Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shellenberger and Lomborg

This important (and somewhat rambling) post by Sylvia Tognetti. There are many good links which you should be sure to read. And be sure to watch the video of the Colbert Report which she mentions


and follow the link to Judith Curry's comments on Lomborg in the Washington Post. Tognetti is cross with Lomborg

What I find particularly annoying are Lomborg's repeated accusations and mischaracterizations of the views of unnamed environmental groups or just plain "people." Environmental organizations and individual advocates, and scientists who also "want to put out the fire" are quite a diverse bunch who, unlike Lomborg - or Luntz, or even Nordhaus and Shellenburger, can disagree with each other in a number of ways without setting themselves apart from and attacking all "environmental groups" and who have been trying to have an honest and sensible conversation about how best to address the climate crisis in time to avoid a catastrophe.
Eli is cross with Lomborg, Nordhaus, Shellenburger, and others to be named later.

35 comments:

Cynthia said...

Not to beat a dead horse (and not to mix metaphors, too), but I gotta say Brad DeLong nails it pretty well, at least on the N part of the N&S nail:

"[One of my problems] is with Nordhaus's rhetorical attempt to shrink the magnitude of the potential problem by talking about the 'large and speculative damages in the far-distant future.' The implicit economics underlying this rhetoric is that because investing in controlling global warming is a risky and uncertain proposition the appropriate hurdle rate to apply is greater than the hurdle rate on safe investments like long-term inflation-indexed government bonds. But this economics is simply wrong. As Tyler Cowen puts it, uncertainty is not the friend of doing nothing. Investment in controlling global warming are not risk-increasing but risk-reducing ones: they are more like buying insurance than like speculating on unproven technologies. The appropriate hurdle rate is thus lower, not higher, than that for sure things."

Cynthia said...

And because it's been mentioned here that my aim at hitting nails is pretty piss poor, I'll present another example showing Brad's exceptional skills with a hammer and nail:

"...this leads to [my other problem with another claim by Nordhaus. He claims] that 'the Stern Review's unambiguous conclusions about the need for extreme immediate action will not survive the substitution of discounting assumptions that are consistent with today's market place...' I don't see that at all. The 20-year inflation-indexed US government bond interest rate is currently 2.1% per year. That is today's marketplace. The appropriate discount rate to be used for long-term risk-reducing 'insurance' investments is less than the risk-free rate, and seems plausibly less than 1.8%. I don't buy the assumption that our judgements should be ruled by the prevailing configuration of financial market prices--I am not confident that the market is without failure along this dimension. But Nordhaus apparently does. And as best as I can see the discounting assumptions in today's marketplace sre entirely consistent with the conclusions of the Stern Review."

Sparrow (in the coal mine) said...

Logicalscience On Lomborg

I've been trying to get Dr. John Feeney at Growth is Madness to do a writeup on Lomborg as he has some good dirt on him that any layman should be able to understand. Hopefully Lomborg's current limelight will encourage Dr. Feeney to get on the case.

Anonymous said...

"Investment in controlling global warming are not risk-increasing but risk-reducing ones: they are more like buying insurance than like speculating on unproven technologies."

That's precisely it.

the way the insurance industry deals with risk is the only way that you can really deal with such uncertainty; through a calculation of 'expected cost' that factors in the probability of various futures and the cost associate with each.

I am simply amazed by the number of economists who are utterly clueless on "expectation'.

Scientists (at least physicists) learn it because it plays a central role in quantum theory. I don't expect most economists to have taken quantum mechanics, but I do expect that they should at least be familiar with the concept of expectation.

Anonymous said...

The people who know perhaps the most about 'expectation' are the best professional poker players.

If we left it up to them, they would have a good policy to deal with global warming in no time at all.

They would want their cut of the 'winnings' (in this case, savings from future disasters averted), of course.

stevesadlov said...

Lomborg is an honest Leftist, of the Christopher Hitchens variety. There is a perfect storm just now, for the most deep thinking honest Leftists. Islamonazis and other anti Western totalitarians threaten. And it is not only "bourgeois, homophobic, white, male, hegemony" that they threaten. They threaten freedom. They threaten human rights. Now, there are also those among the West, who, slowly but surely, seem to also become anti human, and, start to embrace elements of totalitarianism. Loborg, as a gay honest Leftist, has awakened, and realizes the threat environment.

I write the truth, and many here will hate me for it.

EliRabett said...

Lomborg is a leftist and Eli is a bunny rabbet.

Hans Erren said...

The responsibility of the 21rst century lies not in the west. It lies in the east where more than two billion people want a fan, a refrigerator, a washing machine, and internet, just like us.
And in the richest IPCC scenario every asian can afford himself a swimming pool and an airconditioned house (just like Al Gore). Where will the needed electricity be generated? Ever tried to run an airco on solar power?

Two billion asians (at present, and growing...)

Anonymous said...

The responsibility of the 21rst century lies not in the west."

..even though the west still consumes half the world's energy and resources, right Hans?

But of course, you have no responsibility because you live in Holland where you don't ever drive cars (don't even know what they are), live in little holes in the dikes and power the computers like the one you are using with wind-mills, right? :)

You seem to take the same approach toward "responsibility" as George Bush: "Other people are responsible for the things that they -- and I -- do".

At least the cat in the hat cleaned up after himself when he left.

Dano said...

Daaaang, Sadlov. You sure are a-skeered of everything.

That's a lotta FUDphrases packed into a short comment. Let us score the FUDphrases:

o Leftist
o Islamonazis
o anti Western
o white, male, hegemony"
o threaten.
o threaten freedom.
o threaten human rights.
o seem to become anti human, totalitarianism.
o gay
o environment
o hate

Now, I'll leave it up to others whether these are all FUDphrases or some are fear phrases. But still. Fraidy-cat white boy.

Best,

D

Anonymous said...

Steviee boy said: "I write the truth, and many here will hate me for it."

We don't hate you Streveie boy.

We just feel sorry for you (at least I do)

poor Steveie boy. John V invaded your private tree-house at Climate Audit and immediately garnered more attention and respect from the locals (McIntyre, Mosher and others) than you ever did. I believe Mosher even gave you a talking to about John V at one point.

Poor Stevie Boy.

You're like the man without a country -- a Stevie boy without a blog.

Cynthia said...

Hey anonymous 10:38 am, I rather like your idea of having, say, Texas hold 'em champions running the economy behind global warming!;~)

EliRabett said...

The good poker players break even with each other and strip the yokels.

Anonymous said...

Lomborg is an honest Leftist'

make sure there's some leftist for me-too-ist.

lomborg actually does have a lot in common with hitchens.

Like Hitchens, he realized he could make the most money and biggest name for himself by leveraging his "reputation" as a "lefty" -- albeit a "reformed lefty" -- to gain "respect" with the right.

Of course, they don't really respect him -- just use him (just as they use Hitchens), but he does not seem to care. Everyone's getting what they want out of the deal.

Marion Delgado said...

Once again, the Sorosistic Gorebot Dano has sold us out to the Islamonarcommunazispanic abortifascists for Yellow Gold!

None dare call it gaytheist Marxo-Freudian mattoid British royal Rothschild Masonry of Club of Rome lizard blood, but I so dare!

Hans Erren said...

even though the west still consumes half the world's energy and resources, right Hans?

Indeed still, but not for long, in the IPCC projections for the end of the 21st century, energy consumption of the West dwarfs compared to Asia. The ball lies in the Asian court, what the West decides doesn't matter.

Holly Stick said...

"Indeed still, but not for long, in the IPCC projections for the end of the 21st century, energy consumption of the West dwarfs compared to Asia. The ball lies in the Asian court, what the West decides doesn't matter."

Illogical. Like the old joke about finding that your new stove uses half as much wood, so you buy another stove so you don't need to use any wood at all.

The West produces lots of GHGs; this is a problem. If Asia also produces lots of GHGs, it does not mean the West's GHGs are no longer a problem; it means we now have two problems and we want to reduce both. But whatever Asia does, the West must still reduce its production of GHGs, which will continue to be a problem.

Anonymous said...

Hans (aka Einstein, said) "The ball lies in the Asian court, what the West decides doesn't matter."

In other words "What I (Hans) do does not matter".

How convenient.

"The IPCC projections for the end of the 21st century" yadda, yadda, yadda.

There is nearly a century between now and then (I thought I'd point that out because you don't seem to be very good with math). And there is a great deal that the west can do between now and then to develop alternatives to fossil fuel -- measures that could then be adopted by Asia.

Why do you even bother posting nonsensical statements like "what the West decides doesn't matter"?

Do you not realize how foolish it makes you look?

Anonymous said...

Eli said: "The good poker players break even with each other and strip the yokels."

Technically, that is true and some also cheat, but the comment about poker players was in reference to the use (by the good ones) of "expectation" to make their decisions about uncertain futures -- namely which hands to invest in and which to fold up.

That's exactly the approach people need to take to climate change.

Very unlikely future warming scenarios (eg, sea level rise of meters) could be extremely costly so the associated "expected cost" (probability X COST) could nevertheless be significant (even though the probability is small) and must be added into the total to get the overall "expected cost".

It might therefore be worth spending a significant amount of money to mitigate if doing so brings down the overall expected cost.

This is just like the strategy poker players use to decide whether it is worth their while to stay in a hand and how much to bet -- based on the potential return and the probability that they will win.

In my opinion, Las Vegas would be very good at coming up with a "winning" climate change policy. They know all about what it involves.

Hank Roberts said...

It's always worth checking the little pilot project from the PR folks, that they've been doing for tobacco -- that's about a decade ahead of the climate project, though far smaller in extent and investment, so it has some lessons on what to watch for.

http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/116/16/1845?ct
(Full text available at the link)

Conclusions— The ... industry attempted to undermine the evidence ... to fight ... regulations while developing approaches to support new products that claim to reduce harm. The industry interest in preserving corporate viability has affected the design and interpretation of their ... studies, indicating the need for great caution in current debates about future ... industry regulation and development of reduced-harm ... products.

Cynthia said...

Anonymous 7:07 AM, sorry for not condensing your original comment right.;~( What I meant to say is that poker players might be pretty good at forming policy; but it certainly wouldn't be good to have them also operate such a policy. Similar to what Eli said, having a poker player both play and run a casino would be akin to having a fox watch over the henhouse.

Anonymous said...

Actually, there are a lot of honest poker players who do run casinos. It's not in their interest to cheat because they depend on probability to earn their money, not dishonesty -- and the second they get a dishonest reputation is the second their business folds.

At any rate, I'd put my future in the hands of a good, honest poker player any day of the weak over most other people (and compared to the people we have now, it ain't even close)

EliRabett said...

Anonymouse 9:18 is moving towards what is called expert evaluation, one formalized version of which is called Delphi method http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphi_method

"The Delphi method is a systematic interactive forecasting method for obtaining forecasts from a panel of independent experts. The carefully selected experts answer questionnaires in two or more rounds. After each round, a facilitator provides an anonymous summary of the experts’ forecasts from the previous round as well as the reasons they provided for their judgments. Thus, participants are encouraged to revise their earlier answers in light of the replies of other members of the group. It is believed that during this process the range of the answers will decrease and the group will converge towards the "correct" answer. Finally, the process is stopped after a pre-defined stop criterion (e.g. number of rounds, achievement of consensus, stability of results) and the mean or median scores of the final rounds determine the results.[1]

Delphi [pron: delfI] is based on well-researched principles and provides forecasts that are more accurate than those from unstructured groups.[2] The technique can be adapted for use in face-to-face meetings, and is then called mini-Delphi or Estimate-Talk-Estimate (ETE). Delphi has been widely used for business forecasting and has certain advantages over another structured forecasting approach: prediction markets.[3]"

Although I am not sure that I volunteer to teach climate and economics to the poker players.

Dano said...

Scenarios are more useful in emergent conditions than forecasts.

Best,

D

Hans Erren said...

"The IPCC projections for the end of the 21st century" yadda, yadda, yadda.

LOL, my energy consumption is two thirds of the average dutch household, I walk to work, and my children too, I drive less than 5000 km per year. But no, what I do doesn't matter because, even if the west could establish zero emission, in the year 2100 it's the Asians that determine the CO2 level: Consider the Asians that want a fridge, a washing machine, an airco and a car.

Just Out: Tata in India will soon manufacture new cars that cost only EUR 1750.

Anonymous said...

Hans : "what I do doesn't matter because, even if the west could establish zero emission, in the year 2100 it's the Asians that determine the CO2 level: Consider the Asians that want a fridge, a washing machine, an airco and a car."

But, hans, the part you are missing here is that if the west produces a car that gets 100mpg at a cost that is affordable to those in China (or at least shows the Chinese how to do it), that brings down China's emissions as well. Same with washing machines and all the rest.

Cutting emissions does not just happen magically. It happens because people do something to make it happen.

but, of course, the people who say "It does not matter" are not going to be the ones who make it happen. In the long run, i suspect it will happen and in that regard, I really suppose it matters not what people like yourself think. There are always those who refuse to adopt new ways of thinking.

Hans Erren said...

But, hans, the part you are missing here is that if the west produces a car that gets 100mpg at a cost that is affordable to those in China (or at least shows the Chinese how to do it), that brings down China's emissions as well. Same with washing machines and all the rest

Still dreaming of selling a bar of soap to every chinese? Let me help you out of your dream, India is rapidly becoming the IT capital of the world, the indians have taken over european steel production, and the chinese are the manufacturers. If a chinese can chose between a cheap poluting car and an expensive prius, which one do you think he will choose?

It's the chinese and Indian governments that would have to impose tax benefits, and at present I doubt if they are inclined to do so.

Anonymous said...

hans,

I'v spent a good part of my career working as an engineer and let m just say that I have dealt with a lot of people like yourself over the years.

They are the ones who always say "It can not be done. Why bother?"

I never listen to such types because I have learned from long experience that in the vast majority of the cases, they have no idea what they are talking about.

I know this because it was done (despite the naysayers).

Luckily, the "Can't be done" folks make up the minority, or humans would be stuck in caves and hunting wildebeest with spears.

Hans Erren said...

I'v spent a good part of my career working as an engineer and let m just say that I have dealt with a lot of people like yourself over the years.

Are you realistic? Do you really grasp the challenge of three (no wait, make it six, I forgot population growth) billion people in Asia who want a car, a fridge and a washing machine? And the cheap energy to run it?

Anonymous said...

Poor Hans -- stuck in backward thinking mode.

realism?

Give me a break.

You are the one assuming that it is an "all or none" proposition -- That we either cut emissions to zero or don't bother doing anything.

Every pound of CO2 that is not emitted is one pound that will not make the temperature go up.

So, if I produce a car that gets 100mpg, it does make a difference -- a huge difference.

Same with a more efficient refrigerator and the rest.


You are right about one thing, though.

It matters not what you think (either way). As i said, no one listens to naysayers when they are telling us that "it can not be done" when "it" -- drastically reducing emissions -- clearly can.

The US could easily reduce it's emissions by half simply by using energy more efficiently -- and suffer no drop in standard of living.

You may not think that matters or makes any difference, but that does not change the reality.

Hans Erren said...

It's like a garden hose against a forest fire: it doesn't help. The CO2 future is entirely in the hands of Asia. Indeed the US could cut emissions by half by replacing coal with nuclear, but Greenpeace doesn't like practical solutions to the energy challenge.

As a background, I walk to work and my annual energy use is 2000 kWh, two-thirds of the average Dutch household, and 1% of Al Gore.

Anonymous said...

So, a car that gets 50 or even 100mpg or a refrigerator that uses 3/4ths the electricity is not going to help the Chinese conserve resources?

huh?

A lot of this stuff does not rely on breakthrough technologies. For example, the technology already exists for making SUV's (and not even hybrids) that get 40mpg. Much of it relies on lighter materials, augmented computer control of fuel injection and transmission (where a lot of the energy is currently lost). Computer control is very cheap, by the way.

You simply assume that the Chinese would never adopt new technologies because they would be too expensive. Where's the proof that such an assumption is correct?

There is no reason that such a car (or refrigerator) could not be produced (and hence sold) for less money than those existing now. It is mostly a matter of economics of scale. The first few off the production line are always much more expensive than the last ones.

The fallacy of your assumption has already been amply demonstrated time an again, actually. many people in the US already buy Japanese cars that get better fuel economy, are more reliable and cost less than comparably sized American cars.

Hans Erren said...

...and cost less than comparably sized American cars.
Which is exactly my point.

JoeDuck said...

I think few who detest Lomborg have read or listened to his presentations, some of which are online. His main points are simple and obvious - we can't do everything so we should prioritize resources in the most effective fashion. He then notes the very high cost of mitigation efforts. The reasonable disagreement comes in how high you value the benefits of mitigation. If a global catastrophe is looming this number would be very high, but it's not reasonable to suggest catastrophe is looming. Ergo, spend on things that will do the most good now like poverty reduction.
(Joe Duck)

EliRabett said...

The pernicious fallacy that Lomborg is currently pushing is that paying for mitigation of climate change has to come at the expense of helping the poor, fighting malaria and similar goods. He then asks people to rank these things, and, of course the least immediate threat is ranked last. OTOH, there are lots of other things one could not spend money on with little loss (or indeed a large gain) such as bridges to nowhere in Alaska, new sports stadiums, agricultural subsidies for sugar, etc. which would leave plenty for all the thinks in Bjorn's list.

Of course this does not even touch the serial misrepresentation in his first book, the Make Believe Environmentalist