Monday, January 17, 2011

Richard Tol,

Administrative update: In its wisdoom Blogger has instituted a spam filter into which comments appear to go for irregular reasons. Eli is now aware of this and will patrol, esp if something goes missing. These have now been restored as best as possible. Most were from this thread, but there were some others, so if your words of wisdom were eaten, they have probably been regurgitated (Eli hopes). That is all, but apologies for the interruption of services.


The recent discussions here, there and pretty much everywhere have been pushing on Richard Tol to defend his FUND model. In particular, on Deltoid, Bernard J and Jeff Harvey have been asking, ever so politely that Richard discuss the value of biodiversity in his model. Richard has put on the full court Pielke, telling everyone to go read his many papers.

A description of the model, the assumptions, and the code can be found at http://www.fund-model.org/ There is also a list of papers there, and another list at my home page (just click on my name).

I'm perfectly happy to discuss things point by point, initiated by a blog post that sets out the issue.

Maybe Tim will oblige.

Eli, well Eli is perfectly happy to accept Richard's invitation on their behalf and, know what bunnies, Bernard J was right

Richard Tol:

@Bernard There is no point in explaining and discussing a hugely complex issues [sic] in comments on a blog.

Actually, I would think that a scientifically-oriented blog such as Deltoid would be the perfect medium in which to succinctly summarise and then to discuss the "hugely complex issues" underpinning your models' assumptions about the impacts of climate change.

All the more so if your assumptions are ecologically inadequate, because it is quite possible that your target audience in the journals where you publish could well miss the fact that you have over-simplified your modeling to the point of uselessness. It is in exactly a forum such as this where you might have a mix of expertise that can rapidly identify any critically important failings of your assumptions.

Rabett Run's motto is RTFR, so Eli hied hisself over to the FUND web page and went and downloaded the description of FUND 3.5. The description of how biodiversity is handled, is quite short, about a page

5.6. Ecosystems
Tol (2002a) assesses the impact of climate change on ecosystems, biodiversity, species, landscape etcetera based on the "warm-glow" effect. Essentially, the value, which people are assumed to place on such impacts, are independent of any real change in ecosystems, of the location and time of the presumed change, etcetera – although the probability of detection of impacts by the ―general public is increasing in the rate of warming. This value is specified as



This can be divided into four parts. See below for more details. α is roughly the cost per person, where P is the number of people
in a region r, at time t. The next term is a ratio of incomes, defined below. For an average current first world income of $30K, this is 0.5, but the majic of compound interest makes incomes grow so that in 2100 for the developed world it will be pretty close to unity. Since what happens to the developed world drives economic forecasts, this term too is not controlling, however, it is substantially less for the developed world, which raises ethical, but not economic issues.

The next ratio is essentially unity for Tol's choice of τ=0.025 K given any reasonable choice of the change in global temperature, and can be neglected. The last term is where the pea comes out of the shell. For the cost of biodiversity loss to exceed $50 per person, the ratio of the number of current species before 2000 to the number after is controlling.
where
  • E denotes the value of the loss of ecosystems (in 1995 US dollar) at time t in region r;
  • t denotes time;
  • r denotes region;
  • y denotes per capita income (in 1995 dollar per person per year) at time t in region r;
  • P denotes population size (in millions) at time t in region r;
  • ΔT denotes the change in temperature (in degree Celsius);
  • B is the number of species, which makes that the value increases as the number of species falls – using Weitzman’s (1998) ranking criterion and Weitzman’s (1992, 1993) biodiversity index, the scarcity value of biodiversity is inversely proportional to the number of species;
  • α=50 (0-100, >0) is a parameter such that the value equals $50 per person if per capita income equals the OECD average in 1990 (Pearce and Moran, 1994);
  • yb = is a parameter; yb = $30,000, with a standard deviation of $10,000; it is normally distributed, but knotted at zero.
  • τ=0.025ºC is a parameter;
  • σ=0.05 (triangular distribution,>0,&lgt;1)
  • B0=14,000,000 is a parameter.
Stare at this for a while and you quickly convince yourself term that what really drives the cost is the last term. Eli built a table to show this, using median incomes of $30,000 for developed countries, $5,000 for developing countries middling China and India and $1,000 for underdeveloped countries. Eli used a 3% growth rate, and several values for the global temperature change.


Year Yt,r [Yt,r/Yr] ΔT T/τ]



(1+[Yt,r/Yr])
(1+ΔT/τ)
Developed 2010 $30,000 0.50 0.1 0.800
Developing 2010 $5,000 0.14 0.2 0.889
Undeveloped 2010 $1,000 0.03 0.8 0.970
Developed 2100 $416,518.46 0.93 1.0 0.976
Developing 2100 $69,419.74 0.70 2.0 0.988
Undeveloped 2100 $13,883.95 0.32 3.0 0.992

For undeveloped countries the first ratio goes from 0.03 in 2010 to .32 in 2100 with a 3% growth rate. Of course, this means that for the undeveloped countries, Tol assumes, and his choice of parameters ARE assumptions, a current biodiversity cost of $1.50, but it is in precisely those regions where biodiversity destruction is hitting hardest today. Ethics anyone? This ain't ethics, it's economics. Yet, let us pass quickly from there to a consideration of the fun time guesstimates, that ratio of the current number of species Bo, to the number at time t, Bt. That's where Richard pulls a Lubos. Tol defines Bt

where
  • ρ = 0.003 (0.001-0.005, >0.0) is a parameter;
  • γ = 0.001 (0.0-0.002, >0.0) is a parameter; and
These parameters are expert guesses. The number of species is assumed to be constant until the year 2000 at 14,000,000 species.
Some, not Eli, he hastens to add, might think this somewhat wrong. Others might think of it as insane. The numerical effect is to limit the cost of biodiversity loss per person at most to 100 ασ, or in dollars, 100 x $50 x 0.05, a maximum of $250. If you use Tol's parameters, you reach this wall in about 40 years, at which point 99% of the species on earth have disappeared in the great FUND die off. Perhaps this module of the FUND model needs, dare Eli say it, a bit more work.

UPDATE: Below in the comments, Richard Tol asserts:
"$250/person/year is the value of an additional species lost when 99% of species are lost already. It is not the value of losing 99% of species. "
To which John Quiggen replies:
But with Bt=B0, the measure is of the order of alpha, that is, about $50. So, the value of saving 1 per cent of species is about $50*0.01*B0/person/year, or around $7 million/person/year. So, if the quoted sentence is correct, the model would seem to imply the need for an all-out effort to minimise species loss. Fine, but the results don't seem to come out that way.
This being what is technically known as being between the cheap devil and the very costly sea. Tol can escape from the undervalue argument only by pushing the cost of 1% species loss up to several hundred times the average yearly income of everyone on earth.

UPDATE2: Richard Tol replies

Note that there is further confusion (partly caused by my attempt to explain things in simple terms).

The model is specified such that a warming of 0.025 oC per year (2.5 degree per century) would lead to the extinction of 0.1% of species. The value of $50/rp/yr is for 0.1% = 1,400 species (at present).

This then goes up to $250/rp/yr for 14 species at 99% biodiversity loss.

Quiggin:

Thanks, Richard, this explanation helps a bit. But 0.1 per cent of 14 million is 14 000, so we still have a factor of 10 missing somewhere.

Tol:

@John Q
Sure. I did the math wrong at my comment of 6.06 am.

(Another reason why blogs are bad for this sort of discussion.)

Eli: Not really, this is what goes on in the coffee room or at the blackboard, but note that with this back and forth, the cost in the model is $700,000 per person per year, in a world where the median income is less than $10,000 per person per year.

Bluegrue adds
I'd like to point out Richard Tol's explanation.

The model is specified such that a warming of 0.025 C per year (2.5 degrees per century) would lead to the extinction of 0.1% of species.

This description is correct, but keep in mind, that he is talking about a rate of 0.1% per year.
or ~10% per century.

-------------------------------------

Realistically, even a loss of a few percent of the species on earth would be an economic and humanitarian disaster. Richard appears to be rooting for the Grim Reaper. Eli notes the resemblance.

UPDATE: In the comments Jeff Harvey provides an expert estimate of the outer boundary
There is little doubt in my mind, speaking as a population ecologist, that it is dangerous talk to try and extrapolate the cost of losing additional species once 99% of species diversity has been extirpated. My view is that at this point, humans would almost certainly be amongst the victims. Even if we weren't, such a decimation of the planet's life support systems would mean that life is hell for the survivors. The value of remaining species would be either nil or infinity, depending on the roles they would play in maintaining conditions making the planet remotely habitable. But, to reiterate, such models in my view are useless because I do not think that any population of systems ecologists would even want to try and comprehend what the planet would be like if 99% of its species were gone. I think that things will start to get tough when we approach 20 or 30%, let alone 99.
---------------------------------------------

At 10% or so we might as well pack up the earth and head for Hansen 1.
"...Hansen's bones are quiet at last,
...No science disturbs the lucid line,
For sun-scorched Earthers tune their thought
To Offword Station 'Holocene-1'
From where they know just what they ought,
...memories of times past that should be banished
Only relics, philosophies and a parched wasteland lie below..." - Barry Brook

140 comments:

t_p_hamilton said...

Eli,

Biodiversity is overrated. You only need two species - Humans and Soylent Green.

Anonymous said...

Expert work there Eli. So much for Richard's fig leaf. I'll go ahead and assume that rules out his presence over here, notwithstanding the bluster at Tim's place.

I think what one needs to take away from this is less the specific and comical handling of biodiversity in Richard's model than the absurd ignorance and hubris it describes. That latter infects and indicts the whole enterprise. Consider that in correspondence with Richard on blogs over the years, he has indicated that his model:

1) Does not incorporate any damages to drinking water resources... notwithstanding the potential for these to make vast swaths of highly populous territory uninhabitable, triggering humanitarian and geopolitical crises of a kind not witnessed before.

2) Assumes increases in mortality rates in tropical and subtropical regions from warming will be more than offset by lesser cardio-vascular disease related mortality rates in temperate and northern latitudes, at least earlier in the modeling horizon before temperatures get out of hand.

3) Does not contemplate any damages from sea level rise above the no ice sheet melt IPCC figures.

4) Uses a high rate of social time preference, notwithstanding that these value future generations at a deep and morally reprehensible discount to our own, and moreover, that the social prtp negatively relates to economic growth rates in the Ramsey model. Top of all that, I'm no expert of the literature in this area, but I am quite familiar with the data, and cannot for the life of me see how this is justified empirically.

5) Uses a multiplicative function of economic disutility, which Weitzman has demonstrated results in absurdly trivial damages for borderline cataclysmic temperature changes, significant enough to bear on middle of the distribution analysis.

and biggest of all...

6) Assumes away the uncertainty around estimates of climate sensitivity, not least regarding the long-term carbon cycle and ice-sheet feedbacks that would feature in any cataclysmic scenario.

Each of these would significantly bear on the results, except the last, which would overturn the applecart entirely. The biodiversity bit is just another brick for the wall. Sad that people's obsession with objective numbers makes the type of snake oil that Richard Tol sells so effective.

Majorajam

Chris McGrath said...

The assumptions underpinning this model are surreal but that seems to be the mainstream approach for economists.

Even Nicolas Stern, who many economists seems to regard as an extreme environmentalist, was prepared to write-off immensely important ecosystems because he concluded it was economically sensible.

Stern (2007: 80) concluded that at 2°C warming “coral reefs are expected to bleach annually in many areas, with most never recovering, affecting tens of millions of people that rely on coral reefs for their livelihood or food supply". Nevertheless he went on to recommend policy targets to stabilise mean global temperature rises between 2-3°C warming thereby effectively writing off coral reefs.

Any analysis that concludes it is economically sensible to allow the loss of ecosystems such as coral reefs is lunacy.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

It seems immoral to say that some species are more precious than others, similary to that lives of some people are more precious than others.
But we harm biodiversity as we live anyway.
I think that we should approach the issue of biodiversity from the notion of ecosystem services.
Then such species whose role cannot be replaced by others are more precious than those replaceable.

Anonymous said...

Happy to defer to the several billion yumans with better math than I, but I don't think the first equation resolves to a maximum of 100 ασ. Some elements in the last term appear to have been dropped (?)

I make it α(1-σ+100σ) = 5.95 α = $297.50

A difference that makes no difference...(and probably wrong, because when it comes to algebra, I wouldn't know my ασ from my elbow).

It's a good thing RT included that expression limiting species loss to only 99%. If he hadn't, after 52 years there is only one species left. And after 53, none.

FrankD

Anonymous said...

ELI

How much do you think it ought to be?

While you are there, would you mind also telling us what you think of Tol's destruction of Stern's discount rate of .5%.

I says, if a former Crooklyite is good at figuring biodiversity values, he/you must be terrific at discount rates. Let's see your hand at economics, Rab, or in this case your paw.

Anonymous said...

Anon asks:

"How much do you think it ought to be?"

Extinction of 99% speicies? How about Global GDP for the next 10 million years and then some?

Jakerman

Anonymous said...

The earth's physical environment makes possible humans ... and their economic systems.

Economic arguments made to justify ignoring humans' effect on the environment are stupid, arrogant and suicidal, not necessarily in that order.

John Puma

Richard Tol said...

@Eli
Thanks for this.

You accurately reproduce the text and equations, except that Delta_T is the annual temperature change. I would give it a different interpretation.

The willingness to pay (WTP) to avoid climate-change-induced damage to ecosystems consists of four elements.

First, the WTP is per capita. Population growth implies value growth.

Second, the WTP depends on income. Richer people are prepared to pay more to conserve nature. FUND3.5 is specified such that the WTP in poor countries rapidly converges to the WTP in rich countries. The WTP is capped at twice the current average in the OECD.

The average WTP in the OECD is based on a large number of empirical studies.

Third, the WTP increases with the rate of warming.

Fourth, the WTP increases as nature gets more degraded. This is proxied by the number of species.

The number of species falls for reasons unrelated to climate change and because of climate change.

The maximum loss is 99%. This limit is there to avoid numerical problems. It is reached only very occassionally in large Monte Carlo analyses.

This is a simple representation of something that is very complex. I would argue, however, that adding complexity would not add accuracy.

I'd be interested in suggestions for alternative parameter values or for alternative specifications.

Note that Equation (E.1) was changed in FUND3.6. It is now
E = alpha' P y^eta dT^beta B^gamma
The interpretation is much the same but this specification is more in line with the standard one in economics.

ourchangingclimate said...

Bernard's reply to Richard, that a blog is a good medium for discussing the complexities, is somewhat similar to what is often said on "skeptic" blogs about climate scientists: "Come and let us tear your work apart; it can only improve as a result. Your refusal to do so will be seen as admitting the poor quality of your work".

It appeals to those on the same side of the fence, but looking at it from some distance also shows the inevitable problems. Climate scientists understandably are loath to disucss the ins and outs of their research at "skeptical" blogs, because with such animosity, what's there to gain? I'm fully aware that all blogs are not created equal, but the point is how does the blog population view the respective researcher and vice versa. From that perspective, I think there is at least some equivalence.

Bart

Jakerman said...

Tol asks:

"I'd be interested in suggestions for alternative parameter values or for alternative specifications."

For starters you need to price the loss of 99% of species much higher!

You'd be closer to the mark if you priced this outcome equivalent to the value of Global GDP for the next 10 million years and then some. I.e. so costly that we recognize we don't want to go there.

Given that climate sensitivity probability functions have a long tail, and risk of extreme temperature rises of 6+ degrees C are not negligible. Certainly not negligible when compare to the scale of risk.

Jakerman said...

Oh yeah, dump willingness to pay calculated from the position of ignorance of consequences.

Once experiencing the loss of vital ecosystem services you'd pay anything after its too late to pay, but when its too late you'd end up paying everything and get nothing.

Richard Tol said...

@Jakerman
Can you provide empirical evidence for that suggestions?

You may be misled by Eli's overlooking that Eq (E.1) specifies an annual loss.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jakerman said...

Tol asks:

"Can you provide empirical evidence for that suggestions?"

Nope, we've no records of a GDP generating society wiping out 99% of species (99% being your figure). We're lining up uncharted territory.

Can you imaging the impact of this loss on 7 billion humans? We would not be 7 billion for very long. And loss of 99% of species means ecological collapse of virtually all complex life forms. life forms that took many 10s of millions of years to evolve.

Fred Knell, thanks for your anon contribution, well up to your usual standard.

Jakerman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jakerman said...

Tol writes:

"You may be misled by Eli's overlooking that Eq (E.1) specifies an annual loss."

So that would max your cost for loss of 99% of species at $250/per capita per year. Or less one quarter of one utility bill/year. Compared to my costing of the collapse of civilization and more. Are you perhaps missing the big picture?

Richard Tol said...

@Jakerman
You misinterpret. The equation specifies the annual WTP to avoid an increase in ecosystem damage. As I indicated in my first intervention, the equation is rarely evaluated at its extremes.

While there is evidence that people value damage to damaged ecosystems higher than damage to pristine ecosystems, there is no reason to assume that this effect is very large. For instance, the difference in attitudes towards nature protection in Haiti and the Domenican Republic is by and large explained by income differences rather than by differences in ecosystem degradation.

Tim Worstall said...

I think I can see the philosophic problem here (I'll not comment on the maths as I can't follow it anyway).

On the one side, the claim that ecosystem services or biodiversity are hugely valuable, a value that the model doesn't reflect.

On the other, the claim that this is the value you get to using reasonable inputs to said model.

Both statements can be true.

For very different things are being measured. Certainly I would put the loss of 99% of all species as being worth more than $250 a head.

But that isn't, at all, what the economic models are trying to measure. This one, like others, is attempting to measure what value, on average, do currently extant human beings place upon ecological services or biodiversity?

Maybe that value they/we place on them is wrong, maybe it should be higher/lower. But it is still the value that they/we do place on them. Which is what is beiong measured, as best as is possible.

Which leads to the observation that to get the FUND model (or any other such) to accord with your own, higher, valuations of ecosystems and biodiversity, all you have to do is convince a substantial fraction of your fellow 7 billion human beings that they should value them more highly. Such a higher valuation would be picked up in the empirical studies of willingness to pay and, hey presto, the model valuations move closer to your own.

But saying that the model doesn't work because it doesn't spit out your valuation of such things doesn't work. For that just isn't what it's trying to measure. It's trying to measure what the average human being measures such things at.

Richard Tol said...

@Tim
Sure. As always, the valuation is at the margin. It's not a total value.

Jakerman said...

Tol writes:

"The equation specifies the annual WTP to avoid an increase in ecosystem damage."

Tol, you inappropriately max out your cost at $250 per-cap/pa so you inappropriately cap the cost to avoid damage and hence inappropriately value the high end damage.


Tol writes:

"As I indicated in my first intervention, the equation is rarely evaluated at its extremes."

Well we've just evaluated it at an very important extreme and your model comes ups well short. To find a meaningful range you ought to reset so that complete ecological collapses is prohibitively expensive, i.e. it costs the world. Costing collapse at anything less is indefensible.

Anonymous said...

We have sold our grandchildren's future for a few percent?

Little Mouse

Jakerman said...

Tol writes:

“The equation specifies the annual WTP to avoid an increase in ecosystem damage. “

Tol, you max out the cost of WTP at $250 pp/pa, so you limit the ecosystem damage mitigation potential to that price. And you used this inappropriately value the damage of AGW.

Tol write:

“As I indicated in my first intervention, the equation is rarely evaluated at its extremes.”

The point of ecological collapse happens to be an important extreme. Evaluating your model against this important risk shows its inappropriate nature.

Risks approaching ecological collapses need to be prohibitively priced. Surely its logical that prices for such actions need to approach the value of the world.

Jakerman said...

Tim writes:

“Maybe that value they/we place on them is wrong, maybe it should be higher/lower. But it is still the value that they/we do place on them. Which is what is beiong measured, as best as is possible.”

Tim, WTP is valuing events such as ecological collapse inappropriately, when you produce an absurd price for the end of life as we know it its time to change one’s approach.

One serious flaw with the WTP approach used by Tol I’ve hinted at, that is the lag effect. The lag from ecosystem disruption to ecosystems collapse can have a long delay time and massive intertia. We don’t experience the feedbacks for such in a timeframes that make sense to the economic rational man.

As I said:

“Once experiencing the loss of vital ecosystem services you'd pay anything after its too late to pay, but when its too late you'd end up paying everything and get nothing.”

Jakerman said...

Tol writes:

“The equation specifies the annual WTP to avoid an increase in ecosystem damage. “

Tol, you max out the cost of WTP at $250 pp/pa, so you limit the ecosystem damage mitigation potential to that price. And you used this inappropriately value the damage of AGW.

Tol write:

“As I indicated in my first intervention, the equation is rarely evaluated at its extremes.”

The point of ecological collapse happens to be an important extreme and worth calibrating your model against. Evaluating your model against this important risk shows its inappropriate nature.

Risks approaching ecological collapses need to be prohibitively priced. Surely its logical that prices for such actions need to approach the value of the world.

Anonymous said...

Tim says:

"Certainly I would put the loss of 99% of all species as being worth more than $250 a head".

I would actually be worth less than that, Tim. At 99% extinction the remaining 1% would be pretty worthless I would think.

Richard Tol said...

I see elsewhere that there is confusion between total and marginal values.

$250/person/year is the value of an additional species lost when 99% of species are lost already. It is not the value of losing 99% of species.

Jakerman said...

Tol writes; "$250/person/year is the value of an additional species lost when 99% of species are lost already. It is not the value of losing 99% of species."

Richard, what is the price your model puts on losing 99% of species?

Jeff Harvey said...

I (Jeff Harvey) will repeat what I said on Deltoid.

If the planet had already lost 99% of species, then its almost certain that we would be among them. In fact, my guess is that, in a sequence of extinction, humans would go well before many of the other 99% would. This is because few species depend as much on nature and conditions emerging from natural systems over variable scales of space and time as humans do. Kooiti is thus correct when he says that estimates of the cost must take into account effects on ecosystem services. These services include water purification and detoxification of wastes, pollination, seed dispersal, nutrient cycling, pest control, maintenance of soils and renewal of their fertility and (at least clocally) climate maintenance.

There is little doubt in my mind, speaking as a population ecologist, that it is dangerous talk to try and extrapolate the cost of losing additional species once 99% of species diversity has been extirpated. My view is that at this point, humans would almost certainly be amongst the victims. Even if we weren't, such a decimation of the planet's life support systems would mean that life is hell for the survivors. The value of remaining species would be either nil or infinity, depending on the roles they would play in maintaining conditions making the planet remotely habitable. But, to reiterate, such models in my view are useless because I do not think that any population of systems ecologists would even want to try and comprehend what the planet would be like if 99% of its species were gone. I think that things will start to get tough when we approach 20 or 30%, let alone 99.

The 99% figure would almost certainly mean that species performing vital functions would be gone. This means all pollinators, and perhaps many soil biota that perform critical functions in maintaining a healthy soil environment. Entire ecosystems would collapse as the primary producers disappear, and with them higher trophic levels dependent on them up the food chain. Another vital point is in detewrmining the identity of the remaining species and what ecological niches they occupy (as well as the functional roles they perform). We'd certainly need nitrogen fixing bacteria, and lots of them, as well as nutrient cycling organisms; a healthy number of pollinators; phytoplankton; higher trophci levels to maintain top-down regulation of terrestrial and aquatic communities. But I just don't think that it would be possible to maintain viable life support systems for species at the terminal end of vertebrate food chains, including us, with 99% of other species gone.

One final point: a species loses its economic and biological value long before it becomes extinct. For example relic populations do not contribute much, if anything, to the functioning of ecosystems. This is a major topic of discussion amongst my peers.

John Quiggin said...

"$250/person/year is the value of an additional species lost when 99% of species are lost already. It is not the value of losing 99% of species. "

But with Bt=B0, the measure is of the order of alpha, that is, about $50. So, the value of saving 1 per cent of species is about $50*0.01*B0/person/year, or around $7 million/person/year. So, if the quoted sentence is correct, the model would seem to imply the need for an all-out effort to minimise species loss. Fine, but the results don't seem to come out that way.

EliRabett said...

Frank, Eli left out the 1+ for the same reason he forced the two ratios to unity, because this is a bullshit test, eg in such a case IEHO it is important to reduce the issue down to the simplest basics.

As you say, it is an error, but IEHO, a useful error.

Richard Tol said...

@John Q
You are well able to read an equation. It does not reflect well on you that you pretend otherwise.

Anonymous said...

"$250/person/year is the value of an additional species lost when 99% of species are lost already. It is not the value of losing 99% of species."

Thanks Richard, for pointing that out to them as people like Eli didn't seem to grasp the point you were making. I tried earlier with my comment to Tim W.

In all fairness though, I would think the remaining 1% would have zero value, no?

John Quiggin said...

Honestly, Richard, that's how I read the equation, in conjunction with the quoted sentence. Obviously, something is wrong, but I have no idea what, so please set me straight.

Richard Tol said...

Note that there is further confusion (partly caused by my attempt to explain things in simple terms).

The model is specified such that a warming of 0.025 dC per year (2.5 degree per century) would lead to the extinction of 0.1% of species. The value of $50/rp/yr is for 0.1% = 1,400 species (at present).

This then goes up to $250/rp/yr for 14 species at 99% biodiversity loss.

Anonymous said...

"The point of ecological collapse happens to be an important extreme and worth calibrating your model against. Evaluating your model against this important risk shows its inappropriate nature".


I can't believe Jakerman is saying that

He's basically suggesting that Tol should ignore where the average prediction resides on the curve and build models which show the effects of extreme. This is no longer dealing with science or econometrics. It's basically a form of religious dogma.

From what I recall Tol did a paper in which he analyzed where the mass of climate scientists stood in their predictions for global temps by 2100. From memory the rise was estimated at around 2% approx. (he can correct that)

At that level there does not appear to be a case for costly mitigation, as against allowing the GDP growth trajectory to compound unmolested. In other words we may as well grow as fast as we can, take our lumps along the way and future generations end up better off rather than having molested GDP.

We often read there is moral case for inter-generational equity with AGW. This could also be reversed to show just how bankrupt it is. How can a case be made to take from the poor (present generation) to give to the rich (future generations), as that’s what Stern was suggesting although he seemed oblivious to that.

It would be like our present generation looking back (if we had a time machine) and appealing to previous generations to make sacrifices so we could lead better lives. If this is a moral argument then it’s an appalling one.

willard said...

All these complexities make me feel a warm glow.

Reminds me of Roger Pielke Jr. saying there is no error in a calculation, just different assumptions.

It also reminds me of the time Roger Pielke Jr. refused to admit that this is a trivial excuse that can apply to any correct calculation, for instance here.

Marlowe Johnson said...

Now I'm normally pretty hard on Richard but I think he deserves a lot of kudos here for taking the time to discuss his work.


More stuff on climate policy/economics please. After all we've been talking about the science for decades already!


There is a whole branch of economics that deals with valuations of ecological services. I'm sure Richard would be the first to say that the model provides an idealized result not an actual projection of future costs. However, that doesn't mean that all projections are created equal. I take Richard at his word when he expresses interest in working with the likes of Jeff Harvey to improve his model.

Richard Tol said...

@Anonymous
I wrote no such paper. I guess you refer to the work by my former colleagues David Keith and Granger Morgan.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Richard: Sorry it may well have been something you used in one of your papers or were making reference to. It was a little while ago.

John Quiggin said...

Thanks, Richard, this explanation helps a bit. But 0.1 per cent of 14 million is 14 000, so we still have a factor of 10 missing somewhere.

Richard Tol said...

@John Q
Sure. I did the math wrong at my comment of 6.06 am.

(Another reason why blogs are bad for this sort of discussion.)

Majorajam said...

Tol is ducking the issue as usual. His model specifies no link of consequence between biodiversity loss and consequences for human civilization. It values the environment based on astute observations like that people like to watch the nature channel and visit wildlife preserves. Just read between the lines:

"...WTP depends on income. Richer people are prepared to pay more [as a fraction of their income] to conserve nature."

Notice the words he does not use. You don't hear, 'Richer people are prepared to pay more to sustain their livelihoods and protect against the risk of their own extinction'. As the ecological experts of this thread can attest, that is effectively how that sentence can be made to read in this context.

Except in that poor countries are willing to pay high fractions of income prevent the degradation of things that sustain their livelihoods. Who wouldn't? Instead, we're to believe all 'nature conservation' spending relates to rich bleeding heart types sponsoring rain forests and keeping loggers from killing off spotted owls. Never mind the vast disparity in context between the past and a violently warming future.

In other words, Richard's model doesn't recognize the fundamental link between biodiversity and gdp/income/wealth. That's where you get $250pppa at 99% loss of biodiversity (and presumably more than 25¢ at 30%). And he wants us to suggest to him different parameter values for this intellectually bankrupt formulation. Go fish pal.

PS He will henceforth be known to me as Richard " the equation is rarely evaluated at its extremes" Tol. Absolutely precious Richard. Thank you for that.

bluegrue said...

@Richard,

your species model seems to be vastly dominated by the rho term. I've plugged a simplistic temperature model into your species model, assuming the temperature change to follow an arctan function with an initial slope of 2°C/century and leveling off at various temperatures, ranging from 0°C (no warming) to 8°C. All runs invariably end in the year 3000 in the range of 95% to 96% species loss wrt 2000, temperature has rather little influence. Do you think this model is realistic?

Here's the plot:
http://bluegrue.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/fund35speciesmodel.png
and the accomponying post
http://bluegrue.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/fund-3-5-species-model/

bluegrue said...

I'd like to point out Richard Tol's explanation.

The model is specified such that a warming of 0.025 dC per year (2.5 degree per century) would lead to the extinction of 0.1% of species.

This description is correct, but keep in mind, that he is talking about a rate of 0.1% per year.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bluegrue said...

@Richard Tol

As I indicated in my first intervention, the equation is rarely evaluated at its extremes.
Your model assumes a species loss of 25% by 2100 with no temperature change whatsoever. My simplistic temperature model with Tmax=8°C gives a loss of 30% by 2100. By 2550 the species loss is at least 80%, irrespective of warming, by 2800 it assumes at least 90° extinction.

Is that what you call "rarely evaluated at its extremes"?

P.S.: What is the background extinction rate given by rho supposed to model?

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Richard, surely your entire analysis jumps the gun a wee bit. Before we can do any sort of risk mitigation analysis, we need to be able to bound the risk. If you lose 99% of biodiversity, clearly you have not done so. If we lost 99% of the species on the planet, what are the chances that humans would be in that lucky(?) 1%?

Moreover, while the upper 5% of the CO2 sensitivity probability curve is admittedly unlikely, it will wind up dominating risk analyses, since the consequences are so much more severe. Until we've managed to bound the risk, the only responsible risk mitigation strategy is threat avoidance.

FJM said...

"If we lost 99% of the species on the planet, what are the chances that humans would be in that lucky(?) 1%?"

Virtually none. If we got down to just 1% of species left, you're probably going to be exclusively left with single celled prokaryotes.

EliRabett said...

On the contrary, the first thing you learn in physics class is to evaluate answers at the extreme. This is called a bullshit test, and it works well in identifying bullshit

EliRabett said...

Eli has been moving some of the back and forth up to comments. For those who have never been in an academic setting, this is what goes on at the blackboard.

EliRabett said...

In view of the above, and starting with John Quiggin's comment, using a 0.1% per year die off rate costs using the FUND formula the cost in the model is $700,000 per person per year for biodiversity loss, in a world where the median income is less than $10,000 per person per year.

Ron Broberg said...

The model is specified such that a warming of 0.025 dC per year (2.5 degree per century) would lead to the extinction of 0.1% of species. The value of $50/rp/yr is for 0.1% = 1,400 species (at present).

This then goes up to $250/rp/yr for 14 species at 99% biodiversity loss.


Richard, this is ridiculous on the face of it. If 99% of species are lost, homo sapiens won't be among them. And I know this wothout any formal ecological training. So should you.

Major extinction events are marked at points where die-offs reach roughly 10% of genera. Once you reach 10% of species, you are likely passing through the realm of "what are people willing to pay" into the realm of "what are the substitution costs to replace what the species used to provide." The first indicates an ethical/moral/esthetic cost that is voluntary. The second indicates the point where reality overtakes nice-to-haves.
.
What is the substitiution cost for pesticides to replace declining bird and bat populations? What is the substitution cost to replace pollinators lost to pesticides?
.
I don't know your model. But the portion presented here seems to emphasize bio-diversity as a nice-to-have while ignoring the real costs associated with species loss (which I intuitively sense is an exponential cost - low for at first for just a few species, but accelerates as more holes are punched into the web of live).

Adrian Kelleher said...

The scientific basis for Tol's GDP growth figures 50 or 70 years in the future is also worth investigating.

Completely unaccounted for in Tol's models, but surely overwhelmingly negative, are the political risks that will result from climatic disruption. It may be that these risks completely dwarf all other factors in a given scenario, or it may not be -- no one can tell. How meaningful his projections can be is therefore questionable.

Even with impeccable good faith and expertise, it may be therefore that his estimates would be simply misleading. Certainly, he cannot produce a scientific argument demonstrating this is not the case. Nonetheless, he demands critics work within his framework, much as the Soviet communist party insisted everyone communicate exclusively within the confines of its dogma. Tol's framework is not scientific as any physical scientist would understand the term, however, and the particular factor of political risk may outweigh all other factors just as the risk of a biodiversity collapse might.

A question for Professor Tol: If you had all the resources you require and could refine your models to any desired level of perfection attainable within the frontiers of human capability, what *reliable* inferences might then be drawn from them?

Richard Tol said...

@Bluegrue
All correct.

FUND3.5 stops in 2300, so that we would rarely get to 99%. (FUND3.6 runs to 3000, so we'd better have another look at this.)

We humans have been killing off other species at an increasing rate regardless of climate change. Why would that stop?

EWI said...

In fairness to Richard, he does apply such values to the currently-living as well:

Wed 12 Dec 2009
Clean-up operation may boost economy, says ESRI
THE FLOODING crisis may have a small silver lining for the economy in the longer term, according to a leading economist.

Prof Richard Tol of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has said that while the flooding has caused widespread damage, there may be an unexpected fillip to the economy once the clean-up operation begins.


http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1202/1224259892740.html

(The context is devastating floods in Cork in late 2009)

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Richard Tol: "We humans have been killing off other species at an increasing rate regardless of climate change. Why would that stop?"

Because maybe our collective learning curve has a positive slope?

Rocco said...

Richard Tol: "We humans have been killing off other species at an increasing rate regardless of climate change. Why would that stop?"

Wow, I can't believe you actually said that. Can I quote this when Lomborg comes up again?

Btw. that same argument can be used anywhere - "We humans have been destroying the ozone layer an increasing rate regardless of climate change. Why would that stop?"

But it sometimes does stop, doesn't it.

bluegrue said...

@Richard Tol
FUND3.5 stops in 2300
If that's the case you may want to update your documentation. The very first paragraph of FundTechnicalDescription.pdf (linked by Eli) reads:
FUND 3.5 is defined for 16 regions, specified in Table R. The model runs from 1950 to 3000 in time-steps of a year.
That's why I evaluated your function up to the year 3000 in the first place.

Phil said...

I can't resist paraphrasing John Donne:

Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell Tols,
It Tols for thee.

David B. Benson said...

I opine that the whole thing is an insane waste of time and talent.

It ought to disappear down the Rabett Hole.

Majorajam said...

As long as we're on the subject of cavalier disregard for cataclysmic outcomes, here is a favorite of mine from Weitzman (2009):

Another way to see [the] dramatic difference [between additive and multiplicative formulations of net utility] is [to] ask how much of a welfare-equivalent temperature reduction in 150 years would 7.5% of current consumption buy. With additive utility (8), the answer... is 4ºC. With multiplicative utility (7), the answer is 18ºC!" (emphasis mine)

Hey- 7.5% of income is a lot of money. You wouldn't want to waste it on something as trivial as preventing, say, 17ºC of warming as experienced by people you'll never meet. Screw em'!

Now then, anyone want to venture a wild guess as to which formulation Richard 'the equation is rarely evaluated at its extremes' Tol is using?... Yea. Except Richard used a higher discount rate for the Copenhagen deception than Weitzman did in setting up this strawman. So you probably wouldn't spend 7.5% until warming was topping 25ºC.

Tis better to laugh than to cry

jakerman said...

Anon cites me then misrepresents me (thus he could be Fred Knell):

Jakerman: "The point of ecological collapse happens to be an important extreme and worth calibrating your model against. Evaluating your model against this important risk shows its inappropriate nature".


Anon: “I can't believe Jakerman is saying that. He's basically suggesting that Tol should ignore where the average prediction resides on the curve and build models which show the effects of extreme. “

Anon is incorrect as I have not suggested ignoring average predictions. Rather I’ve pointed out the need to appropriately factor in extremes when the risk of ecological collapses is real. If one’s model does not make ecological collapses prohibitively costly then one’s model is not up to scratch.

As I said, probability functions of climate sensitivity have a long tail. Even a climate sensitivity of 3 deg/doubling CO2 would result in warming approaching 6 degrees at 1000 ppm. Yet the probability of sensitivity higher than 3 degrees is almost 50%.
http://www.skepticalscience.com/Working-out-climate-sensitivity.html

Additionally bluegrue correctly points out, Tol’s model is inadequate in showing little extinction sensitivity to heating of the planet. I.e. Tol assumes little extinction increate difference between an 8 degree rise compared to no rise.
http://bluegrue.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/fund-3-5-species-model/
There by Tol inappropriate discounts the cost of AGW.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"As I said, probability functions of climate sensitivity have a long tail."

And you know this how exactly, Jakerman?

jakerman said...

Richard Tol: "We humans have been killing off other species at an increasing rate regardless of climate change. Why would that stop?"

In addition to important rebuttals made by others, Tol also needs to account for the effect of temperature on the cost species preservation.
We will protect less species per dollar spent in a heating world compared to a stable climate. The costs for saving species rise with temperature.

See bluegrues post demonstrating how Tol factors out the impact of heating on species loss.
http://bluegrue.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/fund-3-5-species-model/

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"As I said, probability functions of climate sensitivity have a long tail."

And you know this how exactly, Jakerman?

Because of the studies I linked to in my post.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Working-out-climate-sensitivity.html

jakerman said...

Respost in 2 part as this keeps disappearing:

Anon (Likely Fred Knell) cites me then misrepresents me:

Jakerman: "The point of ecological collapse happens to be an important extreme and worth calibrating your model against. Evaluating your model against this important risk shows its inappropriate nature".


Anon: “I can't believe Jakerman is saying that. He's basically suggesting that Tol should ignore where the average prediction resides on the curve and build models which show the effects of extreme. “

Anon is incorrect as I have not suggested ignoring average predictions. Rather I’ve pointed out the need to appropriately factor in extremes when the risk of ecological collapses is real. If one’s model does not make ecological collapses prohibitively costly then one’s model is not up to scratch.

As I said, probability functions of climate sensitivity have a long tail. Even a climate sensitivity of 3 deg/doubling CO2 would result in warming approaching 6 degrees at 1000 ppm. Yet the probability of sensitivity higher than 3 degrees is almost 50%.
http://www.skepticalscience.com/Working-out-climate-sensitivity.html

jakerman said...

part 2:

Additionally bluegrue correctly points out, Tol’s model is inadequate in showing little extinction sensitivity to heating of the planet. I.e. Tol assumes little extinction increate difference between @ 8 degree rise compared to 0 degree rise.
http://bluegrue.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/fund-3-5-species-model/
There by Tol inappropriate discounts the cost of AGW.

Anonymous said...

Jakerman falls off his tricycle and says:

"Anon is incorrect as I have not suggested ignoring average predictions. Rather I’ve pointed out the need to appropriately factor in extremes when the risk of ecological collapses is real. If one’s model does not make ecological collapses prohibitively costly then one’s model is not up to scratch."

Jakerman, if there is an ecological collapse then economic models should value that at zero.

There are also trade-offs to account for. This current world is a very poor place, believe it or not. Median income is around $US5,000. We don't have a great deal of luxury to be expansive and generous to the double eared frog in Mombasa.

If you really want to the rich to pay for mitigation, ask those people in 2100 when median income could be as high as $70,000.

Otherwise stop the worrying about fat tails scaring you half to death and enjoy life.



"As I said, probability functions of climate sensitivity have a long tail. Even a climate sensitivity of 3 deg/doubling CO2 would result in warming approaching 6 degrees at 1000 ppm. Yet the probability of sensitivity higher than 3 degrees is almost 50%.
http://www.skepticalscience.com/Working-out-climate-sensitivity.html "

Oh yea. Past history doesn't support the thesis of a 6 deg increase with a doubling. Past history is the past 100 years which shows .7 degrees.

You're talking nonsense.

EliRabett said...

From the Management:

In its wisdoom Blogger has instituted a spam filter into which comments appear to go for irregular reasons. Eli is now aware of this and will patrol, esp if something goes missing (there was nothing from RayP in there tho?? he lost more than a couple). These have now been restored as best as possible. Most were from this thread, but there were some others, so if your words of wisdom were eaten, they have probably been regurgitated (Eli hopes). That is all, but apologies for the interruption of services.

Jakerman said...

Anon (with Fred Knell's style logic) says:

“Jakerman, if there is an ecological collapse then economic models should value that at zero.”

Not if your model is trying to value ecology and hence prevent collapse. I suggest you think again Anon.

With your logic Tol’s model would value price ecological collapse at zero. Ask yourself why even Tol doesn’t do that? (perhaps you might now reflect on your cognitive commitments that led you asstray on this point).

Jakerman said...

Anon (with the MO of Fred Knell) cites me then scores zero for comprehension:

Jakerman:"As I said, probability functions of climate sensitivity have a long tail. Even a climate sensitivity of 3 deg/doubling CO2 would result in warming approaching 6 degrees at 1000 ppm. Yet the probability of sensitivity higher than 3 degrees is almost 50%.
http://www.skepticalscience.com/Working-out-climate-sensitivity.html "

Anon: Oh yea. Past history doesn't support the thesis of a 6 deg increase with a doubling. Past history is the past 100 years which shows .7 degrees.


Anon, after you discover your comprehension error, you might then also reflect on the concept of the time required to reach radiative equilibrium follow a greenhouse gas perturbation. People competent I climate science seem to disagree with your calculations. I can name two reasons.

Your first error is the most basic: you count our 0.7 temperature rise, but neglect the basic fact that we’ve only increased CO2 by 40%. So without understand anything else, to calculate a naive climate sensitivity you ought now add in the remaining 60% to calculate a doubling sensitivity.

But there is more to consider, including temperature lag to which I refer:
http://www.skepticalscience.com/Climate-time-lag.html

Anonymous said...

Richard Tol.

As you have determined a model for the cost per person per year for saving a single species, can you compare this to the cost, per person per year, of developing and implementing renewable energies to replace fossil fuel energies?

You mention, in your reply time stamped 18/1/11 12:30 AM, the fact of population growth. How did you factor-in the ecologically sustainable asymptote for human population, and upon what criteria was the value determined, and what are the cost modifiers to your costed parameters if the asymptote is exceeded?

You say “I would argue, however, that adding complexity [to the model] would not add accuracy.” This puzzles me, because I do not see how your model accounts for any particular sequence of ecosystem service loss, or of the compounding or emergent impacts of increasing species and ecosystem function losses. How do you demonstrate that increasing the resolution of your model does not improve your ability to discern the increasing and unanticipated/unfactored effects of global ecosystem simplification?

You say:

“I'd be interested in suggestions for alternative parameter values or for alternative specifications.”

Spoken like an economist, rather than a scientist. If all such parameters were known, understanding and scientific endeavour in ecology would probably have reached a Kelvineque asymptotic state, a state which seems to elude economic capacity to calculate with respect to the sustainable size of human numbers... Nevertheless, I’d suggest that a basic phase 1 version of some of the most basic of such parameters might be crudely inferred from past societal collapses, with some fairly basic modifiers to account for both the advantages of high intensity energy-use and of technology, and to account for the disadvantages that come with the increasing vulnerability to failure in systems that grow increasingly complex. Add to this some of the ecosystem service values that Jeff Harvey has already raised, and which have been valued by various authors, and you should be able to start.

One of the things that you would need to incorporate into your modelling is phase-shifting. Ecosystems are not linear in their responses to alterations in their dynamics, as the non-recovery of many fisheries demonstrates in an economic sense (seeing as economics is the preoccupation here). Resilience in an ecosystem context is not really a reflection of a capacity for stability, or even of regeneration; rather it is based upon metastability (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metastability). Such metastability will have profound effects upon models such as yours, especially if it is ignored!

[End part I]


Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII

Anonymous said...

Richard Tol.

You also mention “willingness to pay”, but to what extend have you modelled human (in)ability to accurately estimate cost beyond their perception of a lifetime or two? Humans are notoriously psychologically mal-adapted to valuing goods and services beyond their own requirements in space and time, and this applies all the more to goods and services of which they are not conscious, and whether these goods and services are ecological or otherwise in nature. This fact has been raised by other commentators, but I feel that it is an important point to re-emphasis. If you believe that this is an irrelevant aspect of your modelling because it falls under the banner of abstract ethical philosophy, then I am forced to enquire why it matters at all what humans think now – why not simply run the global economy for those who have the most money and power, and ignore considerations of ehtics?

Oh...

You say:

“The model is specified such that a warming of 0.025 dC per year (2.5 degree per century) would lead to the extinction of 0.1% of species. The value of $50/rp/yr is for 0.1% = 1,400 species (at present).

This then goes up to $250/rp/yr for 14 species at 99% biodiversity loss.”

This has been a favourite target of other commentators, and there is much that I could say in response myself, but I would risk losing coherence in the number of answers from you that would be necessitated by way of reply. However, I think that it is salient once again to point out that this valuation, however justified or otherwise in its restricted assumptions, completely ignores the ecosystem functions to which so many of us have been referring.

This comment too has elicited response:

“WTP depends on income. Richer people are prepared to pay more [as a fraction of their income] to conserve nature.”

Majorajam makes a persuasive counter, to which I would add that poor people, whilst not having the same capacity to pay as have rich people, would probably pay relatively more in their own terms to secure their future where it depended upon “nature”. Especially so when they subsist on the services provided by “nature”.

Further, is troubles me that we Westerners, having achieved our wealth by spending the capital of much of the world that never actually ‘belonged’ to us, now seem to have no obligation in space or time to those from whom we have taken that wealth. Yes, we have taken wealth from the future, and the imminent phenomenon of Peak Oil is but one example. If we have no obligation to factor in our debt to those from whom we have taken, why then do we place so much emphasis upon the economic obligations with which we do operate our economy?

[End part II]


Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII

Anonymous said...

At some point in the proceedings a troll entered with comments such as:

“From what I recall Tol did a paper in which he analyzed where the mass of climate scientists stood in their predictions for global temps by 2100. From memory the rise was estimated at around 2% approx. (he can correct that)

At that level there does not appear to be a case for costly mitigation, as against allowing the GDP growth trajectory to compound unmolested. In other words we may as well grow as fast as we can, take our lumps along the way and future generations end up better off rather than having molested GDP.”

Not only did he misrepresent Richard Tol, he has himself made an astonishing claim that the cost current transition to sustainability is worse than any harm that would accrue to future generations should we not transit, and instead plunder the finite resources of the planet as fast as we are able to.

This is not even wrong.

The anonymous troll rambles:

“There are also trade-offs to account for. This current world is a very poor place, believe it or not. Median income is around $US5,000. We don't have a great deal of luxury to be expansive and generous to the double eared frog in Mombasa.

If you really want to the rich to pay for mitigation, ask those people in 2100 when median income could be as high as $70,000.”

To this I reply, as I asked above, what is the annual per person cost of action to develop and implement renewable energy sources, compared to Tol’s estimated cost per person of species lot, per species lost? Note, this determination of Tol’s does not account for the cost of ecosystem service loss, both at the time of loss, and into the future as long as those services have not ‘re-evolved’. Further, the cost of these losses will compound as new losses are incurred. Note also, that the cost of renewable development and implementation should be offset by the direct profit and the indirect economic benefits that accrue from shifting to renewable: sulphate emissions reduction might serve as a demonstration here...

Said troll also said:

“If people believe in negative natural interest rates, they are beyond hope and in turn anti economics and anti conservationist – they are intellectual dropkicks. They are discounting time value of money entirely. In fact, the message is to consume as much as humanly possibly right now, and not give two craps about the environment.”

The gentle folk of Easter Island took that message to heart. Look where that took them...

The Cahokians largely disappeared for the same reasons, and that philosophy also explains a significant part of the disappearances of the Anasazi, the Greenland Norse, the Pitcairn Islanders, and quite likely the Maya and the Angkor Khmer as well. More closely to home, there are many agricultural, forestry, fishing and mining towns in a range of Western countries that have suffered the same fate. Cod, anyone?

It’s quite clear that the anonymous disparager of John Mashey doesn’t actually understand the implications that John is making, beyond the restricted assumptions of a positive discount-rate world.

And finally, I am forced to disagree somewhat with Bart (18/1/11 12:48 AM) regarding his comment about the appropriateness of discussing such matters on a blog like this. I explained why on Deltoid:

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/01/tolgate.php#comment-3127441

but I would add that this blog has a history of turning discussion about papers into peer-reviewed papers. This is exactly why a blog such as Rabbet Run or Deltoid is a useful forum for discussions such as this very one.


Having said all of this, I still haven't arrived at some of my concerns with specific assumptions in Tol's papers. As there is a momentum on this thread already, I might wait to see what is clarified before throwing more nuts into the pudding.

[End part III]


Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII

Jakerman said...

Anon (with the MO of Fred Knell) cites me then scores zero for comprehension:

Jakerman:"As I said, probability functions of climate sensitivity have a long tail. Even a climate sensitivity of 3 deg/doubling CO2 would result in warming approaching 6 degrees at 1000 ppm. Yet the probability of sensitivity higher than 3 degrees is almost 50%.
http://www.skepticalscience.com/Working-out-climate-sensitivity.html "

Anon: Oh yea. Past history doesn't support the thesis of a 6 deg increase with a doubling. Past history is the past 100 years which shows .7 degrees.


Anon, after you discover your comprehension error, you might then also reflect on the concept of the time required to reach radiative equilibrium follow a greenhouse gas perturbation. People competent I climate science seem to disagree with your calculations. I can name two reasons.

Your first error is the most basic: you count our 0.7 temperature rise, but neglect the basic fact that we’ve only increased CO2 by 40%. So without understand anything else, to calculate a naive climate sensitivity you ought now add in the remaining 60% to calculate a doubling sensitivity.

But there is more to consider, including temperature lag to which I refer:
http://www.skepticalscience.com/Climate-time-lag.html

Jakerman said...

Eli, Bernard and I are still waiting in your spam bin.

Mine was posted at 9:22 pm.

quokka said...

Annon,

The Public attitudes toward
climate change: 2010
World Bank report shows a clear willingness of populations world wide to pay something towards mitigating climate change. It is rather striking that opinion of the serious nature and the need for mitigation was strongest in the poorest countries surveyed.

I would suggest that it should be the democratic right of those populations to see their wishes carried out and a portion of the productive capacity of their nations dedicated to that purpose. And economists be damned (with some notable exceptions).

I too can press the X^Y button on a calculator, but it is not likely to tell me much about the future. In particular it won't tell me a tap about the economic downsides to increasing global temperature. I'd get a better insight into that from the floods here in Australia whose where cost estimates are now as high as $30 billion ~ 2.5% of GDP. Yes it's La Nina, but it's also steadily rising sea surface temperatures. And it's not over yet with major, and in many cases record flooding now in the state of Victoria with large scale evacuations yesterday and today. Just a glimpse of risk where the intensity of such events is almost certainly going to rise.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff Harvey said...

*this thread has attracted a large number of economic illiterates and fools*

Its also attracted a smaller number of "ecological illiterates and fools". Anonymous, you should feel proud, as you are one of them. If Anon said, "The earth's physical environment makes possible humans ... and their economic systems" then my statement stands.

In truth, the earth's BIOTIC environment makes possible humans... and their economic systems. And in many more ways than one. I have explained the importance of biodiversity and functional species groups in providing life-support systems that permit our species to exist and persist (see also Levin, 1999; "Fragile Dominion"). Yet it seems that Anon does not understand this basic but important point. Ignorance is not bliss, anon. You have a lot to learn.

Martin Vermeer said...

The Rabett Hole looks a bit empty

Anonymous said...

People: Please try to stick to what this thread is supposed to be about (economics) and not the individuals: who they are and if you like them or not. Stop behaving like angry little betas and focus on the topic, as it's an interesting one because all most of you have done is attack Tol in a really underhanded nasty girly way. Man- up a little as you could all learn. You want Tol to explain his position and where he thinks we ought to be heading as he’s a first rate econometrician.

Here's the thing, I've have no science training and wouldn't want to presume that I would know anything that Eli does. In fact he would have forgotten more than I know and I would assume he still has an excellent memory.

I also believe in the theory of AGW.

However the real discussion to my mind isn't about theory in terms of who is right or wrong. I have no way of knowing. However if the Academy of Science says there is warming they would be the best group to rely on. As far as the IPCC goes, a chairman would have better served them that isn't an outright crook and porn novella author.

Where the story of AGW deserves to be debated is in the area of economics and even my rudimentary points above do not present an argument for heavy-duty mitigation. What they do present an argument for is actually cleaning up obvious bottlenecks in the global economy, such as removing farm subsidies thereby buying food from the more efficient producers and removing more trade barriers. The idea is to raise productivity and the growth rate trend higher than it is now, as we and future generations will be much better off in terms of living standards.

Anonymous said...

"Truth is anon (Knell) has never picked up an ecology paper in his life and he expects readers here to think he can accurately predict the cost of losing biodiversity after 99% has already been extirpated??

1. Right on the first. Ecology is for an innumerate pretending they are doing science when it's nothing of the sort these days.

2. Wrong on the second. I said that at 99% bio loss the value of the rest is about zero unless of course you think cockroaches looking to eek out an existence has more than zero value.

Jeff Harvey said...

To get back to the matter at hand, we need to be able to value the loss of biodiversity in terms of functional groups or keystone species/guilds. Economic models predicting the economic costs of losing biodiversity are useless unless they incorporate more specific variables and parameters related to functionality. Different species/guilds have different value in terms of their relative contributions to the ways that both natural and human-centered ecosystems function. At the same time, critical ecosystem services - like nutrient cycling, water purification and pollination, which are both essential for systemic stability and for maintaining high crop yields - may have higher value than other services, such as seed dispersal or pest control. Having said that, its imperative that economists sit down with ecologists in order to make their predictive models more accurate. This means refining them significantly. That said, I think that, until we know better which species play vital roles in maintaining stable ecological systems and in ensuring that our water supplies are clean and crops pollinated, we exterminate any at our peril.

As anon says, I am not an economist, but neither are he and Tol ecologists. Just because anon lacks even a basic understanding of ecology, he dismisses it. That's why his contributions to this discussion are, IMO, utterly useless. If he is willing to try and contemplate the significance of what just about every Earth scientist by now knows (e.g. that human survival hinges on a healthy biotic environment) then I might cut him some slack. But since he is clueless about the field, he expunges it, along with a barrage of insults and put-downs.

Jakerman said...

Jeff thanks for getting things back from Anon's attempts at thread wrecking.

Jeff Harvey said...

The latest anon (= Knell) self-humiliation:

"Ecology is for an innumerate pretending they are doing science when it's nothing of the sort these days".

Says who? You? An admitted scientific illiterate? I am sure that Richard would not agree with you. Nor would most scientists. Only jack-asses make such flippant remarks.

The truth is that ecology is almost certainly the most complex of the life-sciences because of the dinctinctly non-linear relationship between cause and effect. Lose one keystone species or functional group from a system and it can take years before the consequences become manifest. There's already a burgeoning pollination crisis in the United States due to mysterious declines of honey bees and other important pollinators. If we were to lose bees, then we can forget increasing crop yields. They would collapse, no ifs or buts.

The loss of only 1% of predatory anolis lizards in the Cribbean was estimated in the 1990s to reduce crop yields and to cost the economies the region millions of dollars. And this is only one biological control agent. Oil palm trees had to be hand pollinated between 1918 (when they were introduced into Indonesia and Malaysia) and 1980 before a small pollinating weevil, native to west Africa (where oil palm originates) was introduced. Within only a few years oil palm yields increased 5-fold in the region and 200 million dollars was saved a year. This has since increased quite dramatically. These are just two examples in which the value of ecosystem services have been quantified. There are an infinite number of ways in which nature sustains us.

Nature is littered with free ecological subsidies. The effects of climate change, by reducing biodiversity, will impact these free and vital services and thus we need to find some way to value different services within the context of global changes inflicted by human activities. This is why economists and ecologists need to sit down talk, and co-operate. Next month I will visit Richard in Amsterdam and I hope that we can use this time to develop a better appreciation of each other's respective fields and make contributions based on our respective expertise.

Anonymous said...

Harvey:

Human living standards would not have risen and will not rise without a healthy environment. Just because we tweak around with it doesn't mean we destroy it. Change does not means destruction.

We're simply changing things around to suit ourselves and the environment is and always be like that for human beings because it is there to serve our needs, not the other way around. The rest is recreational really when we’re rich enough to afford it.

We survive and have become the most successful of all the mammals for that very reason. It’s why our species can survive in the warm and in the cold. We're tough and we're smart. (Few exceptions on this site obviously because anyone that advocates for a negative time preference or someone who doesn’t understand the difference between 1% of 100 or 1% of 50 aren’t that smart and we could do without their genetic material passed on)

We should never lose sight of what and who we are.

To get a sense of what "tweaking around" means I would suggest people visit the UK countryside. It’s beautiful and for the most part its 90% man influenced or man made.

That’s what we do. We change things round and basically we help the evolutionary process along, as it's really all about that.

I don't take ecology seriously, Jeff because these days it's basically a propaganda course for the extremist green groups and until that changes it should never be taken seriously or anyone talking about ecology has a high hurdle to jump because of such suspicion should a prerequisite.

Anonymous said...

"There's already a burgeoning pollination crisis in the United States due to mysterious declines of honey bees and other important pollinators. If we were to lose bees, then we can forget increasing crop yields. They would collapse, no ifs or buts.

The loss of only 1% of predatory anolis lizards in the Cribbean was estimated in the 1990s to reduce crop yields and to cost the economies the region millions of dollars. And this is only one biological control agent. Oil palm trees had to be hand pollinated between 1918 (when they were introduced into Indonesia and Malaysia) and 1980 before a small pollinating weevil, native to west Africa (where oil palm originates) was introduced. Within only a few years oil palm yields increased 5-fold in the region and 200 million dollars was saved a year. This has since increased quite dramatically. These are just two examples in which the value of ecosystem services have been quantified. There are an infinite number of ways in which nature sustains us."

Yea Harvey, and what has happened in the aggregate of those sectors you mention. In each and every case production has risen and cost of production has fallen in real terms.

Every single commodity price has fallen real terms over the period of industrialization. Every single one. the only way producers are able to amke money is to increase productivity and extraction methods or they would have gone broke.

That's the problem with ecology today. It's take over over extremists who present specific problems and then imply it's the end of the fucking world. You people are simply anti-industrialization propagandist an in a way simply proclaiming the unabomber's thesis.

Tell me Jeff. The US had a honey bee problem. But wasn't it solved by importing bees from elsewhere. has food production in the US fallen? Of course not. it's done the opposite. It's gone up.

Richard Tol said...

@Bernard J
I hope you now better understand my reluctance to discuss these matters at certain blogs.

Above, there is little discussion of the subject at hand. There is greater clarity of the assumptions -- but no greater acceptance -- and no clearly articulated alternative hypothesis.

We do have yet another shouting match, including one about the question whether Anonymous is or isn't Fred Knell.

Jeff Harvey said...

Dilbert,

Well said, and coming from a physicist.

I have elucidated anon's problem. He does not understand basic science, so he dismisses it. He's an outlier. The scientific community as a whole certainly does not dismiss it, hence the 'World Scientist's Warning to Humanity" in 1992, signed by 70% of the Living Nobel Laureates at the time. The document stated that 'humans and the natural world are on a collison course'... which should be patewntly clear. Anon must think that 99% of scientists on Earth are green extremists. As I said, his views are absurd.

He also seems to think that humans can live well in a 'planet covering crypt of concrete and computers", to quote Peter Huber in his 1989 opus, "Hard Green" (should have been called "Hardly Green"). Its anon who actually understands 'jack shit'. And he's wallowing in it.

Certainly Richard does not dismiss ecology, and most economists these days don't either. Many may not understand the way complex adaptive systems work, but they aren't arrogant enough to suggest that human welfare is independent of constraints imposed by the natural world.

The main point is that ecological systems function on the basis of tipping points, or alternate stable states. Crop production cannot be maintained without pollinators. I'd like to ask anon this: what the hell does he think pollinates wheat, maize and other field crops? Does he think passive pollination is enough? What about soil fertility? Is that some miracle of human ingenuity? What about pest control. What does he think kills most of the pests that plague our crops? A: it ain't pesticides, dude. Try and figure out how much pollination, pest control amd nutrient cycling are worth to the global economy. Let me give you a hint: tens of bilions (or more) of dollars per annum.

I already gave examples of the valuation of two ecological services: pollination of oil palms and pest control. Anon ought to read up on the value of the Catskill Mountain watershed in terms of providing clean water supplies for New York City. Another free natural subsidy. The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment made many other estimates based on what we do know about the role that biodiversity plays in sustaining us.

Ultimately, its fun to deconstruct dumb arguments from the likes of arrogant pundits like anon. And the more he writes, the more ridiculous he looks.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Jim Jones Harvey:

You are nothing other than a down market lying rat.

I never downgraded scientists at all. I said the opposite, yet you chose to lie.

What I said is the ecology should no longer be considered a science as it's basically the propaganda arm of extremist greens and therefore anything an ecologist says needs to be treated with deep suspicion.

You fully live up to my claims. You lie and mis-characterize what I said and you propagandize proving exactly what i said about "ecology".

(In quote marks because it should no longer be a word to define its original intention and ought to me marked as see propaganda).

Jeff Harvey said...

Dilbert,

Well said, and coming from a physicist.

I have elucidated anon's problem. He does not understand basic science, so he dismisses it. He's an outlier. The scientific community as a whole certainly does not dismiss it, hence the 'World Scientist's Warning to Humanity" in 1992, signed by 70% of the Living Nobel Laureates at the time. The document stated that 'humans and the natural world are on a collison course'... which should be patewntly clear. Anon must think that 99% of scientists on Earth are green extremists. As I said, his views are absurd.

He also seems to think that humans can live well in a 'planet covering crypt of concrete and computers", to quote Peter Huber in his 1989 opus, "Hard Green" (should have been called "Hardly Green"). Its anon who actually understands 'jack shit'. And he's wallowing in it.

Certainly Richard does not dismiss ecology, and most economsits these days don't either. Many may not understand the way complex adaptive systems work, but they aren't arrogant enough to suggest that human welfare is independent constraints imposed by the natural world.

The main point is that ecological systems function on the basis of tipping points, or alternate stable states. A system can be broken down and simplified to a certain point, beyond which there is a sudden shift in certain properties and functions e.g. it is far less resilient and more prone to collapse.

Crop production cannot be maintained without pollinators. I'd like to ask anon this: what the hell does he think pollinates wheat and maize? Does he think passive pollination is enough? What about soil fertility? Is that some miracle of human ingenuity? What about pest control. What does he thinbk kills most of the pests that plague our crops? A: it ain't pesticides, dude. Try and figure out how much pollination, pest control amd nutrient cycling are worth to the global economy. Let me give you a hint: tens of billions (or more) of dollars per annum.

I already gave examples of the valuation of two ecological services: pollination of oil palms and pest control. Anon ought to read the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment made many other estimates based on the little that we do know. Anon cannot discuss the field because he knows nothing about it.

Anon's funniest remark was his quip that the English countryside has been altered by humans and yet is still beautiful. Beyond these anthropogenic musings, what does this tell you about their functioning and stability? Certainly there are enough intact components such that the system persists, but tell that to the large parts of the world where deserts are expanding on formerly fertile soils. Or where formerly oligotrophic freshwater systems have become hypereutrophic and thus much less economically viable. Or where the destruction of tropical forests has left a nutrient depleted, barren landscape on lateritic soils. Or how the loss of pest controlling organisms has led to annual insect plagues in parts of the world.

Anon, you are the clown. Big time.

Jeff Harvey said...

Anon, you worthless pile of ******

I never lied. I said that ecology is considered as a serious discipline by just about every scientist on Earth in any field. Because you are a brainless scientific illiterate you make absurd statements that don't actually deserve a polite response. The fact that I do respond to your bullying and arrogance should be flattering to you. Most scientists would not give your puerile comments the time of day.

Jeff Harvey said...

Richard,

I certainly entered this thread politely. I certainly look forward to discussing ideas with you next month. But its your big fan, anon, who is an arrogant jerk. If this person is "he-who-should-not-be named", then its no wonder Tim Lambert booted his ass out of Deltoid.

His comments on ecology as a science are a farce. To claim that ecology has been hijacked by green extremists? Does anon even know what the definition of 'ecology' is? Its these kind of baseless, ignorant remarks that seriously piss me off. But you are right. I do not think that I or anyone else should be baited by such childish pouts.

This also explains why I am reluctant to enter weblogs other than this one and Deltoid. Too many wingnuts come out of the woodwork.

Anonymous said...

You did lie Harvey, cheaply so and no amount of blustering will change that. I'll repeat you said:

"He does not understand basic science, so he dismisses it."

And

"He also seems to think that humans can live well in a 'planet covering crypt of concrete and computers""

These are fabrications and total distortions, so you are nothing more than a lying dishonest rat and should be treated with the utmost hostility.

I repeat, I claimed that ecology should no longer be considered an arm of science because it has been swiped by Jim Jones like characters and other assorted spivs such as yourself who gives a great impersonation of that extremist lunatic.

You have no business ever talking about science and when you do it's a discredit.


The examples you offered were simply talking points and propaganda.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Anonym-Ass,
Jeff has certainy contributed more science to the discussion than you have. Thus far you've said nothing to indicate you understand the first thing about science...or engineering or risk mitigation.

Let me be clear. When I am asking for a risk to be bounded, I am not referring to so-called "black-swan" events. I'm talking about the known uncertainties like the probability distributions for climate sensitivity. (Note: see Knutti's Nature Geo review if you don't know what I mean.)
You may think you are coming to Richard's defense. You aren't. You are embarrassing him and yourself.

Anonymous said...

Dilbert:

I'm not coming to anyone's defenses only in so far as that I said some of the people here were treating Tol with total disrespect and that in my opinion he seems to be a very good economist. That's it.

It's clear from the risk discussion that your only intent is malicious smears an innuendo. I of course made the right points.

You also left well alone your attempt to defend the Mash because it was easy to make you look like a fool. My jaw dropped when I read that Mashey rant, as I thought you were drunk so early in the morning or under the influence of something nasty that isn't working..

Stop it, as you embarrassing yourself and making Jim Jones-Harvey look even sillier than he is.

(how anyone can claim ecology is a science anymore makes me ROTFL)

Jeff Harvey said...

Thanks for the support, Dilbert.

Anon expects polite responses when he writes the way he does?

First he says: "I repeat, I claimed that ecology should no longer be considered an arm of science because it has been swiped by Jim Jones like characters and other assorted spivs such as yourself who gives a great impersonation of that extremist lunatic".

On what basis? Your own simple beliefs and prejudices? As soon as you are able to cogently discuss any scientific fields with me or anyone else here your views are to be treated as garbage. As it is, we are left with you making baseless quips with no scientific underpinning. I would like proof, please, that you know what you are talking about. Please list all of the qualified population and systems ecologists you know and how many of these are 'green extremists'. These are lies and smears, you know it, and should tell everyone here, including Richard, what an ass you are. Your claims are crap.

The you opine, "You have no business ever talking about science and when you do it's a discredit".

How would you, of all people, know good science from bad science? I have a hell of a lot more respect amongst scientists in a range of disciplines than you ever will, anon. How many conferences have you attended where these issues are discussed and debated? How many keynote lectures ahve you delivered? How many scientific articles have you published? If you want, I could discuss science here that is way, way over you head. I am forced to keep it at kindergarten level for your benefit. Because you do not understand my field, your only feeble defense is to ridicule it.

I have attempted to discuss the importance of full-cost pricing internalizing the value of ecological services. I have attempted to find some common ground with Richard in evaluating the value of keystone species or functional groups (e.g. pollinators, nutrient cycling organisms etc.) against more redundant groups in estimating the costs of anthropogenic global change.

OK, smart ass. Please tell me what you know about the following: context- and trait-dependent processes in the structure and function of ecological communities; asymmetrical inter and intra-specific competition; niche theory; functional responses and Nicholson-Bailey and Lotka Volterra Models: neutral models in niche segregation; k-factor analysis; plant-soil feedbacks; structural and chemical heterogeneity in simple and diverse landscapes; chronosequencing in understanding successional gradients in arable landscapes; interaction network webs and the role of top-down and bottom-ip processes regulating community structure; semel and iteroparity reproductive strategies and the role of r and K-selection in determining these strategies; the neutral theory and biodiversity evolution; the theory of island biogeography and tis relationship with predicting species extinction rates; the importance of local adaptation in multi-trophic interactions; evolutionary 'hotspots'and 'cold spots'; intra-guild predation and its importance in food webs; shall I go on? How many of these areas can you provide stimulating intellectual discourse on, anon?

Anon, your brainless ripostes are only to claim that ecology is not a science (as if you, of all people, can separate sound science from shoddy science) and that it has been hijacked by green extremists. This coming from a person who has probably never picked up a scientific journal in my field in their entire life. And yet you expect people here to take you seriously? Don't you realize what an ass you sound like? You can bicker and argue and put down people all you like, anon, but all you are doing is making yourself look more and more like a moron. And certainly Richard can do without 'supporters' like you.

Jeff Harvey said...

Thanks for the support, Dilbert.

Anon expects polite responses when he writes the way he does?

First he says: "I repeat, I claimed that ecology should no longer be considered an arm of science because it has been swiped by Jim Jones like characters and other assorted spivs such as yourself who gives a great impersonation of that extremist lunatic".

On what basis? Your own simple beliefs and prejudices? I would like proof, please, that you know what you are talking about. Please list all of the qualified population and systems ecologists you know and how many of these are 'green extremists'. These are lies and smears, you know it.

Then you opine, "You have no business ever talking about science and when you do it's a discredit".

How would you, of all people, know good science from bad science? I have a lot more respect amongst scientists in a range of disciplines than you ever will, anon. How many conferences have you attended where these issues are discussed and debated? How many keynote lectures ahve you delivered? How many scientific articles have you published? If you want, I could discuss science here that is way, way over you head. I am forced to keep it at kindergarten level for your benefit. Because you do not understand my field, your only feeble defense is to ridicule it.

I have attempted to discuss the importance of full-cost pricing internalizing the value of ecological services. I have attempted to find some common ground with Richard in evaluating the value of keystone species or functional groups (e.g. pollinators, nutrient cycling organisms etc.) against more redundant groups in estimating the costs of anthropogenic global change.

OK, anon. Please tell me what you know about the following: context- and trait-dependent processes in the structure and function of ecological communities; asymmetrical inter and intra-specific competition; niche theory; functional responses and Nicholson-Bailey and Lotka Volterra Models: neutral models in niche segregation; k-factor analysis; plant-soil feedbacks; structural and chemical heterogeneity in simple and diverse landscapes; chronosequencing in understanding successional gradients in arable landscapes; interaction network webs and the role of top-down and bottom-ip processes regulating community structure; semel and iteroparity reproductive strategies and the role of r and K-selection in determining these strategies; the neutral theory and biodiversity evolution; the theory of island biogeography and tis relationship with predicting species extinction rates; the importance of local adaptation in multi-trophic interactions; evolutionary 'hotspots'and 'cold spots'; intra-guild predation and its importance in food webs; shall I go on? How many of these areas can you provide stimulating intellectual discourse on, anon?

Anon, your wretched ripostes are only to claim that ecology is not a science (as if you, of all people, can separate sound science from shoddy science) and that it has been hijacked by green extremists. This coming from a person who has probably never picked up a scientific journal in my field in their entire life. And yet you expect people here to take you seriously? Don't you realize what an ass you sound like? You can bicker and argue and put down people all you like, anon, but all you are doing is making yourself look more and more like a fool. And certainly Richard can do without 'supporters' like you.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Anonym-Ass,
First, I think I've been pretty substantive and on topic throughout the discussion. I certainly think it is a reasonable to question how you can discuss mitigation before you've bounded risk even for the known uncertainties (and Tol has not).

And John's question is quite relevant. If climate change decreases ROI in the future, then the discount rate could well be negative--that is money spent now could significantly increase return down the road. Put another way: Would the discount rate for strengthening levies in New Orleans in 2000 have been positive or negative?

Anonymous said...

Harvey:

You are a cheap liar and until you retract those lies and apologize you will be treated with the contempt you surely deserve.

You made the following claims:


"He does not understand basic science, so he dismisses it."

And

"He also seems to think that humans can live well in a 'planet covering crypt of concrete and computers""

This is dishonesty in it purest form and it's no wonder you are no longer with Nature magazine if you peddle lies so easily. If anyone cares to look further up the thread I have maintained that I defer to scientists in the field of climate science and that being unable to discern who is right or wrong I accept what the academy of science says about AGW.

If that isn't an acceptance of science I don't know what is. This is not dismissing science, it is accepting science, yet Jeff (Jim Jones) Harvey suggests this is dismissal.

I never set out to defend Tol, but was offended at the way he was being treated both here and alarmist sites. I thought it was improper, as I have read his work over time and I think he’s an excellent economist.

Jeff Jim Jones Harvey offered examples of what he describes as ecological disasters, yet when I countered those examples by suggesting that production in all those areas, such as US food production has risen despite the fall off in bee population for instance, he subsequently lied by saying I wanted to turn the world into a parking lot. This is a pure unadulterated lie.

No wonder magazines such as Nature are treated by a lot less respect than they once were when one considers Harvey’s actions to smear. I could well imagine what happened during his watch there and there seem to be many more Jim Jones like characters such as Harvey populating science.

I have a beef with ecology. It was once a very important part of the life sciences but these days what is being taught is simply propagandizing drivel aping the extreme environmental groups that if they had their way would turn us into those dusty south American villages with chickens flying around as a 1950's model bus arrives you occasionally see in a comedy film.

As for those subjects you raised, Harvey. Let me counter by asking what you know about macro economics, micro economics, portfolio theory, capital management.

You admitted you know nothing about economics. Perhaps if you put in the time and widened your blinkers a little you would understand a far lot more and not be such an extremist.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Anonymous clownshoe,
Well he knows that if the environment collapses, you won't have an economy--which puts him a lot higher on the IQ curve than you. Please continue. You are only increasing Jeff's credibility by opposing him.

Put another way: First, bound the risk.

Anonymous said...

"First, I think I've been pretty substantive and on topic throughout the discussion. I certainly think it is a reasonable to question how you can discuss mitigation before you've bounded risk even for the known uncertainties (and Tol has not)."

I nicely explained to you before that the only thing one can do with this is to set up a risk table supported by the risks in temps rise (scientists claims and therefore deriving the mean).

We have no real history of being able to make any other assessment of the risk, as there's been no previous experience. This is why it is different to insurance risk, as firms there are able to interpolate some historical data in what they insure.

You figure out the cost of mitigation up the prob curve and determine optimum.

At this stage if you look up at my claim earlier there is no case for top heavy mitigation efforts as the cost does not warrant a wealth transfer.





"And John's question is quite relevant. If climate change decreases ROI in the future, then the discount rate could well be negative--that is money spent now could significantly increase return down the road."

You're an ass. Time preference cannot be negative.

"Put another way: Would the discount rate for strengthening levies in New Orleans in 2000 have been positive or negative?"

There would never have been a discount rate figured out for such a thing by itself as it would form part of something else.. What an economist would do is prepare an cost benefit analysis while a discount rate would have have a part of the overall study. Time preference would have been positive.

You really don't understand this stuff, do you?

bluegrue said...

@Richard Tol

I'm curious. Who derived the equation of species loss in section 5.6 of the FUND model? Is it your own assumption? Were any biologists consulted, when modeling the loss rate? Were any biologists consulted about the cost model?

Majorajam said...

I would give the troll some credit for single-handedly jackknifing a manure truck on this once promising thread except that baiting scientist types is pretty easy. By their nature they're inquisitive and attuned to information from all comers; to be otherwise is, after all, unscientific.

Safe to say though that watching 3 sigma minds with exemplary records of scientific achievement get exercised at the inane outgassing of puerile ninnies counts as the downside of the internet's democratization of the discourse. While in some respects I admire Eli's relaxed approach to moderation, I should think this scene makes a pretty strong case for sterner stuff.

Perked up Richard though! One could be excused for wondering if he's had Ollie North's attorney over his shoulder up till now, and with the troll cranking out fresh turds faster than you can say refresh the probability the good doctor slithers out of here without answering for his shambles of a model is rapidly approaching unity.

CTG said...

From equation E.2, it appears that the rate of species loss is treated as a smooth continuous function. Is that right?

This doesn't look like a good model. It ignores the impact of losing keystone species, which can induce a step change in species loss due to habitat collapse. It is also possible for loss of a keystone species to increase local diversity (but not species richness).

So it is not sensible to apply the same value to every species. The incremental cost of losing Apis mellifera compared to, say Lepus californicus (sorry, Eli), is enormous.

How does FUND cope with the disparity in species value?

Majorajam said...

As to Richard's request for an alternative hypothesis, how about this?
 
"Dear citizens,
 
As an economist specializing in the economics of climate change, I have no recommendation to provide you. The structural uncertainties in this model of mine swamp any insight it could hope to provide by several orders of magnitude. These uncertainties include things like how to model the highly non-linear and vastly consequential nature of damages to the earth's ecology on a warming planet, the appropriate functional forms for the disutility of high-temperature damages, and even basic considerations like the appropriate probabilistic inferences to draw about earth system climate sensitivity.
 
Oh sure, I could assume all manner of utterly unsupported functional formulations and parameter inputs and hide all the details in copiously cited fine print. All that would accomplish though is to cloak preordained answers reflecting of my own personal biases in the veneer of analytical authority so as to give them undue influence in the public debate. And that would be unethical. And dishonest. And mama didn't raise no snake oil salesman.
 
What I will say is that the magnitude of structural uncertainties in the economics of climate change are telling us something. They are telling us that we've neither mitigated unacceptable risk to the habitability of the only planet we have nor ruled out its uncomfortably strong possibility. And that has consequences given our charge as the current stewards of human civilization. Kantian duty and all that. It also tells us that we in the scientific and social scientific communities need to focus greater attention and resources on reducing these structural uncertainties to the point where more precise answers and potential courses of action do become plausible. Thank you for listening."
 
Is that articulated clearly enough for you Richard?

Richard Tol said...

@bluegrue
The valuation function (E.1) is based on economic literature. The species function (E.2) is calibrated to ecological literature.

@jeff
There is indeed some politeness amongst the shouting, and some information amidst the confusion.

I guess what you are saying is that ecosystem loss should enter into other impact functions as well, particularly agriculture.

@all, but particularly Ray
Note that Equations (E.1) and (E.2) are but two of many impact functions that together constitute the model. There are many things that are not done by (E.1) and (E.2), primarily because it is done elsewhere.

Richard Tol said...

@CTG
All is smooth. It is best to think about this as the certainty equivalent of discontinuous but uncertain developments.

Majorajam said...

Now you've done it old bean. I'm forced to choose between Richard 'certainy equivalent' Tol and Richard 'the equation is rarely evaluated at its extremes' Tol. That's what I call a dilemma.

Then again, Richard 'truncated and certainty equivalent' Tol does have a certain ring to it.

Magnus Westerstrand said...

Well, this might be something for Richard to work on:

Systemic risk in banking ecosystems
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v469/n7330/full/nature09659.html

Anonymous said...

From the Deltoid thread:"The value is $50/rich person/year per species when there are 14,000,000 species. This goes up to $250/rp/yr per species when there are 140,000 species."

I find this interesting, especially when considering the cost put on invasive species to UK agriculture by Vila et al (2010) Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 8: 135–144* who state crop losses in the United Kingdom alone due to alien arthropods are ~ €2.8 billion (about $3.7 billion) per annum. Which I make about $600 per UK citizen per year.

*http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/080083

Chris S.

Jakerman said...

Bluegrue ask Tol:

"@Richard Tol

I'm curious. Who derived the equation of species loss in section 5.6 of the FUND model? Is it your own assumption? Were any biologists consulted, when modeling the loss rate? Were any biologists consulted about the cost model?"

Tol responds:

"The species function (E.2) is calibrated to ecological literature."

That is odd Tol, as your (E.2) is trying to say that the extinction rate is insensitive to even 8 degrees C of AGW. Which ecological literature confirms this E.2 funcition?

http://bluegrue.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/fund-3-5-species-model/

Kooiti MASUDA said...

I think that the works of Robert Ayres, mentioned by John Mashey, deserves more prominent attention than a short mention in a comment about the works of Richard Tol.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Ayres_%28scientist%29
http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/profiles/rayres/

Jakerman said...

Jeff , I stopped reading Anon after he claimed your were lying based on your summary that:

"He [Anon] does not understand basic science, so he dismisses it."

Anon's comments are likely to be water off a ducks back, but for what its worth no one worth his salt would agree with anon on this.

The inference of Jeff's statement was well supported in principle and Anon's approach meant that Jeff was justified in not spending time providing scientific style caveats with his claim.

Its just another distraction tactic from Anon, which is why readers have stopped reading him.

EliRabett said...

Yes, Eli has not been doing his job, well actually he has which is why he has not, so he just has. Management has tried hard to only move stuff with zero content and leave other stuff which has at least something in it. Will also try tonight to split the comments and move the negative interest rate stuff to another thread. So, if anybunny wants to know why their words of wisdom have been moved to the Rabett Hole, in the words of ee cummings

what's to far said he
where you are said she

Jakerman said...

Majorjam wins my laughter award for his sharp Ollie North reference.

However, re his comment of:

"The structural uncertainties in this model of mine swamp any insight it could hope to provide by several orders of magnitude.:

Does this criticism apply equally to all economic models relating to ecology? Or are there approaches that do not run into this wall with such wrecking power?

Majorajam said...

Jackerman,

You ask, "Does this criticism apply equally to all economic models relating to ecology?"

Here's my two cents restricting the topic to the economics of climate change, rather than the broader, and hence narrower topic of the economics of environmental/development tradeoffs:

It is not the case that study of the allocation of societal resources to climate change mitigation- which effectively is what FUND and other CBA/IAM models do- is not a worthwhile field of human endeavor. Quite the contrary. People often criticize such work as 'reducing what cannot be valued to dollars and cents' by which they mean to imply a callous disregard for what people hold as sacred. I disagree entirely. At its essence, economic studies that cost what we hold sacred simply seek to understand our available choices and their ramifications in its regard to other things which are no less sacred. Economists don't make the dismal tradeoffs exist. They merely try to understand them. To my mind, that is a noble exercise.

Where this endeavor goes badly wrong, as exemplified by Richard Tol's work and more to the point what he believes about it and how he advertises it, is the same place it has consistently gone wrong since before Keynes was complaining about hubristic economists four generations ago. And that is where the inquiry loses its awareness of its limitations, which unfortunately remain legion, not least with regards to this particular problem.

Cutting to the chase, it is my position that anyone that claims that economic methods can generate point estimates of the costs and benefits of a given climate policy is kidding themselves, and worse, any policy maker willing to listen to them (though in practice, most policy makers have given up relying on economists for anything. One would think they'd get the message. Alas...). Marty Weitzman's work- which demonstrates that over a range of reasonable estimates for a number of things, mitigation is a no brainer- is to my mind the best that can possibly be done at this stage, in that it yields insight whilst remaining very cognizant of its overwhelming limitations- as he puts it, the 'cascading uncertainty' inherent in the subject matter.

Majorajam said...

continued...
Let me try to explain better what I mean by quoting an exchange between Jeff Harvey and Richard Tol on Deltoid:

Tol: The net positive economic impact of climate change in the first half of the 21st century is discussed in AR3 and AR4 of the IPCC. The result (which is based on the work of a number of people) follows from the fact that the world economy is concentrated in the temperate zone. You only need to think back a few weeks to realize that cold can be very damaging. 

Harvey: "...we have only barely scatched the surface in our understanding of the factors that determine how ecosystems assemble and function (see work by Tilman, Naeem, Soule, Huston, Vitousek, Pimm, Pacala, Petchey, and many other scientists in which the debate is still ongoing)... We know that humans are utterly dependent on the natural economy in delivering a range of supporting services. How these services emerge from natural systems and are maintained is still very poorly understood. This is because a stupendous array of biotic and abiotic processes are involved that make it impossible to extract simple linear generalizations. Then throw in climate warming, which is occurring at different rates in different places and at different temporal scales, and things become even more complicated. Certainly its plainly crazy to try and suggest that anyone or any body (including the IPCC) has even anything more than a vague idea what the consequences of climate change will be on communities, ecosystems and biomes in the coming century... What I find supremely annoying is the utter hubris that many 'experts' express with respect to the costs and benefits of warming. Its a crap shoot... In effect, we have little idea what the medium-term consequences of regional warming will be, but there is every sign that there will be very nasty surprises in store."

Which of course elicited no response from the good truncated and certainty equivalent doctor. That in turn made me think of this from Weitzman's response to Nordhaus (who, though I feel is on the wrong side of this debate, is still one of the good guys by approach and aims):

"the seeming immunity of the standard CBA to such stylized facts [e.g. Jeff Harvey's expert opinions about what we know and don't know about costs and benefits of climate change to ecological processes that humans depend upon over any horizon] seems peculiar. An unprecedented and uncontrolled experiment is being performed by subjecting planet Earth to the shock of a geologically-instantaneous injection of massive amounts of GHGs. Yet the 'standard' CBA seems almost impervious to the extraordinarily uncertain probabilities and consequences of catastrophic climate change. A reader should feel intuitively that it goes against the grain of common sense when... a climate-change CBA does not much depend upon how potential disasters are modeled and incorporated into the CBA."

If Dr. Tol did possess self-awareness about the limitations of his work regarding this profound issue, his model would be finely attuned to assumptions he's made about potential damages to the environment to which Jeff's darkly alludes, and Jeff's criticism would go to the core of the model. Instead, Jeff's criticism got sloughed off as not worthy of response. Richard is 'calibrating' his 'certainty equivalent' parameters based on some papers cited by the IPCC, whatever that means, and that's that.

This is the problem. It is not to say that there is some magic formulation out there that would give us the right number and all would be well. It is to say that when experts like Jeff say we have no friggin clue, we really have no friggin clue, and economists need to be with that program and deal with it in an honest and appropriate way.

willard said...

Here is the Weizman paper the bolded quote:

http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/weitzman/files/ExtremeUncertaintyCliCh.pdf

Here's another interesting quote from that paper:

> The possibility of catastrophic climate change is characterized by deep structural uncertainties in the science coupled with an economic inability to evaluate meaningfully the welfare losses from high temperatures. The probability of a disastrous collapse of planetary welfare from global warming seems non-negligible, even if this low probability is very di¢ cult to quantify. Through informal reasoning, elementary examples, and simple numerical exercises, this paper attempts to convey an overview of some of the background uncertainties behind extreme climate change. I argue that the tails of the relevant probability distributions should not be ignored because they are likely to be fat with probability and important. A few implications for climate change analysis and policy are explored.

This quote is actually the abstract of the paper.

Anonymous said...

Chris S.

Your $600 p.a./UK citizen appears to be wrong. It's either $60 p.a./UK citizen or $60,000 p.a./UK citizen, depending on what "billion" you use: $3.7E9/62E6 or $3.7E12/62E6.

As even the OED now defines the 10^9 "billion" for the UK, I'd suppose it's $60/UK citizen p.a., though no doubt some cling to the fading memory of the million-million "billion" (which is now the trillion).

Cymraeg llygoden

Jakerman said...

Majorajam,

Thanks for this summary. Tol is certainly very selective in the comments he responds to. None the less very important points are raise through this and the deltoid thread. That they go uncommented on by Tol does not remove their value.

I see value in investigating the specifics of Tols model, as done by Bluegrue, Eli and others. Perhaps a summary of specific criticisms would be useful?
Examples that come to mind are:

1) The inappropriate nature of Tol’s WTP approach, where lag in feedbacks mean that consequences are so delayed as to become incomparable with WTP estimations for fast feedback events. I think it was Jeff Harvey (Or Bernard?) who once pointed to a study by Lord May who found that extinction of ecosystems in response to perturbation can have a lag of not only decades but centuries. (Jeff, am I recalling this correctly?)

2) The fact that Tol’s model behaves as though an 8 degree rise in AGW produces very little change in extinction rates. I’m still interested in which literature Tol bases this degree of insensitivity on.

3) I’m still not clear why, how, if Tol’s model allows a constant curve to oblivion? This may be my lack understanding, or it may be that Tol’s model really does allow us to consume out way to oblivion without applying prohibitive costs to prevent that outcome.

Can anyone else add their summary critique to this list?

David B. Benson said...

We present the latest independent, nonpartisan, expert information on the real economics of climate change, an emerging body of scholarship that is consistent with the urgency of the problem as seen from a climate science perspective.
http://realclimateeconomics.org/

EliRabett said...

Eli is separating out the negative (in more ways than one) discount rate discussion and putting it into its own hole.

Jakerman said...

Given the current polarity that some see between economics and ecology, it is interesting that they both derive from the same Greek term, “Oikonomia”.
Oikonomia, the root of economics and ecology is:

“concerned with the management of the resources of the household for the benefit of all its members over the long run. If the term ‘household’ is expanded to include the ecological resources of the land and its peoples, its institutions, language, shared values and history, we can visualise an economics designed to benefit the community as a whole.”

Aristotle recognised Oikonomia alongside its “unnatural” twin “Chrematistics”, which is:
“the manipulation of property and wealth so as to maximize short-term monetary exchange benefits to the individual owner.”

Unfortunately today corporations are mandated to practice Chrematistics, and there are too few mandated to practice Oikonomia.
http://www.gaianeconomics.org/chrematistics.htm

Anonymous said...

Jerkerman:

You're sending us to gaiaconomics? Hey is there a degree is gaiaconomics?

101 Gaia portfolio theory.

101(a) Macro-gaiconomics

101 (b)Micro gaieconomics.

The list goes on. This is far too funny to be real.

Jakerman said...

The Greeks also recognised the severe self degrading nature of hubris. They has some wisdom.

"Hubris often indicates being out of touch with reality and overestimating one's own competence or capabilities"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubris

Anonymous said...

You mean like The Monster Mash and others advocating negative time preference. Is that hubris or just plain bat shit ignorance?

Jakerman said...

I wonder if the Greeks have a term for persistant self degrading hubris? The kind that digs deeper?

Just hurbris will do.

Anonymous said...

Cymraeg: You're right, I'd like to say my $600 "is somewhere in the middle of the range of published estimates" ((c) Tol) but alas it was a slip of the finger on the calculator.

Either way, the point still stands - invasive species cost more per person in the UK, in the agricultural sector alone than the value Tol is assigning to species loss*. Of course different economists will assign different values for different reasons.

It should also be noted that Vila et al. were looking at a total of 1347 species with documented economic impact in Europe. I'll leave someone else to calculate what percentage of Tol's 14 million species that is as I am clearly incapable of keeping my zeroes in order...


*At least according to the Vila paper.

Chris S.

Richard Tol said...

@Anonymous / Chris S
Note that Equation (E.1) is only a small part of the impacts of climate change.

Jeff Harvey said...

Majorajam,

Many thanks for linking to my previous posts. They accurately sum up the challenges faced in determining the effects of climate change on the vitality of our ecological life-support systems.

Anon says: "I repeat, I claimed that ecology should no longer be considered an arm of science because it has been swiped by Jim Jones like characters and other assorted spivs such as yourself who gives a great impersonation of that extremist lunatic".

On what basis? Your own simple beliefs and prejudices? As soon as you are able to cogently discuss any scientific fields with me or anyone else here your views are to be ignored. As it is, we are left with you making baseless quips with no scientific underpinning. I would like proof, please, that you know what you are talking about. Please list all of the qualified population and systems ecologists you know and how many of these are 'green extremists'. These are lies and smears, you know it.

The anon opines, "You have no business ever talking about science and when you do it's a discredit".

How would you, anon, of all people, know good science from bad science? I have a lot more respect amongst scientists in a range of disciplines. How many conferences have you attended where these issues are discussed and debated? How many keynote lectures ahve you delivered? How many scientific articles have you published? If you want, I could discuss science here that is way, way over you head. I am forced to keep it at kindergarten level for your benefit. Because you do not understand my field, your only feeble defense is to ridicule it.

I have attempted to discuss the importance of full-cost pricing internalizing the value of ecological services. I have attempted to find some common ground with Richard in evaluating the value of keystone species or functional groups (e.g. pollinators, nutrient cycling organisms etc.) against more redundant groups in estimating the costs of anthropogenic global change.

Anon, here's a challenge for you. Please tell me what you know about the following: context- and trait-dependent processes in the structure and function of ecological communities; asymmetrical inter and intra-specific competition; niche theory; functional responses and Nicholson-Bailey and Lotka Volterra Models: neutral models in niche segregation; k-factor analysis; plant-soil feedbacks; structural and chemical heterogeneity in simple and diverse landscapes; chronosequencing in understanding successional gradients in arable landscapes; interaction network webs and the role of top-down and bottom-ip processes regulating community structure; semel and iteroparity reproductive strategies and the role of r and K-selection in determining these strategies; the neutral theory and biodiversity evolution; the theory of island biogeography and tis relationship with predicting species extinction rates; the importance of local adaptation in multi-trophic interactions; evolutionary 'hotspots'and 'cold spots'; intra-guild predation and its importance in food webs; shall I go on? How many of these areas can you provide stimulating intellectual discourse on, anon?

bluegrue said...

@Richard Tol

Is there any other place in your model, where species/habitat loss figures in, other than equations E.1 and E.2? To me, species loss seems to be a fundamental aspect of the impacts of climate change. What would the impact of the loss of key species (e.g. honey bees) be in your FUND model?

Richard Tol said...

@bluegrue
No. Species loss does not enter any other impact function. Between the shouting and the silliness, you and Jeff are slowly convincing me that perhaps it should.

Jakerman said...

Richard Tol wrote ealier:

"The species function (E.2) is calibrated to ecological literature."

Richard, once again I ask his simple yet unanswered question:

As your (E.2) assumes that that the extinction rate is relatively insensitive to even 8 degrees C of AGW. Which ecological literature confirms this relativity extinction insensitivity to temperature rise?

Jeff Harvey said...

Richard,

You said, "The species function (E.2) is calibrated to ecological literature".

Could you be more specific? Which ecological literature are you referring to?

Lazar said...

"To get a sense of what "tweaking around" means I would suggest people visit the UK countryside. It’s beautiful and for the most part its 90% man influenced or man made."

The beautiful UK agridesert.

Anonymous said...

OT, by way of balance, the UK non-agridesert in my backyard.

Cymraeg llygoden

Jakerman said...

I have reversed my disagreement with one point raised in this thread. I now agree that economic models should show that extinction rates become meaningless to humans well before the 99% extinction level.

The appropriate response to this is shift all the $ value forward to be factored in at lower extinction levels. One approach would be to value the whole projected GDP for the planet and cost this in at a species extinction of some lower more conservative extinction level (much lower than 99%) Call this the end point (or a justified range) from which humans are unlikely to be sustained given the biodiversity feedback response. Then calibrate from that point (or a series of other justified points) a curve(s) of increasing cost with increasing extinction.

The result being and a curve that recognises all our value of GDP exists within certain extinction limits.

This need be repeated for other ecosystem services in addition to biodiversity. Each and all of which are required for GDP to be of any use.

The obvious problem is what is the justified extinction level by which point humans are unlikely to survive. You could start with plotting a range of expert guesses (begin to work towards a probability distribution) then use Monte Carlo analysis based of this function.