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  1. The link in your email to me (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=585) got me this response in Internet Explorer: “Internet Explorer cannot open the Internet site http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=585, Operation aborted.” This happened last time as well.

    Mozilla Firefox accepts it and gets me to this page without any problem.

    You may want to fix something.

    [Response: Can anyone with access to IE and a little internet nouse have a look at this? Nothing has changed on the site (except for the addition of reCaptcha) recently, but if there is a IE incompatibility, we'd like to fix it - Please email us any ideas (contrib - at - realclimate.org) to avoid clogging up the comment threads. Thanks. - gavin]

    [Further Response: Thanks for all the hints. It appears to be a bug in IE (v 5.5,6.0 or 7) that has been triggered since Friday by a change in the SiteMeter code. Sitemeter has now apparently fixed their code, so you should be ok. It just goes to show you should be using Firefox in any case. - gavin]

    Comment by Peter Namtvedt — 2 Aug 2008 @ 1:35 PM

  2. You point out that Climatia has two factions that seem to live peacefully together: the Paleos and the Modellos. Their boundaries seem to overlap gracefully.

    The map clearly shows how North Paleo-Climatia, South Modello-Climatia and Economistan are all vulnerable to rising sea levels. Even the tiny, lowland nation of Skeptia seems especially vulnerable to rising seas.

    Cursed with a low and constrained view of the horizon, the Skeptians will probably do nothing to mitigate looming changes. They are further burdened by their populations of the ponderous Sophomores and the dangerous Denialists.

    There are rumors of deep alliance between the Denialists and factions within Economistan – the more extreme members have been know to secretly fund them. This begs the question of whether future Skeptian refugees be welcomed in Economistan.

    Obviously, the respective governments need to co-ordinate both research and public policy to face the common needs among nations. Any child could see that.

    Comment by RPauli — 2 Aug 2008 @ 1:53 PM

  3. Speaking as a card-carrying economist, I would like to very respectfully point out that not everyone on my side of the divide is a clueless, soulless blockhead, as we’re often portrayed online. I realize no one here said anything nearly that harsh about me or my fellow dismal scientists, but even generalizations about how we over-simplify things become a sore spot with me, especially since I run The Cost of Energy (http://www.grinzo.com/energy/) and work very hard to understand the complexities behind all the energy and environmental issues I write about. (One handy short cut on climate stuff is to post a link to an RC story and tell my readers to come over here and read about the topic in question.)

    In general, I think all sides the discussion need to stop pigeon-holing each other. And that includes economists who often assume that geologists or climate scientists have zero understanding of how markets and resource allocation work. Sure, you can find many examples, particularly among the doomers in the peak oil crowd (and I’m part of the PO bunch, just to be clear), who are utterly clueless about economics, which leads to their making some mind-blowingly bad predictions. But it’s just as wrong for us to broad brush all of them as it is for them to dump on all economists.

    So–here’s a virtual toast to unity and open minds. We have a lot of common ground, and we need each other more than ever.

    [Response: Hear, hear! I should stress that the point of the piece and Liz's intention specifically was to find ways to get around the stereotypes and find ways in which a constructive dialogue can emerge - whether it involves new kind of scientists or not. But the background images we have of other fields and the way our own fields operate are often the cause of a great deal of mis-communication, and need to be recognised so that they can be worked around. - gavin]

    Comment by Lou Grinzo — 2 Aug 2008 @ 2:24 PM

  4. Good summary on bridging the gap, and flawed arguments here:
    http://peakoildebunked.blogspot.com/2006/07/307-confessions-of-ex-doomer.html

    Hat tip thanks to mention here:
    http://strangeweather.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/the-improbable-environmentalists/

    —-excerpt follows—–

    … The fourth flaw in the argument is even more subtle. Perhaps you’ve guessed it by now. Doomers argue that there is no energy source we can switch to that can take oil’s place in modern civilization. That might or might not be true, but it’s beside the point. No single energy source has to, provided we can put enough of the others together….
    —end excerpt—–

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Aug 2008 @ 2:57 PM

  5. Is there any way to enlarge the cartoon? I have to strain my poor old eyes to read some of the text, can’t make out the words under “The Past” in the upper left corner. Looks like an image with lots of meaning, though….

    [Response: "(another country)" - gavin]

    Comment by Gary F — 2 Aug 2008 @ 3:02 PM

  6. Nicholas Stern set out how the costs of fossil fuels outweigh the benefits severalfold, but what is the comparative performance of coal, petrol/diesel for cars and natural gas in this regard?

    There is a gaping divide also between supporters and opponents of biofuel mandates, the latter pointing out that the mandates make no sense (in most cases) either from an earth stewardship/ecological/humanitarian or economic point of view.

    Comment by Jim Roland — 2 Aug 2008 @ 3:09 PM

  7. Very interesting commentary, but given the apparent urgency in resolving some of these issues, is starting by training new grad students the most effective approach? And are university faculty the only people knowledgeable about economics?

    I’m sure there are many economists employed in industry that are familiar with working in large teams and are flexible enough to communicate with climate scientists.

    From your commentary:
    “Only by combining detailed modelling of economic responses with spatially and temporally complex climate projections can we appropriately direct resources for mitigation and adaptation. Without the synthesis of these fields, policy responses can be incoherent and counter-productive, as in the case of the recent rush to biofuels.”

    I think most economists could have predicted bad consequences from the biofuel subsidies and mandates without “…combining detailed modeling of economic responses with spatially and temporally complex climate projections…”

    [Response: Maybe that's right, but none of the linkages between biofuels, oil prices, food price rises, increased protectionism etc. play any part in any of the models for the costs and benefits of climate change adaptations/mitigations or impacts. Don't you think they should? - gavin]

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 2 Aug 2008 @ 3:16 PM

  8. Haven’t read the commentary yet; looking forward to it. The cartoon is quite clever

    Comment by Rod B — 2 Aug 2008 @ 4:40 PM

  9. In this sort of map, the territory that has been given the name “Skeptia” is more usually known as Ignorantia.

    Comment by G.R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan 'til ~1996 — 2 Aug 2008 @ 5:08 PM

  10. Is it a paleoclimate guy with his nose to the ground? :)

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 2 Aug 2008 @ 6:13 PM

  11. We’re definitely going to need a multi-disciplinary approach to make meaningful progress on this problem. This is already reflected to some extent by the different scenarios used in the IPCC projections.

    Whether we should rely for the most part on upcoming
    scientists and economists,still in school, is problematic. Those currently practicing in their respective fields have much useful knowledge to share with one another. If the disciplines insist on “looking”(brilliant cartoon!) in different directions we’ll all wind up in Upthecreekistan.

    “We must hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”- Ben Franklin.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 2 Aug 2008 @ 6:22 PM

  12. Re #5 (Gary F): If you try Opera instead of IE or gavin’s Firefox, you can easily enlarge the illustration and not just the text. Each browser has its good points, although the only good point for IE I can think of is that a lot of developers only test against it, so bad html might still work.

    Comment by S. Molnar — 2 Aug 2008 @ 6:24 PM

  13. Hopefully, as the 3 sciences communicate it will be with the smallest carbon footprint, i.e. not flying all over for what could be accomplished with a call or email or fax. Those with the money think nothing of the energy required for their work & vacations. While the poor will bear the brunt of global warming…

    Comment by Bird Thompson — 2 Aug 2008 @ 7:07 PM

  14. …. economists will need to embrace the complexity of human-climate interactions while modellers need to better understand what aspects of climate really do make a difference. None of these things will happen if we continue to all look in different directions, and more problematically, fail to support and reward those scientists who want to bridge the divides

    Huzzah – well put, Dr G.

    Comment by Joe Hunkins — 2 Aug 2008 @ 7:15 PM

  15. Mentioned earlier, but relevant here:
    -
    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/29/economics-of-catastrophe/

    (clickable links to his sources in original post above)

    —excerpt-follows—

    “… there’s a really important discussion going on about how to think about the economics of climate change. The key player is Marty Weitzman, who has made a simple point (albeit using very, very difficult math) that’s nicely summarized at Env-Econ ….

    Weitzman’s point is, first, that we don’t actually know that: a small loss may be the most likely outcome given what we know now, but there’s some chance that things will be much worse. (Marty surveys the existing climate models, and suggests that they give about a 1% probability to truly catastrophic change, say a 20-degree centigrade rise in average temperature.)

    And here’s the thing: on any sort of expected-welfare calculation, the small probability of catastrophe dominates the expected loss. Suppose that there’s a 99% chance that Lomborg is right, but a 1% chance that catastrophic climate change will reduce world GDP by 90%. You might be tempted to disregard that small chance — but if you’re even moderately risk averse (say, relative risk aversion of 2 — econowonks know what I mean), you quickly find that the expected loss of welfare isn’t 0.5% of GDP, it’s 10% or more of GDP.

    The question is, can we mobilize people to make modest sacrifices to protect against low-probability catastrophes in the distant future?
    —–end excerpt from Krugman main post—-

    From the Comments to that:
    [excerpt follows]
    July 29th, 2008 12:26 pm
    … JEL published two critiques of the Stern Report last fall – one by Weitzman, the other by Nordhaus. They are both excellent and largely readable. Everybody who wants to have any say on Climate Change policy should be required to read them. The contrast between them is interesting. Nordhaus simply attacks the low discount rate which Stern admittedly uses without much explanation. Weitzman goes much deeper putting the entire standard cost-benefit framework into question – essentially concluding that Stern’s recommendations may be right but not for the reasons that Stern lays out.
    — Posted by joseph guse

    [end excerpt -- original at the Krugman link above]

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Aug 2008 @ 7:26 PM

  16. gavin: “Maybe that’s right, but none of the linkages between biofuels, oil prices, food price rises, increased protectionism etc. play any part in any of the models for the costs and benefits of climate change adaptations/mitigations or impacts. Don’t you think they should?”

    I’m surprised that none of those are in any model, but if so, yes I agree they should be.

    Having better economic models should increase confidence in projections of the effects of various policies, and greatly improve communication with climate modelers.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 2 Aug 2008 @ 9:07 PM

  17. Some economists use their own simplified climate change models in their work. William Nordhaus is an example.

    My suggestion for some constructive bridging of the gap is for climate scientists to engage in constructive criticism of the economists’ assumptions, when they use their own climate models. Nordhaus is a conscientious economists who makes checking his assumptions fairly easy, at least relative some economist climate skeptics.

    Though Nordhaus has been mentioned several times in RealClimate, I have not seen his climate model examined. Haven’t that anywhere else either.

    You are correct that stereotypes are strong. Nordhaus is frequently mentioned as a global warming skeptic, even though he has been advocating an internationally harmonized $30 to $50 /ton carbon tax be adopted. He emphasizes building an international framework for carbon taxation in case increases as new information warrants.

    Martin Weitzman has also been mentioned as a global warming skeptic, because he expressed skepticism about some of the Stern Report assumptions. This was immediately quoted as Weitzman saying the report was wrong. But apparently Weitzman is conscientious too, and pulled up his socks and looked into the problems. He has recent work that shows that even a small chance of catastrophe will lead normally risk averse people to pay LOTS of attention to that possibility. And as the probability of catastrophe increases, avoiding it will take on a dominant role in planning. And, any modeling that assumes otherwise has to carefully examined for inconsistent or unreasonable assumptions. Weitzman’s work is technical, but soon I hope it is expressed in simpler form for applied work. But, again, stereotypes are strong (and perhaps useful to certain advocates) and Weitzman is also often cited as a prominent economist who is a global warming skeptic.

    William Nordhaus
    http://nordhaus.econ.yale.edu/
    with link to full and simplified economics of climate change models (named DICE)

    Martin Weitzman
    paper
    http://www.nber.org/~confer/2008/si2008/EEE/weitzman.pdf
    discussed in Paul Krugman’s blog
    July 29, 2008, 8:22 am
    Economics of catastrophe
    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/29/economics-of-catastrophe/

    Comment by JMBL — 2 Aug 2008 @ 9:13 PM

  18. “Did they ever fit together?”

    Comment by David W — 2 Aug 2008 @ 10:40 PM

  19. In regards to the “peak oil” doomer, peak oil is a scientific theory, it makes falsifiable predictions that have held up quite well. The problem is not with the theory, rather the implications. Without an inexpensive, energy dense, portable energy source it will be a challenge to continue the “Western” way of life.

    I find it interesting how people say we can easily shift to a combination of other forms of energy, it is possible, but it won’t be easy and definitely won’t be cheap. This is true optimism.

    Underneath the false optimism lies the belief that infinite growth is possible, but if growth implies increasing energy use, and energy is limited then guess what, growth is limited. People may say well we can always find new sources of energy to always increase our rate of energy use, though really this is a statement of faith and not scientific. Some may say “the free market will invent new technologies to address these problems”, this may be true, the problem is that we cannot predict when or which technologies will be ready to implement cheaply.

    Could you imagine a doctor telling a patient who smokes, “keep smoking because if one day you develop cancer, the free market will develop a cure”. The free market may indeed one day develop a cure, but by that time you will be long dead. My motto is pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

    Comment by Gonzo — 2 Aug 2008 @ 10:47 PM

  20. To the East of Economistan and linked by a land bridge to Skeptia is Governmentia. The ruling classes, the courts and their many servants live there. Until recently their only means of communication to Climatia was carrier pigeon and they got most of their news from the voodoo drums in Skeptia.

    In planning your multi-disciplinary approach don’t forget the folk in Governmentia.

    Combined undergraduate degrees, such as science/law, are important too for creating researchers and others who are comfortable working in multi-discipinary areas.

    We need to foster thinkers at all levels, not just leading researchers, who can avoid ideologically-driven biases in responding to climate change. Rory Sullivan has a laconic summary of the present divide:

    “While it may be overly harsh to stereotype economists as favouring economic instruments, lawyers as preferring traditional regulatory approaches, scientists as preferring research, and business people as preferring voluntary approaches or self-regulation, such an assessment is probably not too far from the truth.”

    :-)

    Reference:

    Sullivan R (2005), Rethinking voluntary approaches in environmental policy (Edward Elgar), p 6.

    Comment by Chris McGrath — 3 Aug 2008 @ 12:05 AM

  21. Figen asked
    > Is it a paleoclimate guy with his nose to the ground?
    He should be using a telescope to look down that miles-deep borehole!

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Aug 2008 @ 12:13 AM

  22. It seems that the African continent is showing the way ahead. We would like to invite you to a Public Panel Discussion

    How can African development be compatible with sustaining a habitable planet?

    Thursday 7th August 2008 at 18:00

    Lecture Theatre 1, Kramer Building, Middle Campus, University of Cape Town

    Keynote Speakers:..
    Professor Philip Black (University of Stellenbosch)
    - Director of the Corporation for Economic Research (CER) and the Africa Institute for Policy Analysis and Economic Integration (AIPA)

    Cormac Cullinan,
    - Author of the ground breaking book ‘Wild Law’.
    - Worked as an environmental lawyer in over 10 African countries.
    - Led the drafting of, amongst others, the Lake Tanganyika Convention and the Integrated
    Coastal Management Bill in South Africa.
    - Included in the book ‘Planet Savers: 301 Extraordinary Environmentalists’

    Professor George Philander (Princeton University & UCT)
    - Research Director of the Africa Centre for Climate & Earth System Science (ACCESS).
    - Director of Princeton University’s Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences since 1990.
    - Member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA.)

    cheers

    Comment by Mathieu Rouault — 3 Aug 2008 @ 2:01 AM

  23. Would the extinction of Homo Sapiens have an economic impact?

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00037A5D-A938-150E-A93883414B7F0000&sc=I100322

    http://www.geosociety.org/meetings/2003/prPennStateKump.htm

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=672

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=1535

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/article2509.html

    http://astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=2429&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

    http://www.marklynas.org/2007/4/23/six-steps-to-hell-summary-of-six-degrees-as-published-in-the-guardian

    “Under a Green Sky” by Peter D. Ward, Ph.D., 2007.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 3 Aug 2008 @ 2:06 AM

  24. With North at the top, the extreme NW of Skeptia is the region of Illegitimi-Mendacius. This broadly triangular region lies [ahem] between Logica-contorta, Verbia-scatalogia and Fossilis-fundus.

    Comment by ScaredAmoeba — 3 Aug 2008 @ 4:30 AM

  25. Well… the problem here, good intentions and all, is that economists use unrealistic “econometric models” to make predictions. Their track record is abysmal. There is no comparison with climate models, because economists don’t rely on basic physical principles like thermodynamics. Instead, economists invented a number of artificial quantities that they claim behave just like various physical equations – with no justification at all. This has been discussed fairly widely, for example see:

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-economist-has-no-clothes

    The strategy the economists used was as simple as it was absurd—they substituted economic variables for physical ones. Utility (a measure of economic well-being) took the place of energy; the sum of utility and expenditure replaced potential and kinetic energy. A number of well-known mathematicians and physicists told the economists that there was absolutely no basis for making these substitutions. But the economists ignored such criticisms and proceeded to claim that they had transformed their field of study into a rigorously mathematical scientific discipline…

    …These curious developments explain why the mathematical theories used by mainstream economists are predicated on the following unscientific assumptions:

    * The market system is a closed circular flow between production and consumption, with no inlets or outlets.

    * Natural resources exist in a domain that is separate and distinct from a closed market system, and the economic value of these resources can be determined only by the dynamics that operate within this system.

    * The costs of damage to the external natural environment by economic activities must be treated as costs that lie outside the closed market system or as costs that cannot be included in the pricing mechanisms that operate within the system.

    * The external resources of nature are largely inexhaustible, and those that are not can be replaced by other resources or by technologies that minimize the use of the exhaustible resources or that rely on other resources.

    * There are no biophysical limits to the growth of market systems.

    Now, there is a field of science that bridges this gap and which could give economics a new lease on life, and that is ecology.

    This is easiest to understand by first looking at islands – the Hawaiian chain, for example. Physical climate models can be used along with geological information to predict general climate conditions on those islands with decent accuracy.

    Now, let’s add in plants and animals and microorganisms. There is limited land space and limited fresh water and nutrient supply, and such variables will have some degree of control over the ecosystems that develop on the islands. An ecological model that attempted to predict biological abundance on the basis of the variables like water, nutrients and temperature would likely do a reasonable job of estimating the ecological productivity of a given region.

    If we were to build a simple ecological model of early human hunter-gatherer societies on the islands, we could then build the first simple economic models, which would imply some degree of division of labor and trade among the groups, i.e. economic activity. The myth that modern economists subscribe to is that we have progressed so far that we are no longer dependent on natural ecosystems for our survival. Then floods and heat waves wipe out 20% of your crop…

    The central theme of modern economics is the assumption of natural abundance – which is really just a special case, actually brought on partially by the stable climate of the last 10,000 years. They don’t have a model for how “externalities”, such as an ecological collapse, can lead to an economic collapse, because the basic factors are left out of the econometric models. Who has ever heard an economist talk about the “carrying capacity” of an economy, for example (a routine ecological notion)?

    The ideology that informs this mentality might be this one: “Our natural world is abundant, infinite in extent, stable and capable of absorbing any abuses puny humans inflict. Thus, we should focus on increasing consumer demand in order to create wealth and stimulate the economy!” Error: false assumptions.

    Due to this, modern big-picture economic predictions are somewhat useless when it comes to making plans for slowing and adapting to global warming and climate destabilization over the next 50+ years.

    What economists can do with their skills, however, is figure out how solar and wind based electricity systems will function, financially speaking, on the national-to-local scale – but they might want to talk with some engineers first.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 3 Aug 2008 @ 4:45 AM

  26. The subject is quite simple really. Its all to do with the brain and how it develops. What makes someone right or left wing? It is not in there up bringing as there are plenty of examples of left wing famailies having right wing kids and vice versa. Its the brain, politics you are born with so to speak. Its why we have this dichotomy in society, like minded people flock together. Intelligence and rational thought give way to political and sometimes theological considerations and economic ones to. How do you model that!!

    Here in the UK we are building a new coal fire power plant and it is causing problems because coal is the problem for the world but it is Naive to thing that it will not be burnt even with lots of wind and solar farms being talked about and even being built. The UK environment minister says that of coal:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/08/01/eapower101.xml

    CCS must come online but as yet it is not available commercially or for that matter on an industrial scale either, if it wver will be.

    Shell states that tar sands are less damaging that coal: Well since when was coal and oil used to the same ends unless they are talking about widespread adaption of CTL technology which could happen in some countries with large scale coal rserves I guess but even I doubt that CTL projects will scale to 3 – 5 mbpd which is the projected output of Albertas oil sands come 2030.

    The media speak of Algae oil, several recent articles in the media, or grasses that increase existing ethanol yields by up to 250% (recently reported again in the UK media), of CCS trials in Australia, of CCS ready power stations (hillarious to be fair) and of wind and solar farms portrayed as if they will solve our carbon emissions issues. The truth though is that ultimately the amount of fossil fuel being burnt is is not getting any smaller.

    Here are the official figures and projections from the IEA:
    OECD Non-OECD World Total
    2005 13.6 14.5 28.1
    2010 13.8 17.3 31.1
    2015 14.4 20.0 34.3
    2020 14.7 22.3 37.0
    2025 15.1 24.5 39.6
    2030 15.5 26.8 42.3

    Troubling aint it. But of course AGW is a myth, we have done anything about it as yet but of course we really think that we will do somethng about it.

    Our political and economic systems are not setup for this type of problem, the G8 did nothing and were deliberately vague, most people do not realise that now is the time to act and have no say in global or national energy policy and a lot of people and not aware of the issue anyway.

    Presently we extract 85 Mpbd of oil and we need more so we look to either digging up more or we turn to alternatives to fill the gap which the media takes to mean reducing oil extraction. This is just not the case and does not inform the public at all. Even if the world produced 10 MPbd of sustainable biofuel we would still be burning 85 Mbpd of oil. The same applies to gas, biogas cannot replace gas from the earth.

    It is as James Hansen has already stated many times , we need to be on a different track within 10 years and he looks to coal as the problem knowing that all of the oil and gas will be burnt to make us a 450 ppmv world but he is desperately trying to get coal ruled out of get CCS fitted amongst other things such a a low resistance supergrid but coal is as big a global player as oil and gas especially amongst the non OECD countries and indeed the use of coal will more than likely accelerate if oil supplies do peak in the next decade unless we can find something else to fill the gap but biofuels of sustainable typr and industrial scale are decades off.

    Comment by pete best — 3 Aug 2008 @ 5:55 AM

  27. “(another country)” sounds like a quote from Marlowe.

    “but that was in another country; / And besides, the wench is dead.”

    What was in another country wasn’t climate change but “fornication”.

    Who knew that climate modelers could get so racy?

    [Response: Not quite the correct source. "The past is another country" is likely an oft-used misquote of L. P. Hartley's "The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there" (The Go-Between). It gets used a lot (Google it), but I don't know where it really comes from. - gavin]

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 3 Aug 2008 @ 8:18 AM

  28. Although the quotes below are not directly aimed at the multiple questions raised with increased temperatures, they seem (to me) to bring some basic theses to the discussion.

    “The structural relations within and between human societies and their environments form the most complex systems known to science.” Charles D. Laughlin and Ivan Brady, editors, Extinction and Survival in Human Populations. Columbia U Press. 1978

    “Making connections is the essence of scientific progress.” Chris Quigg, “Aesthetic Science,” Scientific American, April 1999

    “Ignorance of remote causes disposeth men to attribute all events to the causes immediate and instrumental: for these are all the causes they perceive.” (Attributed to) Thomas Hobbes

    Comment by Lance Olsen — 3 Aug 2008 @ 8:41 AM

  29. “linkages between biofuels, oil prices, food price rises, increased protectionism etc”

    You can try to put such factors into the economic models, but I’d say it’s a doomed enterprise.

    Matter and energy tend to act in repeatable and predictable ways. Humans don’t.

    Comment by tharanga — 3 Aug 2008 @ 9:28 AM

  30. An interdisciplinary approach is just what’s needed. It would probably be too difficult, though, to capture the whole issue (conceptualizing is easy, doing the math nearly impossible, as some things are extremely difficult even to quantify). There would be:
    1. the factors behind the GHG forcings, which would include the social (incl economic, political, etc), cultural (technology, beliefs, values, knowledge, religion, science), and psychological (motivations, personal cognitions, emotions) that are factors in people producing GHG emissions;
    2. then all the stuff that’s in the climate models (informed by paleoclimatology); and
    3. then all the effects and impacts of GW on humans and the natural world.

    Included would be some negative and positive feedback loops in nature (connecting 3 back to 2) and among people (connecting 3 back to 1). Since people are reflective beings, we’d expect mainly negative feedbacks, as in some people trying to mitigate once they understand the problem, tho some would be rushing out to buy ACs bec of the increasing heat (positive feedback).

    For humans, there would also be all sorts of blockages to mitigation — from lack of correct info, to all sorts of other motivations & cultural beliefs/values, and the impact of others (social). I remember reading an environmental sociology article about how knowledge of and concern about environmental problems has only a moderate correlation with environmental behavior to solve those problems, and that is only when all the problems are lumped together into an index, and all the solutions are lumped together into an index.

    We really do need government rigging it with laws and regulations and tax/price incentives so we are more likely to do the right thing. And we need solutions not being blocked from coming online or to the market (as what happened to electric cars in California, or great battery tech gathering dust on an oil company shelf).

    I would think that biology and public health would be needed in a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to climate change, especially when looking at GW effects and impacts. Our well-being depends on the health of the environment, including its biota, not on money.

    I would, however, caution about being too enthralled by mainstream, neoclassical economics. I’ve addressed this issue before ( http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=568#comment-89450 ).

    First off, “important impacts on agriculture and infrastructure needs,” are not so much economics matters, as they are subsistence (or cultural ecology) matters.

    Cultural Anthropology textbooks have chapters which analytically distinguish “Subsistence Patterns” (or Cultural Ecology) from “Economic Systems.” Cultural ecology is about the various ways humans eke a living out of the environment; it deals with adaptation.

    Economics is more about ownership/tenure, production (including division of labor), distribution, and exchange of goods and services — what happens once the resources are taken out of the environment, with the environment counting as a big fat zero (except re ownership considerations). Healthy air, water, soil, etc, don’t count in economics, unless these get degraded or limited, and people have to buy them (or pay to purify them). Nor do the trees and bees that do a lot of free & uncounted service for us.

    The “food-to-energy” biofuels fiasco, too, could be viewed within cultural ecology as a maladaptive strategy (re the food crisis around the world), or an economic matter in that it is a strategy of agri-biz to increase their profits, or a focus on the resulting price of food. Cultural ecologists might also have counted ALL the calories of energy going into production of “food-to-energy” biofuels and the greenhouse gases emitted in the agri-production process v. the useful work calories produced, and figured it wasn’t worth it, or that energy needed for getting oil from the ground and the burning of those fuels would produce less greenhouse gases.

    When including an economic dimension, it would be good (1) not to let it totally dominate and dictate policy, and (2) have it to go beyond neoclassical theory, which holds GDP and monetary value as the standard; for instance, other indexes of well-being could be used, such as considerations of human health and health of the environment, or “quality of life” indexes.

    Also we might not want everything reduced merely to monetary units. Since we supposedly value human life, perhaps “life-years” could also be used as a measure.

    There should be some way of accounting for externalities, such as harms from pollution — which actually might go in as “goods,” since they increase productivity in the medical field. Rebuilding after a hurricane, in conventional economics, might also be viewed as an increase in productivity. But these reflect “bads.”

    David Pearce, et. al, in BLUEPRINT FOR A GREEN ECONOMY, touch on many such issues. And I’m sure more has been done in this area since 1989. If I remember, the book mentions about how supply and demand don’t work re nature — that the price of trees won’t shoot up until there’s only a few left and the forest is in a irreversible state of collapse — way too late to halt the destructive use of those trees. Likewise, I would suggest that the price of oil and coal may not go up (even if the market were free, which it is not), until civilization and a large chunk of human and other life is in a irreversible state of collapse.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 3 Aug 2008 @ 10:44 AM

  31. This is not related to this post but as it is the most recent one I will put my message here. The ionizers in shopping malls remove a great deal of pollution why can’t a larger more sophisticated version of these ionizers carried by high altitude jumbo transport planes or by satellites be used to remove co2 and other pollutants from the Earth’s atmosphere?

    Comment by Gordon — 3 Aug 2008 @ 1:05 PM

  32. Gordon, look up “ionosphere” and, in the malls, ask where the pollution goes. Atmospheric chemistry is complicated; this happens now.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Aug 2008 @ 4:01 PM

  33. I think one of the things that gets economists pigeonholed is that many don’t seem to draw a distinction between economic efficiency and social goods– they seem to assume that one begets the other. Milton Friedman is the worst example, as he equates economic freedom with political freedom. But ask a Chilean: the two aren’t synonymous.

    Also, there are a lot of things that I could do that are economically efficient but absolutely disastrous. For example, if i have a country with a slave market you get really cheap labor and goods. You also get economic growth. But the slaves might have a different opinion of how good life is. THe American South was in just this situation: we were the Saudi Arabia of cotton for some sixty years (one reason the Brits were so interested in the Egyptian production as well as India). Economic growth looked positively stunning — look at the increase in the populations and output of ports such as New Orleans, or Mobile, or even Annapolis and Baltimore. But I hope that nobody would advocate a return to slavery, even though economically it makes a lot of sense (else so many civilizations wouldn’t have used it).

    Economists of the free-market variety also tend to rely on the assumption that transactions are entered into voluntarily. But if I need a job to eat there is nothing voluntary about it. I can’t shop my skills around because I might need a job. Labor is one of those things where the seller has little pricing power, unless there is a massive shortage. That doesn’t happen very often (the only widespread example I can think of is after the Black Death, or maybe after major wars that kill off lots of people).

    On the other hand, the buyer of labor can always find someone else. Since there’s an asymmetry of information between buyer and seller, favoring the buyer, (who knows what a lot of workers for a given job are asking for).

    Most free-market economists dismiss this kind of thing, and that’s why I have a tough time taking them seriously.

    Comment by Jess — 3 Aug 2008 @ 4:57 PM

  34. I love this blog. It is one of the few places where harmony exists among economists (especially the free market kind), climate scientists (who agree with the Goddard canon), and skeptics (of the Mensa variety). It is a place where screen writers can wax philosophically about consistency and believability while simultaneously believing in global warming doomsday scenarios and that we are past peak oil. Thanks Gavin for letting all the nuttiness survive.

    Comment by Neil Pelkey — 3 Aug 2008 @ 8:12 PM

  35. Jess (33), you make some good points but briefly jump too far in one instance. You can not have political freedom without economic freedom. Granted the economic freedom need not and should not be absolute (which I think is your real point??), but should be extraordinarily predominate.

    Your points on economic efficiency are well-taken, and economic efficiency per se is not (should not be) the end-all. Especially if the only metric is the economics of the total system, which, as you point out, can be very good while the economic status of the average (mean, mode, whatever) could be abysmal. It’s the latter that ought to be the measure of an economy (which in no way implies egalitarianism.)

    The social good as part of the economy is a responsibility of government. Gov’t can and should set the rules and guidelines (with a sprinkling of incentive thrown in, but not too much) of economic activity, as it does for other aspects of society. It can do this with minimal incursion into economic freedom, which by definition means free private enterprise, private ownership of assets, and freedom to invest — capitalism. This is one of the areas kicked around in the economics viz-a-viz AGW mitigation.

    Your point that some economists pooh-pooh the asymmetry of some negotiations is interesting. I agree with you. Lost in the trees for the forest are two fundemental aspects of Adam Smith’s capitalism that are missing in our (and everyone else’s) system. One is that the theory looks only at various steady states and makes no account of transient effects, which any EE can tell you can kill you (or your circuit). The theory also assumes complete and total availability and exchange of information. I have to know exactly what Joe is earning making widgets before I decide to jump in. This is an idealistic unrealizable condition, but none-the-less a theoretical requirement. We need to be cognizant, watchful, and leery of the actual conditions, not just discard them out of hand as your example economists did. You’re right: your economists are interested in GDP/GNP, not economic freedom.

    Just for fun, it’s also interesting to note another idealistic fallacy of Smith’s theory. That is his ultimate condition is just the right amount of all goods being produced and used by the public by a mass of enterprises, all of whom are making exactly 0.00% return.

    For the record I am a big fan of Smith’s capitalism. It’s just not perfect.

    Comment by Rod B — 3 Aug 2008 @ 10:05 PM

  36. Re #17, paper by Martin Weitzman.

    A good read with some very quotable sentences.

    If the math in the paper holds up, economists will have to re-write the expected utility part of their textbooks, or at least add a section on macro-scale analysis. — Besides, of course, rebuilding their GW impact assessment models.

    I’m starting to hope that we will actually see some reduction in CO2 emissions in a few years – Governmentia buys wholesale what Economistan sells.

    Comment by Greg — 3 Aug 2008 @ 11:03 PM

  37. Re: Edward Greisch #23

    Regarding the possible role hydrogen sulfide in the major extinctions you might want to check out another book, one which places it in the context of the methane clathrate gun, the destruction of the coccolithophores which help to maintain an oxygenated atmosphere by ocean acidification, the role of algae blooms, etc..

    It is online and open access:

    Killer in Our Midst
    Methane Catastrophes in Earth’s Past . . . and Near Future?
    Dan Dorritie
    http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/Go/dorritie/index.html#anchorContents

    … but for primates at least, you might not want to entirely discount carbon dioxide itself:

    D. S. Robertson, Health effects of increase in concentration of
    carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Current Science, Vol. 90, No. 12, 25 June 2006
    http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/jun252006/1607.pdf

    Captcha fortune cookie: offensive gold
    (A reference to iron sulfide — pyrite — that would have formed in large quantities alongside hydrogen sulfide perhaps?)

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 3 Aug 2008 @ 11:11 PM

  38. Re #26

    What makes someone right or left wing? It is not in there up bringing as there are plenty of examples of left wing famailies having right wing kids and vice versa.

    Do you have any evidence for that assertion? I have been led to believe that parental voting patterns are the most accurate predictor of any individual voter’s voting behaviour?! Have I been misled?

    In any case ‘upbringing’ happens not only by parents, but by schools, TV, internet chatrooms. So before we go positing some phrenological explanation of belief systems, we ought to remember that in a complex society the informational input to belief systems is complex. I am aware of some work which puported to show that students of conservative political inclination performed less well at tasks requiring rapid adaptation to changing conditions, but I’d like to see a larger body of work on this before giving it too much credence.

    Also the fact that some children exhibit different voting behaviour, or have different political outlooks, from their parents doesn’t in fact exclude a role for ‘upbringing.’ A case in point: my wife. She came from a conservative and Christian background. As political conservatism migrated away from stances reconcilable with Christian compassion, my wife turned left-wards and became a social-ist. Now her political views are antithetical to those of her upbringing, but they are highly determined by her upbringing.

    [Response: Please no more on partisan politics. There are plenty of other places on the web for that. - gavin]

    Comment by James Killen — 4 Aug 2008 @ 12:26 AM

  39. Reference “Personality Types” by Don Richard Riso, the 1996 edition. We scientists and engineers are enneagram Type 5s, or we are out of place. I don’t know what type economists are. Capitalists are Type 8 and have nothing in common with us. Gavin, you are thinking that rationality is normal. The psychologists say that Type 5 personalities are fear based. We actually care about whether or not Homo Sap thrives or goes extinct. The belief that anybody else cares is a bad assumption on our part. Rather that this inter-disciplinary stuff, it might be more productive to establish a self-sustaining colony of scientists on Mars in the expectation that earth will become uninhabitable. Unless scientists can actually sieze power, which is very unlikely, chances are the earth will become uninhabitable and Homo Sap will go extinct on earth. You could hope that the collapse of civilization will wake people up in time, but don’t count on most people to be wakeable, even the ones who survive. Our CORRECT species name is Pan Troglodites, the upright walking ape.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 4 Aug 2008 @ 12:52 AM

  40. I can’t tell you how disappointed that NONE of the 34 preceding comments discuss a different discipline which is critical to solving climate change – resource experts. I’m going to set out the radical idea that energy efficiency is the only response which is pertinent on a scale which matters, and make a couple of observations about it which should reflect on the problems we as a society are having in developing a consensus.

    I first learned the term “economic dispatch model” from the DOE’s Clean Energy Future http://www.ornl.gov/sci/eere/cef/ Report. The concept is quite simple, and without desiring to disparage economists, I have to ask why the profession as a whole does not have a greater interest in this. (Take the chart on page 5 of the Executive Summary of the CEF report, update in your head for the report’s use of $1.50 for gasoline and $2 for natural gas, and see if you don’t agree with me that this report contains at least the foundation of the first half of the Climate Response we need).

    We know what utility efficiency programs can accomplish, and we can eliminate all new growth in the electric and natural gas sectors for about a third of the cost of continuing to do what we do, or about a fifth of the cost of new coal plants and new natural gas development. We can reduce electric consumption by about 2% per year in addition, if we optimize combined heat and power.

    CAFE standards are being raised, but nowhere near the economically justified point. (UCS did a report which said that 45 mpg was justified by $1.50 gas, but that by the time we achieve 45 mpg the technology would permit upwards of 50 mpg. But someone on Barbara Boxer’s staff felt that 45 mpg was economically justified in 1989, by gasoline which was under a dollar per gallon at the time.

    There are some nifty charts of carbon reduction resources, which show long bars below the line for technologies which save a lot of money, and bars rising above the line for technologies which cost money. But no one ever discusses these charts in the context of what happens if we as a society invest to the extent justified, in the technologies which save the most money. They get cheaper, and better, and the bars get bigger (further below the line, which is zero cost).

    Now, as a matter of immediate public policy, we must be scaling up all state utility efficiency programs to the level of the best states. This is not because I like these programs. It is because this is the only thing we know how to do which can be scaled up this decade and also saves more money than it costs. Once we’ve done this, for electricity and natural gas, and done the deed for combined heat and power, and moved last year’s CAFE standard increase to a faster rate and a higher level, we can start working on Zero Energy Buildings. All of these things save money, are immediately available (at least compared to renewables) and provide serious reductions for natural gas and petroleum where no serious renewables are available (except the electric car, which makes this even more sensible).

    Any carbon tax or cap and trade program is going to have to do this anyway. Why not cut out the bells and whistles and get to the structural changes we need?

    The most important part of an economic dispatch strategy is that we MUST get started NOW. In ten years it is quite likely that wind, solar PV and solar thermal will all be cheaper than new coal. That still doesn’t tell us how we will manage to shut down old coal plants. But the time to worry about that is when we’re already doing all the efficiency we can, and we’re nowhere near that point yet.

    Climate Scientists, Economists and Sociologists need to figure out how to cross disciplinary lines. But those three groups are not the only people needed. Figure out who is already doing the best, and then see if we can’t replicate their success. Five U.S. states have nearly eliminated electric sector growth of greenhouse gases. Three of them have done so deliberately – two have apparently done so by running their economies into the ground. The three states with smiles on their faces are saving a lot of money. Other states with smaller proportional programs, but larger dollar investments are saving billions of dollars every year.

    There’s a lot more to be said, but we need to get started. We need to concentrate on the successes, and the dialogue needs to incorporate the notion that we can build on success systematically, effectively and fast.

    Comment by Ned Ford — 4 Aug 2008 @ 1:03 AM

  41. #40 – “There are some nifty charts of carbon reduction resources, which show long bars below the line for technologies which save a lot of money, and bars rising above the line for technologies which cost money. But no one ever discusses these charts in the context of what happens if we as a society invest to the extent justified, in the technologies which save the most money. They get cheaper, and better, and the bars get bigger (further below the line, which is zero cost).”

    Sounds VERY interesting. But I had trouble locating a webpage. What words do I have to google for this info to pop to the top?

    [Response: Try this figure from the Economist (sub. reqd.) - gavin]

    Comment by a.c. — 4 Aug 2008 @ 8:17 AM

  42. Re: 22
    “It seems that the African continent is showing the way ahead. We would like to invite you to a Public Panel Discussion.”

    Thank you for the invitation. It’s good to get away from the computer screen and out of the house now and then and attend a live discussion. My wife doesn’t care where I go as long as I don’t enjoy myself too much. Unfortunately, Cape Town is kind of far from New York so I’ll have to read about it instead.

    I have one of George Philander’s books,published in 1998 titled “Is The Temperature Rising?”, which is an interesting read on atmospheric physics. The text is non-technical with appendices that go into some derivations but nothing beyond algebra. I found it a good introduction to climate fundamentals.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 4 Aug 2008 @ 9:17 AM

  43. RE #40, I meant to include energy efficient experts in my post, but I think your term, resources experts is even better, since that covers it all (we reduce our resource use, we reduce our GHG emissions).

    So the most important things are what people tell us on Earth Day — reduce, reuse, recycle…with “reduce” being the best solution.

    Actually economics does deal with efficiencies, but people tend to assume if there are cost-effective solutions that save money without lowering productivity, people and esp businesses would already be implementing these. But they are not.

    And I don’t think it is only bec of a lack of knowledge or other resources to implement them.

    What I think is that humans are not nearly as rational (maximizing gain, minimizing loss) as economists make them out to be, which is why we need the field of psychology (and other fields) in this project.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 4 Aug 2008 @ 9:27 AM

  44. This is going well. We are starting to discuss the realm of the holistic.

    A multi-interdisciplinary approach is required

    multi – meaning multiple disciplines

    inter – meaning everything need to be tied between systems.

    All systems have dynamics and components (centripetal, centrifugal, dynamic equilibrium).

    All systems have parent-systems, co-lateral systems, sub-systems.

    Back in the day, when i was working with Dr. Jonas Salk (polio), Dr. James Grier Miller (Living Systems Theory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_systems_theory ), and Dr. Martin Chamberlain (Chancellor, UCSD) I developed a definition of health for system interactions, which I have refined over the years.

    The paper Jonas helped we with (Miller and Chaimberlain also helped by providing some criticisms) was presented at EDUCOM in 1992 in a University of the World meeting

    http://avtimer.com/k62/TLC_PATH/index.htm

    The systems section:

    http://avtimer.com/k62/TLC_PATH/uw_part_ii.htm

    included ideas from Jonas and his son Jonathan’s book “World Population & Human Values”

    The Health definition can now be found at:

    http://www.uscentrist.org/platform/docs/defining-health

    I wrote the health definition in order to give an ideological means to evaluate system interactions. This, from a human perspective was to give us some form of objectivity by providing an exoskeleton view where systems (parent, co and sub) touch each other.

    Add to that LST and the 20 Critical sub-systems

    http://www.uscentrist.org/platform/docs/living-systems-theory/

    including Millers last paper with the Timer (short, medium, long term) and you can get a better picture.

    It is in my opinion critical to be cognizant of the facts that ‘economy’ is not just monetary. Natural systems have their own economies.

    Any economic analysis must consider all economies, system interaction, supply and depletion, short and long term.

    Example: we get around 1366.5 W/m2 from the sun that is our supply. We don’t give much effect back to the sun

    “What happens at the macro-level effects the micro-level and vice versa, with resonance’s equivalent to the relevance of the individual event.”

    it interacts with earth systems and those systems interact with each other. That is the economy of our biosphere.

    Genealogy of Systems:

    For example, our galaxy is a system of stars and solar systems. Of the multitude of solar systems that exist within the galaxy lies our own solar system which in turn can be considered a system with subsystems. The gravitational pull caused by the mass of the sun (centripetal force) and the mass and speed of the planets (centrifugal force) keeps our solar system in dynamic equilibrium.

    The Earth can be viewed as a system with subsystems as well. Its’ major functional systems can be seen as mass, liquid and gas breaking down into meteorological, tectonic mass and biochemical. Earth is not a closed system since it relies on the energy from the sun (parent system) to fuel its many processes in order for its biological subsystems to survive.

    Within the ecosystem of Earth’s many biological subsystems is humankind. Humankind is unique in the sense that it has the ability to create new systems–whereas most systems simply react and evolve in accordance with the external influences of their environment. The human system reacts and creates external systems to accommodate its evolution. If we view the planet Earth as one living system then all of the processes that operate within that system can be considered subsystems. As we further define and understand the subsystems of our biosphere we have learned that in some way they are all inter­connected and/or influence …

    Human societal systems currently include, but are not limited to systems of education, government, media, industry, medical, (bio-chemical, technological, manufacturing, agricultural). Other human societal systems could be considered; poverty and crime, wealth and giving, spiritual beliefs and social mores, nationalism, sub-culturalism (regionality and peer groups), et cetera.

    We are depleting resources and not returning in kind to the source; our energy, ocean, agricultural, land use, and climate systems especially as those relate to human capacity of existence & survivability. This will reach its own tipping point (tragedy of the commons).

    We have large scale economic issues between our systems.

    Example continued: We are retaining more energy from the sun that the natural equilibrium would normally allow due to industrial greenhouse gases; we are depleting resources assuming technology will solve everything regarding resource usage for the human race.

    Primarily, we need to realize that pertaining to human habitation, we live in a closed living system for the most part (other than TSI, gravitational influences, misc. cosmic stuff and of course the occasional comet and meteor impact).

    A balanced healthy economy between natural and human systems is required for healthy survivability and sustainability. The keys here are (imo) conservation first, energy system transition, alternative energy, resource usage considerations, population issues, government and societal awareness of the issues, etc..

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 4 Aug 2008 @ 10:52 AM

  45. RE: 39
    One thing we probably need to be careful of when venturing into Interdisciplinaria: careful with the generalizations. (I guess that’s good advice in many endeavors, not just interdisciplinary ones.) The poster’s point about not assuming rationality on the part of others may be a good one, but it’s kinda hard for me to read his post through the red haze that descended over my eyes upon seeing the words “The psychologists say that…”

    I’m a psychologist. I work with psychologists. Most of the psychologists I know probably have a general idea of what the enneagram is, but it certainly wasn’t covered in my graduate studies. “The psychologists,” as a group, don’t tell us that type 5′s are fear based or whatever–in my experience “the psychologists” don’t talk about this model of personality much if at all. Some psychologists might, but don’t use such a broad brush.

    Comment by kevin — 4 Aug 2008 @ 11:16 AM

  46. #40 Ned Ford

    Thank you for that post. I agree. Now if we can get the awareness level high enough for critical understanding to sink in in our public and political realms in order to divert departmental policy, energy and resources to the solutions.

    My opinion remains, we need to illustrate the arguments clearly and effectively. We are still playing whack-a-mole with the denialist crowd, but there arguments have no relevant substance.

    Faster is certainly better, so let’s keep at it!

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 4 Aug 2008 @ 11:24 AM

  47. All this talk of increasing efficiencies tend to forget about the Jevons Paradox – the Jevons Paradox is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used, tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.

    Comment by Chris M — 4 Aug 2008 @ 11:27 AM

  48. #44 John P. Reisman

    en addendum

    The health definition is not merely to be used as an exoskeleton view, it is also a means to evaluate individual system health and combined system health.

    http://www.uscentrist.org/platform/docs/defining-health

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 4 Aug 2008 @ 11:28 AM

  49. RE #40, to add to your suggestions, NATURAL CAPITALISM (see http://www.natcap.org & also see http://www.rmi.org ) has even more exciting ways to drastically cut energy cost-effectively. One of their methods is “tunneling through” in which you get the energy req down low enough, you can dispense with the AC or motor or fan altogether and get even more dramatic cuts. This is all avaliable, off-the-shelf tech. they figure we could reduce our energy req in some cases by 90%, and overall for the whole nation, 75%.

    What’s blocking us is many things in the cultural (beliefs, values, knowledge, info, misguided ideology-based fears), social (impact of other people; economics, political, familial, etc), & psychological dimensions of human behavior.

    And from a religious perspective, downright sin — sloth, greed, pride, wrath, etc.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 4 Aug 2008 @ 12:35 PM

  50. Re #41: Or try this one (for Australia, 2008):
    http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/ccsi/pdf/Australian_Cost_Curve_for_GHG_Reduction.pdf
    “emission reduction cost curve” is a good start for Googling.

    Comment by Ark — 4 Aug 2008 @ 12:52 PM

  51. Lynn (43) said, “…humans are not nearly as rational (maximizing gain, minimizing loss) as economists make them out to be…”

    A recent article said this is exactly why the high-powered market/trading economic computer models usually/always miss the occasional big quick swings in the market. I think the “rational people” assumption works pretty well most of the time, when all is relatively smooth. When something like the herd mentality sets in with rumors or even accurate information spreads to fast through the landscape, people start looking more at what other people are doing and less at what price, earnings, development, etc. are doing. The models can’t handle it.

    btw, if I recall, the author was in the financial industry but was trained as a physicist and in computer science — scientific modeling.

    Comment by Rod B — 4 Aug 2008 @ 2:35 PM

  52. John Reisman, re your systems schema, am I correct in thinking that the totality of the global system achieved the relative stability and equilibrium of the Holocene as a product of all the sub-systems, and their sub-systems, presumably right down to the small scale of local microclimates ?

    Ecology doesn’t seem to get mentioned very often. But, as I understand it, highly complex ecosystems with maximum species diversity, have been demonstrated to have greater resilience to environmental perturbations. The maximum diversity includes all those organisms which humans generally regard as ‘bad’, pests, diseases, fungi, viruses, and so forth.

    Almost all agriculture and artificial plantation forestry replaces complex natural systems with monoculture (not to mention tarmac and concrete). I’m curious to know whether this change to the surface of the planet is significant re climate change ?

    Does it follow, (purely theoretically, disregarding the contemporary reality), that if we wished to design a planet which maintained a stable climate, we’d want to keep all natural ecosystems intact and in their natural condition ? Or, could we replace, say, 50%, without any noticeable effect upon albedo, the passage of sun’s energy through the systems, balance of atmospheric gases, etc ?

    Comment by CL — 4 Aug 2008 @ 2:41 PM

  53. The good news: you only need to convince one percent of the people to change what they’re doing to greatly change how the economy behaves:
    http://www.cbpp.org/7-31-08inc-testimony.pdf

    The bad news is the same:
    [I]n 2006, the shares of the nation’s income flowing to the top 1 percent and top 0.1 percent of households were higher than in any year since 1928…”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Aug 2008 @ 3:04 PM

  54. > Jevons Paradox

    The current whaling ships are 1000 percent more efficient than Captain Ahab’s sailing ship, but they’re sure not taking 1000 percent as many whales these days.

    And the current logging operations are easily a thousand percent more efficient than Paul Bunyan and ox Babe, but the trees coming out of the forest are puny little toothpicks, nowhere near the quality of wood as before, and you hardly ever see nice big cherry, or chestnut, or elm logs come to the sawmills.

    Is there something else going on?

    reCaptcha: “bounded stand”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Aug 2008 @ 3:37 PM

  55. #52 CL

    Re. equilibrium of the holocene I would add supra (parent) influences as well to avoid gross oversimplification. We mustn’t neglect the Milankovitch cycles.

    As I had written in the original paper “What happens at the macro-level effects the micro-level and vice versa, with resonance’s equivalent to the relevance of the individual event.”

    It also depends on which equilibrium one is speaking of? The bio systems? Or the climate systems? Or the combined economy of the systems in relation to the influences (parent, sub).

    So the general premise is that all sub-systems contribute to the dynamic equilibrium (i.e. relative stability) along with co and parent influences.

    As to our having played with the natural systems and their inherent relative stability, we really have no idea how good or bad the effects will be; but I think it is generally well understood that the impacts seem to be weighted to the negative in their impact on biological subsystems and the parents climate system. As is well known now, the genesis system (modern humankind) has turned out to be the origins of the major perturbation(s) of this and coming centuries.

    This is not indifferent to what occurs after a psycho genesis event pertaining to an individual human. Ramifications are attached to the complexities of multiple system influences such as perspective, bias, in (parent, co, sub) and relative health. I use the Bowen scale of differentiation to parse the basic and functional coping mechanisms to determine the relative health of the individual in relation to the immediate societal system. In the aggregate human system, you would then weigh the close society to co-societal systems to then weigh relative health on a larger scale.

    Example: It may be acceptable to murder or rape in certain cultural perspectives but the degree of un-health imposed on the sub system (victim) is obvious. So health in a system needs to examine resonance in parent, co and sub systems and match the anxiety stress reduction rules in relation to parent, co. sub.

    So, same rules apply in ecology. The ramifications resonate upward and downward from the genesis point. This is why the answers we seek are difficult to achieve unless we consider the entire economy of inter-dynamic system interactions.

    It may not follow that we need to keep all existing systems intact to maintain survivability, but interference certainly is playing with fire because we know not what evil this way comes. The overall system seems to be very resilient and capable of recovery as is evidenced in the paleo record of mass extinctions and recovery. Each iteration of course producing new species manifestations, though all fall into general categories of type.

    We just don’t know how many systems we can mess with before the human system begins to be severely affected. We also don’t know if we have already gone too far. It’s a matter of perspective. The system did well without humans. The system will do well in the future again if we manage to wipe ourselves out. That stands to reason based on what we know from observations.

    If we want to weigh that with albedo or similar system dynamic perturbations, one of the best examples of poor land use management was the dust bowl days. So if we desire to continue living here with fewer dangerous perturbations, it stands to reason that we should not push the system to far.

    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/cook_01/

    Also remember that the holocene is merely the result of a standard interglacial period. It will likely become known as one of the two shortest periods of history, The anthropocene will hopefully be much shorter. The question remains as to whether we will be here after it is over.

    If we don’t make it, it remains to be seen (or even known by other sentient beings) whether or not there will be another humankind (type) to try to figure out what happened 65 million years in the past, in ‘our current’ time period? I remain hopeful that the human race will survive the anthropocene and return to a healthier equilibrium with humans as one of the subsystems, but that is also just guessing. We are far from batting a 1000 on getting a handle on this one.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 4 Aug 2008 @ 3:51 PM

  56. Re #38. Well I am not sure exactly but there was a few articles about it on the New Scientist website recently, about how politics are born and not made so much.

    Last post about it anyway.

    Comment by pete best — 4 Aug 2008 @ 4:12 PM

  57. There is something similar between your drawing and the Dardanelles. I am glad to see the economist at work, precisely the sort of person to whom practical politicians listen. For less abstruse cartoons with similar intent, see the current unionOfConcernedScientists finalists at http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/science_idol/science-idol-finalist-bios.html

    Comment by JohnLopresti — 4 Aug 2008 @ 6:06 PM

  58. Thank you for the stimulating reply, John Reisman. I will have to read more on your site again to try and grasp what you are saying.

    I have an image in my mind, of a vast forest, as an example of a system. A small population of slash and burn farmers can easily be accommodated without noticeable impact, but as numbers increase, the tipping point is reached where there is no more forest, just a few scattered trees, and burned land which doesn’t regain fertility. In effect, the system collapses because carrying capacity is exceeded.
    That’s easy enough to understand (Tragedy of the commons, etc.)

    There’s also the rivet popping theory, that we can lose species, like rivets on a plane, until suddenly the tipping point is reached and the plane falls apart. That’s also easy enough to understand.

    These are rather mechanistic metaphors applied to something loosely called nature, perhaps what you would call bio-systems and climate-systems and geo-logical systems all combined. There are so many different ways of conceiving of our planet and life. Like Aldo Leopold said ‘First rule of tinkering, don’t throw anything away’. We’re throwing away what we had, before we have time to understand what we had.

    When you talk about the dust bowl, and recovery, I believe that one of the curious aspects of ecological regeneration (colonisation) is that it is impossible to predict what the succession will be and how it will turn out. You could colonise a barren rocky island, wipe it clean, repeat, and every time get a different outcome. If that’s correct, two thoughts come to my mind. Firstly, it makes a nonsense of ‘stewardship’, and secondly, if the total system has, as it were, homeostatic feedback systems which strive toward equilibrium of the whole, then, the natural reconstitution of, say, a dust bowl, might have it’s own wisdom, so to speak, and human intervention by conservationists, such as tree planting, might actually make matters worse ? Just speculation, of course..but thanks again for post. I find it most interesting.

    Comment by CL — 4 Aug 2008 @ 6:06 PM

  59. PS, invited 2 months ago in the IPCC thread, never answered except by someone who claimed to know of many examples but they were all too horrible to describe:

    Name me one* instance where society, forewarned of a developing problem, made an effort that was premature, let alone “ruinous” to the generation that spent the money and time protecting subsequent generations.

    How do you feel about chlorofluorocarbons?
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v427/n6972/box/427289a_bx1.html
    __________________
    *Besides the steam-powered horse-poop street-cleaner, which was hypothetical at best.)

    ========
    reCaptcha: “at Lafontaine”

    (Aesop’s Fables – Fables of Jean De La Fontaine?!)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Aug 2008 @ 8:49 PM

  60. @Rod B: I am not so sure that you can’t have political freedom without economic freedom — I could almost draw an inverse relation between the two, as I could name a bunch of societies in Europe, perhaps, that are far less economically “free” than the US but that are by most measures more democratic, certainly. Obviously that would be sort of silly, given the exigencies of different countries’ histories.

    Also, I am thinking of a couple of things. Demand is created — there’s no “natural” desire to drive an SUV. If demand wasn’t ever created than there would be no advertising.

    That says to me that the whole trap we fall into is thinking that capitalism is anything but a cultural construct. That is, there really isn’t any reason for me to want to buy SUVs, or to value money as a medium of exchange. There are lots of societies that existed which were “gift economies” so that shows there are other ways to value things. And there probably isn’t any intrinsic reason you couldn’t set up a modern society that way– it would just require major rethinking of the way we look at things. Not in the cards in the near future, I know.

    This relates to climate science because economists too often seem to discount externalized costs. Like, if I live on an island with a limited number of trees, it actually makes perfect economic sense for me to cut them all down. It destroys the local ecology, however, and with it the local civilization. Economists seem to have a touching faith that technology will save you. It won’t, not always. Usually the cases of technology seeming to save us are just cases where we’ve managed to externalize the costs further.

    Let me give an example: when metal tools were invented it seems like that’s a huge advantage, and it is. But the inputs required to make them are far greater than for stone tools — you have to mine the metal and smelt it, and the number of steps to make them increases by a factor of two at least. The metal tools allowed for more efficient cultivation, but then you ended up having a bigger population that needed more land and the feedback loop goes on, until you run out of arable land. One reason Iraq is a desert is because the place was farmed intensively for 10,000 years. The capacity of the soil isn’t infinite.

    Or take oil. That allowed for cheap transportation and when we ran out of oil in the US we were able to find it further afield, but all you did was put off the problem of supply until later.

    Market systems are self-reinforcing in this respect. In market systems there just isn’t any incentive, and in fact a strong disincentive, to think ahead very far.

    Also, economists tend not to realize that the “market” a lot of the time is operating in a whole framework that can reinforce patterns of behavior even if it might be irrational. That’s why discriminating against a certain class of people is actually a fantastic idea if I want to cut labor costs — if I can pay women less, then I can keep my costs down across the board by threatening anyone else with the prospect I will hire a woman (and the great thing is that it further depresses wages for women). That’s why employers have fought anti-discrimination laws tooth and nail.

    The same applies to the environment and global warming. We have a whole edifice built on cheap fuel and we will have to rethink it some. This doesn’t mean living in a cave but it might mean giving up the SUV.

    We’ve radically rethought things before. We don’t have slaves in the US anymore, and we are able to recognize that poisoning the whole water and air supply is probably not the best idea.

    It will require, however, a huge cultural shift. Those can happen quickly if we all sort of decide we want it.

    I mean, after all, would it really kill anyone to pay $0.75 for an apple grown in New York state as opposed to the same one shipped from Chile or New Zealand for almost the same price? That’s what I am talking about.

    Comment by Jess — 4 Aug 2008 @ 9:18 PM

  61. A recent editorial in the NYT referenced the work of an economist called Weitzman who apparently believes that there is 5% chance that CO2 will cause a rise of 10degC or more. His paper goes on to suggest that there is 1% chance of a 20 degC rise.

    Well, I took a quick look at the paleo-history of the earth and it seems to show that even when CO2 concentrations of 10-20 times what we have today the temperature was no more than 10 degC higher than it is today.

    The paleo-record makes it pretty obvious to me that assigning a 1% chance to a 20 degC rise is a scientific absurdity yet this guy is quoted as an authority by the NYT.

    So my question is: why don’t reasonable people who believe that CO2 requires agressive action speak out against such absurd alarmism? I can’t believe it actually helps your case. If anything it probably hurts it.

    Comment by Raven — 5 Aug 2008 @ 3:37 AM

  62. Edward Greisch writes:

    Our CORRECT species name is Pan Troglodites, the upright walking ape.

    Pan troglodytes is the greater chimpanzee of central and west Africa. The genus name comes from the Greek God of nature and the species name from the mistaken 18th-century assumption that chimpanzees lived in caves.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 5 Aug 2008 @ 5:56 AM

  63. Raven, Raven, Raven, there you go again oversimplifying a complex system. The paleoclimatic record is a guide, but only a rough one. In the times when CO2 was higher, the Sun was much dimmer. Science means going with what the data allow you to say. It also means looking at the entire picture.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 Aug 2008 @ 7:11 AM

  64. Jess, I appreciate your post (60), agree with some and tangentially disagree with some.

    What is the political freedom of people who have no economic freedom? What specific freedoms can they exercise and what is their practical effect and influence? Vote, e.g? Vote for whom? The gov’t leaders who control the economy, or the guy who has nothing? Who gives the outsider guy the financing to even campaign? My contention remains the same: no political freedom without economic freedom. But if you really mean that gov’t needs to put rules, guidelines and some restrictions on private economic activity, which I contend is easy to do without undue restriction of economic freedom, I agree. (And gov’t can due a lot before getting to “undue”.) There can even be critical situations where heavy restrictions and control is necessary, similar to declaring martial law or suspending habeas corpus. I have no problem with that as long as it is Constitutional and temporary.

    It’s hard to wave away demand just because it’s “unnatural.” The only natural demand is eating, breathing, excreting, and procreating. People develop other demands because there is some inherent desire, and someone else just reminds them of it or brings it into the conscious. If you believe Madison Avenue’s own hubris, go into business producing something nobody wants, and spend a jillion dollars creating the demand. The call your bankruptcy lawyer. Then go to a “gift economy” and show them, with no fancy ads, a very cheap wagon/cart/tractor and what it can do. Then get out of the way or get trampled. (Caveat: I’m not sure I know exactly what “gift economies” are.)

    I agree capitalism is a cultural construct, as is most everything else. Am I missing a point?

    “…metal tools allowed for more efficient cultivation, but then you ended up having a bigger population that needed more land and the feedback loop goes on, until you run out of arable land…”

    Are you saying humans should have stayed with stone?

    Your comments on externalization of economic costs is the gist of concern, and where a lot of the climate-economic discourse congregates. I agree that accounting for the external cultural costs of production is appropriate and would go a long way to accomplishing long-term cultural ends. But this should be (has to be IMO) effected through gov’t regulation and rules described above. In practice, private enterprise and capitalists do, as you say, mostly focus on the short-term. (There are exceptions — enterprises that invest looking for 50-year returns, e.g. — but we can’t rely on that exception for a general process. And recently short-term has been defined as three months, long-term as six months!) They also will not — ever — account for externalized costs until the legal accounting practices and rules, overseen by gov’t, requires them to do that. That’s how it would get done (this applies equally to the also short-sighted economists.) Not by changing the economic framework (which by itself would not change the inclinations of capitalists anyway) or by throwing mud pies at the tycoons and calling them bad names.

    The above is also how society fixes all of the other economic inadequacies you mention.

    As an orthogonal aside you can’t put the cause of historical discriminating against women (and blacks for that matter) solely on cheap costs and economic control. A major portion is bare bones personal prejudice and bias.

    Comment by Rod B — 5 Aug 2008 @ 9:17 AM

  65. @ Raven:
    Where did you get that paleo-history graph?

    Comment by kevin — 5 Aug 2008 @ 9:33 AM

  66. @ Raven
    I just took a look through that Martin Weitzman paper, and a quick browse back through the paleoclimate chapter of AR4, and fwiw here’s what I think: Weitzman makes some simplifying assumptions and ballpark estimates that seem suspect to me. Now, he is talking about the impact on temperature of 200 more years of emissions, so it’s not like he’s claiming a 1% chance of 20 degree change for, say, a doubling of CO2 over present levels–it looks more like he’s talking about a quadrupling at minimum. But, my impression is that his 1% number is not mathematically rigorous. That would be, what, less than three standard deviations out if the probability distribution was normal (which it’s not, but just as a point of reference)? Yeah, that seems exaggerated to me.

    As for your argument that what he’s talking about is “a scientific absurdity” from a quick glance at a paleoclimate graph–I don’t trust your graph. In fact I think it is misleading. It has no error bars or other indication of uncertainty. Looking at AR4, there seems to be substantial uncertainty about both temperature and CO2 levels millions of years ago. Also, on your graph there is an apparent ceiling on temperature–I don’t know enough to say that this is wrong, but it doesn’t look right, either. Are there any paleo folks who can comment, or maybe some of our knowledgeable amateurs?

    So, in short, Weitzman’s estimate of doesn’t look great to me, but at least he shows his work. Can you tell us where you get that graph?

    Comment by kevin — 5 Aug 2008 @ 10:30 AM

  67. Raven, you’re just attacking what you don’t understand by pointing to a picture. One you don’t understand.

    Try analogy. What’s worrisome is rate of change.
    Take the curve at 20 mph, you stay in your lane.
    Take the curve at 40 mph, you’re crossing the paint strip.
    Take the curve at 60 mph, you’re in the weeds.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Aug 2008 @ 10:57 AM

  68. Neil Pelkey doesn’t say why the belief that we’re past the “peak” of oil production is part of a larger nuttiness. I know that he doesn’t know how much oil the large producers have, so I’d like to hear why exactly he thinks it nutty, and not simply wrong, that we may have passed the peak. It certainly looks like a wall around 27.5 mbpd. The Saudi promised increase isn’t in high quality stuff. And nobody else is stepping up to the plate.

    Pelkey’s (and our) ignorance of oil inventories is part of a larger issue here. We don’t know what the Saudi’s know about their inventories. As a result, we’re in the midst of a terrible run-up in oil prices that may simply be a speculative bubble or it may be a reasonable effort to lock in a continuous supply of oil. We don’t know. And because of that ignorance the belief in “rational” decisions that are the core of free-market economics is a fairy tale. At the current price, energy consumes over 5% of the world’s economy. Conceivably it could (and recently has) gone higher. When things were flush, energy costs were less than 1% of the world’s economy. How does anyone construct a rational energy plan in the face of a spread in costs like that?

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 5 Aug 2008 @ 12:14 PM

  69. re: #41, #50, etc.

    Thx for the help. It’s amazing how much truly useful information is available on this “Internet” thing.

    Comment by a.c. — 5 Aug 2008 @ 12:18 PM

  70. Xrefs

    Full text of Weitzman’s paper, and references, available (free membership required in Social Science Research Network):

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=992873

    Krugman on Weitzman:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/01/opinion/01krugman.html?ex=1375329600

    “… Martin Weitzman, a Harvard economist who has been driving much of the recent high-level debate, offers some sobering numbers. Surveying a wide range of climate models, he argues that, over all, they suggest about a 5 percent chance that world temperatures will eventually rise by more than 10 degrees Celsius (that is, world temperatures will rise by 18 degrees Fahrenheit). … Now for the bad news: sheer irresponsibility may be a winning political strategy.”

    Annan, on his conversations with Weitzman over a draft Weitzman circulated earlier:
    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2007/10/weitzmans-dismal-theorem.html
    more recently:
    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2008/04/weitzmans-dismal-theorem-again.html

    Fleck:
    http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/?p=2482

    Stoat:
    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2007/10/weitzmans_dismal_theorem.php

    Eli, on Weitzman’s earlier review of Stern:
    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2007/12/uncertainty-principle-over-thanksgiving.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Aug 2008 @ 12:49 PM

  71. According to Jim Hansen:
    “The source of nuclear energy at the sun’s core is essentially continuous, in fact increasing at a rate of about 1% in 100 million years” (source)

    That puts the sun at no more than 6% weaker than today which cannot explain why a 20 degC rise would be possible to today if it has never happened in the past.

    The source of the temperature series is here. The AR4 does not seem to provide any estimates of past surface temperature over the 600 my time scale. Even if you put wide error bars on the temperature estimate you cannot reasonably claim that a 20 degC rise is a plausible outcome given the past data.

    Comment by Raven — 5 Aug 2008 @ 1:12 PM

  72. Rave, try this again.

    Quoting from above:

    “they suggest about a 5 percent chance that world temperatures will eventually rise by more than 10 degrees Celsius (that is, world temperatures will rise by 18 degrees Fahrenheit) …”

    PETM.

    You cannot reasonably claim that anyone suggested a 20degC rise, except you, because you misread the paper.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Aug 2008 @ 3:00 PM

  73. Raven, the point is that paleoclimate is only a guide. CO2 levels have not been this high in probably at least a million years. We simply don’t have enough data to absolutely preclude a sensitivity that high–it’s unlikely, but the tail is a lot thicker on the positive side than the negative.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 Aug 2008 @ 3:04 PM

  74. Raven, did you read the links Hank provided? (Or my comment, for that matter?)The answer to “why don’t reasonable people…speak out…” is: they do. Your premise is flawed. They do so in a reasonable way, so maybe that’s why you’re not detecting it. What do you want?

    “Fine, then I denounce *and* reject [Weitzman]“

    Comment by kevin — 5 Aug 2008 @ 3:08 PM

  75. #73 Ray Ladbury Says:
    “We simply don’t have enough data to absolutely preclude a sensitivity that high–it’s unlikely, but the tail is a lot thicker on the positive side than the negative.”

    The issue is the 1% probability assigned to the outcome. A probability which Weitzman claims is “roughly ten thousand times larger than the probability of a large asteroid impact”.

    My argument is the true probability of that kind of outcome is vanishingly small when one looks at the temperature/CO2 history of the planet and that there is something obviously wrong with Weitzman methods.

    That said, it appears that at least James Annan has critiqued Weitzman’s probability estimates which is what I was looking for.

    Hank – read Weitzman’s paper – I have not misquoted anything. I also think the 5% probability for 10 degC rise is also a scientific absurdity but that is harder to demonstrate by simply looking a record of historical temps and CO2.

    Comment by Raven — 5 Aug 2008 @ 4:42 PM

  76. Ray Ladbury (73) — In one sense modern climate began about 5.3 million years ago, at the beginning of the Pliocene:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Five_Myr_Climate_Change.png

    I pick this date because this was the end of the

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

    which removed a substantial portion of the ocean’s salts. (This changed the chemistry, but I don’t know enough to further comment on that aspect.) Many suspect it was not fully modern until the closure of the Isthmus of Panama about 3.5 million years ago:

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

    which might possibly be taken as the beginning of the ‘ice ages’, although the regular 41,000 year rhythm did not begin until about 2.7 million years ago.

    While I didn’t find a reference, I doubt that at any time since the Miocene/Pliocene transition has CO2 been so high as now.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Aug 2008 @ 5:01 PM

  77. See here (Bryan Lawrence’s recommendation)
    _____excerpt_____
    I know that some of my readers fall into the camp of “can’t quite believe this climate stuff” but “don’t believe the nutters either”.

    So for you: two videos and something to provoke some thinking, most of which agrees with my thinking too, but I haven’t the eloquence or the strength to follow through to write things like that myself …

    http://home.badc.rl.ac.uk/lawrence/blog/2008/07/18/the_rising_storm

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Aug 2008 @ 5:10 PM

  78. Re my previous: It seems nobody is very certain about CO2 in the distant past

    http://earthguide.ucsd.edu/virtualmuseum/climatechange2/07_1.shtml

    but this paper

    http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2451.2005.00509.x

    suggests that CO2 concentrations were about 360–400 ppm during the mid-Pliocene while this paper

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/312/5779/1485

    states that concentrations are similar to those of the early Pliocene.

    So not this high for ver 3 million years is a more accurate statement.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Aug 2008 @ 5:45 PM

  79. Does anyone model this kind of thing? It’d be a combination climate/econometric case:

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/371948_climate24.html

    Last updated July 23, 2008 9:29 p.m. PT
    Group proposes climate-saving strategy
    Washington part of coalition that suggests emissions cap

    By LISA STIFFLER
    P-I REPORTER

    Tired of a lack of leadership at the national level, Western leaders are taking charge on curbing climate change by proposing a plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

    The Western Climate Initiative — a coalition of seven states, including Washington and four Canadian provinces — on Wednesday released a draft strategy to “cap and trade” releases of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

    “It’s a proud day. No states have ever done this before,” said Janice Adair, the initiative’s chairwoman and special assistant to the director of the Washington Ecology Department. “It’s a huge, huge deal that we got this done.”

    ——–
    reCaptcha: cheers Mercy

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Aug 2008 @ 6:48 PM

  80. I’m not saying that we should have stayed with stone tools, just that when you have the ability to more efficiently exploit a resource, that doesn’t always mean you use it wisely. I mean, cars are certainly more efficient now than 30 years ago but we are still using more oil. We have technologies that allow us to get more oil, and faster, but all that does is move the problem of supply out a year or two.

    There’s a lot of technology that requires such huge inputs that it is difficult to see how any of it can be sustained long term. Take cell phones. They use a rare element, tantalum, that has properties that no other element has. I suppose you could synthesize something, but that would be even more effort and energy-intensive. There is a very limited amount of tantalum on earth. At the rate we are going through it 100 years from now the most advanced computing device may well be about 50 years old.

    The damage to the ecosystem we do in the process is pretty dire, as well, and there’s a real possibility we could render the planet less habitable, with the worst case of a few people living near the poles while civilization collapses. Economists never seem to consider this stuff — I’d say it isn’t even a remote possibility anymore, but more like a 10-20% probability unless we all do something.

    As to the freedom question, gift economies are usually small-scale and in societies where the accumulation of wealth is measured by how much you give to other people. That’s why many native cultures had such a tough time understanding the Puritans. (Read “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”).

    There’s a case to be made that the concept could be scaled up. But that would require a pretty large cultural shift.

    Also, don’t underestimate Madison Avenue. There was no demand for iPods until Apple ran the ads. You don’t need them, really, and lots of other similar technologies existed already. There’s a ton of stuff we all buy every day that we could well do without because advertising works and works brilliantly. We have an entire culture in the US that is predicated on wanting more and even going into debt to make that happen. (That last is relatively recent). I noticed the difference with my wife, who says “You Americans live to work, we (Filipinos) work to live.”

    As to the freedom question let me put it another way. Imagine if nobody had to worry about their jobs or incomes. Imagine further that those things couldn’t be taken away. Imagine if (as Kim Stanley Robinson did) that you were always entitled to the product of your labor. Political activity is much easier to do when those worries are not present. (It’s one reason that Europeans, I think, vote more often — it’s easier to be engaged when you aren’t worrying every single day about your next paycheck or that you could get fired in the next five minutes for no discernible reason).

    Anyhow, that’s how I try to approach this stuff — to try to imagine how to build a system that is sustainable and also human(e). American capitalism is neither.

    Comment by Jess — 5 Aug 2008 @ 7:21 PM

  81. Raven, If you could make that 1% or 5% tail go away, no one would be happier than Weitzman (unless maybe it was me). However, we are talking about the tails of a distribution, and the tails are always more difficult to constrain than the mode. Example: look at a sample of 22 events, none of which is worse than a given level and all you can say with 90% confidence is that fewer than 10% of events will be worse. Annan has made a reasonable attempt to narrow the range by starting with a Bayesian prior of Cauchy form (quite thick tailed), but here you have to select the location, and that risks biasing the result. After all, if he centered his prior on 12 degrees per doubling, you’d be howling.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 Aug 2008 @ 8:21 PM

  82. “Skeptics” are frequently wheeling out that graph Raven points to, but as far as I know nobody has explained who sketched it on which napkin how many decades ago.

    The current best estimate of the very-long-scale temperature curve is visible here:

    http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Phanerozoic_Climate_Change_Rev_png

    The CO2 record is very noisy. See here:

    http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Phanerozoic_Carbon_Dioxide_png

    but also see here:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v449/n7159/abs/nature06085.html

    Current evidence is that even in the deep past high CO2 periods and high temperature periods coincided.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 5 Aug 2008 @ 9:45 PM

  83. RE #51, and herd mentality (social impact) and relatively sudden changes.

    There is something called revitalization movements in anthropology (social movements, in sociology) that deal with rather sudden efforts to construct a more satisfying culture. Examples would be the historical inception of nearly all the modern, mainstream religions, cults, the 60s movements (civil rights, women’s, environmental, hippie). In small-scale societies these can happen even faster and more completely pervade society, as in cargo cults.

    So there is a chance our world society could change fairly quickly to seriously address and mitigate global warming. It’s like some critical mass needs to be reached, or like an ice shelf collapse. And as in climate science, these are really hard to quantify and predict, but we know they’ve happened in the past under certain conditions.

    I think this post is more about the outcomes of global warming — the economic effects, which need to be included. And I would argue these should not only include monetary accounting of GW effects, but other standards more closely aligned with adaptability and whether we can avoid serious environmental degradation and a lot of people dying from GW effects (which is not the best foci for economic theory).

    However, it’s good also to keep in mind the human causes of GHG emissions, and that these could change in negative feedback fashion, at least in part due to conscientious appraisal of GW and its effects or projected effects.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 5 Aug 2008 @ 9:58 PM

  84. Leadership? What needs to happen is a dramatic change on an individual level. The bad part is people can’t do that with the snap of their fingers. Here is a site that allows people to get their feet wet, and become educated at the same time.

    http://www.greengroove.org

    Conduct a phased withdrawal on catastrophic climate change. NOW!

    You can read more about it at http://www.greengroove.org/idea.html

    Comment by Green — 5 Aug 2008 @ 11:03 PM

  85. Re #78, I believe that James Hansen covers this in his paper when he discusses the Charney limit of climate sensitivity which is based on some changing factors and boundary conditions which has been revised from 3C from a pre industrial doubling of CO2 to around 6C due to changing conditions such as Ice Albedo and temporal forest growth in the northern latitudes.

    It is primarily interested in the O-18 record of ocean SST and the start of the Antarctic ice sheets and which allows him to determine the warming that is caused by ice albedo feedback which seemingly caused additional cooling at the time of the formation of the ice sheets of Antarctica.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2007/EastWest_20070925.pdf

    Comment by pete best — 6 Aug 2008 @ 4:34 AM

  86. Rod B–

    Let me put the economic freedom question another way. Let’s say you had no worries about your job — nobody could take it away from you, and you were making an OK living. I submit that when people are not worried about job loss or making their next paycheck (and with it their meals) they tend to be more engaged.

    This is one reason corporations hate minimum wages, anti-discrimination laws, and the like. It’s a matter of power. People who aren’t living hand-to-mouth are in a position to engage the political system. This is, one reason I think, that Europeans vote in much larger numbers than Americans do. In the US you can basically be fored for political activity and it takes so long to bring suit that the rules against it are effectively toothless.

    You seem to be looking at economic freedom in terms of individuals — I am looking at it in terms of corporations. To my mind corporations deserve none of the protections citizens get because by definition they diffuse responsibility. I mean, I could have a company policy that said at my plant every worker has to do something insanely dangerous. If I have them sign a waiver it doesn’t matter how many die– not one officer of that corporation would be punished in any way even if they knew they were ordering people to their deaths. That’s crazy. But it happens. And because of the assumption of voluntary transactions it’s assumed that the workers had a choice.

    WHat I was saying about technology is not that people should have stayed with stone tools, but that often the technology that is supposed to solve a problem simply moves it to where we have to deal with a bigger problem later. For instance, way back when the US started running out of domestic oil was the time to move to alternative fuels, but the cheap nature of oil at the time allowed for production in Saudi Arabia and for the oil to be transported. THe fact that oil was cheap (but important) became self-reinforcing even though it was and is clear that the stuff was finite. All the new oil technologies do is let us go along for another year or two without doing a thing.

    I might add: I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation and assumed the whole earth was covered in a 1km layer of oil. That would last 100 years if we increase use by 1% per year. I also assumed it was magically accessible.

    given the sheer number of things we use petroleum in, like fertilizer and plastic, it seems we need to do some radical rethinking of the way we organize our civilization.

    Comment by Jess — 6 Aug 2008 @ 6:18 AM

  87. Hank Roberts mentioned whales earlier, and that really is a perfect example of how ecology influences and controls economies – and it also leads into how humans became somewhat (and temporarily) less reliant on natural ecosystems.

    Before the 1850s the main source of lighting fuel – clean-burning lamp oil – was produced from whales. Their fat would be boiled in cauldrons on remote islands and shipped back to civilization. This was also the main source of good lubricating oils.

    During the period from 1850 onwards, whale oil was steadily replaced by first kerosene, produced in Appalachia. Benjamin Silliman, Yale professor, distilled some petroleum into different fractions in 1854, and told investors they had a valuable illuminating oil. Soon afterwards, natural gas was introduced as a lighting fuel – enter the Fossil Fuel Age, which won’t last for very much longer. However, the main point is that this development, to some degree, reduced human reliance on nature. Coal had always been around, but the new fossil fuels were far cleaner, more energy-dense, and could be transported by barrel or by pipeline.

    And then came electricty. This was a real nightmare for the fossil fuel business, who had been trying to control the lighting market – but electricity had such obvious advantages (and powerful backers) that it steadily replaced kerosene lamps as a light source, just as kerosene lamps had steadily replaced whale oil.

    At the same time, the motorized transportation business was taking off, around 1900. The first cars were ethanol-fueled, as that was a widely available farm product at that time, and gasoline was unheard of – it was viewed as a waste product of petroleum (they wanted the kerosene fraction) and was typically burned off at the refinery. Edison and Ford also had a plan to introduce electric cars in 1914 (the first ethanol-electric hybrid car was patented in 1903, a little-known fact).

    However, what actually happened is that the big oil companies, desperate for new markets after the loss of the lighting market to Edison & friends, discovered that gasoline could be used in combustion engines if additives (ethanol or tetraethyl lead) were added. The oil companies chose lead, because they didn’t want to have to buy any ethanol from farmers. At that point in U.S. history, Prohibition came on the scene, all ethanol production was halted, and any attempts at electric car manufacture were sidetracked. By 1937, the time Prohibition ended, all cars ran on gasoline and ethanol and electricity were out of the picture (the huge oil discoveries in East Texas in the 1930s had something to do with this as well – gas soon became incredibly cheap).

    In the most simple view, instead of getting our fuels from the yearly cycle of natural productivity, we were able to find new fuels by digging deep in the ground – something that no other creature was capable of. This created the artificial perception that we were no longer dependent on natural systems for our survival. What all this created was the psychological perception that human technology could conquer any problem. Soon after, most infectious diseases were beaten back using antibiotics, which has also resulted in a huge reduction in human suffering. This factor is also the one most responsible for the explosive growth in human population since WWII ended. This also reinforced the notion of technological utopia.

    If the technological model were true, we should have been living in a paradise by now – but instead, we have a whole host of major problems. Many of our new chemical products have been shown to cause cancer, hormone disruption and liver, brain, heart, etc. damage. Our deforestation practices are steadily chewing up the tropical forests, the lungs of the biosphere, and giant factory ships have been stripmining the ocean of fish for decades, past the point of recovery. We can mine water and make dry regions bloom, but the groundwater is like fossil fuel – often millions of years old, and not replaceable. Even the primary energy source that makes all this possible – reserves of fossil fuels from millions of years ago – is steadily being exhausted and converted into atmospheric CO2, which is warming and destablizing the climate.

    What this means is that the Fossil Fuel Age will be the shortest historical age of all – the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age – all lasted for quite a while. The fossil fuel age is coming to a close already – and like the Stone Age, it won’t end due to a lack of fossil fuels.

    The basic connection needed to bridge the gap is ecology. Modern human economies only exist because the ecosystems that have supported humans have been relatively stable for the past 10,000 years – and our recent technological progress has now done significant damage to the ecosystems that have historically sustained humans. What we need to do now is to start distinguishing between technologies – solar panels & wind turbines use non-polluting energy sources (sunlight and wind), so let’s go with them. Coal pollutes the atmosphere and the water in many ways, so let’s phase it out. Similarly, cutting down tropical forests for short-term profit is suicidal in the long run, so let’s stop doing it.

    If we do that, then our energy-generating systems won’t be steadily destroying our food-producing systems as well as natural biodiversity. It’s definitely not a partisan political issue, anymore than breathing is a partisan political issue.

    So, my question is: Is this being alluded to in the cartoon? At first glance, I thought the dragons and the shark-infested waters represented the biosphere.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 6 Aug 2008 @ 8:59 AM

  88. Re Raven @ 75: “I also think the 5% probability for 10 degC rise is also a scientific absurdity”

    Unlikely, perhaps, but not quite an absurdity if you take aerosol-induced global dimming into account.

    Captcha: in babies

    Comment by Jim Eager — 6 Aug 2008 @ 9:29 AM

  89. #51, herd mentality and sudden changes.

    Revitalization movement theory in anthropology (social movements in sociology) explains that people will attempt to construct a more adaptive and satifying culture under certain conditions, such war, environmental degradation, human exploitation. At first a leader or a few people will undergo a radical change in their world view and value system, then others will catch on. And this can happen within a year or a few years. History is replete with examples — most religions started that way, the 60s movements (civil rights, womens, environmental, hippie).

    As with sudden changes in nature — ice shelf collapse, THC shutdown — this is difficult to quantify and predict, since it is not the usual slow-moving linear type function. (I’m sort of thinking that perhaps “catastrophe theory” in math might help, but I know nothing about it, except seeing a function that looked like a potato chip in a Newsweek article in the 70s.)

    The world’s people could relatively quickly get up and decide to mitigate global warming, and a substantial reduction in GHGs could be made….leaving governments, economists, and the various sandgrain counters in the dust. I’m hoping that will happen. It seems that negative conditions and enough people’s consciousness about them and desire for something better has to reach some critical mass. But predicting or quantifying that would be difficult.

    However, I think the post here is mainly about how to coordinate climate science with the economic effects of GW, not so much the human inputs to GW, tho in negative feedback fashion the effects or projection of effects should lead to people reducing their GHGs.

    I only hope that an interdisciplinary project would not limit itself on the human behavioral side to economic or monetary effects of GW, but would also look at the decreasing adaptability and the possible tremendous loss of human and other life from AGW. In fact it was just that concern that led me to get involved, not money issues or “enlightened self-interest”

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 6 Aug 2008 @ 9:52 AM

  90. #15 Hank Roberts

    I was reading Ravens post #61 and Rays #63 and others and thinking…

    I have to generalize at this point. There are a few probabilities on how economists are examining the climate problem.

    First, the 1% chance of catastrophic change at 20 C temp rise. Catastrophic is being used as a relative term. The pentagon reports

    http://www.uscentrist.org/news/2008/the-age-of-consequences/

    indicate resources scarcity issues begin a 1.3 C; chaos begins around 2.6 C; and inconceivable challenges kick in around 5.6 C. Since we are already beginning to see this occur at .9 C Weitzmans paper seems to do some justice to at least scoping the issue in the paper though. Keep in mind I have not finished my review of the paper. As I point out below we are still far from relevance, context and holistic understanding between the relevant disciplines.

    Second: The press and denialists might grab onto the 1% thing to make the public all warm and fuzzy. but the meat of the paper is in the relationships one can draw from more likely potentials.

    Third: it is also possible that economists could become a part of the disinformation campaign through creative means of scoping the argument. I’m not say Weitzmann is, but we should be aware that this is the next step where confusion through peer reviewed papers can reign.

    I can not speak to the assertions of the paper as yet, but in fairness, he seems to be aware of the problems in his suppositions. His concentrations on the higher probabilities should be the center of attention though. The economic modeling will improve but I fear it will be a rocky road and thar be dragons there.

    (imo) Lomborg should not even be a part of any discussion on climate. Denmark’s Ministry of Science found him guilty of ‘Scientific Dishonesty’. He is too narrow-minded and does not display holistic intelligence that warrants the importance he is granted by his immature perspectives.

    The DCSD cited The Skeptical Environmentalist for:

    1. Fabrication of data;
    2. Selective discarding of unwanted results (selective citation);
    3. Deliberately misleading use of statistical methods;
    4. Distorted interpretation of conclusions;
    5. Plagiarism;
    6. Deliberate misinterpretation of others’ results.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bj%C3%B8rn_Lomborg

    Awareness is still the best medicine though and my concerns remain in this area. How fast can we get the fact based word out so people, politicians, and yes, even economists, to understand the potentials in more realistic terms so they can be integrated effectively in the probability models contextually for policy development?

    My current assessment is that economists (in general) are far from understanding the integrated economies and their likely affects on the human monetary economy.

    My apologies in advance for commenting before a more thorough examination of the paper, but I hope what I am saying has some relevance.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 6 Aug 2008 @ 10:39 AM

  91. #58 CL

    Rivet popping is a good analog for tipping point. We are certainly popping rivets.

    While mechanistic models are very useful, and there are two camps on general systems theory (mechanistic and not mechanistic leans) I try to incorporate both in my thinking. Chaos, as you have noted has a distinct hand but predictability is scantly feasible other than in general terms.

    I appreciate you understanding of the matters at hand.

    Stewardship has potential to be sensical and nonsensical. On a sub-system scale, look at Switzerland and their forest management methods, compared to ours.

    In Switzerland they carefully glean their forests and manage the system very well. In America we either cut it all down or save it all. Both of which are less wise.

    Again the land use problems of the dust bowl days http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/cook_01/ are relevant to the perspective. Our logging industry in order to be efficient, and maximize short term profit cuts down an entire forest and the reseeds. Our environmental movement reacted by saying we need protected areas where we can’t cut down any trees. That combined with our fear of fire, especially in the early part of the 20th century in America as people spread across the region and built more infrastructure, created a policy of: when a fire starts, put it out.

    Funny note is that it seems a lot of the plains fires were started by coal burning trains, from the hot ash and coals spewed from the smoke stacks of the trains as they crossed the country.

    So, we started putting out fires. that combined with a lack of selective cutting created forests that were more dense. I was at a forestry meeting three years ago and was informed that a natural forest in the American southwest has about 50 tress per acre. We have forest density at 500 trees per acre. Now, combined with lower moisture content and high density, these forests burn bigger and hotter which contributes to desertification through annihilation. The hotter fires actually burn all the carbon off, so there is less black carbon left to act as a microbial nest to reconstitute the land.

    Detailing the small and big picture views is critical to understanding the economic interactions of these systems.

    Tree planting could be good or bad, it depends on how we manage it. The overarching problem is global warming and it will continue as the number one critical issue and subsystem management will be challenged by its contribution to the system.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 6 Aug 2008 @ 11:09 AM

  92. > tree planting

    Yep. Leave the biggest, healthiest trees standing. That way you get back your canopy cover (shade) and can clear a shaded firebreak between the trees.

    Leave enough big dead trees standing to attract enough woodpeckers and flickers to nest there.

    It’s not the fastest way to make money. It is the fastest way to make topsoil and wildlife.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Aug 2008 @ 12:22 PM

  93. Jess (80), to grossly paraphrase Churchill, capitalism may not be a very good system, it’s just better than anything else out there. Your’s may work, but it sounds like a pie in the sky nirvana — ain’t never going to happen.

    Your example of no political freedom without economic freedom sounded in fact very much economic freedom They have no economic freedom but still get the product of their labors? Doesn’t fit.

    You are confusing consumer demand with “ought-to-be” demand. Apple advertised the iPods magnitudes less than, say, Coca-Cola did for New Coke, yet sold near infinitely more. I’m just saying that for some unknown reasons people are naturally inclined to really want certain things once they learn about them. But, I agree with you and would say that various demands are not necessarily helpful to advancing society, though that is attributed to consumers far more than deserved. Cell phones, telephones, personal computers have overall been a tremendous benefit to society, though one can find a lot of individual examples that are just opposite.

    However, I agree with your main point, as stated here. That is the lack of cost accounting for the overuse of resources, or the effects on public resources like the environment. This is something that is very (critically) important for any long term viability of society. Some is being done now, regulations and costs associated with environmental dumping e.g., but that’s elementary, and for the most part this process is nearly nonexistent. We do diverge on the fix: I say it is easier to do with rules, regulations, and cost accounting within our economic system; you seem to want to start over from scratch; “a pretty large cultural shift” is quite an understatement. ;-)

    Comment by Rod B — 6 Aug 2008 @ 1:13 PM

  94. Lynn (83), I agree with your revitalization movements, where cultures make massive cultural changes in a relatively very short period, contrary to all analyses and expectations. Boggles the mind, but happens. I don’t think we know what the cause or trigger of this is, so can’t devise a plan to make it happen. Though I agree with your observation. It’s manifested like some solid state electronics, e.g., linear build-up of input but zero output until you reach some threshold, them wham, it avalanches. …’course we understand that process infinitely better.

    I also concur that the requirements you state in 80′s third paragraph are required for any successful mitigation. (Truth in Lending: I’m assuming your position and beliefs for discussion, but am still a (partial) sceptic of AGW.)

    Comment by Rod B — 6 Aug 2008 @ 1:33 PM

  95. Jess (86), I mostly occur with what you say here, though think you take some details beyond the pale. There’s no worker in the U.S. involuntarily agreeing to hazardous, maybe fatal, work. Mostly (and maybe different from early in history, or sometimes with the military — but that’s a whole different paradigm) because we simply passed laws against it or agreed with unions to abstain. Little fuss, little muss. I think we agree on the gist of the problem, just disagree on the solution.

    I also agree with you (and Lynn, et al) that resourse utilization is way out of control.

    Comment by Rod B — 6 Aug 2008 @ 1:47 PM

  96. John Reisman, 91 :

    Thanks for the response. My point ( not very well explained ) re ‘stewardship being nonsensical’, was this :

    If nature (the condition of fauna, flora, geology in the absence of human interference) stewarded itself for 45000 million years, and now, suddenly, humans decide they can step in and start to do a better job of managing nature, then they’d have to understand what they were about.

    It’s easy to steward a wheat field. Keep the rabbits and crows away, take out the weeds, etc. The whole idea of stewardship derives from agriculture, an artificial methodology where nature is the enemy.

    If you wanted to steward a dustbowl or a natural forest or fishery, then you’d have to be able to predict the results of your actions and have a fair idea that the results would be benign re the overall system of the biosphere.

    But it seems such prediction is inherently impossible. For one thing, many ecosystems are incredibly complex, and nobody has anything near sufficient understanding to be able to create them artificially from scratch. But it’s even worse than that. Even if you knew the right mix of species, (seeds, fertilizer, insects, fungi, whatever), seems you cannot foretell what you’ll end up with.

    I don’t see how it’s possible to ‘steward’ an inherently chaotic system ( expect perhaps via a buddhist or taoist approach of non-interference or minimal tweaking )where you have no idea what the future outcome will be.

    Richard Leakey explains the problem far better than I can, (p. 157, Stability and chaos in ecology )

    “..evidence of true chaotic behaviour in ecological communities has been discovered, in field experiments and theoretical models. We are now forced to take a very different view of the world of nature and what shapes the patterns that we see and experience. It is deeply counterintuitive, and therefore difficult to accept ” – The Sixth Extinction, R. Leakey & R. Lewin.

    Re clear cutting, reseeding, burning, etc, of forests. Yes, it’s important to understand that there are many, many forest types, and each requires an appropriate approach. The UK had a woodland management approach, harvesting woodland product, which permitted forests to survive from the last Ice Age up until the present (in tiny remnants) because the species involved regrow from cut stumps. This system was largely destroyed and displaced during the 20th.C. More ancient woodland was lost in the few decades after WW2, than over previous thousand years because of ‘modern’ (stupid, IMO) forestry (and agricultural practices).

    The idea of clear cut and re-seed, was introduced from continental Europe, where conifer trees, which don’t regrow after cutting, were more common.( See Oliver Rackham as the authorative guy re this stuff. )

    Incidentally, unlike some US forests, European forests were, as far as I know, not subject to natural fires and have not evolved protective bark, etc. Why that is, I don’t know.

    Comment by CL — 6 Aug 2008 @ 1:54 PM

  97. “Everything now hinges on stopping coal. Whether we prevent runaway climate change largely depends on whether we keep using the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. Unless we either leave it in the ground or leave the carbon dioxide it produces in the ground, human development will start spiralling backwards. The more coal is burnt, the smaller are our chances of future comfort and prosperity. The industrial revolution has gone into reverse.”

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/08/05/coal-scuttled/

    Comment by CL — 6 Aug 2008 @ 1:56 PM

  98. > forest management

    See also: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&safe=off&q=waldsterben
    (much of the Black Forest dieoff appears due to coal pollution, but note also the habit of picking every bit of brush and litter off the forest floor also seems to have starved the soil of nutrients over centuries)

    Don’t dismiss stewardship entirely. I have ten acres bought thirty years ago for preservation (temperate rainforest, horse-logged in the 1800s, left alone* since) and forty acres of hot dry southwest slope California coast range (bought after a major fire, for restoration).

    Everyone needs a hobby. That’s one of mine.

    Most of what I’m doing in my brief tenure is baseline documentation. Given that, in fifty or a hundred years someone could become interested in figuring out what’s changed and be able to do that. I’ll never know if what I’m doing makes much difference in the many things I can document, because assessing that takes decades to determine (trends!)

    But there are many little things one can do** to discourage the invasives (and human timber thieves) and encourage the native plants and wildlife and local biologists to increase their presence upon the land.
    __________________________
    * “a man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to leave alone.”
    http://www.kenkifer.com/Thoreau/economy.htm

    ** Like leave some dead trees standing, and clear around them so the _next_ fire doesn’t take them down, for the woodpeckers and flickers to nest in and work on. http://www.flickr.com/photos/wossname/2603457446/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Aug 2008 @ 2:43 PM

  99. Do people here agree with this statement:

    “We have no way to know what the absolute surface temperatures were more than 1 million years ago and our knowledge of historical CO2 levels is limited to order of magnitude estimates.”

    [Response: Do you mean 1 million years ago itself, or 20 or 50 or 100 million years ago? It makes a difference. 1 million years ago, you are going to have very similar cycling of CO2 and temperature as you see in the Dome C records. Further back the estimates of CO2 get much worse, and the temperature estimates just get worse. - gavin]

    Comment by Raven — 6 Aug 2008 @ 3:24 PM

  100. You say:
    while economists tend to eschew complexity and look for insight in highly idealised situations.

    Reply:
    Well yes of course, given the complexity of economics with all of its variables. In science and especially an inexact one as economics one necessarily has to simplify things to gain understanding. (they should spell idealized correctly)

    You say:
    But in order to increase the credibility of models, they have to do well at simulating past climates and what might happen in the future is certainly informed by what has happened in the past. And in order to better understand the impacts of climate change and various proposed policies, economists will need to embrace the complexity of human-climate interactions

    Reply:
    Really economics is the study of the entirety of human interactions. While its great to embrace that, I’m not smart enough to embrace all of that at once. He is very clever if he can grasp an entire system complexity he seems to be talking about.

    Summary:
    The guy seems to need to be reminded that economics has been studied and examined much more and for much longer than climate change. Hence it makes more sense to me that climate change needs to adapt to economics, not the other way around.

    Comment by Lloyd Romeo — 6 Aug 2008 @ 3:24 PM

  101. Good man, Hank ! I’m a friend to anyone who cares about trees and forests. However, I can only speak of UK woodlands from direct experience. I know very little about the US forests where fires are part of the natural sequence.

    Yes, the point about stewardship is mostly of academic interest, especially re Earth systems. I suppose ‘stewardship’, even if it doesn’t work, is an advance on all-out ruthless destruction.

    In reality, people are almost incapable of leaving anything be. (Oliver Rackham somewhere said that ‘benign neglect’ is the best forest management system). But the eco fashion is to love trees, so volunteers are eager to ‘help’ (= weekend recreational gardening), so to be pragmatic, the best (least harmful) policy is to reinstate the ancient coppice systems that let the forests flourish since neolithic times. And explain that maybe three quarters of species depend upon dead rotting timber, so leave it there. Regular cutting of small areas to provide useful wood products is actually ecologically beneficial. In effect, it just mimics the natural sequence when large old trees die and fall to make a clearing. School kids love learning all that stuff.

    I could well be wrong, but as far as I know, the indigenous peoples of N. America didn’t develop any equivalent management technique. However, some Amazonian and C. American peoples do, or did, practice ‘forest gardening’ in addition to hunting and gathering.

    I have searched for examples where food production human systems actually enhance and enrich biodiversity, rather than destroying and replacing what was originally there. Such are not easy to find. The best i know of, was eastern side of the Baltic, where patchwork hay meadows and woodlands was very close to a wild natural system, but had many additional species which depended upon the human management, which provided the people with everything they needed. That system seems to have been sustainable since the glaciers retreated, and is only now terminally threatened.

    I once pondered the idea, that if I were a Christian (I’m not) who believed in the obligation of stewardship on behalf of the deity, how would I conduct my daily affairs ? I guess that the Amish (of whom I know little) got it about right. If everyone had settled for an Amish lifestyle, we’d possibly not got into this present mess.

    ( Whoops, I didn’t mean to inadvertently re-introduce a contentious subject. I’m really talking about sustainable eco-friendly lifestyles, not religion per se )

    Comment by CL — 6 Aug 2008 @ 3:39 PM

  102. Lloyd Romeo says: “climate change needs to adapt to economics, not the other way around.”

    omfg… “Listen up you GHG’s! Stop absorbing infrared radiation! And stop accumulating in the atmosphere and oceans! This is economics talking! We were discovered way back at the dawn of the age of steam, so we therefore naturally rule! That goes for you too, thermodynamics! Adapt to economics or else!”

    By the way, the original post was about “bridging the divides” and building and sharing of cross-disciplinary expertise, fwiw…

    Comment by tidal — 6 Aug 2008 @ 3:58 PM

  103. Someone ought to educate those guys at the Pentagon who are plotting their imperial ambitions. They seem to think that the main reasons that the Roman Empire collapsed were plague and Christianity. IMO, the reasons were primarily ecological. They fail to mention that North Africa was the Roman breadbasket, and they plundered the fertility until it was exhausted, which, along with climate change, was a major factor in their decline. I didn’t find one mention of climate change.

    http://www.motherjones.com/news/featurex/2008/07/dont-know-much-about-history.html

    Comment by CL — 6 Aug 2008 @ 3:58 PM

  104. Relevant in many ways, recommended:

    A Conspiracy of Optimism: Management of the National Forests Since World War Two
    By Paul W. Hirt
    Published by U of Nebraska Press, 1996
    ISBN 080327288X, 9780803272880
    420 pages

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Aug 2008 @ 4:04 PM

  105. BTW, when I wrote that stewardship won’t work, re ecology, I didn’t intend to imply ‘do nothing’. If there is a rare or threatened species, I’m all in favour of doing everything possible to try and preserve it.
    (I also made an error, I think, in the age of Earth in earlier post. One nought too many. I get confused by the difference between US and UK billions )

    Comment by CL — 6 Aug 2008 @ 4:09 PM

  106. If any readers have not already concluded that I am just a cranky old tree hugger, then they are welcome to confirm their worst fears.

    http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~chrislees/The%20Trees%20and%20the%20Wood/trees1.html

    ( an ancient website that never got completed, nor paid for, yet somehow survives in inaccessible limbo on a server somewhere )

    Comment by CL — 6 Aug 2008 @ 4:19 PM

  107. Re #101 [CL] “If everyone had settled for an Amish lifestyle, we’d possibly not got into this present mess.”

    Up to a point, Lord Copper. I can’t find general figures, but Amish married women in those communities i’ve found figures for average over 6 children each.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 6 Aug 2008 @ 4:42 PM

  108. #99 – Gavin

    As far as I can tell we only have deep ocean o2 data which may tell us something about temperature changes but nothing about the absolute magnitude. To me this implies that any hypotheses which make assumptions about the surface temperatures in the past cannot be supported by data because there is none. I just want to know whether this is a reasonable position to take.

    [Response: Not really. If you know how warm it is now and someone estimates the temperature change, then you can estimate the absolute temperature then. But there is lots of data, not none - some is based on deep ocean isotopes, some on surface ocean plankton, some on terrestrial vegetation etc. It can be tricky to get a coherent picture, but there is no doubt that the Eocene was considerably warmer than today, for instance. - gavin]

    Comment by Raven — 6 Aug 2008 @ 5:11 PM

  109. Yes, Nick Gotts, indeed, I tried to cover myself by being vague, because all i really know is that they rejected the path of cars and telephones. I ought to google and educate myself before getting into embarrassing pronouncements. Who knows what other, different, problems might have arisen if everyone followed the Amish example ? what’s their position on coal ?

    It does seem kind of unfair that we find ourselves alive on this planet and yet nobody tells us how to live in ways that don’t lead to destruction of the only place where we can actually live. Some will argue that we were told, in some revelatory sense, but there are so very many interpretations that we end up with a big muddle.

    The origins of the Industrial Revolution, at Ironbridge in Shropshire, began with the Quaker, Abraham Darby, using coal instead of charcoal to smelt iron. No doubt, it seemed like an excellent idea at the time. I’m theoretically in favour of going back to a pre-industrial economy, but when I consider life without anaesthetics, and and the grief of young women losing babies, and no internet, I’m a bit stuck for adequate responses…but if we screw up on our policies re AGW, over the next few years, I guess we go back to a pre-industrial state whether we like it or not…
    and I’m speaking as one of the privileged elite. I imagine the way it would roll out would be that the present day hellish places, plenty of examples, just grow and become more widespread, whilst some oases might hold up present standards for decades…I’m pessimistic.

    Comment by CL — 6 Aug 2008 @ 5:25 PM

  110. > Amish lifestyle

    Yep. There’s an old anecdote (I think I read it in CoEvolution Quarterly when Kevin Kelly was editing) about the Amish farmer who, asked whether he wouldn’t do better with a bigger farm, says he’s only smart enough to farm 40 acres.

    Around that time, the subdivision by inheritance of those small family farms into ever-smaller chunks had pushed the later generation farmers into taking down their longstnading fences that had been there protecting the streams, letting their cows graze in the flood plains to free up flat land for plowing.

    That was causing a big pulse of pollution into Chesapeake Bay.

    I concluded a lot of us aren’t likely smart enough to farm much more OR less than 40 acres. Still think so.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Aug 2008 @ 5:45 PM

  111. Re: 100 “The guy seems to need to be reminded that economics has been studied and examined much more and for much longer than climate change. Hence it makes more sense to me that climate change needs to adapt to economics, not the other way around.”

    Using the same logic, astrology has been “studied and examined” for longer than economics, so maybe economics should adapt to astrology. Not that I think these two “sciences” that mainly deal with irrational animals are that different, though economics uses some clever mathematics which give it some more credibility (a good marketing strategy).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-Term_Capital_Management

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

    Comment by P_adic — 6 Aug 2008 @ 6:12 PM

  112. For ‘communicating climate’, I would suggest a short history of climate science. It’s an old science, and history is something all people can relate to…..even people from skeptia.
    If you were to sell climate science to the masses…thats the way I would go, with history.

    Comment by David W — 6 Aug 2008 @ 6:24 PM

  113. Good story, Hank. Thanks. Made me laugh.

    I have 25 acres. Not quite large enough to qualify as a farm. I let it do what it wants, pretty much, ( partly because I have no choice because I’m an old man with poor health, partly as a philosophical experiment ).

    I could *easily* feed myself and more, even on a Welsh mountain, with very little effort. I have rheas, geese, guinea fowl, bantams, wild ducks, wild pigeons, wild rabbits, all of which mostly take care of themselves. I lose some to falcons and foxes, but they mostly breed faster than they get taken, once I’d got a dog to keep the foxes away. For someone interested in the origins of farming, and the transition from mesolithic to neolithic systems, I’ve learned lots of fascinating stuff.

    I’ve just been reading up on the Amish. Strikes me that the problem isn’t that we can’t provide for our basic needs in sustainable ways. Nature is abundant. The problem is that most of us don’t want to. We crave more. And more.

    I think it’s illustrated in a very ancient story from the Epic of Gilgamesh, going right back to the very first cities. There’s a guy called Enkidu, who lives as a pastoralist and gets seduced from wild nature toward the corruption and temptations of ‘sophisticated’ life of the city. Very much the dilemma the Amish have.

    Comment by CL — 6 Aug 2008 @ 6:41 PM

  114. David W (112) — It’s been written: “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart:

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.html

    Review of above:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F04E7DF153DF936A35753C1A9659C8B63

    [Captcha thinks: in Princeton]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 6 Aug 2008 @ 6:47 PM

  115. Lloyd Romeo, Thank you for that–it’s the funniest thing I’ve read all day–especially:

    “Really economics is the study of the entirety of human interactions.”
    –Wow, doesn’t your wife get offended when you try to pay her money?

    “they should spell idealized correctly”
    –ide·al·ise
    British variant of idealize–Merriam Webster

    “The guy seems to need to be reminded that economics has been studied and examined much more and for much longer than climate change. Hence it makes more sense to me that climate change needs to adapt to economics, not the other way around.”
    –Priceless, but what about those of us in the reality-based community?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Aug 2008 @ 7:28 PM

  116. #96 CL

    All very good considerations.

    Thank you for the reference, I was unaware of Dr. Leakey’s son (Richard) and his work. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing one of his fathers last lectures prior to his passing in 1972. I was only 9 years old at the time. My mother was kind enough to take me where my mind wandered and bring me to his lecture to satiate my curiosity.

    I agree to a degree that it is difficult to predict with precision certain things, but biodiversity over time seems to be quite resilient. I think we agree that the specifics of the reconstitution is less predictable that the general reconstitution of the bio-systems, eco-systems. That degree must also have context though.

    With regard to sub-system human, we are dealing with shorter time scales though. I hope I have the perspective of your considerations correct?

    Getting away from biodiversity and going back to climate: Climate predictions are a good example of decent predictions. Scientists in the 1800′s had already predicted warming with increased Co2.

    Example: Many things predicted on climate have become manifest. Just because it was not widely accepted due to awareness factors and the influences behind those factors, does not preclude the capability of prediction entirely. Yet, there are certainly many examples of predictions being incorrect as well. But those things also should be placed in context.

    Example: The 70′s predictions about global cooling. That was incorrect. But incorrect by whom? Scientists had recently confirmed the Milankovitch cycles with the deep ocean sediment cores, so there was precedence for understanding the potential of the climate system to return to an ice age. Some scientists made a report to the NAS about it and said sure, the climate system looks like it has gone into ice ages in the past and therefore it is likely it will go into another in the future, and it looks like the system is due another ice age (geologically soon). But they also said we have to look at this more because there are some other things that need to be understood.

    So the media went into a frenzy and of course took it out of context. Lot’s of articles were generated but none, or few, were in context or even relevant based on the remaining questions and the context of the research that sparked the frenzy.

    The biosphere II were an experiment that have helped us understand the diversity problem you mention. They just could not get enough diversity in the system maybe? maybe because it was to small a system? Or they did not have enough bugs or microbes? i don’t know, I did not study the summary reports though that might be interesting to look at. I hear it is still funded though and I think it is a good experiment.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2

    All in all I think we are in agreement that the complexity is such that we don’t know what we have done at this point, pertaining to altering the system in the future. But certain things we do know we have done.

    Contextually, we are going to get a lot of species extinction from this event.

    On stewardship, I don’t know where the best example might be. But i have to say I love the way the Swiss handle things. When I walk from our place in Allschwil across the border to France, I go though the forest and I admire the manner of stewardship. Or any other forest area in Switzerland for that matter.

    #101 CL

    I could argue to some extent that if we had not left the gold standard, we might not have messed it up this bad also, but I recognize I am still oversimplifying. There are probably more than a few good ideas we could have fostered had we been more prescient.

    Leaving the gold standard and betting on continued economic growth in a closed living system without checks and balances is kinda like popping the cork off all the champagne bottles (worldwide resources), having a big party for a 150 years (using up all the resources and not coping with the toxicity levels) and then the hangover (dealing with the various messes we made).

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 6 Aug 2008 @ 7:46 PM

  117. Biosphere II, as I recall the story being told in the last days while they were sealed up and miserable, figured out that they’d rushed closing the box, and to save time, instead of bringing in and laying down a proper soil sequence (mineral soil, thin layer of topsoil, layer of duff) they filled it with topsoil. Most of which promptly died. I recall reading that online on the Well long ago, though I don’t know if it’s anywhere citable.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Aug 2008 @ 8:36 PM

  118. #114
    I dont doubt its been written. Climate science (like chemistry) is difficult to digest for most people (especially old school engineers). So if you were in a government department that wanted raise awareness about ‘climate change’, what would you put in the newspaper? Act now! or the children will suffer!, or a nice piece of history?
    The review is a good example.

    Comment by David W — 6 Aug 2008 @ 9:05 PM

  119. #117 Thanks Hank, I bet science learned a few things from that lesson.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 6 Aug 2008 @ 9:25 PM

  120. Rod B–

    sorry for double-posting, by the way.

    Like I said, I was looking at economic freedom from the perspective of the worker. Corporations are rather different. And to your contention that no worker has ever agreed to dangerous, even fatal work, well, I say look at the US mining industry, which has one of the worst safety records of any developed country. (In fact, US labor history is more violent than that of England, Germany or any other OECD country in Europe and even some outside of it).

    But aside from the violence, many, many workers here have taken jobs they knew might kill them in short order because they needed the money and nothing else was on offer. My father worked in a relatively clean and safe factory and he was one of the few drill-press men to have all his fingers. If any of those guys could have had a job that paid as much and kept their fingers they would have.

    That’s why I say there is a serious problem with how economists tally up. We have a huge chunk of the population that is essentially involuntarily working. An
    interesting question is how to change that.

    That’s a longer-term project, however. In the shorter term we have to rethink much of our relation to capital and then also realize that growth is not infinite. Like I said, many technologies only shift the problem, not solve it, and if advertising had no effect nobody would use it. We drive inefficient cars in the US because we were told it was essential to being a man, (I joke that the smaller a man’s unit the bigger SUV he drives). If efficiency were touted as a virtue the way accelerating power was, the kind of cars we drive would be very different.

    Remember Lester Light Bulb? That went a long way to getting people to conserve, and it was too bad that the whole ad campaign was stopped in 1980.

    Comment by Jess — 6 Aug 2008 @ 10:24 PM

  121. #58 CL en addendum to rivet popping

    I did not really finish that thought… My perspective is that we are popping rivets and societally (largely) unaware that we are going to start losing chunks of wing.

    Soon awareness will kick in on a relevant scale and we will start working feverishly on how to put some rivets back in before we loose too much wing.

    In this (BAU) case, the risk of a catastrophic fatal crash for the human sub-system may, or may not be imminent as we examine the factors involved. But as time passes such imminence of ever increasing catastrophic impact increases exponentially based on lack of societal awareness and the inertia of the affect we have imposed on the system.

    The question remains, how long it will take to achieve critical mass on awareness and will it be in time to avoid a crash and burn scenario (BAU)?

    If economists really do remain largely ignorant or naive to the realities of the total global economy (beyond the monetary economy) they may prove to be one of the last nails, in a string of nails, in the coffin for the human sub-system. I remain hopeful they will soon become sufficiently aware.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 6 Aug 2008 @ 10:31 PM

  122. Raven, or someone posting under the same name (I can’t be sure who’s who, of course) has explained that it’s necessary to dispute the science for political purposes.

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2008/08/05/revising-mauna-loa-co2-monthly-data/#comment-20747

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Aug 2008 @ 10:52 PM

  123. Lloyd Romeo:

    Given that you argue that the climate should adapt to the superior nature of economics; could you send some economists down here to Australia to save our Murray-Darling river system. Clearly the climate scientists and ecologists are not up to the task.

    Our Minister for Water and Climate Change has just declared that it is irreversibly dieing from the ass up and that we should all give up on it. But I’m sure that some clever economists should be able to break the drought, or at least prove that it isn’t real thereby releasing a flood of life saving water.

    * Last rites for stricken Murray River lakes.
    * No upstream water to save Murray’s lakes
    * Govt says the Murray’s Lower Lakes can’t be saved

    Comment by Craig Allen — 7 Aug 2008 @ 2:25 AM

  124. I seee that the Guardian have jumped at a release from a certain Professor Bob Watson.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/aug/06/climatechange.scienceofclimatechange

    Sounds likes it a scare story. Here is his profile, worked at NASA and at the White House where he aligned policy to the science! Yikes.

    http://www.defra.gov.uk/science/how/adviser.htm

    Now 4C is not out of the question as the revised charney limit of 3 to 6C fro a 550 ppmv of C02 but I thought that 4C would mean WAIS And Greenland disappearing and hence a 15 meter sea level rise coupled to EAIS suffering somewhat to.

    Are climate scientists/scientists who stick there neck out on these things being sincere or just trying to get a name for themselves?

    Comment by pete best — 7 Aug 2008 @ 4:32 AM

  125. http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_timeseries.png

    Summer Arctic Sea Ice seems now to be disintegrating before our very eyes evne though we had a very cold winter. Could someone explain to me what the climate models tell us of this summer sea ice melt and its recent dramatic demise do the models capture this hapenning at some point in the future (I did hear that the models were 50 years late).

    when I speak or debate with people who are not in climate change they always mention that they models used are usless and poor and do no model reality. Is there a definitive answer to computer climate models are what they really mean for modelling the recent past and the future with any degree of accuracy?

    Comment by pete best — 7 Aug 2008 @ 4:45 AM

  126. What I would like to see is a web site that lists the latest predictions for climate change by 2020, 2030, 2050, etc. This could be updated when ever new research was published or new data available.

    It would have to cover global temperature (eg, 15.5 deg C) average sea level rise (+0.25m). It would have to go by the projected fossil intensive scenario, taking account of the latest emissions rates, economic growth outlook, population increase, and level of agreement between nations.

    This could act as a sort of barometer of the world’s future. For example, if the USA and China came to an agreement with the EU to materially cut emissions, the projections would come down.

    Has this has already been done by someone?

    Comment by Ricki — 7 Aug 2008 @ 5:42 AM

  127. Jess writes:

    This is one reason corporations hate minimum wages

    Economists do, too, since in real life minimum wages hurt far more poor people than they help.

    This is an example of an issue where the general public and scientists have almost opposite views. 90% of Americans in general favor the minimum wage. 90% of economists think it’s a bad idea. And unless the generalized American studies economics, it’s next to impossible to explain why it’s a bad idea. The person favoring the minimum wage just believes, because of the name of the policy, that it’s a real minimum, and that if you favor cutting or abolishing it, you must be in favor of poor people having even more income taken away from them. They are heavily predisposed not to listen to arguments against the policy, because they are heavily predisposed not to trust anyone who argues against the policy. The fact that they might be objectively wrong never enters their heads.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 7 Aug 2008 @ 5:56 AM

  128. Pete, you asked “Is there a definitive answer to computer climate models are what they really mean for modelling the recent past and the future with any degree of accuracy?”

    For what it’s worth, I’ve found that the majority of the time, it’s a waste of time arguing with people who are going to insist that the models aren’t accurate. Often times, they’ll make the absurd argument that NWP models can’t predict the weather 7 days in advance, so obviously climate models or GCM’s can’t predict the climate 70 years from now. They’re simply ignorant that the models are fundamentally different.

    I’ve found that if you want to press the argument, you can assert the important, fundamental differences between weather and climate modeling. They simply attack different phenomena; a weather model is attempting to rectify atmospheric phenomena in high temporal and spatial resolution, and is trying to predict the formation and progress of short-term weather events. On the other hand, a climate model is keeping tabs on the heat within the entire system and how it is changing over time. It looks at the big picture, such as the interactions between the ocean, land, and atmosphere, and evolves the long-term trends.

    It’s also helpful to stress that models are statistical. They don’t state definitively how it’s going to be; they state the likely situation with an intrinsic error and uncertainty. This is an extremely important nuance that many outright denialists fail to grasp.

    Comment by counters — 7 Aug 2008 @ 9:26 AM

  129. Pete Best asked if someone could tell him about what computer models say about the summer sea ice melt.

    Answer: yes.
    Quite a few examples:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=what+the+climate+models+tell+us+of+this+summer+sea+ice+melt

    The search box thingy at the top of the page is also very helpful, if you’re interested in what people _here_ have answered.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Aug 2008 @ 9:48 AM

  130. #100 Lloyd Romeo

    Your claim is naive and ignorant of the pragmatic reality and complexity of the scope of economy. It is also arrogant. Modern monetary economics is not as old as climate and climate has been studied longer than economics in that sense.

    Climate has been studied for millennia. All trade and survival depended on understanding climate. So to various degrees in various cultures it has been studied for a longer time. In fairness though one can look at economy in the same way and see how general economic transactions have been observed, though not critically until:

    Mercantilism only started around the 16-18th centuries, while classical economics kicked in around 1776, Laissez-faire in the 19th century, Austrian in 1871 with the foundations from Carl Menger; then neoclassical 1871-1877 and the father of the credit crunch Keynesean (1921-1936)

    Hence it makes more sense to me that climate change needs to adapt to economics, not the other way around.

    On what reasonable basis? Can you at least frame your point, or make this case? I’d like to see that.

    Are you a fan of the Austrian School?

    “Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders, no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle.” Ludwig von Mises

    There is more to the global economy than money or even gold. Economy is the actual interaction between humans and systems, and systems and systems; not the suggested interaction.

    3 a: the arrangement or mode of operation of something : organization b: a system especially of interaction and exchange

    Your statement lacks contextual relevance and ignores reality.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 7 Aug 2008 @ 10:06 AM

  131. John Reisman, 116.

    Thanks for the thoughts, John. Yes, Richard Leakey seems as remarkable as his parents. One tough, resilient, clever man. I read that he lost both legs in a plane crash and six weeks later was back at work as if it was merely a minor inconvenience.

    Let me say, I’m no great expert on anything, just someone who has been interested and involved in wildlife conservation and ecology.
    Which means I’ve given a lot of thought to notions like ‘stewardship’. Leakey had the responsibility for wildlife conservation in Kenya, so he needed to understand how the dynamics work.

    Most of the regular readers here will know that common simple crude conceptions of how CO2 figures in the climate turn out to be naive, because if you look at the fine detail of the heat transfers, you’re into complexities, molecular behaviour and quantum physics, thermodynamics, etc.

    Seems to me, the picture is not so different when we look at the world’s biological systems. It seems like common sense that to preserve a natural resource, like a forest of wildlife refuge, then ‘stewardship’ is the way to go. We are the wise guardians, delegated by the Creator, to care for His Creation, so to speak.

    Trouble is, when you dig into the detail, the ecology gets as tricky as the quantum physics. There used to be the idea of ‘the balance of nature’, where a community of organisms reached harmony and stability, and responded to external perturbations. Turns out it is far more complicated and weirder than that.

    Just like weather and climate, ecosystems can be modelled on computers and the models compared with real examples. So, you set up a pristine environment and then introduce species one at a time , soil, plants, herbivores, predators, etc, and run the model and see what happens.
    You’d expect that, after a bit of adjustment, some peak or climax state of stability would be reached. And that would be what aforementioned stewards would attempt to protect and maintain.

    Trouble is, it doesn’t work out that way. It’s way more complex and strange. You’d think that the individual species were the vital components of the system. Seems not so. There are internal factors at work, not just external perturbations, and the stability of the total system, e.g. resistance to invasive newcomers, has something to do with the inter-relationships of the established species. The order we observe seems to emerge from the internal dynamics of the system itself, and is not imposed by external circumstances.

    Leakey and Lewin quote Jim Drake (Purdue Uni.) “The persistent communities I make in my computer model clearly work very well. I’ll therefore take one of these communities and try to rebuild it from scratch, using only the dozen or so species that make up the community.”

    Okay ? That’s just the sort of thing that common sense stewardship would say we ought to do, if, say, we wanted to restore a dustbowl to it’s original undamaged state. It’s almost like some of the crude medical experiments of a century or two ago. ‘This guy’s lost a leg, let’s sew on a replacement from this cadaver’. Seems superficially reasonable, but doesn’t work in practice, because of lack of knowledge.

    What Drake found was that he could not do it. Once he took the community apart, he couldn’t put it back together again, no matter in what order he added the species.

    It seems that for an ecosystem to reach a persistent state, Z, it first has to pass through states A to Y. You can’t just get a list of the species which once inhabited the terrain, let them loose, and thus restore your ecosystem.

    Simple, it is not.

    So, how, if we want to play the steward, do we go about it ?

    There’s so much loose, fuzzy talk about ‘adapting’ to climate change. In practice, we scarcely have a clue as to how best to proceed with regard to preserving natural biological systems. Forests and wildlife will want to migrate, to follow the thermoclines and precipitation to which they have become adapted over the last few thousand years. But much conservation work is based upon a static model, preserving things just as they are, keeping out invasive species, etc. A forest can’t just jump to a better piece of the geography. Not to mention obstacles like agricultural land, cities, and species trapped on high ground where neither higher nor lower is an option.

    Comment by CL — 7 Aug 2008 @ 10:56 AM

  132. Re: #127 (BPL)

    I’m one of those who is extremely *skeptical* of claims that minimum wage hurts the poor. I’m also highly suspicious of arguments from economists, who I suspect are biased in favor of supporting the wishes of corporations for ideological rather than scientific reasons.

    But I try to keep an open mind, so I’ll bite: why?

    Comment by tamino — 7 Aug 2008 @ 11:01 AM

  133. Jess (120), you make it sound as if the capitalists have total freedom to offer up any job and that they pick the hazardous ones because they’re mean and simply want to exercise power over others. I maintain coal companies offer dangerous mining jobs mostly because that’s the nature of the business they are in. It probably never crossed their mind for a nanosecond that if they paid people to review books it would be safer for them so that’s what they should do. Society wants bunches of stuff. Different stuff. People can look for other jobs if they want, but if there isn’t 50 million book reviewers jobs out there, it’s not because of evil capitalists. It’s because society has no demand for anything approaching it.

    Making stuff can be pretty benign or carry some personal risk. Do you think a free private enterprise system ought to be reined in because it comes up (actually responding to demand for) with coal miners, iron miners, steel makers, farmers, policemen, firemen, pro football players, boxers, deep sea fisherman. heavy machine operators, oil drillers, etc., etc., etc? Hell, how about paper pushing office workers who take their lives in hand every time they drive the 20 miles to work?

    If you contend that none-the-less some corporations, entrepreneurs, capitalists take advantage of specific circumstances, like where the coal mining company happens to be the only employer of note for 50 miles, and doesn’t improve the safety of the job or acts like a monopoly employer (which he is) to squeeze and in essence maintain dominion over the populace ala Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons”, I fully agree. This situation should be mitigated as much as possible, and I think there has been tremendous progress over the past 75 years or so. (btw, because the unions and government made it so, not because the entrepreneurs got religion.)

    I do appreciate and agree with most of and the gist of your post. But still simply contend the inherent problems of free private enterprise and capitalism should and can be fixed by “tweaking”, not by tossing out the window. Which gets us back on topic. The non-evil, natural, and inherent nature of free private enterprise does not match up well with the large-scale long-term things required to mitigate global warming. (Similar but worse than constructing highways, e.g.) To the extent one wants such mitigation they should tweak (maybe sometimes a really big “tweak”) the current system with government regulations, incentives, etc. Those that, for whatever reason (they really think it’s appropriate and/or just have an anti-capitalist hair up their butt), think mitigation would be achieved the quickest by starting over will find just the opposite, and destroy the economy in the process.

    Comment by Rod B — 7 Aug 2008 @ 11:03 AM

  134. Hank (122), That’s not what Raven said in your linked reference. He simply said the science and political/policy debates ought to be separate. He’s probably wrong about this (too?), but I’m just keeping the wheels on the road.

    Comment by Rod B — 7 Aug 2008 @ 11:15 AM

  135. And then there are folks who just need basic education in climate science, nevermind the socio-cultural ramifications. Here is a link my nephew in India just sent me, and my reply to him:

    http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/ice_ages.html

    Hi Vijay,

    Just skimmed it. They are correct, if they are saying that we are now at a warm plateau period of a natural cycle. The question is, will we be cooling back down into another ice age over the next many thousands of years, or will we trigger the temps to even go higher into a rare hysteresis type of warming that could last 100,000 years or more and kill off 75% or more of life on earth, including most (if not all) of us humans. That has happened several times in the past, and it looks like by our high and increasing GHG emissions we are triggering such an event now.

    The denialists need to get a complete education in climate science — a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    Best,
    Periyamma

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 7 Aug 2008 @ 11:47 AM

  136. #131 CL

    I’m no expert either, but I feel that I am in good company :) One of the beautiful aspects of general systems I suppose is that expertise is impossible.

    Points all well taken.

    Two thoughts from my perspective:

    1. System resiliency on a time scale is reduced by continued interference with the natural systems, hence,

    2. Likely best primary course of action stewardship is to reduce the mechanisms that are disturbing the system as rapidly as possible before the timer runs out on critical sub-systems that will extend the resiliency beyond the capacity of such critical sub-systems to recover in reasonable time to maintain survivability of systems we would like to protect, such as the human-sub-system.

    The economy argument is likely the last line of defense between action and relevant policy making. People are still woefully behind in understanding this global warming event due to the noise level of the disinformation campaign. I am somewhat resigned to believe that we are going to have to play whack-a-mole for awhile longer.

    Lastly, simple it is not, especially as one travels upward and downward macro to micro and vice versa, but I am of the opinion that solutions are simple, we just have to increase the awareness level to the point that it is assimilated and behavior will begin to change by virtue of that awareness on a societal level (world brain). In other cases, behavior will change by necessity.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 7 Aug 2008 @ 11:52 AM

  137. #133 tamino

    The basic premise is that in a free market system everything works its way out through market forces. The problem is that it is idealistic to assume greed will not foment robber barons.

    In order for a free market to exist it requires objective value and honesty. This is where the Austrian school comes into conflict with human reality. While Menger and Mises were correct in identifying many critical aspects of the human system that does not remove the problem of greed v. the virtue of earning ones way. This I think was best illustrated in Atlas Shrugged by Rand. I assert that most read this incorrectly and place greed as the motivator rather than the pleasure of honest productivity as the higher virtue.

    So the missing components are honesty, integrity, objective value. This is the only area where the Austrian school, or objectivism, seems to be weak in premise (I believe that larger scope of the premise is sound but with to narrow a scope of consideration). It idealistically assumes that once objective value is achieved, and government gets its fingers out of the cookie jar, that everything works out.

    My assumption is that, this, without some semblance of reasonable regulation i.e.

    http://www.uscentrist.org/platform/foundations

    The system tends toward tribalism of various sorts and degrees of laziness due to power capacity achieved, i.e. the robber barons. Of course objectivists and the Austrian School counter this by dismissal of the premise (from what I have seen).

    Example: It has been contended that the minimum wage should be removed. That would mean that workers would be paid for the value of their contribution and those that pay them would recognize that value and willingly pay appropriately. It makes good general sense prima facia but history has shown us that things don’t really work that way.

    Mostly, the value of employee contribution is not valued well. And business barons will always seek the cheapest labor and some will rise to have more responsibility and favor, and increased wages. If people were valued appropriately for their contributions that would work out quite well of course.

    But say for example you invent a really cool widget for your baron and it saves the company 3 million dollars! How much of that money do you get for your invention? As has been proven over and over, most new inventions are stolen by the baron or claimed as his right by virtue of a piece of paper you signed because you needed the job, that says work-for-hire.

    This is why innovation is dying in our country and why all the John Galt’s (character) are hiding their talent. While the James Taggart’s (character) are working with the looters and moochers to legislate themselves better deals through corruptible governance.

    Point being, Rand did a fantastic job, most people misunderstand (imo) what she was saying and the story itself presents fantastic ideals that we should all aspire too but I doubt society will embrace. Simply because we always seem to run into value problems.

    Laziness and greed foster things like Buckley v. Valeo and government corruption in hand with corporatism fosters oligarchical and plutocratic tendencies.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 7 Aug 2008 @ 12:33 PM

  138. Raising the minimum wage is a bad thing for those receiving it because (a) it raises the general price level thereby wiping out a portion of the gains; (b) it pushes employers to reduce costs and most likely actual jobs or hours to maintain their margins; (c) it also raises the general price level because wage differentials between minimum wage workers and others need to be maintained further reducing temporary gains of those receiving the minimum wage increase.
    Under certain circumstances (e.g., where there is significant slack production, a high labor component in the final product and minimal imports ) increasing minimum wage can increase effective demand and help reduce unemployment.
    Those pushing increasing minimum wages are likely never to have run a small business employing individuals whose discretionary effort has little impact on the revenue of the business, e.g., a retail store. There owners see the impact quickly and their response is to reduce hours.

    Comment by Bernie — 7 Aug 2008 @ 12:56 PM

  139. Re No. 136

    Nice of you to say that, John :-) In line with the topic of this thread, I think one of the problems is that it in modern education it takes so long, and with so much hard work, to get high level expertise. People have to special-ise, knowing more and more about less and less. That’s inevitable, but I think it’s also important that some people step back and see the whole picture of the jigsaw as it seems to be emerging. Like the contrast between a spotlight and a floodlight. That’s when things start to look really alarming to me, because the news from so many diverse fields all seems to be that things are moving in the wrong direction. Calls for more offshore drilling, that food production must be doubled, more houses built, more industry for jobs, etc, etc, all mean taking more away from the dwindling remnants of wild nature. I dread to think what the consequences of Himalayan and other glaciers vanishing will be, for the river systems they feed.

    I’m not good at maths, and although I have done a course on basic statistics, I can’t judge whether someone has bent the numbers, so I rely upon the integrity of the guys here to say what’s what. I took comfort from Richard Feynman’s superb lecture videos, where he appeared so inept at elementary arithmetic, making remarks like ‘It takes my students three years to crunch through all the maths to get this result, but that doesn’t matter, all you need to do is understand this simple idea..” and he makes it comprehensible in two minutes. Climate science needs some guys like that, so that the rest of us can catch on and grasp what’s really happening, in language we can easily understand…

    http://www.vega.org.uk/video/subseries/8

    Comment by CL — 7 Aug 2008 @ 1:13 PM

  140. Rod B #133

    They do.

    The call it “outsourcing”.

    They call it FTA to get it and Grey Imports if you try.

    Comment by Mark — 7 Aug 2008 @ 1:15 PM

  141. Rod, a more recent quote from the same thread:

    “… Any attempt to impose large amounts of short term pain will inevitably face strong opposition because people will stop believing in AGW as soon as it is no longer in their interest to do so….”

    Shortest-term definition of “interest” ever.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Aug 2008 @ 3:22 PM

  142. tamino wrote in 132:

    Re: #127 (BPL)

    I’m one of those who is extremely *skeptical* of claims that minimum wage hurts the poor. I’m also highly suspicious of arguments from economists, who I suspect are biased in favor of supporting the wishes of corporations for ideological rather than scientific reasons.

    Well, a large part of it comes down to the marginal productivity theory of prices and wages — with diminishing returns for each input. (Mathematically, assuming continuous inputs, the productivity should be proportional to the product of the factors where each factor is raised to a power where the sum of the powers is equal to one — but we won’t worry about that since you can give a quick treatment of the marginal problem strictly by means of verbal logic.)

    *

    Looking at an individual business where they have to pay the prevailing wage for a certain type of labor (we will assume for the moment that all of the workers who provide that labor are equally good at what they do), if you have a set of tasks which have to be performed where some tasks are more important than others, you will arrange them in descending order of importance, and as you hire employees, you will assign them tasks in decreasing order of importance so that the most important tasks (those which raise your level of productivity and consequently your rate of profit the most) get done first. But at some point, the most important task which has yet to be assigned will require the hiring of an employee where you would have to pay him more than the return from his employment. Consequently, his employment would result in decreasing your profit — and at that point you will quit hiring employees to perform tasks. Now if you leglislate a higher wage, this will necessarily mean that for some businesses at least, that is, those who employ labor that is currently being payed minimum wage, where that labor is already of marginal or near marginal productivity, those businesses are likely to lay people off until they reach the point were they are making some additional profit from the last person in their employ — the marginal employee.

    But where does the prevailing wage for a certain type of labor come from in the free market? Normally there will be numerous industries and businesses in each industry that have use for that kind of labor. And if there is an industry which sees the demand for its product increase it will have need for more of that kind of labor. To obtain more it will raise the wage (price) that it is willing to pay for that kind of labor, drawing workers away from other industries and businesses. Other businesses will have no choice but to follow suit and raise the wage that they are willing to pay for that kind of labor — or continue to lose employees to businesses that are willing to pay more for that kind of labor so long as there are businesses that are will to pay more.

    *

    But all of that is rather abstract.

    Not all labor is perfectly substitutable even when it is the same kind of labor. Some people bring more qualifications, skill, and experience to their jobs — and others less. Given the current level of minimum wages, some teenagers simply do not have the skills to do what is needed. Or perhaps they have yet to learn how to apply themselves, how to be punctual, etc.. Consequently unemployment among teenagers (particularly in the less well-off minority groups) tends to be much higher than that of the general population. Raising the minimum wage will rob those who are worse off but who might otherwise find work of the opportunity to acquire the skills and experience necessary to command a higher wage in the future. And it will most severely affect those who are just starting out, particularly if they belong to disadvantaged groups.

    *

    Captcha fortune cookier: Minister Lazarus

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 7 Aug 2008 @ 3:51 PM

  143. John P (137), I’ve been in a discourse on another thread where I contend throwing out capitalist tycoons is far from the best way to effect desirable economic things. Regulations, incentives, accounting rules do the trick. But you raise an interesting point. That is the bare bones fact that many managers of business really do not put much value on their employees, their strong assertions (ever know a company that hasn’t said that their employees are their most important asset?) to the contrary not withstanding. This is a very intractable problem to regulate and fix.

    Comment by Rod B — 7 Aug 2008 @ 4:14 PM

  144. #141 Hank Roberts

    Wow! That’s a great argument. Solves everything! We have reverted to 3 year old games of hiding under the pillow claiming the parent is not in the room. Reminds me of that great bumber sticker.

    “Maybe if we ignore the environment, it will just go away.”

    The problem is challenging and it will have a cost, so let’s not do it; even though it will bring human society many benefits, say like, being alive, productive, creative… Wow!

    I remain, technology & ingenuity got us into this and technology & ingenuity can get us out, but not if people start burying their heads in the sand.

    I’m gone to the high sierra for the next few days. I look forward to seeing where the discussion goes.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 7 Aug 2008 @ 4:33 PM

  145. Those pushing increasing minimum wages are likely never to have run a small business employing individuals whose discretionary effort has little impact on the revenue of the business, e.g., a retail store.

    This is the kind of argument that makes me distrust economists.

    Life may indeed be hard for the business owner, but I have zero sympathy for their whining about it; it’s a helluva lot harder for the worker. Those opposing increasing minimum wage have likely never had to feed their kids with only a minimum-wage job.

    Comment by tamino — 7 Aug 2008 @ 4:48 PM

  146. Bernie wrote in 138:

    Those pushing increasing minimum wages are likely never to have run a small business employing individuals whose discretionary effort has little impact on the revenue of the business, e.g., a retail store.

    tamino responded in 145:

    Life may indeed be hard for the business owner, but I have zero sympathy for their whining about it; it’s a helluva lot harder for the worker. Those opposing increasing minimum wage have likely never had to feed their kids with only a minimum-wage job.

    Marcus said:

    I used to think that life was unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse, if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.

    (from Babylon 5, “A Late Delivery From Avalon”)

    *

    Unfortunately need doesn’t pay the bills — either for a household or for small business. Not terribly fair, but such is life, or so I would argue.

    Now I don’t know what it is like to run a small business, at least not any more than I know what it is like to be pregnant, or for that matter provide food for my kids — as I haven’t any kids. I have cats, though, as well as a wife. I also have a master’s degree. And I have worked minimum wage jobs with all the above — behind the counter top at McDonald’s, folding rags at a factory, and doing gods know what else — trying to keep from losing whatever roof we had over our head month after month.

    But none of that changes the laws of physics or economics. The needs of America’s poor won’t change the fact that businesses that businesses that operate at a deficit long enough will eventually go out of business any more than the needs of India’s poor will change the spectral emissivity of carbon dioxide.

    So rather than looking at things in terms of who happens to be most needy or who happens to be most deserving, it might be best if we try and figure out how the world works — and why it works that way. Personally, I think bringing together people who are interested in climatology and ecology and those who are interested in economy is bound to involve some tensions — but it could bring a few insights — if we can learn how to communicate with one-another and are able to see how the different disciplines justify their conclusions.

    *

    captcha fortune cookie: THE fusion

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 7 Aug 2008 @ 9:38 PM

  147. This is a question for the economists. When the British assessment of total cost of AGW came out, and several other times when predictions of economic harm have been published, I tried to ask this question and never got a good answer:

    ‘Your summary is that AGW is going to cost the world X-Billions of dollars. [Noted: this does not account for human suffering]. This is a huge sum. Could you please provide the “plus/minus”? In other words, bad as the net result might be, it must have been REALLY bad when only negative costs were computed. Then, apparently, the benefits of AGW were computed, but I guess they totaled far less than the negatives, because the final figure is scary and huge. But….just out of curiosity….could you provide us with the actual plus/minus”?

    I never got an answer.

    When the economists working on the cost of AGW run their models, are they fairly and dispassionately factoring in the enormous benefits of a warming world, as well as listing and summing the negatives?

    {I would ask that totalizing negative scenarios such as runaway Venus effect be left out of the answer; i will stipulate that that is totally bad. Just for the current middle consensus of what will happen over this century.}

    Thank you
    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

    Comment by John Donohue — 7 Aug 2008 @ 9:42 PM

  148. Hank (141) I’m not sure I get your point, but I never said or implied that imposing regulations, new cost accounting rules, and even incentives generates no pain. You are correct that too much short-term pain could generate to much pushback. It’s just a matter of striking the right balance and possibly doing part later.

    Timothy C (142) I tend to agree with you analysis. The difficulty is that most business managers, even in small enterprises, but especially in large corporations, do not have the capability, inclination, or even the responsibility even if they had the first two, to apply such finite econometrics. You show me a Division manager who can precisely rank every employee by their measured productivity worth to the enterprise and I’ll show you, as Deming would say, a guy making up numbers. Doubly, a hiring manager could in no way do this. So they make their best guess as to worth to production and then add all kinds of other stuff into the hiring equation. Hiring, firing, and managing is related to the econometrics you discuss, but it is very loose and decoupled. However, the smaller the enterprise, the less what I said is applicable. Oddly though you will never find a small enterprises doing the square of factors multiplied together divided by a marginal productivity. ;-)

    tamino (145), in general you make a decent point, but you will be hard-pressed to objectively show that workers, the preponderance of the time, have a tougher time than business owners. You are correct in your implication that there is no way a guy can support a family on the minimum wage; I don’t think that is its foundation or purpose. (At least I hope not. If it is, than our legislators are even dumber than I think — and that is really dumb!)

    Comment by Rod B — 7 Aug 2008 @ 10:54 PM

  149. Re: #54–

    It’s a bit like radiative balance isn’t it? (Though the current trends are inverse–as the temps rise, certain biological populations fall.)

    That is, those efficient extractive methodologies Hank mentions–factory fishing/whaling, mechanized (or “mechanised”, for the non-American contingent) et al.–are analagous to “reverse GHGs”–they lead to greater outputs from the relevant system, and therefore for a lower (population) equilibrium point. Of course, in too many cases already, the new equilibrium point has turned out to be zero.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 8 Aug 2008 @ 8:07 AM

  150. tamino writes:

    I’m one of those who is extremely *skeptical* of claims that minimum wage hurts the poor. I’m also highly suspicious of arguments from economists, who I suspect are biased in favor of supporting the wishes of corporations for ideological rather than scientific reasons.

    But I try to keep an open mind, so I’ll bite: why?

    Because if you raise the price of a good or service above its equilibrium level, you get a surplus which is not bought. In the case of the minimum wage, the service is labor. Raise the price above the equilibrium level, and you will have labor services going unbought — i.e., people out of work.

    If you chart the teenage unemployment level against the minimum wage, you can see how one goes up when the other does. I’ve run the regressions myself, and the connection is pretty clear. And Sergeant’s partial-F test for Granger causality seems to indicate that the causality runs from the wage to the unemployment.

    The real minimum wage is always zero — the wage you get if you’re unemployed.

    The objective of helping lower-income workers is a good one. But the minimum wage doesn’t actually help. It strikes me as a way for politicians to look like they’re helping the poor without actually having to spend any money. I’d favor a negative income tax or something of the sort to raise the incomes of the lower wage earners, or even a guaranteed job. The treatment of the poor in this country (and many others) is a sin and a scandal and something we ought to be actively doing something about. I just think the particular policy of the minimum wage doesn’t help.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Aug 2008 @ 9:17 AM

  151. Re #147 where Jonh Donohue asks “could you provide us with the actual plus/minus” [for the effects of global warming]?”

    First, the figures are in the trillions not billions of dollars.

    Let’s assume that there is a sea level rise of only 1m, (3 feet) That will destroy much coastal farming land reducing world production of food. It will also destroy the homes of subsistence farmers. Positively, it will increase the shallow water where fishing will be possible, but since many edible species have now been fished out that not be a large plus.

    Of course this will also mean many beach homes in Florida etc. will also be destroyed, but people with cliff top houses on the coast of Carliornis will not have to climb as many steps when returning from the beach, until the cliff on which they have build their homes are eroded away by the rising sea levels.

    Every port in the world will be affected. Although a 1 m rise will not make them unusable, they will be vulnerable to storm surges, and each will probably require a Thames type barrier at $40 billion a time. See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6964281.stm

    The advantage is that ships will be able to unload further up stream reducing transport cost, after the construction costs have been repaid.

    As far as the direct cost of global warming itself, then the loss of most farm land in the US to drought will be offset by a longer growing season and greater production in Russia. So that may balance out quite nicely!

    HTH,

    Cheers, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 8 Aug 2008 @ 10:26 AM

  152. Timothy C. (146): I second that.

    Comment by Rod B — 8 Aug 2008 @ 10:34 AM

  153. > a guy can support a family
    Rod, it’s mostly how you say ‘gals’ these days with the kids.

    But we digress.

    Mr. Donohue, for benefits of a warming world, you need to look past the disruption. The problem is the rate of change, far faster than anything in the past short of an asteroid impact; nothing adapts fast enough to make this a smooth transition. It’s going to be very messy. Economists dislike those times, they’re hard to account for.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Aug 2008 @ 10:38 AM

  154. #127 “in real life minimum wages hurt far more poor people than they help.” – BPL

    Nonsense on stilts. When a minimum wage was introduced in the UK, true enough lots of right-wing economists, and the CBI (employers’ organisation), predicted huge job losses. They didn’t happen, and a lot of people in cleaning and catering jobs began getting a wage they actually had some chance of living on.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 8 Aug 2008 @ 10:39 AM

  155. #146 “But none of that changes the laws of physics or economics.”

    The “laws” of economics as defined by neoclassical economists are, to a considerable extent, simply obfuscatory ways to justify the status quo: they largely ignore the real world, where experience shows minimum wages do not in general reduce the number of jobs available at the lower end of the wage-scale, and construct a theoretical argument for why they “must” do so. As Rod B. notes, real-world businesses do not and cannot make the kinds of
    calculations theory says they “ought” to. More important, nor is the work to be done in a business neatly divisible into separate jobs that can be ranked by their profit-enhancing potential: workers operate in teams and networks, social interactions and morale effects are ineradicable complications.

    It simply is not the case that there is the kind of scientific consensus on how economies work – let alone how they could work – that there is on climate modelling.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 8 Aug 2008 @ 11:07 AM

  156. I wonder if people have caught on to the “jack up the boat” principle of minimum wage policy. Government mandated minimum wage forces all prices higher because many labor contracts and standards are floored against the minimum wage. So, you have not just the artificial uptick of costs due to the min. wage earners, but also the automatic elevator for many levels above. Sometimes this escalator is actually wired into labor contracts, but a far more potent and far reaching effect is the ‘understood’ pressure that a semi-skilled worker ought to be paid more as minimum wage gets kicked up.

    While I personally favor total abolition of all minimum wage laws, it is in a context of a return to a free market; just changing that one policy would be all skewed up. We are far from capitalism and free market in this culture anyway; because of progressive taxation and designed government-driven inflation with relentless increase of the government sphere, we are lumbering through social democracy on the way to out and out so-cial-ism [frayed word because it triggers spam detectors!]. Seems to march along no matter which party is in power. Must be what we want, as opposed to what we made our Revolution about 225 years ago.

    On another note, I googled anthropocene and instantly got it. It’s the idea that human activity has trumped the natural cycles and is now determining climate. If so, who makes policy? Is it better to fight to stabilize the Ice House we are in for the past 30-60 million years? Better to aid more cooling? Or better, since we have trumped the Holocene, to reach even higher and also end the Ice House permanently and return to an ice-free planet, as is has been for over 85% of its history. After all, the dinosaurs flourished for 50 million years or more without Ice, wouldn’t we be better off without it too?

    Comment by John Donohue — 8 Aug 2008 @ 12:49 PM

  157. I’m the cartoonist commissioned for the cartoon, (Marc with a c) and I’m glad it’s met with such interested approval. I’ve been making cartoons designed to raise awareness and entertain the activist community for a few years now and am proud to appear on RealClimate.
    I’m currently building a humour/information resources site with a grant from Artist’s Project Earth and I would be delighted to play with any ideas that yourself or your informed readership might care to send my way. Editorial comment would also be welcomed. It needs to be right. I’d also be more than happy to work on ideas for the RealClimate community. I’m sure that together we can come up with humorous graphics that can get and keep people’s attention.
    The complexity of the issues tends to intimidate many people and humour, along with the playful twisting of stereotypes, can be an invaluable tool in persuading the many that this is not just the business of the few. A link to the site in the text would be great, incidentally.
    If anyone is interested they can find some of my work -from ‘Easter bunny island’ to “The Chocolate Fireguard” temporarily lodged at http://www.throbgoblins.blogspot.com.

    [Response: Thanks for stopping by! - gavin]

    Comment by Marc Roberts — 8 Aug 2008 @ 1:36 PM

  158. Re my reply to John Donohue, when I wrote “cliff top houses on the coast of Carlionis” it was a typo. I meant California!

    Of course there are lots of other beach front and cliff top properties throughout the world, not just in the USA including such desirable areas as Martha’s Vineyard in the US, and Sandbanks in the UK, the fourth most expensive location in the world!

    But, John, I haven’t really answered your question, because I have not given you concrete figures. The reason is that as far as I know they do not exist, and that brings me back on topic.

    Gavin, is calling for scientists who can bridge the divide between the science of global warming and its economics. When even the modeling of global warming itself is broken up into specialties, and paleoclimatology into even more, then that seems a forlorn dream.

    The only answer is, as I see it, for Gavin to cross the divide and work out the cost of global warming himself, rather than for him to wait for some un-named grad-student economist to try and learn the effects of global warming from an economics professor in small business modeling. What do you say Gavin? Surely you could produce a better estimate than mine :-)

    Cheers, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 8 Aug 2008 @ 3:27 PM

  159. Alastair, the journalists answered that question to a fair approximaton already:
    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/a-drink-that-might-just-cost-you-the-earth/2007/04/07/1175366538285.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Aug 2008 @ 4:54 PM

  160. RE #156:

    “If so, who makes policy?”
    One policy-making sector is us. We are making the policy, by either becoming energy/resource efficient/conservative (& saving $$ to boot), or not doing so (harming both earth & our pocketbooks).

    “After all, the dinosaurs flourished for 50 million years or more without Ice, wouldn’t we be better off without it too?”
    And fossil crocodiles have been found in the Arctic. But there was mainly death and devastation (from what I understand) in most other parts of earth during these extreme hysteresis global warmings. During the end Permian 95% of life on earth died. Is that the policy result for which we’re striving? Would you risk that, if there were even only a 5% chance it could happen again this time?

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Aug 2008 @ 5:06 PM

  161. (no relation unless we share an ancestor somewhere back in Scotland or Ireland)

    Marc’s website is: http://www.throbgoblins.blogspot.com/
    (no dot at the end)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Aug 2008 @ 5:13 PM

  162. Re #159, I vaguely remember from my economics class that it made more economic sense to ship things far way, like apples, than sell them locally. The best apples are shipped far bec they are expensive and it’s not worth it to ship the cheaper ones. So the less quality ones are sold locally, which I’d guess makes the locals buy good quality apples shipped from some other far off place.

    So I guess Australians tend to eat Washington apples, and Washingtonians tend to eat Australian apples (unless they’re in some money crunch). I’m probably wrong on this, but I remember thinking “this is cuckoo” when I read about it.

    While most proactive environmental actions make good economic sense (& leaves one wondering why people are not implementing them), not all things that make economic sense make environmental sense.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Aug 2008 @ 5:18 PM

  163. I guess someone in govt doesn’t want to know about the socioeconomic impacts of global warming:

    “The National Center for Atmospheric Research, an important hub for work on the causes and consequences of climate change, has shut down a program focused on strengthening poor countries’ ability to forecast and withstand droughts, floods and other climate-related hazards.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/07/science/earth/07climate.html?ref=us

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 9 Aug 2008 @ 1:38 AM

  164. John Donohue, 156, said :

    “…in a context of a return to a free market; just changing that one policy would be all skewed up. We are far from capitalism and free market in this culture anyway; because of progressive taxation and designed government-driven inflation with relentless increase of the government sphere, we are lumbering through social democracy on the way to out and out so-cial-ism [frayed word because it triggers spam detectors!]. Seems to march along no matter which party is in power. Must be what we want, as opposed to what we made our Revolution about 225 years ago.”

    I view an un-regulated free market as totally unacceptable. It means that whoever has most power will grab whatever resources they want, regardless of the interests of anyone else. It makes perfect sense to mine any resource to exhaustion or extinction, as fast as possible, use the added power and wealth to repeat for another resource. It’s really a statement, ” I don’t want anybody to obstruct my lust for power “. In effect, the equivalent in civil life, would a license for criminal, socio-pathic behaviour.

    I find the suggestion that USA is not capitalist, and is a social democracy moving towards soc-ial-ism to be very strange. My impression is that the US system is some sort of militaristic imperialistic corporatism. My example for social democracy might be Germany, and for soc-ial-ism, Sweden. If I recall correctly, Jefferson wanted an agrarian economy, not free market industrial capitalism.

    Anyway, what’s so ‘bad’ about soc-ial-ism ?

    “The cultivation of self-interest and encouragement of private profit is not essential to economic efficiency. An individual desire to be of service and to increase the wealth of the whole society can be an equally strong motivation. Work does not need to be seen as a necessary burden, but as a desirable activity with physical, social and spiritual significance and benefits, allowing each person to have a recognized role and to make a constructive contribution to society. Just as the total productivity of an ecosystem is the sum of the net productivity of each organism within the system, so does each incremental contribution of some good or service add to the total wealth of the community.”

    http://www.bcca.org/ief/ddahl97a.htm

    I tend to agree with Nick Gotts, 155, that a large part of ‘economics’, is merely rationalizations for a extending or sustaining power structures that benefits certain parties.

    I also remember the cries of horror from industry and commerce, that a proposed minimum wage would cause millions to be unemployed , make the whole of Britain uncompetitive, spreading ruin and destitution across the land.

    When the minimum wage actually came, hardly anybody noticed, except that a few very poor people had a little more to spend.

    I will concede, however, that the economy was generally prospering at the time, and if jobs were destroyed because of the minimum wage, they were probably filled by illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, and the like, who were forced to accept whatever terms they could get, illegally, out of desperation.

    I know I’m in Lala Land, but I’d like to see a maximum wage imposed. I’d also like to see all businesses and corporations required to have an ecological audit, similar to the financial audit conducted by accountants, to measure the ecological impacts of all inputs and outputs.

    I’d then grade all businesses according to that audit, perhaps having 5 levels. Those with the best environmental record would pay the least tax, those with the worst, the most tax. Those graded below level 5 would be given a red card, as being ecologically insolvent, and, after a period to try and reorganise their affairs, if they failed, would ultimately have their license to trade revoked.

    Of course, my suggestion will be reviled and ridiculed, with much the same sort of arguments as the desire for fairness and justice via a minimum wage were rejected. If I recall correctly, the same sectors of soceity argued against the Plimsoll line, to prevent ships being overloaded, drowning many innocent sailors every year, whilst the ship owners happily walked away with the insurance money. They delayed it’s implementation for many years.
    Same goes for the abolition slavery, when business and commerce said the global economy would collapse without it. And I dare say, the same can be said of the oil and coal lobbies today, re costs of moving away from the carbon economy.
    Humans can be seen, by some, as no more than a commodity, like sugar, or wheat, or gasoline, or diamonds, and very often humans are less profitable, and so expendable.

    In a nutshell, I’d like a paradigm shift, to elevate the ways that we view ourselves and our fellow men and women. And for that matter, the whole of the biosphere, which created us, and upon which we all depend. Why not ?

    http://naturyl.humanists.net/synthesis/freedom.html

    Comment by CL — 9 Aug 2008 @ 6:35 AM

  165. An interesting little snippet for evidence of increasing temperatures and CO2, from monitoring of Lascaux cave paintings.

    (Small rise ? 2 degrees since 1982 seems a big rise to me.)

    “Some experts have pointed to climate change as a factor. Mr. Geneste said it might be too early to make such a claim. But he added that in the past two decades, a small rise in temperature and carbon dioxide had been detected in a number of caves in France. “And the average soil temperature in areas around the caves has risen by two degrees centigrade since 1982,”

    http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=6334433

    Comment by CL — 9 Aug 2008 @ 7:27 AM

  166. #156: Regressive taxations.

    Well, the more money you have the more you get from things like transport, education, the police and armed forces.

    Transport: goods are cheaper and since you can afford more stuff AND buy from more places at distance you get more of an effect when rich than when poor

    Education: If you’re poor, you have been educated. If you’re a factory owner, you have educated workers (which are more efficient)

    Police: The more you have the more you need to protect and the more likely you are to be targeted. Also, the richer you are, the more connected and the more help you get (and listened to more, treated better and not hassled).

    Armed Forces: If someone invades it will be the mansion the new overlords will take, not the slum tenement.

    Comment by Mark — 9 Aug 2008 @ 8:29 AM

  167. Add to that the absolute and incontrovertible FACT of the rich being far richer than their economic output would suggest (and a lot of that being the richer you are the less money you need: you don’t get a suzaphone you pay cash, or a better rate with a 50% deposit).

    In the US it is especially bad with CEOs being paid VASTLY more than the mean wage of the workers who make the product to be sold (but it is bad elsewhere).

    When you’re rich you as an individual are listened to. As a poor Jenny Housecoat, you are a resource to be exploited at best. Only listened to when millions of you get together. And in the UK, not even then.

    So the rich get far more from the society than the poor and they have more ways of avoiding it. Hence regressive taxes. If rich people could be trusted to just pay the freaking taxes there would be much less need for regressive taxes to be so high. But they’d rather pay an accountant £100,000 to save £200,000 than just pay the £200,000 and find that maybe with all this new tax coming in, they can take £100,000 less.

    posted in packets to find what the heck is considered “spam” in the message. Sheet. “mort gage” looks like the spam word.

    I’ve use the word “suzaphone” instead of mort gage

    Comment by Mark — 9 Aug 2008 @ 8:31 AM

  168. Re 163: This is a sad commentary on the priorities of the National Science Foundation. The economic divide between developed and undeveloped nations is already causing global friction. Poorer countries will suffer the most from the effects of climate change, and this cancellation is a step in the wrong direction.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 9 Aug 2008 @ 9:04 AM

  169. @Rod B–

    I don’t think people ask miners to work dangerous jobs because they are personally mean people. Nor do I think business leaders are evil. I just think that the incentive is to cut costs wherever and whenever possible. If I am a mine owner with a nice, steady supply of people desperate enough to need the job (which is the case for almost any job, unless you’re one of a relatively small class of workers) then if the choice is a) send 100 men down, a X dollars per day, knowing that half of them are dead men and b) spend an extra $Y per man to keep them alive and cut my profits, b) always, always, always wins. Never in the history of the world has a capitalist enterprise made worker health and safety a priority without a lot of pushing. Market forces never do this — it’s always extra-market forces like unions, or laws, or people getting up and collectively saying “no way.”

    This is also why market forces are really terrible for dealing with environmental problems, at least as long as the science of economics says that profit is the only way to value anything. As long as I can externalize the non-monetary costs, then great. That’s why the incentives are not to conserve oil, but to use as much as possible. It’s why the incentive for BP, or Exxon, is to lobby governments to try and control resources, and why to an oil company democracy is absolutely unacceptable in any oil-producing country. (You think it’s an accident that the US did it’s level best to destroy democracies in any country that had anything valuable?)

    And for all those who speak of abolishing minimum wages, let me offer that “free markets” can’t exist for labor, because we are not all mind-readers. There are also transaction costs. I can’t magically teleport from one job to another in another region of the country, for example. Nor do I know what the employer offered to every other worker. Gaining skills or a degree is a cost, and most colleges are predicated on a young man being able to not work for four years. it is only in the last generation that they have started to offer programs for people who are working, and even those are pretty thin on the ground. (Contemplate getting a professional degree if you are already working or working with kids and you will see what I mean).

    Then there’s the matter of power. Anyone reading this who has been forced to work a minimum wage job (or low-wage job) because they needed the money has experienced this. Lets say you are a woman with children who needs to support them. Your boss says “sleep with me now or I fire you.” What do you do when jobs aren’t falling off the trees? Remember, you need the money.

    Only a very small class of workers can negotiate their pay (I wasn’t in that situation until I had been in the workforce for a good 15 years). Only a very small class of workers is in a position to save enough that they can quit for a while when they run into something unacceptable. This is a basic reality. It’s why corporations hate anti-discrimination laws, because it makes too much economic sense to have workers who can’t say no tot anything for fear of losing their jobs. Employers aren’t evil people, necessarily. Jack Welch is a fine man, I am sure. But he had a large incentive to tell the local managers in Lynn, Massachusetts to hire out the cops part time to beat up union organizers. And he did it all through the late 70s and early 80s. But his personality is irrelevant.

    Minimum wages are designed as a floor of income, similar to Social Security. It’s a way for society to say it won’t tolerate semi-slavery, which is what you get without them. (In a similar vein, Social Security is a kind of deferred wages, a way of saying that as a society having people work until they die is unacceptable and taking care of people who may not have had children, or whose kids live far away, or whatever. It is made necessary by modern capitalism which demands we move around a lot compared to ages past).

    Here’s what I would like to see: economists figuring in the cost of having an uninhabitable planet, or at least one less friendly to human civilization. I’ll take a percentage point off the economic growth if it means my kids will have a decent world to live in and a civilization to inhabit.

    Comment by Jess — 9 Aug 2008 @ 9:13 AM

  170. Climatia is part of Scientia which has been connected to Economistan by a rickety old bridge for some time. On entering Scientia travelers used see a big notice to leave their ideological baggage behind them. On the other hand those entering Economistan were just warned to cover up their ideology. In the old days there were conflicts between Marxist, Keynesian and Classical Liberal Economics but these have been influenced by events on the other side of the bridge especially in the USSR.

    The communists had hoped that human nature could be fundamentally moulded by the state and the science of genetics was throwing some doubt on this goal ; in addition it contained an inbuilt inequality between individuals. So when Comrade Lysenko entered Scientia he ignored the big notice. He asserted that the whole of genetics was based on lies and therefore purged the entire Soviet genetics community. This enabled him to modernise Soviet agriculture, a process which led to massive starvation as well as a failure of the USSR to develop new hybrids, unlike the rest of the world. According to the British geneticist Steve Jones, this failure of Soviet agriculture is the real reason why the USSR collapsed. It was however interpreted quite differently in Economistan where the theorists proclaimed the triumph of Liberal (now neo-Liberal) economics. They confidently gave advice to post-communist Russia which proceeded to have a severe slump and huge fall of life expectancy. This may have delayed the advent of democracy there.

    Similar advice was given to some African governments which led to to their populations being denied universal education and health care. The advisors do not of course blame their theories, they assert that some minor errors were made. The Russians are now beginning to join the rest of the world. They now have a massive CO2 generating capacity and show every sign of developing their own form of climate change denial.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 9 Aug 2008 @ 10:21 AM

  171. Lynn (162), the trade theory assumes that we send apples to Australia, and they send something else to us, presumably something that they can produce more efficiently than apples.

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Aug 2008 @ 10:51 AM

  172. > argued against the Plimsoll line
    Thanks CL
    Searching on that turns up some fascinating material.
    Why the heck didn’t that get taught in history class, I wonder?
    Belongs with “from the people who brought you the weekend” in history.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Aug 2008 @ 11:02 AM

  173. CL (more 164), Price and Wage controls (always maximums) never work in the long-term and cause major disruptions. I actually agree, in general, with your idea of an ecological audit to compliment actual financial audits, as one way to insert those externalization costs into the equation. But then you took it to ridiculous and silly extremes. Shows again your interest is in lambasting capitalists, not improving economies.

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Aug 2008 @ 11:29 AM

  174. Mark (167) says,

    When you’re rich you as an individual are listened to. As a poor Jenny Housecoat, you are a resource to be exploited at best…..

    Substitute “rich or in power” and find me any system where this is not true.

    Who in the U.S. pays federal taxes? The “rich”, by a vast proportion. This applies to State income taxes as well. Property taxes, a primary method of financing localities, is not regressive. Sales taxes, a primary source of (some) State funds, I agree, is clearly regressive and ought to be mitigated. Our forefathers correctly IMO expected, though they did not proscribe it, that the upper middle and rich class would pay the taxes. For the most part that is what’s happening.

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Aug 2008 @ 11:49 AM

  175. Jess (169), I agree capitalists come in various flavors, some pretty unsavory. But to say b) always wins is just not true. There are numerous examples of capitalists showing much concern for the safety and well-being of its employees. T. Vail comes to mind as one. Early in the Bell System’s life he declared that the safety of the operators and lineman should take second place to nothing. In fact employee safety was officially their top priority (“most important”) into the 1980s.

    This doesn’t mean that there aren’t meanies out there. I agree, as I’ve said, they need regulation and mitigation from governments or unions or public pressure.

    You say, “…market forces are really terrible for dealing with environmental problems…” As I’ve said/implied often, Well! Duh! So? This simple means the society has to instill other motivations through regulation, law, etc.

    Just an observation: If you would look for info other than in your butt, you wouldn’t say things like, “…the US did it’s level best to destroy democracies in any country that had anything valuable…”

    You are correct: what is missing in capitalism (both theory and practice) is that it takes no account for transitions, and the theory assumes full disclosure and complete info for everybody which does not exist, and is more detremental to labor than business owners.

    For the record, when Social Security was started the life expectancy was a bit over one year more than retirement age — a fact that was well-known and salient in the minds of the government.

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Aug 2008 @ 12:18 PM

  176. RE 45 Kevin: Sorry. I should have referenced books by Don Richard Riso. I should have said Riso divides people into 9 basic types.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 9 Aug 2008 @ 2:07 PM

  177. Rod B wrote in 148:

    Timothy C (142) I tend to agree with you analysis. The difficulty is that most business managers, even in small enterprises, but especially in large corporations, do not have the capability, inclination, or even the responsibility even if they had the first two, to apply such finite econometrics. You show me a Division manager who can precisely rank every employee by their measured productivity worth to the enterprise and I’ll show you, as Deming would say, a guy making up numbers.

    The fact is that they do not have to engage in this exact calculus for the principle to apply at all levels of the free market. They do not have to precisely enumerate each the exact cost of each task. But nevertheless I would argue that they approximate it — and those who do not are necessarily less competitive than those who more closely approximate it — and will tend to go out of business — whereas those which more closely approximate it will tend to expand and be emulated by those who wish to remain business. What we are dealing with in systemic causation — where the more efficient businesses will tend to attract better employees, offer products at a lower price or offer better products (as judged by those who actually purchase and use those products) at a comptetive price and so on. Likewise, as a matter of systemic causation, those businesses which are more efficiently organized — in terms of the cognitive division of labor whereby business decisions are made — will tend to succeed whereas others will fail.

    This is the reason why capitalism works and centralized economies do not. In essence, the free market naturally tends to break up economic decision-making into manageable units, where those who have access to the information that is is specifically and concretely relevant to a given decision will have the power to make that decision. And economic calculation, in the form of decisions to buy from one business or another or buy one brand rather than another, is performed by each and every participant in the economy every time they make a purchase decision — taking into account their specific needs and context. By way of contrast, a centralized economy is the attempt to substitute the collective intelligence of a centralized economic planning committee for the collective intelligence of the millions of participants in the economy as a whole — and is necessarily doomed to fail. Free markets are able to make use of information that generally cannot even be discovered by any other means. Such was the central insight for behind Frederick A. Hayek’s 1945 paper for which he won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1974.

    Rod B wrote in 148:

    Doubly, a hiring manager could in no way do this. So they make their best guess as to worth to production and then add all kinds of other stuff into the hiring equation. Hiring, firing, and managing is related to the econometrics you discuss, but it is very loose and decoupled. However, the smaller the enterprise, the less what I said is applicable. Oddly though you will never find a small enterprises doing the square of factors multiplied together divided by a marginal productivity.

    Their best guess cannot possibly include everything that each of the potential candidates for a given position knows, but it should at least include all of the relevant and available information to the extent that it is both relevant and available — and to the extent that it makes economic sense (in terms of the actual benefits and costs) of including such information. And once again, I would argue that simply as a matter of systemic causation, the free market will tend to make better decisions in this regard than any conceivable alternative in terms of the social and economic organization of society given the same resources.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 9 Aug 2008 @ 2:17 PM

  178. Nick Gotts wrote in 155:

    The “laws” of economics as defined by neoclassical economists are, to a considerable extent, simply obfuscatory ways to justify the status quo: …

    It has been said better before:

    But don’t wrangle with us so long as you apply, to our intended abolition of bourgeois property, the standard of your bourgeois notions of freedom, culture, law, etc. Your very ideas are but the outgrowth of the conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your jurisprudence is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will, whose essential character and direction are determined by the economical conditions of existence of your class.

    The selfish misconception that induces you to transform into eternal laws of nature and of reason, the social forms springing from your present mode of production and form of property –historical relations that rise and disappear in the progress of production– this misconception you share with every ruling class that has preceded you.

    Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

    The trouble is this is simply an ad hominem attack aimed at anyone who disagrees with you rather than a thoughtful examination of the science of economics — and in Marx’s case, he is raises this fallacy into a central principle of social epistemology. Under such circumstances it is no wonder that “theoretical” disputes get settled at the sharp end of an axe.

    Nick Gotts wrote in 155:

    … they largely ignore the real world, where experience shows minimum wages do not in general reduce the number of jobs available at the lower end of the wage-scale, and construct a theoretical argument for why they “must” do so.

    History would beg to differ:

    The alternative explanation of high black teenage unemployment by “racisim” collides with two very hard facts: (1) black teenage in the 1940s and early 1950s was only a fraction of what it was in the 1960s and 1970s (and was no different from white teenage unemployment during the earlier period), despite the obvious fact that there was certainly no less racism in the earlier period, and (2) unemployment rates among blacks in their mid twenties drop sharly to a fraction of what it was in their teens, even though the workers have not changed color as they aged, but only become more experienced… A decade of rapid inflation after the federal minimum wage law of 1938 virtually repealed the law as an economic factor by the late 1940s and early 1950s– before a series of amendments escalated the original minimum. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, when inflation and the exemption of many occupations from wage control made the minimum wage law relatively ineffective, black teenage [un]employment was less than a third of what it was in the later period, after the minimum was raised to keep pace with inflation and the coverage of minimum wage laws extended to virtually the entire economy.

    Thomas Sowell, Knowledge and Decisions, pg. 175, 1980 softcover edition

    Nick Gotts wrote in 155:

    More important, nor is the work to be done in a business neatly divisible into separate jobs that can be ranked by their profit-enhancing potential: workers operate in teams and networks, social interactions and morale effects are ineradicable complications.

    … and nevertheless — despite all the complexity, economic decisions have to be made — who to hire and who to fire. Who will make them? By what criteria, and what manner of social organization are you proposing? Systemic causation seems to work well enough in the other sciences (despite whatever cries of censorship or conspiracy you might hear coming from the creationist ranks), and judging from the success of that barren rock we call Hong Kong or the rapid industrialization and consequent rise of living standards in the United States during the 19th century, it seems to work quite well in the realm of the economy.

    Nick Gotts wrote in 155:

    It simply is not the case that there is the kind of scientific consensus on how economies work – let alone how they could work – that there is on climate modelling.

    Economic science has been around longer. The Wealth of Nations dates back to 1776. And I believe that you will find that there is considerable consensus to the effect that Adam Smith is a good place to begin and that the law of supply and demand applies — both to prices and wages.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 9 Aug 2008 @ 3:14 PM

  179. I’m not going to argue my politics here; clearly this is not the home of the free market, so be it.

    Since this is the home of “let’s control the environment and plan the economy”, I continue to contend that the economists heading the plan are exaggerating the helplessness of human culture and acting as if we will just be victims as things warm up.

    I’d dispute the notion that the world cannot cope with rapid climate change. Now, if it occurs in a HollywoodMinute (1.75 hours or three reels) like in “The Day After Tomorrow” okay, you got me. More realistically, a spectacularly rapid warming will take a generation, two generations, three generations. People will move away from the problem inland on a basis of attrition. We get the chance to rebuild cities and do it right. Is that a gigantic disruption? Yes, but not overnight. When the last cooling cycle resumed 800 years ago, the Greenland wheat farmers simply walked away from their farms. When the cooling ended 150 years ago, people in Europe rejoiced at the mild weather and began growing crops previously untenable.

    Meanwhile, I think the economists have been very aggressive in totaling up the damages, and quite shy about totaling up the benefits. As acknowledged in #151 above, won’t Canada, Russia and other northern nations, who have vast lands of fertile soil (but it is too cold there to grow important crops) suddenly become enormously important? (I contest the claim of total loss of US farm land). The minus of your ‘coastal farming’ loss against the plus of millions of square miles of new agricultural/living land? I’ll take it. What about the benefits of the open North Sea and the assets to be taken off the seabed? What about just the fact that it is easier to survive in a warm world than one on which snow and ice descend every winter?

    In #153 “nothing adapts fast enough to make this a smooth transition. It’s going to be very messy.” applies, IMO, to animal populations and plant life. Humans will cope. No one will die from global warming; they may die because of politics/personal issues. But are we sure the animal populations are so fragile? How did the polar bear, for instance, survive the drastic reduction or total absence of Arctic ice for perhaps 1000 years just “a moment ago” at the Holocene maximum?

    Look, if the human race is here for good, we have to contend with two extremes. The return of deep glaciation with ice cap down to Chicago on the one hand and the eventual return to the normal state of the earth: 22 degrees C. with no ice. Shouldn’t we practice up on our flexibility and problem-solving for those?

    The causes of the Permian extinction are not firmed up. My reading tells me it did happen very quickly, however, and was drastic. “Quickly” was 1-3 million years. I believe the human race could cope with that.

    Comment by John Donohue — 9 Aug 2008 @ 6:03 PM

  180. Rod B. !73. opined :

    “But then you took it to ridiculous and silly extremes. Shows again your interest is in lambasting capitalists, not improving economies.”

    I think that is extremely ridiculous and silly that we have an economic system which is wrecking the only place where we can live. Capitalism is a primary cause of most of the problems we face, not a wise solution that secures a sustainable future.

    Rod B, 171:

    “the trade theory assumes that we send apples to Australia, and they send something else to us, presumably something that they can produce more efficiently than apples.”

    I live in Wales, where there are at least twice as many sheep as people. Bizarrely, lamb meat imported from N. Zealand, on the other side of the planet, is cheaper to buy in a butchers shop than Welsh lamb. I guess if the true cost of shipping (fuel and pollution) Welsh farmers could compete. I don’t think they are any less efficient or hard-working than N. Z. farmers.

    In UK, it is cheaper to buy Japanese oak that British oak. In Japan, it is cheaper to buy British oak than Japanese oak. So ships carrying oak trees pass one another between Japan and Britain. Sense ?

    Comment by CL — 9 Aug 2008 @ 8:37 PM

  181. Hi Hank,

    “Why the heck didn’t that get taught in history class, I wonder?”

    In my schooling in UK, the history classes and text books omitted Tom Paine and John Paul Jones…I think maybe an old grudge, not wanting to mention colonial heroes even after a couple of centuries ? but who knows…I learned an immense amount of fascinating stuff about American education, from a wonderful read

    http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/historytour/history1.htm

    Comment by CL — 9 Aug 2008 @ 8:43 PM

  182. Rod B. 175 :

    “Just an observation: If you would look for info other than in your butt, you wouldn’t say things like, “…the US did it’s level best to destroy democracies in any country that had anything valuable…”

    I believe it’s on the record that the USA caused the overthrow of 75 democratically elected governments since WW2. That was the figure a few years ago. I expect it has risen since then. IMO, when US administration (and UK for that matter) speak about ‘spreading democracy’, what that really means, decoded, is spreading US advantage and hegemony. US is more than happy to wreck democracy and support dictatorships if it thinks that is strategically advantageous. There’s really no argument about this Rod B. You only have to look at international affairs as recorded over the last half century or so, but I’ll not pursue it further because it’s well off topic.

    Comment by CL — 9 Aug 2008 @ 8:53 PM

  183. Re: comment #142

    Timothy, the theories you present have been used time out of mind to argue against increases in the minimum wage. You could argue that at some point companies find it more profitable to outsource their production to countries where the price of labor is even lower.

    However, there is another thing that is affecting the profits of large companies — the ever-increasing and ridiculous salaries paid to low-performing CEOs. These salaries were already out of hand more than 20 years ago. Nowadays there are hardly words available to describe their absurdity.

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 9 Aug 2008 @ 10:36 PM

  184. In re 175:

    You say, “…market forces are really terrible for dealing with environmental problems…” As I’ve said/implied often, Well! Duh! So? This simple means the society has to instill other motivations through regulation, law, etc.

    No, market forces are not. What we lack is regulations which state that things be fully costed. “Environmental Problems” have costs, but because there’s no capturing of those costs by the government, destroying the environment to have a buck is advantageous.

    Just an observation: If you would look for info other than in your butt, you wouldn’t say things like, “…the US did it’s level best to destroy democracies in any country that had anything valuable…”

    It’s not an unfair statement. If you look at, for example, the history of American exploitation in Cuba, one of the primary reasons for the Cuba Revolution was the way in which America deprive Cuba of the same liberties we enjoyed for ourselves. It would have been better for the people of Cuba if a democratic government had been established, but we certainly weren’t down there to promote the Declaration of Independence. It was more like agricultural exploitation, entertainment and prostitution, and who cares about the Cuban people or their liberty.

    You are correct: what is missing in capitalism (both theory and practice) is that it takes no account for transitions, and the theory assumes full disclosure and complete info for everybody which does not exist, and is more detremental to labor than business owners.

    I’m not sure what “full disclosure” has to do with anything. If the buy / sell transaction is treated as a complete black box, each side still has sufficient information to engage in a fair-market transaction.

    The real detriment to Labor is not the lack of transparency on the part of Management, it’s governmental interference in Labor having the ability to establish parity with Management through organization. Two business entities are perfectly free to negotiate terms and conditions, but when one of those entities is a labor union, suddenly the right to negotiate terms is a bad thing.

    (ReCaptcha: sentence Staff. grammar Police.)

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 10 Aug 2008 @ 1:50 AM

  185. Look, if you want to be horrified about labor, management, and valuation, google U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 2003-39. To pick one outrage more or less at random. All you have to do is look closely to find this kind of stuff. But it’s all off-topic here.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Aug 2008 @ 3:54 AM

  186. #179, John Donuhus:

    Look, if the human race is here for good, we have to contend with two extremes. The return of deep glaciation with ice cap down to Chicago on the one hand and the eventual return to the normal state of the earth: 22 degrees C.”

    Where did you get the idea that we face a problem of return to deep glaciation? As far as I know, this will not happen in the next 10.000 years. To me this looks like you are using a fictive problem to construct a benefit of GW.

    The Earth has no natural state, it is constantly changing. You must look at what state life on this planet (including the human race) is optimised for. Then you must conclude that life is currently optimised for the climate we have experienced in, say, the past 10.000 years. The climates Earth has gone through before the end of the last ice age are irrelevant.

    A changing climate is a fact, and even a disruption of the climate will not even come close to wiping out life. But the climate is currently changing too fast and what it will lead to is that life will be temporarily less optimised for the climate. Imo this will always lead to lower production. With more than 6 billion mouths to feed, we need a planet that is in top shape, not in suboptimal shape.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 10 Aug 2008 @ 4:49 AM

  187. Jess writes:

    And for all those who speak of abolishing minimum wages, let me offer that “free markets” can’t exist for labor, because we are not all mind-readers.

    You are confusing a free market with top-down planning. In a market you don’t need to know what the supply and demand curves are, prices adjust the system automatically. I’d recommend reading a good introductory text on microeconomics. The whole point about a free market is that you don’t need to plan it all.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 10 Aug 2008 @ 6:28 AM

  188. #179, John Donahue (sorry for misspelling your name in my previous reaction):

    Thinking about you post, I have another comment on your following argument:

    More realistically, a spectacularly rapid warming will take a generation, two generations, three generations. People will move away from the problem inland on a basis of attrition. We get the chance to rebuild cities and do it right. Is that a gigantic disruption? Yes, but not overnight.

    Overnight or not is a matter of perspective. True, the changes due to GW will play out over generations, but that does not mean we have ample time to react. From a regional point of view the changes will be drastic and largely unexpected. In one area they will suddenly have to deal with unexpected side effects of sea level rise. Twenty years later, on the other side of the world there will suddenly be drought. It will be a random collection of changes affecting different regions at different moments.

    The only thing we can now predict are ‘changes’. For the people affected by these ‘changes’ we need accurate predictions of what will change where and when. We can not do that. This is amplified by human nature. People generally start dealing with a problem only when they can no longer ignore it. It makes no difference whether these problems are personal or global. The reality for the next 100 years or so will be humanity passively waiting for the problems and dealing with them as they come.

    As we are seeing in the Arctic, things can go over the edge in a matter of years. The ‘tipping points’ scientists keep warning about. Because of this I think most problems will be sudden and therefore very disrupting.

    Another thing you must never forget is the fact we have now more than six billion humans. Simply walking away from your farm is as easy as 800 years ago, constructing another is most definitely not. According to your vision, it may become possible to farm in the Taiga, but then we’ll have to deforest the region first. Hmmm, as far as I know this is a positive feedback not yet accounted for in the models.

    At this moment the best we can do is predict ‘problems’. But we can only deal with them if we exactly know what will happen where and when. Only then can the smooth, well planned adaptation that you foresee take place.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 10 Aug 2008 @ 7:42 AM

  189. BPL, #187

    That doesn’t work either because the employer will just shop around for the cheapest labour and then pocket the extra.

    Think about it: banks, shops and so on all roll out new computer systems and reduce headcount “to save you, the customer money” but how much have you saved? Nil. If they were reducing costs (based on them using “I’m the CEO of a big company with a large workforce/turnover so I MUST get much more money” excuse), why are the CEO wages STILL going up? Why are profits STILL increasing?

    Because they are pocketing the cash.

    Short term this works, but this is NOT a good economy.

    Comment by Mark — 10 Aug 2008 @ 11:32 AM

  190. John Donohue writes:

    Humans will cope. No one will die from global warming;

    People are already dying from global warming, like the 30,000 or so killed by the unprecedented heat wave in Europe five years ago.

    Global warming causes increased droughts in continental interiors; in the 1950s and 1960s 20% of agricultural areas were experiencing droughts at any given time. Now it’s 30%. Screwing up agricultural production means people die. Maybe not in America, but in a hell of a lot of poor countries.

    Global warming will mean the disappearance of glaciers. 100 million people in Asia depend on glaciers for their fresh water.

    Lastly, sea-level rise will create refugees. A hundred million Bangladeshis will be seeking a new home; do you think India will anxious to take them in and provide for them?

    Global warming is going to kill a lot of people.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 10 Aug 2008 @ 12:12 PM

  191. CL writes:

    I think that is extremely ridiculous and silly that we have an economic system which is wrecking the only place where we can live. Capitalism is a primary cause of most of the problems we face, not a wise solution that secures a sustainable future.

    Has it escaped your attention that the worst pollution on record happened in the USSR and eastern Europe, neither of which could be remotely called capitalist? The Black Sea is a sewer, vast swaths of forest are gone, and half a century after the Chelyabinsk waste dump exploded, it’s still radioactive.

    Central planners can be just as bad for the environment as capitalists.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 10 Aug 2008 @ 12:14 PM

  192. FurryCatHerder posts:

    If you look at, for example, the history of American exploitation in Cuba, one of the primary reasons for the Cuba Revolution was the way in which America deprive Cuba of the same liberties we enjoyed for ourselves. It would have been better for the people of Cuba if a democratic government had been established, but we certainly weren’t down there to promote the Declaration of Independence. It was more like agricultural exploitation, entertainment and prostitution, and who cares about the Cuban people or their liberty.

    Do you like the present regime? Fulgencio Batista was a fascist dictator who had political enemies thrown down water slides into a shark tank. On the other hand, Castro’s regime still features block and apartment political officers, secret police, and labor camps. Remember when it was Cuban policy to throw gay people into concentration camps? That was under Castro, not Batista.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 10 Aug 2008 @ 12:18 PM

  193. Tenney Naumer wrote in 183:

    Timothy, the theories you present have been used time out of mind to argue against increases in the minimum wage. You could argue that at some point companies find it more profitable to outsource their production to countries where the price of labor is even lower.

    … and raise the wages in those countries to the point that temp companies in India start outsourcing the very same jobs to the Philippines. Yes, I could.

    Actually there are a number of other things which I could argue — all of which are true. For example, minimum wage laws have been deliberately used as a means of preventing at least some “minorities” from competing against a ruling class, e.g., South Africa during Apartheid — and more recently Israel believe. Likewise, prior to the institution of minimum wage laws, African Americans found a great deal more opportunities in the railroad industry but were priced out of entry into that industry as those laws took effect. At a lower wage, less educated and less skilled labor may very well be able to compete against more skilled labor — but a high minimum wage removes that opportunity. The ability to price your competition out of the market — whose labor is at least partially substitutable for your own and might otherwise undersell you — is also one the reasons why the more powerful labor unions have tended to support raising the minimum wage in the past.

    However, the extent to which raising the minimum wage affects employment will depend upon a variety of factors. The most important will be the elasticity of demand for labor — as it exists in the relevant industries — which itself will be dependent upon the elasticity of demand for the products of those industries. If the demand is relatively inelastic (over the short-term) then the higher wages will largely be passed on as higher costs to the consumers — but to the extent that this happens, consumers will have that much less to spend on other things — unless you inflate the money supply, either in terms of actual currency or credit. To the extent that it is the former, you may actually reduce employment among other groups. To the extent that it is the latter, you haven’t really raised wages in the first place — not in terms of actual purchasing power. However, these will have other effects. For example, artificially inflating the credit supply temporarily lowers the interest rate, making long-term investments appear more profitable relative to short-term investments, resulting in malinvestment where in essence one starts laying the foundation for a hundred story building when in fact one has supplies for building something that will be only fifty stories tall. As interest rates rise back to their natural level, the malinvestment is uncovered for what it is and will tend to have recessionary effects.

    *

    Tenney Naumer wrote in 183:

    However, there is another thing that is affecting the profits of large companies — the ever-increasing and ridiculous salaries paid to low-performing CEOs. These salaries were already out of hand more than 20 years ago. Nowadays there are hardly words available to describe their absurdity.

    Well, lets look at something fairly recent so that we have at least some idea as to the magnitude of the compensation we are talking about…

    Let’s try:

    The heads of America’s 500 biggest companies received an aggregate 8% pay raise last year; as a group their total compensation amounted to $3.3 billion versus $3.1 billion in fiscal 2002. We define total compensation as salary and bonus; ‘other’ compensation includes vested restricted stock grants, and ‘stock gains,’ the value realized from exercising stock options during the just-concluded fiscal year.

    CEO Compensation
    Forbes staff, 04.23.04, 7:00 AM ET
    http://www.forbes.com/2004/04/21/04ceoland.html

    The average yearly compensation for the CEOs of America’s 500 biggest “companies” (actually conglomerates in most cases) comes to 6.6 million dollars. That’s a lot of money — to people like you and me. But the collective compensation of all 500 CEOs taken together also comes to around $10 dollars per year when spread out over the entire US population. Not much to raise the wages with, I believe, assuming you were to confiscate it and evenly distribute it.

    Now of course, even if someone is working sixty hours a week, I would find it extremely difficult to personally justify paying them anything upwards of a million dollars. But then again I don’t really have much of an idea of what it is that these individuals do. And neither do you. But presumably those who agree to paying them this much see things a little differently. And maybe they are in a better position to know. Regardless, it doesn’t make much sense to compare these incomes to what you or I make — or at least myself as I am living hand to mouth at best — as a great deal of it is in stock and greater share of the rest is no doubt invested in whatever opportunities they see (much of which no doubt results in the creation of jobs) rather than on personal consumption.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 10 Aug 2008 @ 1:46 PM

  194. @Barton –

    No, you needn’t know everything but I offer that one of the most “efficient” markets out there — the US Stock market — is loaded with regulations governing who has what information and when. That’s why you go to jail for insider trading and get fined by the SEC for withholding information material to investors’ decisions.

    In the labor market, I don’t even have the elementary information I would have buying a stock. It isn’t about planning, it’s just about whether I can ever engage in a transaction on terms that don’t almost always favor the buyer of labor.

    In the stock market I can look up a company’s earnings and all that related data to decide whether and how much I will bid. In the labor market I have nowhere near that. If I could read minds I would know exactly how much others were paid for the same job and could adjust my offer accordingly (like in the stock market where I can see what loads of others are paying for the stock, and adjust the bid/ask). But I can’t.

    Then there’s the coercion factor. If nobody really needed a job, I offer that only then would we know what people were willing to offer as labor for what pay. Similar to iPods. Nobody needs one. But it is precisely because nobody needs one that we know what people are really willing to pay — you come into that transaction more or less as an equal, because you can make the free market decision NOT to buy.

    In reverse, the problem with labor is that in most places you need a job to live. So one person in the transaction has almost no pricing power.

    For climate problems we have a similar issue. The kind of information and incentives that transmit well in market systems simply don’t lend themselves to solving climate problems. That’s because it involves taking another path than assuming growth is infinite.

    Jared Diamond has a great chapter on this when he talks about one group of islanders that managed to stay within the carrying capacity of their home. They got rid of the pigs. That was a collective decision and if any one person had kept pigs — a symbol of success and wealth in that culture — the whole project would have been for naught. The market — allowing people to raise pigs and hoping that the island would retain its capacity, on the off chance that someone came up with something else, would simply put have ended their civilization.

    Sometimes you need to make those kinds of decisions. Just because there is a market for something doesn’t make relying on the markets to self-regulate a good decision-making process. I mean, there is a market for selling mercuric oxide to cure hunger pangs in Mexico, but saying that the market would work itself out because the sellers have no incentive to kill their customers is simply silly. In that case, the buyer (usually someone poor and uneducated) has no way to evaluate whether they want to buy the cure or not. Information asymmetry.

    Climate problems have a similar information asymmetry. There’s a lot we don’t know. But the problem is what we don’t know may kill us all. We don’t know how much abuse the environment can take, or which species is critical for certain areas to thrive. But if we randomly kill off species enough sooner or later we’ll hit it. markets have no realistic way of evaluating this kind of stuff.

    For instance, there is a small but nonzero chance that acidifying the oceans could destroy the food chain entirely. Then it’s all over for our civilization. BAU scenarios wouldn’t address this at all. Since there’s no “market” for a non-acidified ocean, there’s no incentive to prevent it.

    Comment by Jess — 10 Aug 2008 @ 2:16 PM

  195. CL says (180), “…Capitalism is a primary cause of most of the problems we face, not a wise solution that secures a sustainable future…” and in (182), “…USA caused the overthrow of 75 democratically elected governments since WW2.” Where on earth (or the moon maybe) are you coming up with this stuff?? Quick back-of-the-napkin says we overthrew 1.2 democratically elected governments every year from 1945 to date. My! MY! My!

    On trade, you make a valid point. I was simply pointing out the theory underlying the benefits of trade as taught in Econ101. Practice does not always go that route, and I agree can look nonsensical, at least on the surface.

    Comment by Rod B — 10 Aug 2008 @ 2:37 PM

  196. FurryCatHerder (184) You said in part, “…No, market forces are not. What we lack is regulations…” You are saying exactly what I said, or at least tried to say. We’re in full agreement on the process here.

    I agree with your assessment of our actions in Cuba. (btw, I was in Havana July 1959 listening to Castro’s official victory speech.) Minor point — Cuba was not a democracy under Bastista, who btw also could have cared less about his own Cuban’s liberty or well-being. In any case I was lambasting the statement, “…the US tried to destroy any [every] democratic country that had anything valuable…” which, as the man said, is so incorrect it’s not even wrong.

    re “full disclosure”: I was responding to a post by stating one of the fundemental precepts of capitalism/free private enterprise is everyone having complete knowledge of what everyone else is doing. No one is going to enter the widget business if he has no idea what the current widget makers are earning. In practice this lack (which will always exist) is harder on labor because there is no mechanism for a farmhand in Iowa to know what a cabinet maker in N. Carolina is earning, or how fast he progressed, or what it cost to start. So the theory that if jobs are lost, the laborer simply goes off and gets another job misses a whole lot in practice, in great part because of the lack of information. (And also the cost of the transition — changing jobs — that is not in capitalistic theory.) But I am not refuting other hardships as you mention.

    Comment by Rod B — 10 Aug 2008 @ 3:06 PM

  197. I wish people would leave out comments like \ridiculous\, \silly\, \duh\. I don’t think these words are helpful when we should be having a dialogue.

    Comment by Bill Pickett — 10 Aug 2008 @ 3:29 PM

  198. Bill #137, it’s called “conversation”.

    “Dialogue” indeed!

    Yeuch!

    Comment by Mark — 10 Aug 2008 @ 4:09 PM

  199. timothy, yes CEO’s bonuses may work out to be $10 per US citizen. However, the US citizen is on average taking a huge pay CUT.

    Bah!

    Comment by Mark — 10 Aug 2008 @ 4:11 PM

  200. Jess wrote in 194:

    In the labor market, I don’t even have the elementary information I would have buying a stock. It isn’t about planning, it’s just about whether I can ever engage in a transaction on terms that don’t almost always favor the buyer of labor.

    I believe you mentioned earlier that it took you quite a few years before you were able to negotiate a higher salary. However, I would argue that if there is more than one potential employer of your labor where one is offering a higher “price” (wage) for that labor, then the issue of whether or not you negotiate a wage is a largely a non-issue. On the otherhand, it is easier to negotiate a higher wage if you have more than one job to pick from or are already employed — simply by bringing up your other options when dealing with a potential employer. Not something which I have made much use of — I knew about it abstractly but hadn’t ever really tried — but which I happened on inadvertently in my own experience just recently — when mentioning what I was already making and making it clear that I didn’t simply want to abandon my current contract for no reason if it got extended.

    Jess wrote in 194:

    In the stock market I can look up a company’s earnings and all that related data to decide whether and how much I will bid. In the labor market I have nowhere near that. If I could read minds I would know exactly how much others were paid for the same job and could adjust my offer accordingly (like in the stock market where I can see what loads of others are paying for the stock, and adjust the bid/ask). But I can’t.

    That is why you should shop around — and try to have several positions which you can choose from. But that is easier to do when you already have a job.

    Jess wrote in 194:

    Then there’s the coercion factor. If nobody really needed a job, I offer that only then would we know what people were willing to offer as labor for what pay. Similar to iPods. Nobody needs one. But it is precisely because nobody needs one that we know what people are really willing to pay — you come into that transaction more or less as an equal, because you can make the free market decision NOT to buy.

    In reverse, the problem with labor is that in most places you need a job to live. So one person in the transaction has almost no pricing power.

    But you don’t have to take the first job that is offered to you. That is part of the beauty of a decentralized economy — there is more than one potential buyer or seller from which to choose. And as long as some people aren’t desperate — waiting until the last moment so that they have to take the first job that is offered them — the free market will tend to set wages in accordance with the marginal productivity of the labor. And think about it: if offering someone a paying job were truly a coercive act somehow equivilent to slavery, why would any employer ever offer more than minimum wage? But there are a great many jobs out there with different salaries and different wages well above minimum wage — even though the good majority of them involved no actual haggling over who would get paid how much — any more than you sat down with the store manager at your grocery store to discuss what products and brands his store would carry. And yet you have to eat.

    *

    Jess wrote in 194:

    For climate problems we have a similar issue. The kind of information and incentives that transmit well in market systems simply don’t lend themselves to solving climate problems. That’s because it involves taking another path than assuming growth is infinite.

    Free markets are good at growth, but the law of supply and demand and largely non-articulated coordination of the economy by the pricing system aren’t predicated on this. What makes the free market less than satisfactory in dealing with ecological and climatological issues are market externalities. If we could somehow section off the atmosphere and oceans, precisely defining the associated property rights and require those who inject carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to pay for all of the unintended consequences incurred by others, then perhaps things would be different. But unfortunately this isn’t the way that the world works. The carbon dioxide emitted by the United States and Europe over the past several decades is resulting in drought and famine in parts of Africa today, and the coal plants brought online in China over the next several decades will be affecting people throughout much of the world for centuries to come. Which is why we need some mechanism external to the free market to limit the carbon entering the atmosphere, either in terms of carbon caps or a carbon tax.

    Jess wrote in 194:

    Jared Diamond has a great chapter on this when he talks about one group of islanders that managed to stay within the carrying capacity of their home. They got rid of the pigs. That was a collective decision and if any one person had kept pigs — a symbol of success and wealth in that culture — the whole project would have been for naught. The market — allowing people to raise pigs and hoping that the island would retain its capacity, on the off chance that someone came up with something else, would simply put have ended their civilization.

    Meat is carbon intensive — but presumably it could be dealt with the same way as other carbon intensive products. However, this brings up another market externality that I take an interest in — with our use of antibiotics to increase the weight of livestock — where the antibiotics are resulting in superbugs making their way into food supply — and where antibiotic resistance is subject to lateral gene transfer — with phages (for example) carrying antibiotic resistance between different populations and even different species of bacteria. The market is powerful — but it clearly has its limits.

    *

    Jess wrote in 194:

    Sometimes you need to make those kinds of decisions. Just because there is a market for something doesn’t make relying on the markets to self-regulate a good decision-making process. I mean, there is a market for selling mercuric oxide to cure hunger pangs in Mexico, but saying that the market would work itself out because the sellers have no incentive to kill their customers is simply silly. In that case, the buyer (usually someone poor and uneducated) has no way to evaluate whether they want to buy the cure or not. Information asymmetry.

    Then of course there is the old standard of cigarettes, which includes secondhand smoke. I might also include psychic surgery — where people claim to be able to reach inside your body and remove tumors — but which results in people dying of cancer forgoeing other treatments until it is too late. James Randi has exposed such charlatans before. Or there may be certain risks (such as in mining) where people aren’t fully aware of what they are signing up for — but with regard to wages at least things are fairly transparent.

    Jess wrote in 194:

    Climate problems have a similar information asymmetry. There’s a lot we don’t know. But the problem is what we don’t know may kill us all. We don’t know how much abuse the environment can take, or which species is critical for certain areas to thrive. But if we randomly kill off species enough sooner or later we’ll hit it. markets have no realistic way of evaluating this kind of stuff.

    This isn’t information asymmetry — since there is a lot even the experts don’t know. Information asymmetry (e.g., between buyer and seller, such as in the case of used cars) assumes someone has the information and that someone else does not.

    Jess wrote in 194:

    For instance, there is a small but nonzero chance that acidifying the oceans could destroy the food chain entirely. Then it’s all over for our civilization. BAU scenarios wouldn’t address this at all. Since there’s no “market” for a non-acidified ocean, there’s no incentive to prevent it.

    Once again, I would argue that this is a market externality. But you are correct that the market isn’t very good at dealing with this sort of issue. Something more will be required. However, insofar as it will have to involve some sort of regulation of the market, I believe it is best if we understand what the free market is and how it works — as well as why it fails to work by itself in certain contexts — if we wish to improve upon it rather unintentionally make things worse.

    *

    captcha fortune cookie: agreement Templar

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 10 Aug 2008 @ 5:36 PM

  201. Re: #193

    Dear Mr. Chase,

    If one looks into the issue of executive compensation a little more deeply, one finds that the committees which decide CEO compensation are generally packed with other such executives, making the decisions somewhat inc estuous. A 2007 article reads:

    “The chief executives of America’s 500 biggest companies got a collective 38% pay raise last year, to $7.5 billion. That’s an average $15.2 million apiece.”

    http://www.forbes.com/2007/05/03/highest-paid-ceos-lead-07ceo-cz_sd_0503ceo_land.html

    Take Walmart’s CEO — there has been no return on Walmart stock since the year 2000, and the guy makes about $10,000,000.

    The excuse can always be made that taking pay away from the executives would not add much to hourly workers’ paychecks.

    However, the main point is that there should be some type of realism brought back into the picture. Whoever believes that the executives who make these salaries don’t think well of themselves, perhaps a great deal more than they should (think “Chainsaw Al”), might want to have a look at the behavioral psychology of these CEOs.

    The further away from the shop floor they get, the more isolated they get, and the less likely anyone is to disagree with them. Not a good situation for a company’s CEO, but one that occurs all too often. It is an example of the emperor has no clothes and a disconnect from the real world. These conditions lead to bad decision making.

    Graef Crystal has been an acknowledged expert on executive pay for more than 20 years — some articles here:

    http://www.crystalreport.com/articles.html

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 10 Aug 2008 @ 6:32 PM

  202. Mark wrote in 199:

    timothy, yes CEO’s bonuses may work out to be $10 per US citizen. However, the US citizen is on average taking a huge pay CUT.

    Bah!

    Actually that is the collective salary, bonuses and all other remuneration taken together (including stock options) for the top 500 US CEOs — being equal to roughly $10 per US citizen per year. And if it meant that others had smaller pay cuts and still others kept their jobs, then it may very easily been worth the price. But it is difficult to say — and I took the figures from 2004, when a fair amount of outsourcing was going on. So at least in part it may very well have had the opposite effect… at least in the United States.

    *

    Captcha fortune cookie: Primero who

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 10 Aug 2008 @ 7:04 PM

  203. A few years agao I had a conversation with a faculty member of a near-by economics department. Macroeconomics came up. He said “Macroeconomics? I don’t believe in it.”

    [Captcha comments "skidding Corps"]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 10 Aug 2008 @ 9:05 PM

  204. The word “coercion” cannot properly be used in voluntary human transactions. Coercion occurs when a person or agency-of-persons initiates or threatens to initiate force of physical harm or property theft from a citizen.

    If I am thirsty and famished, and I ask for a glass of milk and another citizen gives me one, that is persuasion. If I trade a tulip bulb for a gallon of milk, that is enterprise. Neither are coercion.

    If I steal milk, if I threaten someone with a gun to get milk, that is coercion. If I get my agents, such as the mayor of my town, to take milk from another citizen with his power of threatening forced compliance and give it to me, that is coercion.

    The needs — even the survival needs — of PersonA must never be a legal claim on “B” enforced by the physical force power of the state. A claim that one person’s needs legally and forcibly binds another to provide those needs through coercion, as has been done many times in this thread, is to conclude that we are all slaves to one another.

    I suggest anyone greedy to get their needs met through coercion try persuasion and enterprise instead.

    Comment by John Donohue — 10 Aug 2008 @ 10:55 PM

  205. Mark writes:

    That doesn’t work either because the employer will just shop around for the cheapest labour and then pocket the extra.

    That’s what the buyers of a product are supposed to do — shop around for the lowest price. It’s still a market.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 11 Aug 2008 @ 6:21 AM

  206. Jess writes:

    No, you needn’t know everything but I offer that one of the most “efficient” markets out there — the US Stock market — is loaded with regulations governing who has what information and when. That’s why you go to jail for insider trading and get fined by the SEC for withholding information material to investors’ decisions.

    I have problems with that as well. I know a case where a man was convicted and fined by the SEC because, knowing his company’s stock was about to crash, and knowing his daughter had invested heavily in the company, he called her to let her know. Some regulation of Wall Street may be needed — nothing wrong with the FDIC and FSLIC in my view — but a lot of applications of the insider trading laws are insane.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 11 Aug 2008 @ 6:27 AM

  207. BPL, #205

    But that isn’t allowed.

    Well, not for the plebians.

    you need a work visa, passport and the agreement to move. you aren’t naturalised so you still have fewer rights and your contract can be ended more easily, reducing your ability to contend for “market rates”.

    Then when it comes to *buying* stuff, you’re still not allowed to buy Levi Jeans from Taiwan, ship them over and STILL make a profit selling them because you’re bypassing the UK Levi supplier. Why? Because if YOU shop around, that’s grey market goods and illegal.

    So your retort is only for one class of people: the rich and the employers.

    THEY get to shop around for the cheapest labour. Because the company doesn’t NEED a visa or anything. Heck, they can get government handouts to move into an area that is sorely in need of happy voters, uh, I mean, people. The people they employ must jump through hoops and have NOTHING to help them.

    This is not a free market. You can’t sell your efforts to the best bidder because you must move to them under your own steam (if, indeed, it is even possible at all: what chance would a USian have of taking a job in Cuba? Or freely moving back again if a better job comes up?).

    That is NOT a free market.

    Comment by Mark — 11 Aug 2008 @ 1:30 PM

  208. > he called her to let her know

    I know people who’ve been left holding their worthless stock because someone did just that — called up a daughter or friend to say “sell it all fast, it’s going to tank tomorrow.”

    Family loyalty vs. fiduciary responsibility — is it insane to hold a corporate insider to the standard?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 11 Aug 2008 @ 1:42 PM

  209. The father and daughter did exactly what the law is intended to prevent, benefiting from information not available to the public. It’s a textbook case of insider trading, and there’s nothing “insane” about its application at all. If you don’t want to deal with the laws regulating publicly traded stock – don’t take your company public.

    I’ve tried to keep this post short and to the point, given that the captcha is …

    “billion words”

    Comment by dhogaza — 11 Aug 2008 @ 3:41 PM

  210. Re #159 where Hank Roberts Says:

    Alastair, the journalists answered that question to a fair approximaton already:
    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/a-drink-that-might-just-cost-you-the-earth/2007/04/07/1175366538285.html

    Hank,

    You must be joking! You don’t really believe that the only cost of global warming is that the Aussies will have to pay more for their drinking water? Surely you know that they only drink beer!

    But seriously you are making the same mistake as the deniers. They think that because the costs of global warming are not high now, they will remain that way. However, the current costs are only a taster of what will happen five years down the line, when global warming kicks in as a result of the Arctic sea ice disappearing.

    Already, there are droughts in the US, and that will only get worse. We are being told that it is only the poor, like the Bangladeshi and Pacific islanders, who will suffer. But the developed countries will be hit too. The UK is unable to feed itself, and the USA is going to run short of water now that the deserts are spreading north, the glaciers are all melting and the ground water has been pumped dry.

    [edit]

    Cheers, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 11 Aug 2008 @ 4:58 PM

  211. David B. Benson wrote in 203:

    A few years agao I had a conversation with a faculty member of a near-by economics department. Macroeconomics came up. He said “Macroeconomics? I don’t believe in it.”

    I am Austrian school myself. Basically Ludwig von Mises — Human Action, Theory of Money and Credit, etc.. In his approach there is no distinction between microeconomics and macroeconomics. And in truth, I already presented a small part of his theory of the business cycle which differs considerably from the Keynesian approach.

    However, Ludwig von Mises isn’t that popular nowadays largely because his approach was decidedly non-mathematical. He believed it was a mistake for economics to attempt to imitate the physical sciences. However, Thomas Sowell (who unfortunately has become more of an ideologue in recent years, but who is also strongly influenced by both Frederick A. Heyek and consequently Ludwig von Mises) has pointed out that at least some economic insights can’t actually be gained except by appeal to mathematics.

    In truth, however, if there weren’t anything at stake in the world, I would prefer to be studying the role of retroelements in leading from the RNA world to the world we know today. Economics? I certainly see problems. Tariffs and other trade barriers, price controls and other forms of regulation — but I personally think the high stakes lie with climatology — and whether we heed its warnings. As BPL points out, there are probably hundreds of millions of lives at stake. But I personally suspect that is a conservative estimate.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 Aug 2008 @ 8:21 PM

  212. Mark writes:

    This is not a free market. You can’t sell your efforts to the best bidder because you must move to them under your own steam (if, indeed, it is even possible at all: what chance would a USian have of taking a job in Cuba? Or freely moving back again if a better job comes up?).

    That is NOT a free market.

    A pure free market (an infinite number of infinitely small consumers and producers) doesn’t exist anywhere. I’ll readily stipulate that the labor market is not perfectly free. But the supply curve is still up with price and the demand curve is still down with price. For your minimum wage scheme to work, the supply and demand curves would have to be the same curve. That can only happen in a command economy, and the US is no closer to that than it is to a pure free market.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 12 Aug 2008 @ 6:38 AM

  213. dhogaza,

    Sorry, I don’t think it should be illegal to defend your family.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 12 Aug 2008 @ 6:39 AM

  214. Barton Paul Levenson, 191, wrote :

    “Has it escaped your attention that the worst pollution on record happened in the USSR and eastern Europe, neither of which could be remotely called capitalist? The Black Sea is a sewer, vast swaths of forest are gone, and half a century after the Chelyabinsk waste dump exploded, it’s still radioactive.
    Central planners can be just as bad for the environment as capitalists.”

    No, indeed, it had not escaped my attention. My earlier comments were in reply to someone’s enthusiasm for pure free market capitalism, which, to my mind would be disastrous. But the USSR, was, as you rightly say, equally disastrous for the environment. Which was why I suggested the Swedish model of soc-ial-ism, as described in the link I provided; what the author calls ‘economic humanism’.

    http://naturyl.humanists.net/synthesis/freedom.html

    “In a post-Marxist world looking for deliverance, is there a better way? As nations such as Sweden prove, there is. I call their approach “economic humanism.” It is not a precise term or a well-defined system, but instead a broad vision of an economy that serves the population instead of a population which serves the economy. It is essentially a pragmatic approach – where markets work, markets are used, and where social approaches work, soc-ial-ism is used. The overall motto is “opportunity for all, poverty for none.” It is a system in which those well-suited to employment can pursue and benefit from it, while those not suited to economic work are not enslaved by it. It is the reconciliation of the wealth-producing power of capitalism with the humanity of soc-ial-ism.”

    However, I don’t suggest that if all nations suddenly followed the Swedish example, all environmental, humanitarian and AGW concerns would be resolved, just that, IMHO, it’d be a step in the right direction.

    Someone on another thread suggested that climate science be taught to school children at an early age. I don’t know what is taught these days, but I think that the essential basics of climate change and ecology could be taught by study of a humble aquarium.

    If you want clear water and healthy fish, you have to get the balance just right. If there’s too many fish, not enough O2, the fish will die. Too much uneaten food and detritus, the fish will die. Wrong temperature or pH, the fish will die. The fish may die anyway, from some disease. When setting up a new aquarium, the condition of the water and gravel fluctuates, as the bacterial population balances. The water may become milky, then green, then maybe clear. You add plants and molluscs, more fluctuations. Finally, after, say, a month, fish can be introduced. I’d suggest that this is, conceptually, as a didactic analogy, a rough and over-simple approximation to the paleontological fluctuations of this planet, up to present.

    Given how complicated a basic aquarium can be, it’s quite surprising that it is even possible to design and adjust such simple system, so that when set up right, it maintains equilibrium and fish can survive and breed for many years.

    In the real world, it’s more difficult by orders of magnitude – see reference I made to Leakey and Lewin “The Sixth Extinction”, an extract is here :

    http://www.dhushara.com/book/diversit/restor/echaos.htm

    If a human, with adequate technical and biological knowledge, can design an aquarium system so that it maintains health and balance, then why not design one’s own life, life-style, living-system, culture, likewise ? Seems to me, that is the essential insight of Mollison’s Permaculture.

    http://www.permaculture.org.uk/mm.asp?mmfile=whatispermaculture

    Gavin and E. Moyer’s call for a new type of scientist to bridge disciplines can easily to extended, ideally, to embrace many other professions, designers, town planners, politicians, manufacturers, MBAs, etc, etc.

    The main obstacle, IMHO, is that there is no fundamental agreement about what the ‘world’ is, and what we want it to become. That is really a philosophical, even metaphysical, problem, and as we argue and fight over how to arrange the deck chairs, our ship is rather rapidly sinking…
    IMO, we face a most formidable problem : How to re-design civilization for the long term ?

    It’s probably impossible to achieve perfect answers, because of so many variables and unknowns, but IMO, a very good start would be to stop wrecking the ecology we already have.

    There’s some interesting suggestions re environmental sustainability here :

    http://www.jeffvail.net/2008/07/re-post-hamlet-economy.html

    Comment by CL — 12 Aug 2008 @ 7:01 AM

  215. Anyone feel the need for a little comic relief ?

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZyW2-vSqV8

    Comment by CL — 12 Aug 2008 @ 7:58 AM

  216. re: 204

    “The needs — even the survival needs — of PersonA must never be a legal claim on “B” enforced by the physical force power of the state. A claim that one person’s needs legally and forcibly binds another to provide those needs through coercion, as has been done many times in this thread, is to conclude that we are all slaves to one another.”

    As stated, I think this is nuts. It would eliminate basically any legal restraint on behavior, no matter how egregiously dangerous it might be. (I want, for example, to have coercive power applied to my corporate neighbor who is dumping the uranium tailings, or to the speeder who insists on drag-racing past the school playground.)

    To be interdependent, as we inherently are, is *not* to be “slaves to each other.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 12 Aug 2008 @ 8:31 AM

  217. re #179:

    “As acknowledged in #151 above, won’t Canada, Russia and other northern nations, who have vast lands of fertile soil (but it is too cold there to grow important crops) suddenly become enormously important?”

    No, because the premises here are wrong. In Canada (and I believe the situation in other Norther lands is similar) the limitation is not cold, but the lack of arable soil. Where there is good soil, the land has been in production since the early twentieth century. But a great deal of the good stuff was removed be glaciation and has not had near enough time to be regenerated yet. They call the resulting terrain the “Canadian shield,” a name suggestive of the predominant quality of the surface!

    All that agriculture in Northern Ontario, or Saskatchewan, or BC will gain from warming is a longer growing season, which will let them grow more diverse types of crops on the few small pockets of usable soil they have. But this small economic benefit will be much outweighed by the economic hit taken in forestry. To take one leading example, the provincial government of BC is planning to spend in excess of $300 million (Canadian–currently a touch above parity with the American $) in response to pine bark beetle infestations which have already been caused by warming. See:

    http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfp/mountain_pine_beetle/

    (Captcha oracle: Siberian groups)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 12 Aug 2008 @ 8:48 AM

  218. Barton Paul Levenson wrote: “Central planners can be just as bad for the environment as capitalists.”

    The categories of “central planners” and “capitalists” are not mutually exclusive. Much of the US economy is, in fact, “centrally planned.” The “central planners” are the CEOs of corporations rather than government officials.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 12 Aug 2008 @ 9:00 AM

  219. Kevin McKinney wrote: “To be interdependent, as we inherently are, is *not* to be ‘slaves to each other.’”

    Indeed, failure to appreciate our interdependence is the root of the climate crisis, and the broader ecological crisis that threatens the survival of our species.

    “Lack of awareness of the basic unity of organism and environment is a serious and dangerous hallucination.”
    – Alan Watts

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 12 Aug 2008 @ 9:11 AM

  220. CL, I’m one of the the remaining Bush fans. But that was funny! And well done.

    Comment by Rod B — 12 Aug 2008 @ 10:06 AM

  221. Kevin, but your examples are off John’s marks. Your examples prohibit Person A from laying claim to (taking) some of Person B’s stuff or rights, the near opposite of what John said.

    Comment by Rod B — 12 Aug 2008 @ 10:14 AM

  222. Rod B wrote :

    “CL, I’m one of the the remaining Bush fans.”

    Really ? Is that so ? Maybe you’ll enjoy this one then.

    http://polidics.com/current-administration/its-not-the-first-time-a-bush-has-tried-to-overthrow-the-government.html

    Comment by CL — 12 Aug 2008 @ 10:51 AM

  223. This sort of perspective is why I used the qualifier “as stated”–I suspected that he may not have intended to cover such cases as I brought up.

    However, logically there *is* congruency between his description and my examples: I (person A) am, by his stricture, prevented from taking legal (by definition, coercive) action against person B (the polluter or drag-racer), even though they may be threatening my survival. Conversely, it seems a bit of a stretch to me to use the concept of “coercion” to prevent the actions of B–they aren’t trying to coerce me; in fact the whole problem is that they don’t care about me (or my continued existence!) one way or the other.

    BTW, I’m not trying to do “gotchas” with this; I’m trying to clarify why the statement made didn’t make sense to me (and therefore didn’t convince me.) At this point, I do in fact believe that there are cases where properly “one person’s needs legally and forcibly bind[s] another to provide those needs”–or at the very least, not to impair the means of provision of those needs.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 12 Aug 2008 @ 11:45 AM

  224. CL, Nope. That one didn’t pass…

    Comment by Rod B — 12 Aug 2008 @ 12:22 PM

  225. Alastair, I meant “might cost you the earth” — we agree on the risk.

    ———-

    Barton, if you allow “defending your family” to include tipping off investors before a stock market announcement — “insider trading” — family fiefdoms will continue to grow using insider information.

    I’m sure you know the principle involved:
    http://web.uvic.ca/philosophy/department_files/sophia/issues/sophia2002/crawford.htm

    Yes, it’s very hard at times to do the right thing.

    Same thing applies for example to a “well regulated militia” — one that defends the community.

    Compare that to nations where militias are organized by family members/tribe members, to defend them at the expense of others in the same town or community.

    Lack of such regulation sets a size limit on the community that can be sustained cooperatively.

    This is what regulation means, and why it exists.

    “Some rob you with a six-gun,
    some with a fountain pen.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Aug 2008 @ 12:26 PM

  226. THE DELPHI METHOD (for interdisciplinary studies)

    Wow, here’s something I just read about in the ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME AND JUSTICE text I’m using for a summer course, in the context of a call for a more interdiscipinary approach to environmental crime/harm (where criminologists are largely unaware of environmental indicators and their meanings, and environmental researchers are unfamiliar with criminal behavior and legal studies).

    It is the DELPHI TECHNIQUE or METHOD. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphi_method

    I haven’t had time to read and digest this, but it sounds promising.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 12 Aug 2008 @ 12:44 PM

  227. Rod B :

    “CL, Nope. That one didn’t pass…”

    Huh ? Pass what ? Your denial threshold ?

    http://www.democracyrising.us/content/view/57/81/

    Comment by CL — 12 Aug 2008 @ 1:26 PM

  228. CL’s first video link was a kid lip-synching.
    Will Ferrell’s voice (and TV laugh track).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Aug 2008 @ 2:07 PM

  229. BPL #212

    Nope. The employer has much more mobility. Therefore there is no equality of power and therefore no free market.

    Unless you’re the employer.

    Having an infinite number of players IS NOT (repeat NOT!!) the definition of a free market.

    Informed
    Free
    Choice

    is the background of a free market.

    So even if there is only one manufacturer of a pant-de-farter as long as people are informed about the item, it’s efficacy at removing powerful odours and have no force placed on them to either buy (legislation requiring, for the common good, de-farting apparatus) or not buy (social pressure saying “poo! farty pants!” when you buy one) the item, it exists in a free market.

    NOT that there are an infinite number of people making pant-de-farters.

    [edit]

    Comment by Mark — 12 Aug 2008 @ 2:34 PM

  230. Should’ve edited my last one.

    PS the supply/demand curve is irrelevant to a free market. It is a consequence of one with informed players.

    Rather like species destruction is a consequence of radical climate change but not part of climate change.

    I.e. if nobody wants to make the insoles for your undies, the supplier can sell at any point that is profitable. If the supply/demand curve says he would be MORE profitable at another price point, there’s no need to sell AT that point. They could even sell at the marginal cost curve, even though there is no competition. Maybe it’s someone with integrity who KNOWS that as long as you’re fed and your family is too, making more money isn’t needed and is even damaging to society.

    They would still be profitable and still in business.

    If others came into the market, they could sell at that level, but again, there’s no need. They could drive each other TO the marginal cost curve, but then again, they could drive each other UNDER the marginal cost curve. Or one could sell upmarket at a much higher cost and others at the cheap end.

    Rather like the evolution of bimorphic species: they move into different markets because the generalist is competing with BOTH ends of the spectrum inefficiently and loses out while the two ends of the bimorphism are more efficient within their sphere and don’t compete with each other.

    Giraffes/gazelles. Gorillas/Chimps.

    They didn’t jump to the marginal point and become indistinguishable from each other.

    Comment by Mark — 12 Aug 2008 @ 2:44 PM

  231. CL, that, too.

    Comment by Rod B — 12 Aug 2008 @ 4:39 PM

  232. Mark #229:

    “Having an infinite number of players IS NOT (repeat NOT!!)
    the definition of a free market.”

    Actually the assumption of a large number of agents (firms or individuals), each too small to affect the market price, is a fundamental assumption of “perfect competition”.

    It is one of many assumptions in this idealised form of microeconomic analysis that butt heads rather painfully with reality.

    Your example:
    “So even if there is only one manufacturer
    of a pant-de-farter as long as people are
    informed about the item… ..it exists in
    a free market.”

    It would not be a “perfect competition” free market if, for example, there were barriers to entry preventing competition – patents, scale economies, government-granted monopoly, advertising convincing buyers that the product is better than others, etc.

    Ironically, much business activity is devoted to subverting perfect competition.

    There is a story I heard about a marketing student saying that in economics we learn about barriers to entry and in marketing we learn how to erect them. Only too true.

    The lack of correspondence between idealised microeconomic models and the real world seems to me to be significant for the field of climate science.

    In the above example, it would not be perfect competition if the manufacturer generated environmental pollution, thereby externalising its costs.

    The Stern report put it best: “Climate change is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen, and it interacts with other market imperfections.”

    My guess is that at least part of the urge to deny the science comes from a deep attachment to a belief that the world really does function along the lines of textbook perfect competition.

    If perfect competition is optimal (debatable, but…), and what we have is not perfect competion, then it can be argued that measures to make the world conform to the ideal are justified: consumer protection laws, antitrust laws, environmental laws, labour laws, regulation of financial markets, and so on.

    So, I guess, agreeing that AGW is a reality must be very challenging for anyone either (a) psychologically wedded to the idea that perfect competition is an adequate description of the world or (b) expected to suffer financially from measures to remedy market failure.

    Comment by Garry S-J — 12 Aug 2008 @ 9:42 PM

  233. There are lots of problems with “democracy” and “free markets.” For one thing, there should be widespread, open, and accurate information on which people can base their economic and political decisions.

    But, aside from people being zonked into the tube and not paying attention to what good info there is out there (or being closed minded to the truth), a lot of info and knowledge is slanted or downright false. It is the powerful and wealthy who produce and control a lot of the info and knowledge — through advertising, political contributions, downright fradulant science (with all sort of minor to major fradulant techniques), political muzzling of honest scientists or editing their science, and all sorts of info suppression & falsification throughout nearly all our institutions — govt, businesses, the media, church, educational institutions. I myself have been suppressed (at least they tried) by people above me being fearful of what various wealthy and powerful entities might think if the truth be outted. We end up censoring ourselves even, cognizant that powerful and wealthy eyes might be upon us — the “chilling effect.”

    Michel Foucault said “power is knowledge” (a shocking reversal of that adage we all know — that “knowledge is power”), but I don’t think he knew the extent to which that has been found in recent times to be so very true.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 12 Aug 2008 @ 10:29 PM

  234. Gary #232

    You’re right on the barrier to enter stoppimg it being a free market. However, I’d covered that there was no barrier, just no people interested in competing. Rather like Scott Adam’s House Warmer: a knitted cover for your house. How many people would enter THAT market? If one did, nobody else.

    You’re wrong on the number of entities IN the market being required. It is considered one way in which the free and accurate information should make an efficient market: if someone made the pant-de-farter and people could work out that they were making a HUGE profit, other people would think “I’ll have some of that” unless they are busy making something else (after all, they’d make less profit than the first mover otherwise they’d each sell half and he wants to sell more than that).

    Ta.
    (PS the oracle says something NEARLY appropriate: Tawney But. Missed the ‘t’ at the end!)

    Comment by Mark — 13 Aug 2008 @ 3:01 AM

  235. Mark writes:

    Nope. The employer has much more mobility. Therefore there is no equality of power and therefore no free market.

    Will you please crack a book? There doesn’t have to be equality of power for supply and demand curves to exist. It’s not a yes/no question as to whether a free market exists. The degree of freedom in a market varies. It’s still a market until the supply and demand curves coincide.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 Aug 2008 @ 6:26 AM

  236. Mark writes:

    PS the supply/demand curve is irrelevant to a free market.

    I’m sitting here stunned.

    Your statement is like saying, in physics, “velocity is irrelevant to momentum.” Or in biology, “natural selection is irrelevant to evolution.”

    Will you please, PLEASE, read a book on microeconomics? You don’t have to buy one. Your local library should have at least one.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 Aug 2008 @ 6:30 AM

  237. There is no need to buy or borrow a book. Wikipedia describes a Free Market thus:

    A free market is a market in which prices of goods and services are arranged completely by the mutual consent of sellers and buyers. By definition, in a free market environment buyers and sellers do not coerce or mislead each other nor are they coerced by a third party.[1] In the aggregate, the effect of these decisions en masse is described by the law of supply and demand. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_market

    But the problem is that without government control the suppliers will form themselves into or become a monoploly and force the selling price up. Thus a free market is an idealisation and not a practical system.

    Comment by Abbe Mac — 13 Aug 2008 @ 10:06 AM

  238. BPL #236

    Supply/demand curve has as much to do with a free market as spaghetti bolognese has to do with pesto sauce.

    A controlled economy has a supply/demand curve. It isn’t a free market, though. Because the supplier can halt movement along the supply/demand curve by fixing prices.

    Please, if you’re so smart and I’m so dumb, show me how a supply/demand curve creates a free market. I’ll wait.

    Movement ALONG the supply/demand curve requires those elements that define and make a free market:

    Informed
    Free
    Choice

    Without them, the consumer cannot move the supply/demand to attain greatest utility (cheapest price).

    Now when you go shopping for your plebescite worker you have a free market. You can go to India, Pakistan, Outer Mongolia. You can change YOUR price.

    However, absent 100% availability of social care for unemployment, demand for jobs is 100%. Everyone needs to eat and we’re not allowed to steal bread. So no choice.

    So the worker has no ability for a free choice.

    Worse, you have to give lots of info to your employer before they employ you. They not only have a free choice but an informed one.

    When was the last time someone looking for a job got to see the last five years statements and forward planning statements for their employer? Not even an informed choice.

    You sit there flabbergasted because your entire edifice is based on what you’ve been taught by your economics classes.

    And to close: if nobody knows how much money I’m making (I’m not a PLC) in my pnt-de-farter business, how does anyone know if it would be profitable to enter the market?

    Informed populace.

    What if I’d had a patent on it?

    Free Choice.

    What if I had a law passed saying you had to buy one?

    Choice.

    But there’s STILL a supply/demand curve. The existence of one does not MAKE A FREE MARKET.

    Comment by Mark — 13 Aug 2008 @ 11:45 AM

  239. I didn’t say the existence of supply and demand curves MADE A FREE MARKET. There is a spectrum of types of market from completely totalitarian control to perfect free market. You’re defining 99% of that spectrum as “not a free market” and insisting that, therefore, supply and demand curves don’t matter. You’re just wrong. Deal with it.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 14 Aug 2008 @ 6:53 AM

  240. Let me get a little more specific, Mark — you are maintaining that unless a market is a perfect free market, a fiat minimum price above the equilibrium point will not cause a shortage of the good or service supplied. That is economically illiterate.

    You keep maintaining there’s nothing free about the market for unskilled labor. PROVE IT. Find the data and draw the supply and demand curves. If they’re not the same curve, you’re wrong, and a minimum wage above the equilibrium point will cause unemployment. Stop babbling about how economics doesn’t matter because it’s not a free market and PROVE YOUR POINT WITH DATA.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 14 Aug 2008 @ 6:55 AM

  241. BPL: “I didn’t say the existence of supply and demand curves MADE A FREE MARKET.”

    cf: “Mark — you are maintaining that unless a market is a perfect free market”

    Back atcha!

    It is easy to prove there is no free market for killed labour.

    EDS outsourced 60% of their programming team (skilled labour) to a centre in India (Hydrabad, IIRC). Can I move there and compete for these jobs?

    No.

    No. Free. Market.

    Now, if we go back to your effigy in hay,

    “For your minimum wage scheme to work, the supply and demand curves would have to be the same curve. That can only happen in a command economy, and the US is no closer to that than it is to a pure free market.”

    Why would the curves have to be the same curve? The demand is 100%. Flat. If there are more jobs available, we don’t pinch out fully grown workers to fill the places and when jobs disappear we don’t euthanase anyone. But there ARE job creation schemes. There ARE reductions in force. These change the supply.

    So you have stated that the curves must be the same (with no reason why) and then knocked it down.

    Don’t set fire to the chaff!

    If you want more proof: look at the job requirements for front-line workers. Now look at the job requirements for management.

    One is a couple of pages long, the other a paragraph or so.

    So the one with the more demanding job gets paid more, yes?

    Oddly enough, no.

    This is not a free market result.

    And finally, you can get a supply/demand curve in ANY ECONOMY. That you have a supply and demand curve doesn’t mean you have a free market. A command economy can decide to change the demand by increasing the price (cf petrol taxes) or by giving tax breaks (investment perks or removal of stamp duty).

    Still a supply and a demand.

    A supply and demand curve in a free market means that you should have the goods move to the marginal cost. That’s all.

    Now how do you get that movement? Guess.

    Informed free choice.

    Comment by Mark — 14 Aug 2008 @ 12:02 PM

  242. While I’m here:

    BPL: “I’ll readily stipulate that the labor market is not perfectly free. But the supply curve is still up with price and the demand curve is still down with price.”

    If you aren’t saying that having a supply and demand curve makes a market a free market, why did you say that?

    You’ve already said that the labour market is not perfectly free, but you haven’t said why it is a free market apart from that point (in #212). Now given that in #239 you aren’t saying that the supply/demand changing on price (the supply/demand curve), in what way is the labour market free?

    You’ve agreed it’s not perfectly free (though we’ll have to ignore that anyway because you and Gary have used the requirement of infinite players because if that’s needed you must agree that a free market never exists which makes your whole point moot), but you haven’t said in what way it is a free market.

    Let us hear.

    Comment by Mark — 14 Aug 2008 @ 12:19 PM

  243. > markets and labor

    Here’s a pointer to an excellent discussion already in progress:

    http://www.theartofthepossible.net/2008/07/24/labor-struggle-in-a-free-market/

    (hat tip to makinglight for mentioning it)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Aug 2008 @ 2:00 PM

  244. Maybe this (low quality) discussion of aspects of economics would fit better elsewhere than RealClimate?

    [Captcha reminds you to "retreat younger"]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Aug 2008 @ 3:41 PM

  245. Hank, fair enough. Doesn’t say that the labour/employer system is a free market.

    David, I suspect that there are two problems here:

    1) this wasn’t a very “tight” thread anyway. For “why”, take a look at the title
    2) BPL and I speak different languages. Both using english words but not able to understand what the other one means
    3) Which one of BPL and I is the youngest?
    4) Never Retreat. Never Surrender.

    :-)

    Comment by Mark — 14 Aug 2008 @ 5:27 PM

  246. Re John Donohue @181: “When the last cooling cycle resumed 800 years ago, the Greenland wheat farmers simply walked away from their farms.”

    Try reading a bit of history: there never were any Greenland wheat farmers. Not 800 years ago, not now, not ever. The Greenland Norse were dairymen, and they didn’t simply walk away from their farms, they starved to death when they could no longer grow enough hay to see their herds through the increasingly longer winters.

    “won’t Canada, Russia and other northern nations, who have vast lands of fertile soil (but it is too cold there to grow important crops) ”

    And a bit of geography: acidic taiga and tundra soils will need much remediation before they will ever be able to grow cereal crops, and there is precious little soil to grow crops of any kind in the Canadian shield.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 14 Aug 2008 @ 9:51 PM

  247. Suppose one’s house catches fire, but the firefighters arrive before everything’s toast. Whacking great amounts of water may save the structure, but considerable water damage to the contents (economic loss) will occur. Few people will say “Let it burn; I can’t afford the water damage.”(Insurance pays either way).

    I see the disappearance of glaciers -
    Oerlemans, J. Extracting a Climate Signal from 169 Glacier Records
    Science 29 April 2005: Vol. 308. no. 5722, pp. 675 – 677
    “For the period from 1900 to 1980, 142 of the 144 glaciers retreated.”
    or http://www.geo.unizh.ch/wgms/mbb/mbb9/sum06.html
    - the collapse of “stable”(and stabilizing) ice shelves (Larsen, Wilkins) -
    De Angelis , H and Skvarca, P Glacier Surge After Ice Shelf Collapse Science 7 March 2003: Vol. 299. no. 5612, pp. 1560 – 1562
    “The evidence presented here unambiguously shows that five of the six major tributaries that formerly nourished the disintegrated portions of LIS have recently experienced important dynamic perturbations. This includes not only the detected acceleration and retreat (16) but also an active surging.”
    - the rapid increase in Greenland ice mass loss -
    Rignot, E and Kanagaratnam, P Changes in the Velocity Structure of the Greenland Ice Sheet Science 17 February 2006:Vol. 311. no. 5763, pp. 986 – 990 “Accelerated ice discharge in the west and particularly in the east doubled the ice sheet mass deficit in the last decade from 90 to 220 cubic kilometers per year.”
    - and, the rapid decline in Arctic summer ice -
    http://www.ees.hokudai.ac.jp/coe21/dc2008/DC/report/Maslowski.pdf “Between 1997-2004:- annual mean sea ice concentration has decreased by ~17% – mean ice thickness has decreased by ~0.9 m or ~36% – ice volume decreased by 40%, which is >2x the rate of ice area decrease. If this trend persists the Arctic Ocean will become ice ice-free by ~2013!” (thank you, Hank Roberts).

    I wonder, do we really want or need to engage in a dialog with the bean counters in Economistan about whether we can afford some water damage (economic loss from eliminating carbon emissions) while the only uninsured house we have burns up? We’ve been smelling smoke since Dr. James Hansen pointed it out in 1988, some of us even longer.

    (ReCaptcha: Adams bullets)

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 15 Aug 2008 @ 4:08 AM

  248. Someone was smelling smoke in 1935

    “america was once a paradise of timberland and stream but it is dying because of the greed and money lust of a thousand little kings who slashed the timber all to hell and would not be controlled and changed the climate and stole the rainfall from posterity and it wont be long now, it wont be long… ”

    http://www.donmarquis.com/readingroom/archybooks/ants.html

    Comment by CL — 15 Aug 2008 @ 10:58 AM

  249. How would you feel if the world was falling apart around you
    Pieces of the sky were falling in your neighbor’s yard
    But not on you.
    Wouldn’t you feel just a little bit funny
    Think maybe there’s something you oughta do

    – Danny Flowers, “Before Believing”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Aug 2008 @ 11:49 AM

  250. CL (248), one can find forest/timberland statistics going both ways, but the seemingly most credible show forests declining slightly from the 40s to the 80s-90s and increasing slightly from the 70s-80s to the present (with projections to continue increasing slightly). Timberland bulk mass has increased a lot the past 50 years or so. Is this what you understand? I don’t know what it was 1800s to 1930s (do you?), which might be more apropos to your post, though an intuitive guess would be some decrease from all of the conversion to agriculture.

    Comment by Rod B — 15 Aug 2008 @ 1:20 PM

  251. Rod, recently I read about a study that tried to assess global de/reforestation rates. Iirc, the US is indeed experiencing some reforestation — but this comes with the caveat that the new ecosystem is always very much poorer in biodiversity than the original. Many of these “forests” are, in fact, tree farms comprising cheap pine monocultures.

    Worse, the assessment found undiminished deforestation rates in the tropics. This is devastating to biodiversity and may also accelerate climate change, as the cloud cover that accompanies tropical forests disappears.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 15 Aug 2008 @ 4:35 PM

  252. Jim (251), Thanks. I was talking only of the United States. And I recall there was noticeable differences in losses/gains among tree types. I understand that rain/tropical forests are a whole different ballgame.

    Comment by Rod B — 15 Aug 2008 @ 5:11 PM

  253. Rod B, 250, I don’t know a lot about the figures for US forestry, and I’m certain you are smart enough to google for anything you want to know, and don’t require me to do it for you.

    In the UK, forestry is now probably better managed than any time for centuries, but all that really has happened is that timber demand is sourced worldwide and imported from countries where forests have less protection. I know that Japan has the same practices, cherishing it’s own forests while devastating forests elsewhere. Likely USA is the same.

    As Jim Galasyn says, quality is more important than quantity. Secondary re-growth, or replanting does not replace natural virgin or primary forest, like for like. That’s one of the most striking lessons I learned in my life. I studied wildlife since childhood and spent a lot of time in the woods. About 20 years back, I had the privilege of studying a bit of ancient woodland, tiny by USA standards, just 150 acres, one of a handful of fragments left in UK as forest cover since the glaciers retreated. The density of species there is astonishing. Things I’d never seen anywhere before. It takes hundreds, even thousands, of years to establish that sort of complexity and variety.

    But that place is just a tiny island in an ocean of farmed land, which must once have been similar woodland. It’s easy to smash a complex ecosystem and put something diminished and inferior in it’s place. Rats and stinging nettles and the like. But reversing the process takes a long, long time. Fortunately, there’s many enthusiastic folk working on behalf of trees these days, so, if it were not for the threat from climate change, I’d be optimistic for the future of British trees.

    But I agree with Jim Galasyn, every year enormous areas of tropical forest are lost which is a terrible tragedy, a loss to science and posterity, in addition to the bad feedback toward global warming. That’s where effort should be directed.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/03/2/l_032_04.html

    http://forests.org/

    Comment by CL — 15 Aug 2008 @ 5:58 PM

  254. Hank, 249, “Think maybe there’s something you oughta do”

    Thing is, what to do for the best ?

    I thought this was interesting. A couple of pie charts, and what conclusions to draw from them ?

    http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/008355.html

    Comment by CL — 15 Aug 2008 @ 6:08 PM

  255. 1) insulation
    2) solar hot water

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Aug 2008 @ 9:06 PM

  256. To see the power of paying close attention to what’s in the news and holding the editors’ and reporters’ feet to the fire, you can’t do better these days than the Calculated Risk blog (not about climate; it’s about risk and sense and cost and benefit and reading the data for yourself instead of just believing what people say).

    ______excerpt_follows________

    http://calculatedrisk.blogspot.com/2008/08/another-reporter-gets-pwn3d.html

    I’m beginning to think this kind of thing could be a regular feature: gullible (or just lazy) reporter writes some article on some housing-bust related topic which ends up being mostly free publicity for some hustler, who is treated reverently as an “expert.” …

    “… Nor do you want to miss the officer bios. Nor do you want to fail to ask yourself why a reporter thought a buncha guys who also run outfits called “Cashout Options” and “Equity Flips” and “Bailout Help” are really just kind of objective consumer advocates …

    Reporters and editors: I’m going to keep this up until it stops. So I really suggest you make it stop. If you don’t bother to evaluate your sources before you publish, I will do it after you publish.

    —-end excerpt—-

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Aug 2008 @ 9:17 PM

  257. There is a lot of reforestation happening in the United States, but too often it is occurring after the liquidation old growth forests.

    In Alaska, for example, the U.S. Forest Service spent nearly $36 million in 2002 preparing timber sales that generated only $1.2 million in revenue. The logging of ancient forests here simply is a subsidy to a few hundred loggers. There is little domestic demand for these trees, so most of them are shipped to Japan.

    Plus a lot of forests (especially plantations) have gone up in smoke the past few years. Many of the fires that ravaged California this summer were burning in lands that had been logged and replanted. So it will take some time until these lands again are reforested.

    http://rainforests.mongabay.com/deforestation/2000/United_States_of_America.htm

    “33.1% —or about 303,089,000 hectares—of United States of America is forested. Of this, 34.4% —or roughly 104,182,000 hectares—is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse form of forest.

    “Change in Forest Cover: Between 1990 and 2000, United States of America gained an average of 364,600 hectares of forest per year. The amounts to an average annual reforestation rate of 0.12%. Between 2000 and 2005, the rate of forest change decreased by 56.9% to 0.05% per annum. In total, between 1990 and 2005, United States of America gained 1.5% of its forest cover, or around 4,441,000 hectares. United States of America lost -1,086,000 hectares of its primary forest cover during that time. Deforestation rates of primary cover have decreased 1.0% since the close of the 1990s. Measuring the total rate of habitat conversion (defined as change in forest area plus change in woodland area minus net plantation expansion) for the 1990-2005 interval, United States of America lost 0.8% of its forest and woodland habitat.”

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 16 Aug 2008 @ 1:07 AM

  258. CL (253) and Jim (257), thanks; very informative.

    Comment by Rod B — 16 Aug 2008 @ 11:46 AM

  259. “…the second largest continuous area of forest in the world: the Central African Rainforest. This great block of green canopy contains some of the richest plant and animal habitat in existence. This area of forest also contains, potentially, around 37 billion tonnes of carbon, more than the whole of Southeast Asia and the USA combined; that is over five times as much carbon as all human activity on Earth produces each year.

    The extent of this vital carbon “sink” is shrinking each year. In 1990 the Central African Rainforest occupied 2.5 million square kilometres; in 2005 it occupied less than 2.4 million km², a reduction of about five percent in total area. Five percent may not seem like a lot, but when you look at the speed the forest is degrading at the same time then you realise something fundamental is happening. According to a report published in 2007, over a quarter of this unique habitat had been earmarked for logging, while only twelve percent was officially protected – in practice not protected at all.”

    From this online book :

    http://www.amatterofscale.com/

    Comment by CL — 18 Aug 2008 @ 3:48 AM

  260. From the same source, http://www.amatterofscale.com/
    (Part one,chap.6)

    “..the Central African Rainforest was under extreme pressure from logging and other practices including the mining of mineral resources. The natural Canadian Boreal forest may not have the deeply rich ecological diversity of the rainforest, but neither is it a monoculture plantation of identical trees marching across the landscape in some grotesque military spectacle. The “owners” of plantations in these forests proudly claim the planting of two trees for every one removed – look at the back of a birthday card, or a pad of paper – and they are not lying; yet they fail to explain that those two trees are part of a cash crop, substituting a complex interweaving of dependent species for a desert of quick growing sawmill fodder.

    The Canadian Government report to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation every five years on the state of its forests, yet miraculously have stated identical figures in each of the previous three reports: an outstandingly precise 310,134 hectares. This has been eagerly seized upon by the Forest Products Association of Canada who state: “If all countries of the world could eliminate or virtually eliminate deforestation as Canada has done, this would have an impact comparable to eliminating fossil fuel emissions in the United States in terms of advancing GHG mitigation efforts”, which would be wonderful if it were true. The FAO, in fact, refer to “the absence of information about forest plantations in Canada”and go on to state:

    Wood removals are declining in Mexico and the United States of America, while they continue to increase in Canada. This trend is reflected in economic data, with modest growth in several economic indicators in Canada and a slight decline in the other two.

    Something else in the FAO report caught my eye, too. It is in a section called “Forest Health and Vitality”. British Columbia, it seems, is undergoing its own logging frenzy, not for economic gain, but to protect against potential economic loss. “The Government of British Columbia has dramatically increased logging in an attempt to slow the spread of the beetle by removing recently infested trees and to recover value from trees already killed.” If BC is indeed logging to protect its future, then somewhere else trees are having to be planted at a rate sufficient to keep up with this; which means that the age and diversity of the Boreal is taking a direct hit, and the Canadian Government are making bare-faced lies about the state of this mighty ecosystem.”

    Comment by CL — 18 Aug 2008 @ 6:56 AM

  261. Timothy Chase@175,

    I’ve been away, so just a few quick points to take up your comments and queries:
    1) As an “Austrian”, I think you’re almost as far from the neoclassical mainstream as I am!
    2) Economics is more liable than the physical sciences to ideological pressures, because its conclusions are used to justify existing distributions of wealth. Of course saying this is not a refutation of neoclassical microeconomics – that depends on its wildly inaccurate picture of human decision-making, its fixation on equilibrium phenomena, and its cornucopian assumptions about natural resources. On at least the first two of these, I would think as an “Austrian” you agree with me, at least in the negative sense of criticising the current majority position – and you say above that markets aren’t particularly good at dealing with environmental problems. Incidentally, I agree Adam Smith is a good place to start – but so did Marx.
    3) The approach I advocate is democratic socia-lism, with decision-making organised using an approach called negotiated coordination. I’ve mentioned the latter before, the best current reference is probably “Democracy and Economic Planning: The Political Economy of a Self-Governing Society” Pat Devine, Polity Press, Cambridge UK and Westview Press. Boulder, CO., USA, 1988. Pat’s a friend of mine, who I believe is working on an update.

    Theoretically, I’d describe myself as a world-systems theorist at the macro-scale (capitalism can only be understood as an inter-societal system in which elites in “core” states use state power to maintain their position both internally and externally) and a radical institutionalist at the meso-scale (institutional systems – where an institution is a coordinated set of norms – are constitutive of individual motivational structures). I regard the attempt to separate out an “economic sphere” which can be studied independently of broader socio-techno-ecosystems as fundamentally misconceived. I realise the above would need a lot of unpacking to stand alone, but you did ask. Google William Dugger for a starting point on radical institutionalism, Christopher Chase-Dunn for my favourite world-systems theorist. Others who’ve influenced me a lot include Herbert Simon (also a Nobel-winning economist), and the school of experimental and cross-cultural economists around Samuel Bowles. Finally, I have a recent article in “Ecology and Society” (http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol12/iss1/art24/)that could be of some interest.

    On other points, I agree with much of what CL and Jess have said.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 18 Aug 2008 @ 8:08 AM

  262. Timothy Chase,
    Incidentally, I’m not sufficiently familiar with the minimum wage example you gave to know whether Sowell is right in that case, but there clearly are cases (like the recent UK one) where the predicted drop in employment has not occurred. Changing one specific aspect of a complex system won’t always have the same effect: it depends on what else is going on.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 18 Aug 2008 @ 8:42 AM

  263. Gazeing wistfully at the little cartoon map at the head of this topic…where are the forests ? Where are the rivers ?

    “it is obvious that economic growth is ultimately unsustainable – especially given the narrow, capital based definition used to define the term “economy” in the industrial world – yet, we continue to be fobbed off by the message that we must have economic growth in order to progress or develop as humans. Of course, if we judge development or progress in terms of the number of televisions, computers and cars we have, the size of home we have or the amount of energy we use; then economic growth most certainly does lead to a more “developed” human race. If we judge development or progress on rather more esoteric (and, quite frankly, more important) measures such as clean water and air, physical and mental health, freedom of expression, and having a future that our descendants will be able to thrive in; then economic growth is failing on almost all of these counts. Humans in every place touched by the rank hand of industrialisation are told that development based upon economic growth, is good. When you think about it, though, the only true form of development is that which moves us into balance with our natural environment – in effect a reversal of what we are now doing. You do not have to be financially prosperous in order for your water to be clean – you just need a basic level of hygiene, sensible water management techniques and, most of all, a lack of toxic muck being poured into the water supply by industrial processes.
    Economic growth as a necessity is the biggest lie that humanity has ever been sold; yet we are lapping it up because the lie is repeated day after day by every information source we are unfortunate enough to be subjected to.”

    from http://www.amatterofscale.com/

    “The delta of the great Colorado River – where once it swept into the Gulf of California – used to be the most wonder-filled wetland in the whole North American continent.
    Some 400 species of plants and animals – including jaguars, beaver and the world’s smallest dolphin- thronged its 3,000 square miles of wetlands, lagoons and tidal pools. The local people made a good living fishing its teeming waters. Now it has become a forbidding desert of salt flats and giant heaps of dead clamshells. The fishing boats have been long since beached; the destitute people have to seek what work they can in wheat fields and tortilla factories far away.”

    from http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/rivers-a-drying-shame-469598.html

    “The world’s great rivers are drying up at an alarming rate, with devastating consequences for humanity, animals and the future of the planet.”

    from http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/death-of-the-worlds-rivers-469597.html

    “In tropical areas, hydropower reservoirs may be much worse climate polluters than even coal power plants”

    from http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0612-07.htm

    Comment by CL — 18 Aug 2008 @ 10:42 AM

  264. Nick (261), you said, “…[deficiencies] of neoclassical microeconomics – that depends on its wildly inaccurate picture of human decision-making, its fixation on equilibrium phenomena, and its cornucopian assumptions about natural resources….”

    IMO that cleanly and succinctly describes the deficiencies of economic models and of economists viz-a-viz AGW — or for that matter viz-a-viz anything — better than I have seen. Thanks.

    Unfortunately, just so my accolade doesn’t inappropriately spill over, I have to assert for the record that I do not agree with your further analysis and conclusions regarding democratic soc_ial_ism.

    Comment by Rod B — 18 Aug 2008 @ 11:00 AM

  265. Nick, 262, you MUST be wrong!!!! The economics graph says so!!!

    Sigh. It seems as though denialism is all around sometimes, doesn’t it.

    Comment by Mark — 18 Aug 2008 @ 12:48 PM

  266. It is a bit of an over generalization to suggest economists are in some sort of opposition to the idea of climate change — many are involved, working on “how do we resolve this issue” as opposed to working to refine the science, which isn’t thier job.

    Check out: http://web.mit.edu/globalchange/www/eppa.html

    and http://www.rff.org/Publications/Pages/CPF_AssessingUSClimatePolicyOptions.aspx

    Comment by Kevin Leahy — 19 Aug 2008 @ 9:33 AM

  267. There are three main problems facing humanity, as I see it. First, there is the sheer number of human beings presently alive on the planet. Therefore, it doesn’t much matter what one individual does or does not do, it matters what 6.7 billion humans do. What we do, collectively, is chew upon every other form of life in sight, which brings up the second point: severe degradation of all life ecosystems on the planet. The third matter, of course, is rapid and severe climate change, which exacerbates the first two effects. If the first two problems weren’t bad enough (and they clearly are), then global warming is the accelerant added to the fire.
    Picayune arguments as to whether or not changing one’s light bulbs or driving a hybrid auto are a moral good and will allow us to collectively survive are rendered nonsensical by the scope of the matter. In all other cases of human history and likely pre-history, when faced with a population overextended beyond its resources, human populations collapse back to a sustainable level, just as with all other animals and other creatures. We cannot escape the laws of life on this planet, and until we learn to eat sand, that will remain the truth.
    Economists view life with blinders on. They are only concerned with the movement and exchange of money, with lame and amorphous justifications for it like “self-interest.” Economics is useful as far as it goes, as a social tool, but it is not very useful for life as a whole (i.e., ALL of life). Furthermore, economics is always, always interpreted from the human standpoint, not in essential broader terms. We do not exist, as a species, in a bio-vacuum.
    In David Montgomery’s recent book on soil, Dirt, he presents an overview of human agricultural exploitation of the critical, thin layer of humus upon which our very lives–and the existence of nearly all terrestrial life, depends. We have thoughtlessly and selfishly destroyed every rich, life-preserving soil on this planet, and there is no room for further ignorant and maniacal exploitation. This fact alone will diminish our numbers before long–and permanently. Add to this the destruction of life systems in the ocean, and the emptying of the skies of avian fauna, and we are faced with living (or not) upon a desertified, deserted world which has been seriously crippled for rest of our unimportant existence as a species.
    There is no “energy solution” which can forestall the steepest decline in human numbers in our collective experience (ever?), meaning billions of people must and necessarily will die off shortly. Yes, every drop of practical oil will continue to be burnt, and every lump of coal will also go up some chimney, as long as we are able. Meanwhile, the entire planet which is Rome continues to burn, and we are unable to stop ourselves from our own self-destructive will to survive at any cost. The cost will be great.

    Comment by Mark R — 26 Aug 2008 @ 7:51 AM

  268. Mark R., While I see great challenges ahead, I think that there is as much danger in the complacency of hopelessness as there is in the complacency of denial. We can certainly buy time to find solutions by driving hybrids and changing lightbulbs–even building clotheslines. The people of Juneau, AK managed to cut back energy consumption by 30% with relative ease whan avalanches cut them off from hydroelectic power earlier this year.
    Humans face not 3 major problems, but really just one: sustainability–that is maintaining progress in a way that is consistent with and conducive to the health of our finite environment. Even if we could stabilize human population tomorrow, there would still be pressure to increase consumption as the poor strive to survive and perhaps prosper and the wealthy strive to become wealthier. Even if we were to decrease human population we would be faced with the threats of deflation and caring for an aging population that always result when human population declines. Peak oil complicates things. Development complicates things further, and climate change makes things difficult indeed. I do, however, think that it is just possible that human civilization can survive and prosper if we can navigate between the Scylla of denial and the Charbidis of hopelessness.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 26 Aug 2008 @ 8:31 AM

  269. Here is some action that can be taken

    http://www.simondale.net/house/essay.htm

    If anyone is interested, there’s just been a change in the planning rules in Pembrokeshire, Wales , UK, where I live, just a few weeks ago, so there’s new opportunities opening up here to allow that kind of dwelling.

    I have 25 acres, and cottage, where I’ve been for 20 years, and which is more than I can cope with because of health and getting old, so shareing with someone would probably be a mutually beneficial arrangement. I have the timber already, highest quality oak that’s been cut 20 years.

    Main problem, as far as I can judge, would be individual personal compatibility. As some here may acknowledge, I’m prone to have opinions :-)

    If anyone feel inspired to explore possibilities, I can be contacted at wolf dot bird at virgin dot net.

    Here’s other examples

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/7279502.stm

    http://www.caemabon.co.uk/

    Comment by CL — 26 Aug 2008 @ 12:45 PM

  270. Dear Jeff Davis, You are correct that none of us has really good handle on carbon based energy supplies. The nuttiness is the simultaneous belief that we are past peak carbon and CO2 based global warming will stay a problem. If we truly are past peak carbon, we will see 200-300$ a barrel oil and massive reductions in it use. Just like we saw with 140 per barrel.

    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/tvtw/08maytvt/figure1.cfm

    I do look forward to the nuttiness that it as a random clumping of La Ninas + snow reflection feedback effects that is causing the the global temperature flattening, but it was NOT a cluster of el Nino’s and snow/ice feedback effects that caused the upsurge in warming.

    The nuttiness is that when the fever pitch of battle is such that we stop thinking.

    The the certain people who want oil company executives tried for crimes against humanity. Maybe having them tried for collusion, fraud, violation of federal contracts, influence peddling, bribery, and/or racketeering would be a better first option. Especially since they may actually be guilty of some of those crimes and misdemeanors. When the main people who could be instrumental in pushing for such rational approaches start sounding a little deranged (and in some cases more than a little deranged) hope is lost as few prosecutors want to go to court with a unreliable witness.

    Comment by neil pelkey — 12 Sep 2008 @ 12:16 PM

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