The GRRRRROWTH Institute

Posit an opiniator O* from the Super Wonderful Punditry think tank SWP. Deadlines displease him. The international community failed to meet so many since 1995 that such call becomes self-defeating, or so O* worries. To interpret IPCC deliverables, time for a new paradigm:

Benchmarks, billions upon billions of benchmarks.

Perhaps O* dreams that one day we will rise up and live in a world without deadlines, where actions are simply benchmarked. Science as a mere modeling exercise, consequences be damned. Why care about making decision based on knowledge we discount anyway?

That must appeal to O* – think tanks subsist to sophisticate benchmarks. No wonder why he’d welcome political promises revolving around them. Instead of We got 12 years to stay under 2C would, why not shout We got 12 years until the next benchmark? If this does not galvanize think tank troups, nothing will.

***

Nevertheless, paradigmatic rebranding of political slogans may not suffice. Think tanks also need to tackle economic progress. For that purpose, allow me to introduce an institute who could perpetuate GRRRRROWTH through benchmarking.

The GRRRRROWTH Institute would monitor our inexorable economic progress. Its main benchmarking tool, with the Extensive Propelling of Income Creation model, would make us realize we live in the best possible world, up to future, better benchmarks. Our economic reality would then reach EPIC proportions.

Nobody may understand for sure how its arcane calculations work exactly. More a feature than a bug, it’s how the process warrants its objectivity. Too much transparency could be gamed.

Under that paradigm, year after year it will be the best of times, never the worst of times. Now is the age of benchmarks. Nothing gets lost, everything transforms itself with inevitable added value. In the end, GROWWWWWTH wins.

Thank you.

This parable illustrates how formal and material modes of speech can be conflated. (The distinction has a venerable tradition.) It also points out how an economy can trivially be made to grow indefinitely. All one needs is an institution that remodels it so it does. Once we take spirit stuff like intelligence, imagination, and wonder into account, sky’s the limit.

Anyone who managed debts understands that consolidating them matters insofar as someone somewhere starts paying its capital some day. The same applies to carbon budgets. Debt refinancing can be done ad nauseam, with improved analyses, new means to generate assets, etc. (Printing money is child’s play; the sticky part is making otters use it.) As long as creditors play along, this kind of audit never ends.

Formally speaking, GRRRRROWTH can go on forever. In reality, nature bats last. To wait her collectors may be unwise. They reject benchmarks as paybacks.

About Willard

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45 Responses to The GRRRRROWTH Institute

  1. I like to look the other down the telescope.

    If there actually was a plan, or more correctly, a programme containing many plans – for transport, domestic heating, etc. – then the plan would presumably have milestones, achievements, goals. It might say “UK domestic heating will have replaced 25% of gas boilers with heat pumps by 20xx, 50% by 20xy, etc.”. A plan with targets is not a plan.

    Projections are not a plan; they are an estimate of the goals that the programme should respect.

    How else will the programme define its goals without these?

    The objection to ‘targets’ rather reminds me of a client I met many years ago when doing a review of a large project they were working on. I asked “so what is the project called?”.

  2. … He replied “it doesn’t have a name, because every time we give a name to a project it fails!”. Fabbergasted what could I tell him … actually it is appallingly bad project management that is the problem!

    Don’t blame the targets failing, whatever the project. Blame the lack of project management. Or in the gas of the UK Government, the lack of anything resembling a plan that is fit for purpose.

  3. I must admit that I find Oliver’s response to Willard a bit odd. I realise that the IPCC doesn’t set a deadline, it simply provides information. The deadline is more a political decision to use that information (or benchmark) to set a target. So, one of the issues I have with the criticism of deadlines is that missing them doesn’t mean that the underlying information was wrong. For example, we may indeed probably have left it too late to limit warming to 2oC. Hence, those who claimed – in the past – that we should act immediately or it will be too late, were probably right. That they were ignored doesn’t mean that they were wrong in terms of what they were claiming we needed to do to achieve the target.

    Additionally, the criticism of deadlines seems to also ignore that the reason they’re being missed isn’t because we set a deadline, but because we’re simply not doing enough (some of which is due to those who actively work against us doing anything). If we didn’t set a deadline, then we wouldn’t miss it, but what would we then be trying to achieve? Setting some goal that we can actually achieve seems rather pointless if doing so fails to address the issue that we’re actually trying to address. The goal here isn’t to set achievable political targets; the goal is to actually address anthropogenically-driven climate change.

  4. Willard says:

    > Don’t blame the targets failing, whatever the project. Blame the lack of project management.

    Nicely put.

    Concerns about sloganeering and wordology is all well and good, unless they become armchair Reviewer 2 practices. Even then, they need to display some know-how about sloganeering and wordology in general. There like elsewhere language remains a social art.

    Venus has become very hot probly because of GHGs, but it’s still there. We all should know that the planet will be fine. It already went through five mass extinctions:

    https://cosmosmagazine.com/palaeontology/big-five-extinctions

    So when people say that the planet’s at stake, “planet” works as a metonymy for life as we understand it. The same applies to the deadline slogans. Sure, life will go on after 1.5C. But a boat will be missed. That boat may not return before long.

    (No, it’s not a real boat. I’m using the image to make a point.)

    I suppose the same applies to Oliver’s “we’ll just make another benchmark.” But it’s very hard for me not to interpret his overall schtick as technocratic manoeuvering.

  5. Willard says:

    > If we didn’t set a deadline, then we wouldn’t miss it, but what would we then be trying to achieve?

    Pragmatic expectations:

    There is merit in setting actionable and feasible goals. But what goes for goose and all – have such concerns about failing boat after boat ever changed how sloganeering works? Slogans usually appeal to an ideal. Ideals are usually hard to reach. They seldom forbid anyone to propose more pragmatic expectations. Who knows? Teh Donald might try to make America more Pragmatic again in the incoming elections.

    In any event, if Oliver had anything else than paradigms to sell, that’d be great.

  6. Steven Mosher says:

    we need to act now to avoid 2C of warming.
    opps, we wont make that
    we need to act now to avoid 1.5C of warming
    opps, we wont make that
    we need to act now to avoid 1.25 C of warming
    Opps we passed that.

    when folks set a 2C goal they were dreaming or smoking crack. woulda coulda shoulda.
    having missed that boat they now do graphics showing how things would have been different
    had we listened to them.. that stuff is really funny. if only if only.
    Now, the game is different: scream emergency and ratchet the target down.
    actually not that different.

    Moving the overton window on some issues works. Moving the overton window on practical
    matters ends up looking really funny and leaves you rhetorically empty handed when you
    miss again.

    your gunna miss 1.5 and when you realize that there wont be any room to ratchet the target down.
    there wont be any more rhetorical space above existence emergency to exploit. maybe folks will move the target, benchmark, goal, stretch goal back to 2C. who knows.

    we are headed to 3C, get used to it.

  7. Willard says:

    > we are headed to 3C, get used to it.

    That doesn’t sound so lukewarm. But I like the ringtone. Let’s see.

    African-Americans are slaves. Get used to it.

    Women will never vote. Get used to it.

    Workers will never work less than sixteen hours a day. Get used to it.

    Minimal wages are a chimera. Get used to be paid one buck per day.

    Gay marriages is against God’s will. Get used to closets.

    Universal health care is impossible. Get used to die.

    The Blues will never win a Stanley Cup. Suck it up.

  8. dikranmarsupial says:

    “when folks set a 2C goal they were dreaming or smoking crack.”

    gee, I wonder why a 2C target might be considered an impossible target? Perhaps it is because the public has long been fed a stream of misinformation suggesting that there was a conspiracy to mislead them about the risks associated with climate change? [Tries to think of an example…]

    It was never an unrealistic goal, had the public been well informed about the consequences of their (in)action. Difficult, yes, impossible, no. IMHO, naturally.

  9. 2C may well be unattainable now, but this wasn’t always the case (it also isn’t yet absolutely impossible). This is one problem I have, some of those complaining about unrealistic expectations today played – in my view – a role in our lack of action in the past.

  10. David B. Benson says:

    aTTP — Thank you for displaying the graph. It helped remind me that the fate of the climate is largely up to actions by the Chinese and the Indians. The actions of the rest are but the minor variations shown by the lighter colored curves.

  11. dikranmarsupial says:

    David B. Benson and if we can’t be bothered to make reductions from our high per-capita emissions and comfortable lifestyles, why should India and China forgo fossil fuel supported improvements in their living conditions? We all need to work on this, it isn’t “somebody else’s problem”.

  12. David B. Benson says:

    dikanmarsupial — We, I mean all of us, need to innovate our way away from fossil fuels. For example, the Chinese are pushing electric cars; even Tesla now is going to build a factory in China. Do you have an electric?

    Harder is providing space heating via heat pumps. But also, we all need to give up red meat, especially beef. On this last I do my part.

  13. dikranmarsupial says:

    We don’t need to innovate. There is plenty we can do with existing technologies. For example, we don’t *NEED* to go on foreign holidays by air travel. No, I don’t have an electric car, but I do have a small car with good mpg, but more importantly, I avoid driving more than necessary.

    The point remains, we should be thinking of what we can do, rather than leaving it all to China and India (who historically are less responsible for the problems we face than we are). That seems a recipe for inaction.

  14. Steven Mosher says:

    Notice something unique about most of your slogans willard. ?
    see my comment about shifting overton windows, areas where they work and areas where they may not work as well.

    simple example. If you pushed for a 12 hour work day when 16 is normal, and claimed that billions would die if you didnt get to 12, and then,
    when you got to 14 you raised the stakes and said we must get to 4 or trillions would die.
    Folks might not take you seriously.

    https://www.politico.eu/article/london-mayor-condemns-extinction-rebellion-tube-action/

    Still headed to 3C.

  15. Steven Mosher says:

    “gee, I wonder why a 2C target might be considered an impossible target? Perhaps it is because the public has long been fed a stream of misinformation suggesting that there was a conspiracy to mislead them about the risks associated with climate change? ”

    hmm. it might also have something to do with some other things: Corporations, Inertia, People
    actually enjoy the near term benefits of flying, concrete, low priced gas, warm houses, plastic
    etc etc. Not sure it is all down to people being ignorant or misinformed. We got it pretty good.
    change bad.
    Might also be down to the craziness of some of the “plans”. Or maybe its a wicked problem
    and folks look for ways to signal their virtue rather than solve the problem. solar roadways!!

    So ya make me king for a day and we can get to 2C. I’ll put it this way, my skepticism about getting
    to 2C is grounded in the problem of governance, Not the problem of technology. Basically,
    I have seen folks who Agree 100% about the problem, disagree 100% about the solution..
    about the detailed solution. So even if the “agreers” were given power they still couldnt agree on a detailed plan. They’d end up arguing about the definition of money. Or They’d marry fighting climate with social justice and really halve the odds of doing anything.

  16. dikranmarsupial says:

    “hmm. it might also have something to do with some other things:”

    evasion.

    The crutape letters is still being sold.

  17. Steven Mosher says:

    ” For example, the Chinese are pushing electric cars; even Tesla now is going to build a factory in China. Do you have an electric?

    Harder is providing space heating via heat pumps. But also, we all need to give up red meat, especially beef. On this last I do my part.”

    Chinese EVs. a while back it was pretty hot and heavy in the industry ( had some cool meetings about future tech in the chinese EV market) Since then growth has been
    decimated. BYD got hammered hard. The chinese are no longer pushing EV. (subsidy fraud)
    here
    http://jjs.mof.gov.cn/zhengwuxinxi/zhengcefagui/201903/t20190326_3204190.html?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0

    good luck getting china to cut pork out of the diet

  18. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    > Not sure it is all down to people being ignorant or misinformed.

    Glad we got it out of the way that you aren’t *sure* that it’s *all* down to people being ignorant or misinformed. Whew!

    Now can you quantify (hopefully a bit more precisely) how much is down to the improper use of deadlines? What metrics are you using and to establish cause and effect and how are you measuring the mechanism? After all, counterfactuals are easy to postulate but sometimes can be a tad difficult to prove.

  19. Steven,
    Yes, I agree that there are lots of factors that have contributed to us not doing enough to (probably) limiting warming to 2C. However, it still seems true that if we had started 20 years ago, we would probably today be well on the way to achieving that target. By the same token, if we do all we reasonably can today to achieve that target, we may well miss it (because we do still need to balance the need to reduce emissions with the need to provide resources for societies to thrive) but we’d probably still be in a better position than if we claimed it’s not too late and we should simply accept something like 3C (that’s my view, at least).

  20. Ben McMillan says:

    People who are into quantification and interested in climate are well aware that these targets are simplifications: there are a range of possible nonreversible negative outcomes (eg losing various ecosystems) and levels of pain and risk (in terms of localised and widespread agricultural failure), which depend mostly on how much CO2 we emit.

    So the ‘targets’ are a simplification of the discourse. I don’t think we expected all the suffragettes or everyone in the civil rights movement to have a deep quantitative understanding of the outcomes of various policy options, and it is obviously unreasonable to expect the same from the climate movement. What the climate movement should be saying is that we should ‘listen to the scientists’ especially if we want details.

    The attack on targets seems to be driven largely by people who are opposed to or uninterested in making any progress at all. Some of them have ostensibly moved on from denying the need to take action to attacking any action or specific goal that looks effective. I guess there are situations where it is worth listening to people who want you to fail, but not clear this is one of them.

    Setting ambitious targets, and then meeting them, or tardily/partly meeting them, seems to be a common and effective technique for making progress towards any goal.

  21. Ben,

    Setting ambitious targets, and then meeting them, or tardily/partly meeting them, seems to be a common and effective technique for making progress towards any goal.

    Indeed. A lot of those criticising deadlines seem to be sociologists and political scientists and it does seem as though they’re criticising something that is pretty standard practice politically (make big claim, don’t qiute live up to it). Would be nice if we could find a way to both set a target and achieve it, but I haven’t really seen any of those who criticise this presenting an alternative that has a better chance of actually achieving the goal (they do present alternatives, but they seem to involve settling for less, rather than an alternative way of achieving the actual goal).

  22. Willard says:

    > Notice something unique about most of your slogans willard. ?

    The St.Louis Blues were dead last in the NHL before Christmas last year.

  23. Willard says:

    > it still seems true that if we had started 20 years ago, we would probably today be well on the way to achieving that target.

    Had we started to build nukes in 1995 when Jim asked, we may not be here right now. Yet there are still people who are pushing for nukes.

    Cut to Overton windows and having to deal with it.

  24. Joshua says:

    Ben –

    > The attack on targets seems to be driven largely by people who are opposed to or uninterested in making any progress at all.

    Ya’ think? Almost makes me think that instead of deadlines resulting in less mitigation it could be that opposition to mitigation results in less mitigation (along with an endless list of ways to blame climate scientists and evil “activists” for less mitigation).

  25. Cut to Overton windows and having to deal with it.

    or to trying to shift them 🙂

  26. Willard says:

    Come to think of it, my post could have been much shorter:

    Deadlines are here to stay, O*. Deal with it.

  27. izen says:

    There is an extremely topical example of how deadlines can be missed and finagled in the ongoing farce of BREXIT.

    After 3 years and two extensions we now have the prospect of needing another extension to set a deadline when an agreement to leave must be met, after which there is another deadline of 2 years to agree the new terms of the exit status of the UK.

    At the present moment it is unclear whether an extension to the deadline will be sought or granted. If not then the deadline enforces an exit without any arrangements for how the new status is defined. Apparently this is favoured by some who reject ANY agreement or definition of the new ‘outside the EU’ status.

    Perhaps the trick is to stop having deadlines for BREXIT, and replace it with an undated ‘goal’ of exit, or even ‘better’ a Benchmark every so often measuring how far we have got in achieving BREXIT ?

  28. Joshua says:

    izen –

    The problem is clearly the simple existence of a deadline. If there weren’t any deadline, then the problems that no one knows what brexit is or what it will mean if it happens, would prolly just dissappear.

    Speaking of which, I was wondering today if there might be much support for having a referendum on whether to have another referendum?

  29. BBD says:

    @ Steven

    good luck getting china to cut pork out of the diet

    I appreciate that there might be a pun on the US English use of ‘pork’ here 🙂 but African swine fever might bite down on the Chinese fondness for pork…

  30. BBD says:

    God, the ambiguity – meaning, of course, ‘corruption in civil administration’…

  31. Willard says:

    Seems that there may be a Brexit deal after all. Yet politico-anxiety is kicking in:

    Mairead McGuinness, vice-president of the European Parliament, says the European Council could decide “very close” to the 31 October Brexit deadline whether to allow a delay.

    She describes the atmosphere at Westminster as “quite frightening”.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/live/uk-politics-50107443

    I blame the new D word.

  32. BBD says:

    It is quite frightening.

  33. verytallguy says:

    “Seems that there may be a Brexit deal after all. ”

    [rant]

    It’s the will of the people innit.

    We all voted for an interminable pre- negotiation, agreeing a byzantine new bureaucracy internal to tbe UK, a further interminable negotiation yet to start to agree trade terms estimated to lose 6% of our wealth, a drop in the value of our currency of 20%, for race hate crimes to nearly double, for the government to attempt to rule without the consent of parliament, and for Boris Johnson to attain the role to which he has been entitled to since birth.

    Those opposed to such outcomes are treasonous enemies of the people,

    [/rant]

    As you were.

  34. Willard says:

    Let’s hope the Tube won’t hike its prices, e.g.:

  35. Steven Mosher says:

    This is good
    https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-imf-worldbank-green-investment/eu-china-others-team-up-to-coordinate-green-investment-financing-idUKKBN1WX2IE

    No wait, they need evil private capital. can’t have that!

    In any case “Its aim is not to raise money, but to harmonize rules on what is sustainable, or “green” investment, across the world ”

    auditors nightmare. scammers dream.

  36. Brandon Gates says:

    > auditors nightmare. scammers dream

    the more things change, the more they stay the same

  37. Nathan says:

    SM
    “Not sure it is all down to people being ignorant or misinformed. ”
    Yeah, well you played your part in that game…

  38. Steven Mosher says:

    “I appreciate that there might be a pun on the US English use of ‘pork’ here 🙂 but African swine fever might bite down on the Chinese fondness for pork…”

    Not likely, but you would never understand why.

    China is home to about 50% of the worlds pigs.
    The fever will(has) taken about 25% of the herd.
    The response has been 2 fold
    A) Push for technology to breed bigger pigs, faster, government spend on free insemination services, etc etc. increased subsidies, loans and insurance to pork producers
    B) releasing the emergency pork reserves.

    FFS dont get your news from vox

    in short, the response to the disease is not what you dream ( Oh GOOD, we have a chance to move away from evil pork ) quite the opposite. Spend more on technology to increase production,
    give more assistence, price subsidies, technology assistence, etc etc and keep prices down
    by releasing the reserves.

  39. Willard says:

    > point should be obvious

    It indeed is. Target setting is here to stay. Deal with it.

  40. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    >>> that’s a benchmark, not a deadline.

    Years ago, this used to be a primary school student line-of-attack.

    Then benchmarks-not-dealines became de rigeur in high schools.
    Eventually, illustrious universities took up benchmarks.
    Now, it seems, Super Wonderful Punditry Think Tanks are advocating for perpetual goalpost portability.

    >>> Don’t blame the targets failing, whatever the project. Blame the lack of project management.

    In the 1800’s the French Empire and the Banque Royale did not suffer for lack of targets or management.
    And yet the Mississippi Bubble happened anyway.
    King for (much more than) a day (Louis XV) couldn’t stop it.

    Fractional reserve banking makes the world go ’round. Everything GRRRROWS – except when a majority of the shareholders want to cash-out. Our ever-optimistic Lord Ridley can fill in the details.

    >>> Venus has become very hot probly because of GHGs, but it’s still there. We all should know that the planet will be fine.

    Even if it isn’t, we can always go to Mars… if we are careful.

    I cannot resist quoting, in full, the following letter, which appeared in the New York Times, 22 October 1991.

    ‘Be Careful Mars Has No Dinosaurs’

    The Project to make Mars habitable by terra-forming should not be ridiculed, as some scientists are doing (‘Can Mars Be Made Hospitable to Humans?’, Science Times, October 1).

    It’s proponents would warm up the planet by creating a greenhouse effect.

    This is, in fact, the way the Earth was made habitable. An econometric model prepared on Venus in approximately 200,000,000 B.C. has recently been discovered in a cave in Colorado and is now being analysed in our university’s computers.

    Faced with the problem of their own planet becoming uninhabitable through irreversible global warming, Venusian economists calculated the costs and benefits of heating up a barren Earth. The exact path of economic and social development was charted, including the evolution of democracy, socialism, and the size of government deficits. When all this had been done, a massive space lift brought the inhabitants of Venus to Earth.

    Unfortunately, they were all eaten by dinosaurs, and human evolution had to start again.

    The moral: No econometric model is perfect.

    – John P. Powelson, Professor of Economics, University of Colorado

    It is worth mentioning that Professor Powelson was contacted by NYT readers wanting to know the location of the cave in Colorado.

    The GRRROWTH Institute ought to have a special research and development section.
    It would be called Human Underwriting and Benchmarking Rationalisation Information Services.

    When you need global-GDP-level credit, call HUBRIS.

  41. BBD says:

    Not likely, but you would never understand why.

    Losses ongoing and expected to reach 55% by years end (not 25% as you misstate), viral mutation potential unknown, emergency pork reserves very much finite, ‘tech fixes’ not fixes at all if the virus mutates.

    FFS dont get your news from vox

    I don’t; it was just a link for the thread.

    in short, the response to the disease is not what you dream ( Oh GOOD, we have a chance to move away from evil pork )

    What rubbish is this? I’m not even a vegetarian.

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