiency can be reduced to a relation between formal inputs and outputs, it’s hard to come up with any categorical statement regarding inputs alone, or worse by a subset of the inputs only.

  145. verytallguy says:

    Willard,

    I’m very doubtful that a decrease in labour productivity for a commodity like energy could be a good thing for overall welfare of society. If all those clever, industrious people now need to go and produce low carbon energy, then they’re not available for other things which add to the sum of human happiness. Like making beer, just for instance.

  146. Mal Adapted says:

    BBD:

    I didn’t say that it won’t make any difference, but that it won’t derail global progress. I also suspect that the US will be politically and economically penalised if it stays a climate pariah for too long. Right now it can get away with it, but that won’t last forever, especially not in the face of increasingly visible climate impacts.

    IMIMO this is a key insight. AFAICT the USA still has superlative proximate influence on the global economy. Our window of time appears to be shrinking rapidly, however. We could be leaders in R&D for carbon-neutral energy sources and ‘smart’ distribution. We could be licensing our inventions abroad (to be sure, many US energy patents are profitably licensed abroad already). We could sell more systems design and manufacturing expertise, even pre-fab modular power plants.

    Oh well, as long as other countries are stepping up 8^|.

  147. Mal says: “The implication that a minority of models is correct suggests that the modeling discipline, e.g. Economics, inherited the methods of self-correction from its prototype, Science. IOW, there’s no systemic problem with ‘the models’.”

    Mike says, I am not sure we are talking about the same thing. I think that the errors that need adjustments in the models should fall into the normal distribution or bell curve, with most of the models being within a standard deviation of observed data and there should be outliers in both directions. But I think if the adjustments in all sorts of models are graphed we do not get a bell curve centered around no adjustment, we get a bell curve centered on under-prediction of bad results in AGW measurements or a non-normal distribution. From a probability pov, I think this suggests systemic problems with the way the scientific models are developed.

    Does anyone know of a meta-study that has compiled data on model correction based on observation over time that indicated that the model was either significantly under or over-estimating the impact of global warming impacts?

    I bring this up from time to time and the science community usually reacts in a pretty defensive manner. I am better with stats, probability, data analysis than I am with any particular area of scientific study.

    Cheers

    Mike

  148. Willard says:

    > I’m very doubtful that a decrease in labour productivity for a commodity like energy could be a good thing for overall welfare of society.

    Think about what it takes to extract fossil fuel from the ground, Very Tall. It takes energy, infrastructures, think tanks, political donations, subsidies, investments into media empires, etc. There are lots of stuff on the input side besides people. And that’s notwithstanding externalities.

    I’d argue that cutting on that stuff before worrying about jobs. Also note that we should not conflate workforce with employee productivity. It’s easy to create more jobs: split them, reduce salaries, etc. All these impact productivity, but more because of the way we model it, not because it would always reduce OLE.

  149. Yeah, the “more jobs!” claim is at least as much sloganeering as it is grounded in economic advantage (which, darest I mention it, wmc alluded to, albeit maybe a bit more crudely than necessary…).

    Consider, if you will, what the general U.S. response would be to something more along the re-purposed lines from above:

    We find that all low-carbon agriculture technologies create more jobs per unit food production than current farming practices. Aggressive low-till measures combined with a 30% recycled nutrient runoff target in 2030 can generate over 4 million full-time-equivalent job-years by 2030, while increasing biological nitrogen fixation to 25% and integration of livestock and forest to 10% of overall agriculture production in 2030 can yield an additional 500,000 job-years.

    Errr…

    There is also the disconnect when the “but once they are built, the fuel cost is zero!” comes along with the apparent requirement to repurpose a large part of the labour force to generating power.

    Again, I will just say that there is a general tendency to frame things as if there is really not much sacrifice to make – “Hey, we are going to have to take on this massive, unprecedented, rapid decarbonization effort of all parts of our modern economy, but the amazing thing is that – although we didn’t independently realize it or invest in it – it is going to make us collectively all wealthier and have better and more jobs!”.

  150. Good point on sacrifice. I think there is no question that “we” will need to make sacrifices to decarbonize. Maybe the sacrifice gets glossed over by the fact that the proponents of BAU almost always start with how many jobs will be lost as we move away from the high carbon economy, so the shorthand approach has become to anticipate the “we can’t lose jobs” hue and cry by leading with the discussion of job creation opportunities that arise with decarbonization. But at the end of the day, almost no one wants to hear about the sacrifices we will need to make. Most first world citizens do not aspire to cut their consumption of resources and assume the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers, as far as I can tell.

  151. Willard says:

    > Consider, if you will, what the general U.S. response would be to something more along the re-purposed lines from above […]

    Consider too, if you will, the pundits response to teh Donald’s political campaign two years ago. Those who argue against lottery tickets might have a tough time explaining the last three American presidential elections, or how we recovered from the subprime crisis.

    And speaking of sacrifices, the comparison should be between those we’d do now and those we’d need to do later. That is, we should make clear that sacrifices will need to be made whatever path we take.

    Concerns about wishful thinking cut both ways.

  152. And just another very generalized comment.

    Sure, there are plenty of issues with “standard” economics, particularly as they might apply to a (non-linear) decarbonization of the global economy. But many, many core elements and understandings are going to be vital in any success we might achieve. Prices, elasticity, trade, deadweight loss, consumer and/or producer surplus, on and on and on. They are going to apply even if – by some miracle – we embark on this journey after first upending the “GRRRROWTH” paradigm or the “CapitalismFAil” paradigm, or whatever pet dismissive characterizations are applied. Which I find rather unhelpful. (By the way, if you study economics beyond, oh, 2nd year, almost everything you study is about where the “ideals” (free markets, perfect information, rational actors) don’t hold (i.e. the real world). The cartoon hereabouts is more about the distorted characterization of economists, rather than the actual practice of economics by most economists, as far as I can tell.)

    Anyway, the thing that gets me is that on the one hand, mainstream economists like, say, Nicholas Stern have long ago characterized:

    Climate change… is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen.

    And yet, when faced with this scary greatest market failure of all-time, what are we told are going to be the economic costs of dealing with it? For the most part, it is framed in a range as anywhere from a wildly net-negative cost (i.e. a net benefit rather than a cost; e.g. “a larger economy with more jobs”), or maybe an economy that is 2-3% smaller at the end the end of the 21st century than it otherwise would have been (which is how the IAM’s typically work if the calculated investment cost in decarbonization is an extra 2-3% of global GDP/year).

    Where I think we are losing the plot is (a) we are vastly underestimating the economic damage functions of climate disruptions (e.g. sea level rise) as they propogate through the entire economy… Think about a few mortgage defaults in Kansas surprisingly crippling the financial system); and (b) the (deadweight) costs that avoiding same will be as we have to act on unprecedented timeframes and scales.

    Those two things spell sacrifice, and it is like it is the third rail.

  153. rust,

    (By the way, if you study economics beyond, oh, 2nd year, almost everything you study is about where the “ideals” (free markets, perfect information, rational actors) don’t hold (i.e. the real world).

    This reminds me that I read an interesting article (that I can no longer find) that was suggesting (as you indicate) that serious economists do consider all that factors that we would regard as important and recognise all the nuances, but that this isn’t obvious from what might be seen publicly. IIRC, the argument may have been that the publicly, economics is dominated by think tanks with agendas, who are less willing to publicise the various nuances. If I can find the article, I will post it.

  154. Mal Adapted says:

    sbm:

    Mike says, I am not sure we are talking about the same thing.

    Perhaps not. My sustained purpose on this and the previous unending thread is to defend Economics as Science within the scope of cultural adaptation. The basis of my claim is that Economics has an empirical subject matter, from which valid inferences may be drawn. IMIMO a convincing argument can be made that the appearance of symbolic writing around 5,000 years ago, the initiation of ‘history’ sensu stricto, was contingent on the prior existence of trade: that is, markets.

    That said, again I agree that Economics is to the left of, say, Geophysics on an axis of epistemic justification with other Sciences; I attribute that to the strong cognitive motivators influencing both economic behavior and the behavior of economists (not a proper noun, so not capitalized). Nor will I defend any particular numerically detailed economic model, at least not beyond a level-0 specification.

  155. Willard says:

    > The cartoon hereabouts is more about the distorted characterization of economists, rather than the actual practice of economics by most economists, as far as I can tell.

    I would agree, if “distorted characterization of economists” refers to the ones made by the economic pundits, whom are sometimes economist themselves, or play ones on ClimateBall blogs. In other words, GRRRRROWTH is a caricature of what should be considered a caricatural viewpoint on economics. We just met one that requires we reduce economic inputs to jobs.

  156. Ken Fabian says:

    “Most first world citizens do not aspire to cut their consumption of resources and assume the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers, as far as I can tell.”

    Unfortunate that suggestions of even a modest reduction of resources consumed in the process of making our economies more capable and resilient in the face of climate change is equated to assuming the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers. Relatively small sacrifices by people living (by any historical standards) extravagantly wealthy and wasteful lifestyles for the sake of future others, including their own descendants, evokes outrage. I can’t even say confected outrage as I’m sure it’s heartfelt – but for sure there are people who press those buttons deliberately to good (actually bad IMO) effect. I think failure to press ahead, even at some sacrifice, will be more certain to hit the first world lifestyle hard – and in irreversible and enduring ways – than refusing to press ahead.

  157. Mal Adapted says:

    Mine host:

    serious economists do consider all that factors that we would regard as important and recognise all the nuances, but that this isn’t obvious from what might be seen publicly.

    Represent! Don’t we all complain when AGW-deniers cite science they heard about on FauxNews or read @WTFUWT?

  158. Mal Adapted says:

    Ken Fabian:

    for sure there are people who press those buttons deliberately to good (actually bad IMO) effect.

    Yep 8^D! Rolling coal, anyone?

  159. Mal Adapted says:

    rust:

    Sure, there are plenty of issues with “standard” economics, particularly as they might apply to a (non-linear) decarbonization of the global economy. But many, many core elements and understandings are going to be vital in any success we might achieve. Prices, elasticity, trade, deadweight loss, consumer and/or producer surplus, on and on and on.

    Well put. In fact, it’s been my durable point on this thread and on the “talking solutions” thread, at almost 500 comments as of yesterday. Economics is Science, and the empirical phenomena you list are its quantitative subject matter.

  160. willard said: And speaking of sacrifices, the comparison should be between those we’d do now and those we’d need to do later. That is, we should make clear that sacrifices will need to be made whatever path we take.

    Mike says: Ok, I want to be clear about the sacrifices that I expect will be needed. I think the sacrifices will be well beyond “small sacrifices by people living (by any historical standards) extravagantly wealthy and wasteful lifestyles (per Ken Fabian).” Small sacrifices are not going to get it done imho.

    When I say throw in the off-hand comment about assuming the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers, it’s not meant to exaggerate the changes that I think are needed, but more to evoke a mythic low-impact human lifestyle that I would greatly prefer to the AGW socio-political disruption that is already creating a climate change refugees who are migrating like hunter-gatherers, but whose prospects are much less rosy than the hunter-gatherers of an earlier time.

  161. Greg Robie says:

    A haiku for no one in particular … and all of us in general?

    [No psychological diagnosis, please. -W]

    Version 1.1 of the mind map I shared (#comment-113843) in the “talking solutions and motivating action” ATTP thread, dissed academia as self-isolated in a dynamic that can be observed is functionally libertarian-like … at least to the majority of society. Its observable obsession over details. Its functional isolation is sovereign citizen-like; libertarian. Doesn’t this isolation, whether intentional or not, constitute a doing that delimits imagination relative to doing more in the wider society; constitutes an observer bias?

    To the degree I may be a blue collar ‘academic’, I’d say, and libertarian or not, the ensconced social isolation, justifies hypothesizing that even among the highly I.Q.’d of academia, there are, thanks to motivated reasoning, perhaps, limits … and, if of nothing else, Gardner’s intelligences. Limits regarding I.Q. and/or the intelligences within which one has acumen, would go a long way towards explaining why there is a passion to assert social value regarding the observed isolation; the effeteness … and for that to be, as self-reinforcing feedback, academia’s trusted Story … and libertarian.

    Revisiting the Smithsonian presentation and Gavin’s slides, in one, three SAT scenarios for 2100 were displayed: BAU, theoretical Paris commitments, and a theoretically possible one. Only the last one, which was not discussed at all, showed anything I could vote for. The BAU one was presented as too awful to consider, while what was talked about, but not displayed, is the current Paris actuals. Gavin channeled crickets, concerning the role and scale of the assumed and incorporated BECCS. Because of tipping points and natural feedbacks that are not included in the modeling that generates these SAT scenarios, and such was not discussed, BAU, as well as current Paris actuals are so highly caveated as to be functionally duplicitous … at least to this blue collar whatever. It is not clear to me that Gavin’s omissions (nor Alley’s optimism) is intentional. It seems to me it is strategic relative to a blind faith/motivated reasoning.

    I am grateful to read in the comments here a shared incredulity regarding the emotions our condition, as defined by physics, invokes. To the degree an addict has to hit bottom before anything significantly different can be affected, it looks like ATTP’s blog is increasingly providing shelter in the storm for psyches’ coming to grips with trusted addictions to CapitalismFail (@rust, I adopted this term when trying to strategize how to communicate the functional religious-like nature of our trusted economic meme. The concept seemed to needed a concise unhelpfully helpful term … i.e., & then there’s Twitter!) 😉

    While I would bet that assertion concerning addiction won’t invoke a jump or two off the wagon, the beginning of a grieving process may be underway. Regardless, what I’ve intended to share about honor vs pragmatism, as a feeling to inform hope, such may, in time, come to make more sense; give life, paradoxically, meaning; recalled a Story.

    Regarding Mal’s point about trade/markets predating the means of recording history, here is another view I have found insightful: trade is ‘peaceful’ warfare between peoples that turns violent when market dynamics define the cost of violent warfare as a bargain. As far as I am aware, Economics’ modeling isn’t aware of this more systemically inclusive view of trade.

    Anyway, a part of me hoped someone would add this to the poker table metaphor. I realized this later and feel its worth including; makes the metaphor more robust. The reason Mama is at the table is that we are prostituting ourselves to #GREED-as-go[]d within her body-turned-bordello. And, as academia knows – but for ball & chain of its denial that physics defines knowledge as action: the deck that dealt that metaphorical last hand is her’s; it understands how she stacked it. And all the while, our enslaving pimp, CapitalismFail, repeats in our ear the lie our motivated reasoning demands to hear: this just ain’t so; we, libertarian-like as sovereign “I”s, are [responsibility] free!

  162. Greg Robie says:

    Whoops! I meant I wouldn’t bet that assertion concerning addiction won’t invoke a jump or two off the wagon. And while I’m making that correction, the full link to the referenced version 1.1 mind map comment.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2018/03/06/talking-solutions-and-motivating-action/#comment-113843

  163. Mal Adapted says:

    rust:

    we are vastly underestimating the economic damage functions of climate disruptions (e.g. sea level rise) as they propogate through the entire economy

    What Economics can do is justify a lower bound estimate, as the floor value for a carbon tax.

  164. Mal Adapted says:

    Greg Robles:

    A haiku for no one in particular

    TL;DR 8^D!

  165. Mal Adapted says:

    Me, to GR:

    TL;DR 8^D!

    Actually, it wasn’t. Indeed, IMIMO your haiku was pithy, as a haiku should be. You might want to hear from Jerry Taylor, a principled Libertarian who went from paid AGW-denier (he introduced his brother James, a pugnacious mercenary pseudo-skeptic, to the Heartland Institute) to genuine skeptic:

    The first blow in [the AGW-denier economic] argument was offered by my friend Jonathan Adler, who was at the Competitive Enterprise Institute…Just because the costs and the benefits are more or less going to be a wash, he said, that doesn’t mean that the losers in climate change are just going to have to suck it up so Exxon and Koch Industries can make a good chunk of money.

    IOW, a compassionate but complacent Libertarian started paying attention to the man behind the curtain, and discovered what a bad man he truly is. What hopes I have for American popular sovereignty are pinned on principled individuals like Jerry Taylor.

  166. Ken Fabian says:

    Smallbluemike – “When I say throw in the off-hand comment about assuming the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers, it’s not meant to exaggerate the changes that I think are needed, but more to evoke a mythic low-impact human lifestyle that I would greatly prefer”

    I don’t think it helps to borrow from the back-to-the-stone-age rhetoric of opposition to strong climate action – and I think there are some genuine grounds for optimism as well as desperation. ie do what we can even if it’s not good enough yet. Our ability to manage large, complex problems is better than at any time in history. Sure, the problem(s) appear insurmountable but that’s hardly a uniquely modern problem – and yes, it would be easier to manage if we didn’t have to start from here. A world of people who aspire to modest lifestyles and eschew unnecessary consumption would make it a lot easier; I suspect people would more reliably obtain real satisfaction in life than the pursuit of possessions.

    I think it’s more likely the essential shifts will not come about through seeking radical change, but through those civic institutions like parliaments and courts catching up with determining responsibility for climate harms and assigning liability. Lots of room for governments to mismanage the challenges of course; I strongly suspect that no matter how serious the environmental impacts are, the potential to make them worse will remain.

  167. Dave_Geologist says:

    smallbluemike

    climate scientists should be asking themselves, why is the variation from prediction is happening so much in one direction? All models are wrong, but some are useful is a pleasant aphorism, but when the majority of the models are wrong in one direction or another, it suggests a systematic problem with the models, does it not?

    They are asking themselves, mike. hence the research 😉

    I think with things like ice or permafrost, it’s fairer to say the models are incomplete. And known to be incomplete. Either because the processes are not well understood, or because the data required to numerically simulate them is not available. And some will always be too difficult to simulate from the bottom up, so will need to be parameterised from observations. For which we need a track record of ice shelf destabilisation, permafrost thawing or whatever. Knowing that all the known unknowns are downsides for the planet is still useful. We can say it will be as bad as the models or worse, but not better. And we know what to look for as early warning signs that the downside is manifesting.

  168. Dave_Geologist says:

    As an analogy, smallbluemike, If I’m a firefighter tacking a blaze in a workshop, it’s useful to know if that tank I’m hosing down contains LPG or CO2. I don’t know if it will burst, but I do know that in one case there will be flying metal and some gas that may help douse the flames, and in the other case flying metal and some gas that will fan the flames

  169. Steven Mosher says:

    “The US may well become even more of an international climate pariah because it is too corrupt and dysfunctional to upgrade its grid and so actually have an energy transition. That doesn’t mean the rest of us are stuck in the mire, unable even to think about what is necessary to make an energy transition actually happen. Either sort it out or don’t. but you don’t get to tell everybody else at the table that your political realities mean we all better shut up and fall in line. I repeat, since it is clearly necessary: the US is not the world.’

    yes since adopting a path of FF free enegery will result in motherhood and apple pie and zero tradeoffs, the US is doomed if it doesnt get with the program.

  170. Steven Mosher says:

    “Mosher the issue here is not that they were speaking outside their area of expertise

    Rather that some people saw the words “efficient responses on climate and energy will give a larger economy with more jobs, improved health and greater national security in a cleaner environment more consistent with the Golden Rule.”

    Hi Nathan, nice to meet you. Can I call you Nathan? Thanks.
    I saw those words and assumed they were talking authoritatively about economics.
    I stand corrected, they were just blathering.

  171. Steven Mosher says:

    “As I pointed out, it isn’t necessarily correct that climatologists have no expertise in economics, just as it isn’t necessarily correct that economists have no expertise in climate science.”

    I’ll remember that the next time I read a criticism of McKittrick or VS.

    But yes in general, there isnt much we can say that is NECESSARILY CORRECT.

  172. Steven,

    I saw those words and assumed they were talking authoritatively about economics.

    Why would you assume that? There was no claim that the speaker was an expert in economics? Are you suggesting that the only people who can publicly say anything about a topic are those who have formal expertise? I presume not, since that would be bizarre.

    Again, what is wrong with what Richard Alley said? Other than reading between the lines (i.e., was his “more jobs” referring to renewables versus fossil fuels?) what he said seems broadly unobjectionable. It would almost certainly be better if we emitted less than we possibly could. Why are people so wound up about something that ultimately seems correct?

    I’ll remember that the next time I read a criticism of McKittrick or VS.

    Why? The claim certainly isn’t that every climate scientists has expertise in economics and that every economist has expertise in climate science. The suggestion is that there are cases in which someone may actually have some expertise in an area that is outside their formal field.

  173. BBD says:

    Steven

    yes since adopting a path of FF free enegery will result in motherhood and apple pie and zero tradeoffs, the US is doomed if it doesnt get with the program.

    You know how I dislike being misrepresented.

  174. Mal Adapted says:

    Smokin’ Steven:

    yes since adopting a path of FF free enegery will result in motherhood and apple pie and zero tradeoffs, the US is doomed if it doesnt get with the program.

    Steven, truthfully, you are an informed, thoughtful and articulate person. Your demonstration of genuine skepticism on the Berkeley Earth project helped consolidate our justified knowledge of climate, a valuable service to Science. Some of your sounder thinking appears in your comment at April 3, 2018 at 5:04. You don’t need to resort to strawman arguments to be persuasive!

    Was your intemperate reply to Nathan, above, provoked by his mention of Lukewarmism? That word is in the public domain, i.e. no one has copyright on it. You may have lain out what a label of Lukewarmism means to you long ago on Keith Kloor’s blog, but it’s had pejorative connotations for climate realists still longer, that are independent of your laying out. It’s nothing personal, IOW! There’s no rational reason for you to defend ‘[Ll]ukewarm’ as a label for a climate policy preference. How about ‘cost-effective-mitigationist’ instead?

  175. Mal Adapted says:

    vtg:

    what is “optimum” economically may not be optimum or even possible politically. What is done will be a political choice influenced by values and economics, not an economic optimisation puzzle with a single solution.

    I venture to assert that the average US voter is more comfortable with binary collective choices, i.e. ‘yes/no’, than with optimization, i.e. ‘better or worse’. If voters chose climate policy options directly, GMST at equilibrium would be the net result of private optimization (‘marginal’) choices and collective binary ones. IOW, optimization is a good economic strategy, but a poor political tactic.

  176. Willard says:

    Please refrain from psychological diagnosis, Greg.

    ***

    > there isnt much we can say that is NECESSARILY CORRECT.

    Yet Richard Alley’s claim has been interpreted as either meaningless or NECESSARILY CORRECT.

    Fancy that.

    That an economy can become more efficient the way Richard Alley envisions is an empirical matter. He is not stating an economic theorem – he’s making a series of claims about the future. There are clear cases where he could be wrong. A more efficient economy that shrinks, with less jobs, worse health, a trashed environment, and where no-one works is far from being impossible.

    Claims about the future are not factual, strictly speaking. They are not “ready made.” Yet we usually interpret what scientists say as somehow factual. They may believe so themselves. In our case, Richard Alley’s claims look like arguments more than facts. And arguments are usually justifications. For better or for worse, humans work that way:

    [I]f humans are so poor at reasoning, why is it that we are so successful? And if we are so poor at reasoning, how can it be reason that drove our success as a species? What exactly is reason good for, in itself?

    This is the question Hugo Mercier and Daniel Sperber (M&S from here on in) set out to answer in their book The Enigma of Reason. Briefly, their answer is that many of the well-catalogued inadequacies of human beings’ ability to reason are not in fact inadequacies at all. Reasoning does not exist to enable solitary humans to engage in rational inference (and in any case, animals are perfectly capable of performing rational inferences without — as far as we know — performing explicit reasoning). Instead, the true purpose of reason is to provide us with justifications. Reason is less about making rational decisions than it is about providing excuses for decisions that we have already made.

    The last sentence is a bit reductive – we also use argument to try to convince one another. That’s what Richard Alley is doing – providing reasons to consider AGW as an opportunity to improve our future. And if you look at the arguments he chose, they all should speak directly to the more conservatively minded folks: more efficiency, more growth, more jobs, more health, more security, more conservation, more morality. Presented that way, they do not look like factual statements, but like promises, promises partly based on evidence, but perhaps also based on something like the cartoon izen recalled earlier:

    I believe (but haven’t checked) that Richard Alley is a life-long Republican. I duly submit that he’s very well placed to know what should work on the audience we need to convince. Think of it like the cartoon above, but for conservatives.

  177. Dave_Geologist says:

    I think that the errors that need adjustments in the models should fall into the normal distribution or bell curve

    Only if the contributing components are additive. If they’re multiplicative we’d expect a lognormal distribution. And only for large numbers of climate models. Hundreds or thousands. There are only dozens and they’re not all independent. I’d expect the output of multiple stochastic runs of a single climate model to be normal or lognormal. Although it could be bimodal if there’s a bifurcation in the response within the parameter range explored.

    Does anyone know of a meta-study that has compiled data on model correction based on observation over time

    AFAIK the models are not corrected per se. They’re spun up in the 18th Century or whatever and left to run. The physics decide where they land. They’re not adjusted afterwards to match observations. That’s a denier lie or misunderstanding. You’re thinking of the spread of mismatches to observation, not the magnitude of an adjustment factor. It’s not even clear to me how you’d make an adjustment. The smooth curves you’re used to seeing from models are actually the average of thousands of Monte Carlo simulations, each of which is showing as much variability as the historic record. They don’t match each other or the historic record because of the famous butterfly’s wing. To make an adjustment you’d need to have thousands of realisations of the real earth and average them. Then compare the averages.

    You could do it the way reservoir engineers history match a reservoir model. They tweak one of the less well constrained parameters. Usually one which has been pseudoized (= parameterisation in GCMs). If they change something like porosity, which adds linearly, the geologist gives them a telling-off (not that that stops some 😦 ). Relative permeability is the favourite, because it is measured on one inch core plugs and has to be scaled up to tens of metres. Even if you have a gazillion plugs per cell, you can’t just average them because it doesn’t scale linearly. With experience you learn to make a good guess, then you re-run the model. Hopefully it moves in the right direction but over- or under-shoots. Then you make a smaller tweak and try again. But as I understand it climate modellers don’t do that. There has been some discussion about unconscious censorship. If a run looks really stupid and out of line with reality, instead of publishing it you bin it and try to find out what’s wrong. IIRC Potsdam did that with a run that had an ECS of 8 or 10. But the discussion was about whether there were lessons to be learned in that model which could be used to improve more sensible models. Which presumably happened in-house and via collaborations, but not in the open literature. It’s moot from a policy viewpoint, because no-one’s going to base policy on a model which lies outside the 5-95% range of observations.

  178. no significant disagreement with you, Ken. Glad we were able to clarify. Any change/reduction in CO2(e) emissions is a step in the right direction.

    At some point, we face something like an existential cliff, as in, how many degrees of warming can we accommodate without a collapse of civilization? If we have slowed emissions drastically when we go over that existential cliff, our reductions will be a moral victory, a pyrrhic victory.

    I think modest and sensible changes in the way we live can guarantee that moral, pyrrhic victory. I am onboard! I am also ok with more drastic efforts that would zero emissions and commit precious resources to negative emissions even if it means something much larger than modest changes in my lifestyle, but hey, that’s just me. What do I know?

    Cheers

    Mike

  179. Dave_Geologist says:

    smallbluemike

    Does anyone know of a meta-study that has compiled data on model correction based on observation over time

    SkepticalScience Up to date i.e. post faux pause but not peer reviewed. Pretty close, especially post 2014. And vastly superior to any denier or lukewarmer alternative you could come up with. And it’s the discrepancy over time as, AFAIK, “corrections” are not done. There’s a movie which shows how projections have evolved (and discussion about how much that is due to emissions or volcanoes varied from the assumptions made at the time).

    Robust comparison of climate models with observations… Well within error bounds, looks a bit low but only has data to 2014. But more of a methodology paper.

    Connecting Climate Model Projections of Global Temperature Change with the Real World Ditto methodological, pointing out pitfalls.

    How (not) to evaluate climate models Again a blog post.

    I would hazard a guess that the only-recent appearance of methodological papers is an indication that people haven’t been doing that historically. That may seem strange, but as someone who is used to looking at similar output from reservoir simulation models, it strikes me that it should obvious to anyone “reasonably skilled in the art” that they do rather well. Certainly well enough to be useful in George Box terms, and well enough to see that our actual emissions pathway will have a bigger real-world impact than model uncertainty. You could say “Why not do it to persuade the doubters”. To which I suspect, off-the-record, most climatologists would say “Do you really think that would persuade them? Really?”.

    Incidentally there is an approach used in reservoir simulation which could potentially be applied. There are commercial software tools and in-house scripts which will run multiple trials of a simulation model, record the outputs, calculate some goodness-of-fit statistic, perturb and narrow the input ranges, then repeat until you are satisfied or run out of computer time. The variation between trials is driven by randomly selecting input parameters from uncertainty distributions, and the algorithm is designed to home in on a narrower part of each uncertainty distribution. IOW, you’re using the quality of the fit to rule out parts of your a priori uncertainty range. You could do something similar with climate models, but with the added complication of chaotic as well as user-defined stochastic behaviour. With (most) reservoir processes, the behaviour is linear or weakly non-linear. So if you got 2/3 of the way to your target in the last run, your next step is to add 50% to previous tweak. With chaotic behaviour, you might do that and end up twice as far away.

  180. zebra says:

    @Dave-G,

    You could say “Why not do it to persuade the doubters”. To which I suspect, off-the-record, most climatologists would say “Do you really think that would persuade them? Really?”.

    Yes, so would anyone say who accepts science:

    Or, “Its the authoritarianism, stupid”.

    A very uncomfortable reality, which produces a form of denial even in those otherwise educated and scientifically trained. This stuff has been studied consistently for a long time; there’s a pretty good consensus, as far as I know, and not acknowledging it is certainly a factor in why “we” keep losing.

  181. John Hartz says:

    Recommended (on-topic) supplemental reading…

    Limiting global warming to 1.5C would have ‘significant economic benefits’ by Jocelyn Timperley, Carbon Brief, Apr 3, 2018

    ATTP: Perhaps this article and the paper it is based upon merit a new OP.

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