Friday, December 07, 2012

Signifiers

Going to the AGU Fall Meeting clarified many issues for Eli

First, there is a clear and strong consensus supporting the main pillars of the IPCC AR4, and the USGCRP.  Climate change is occurring, driven by human influences and dangerous.  Action to stop carbon emissions is needed immediately.

Anyone doubting this need only go through the myriad abstracts.  You might find one or two amongst the thousands that disagrees with this, but this is the clear opinion of the climate science community.  Where doubts exist, they are doubts about how bad it is going to be and how fast climate change is coming.

Second, the mood of the attendees had also shifted.  It was much sourer about the few in the atmospheric science community still running interference for in activism.  People were being called out in private, but also in public and not just in sessions dealing with education and communication and blogging.

It is now clear to the climate science community that keeping your head down has not been an effective option for climate scientists for quite a while (see Kathryn Hayhoe).  The denialists and their funders are  coming for you in the Niemoeller sense, sooner or later.  This means that many in the community have woken up.  Those who do not, or believe they cannot, are feeling guilty about not supporting the science they are part of.  Those folks need to be encouraged and supported and come out.

Third, as John Nelson-Gammon put it, climate science is complex and there is no way in hell that the average person is going to master the scientific basis.  What people will do is look to trusted intermediaries.

This means that climate scientists are going to have to master communicating their broad agreement while maintaining a skeptical point of view on detail.  Like it or not, every statement that X (Gore, Hansen, and similar) is irresponsible is irresponsible.  Does that mean that everyone has to agree with X, no, but you have to communicate a level of trust on the basics for those who understand the basics

The trusted signifiers have to be climate scientists such as Richard Alley.  Michael Tobis had a talk, more or less about how we (Eli and friends) have lost the internet.  It's our own damn fault.  We have not lost the argument, we have allowed the McIntyres and Watts to tear down the reputations of such as Michael Mann, Al Gore, Ravindar Pachuri, Bob Watson and others.  Now some, not Eli to be sure, might agree with these worthies on every point, but one does have to defend them against the mean girls.

Third, the issue is not scientific uncertainty, but the risk that inaction, and inadequate actions consigns the world and its people's to.  We can say with certainty that 2X climate sensitivity cannot be less that 1.5K unless perpetual motion is available on demand.  The lower limit is set by conservation of energy.

Even at 1.5K, globally, the world becomes a lot less people friendly in  a century or a bit more.  Given a higher climate sensitivity troubles come faster and the costs of dealing with it are even more expensive.  3K or 2.7K to be a bit more precise is the best estimate we have based on today's knowledge.  As the Idiot Tracker pointed out lukewarmers are in the position of the frog in a pot.  Their unwillingness to take immediate action is intellectually and morally bankrupt because unless carbon emissions are stopped very soon (remember that the damage is cumulative so continuing to emit at current of even reduced rates still causes additional damage hundreds if not thousands of years into the future.)

39 comments:

dbostrom said...

The AGU's umbrella of expectations of proper scientific conduct includes communication of science to the public, or least that's the claim in the organization's mission statement and stated expectations of members. Thus it's a curious thing that the AGU presently assigns no actual cost to scientific misconduct when it comes to AGU members interacting with the public over matters of science, and members' role in helping to shape wise public policy by accurate and honest communication of scientific knowledge. Indeed the AGU freely lends its name to personalities engaging in activities directly antithetical to the AGU's claimed beneficial relationship with the public.

So while it may be true that individual members of the AGU are beginning to wake up and smell the coffee, the organization itself seems more intent on keeping traditions alive than helping the world face the future by demanding that its members be accountable for their behavior.

Presumably a day will arrive when the AGU feels compelled to force decisions about this on members. The affected numbers will be few but their present impact on policy is disproportionately large so we should hope that day will soon come to pass. That hope is probably grounded in some truth because recent events tell us that AGU is capable of dumping shame on particular members with great alacrity, though the most recent example actually had nothing to do with science per se.

Maurizio Morabito said...

The problem, as shown by the biofuels saga, is that rushed-in action will bring more damage than good.

Anonymous said...

"The problem, as shown by the biofuels saga, is that rushed-in action will bring more damage than good. "

Which is why there should have been a significant, concerted global action at least two decades ago.

Now, any further fiddling is simply a musical accompanyment to watching Rome burn.

It's today or never.


Bernard J.

Anonymous said...

"we (Eli and friends) have lost the internet."

Most people don't read blogs or even care about what is said on them.

If the internet has been "lost" ie, if the general public have a negative view of Mann and others (which may or may not be true), it undoubtedly has something to do with what people DO pay attention to, mainstream media.

Specifically, it has to do with media censorship of viewpoints that they think "unworthy" (how many times has a MSM article quoted Rabett Run?) and the "balance game" that the latter play, representing the climate change issue as nothing more than a "debate" between equally valid viewpoints.

You can only do so much in blog posts to counter the lies and innuendo appearing at WUWT, CU, Climate etc and elsewhere.

If the traditional media either ignore you entirely (because you are just some "stupid blog", as many in the MSM would put it) or (if they don't ignore you) choose to represent the climate change issue as "he said/she said" (as the MSM have done, by and large) your efforts at countering lies are doomed to fail.

~@:>

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

While I agree with Eli et al. on the current dismal state, I disagree on a few things.

First, I do think the average person can understand enough of the basics of the science to see the reality of the problem. After all, the case for anthropogenic global warming reduces to 4 propositions:
1)There is a greenhouse effect--if there weren't, Earth would be a ball of ice, 33 degrees cooler than its current temperature.
2)CO2 is a greenhouse gas--which just means that it absorbs in the IR near where Earth radiates outgoing IR.
3)Conservation of Energy--the energy to heat an entire planet must come from somewhere. It cannot be the Sun--it hasn't gotten hotter in >60 years. It cannot be the oceans, as they are warming, too.
4)Science works.

That we have failed to convey what is really a simple message derives not from our enemies making a compelling case, but rather from our enemies telling people what they want to hear. Our enemies have had considerable assistance from the fact that the average American is now incapable of seeing when their reasoning constitutes a logical fallacy (e.g. ad hominem, argument from consequences...) This includes the so-called mainstream media, who have for the most part forgotten how to be journalists.

As shown by the pundits during the recent election, wishful thinking turns geniuses into idiots.

J Bowers said...

Maurizio Morabito said... "The problem, as shown by the biofuels saga, is that rushed-in action will bring more damage than good."

And doing nothing because of gobshites spreading misinformation and lies, and encouraging inaction by singling out things like biofuels (the US military has a solution, though), means I'm coming to take said gobshites' food when we're going hungry.

Barry Woods said...

Katie Hayhoe agreed with me that it was ridiculous that AGU ignored the internet, ie no webcasts, etc,etc

AGU just comes across as the same group of people talking amongst themselves.

Russell said...

If " one does have to defend them against the mean girls. " then one should whack them whenever they buy a ream of rubber graph paper from some little shop of horrors on the dark side of K Street , hire another court historian to rewrite a little history, outbid Exxon for the services of firms of legislators turned lobbyists, or, worst of all, try to get scientific organizations to emulate any of the above.

At all times, and in all polities, science politicized is science betrayed.

Russell said...

As to the AGU , I just watched Raypieirre's speech- It takes a day or two to get five days of video posted

James Cliborn said...

Well said Prof. Rabett; I will post a link on my Facebook!

Lewis Cleverdon said...

Blogger EliRabett said...

It is Eli's experience that when Louis presents a closely reasoned argument that reaches a non-evidenciary conclusion, the place to start is with the assumptions. Contrary to his assertions:

Facts are that the IPCC reports are, within their constraints, e.g. the political convocation at the end of each process, the best available science of their time. If anything the political influence has biased these reports to the least alarming possibility and that the scientific part of the drafting process itself is quite cautious. There is a clear trace through the twenty years of reports showing increasing certainty of dire conclusions and that the attempts to delegitimatize them are the result of a well funded campaign of industrial interests coupled to an economic ideological base.

So no, Eli does not agree that the process is broken, just that there are some who would like to break it.

5/12/12 11:47 AM
Lewis Cleverdon said...

Eli - it's not often that I manage to generate a 180 degree misunderstanding in the reader. You wrote:

"Facts are that the IPCC reports are, within their constraints, e.g. the political convocation at the end of each process, the best available science of their time. If anything the political influence has biased these reports to the least alarming possibility and that the scientific part of the drafting process itself is quite cautious."

Just to be clear, I would entirely agree with your assessment if it described the reports as "the best available global overview of the science - as I'm of the opinion that the scientific input is degraded by mandated political pressures to understate the rising hazard in the output reports. Quite where your misunderstanding arose I'm not clear.

So should we readers of Rabbet Run take it that you are content that the Inter-Governmental Panel should continue to exclude proper account of the observed acceleration and prognoses for even such feedbacks as albedo loss and permafrost melt ? Or would you welcome the benefits of an independent global scientific assessment that helps keep the Panel focussed on the appalling damage and dire scientific projections now unfolding in the real world ?

Regards,

Lewis

Brian Dodge said...

Maurizio Morabito said...

"The problem, as shown by the biofuels saga, is that rushed-in action will bring more damage than good."

I'm assuming from your content free diatribe you mean that biofuels, specifically ethanol from corn, raised food prices for the poor. (I may be setting up a straw man, but if you haven't got the balls to plainly state your position, TS.)
This is a common right wing attack on hippie liberal econazi green energy, and is a lie. More than 60% of corn in the US is used for animal feed[1], not exported to feed the poor, who also can't afford the steak, pork chops, and dairy products this feed supports. Furthermore, the DDGS remaining (~31% of the original corn) after EtOH fermentation contains all the starting protein, minerals, some fiber, and more vitamins than the starting corn.

You are also deceptively omitting that the International Rice Research Institute has observed falling rice productivity to anthropogenic global warming effects[2], and that the rise in oil prices drove rises in food prices directly, as well as indirectly by making biofuels more attractive and adding to the push to use food trade as an economic hedge[3]. Rice IS the primary calorie source for the world poor.

You're also ignoring the effects of AGW drought and floods on Aussie wheat exports[4], Russian wheat production[5], Pakistan rice production[6], and the near $8 billion 2011 loss in ag production in Texas alone(and that's becoming the "new normal"[8].

let me help you with editing for a more rational statement-
The problem is that in action has brought more damage than good.

And a $70 billion hit from hurricane Sandy to the US economy will be that much less food aid the US can afford.

[1] "Corn is also processed for human consumption and other industrial uses. Food, seed, and industrial uses (FSI) of corn account for about one-third of domestic utilization." http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/corn/background.aspx

[2]"Rice yields decline with higher night temperature from global warming" www.pnas.org/content/101/27/9971.full

[3]"This paper concludes that a stronger link between energy and nonenergy commodity prices is likely to be the dominant influence on developments in commodity, and especially food, markets." "The paper also argues that the effect of biofuels on food prices has not been as large as originally thought, but that the use of commodities by financial investors (the so-called ”financialization of commodities”) may have been partly responsible for the 2007/08 spike."
Policy Research Working Paper 5371. Placing the 2006/08 Commodity Price Boom into Perspective, John Baffes & Tassos Haniotis www-wds.worldbank.org

[4] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-30/australian-wheat-exports-plunging-most-in-six-years-commodities.html

[5] http://www.reuters.com/video/2012/08/21/russia-wheat-export-ban-fears-over-droug?videoId=237194913

[6] oryza.com/Rice-News/16857.html

[7] "The total impact of the $7.62 billion agricultural production loss is an estimated $12.5 billion to the Texas economy." http://agecoext.tamu.edu/fileadmin/user_upload/Documents/Resources/Publications/BriefingPaper09-01-11.pdf

[8] "Drought by the numbers

94: Percent of Texas that is abnormally dry

55: Percent of Texas in severe drought

25: Percent of Texas in extreme drought

64: Percent of capacity for Texas water storage reservoirs:

79: Percent of capacity for Tarrant Regional Water District

75: Percent of Four Sixes Ranch cattle that remain out of state.

40 to 45: Percent of wheat crop rated as poor or very poor

53: Percent of pastures in poor condition

0.05 inch: November rainfall in Dallas-Fort Worth."

http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/11/29/4449125/texas-braces-for-return-of-drought.html

Maurizio Morabito said...

Brian - go talk to FoE. And the NYT. And the Dutch government. And and and. All right-wingers, of course.

Biofuel action has been rushed in. It has brought all sorts of disasters including destruction of rainforest, draining of peat bogs, eviction of subsistence farmers from their land etc etc.

By all means let's put in place anything effective to reduce CO2 emissions...but if we don't learn from the past, and if keep pumping up ideas of future catastrophes, as in the biofuel case the environment will be worse for it, people will suffer for nothing and the usual suspects will get rich.

Hank Roberts said...

http://img.wpdigital.net/rf/image_606w/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2012/12/07/Editorial-Opinion/Graphics/toles12092012.jpg

John Mashey said...

Brian:
Note that the push for biofuels *really* had its origins in policies of Earl Butz, i.e.:
'For example, he abolished a program that paid corn farmers to not plant all their land. (See Henry Wallace's "Ever-Normal Granary".) This program had attempted to prevent a national oversupply of corn and low corn prices. His mantra to farmers was "get big or get out," and he urged farmers to plant commodity crops like corn "from fencerow to fencerow." ...
He was featured in the documentary King Corn, recognized as the person who started the rise of corn production, large commercial farms, and the abundance of corn in American diets.'

Basically, policy changed from safety-net to encouraging production. Farmers got big, grew a lot more corn ... and then needed to do something with it and the infrastructure around it, hence more feed for feedlots, HFCS and corn ethanol, all strongly supported by midwest farm states.

It's pretty amusing that conservative Butz's policies are blamed on environmentalists.

Brian Dodge said...

"destruction of rainforest, draining of peat bogs, eviction of subsistence farmers from their land" all were happening prior to biofuel mandates. If oil were $30 a barrel, the people that finance and profit from those things now to produce biofuel would be instead doing it for other reasons - and if biofuel production were to magically disappear, those people would continue to profit from unsustainable and inequitable practices with other ends. Profit, not biofuel, is the motive for "destruction of rainforest, draining of peat bogs, eviction of subsistence farmers from their land". The high cost of oil, largely controlled by OPEC, makes biofuels the profit center du jour.

"Biofuels for road transport
The petrol currently available at the pump already contains a few percent of biofuel. This must increase to 10% by 2020, following the European Directive on Renewable Energy. This 10% may also be supplemented with other forms of renewable energy, such as sustainably generated electricity or biogas. The Netherlands has opted to gradually increase the percentage of biofuel at the pump over the coming years: a quarter percent in 2011 and 2012, and a half percent in 2013 and 2014. This provides more time to develop even more sustainable (second generation) biofuels (based on waste materials)."
http://www.government.nl/issues/energy/sustainable-energy

"The European Commission last Friday approved a certification scheme which would brand biofuels produced from palm oil as 'sustainable', despite evidence that their production contributes to deforestation, peatland degradation, disputes over land rights, and climate change."
http://www.foeeurope.org/search/foee/biofuels

"Other Biodiesel Feedstocks.
It can be argued that soybean is not the most efficient feedstock for biodiesel because it occupies large tracts of land, incurs considerable carbon debt (even without considering ILUC), and has a low annual rate of saved carbon from replacing fossil diesel. Therefore, we tested other feedstock options that could serve to fulfill Brazil’s 2020 production demand for biodiesel. Our results show (Fig. 3 and Fig. S2) that if the smallest area and carbon debt from LUC are given priority, then oil palm would be the best feedstock for biodiesel by far. Because of its high oil yield, oil palm would need only 4,200 km2 to fulfill the 2020 demand for biodiesel in Brazil. In comparison, 108,100 km2 would be needed for soybean, 73,000 km2 for rapeseed/sunflower, and 31,700 km2 for Jatropha curcas."
http://www.pnas.org/content/107/8/3388.full

Statements like "Biofuel action has been rushed in. It has brought all sorts of disasters including destruction of rainforest, draining of peat bogs, eviction of subsistence farmers from their land etc etc" are simple, glib and wrong. It hasn't been rushed in, it's been delayed by the usual fossil fuel power mongers since the initial attempts by the Carter administration. Even FoE recognizes that biofuel production "contributes to", not 'causes' environmental disasters.

The storms, floods, droughts, heatwaves, and associated excess deaths from AGW aren't "pumped up future catastrophes", they are now. Yes there are problems created by biofuels, and unregulated free market driven externalize the costs and internalize the profits for a few one percenters policies will tilt the solutions toward more negative effects. Not starting 20 years ago has driven up the costs and limited the options we have available today; waiting another 20 years will guarantee catastrophe. Our choices going forward are imperfect crash programs, or a crash; the question now is how to minimize the damage; we've missed the time and opportunities for the best choices.

EliRabett said...

Russell, Ray Pierres' Tyndall lecture was TNT (who the hell can spell dynamite) for many reasons. When it is posted Eli will have a word or two.

Maurizio Morabito said...

Brian - you live in a strange world where it's ok to smoke if you're obese as heart problems would iikely come about anyway. You're also unaware of all the issues surrounding attributing current weather phenomena to climate change and then to human-induced climate change.

You're basically the Perfect Person to fall for the interests of Big Corn. Bye.

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Steve Bloom said...

It's up, Eli. The trashing of Lindzen, Christy and Spencer was amusing, but not exactly Nobel material. Otherwise, someobscure bits of history aside, I think I already knew everything in that lecture.

Neven said...

Maurizio Morabito might have a point (even though he doesn't state anything clearly or reference his arguments, because he's lazy and uncritical and has too many preconceptions, which is why he gets his a** handed to him by Brian Dodge) and that's that nothing will effectively and durably get solved by trying to get rid of the symptoms, for instance by replacing fossil fuel by biofuels (while everyone keeps eating meat every day). To have a chance of solving things, the whole system needs to change, starting with the economic fallacies on which policies are based (for instance, the arbitrary number that represents GNP growth is the ultimate goal of society and must therefore eternally grow bigger and bigger and bigger, faster). But I doubt this is what Morabito wants to hear. He just wants everything to stay is, and will actively pursue this goal by trying to derail discussions everywhere he can.

I mean, look at his first comment. What does it really have to do with what Eli is saying? And then Brian Doge hands his a** to him, which is exactly what he wants.

Maurizio, you will be doubly responsible for whatever AGW is going to cause. Just so you know.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Maurizio lives in an interesting world where all the infrastructure for biofuels can be implemented in an instant. It must be a strange world compared to ours, where we have been building up cornohol for 3 decades so that we can send farm subsidy checks to addresses in Manhattan (NY, not Kansas). Corn Ethanol has nothing to do with energy independence--it's energy negative and CO2 positive.

Then there's Brazil, where the infrastructure to produce ethanol from sugar cane has transformed a formerly poor part of the country into one of relative sufficiency if not affluence--and decreased pollution and petroleum dependence.

Maurizio must live on a small planet if indeed there is only one way to do things and it is always bbad.

Anonymous said...

Eli, you say: "Even at 1.5K, globally, the world becomes a lot less people friendly in a century or a bit more. Given a higher climate sensitivity troubles come faster and the costs of dealing with it are even more expensive. " But there are also costs of reducing the carbon emissions associated with average temperature rise. Higher energy costs almost inevitably means more people on low (residual) incomes and more poverty, illness and premature death now (-ish). Of course, Stern's analysis found that the benefits of early action outweighed the costs. Other economists have claimed the contrary (eg Nordhaus) or argued that the relevant concept is insurance rather than cost-benefit analysis (Feldstein). Surely therefore the policy question turns on the economics (broadly defined, which means that it does not have to be done by economists!) and of ethics (and particularly n the weights we give to the harm done to various groups at different points in time), rather than of climate science taken in isolation. So why are climate scientists so confident in proclaiming policy responses purely on the basis of the climate science?

Rutom

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Rutom,
There are several reasons why climate scientists take a more activist role here. The first has to do with climate science--the portion of the climate we understand the best is probably the role of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses. If we attempt to carry out mitigation based on some other part of the system--e.g. aerosols, modifications to the biosphere, etc.--then we introduce uncertainties that make risk difficult to bound. Bounding risk is a prerequisite for any investigation of mitigation strategy.

The second answer is contained in your own post--by making different assumptions, an economist can arrive at pretty much whatever answer his preconceptions desire. Economics is not an objective science as it is currently practiced today. Nordhaus's analysis assumed absurd levels of discounting for future damage. That his work was accepted as mainstream illustrates the lack of consensus on how to even treat the problem economically.

Toby said...

Do you mean the Nordhaus who said this?:

"My work has long taken the view that policies to slow global warming would have net economic benefits, in the trillions of dollars of present value. […] I have advocated a carbon tax for many years as the best way to attack the issue."

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Michaels-Misrepresents-Nordhaus.html

AFAIK, even Conservative economists like Richard Tol and Arthur Laffer, economic guru to Ronald Reagan, accept putting a price on carbon as the way forward.

A couple of years ago Scott Denning called out the Heartland Institute at their annual jamboree, accusing the Conservative Movement of "going AWOL" and leaving the field free for Greenpeace to peddle its nostrums. Denning was not there this year, and nothing in Conservatism has changed (except the minor matter of a Presidential election loss).

Why then do deniers refuse to discuss solutions, but persist in attacking the science, the scientists and Al Gore? That is more or less what Denning called "arguing over the decimal places", plus the ad hominem fallacy. In their own stupid way, they are forcing the scientists into politics.

Hank Roberts said...

I think Conservatives, like Deadheads, are hoping for a miracle.

My stratospheric microscopic single-molecule-aerosol steerable infrared laser planetary cooling system device hasn't been implemented. Anybody got a better miracle proposal in the wings?

My next proposal is a highly efficient phase change material for heat storage, in printable semiconductor sheets so it can be computer controlled in large laminated blocks to capture and release heat from air or water passing over it? Something like http://www.physicstoday.org/resource/1/phtoad/v65/i12/p20_s1

Russell said...

Eli:

I have already posted it terrier moi :

http://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2012/12/now-for-some-real-climate-science.html

Russell said...



Here's the link to Raypierre's Tyndall lecture

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my earlier post referred to Feldstein when I meant Weitzman. It was that (almost) final glass of red wine's fault......

Toby - I realise that Nordhaus favours a carbon tax - my comment was (over?) stylised. He thinks Stern has overestimated the costs of climate change and underestimated the costs of mitigation, so he favours a much lower carbon tax than Stern.

A-ray-in - My point was not at all about the need to defer to economics as a science. Rather it was that any policy decision on what to do about climate change must be based on the assessment of relative costs and benefits and with ethical judgments which weigh the impacts on various groups at different points in time. What special expertise do climate scientists have in these matters? (Which of course is not to say that economists, or anyone else, can provide definitive answers on costs and benefits.) The key point (for me at least) is that higher energy costs have very adverse affects on the global poor. More people will die now. So the ethics pull in two directions.

Rutom

kT said...

Anybody got a better miracle proposal in the wings?

I prefer science. It appears that cryogenic carbon dioxide capture is looking sufficient for capture and draw down in conjunction with LNG plants, the problem as I see it is the fixing of the bulk CO2. I'm taking a look at the aqueous chemistry to see if anything can be deduced from it to speed it up, maybe using stack and flue waste heat.

EliRabett said...

Eli would be much more impressed with those who Lomborg the issue if he could see any evidence that they care a damn for the poor as anything but a club to beat down action on climate change or whatever else might be proposed and cost them a red cent.

J Bowers said...

"The key point (for me at least) is that higher energy costs have very adverse affects on the global poor."

The world's poorest are off the grid. They'll probably never be on the grid. They benefit more from solar and wind, partly because physics delivers the fuel to them for free, instead of many miles of hiking for dangerous and fluctuatingly priced kerosene.

dhogaza said...

"Eli would be much more impressed with those who Lomborg the issue if he could see any evidence that they care a damn for the poor as anything but a club to beat down action on climate change or whatever else might be proposed and cost them a red cent."

If Lomborg didn't have the poor, he would have to invent them ...

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Of course the economics (not the ethics) pull in two directions. It wouldn't be much of a problem if they didn't, would it?

You are certainly correct that climate scientists have no special knowledge when it comes to cost-benefit analyses. Frankly, neither do most economists. Ultimately, though, the reasons why climate scientists are still involved is two-fold. First, there are a lot of very stupid policymakers who still haven't accepted the science. Second, we have not been able to bound risk arising from climate change--and bounding risk is a prerequisite to any sort of cost-benefit analysis, be it engineering or economics.

In the absence of a credible upper bound, we're betting the farm--literally, as agriculture would likely be one of the most severely affected sectors. To date, the analyses have gotten around this by forcing an upper bound--e.g. by assuming some miracle technology appears. If you don't rely on miracles, the situation is a lot darker.

Anonymous said...

Eli (and others) - it might be better not to rush to attribute motivation to other people. I am myself persuaded of the benefit of a carbon tax (which of course should in principle apply to kerosene). The critical issue is to determine the level. In doing this, I find it hard to see how you avoid doing economics, even if you call it by another name. One ofthe benefits of a carbon tax is that it may be the most cost-effective way of stimulating innovation, and for this reason some of the earlier studies may well have underestimated its effectiveness. There is (to my mind) a very interesting new paper on this, linked below. It is by some eminent economists, so some contributors may need to hold their noses before reading. But perhaps it may cause some of them to reconsider their disdain for the subject.....

http://personal.lse.ac.uk/dechezle/adhmv_nov29.pdf

Rutom

EliRabett said...

Eli's experience with motives is every bunny gets one bite, but when you see the well paid always opining on the same side of the payroll there is not much milk of kindness and consideration to be found when they magically become the best informed on every subject.

There are people whose business is selling the rest of us out. They prosper.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Rutom,
I think that perhaps part of the skepticism you find among scietists when the subject of economics is the lack of consensus among economists themselves.

Consensus is very important in science. It is indispensable for identifying the ideas, theories and techniques that are useful. If you have a field where consensus is weak, that implies they haven't settled on much that is useful just yet. In the absence of agreed upon theories, subjective analyses prevail.

Anonymous said...

Last comment from me.

Eli makes a very fair point about the dangers of private interest corrupting public debate, and economics (like many other disciples) has certainly suffered from this. However, private interest can take non-pecuniary forms (for example a desire to advertise one's occupancy of the moral high ground, which can contribute to "good cause corruption").

A-ray - I think you under-estimate the degree of consensus in economics on the "boring" stuff. The paper I pointed to earlier is an example of the kind of small scale study that dominates the field, and where progress is gradually made through conjecture and challenge. On the big issues, such as addressed by Stern, Nordhaus and Weitzman there is indeed no consensus. But that is in large part because there is no consensus on the critical inputs - the scale of costs, benefits and risks. I can't see how failing to try to do the calculations helps in resolving these uncertainties.


Rutom