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A biased economic analysis of geoengineering

Filed under: — group @ 11 August 2009 - (Español)

Guest commentary by Alan Robock – Rutgers University

Bjorn Lomborg’s Climate Consensus Center just released an un-refereed report on geoengineering, An Analysis of Climate Engineering as a Response to Global Warming, by J Eric Bickel and Lee Lane. The “consensus” in the title of Lomborg’s center is based on a meeting of 50 economists last year. The problem with allowing economists to decide the proper response of society to global warming is that they base their analysis only on their own quantifications of the costs and benefits of different strategies. In this report, discussed below, they simply omit the costs of many of the potential negative aspects of producing a stratospheric cloud to block out sunlight or cloud brightening, and come to the conclusion that these strategies have a 25-5000 to 1 benefit/cost ratio. That the second author works for the American Enterprise Institute, a lobbying group that has been a leading global warming denier, is not surprising, except that now they are in favor of a solution to a problem they have claimed for years does not exist.

Geoengineering has come a long way since first discussed here three years ago. [Here I use the term “geoengineering” to refer to “solar radiation management” (SRM) and not to carbon capture and sequestration (called “air capture” in the report), a related topic with quite different issues.] In a New Scientist interview, John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, says geoengineering has to be examined as a possible response to global warming, but that we can make no such determination now. A two-day conference on geoengineering organized by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences was held in June, 2009, with an opening talk by the President, Ralph Cicerone. The American Meteorological Society (AMS) has just issued a policy statement on geoengineering, which urges cautious consideration, more research, and appropriate restrictions. But all this attention comes with the message that we know little about the efficacy, costs, and problems associated with geoengineering suggestions, and that much more study is needed.

Bickel and Lane, however, do not hesitate to write a report that is rather biased in favor of geoengineering using SRM, by emphasizing the low cost and dismissing the many possible negative aspects. They use calculations with the Dynamic Integrated model of Climate and the Economy (DICE) economic model to make the paper seem scientific, but there are many inherent assumptions, and they up-front refuse to present their results in terms of ranges or error bars. Specific numbers in their conclusions make the results seem much more certain than they are. While they give lip service to possible negative consequences of geoengineering, they refuse to quantify them. Indeed, the purpose of new research is to do just that, but the tone of this report is to claim that cooling the planet will have overall benefits, which CAN be quantified. The conclusions and summary of the report imply much more certainty as to the net benefits of SRM than is really the case.

My main areas of agreement with this report are that global warming is an important, serious problem, that SRM with stratospheric aerosols or cloud brightening would not be expensive, and that we indeed need more research into geoengineering. The authors provide a balanced introduction to the issues of global warming and the possible types of geoengineering.

But Bickel and Lane ignore the effects of ocean acidification from continued CO2 emissions, dismissing this as a lost cause. Even without global warming, reducing CO2 emissions is needed to do the best we can to save the ocean. The costs of this continuing damage to the planet, which geoengineering will do nothing to address, are ignored in the analysis in this report. And without mitigation, SRM would need to be continued for hundreds of years. If it were stopped, by the loss of interest or means by society, the resulting rapid warming would be much more dangerous than the gradual warming we are now experiencing.

Bickel and Lane do not even mention several potential negative effects of SRM, including getting rid of blue skies, huge reductions in solar power from systems using direct solar radiation, or ruining terrestrial optical astronomy. They imply that SRM technologies will work perfectly, and ignore unknown unknowns. Not one cloud has ever been artificially brightened by injection of sea salt aerosols, yet this report claims to be able to quantify the benefits and the costs to society of cloud brightening.

They also imply that stratospheric geoengineering can be tested at a small scale, but this is not true. Small injections of SO2 into the stratosphere would actually produce small radiative forcing, and we would not be able to separate the effects from weather noise. The small volcanic eruptions of the past year (1.5 Tg SO2 from Kasatochi in 2008 and 1 Tg SO2 from Sarychev in 2009, as compared to 7 Tg SO2 from El Chichón in 1982 and 20 Tg SO2 from Pinatubo in 1991) have produced stratospheric clouds that can be well-observed, but we cannot detect any climate impacts. Only a large-scale stratospheric injection could produce measurable impacts. This means that the path they propose would lead directly to geoengineering, even just to test it, and then it would be much harder to stop, what with commercial interests in continuing (e.g., Star Wars, which has not even ever worked).

Bickel and Lane also ignore several seminal papers on geoengineering that present much more advanced scientific results than the older papers they cite. In particular, they ignore Tilmes et al. (2008), Robock et al. (2008), Rasch et al. (2008), and Jones et al. (2009).

With respect to ozone, they dismiss concerns about ozone depletion and enhanced UV by citing Wigley (2006) and Crutzen (2006), but ignore the results of Tilmes et al. (2008), who showed that the effects would prolong the ozone hole for decades and that deployment of stratospheric aerosols in a couple decades would not be safe as claimed here. Bickel and Lane assert, completely incorrectly, “On its face, though, it does not appear that the ozone issue would be likely to invalidate the concept of stratospheric aerosols.”

With respect to an Arctic-only scheme, they suggest in several places that it would be possible to control Arctic climate based on the results of Caldeira and Wood (2008) who artificially reduce sunlight in a polar cap in their model (the “yarmulke method”), whereas Robock et al. (2008) showed with a more realistic model that explicitly treats the distribution and transport of stratospheric aerosols, that the aerosols could not be confined to just the Arctic, and such a deployment strategy would affect the summer Asian monsoon, reducing precipitation over China and India. And Robock et al. (2008) give examples from past volcanic eruptions that illustrate this effect, such as the pattern of precipitation reduction after the 1991 Pinatubo eruption (Trenberth and Dai, 2007):

With respect to cloud brightening, Bickel and Lane ignore the Jones et al. (2009) results that cloud brightening would mainly cool the oceans and not affect land temperature much, so that it is an imperfect method at best to counter global warming. Furthermore Jones et al. (2009) found that cloud brightening over the South Atlantic would produce severe drought over the Amazon, destroying the tropical forest.

They also ignore a huge class of ethical and world governance issues. Whose hand would be on the global thermostat? Who would trust military aircraft or a multi-national geoengineering company to have the interests of the people of the planet foremost?

They do not seem to realize that volcanic eruptions affect climate change because of sulfate aerosols produced from sulfur dioxide gas injections into the stratosphere, the same that is proposed for SRM, and not by larger ash particles that fall out quickly after and eruption and do not cause climate change.

They dismiss air capture (“air capture technologies do not appear as promising as solar radiation management from a technical or a cost perspective”) but ignore the important point that it would have few of the potential side effects of SRM. Air capture would just remove the cause of global warming in the first place, and the only side effects would be in the locations where the CO2 would be sequestered.

For some reason, they insist on using the wrong units for energy flux (W) instead of the correct units of W/m^2, and then mix them in the paper. I cannot understand why they choose to make it so confusing.

The potential negative consequences of stratospheric SRM were clearly laid out by Robock (2008) and updated by Robock et al. (2009), which still lists 17 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea. One of those important possible consequences, the threat to the water supply for agriculture and other human uses, has been emphasized in a recent Science article by Gabi Hegerl and Susan Solomon.

Robock et al. (2009) also lists some benefits from SRM, including increased plant productivity and an enhanced CO2 sink from vegetation that grows more when subject to diffuse radiation, as has been observed after every recent large volcanic eruption. But the quantification of these and other geoengineering benefits, as well as the negative aspects, awaits more research.

It may be that the benefits of geoengineering will outweigh the negative aspects, and that most of the problems can be dealt with, but the paper from Lomborg’s center ignores the real consensus among all responsible geoengineering researchers. The real consensus, as expressed at the National Academy conference and in the AMS statement, is that mitigation needs to be our first and overwhelming response to global warming, and that whether geoengineering can even be considered as an emergency measure in the future should climate change become too dangerous is not now known. Policymakers will only be able to make such decisions after they see results from an intensive research program. Lomborg’s report should have stopped at the need for a research program, and not issued its flawed and premature conclusions.


Jones, A., J. Haywood, and O. Boucher 2009: Climate impacts of geoengineering marine stratocumulus clouds, J. Geophys. Res., 114, D10106, doi:10.1029/2008JD011450.

Rasch, Philip J., Simone Tilmes, Richard P. Turco, Alan Robock, Luke Oman, Chih-Chieh (Jack) Chen, Georgiy L. Stenchikov, and Rolando R. Garcia, 2008: An overview of geoengineering of climate using stratospheric sulphate aerosols. Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A., 366, 4007-4037, doi:10.1098/rsta.2008.0131.

Robock, Alan, 2008: 20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea. Bull. Atomic Scientists, 64, No. 2, 14-18, 59, doi:10.2968/064002006. PDF file Roundtable discussion of paper

Robock, Alan, Luke Oman, and Georgiy Stenchikov, 2008: Regional climate responses to geoengineering with tropical and Arctic SO2 injections. J. Geophys. Res., 113, D16101, doi:10.1029/2008JD010050. PDF file

Robock, Alan, Allison B. Marquardt, Ben Kravitz, and Georgiy Stenchikov, 2009: The benefits, risks, and costs of stratospheric geoengineering. Submitted to Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2009GL039209. PDF file

Tilmes, S., R. Müller, and R. Salawitch, 2008: The sensitivity of polar ozone depletion to proposed geoengineering schemes, Science, 320(5880), 1201-1204, doi:10.1126/science.1153966.

Trenberth, K. E., and A. Dai (2007), Effects of Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption on the hydrological cycle as an analog of geoengineering, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L15702, doi:10.1029/2007GL030524.

329 Responses to “A biased economic analysis of geoengineering”

  1. 251

    248 Patrick

    Yes you could make the engine-generator part stationary, but that would decree that the battery in the car was very large, and no way could it be large enough for long trips unless a whole additional system of charging was established. But that larger battery would mean that all in all you would have more stuff that costs serious money.

    I believe you noted earlier that furnaces could be fitted with radiators to act as heat exchangers. This is cheap plumbing.

    So why not skip buying the huge batteries. By the way, what do you think would happen to the price of lithium if all cars had huge batteries? Even now, the Prius conversions cost around $10,000 which is mostly the battery cost. Note also the $107,000 price tag for the Tesla.

    Sure technology can improve, but when I hear the “Moore’s Law” from the integrated circuit experience applied to cars and batteries I think about the “realtors law” that said housing prices never come down. These are not really “laws” and should be carefully thought through, not blindly quoted.

  2. 252

    246 Patrick

    The public utility in my area loves the idea of batteries in cars being used for storage. They even have a program for cogeneration rebates, but this is very soft peddled. And it has not been extended to cogeneration with engines in the hybrid cars, at least not to my knowledge; and of course it would be a bit tricky to get to work within the limits of ‘complete use of heat’ as I require of the system.

  3. 253
    Patrick 027 says:

    ” Even now, the Prius conversions cost around $10,000 which is mostly the battery cost.”

    Not that it solves everything, but I suspect the cost of Li is a small portion of that.

  4. 254
    CM says:

    The Royal Society report on geoengineering I mentioned is out (“Geoengineering the climate: science, governance and uncertainty”). From the press release:

    The future of the Earth could rest on potentially dangerous and unproven geoengineering technologies unless emissions of carbon dioxide can be greatly reduced, the latest Royal Society report has found.

    Geoengineering the climate: Science, governance and uncertainty (published today,1st September, by the Royal Society) found that unless future efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are much more successful than they have been so far, additional action in the form of geoengineering will be necessary if we are to cool the planet. Geoengineering technologies were found to be very likely to be technically possible and some were considered to be potentially useful to augment the continuing efforts to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions. However, the report identified major uncertainties regarding their effectiveness, costs and environmental impacts.

  5. 255
    Stephanie says:

    Ray (#218), you state: “The thing is that while economics tells us that developing a new energy infrastructure will be expensive, the expense is irrelevant, because continued use of fossil fuel is not sustainable.”

    What economics tells us is that no expense is irrelevant. Economic theory says that as resources become more scarce, prices should increase, signaling the economy to develop new and better technologies. If there were no climate (or other pollution) externalities here, there wouldn’t really be an issue from an economic perspective. When costs associated with fossil fuels became too high, new energy technologies would be developed.

    Because of the externalities associated with the combustion of fossil fuels, though, we need to rethink our energy system much sooner. A careful evaluation of the alternative available (with an understanding that our decisions now will influence what technologies will be developed in the future), a thorough evaluation of the costs and benefits, is necessary to better inform public debate.

    Steve, #217, there are economists in the government, research institutions, and even private industry who are trying very hard to better evaluate the economics of climate change. See some of the work by the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum.

    While I agree that the best economics comes from approaching it as a true science, we can’t forget that it is a social science, not a physical one, and many of the things we model can’t be measured, so it’s often difficult to determine which model is better. In some cases, the best we can do is be very explicit about our assumptions and be open to discussion about those assumptions.

  6. 256
    Mark says:

    “What economics tells us is that no expense is irrelevant.”

    No, ALL expenses are irrelevant.

    Money is the rate of exchange of value.

    But as the old saying goes “you can’t take it with you”. Therefore it is better to be lost on a dessert island where food grows than to be abandoned on an island with a huge stack of cash.

    So when it comes to the expense of AGW mitigation, the espense is irrelevant: without the current infrastructure which has been tuned to the climate of the pre-industrial period of the holocene era, we have nothing to show expenses on.

    Truly irrelevant to the cost.

  7. 257
    Hank Roberts says:

    Stephanie, economics also tells us that the rope salesman will gladly sell you enough rope to hang him — he makes a short term profit on the deal, and discounts the future costs.

  8. 258
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Stephanie – “When costs associated with fossil fuels became too high, new energy technologies would be developed.”

    Yes. However, because of the scarcity of the resource that is wisdom/intelligence, even without the externality, it might be arguable that some public policies would be helpful for such transitions. Perhaps especially when the economic reserves quantity as a function of price is bumpy, as it likely is with petroleum in particular, such that there is an analogy of a steep cliff, which for some reason most people want to pretend doesn’t exist as they hurtle themselves towards it. (I was having a conversation with a high school teacher in the mid-90s and I mentioned running out of oil, and he remarked something to the effect that he and I might be the only ones who actually realize that this will happen if we keep using it. Recent events have changed that picture.) (PS and why do people refuse to invest in infrastructure upkeep – but that’s another story…)

    It seems wise to seek out ‘technodiversity’ so that we can more quickly adapt to as yet unrealized externalities or other unforeseen problems.


    Mark – “Therefore it is better to be lost on a dessert island where food grows”

    Oh boy, here we go again with the dessert! :) (Or mabye that was intentional, since food wouldn’t grow very much on a desert island.)

    But I actually disagree with you. I might have partly agreed with you a few years ago before I decided to really try to understand economics (it’s less intuitive than climate or ecosystems or orbiting planets because there is no law of conservation of money). Of course actual physical money only has value in as far as it can be exchanged for something also judged to have value, except for the slight value of possible fuel or metal usage or whatever… But that’s the way it is with a lot of things. Why does a car have value? Because it has usefulness. Because it requires something of value to replace it – with another car (because of scarcity of resources) or with something else (because it might require sacrifice of something else of value (time) in order to walk (although there are other benifits to walking, of course, and mass transit, etc, one could move to reduce travel time – but you get the point), and there are still resource requirements, though they may be different).

    On an episode of a TV show, a character distinguished between intrinsic value and … forgot the term, but the value that a movie prop had just because it was in a movie. But all economic value is imposed – why would anything have value – because someone is willing to forgo another opportunity of value (as measured by money spend or sacrifice made in goods/services bartered – note that something of value (time, effort, etc.) went into obtaining those things, plus they have usefulness in obtaining value, hence they have value) in order to get this thing because it has value to the person – the trade occurs if the supply of this thing requires less sacrifice of value than the value the person sacrifices to get this thing, assuming the scarcity of decision making resource has not made the person decide to sacrifice the certainty of value of getting a profit on value in order to save value somewhere else, etc…

    If you ended up on an island with no monetary exchanges, you would still have an economy. You would be exchanging time and effort for food; assuming food is not too easy to get, you would try to maximize the caloric profit, except with some caloric spending on non-caloric needs, etc. There would be marginal utilities. Your industries would compete with each other; they would also depend on each other, since your caloric intake would be worth much less if you were to die anyway from something else – the marginal utility of one quantity depends not just on that quantity but other quantities, their arrangments in space and time, etc. You might invest some of your profits via planting seeds… This would have undefined monetary worth simply because you are not exchanging money, but things would have economic value that could be measured by their exchange rates with each other, as judged by your behavior.

    What if you had some hope of being rescued? The rescue operation might cost money. The people who decide to rescue you obviously place at least that much value on finding you – or they might place less value on finding you dead, but the expectation value based on some probability of finding you alive adds to the total expectation value so that there is some expectation value of profit, which will be exceeded if you are found alive and well. If they value your being found alive then they value your island economy, hence implying an exchange rate. They would have been willing to spend money to make your own industry more profitable.


    Hank Roberts – discounting the future is not altogether illogical. If there were a high probability of an asteroid striking the Earth and wiping us out before 2050 than we would logically devalue the future and our efforts to mitigate and adapt to global warming accordingly.

    However, if we can change the future, than our discount rate can be decreased. Long range planning can reduce such discounting – we can in some ways in effect decide that the future will be likely quite valuable, and thereby increase the value of efforts to make it so…

    (Both the costs of mitigation and adaptation, and the value of mitigation, will be greater if the time-integrated population is larger.)

    Individually, we may act as if we and those we know and those things we know about are more important to us, so there is a behavioral discounting toward the unfamiliar and unknown, including tendencies over space and time, but that is distinct from the actual discount rate, because we can allow ourselves to behave as such to a greater degree than we actually discount the unfamiliar and unknown because we may know that we most effectively accomplish things of value when we work with what we know. Of course, we can outsource work, knowing that others know things we don’t know, for example, going to a doctor for medical treatment, giving to a charity which knows how to help people that we don’t know, etc.

  9. 259

    255 Stephanie, 256 Mark, 257 Hank Roberts,

    Stephanie is telling us something about reality.

    As I see it, the USA could easily spend itself into becoming a third world country. When we get back to walking around barefooted, won’t that end the global warming problem?

  10. 260
    CTG says:

    Re 251: “When costs associated with fossil fuels became too high, new energy technologies would be developed.”

    But our dependence on fossil fuels is so great that switching to new technologies will take many years. During the period of the change – 10, even 20 years – the fossil fuel companies stand to make some quite extraordinary profits as the price skyrockets. While we are still dependent on their fuel, we have no choice but to pay whatever price they demand.

    That scenario requires that we go through peak oil, though, which is still probably 10-20 years away from really beginning to take effect (even longer for coal).

    If we start to move away from fossil fuels now, in order to combat climate change, that massive pay day disappears. The fossil fuel companies cannot hold the world to ransom unless demand massively exceeds supply, which it doesn’t quite yet.

    This is why they are so desperate to convince the world’s policy makers that AGW is not happening. Not because they will go out of business – they know that will happen at some point because of peak oil – but because they are going to miss out on the biggest profits of all time if they don’t make it to peak oil.

    Remember, people who head up massive multinational corporations are rarely stupid. They can work this stuff out. They just hope the rest of us can’t.

  11. 261
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company 1 September 2009 at 1:59 PM

    “As I see it, the USA could easily spend itself into becoming a third world country. When we get back to walking around barefooted, won’t that end the global warming problem?”

    Well, we are. I could argue we’re there already, still just staggering around like a chicken with its head cut off and not yet aware it’s dead. We’re spending our way to perdition by trading our industrial, intellectual and civic capacities for cheap plasma televisions, etc. instead of doing anything useful and productive with all that money and credit, the inheritance of bygone days.

    I suppose all those imported plastic consumer goods would burn nicely, come to think of it. Better hang on to last year’s obsolescent blender…

  12. 262
    Patrick 027 says:

    Jim Bullis – it might turn out we could spend much less on energy than we do now to get it all from solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biofuels (setting aside whatever happens to nuclear). The main problem is the inflation-adjusted interest rate. It is a lot cheaper to invest without going into debt because much of this switch will be long term investments (several decades +). But we can balance stuff out and use some debt and some up front cash (such as from an emissions tax).

  13. 263
    Patrick 027 says:

    “Remember, people who head up massive multinational corporations are rarely stupid.”

    One guy made 300 million dollars in one year by hanging out at stripclubs and having an extramarital affair. That’s Enron for you.

  14. 264
    David B. Benson says:

    Related to topic, somewhat.

    Guardian launches 10:10 campaign:

  15. 265
    Hank Roberts says:

    “The project recently received support from Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and IHI Corp, who are now teaming up in the race to develop new technology within four years that can beam electricity back to Earth without the use of cables. Japan hopes to test a small solar satellite decked out with solar panels by the year 2015.”

  16. 266
    Mark says:

    “That scenario requires that we go through peak oil, though, which is still probably 10-20 years away from really beginning to take effect (even longer for coal).”

    Peak oil is when extraction rates cannot be increased at the rate of demand.

    That passed 10-20 years ago.

    The difference between supply capacity and demand is close enough that a drop in demand can still mean oversupply but supply is still the limiting factor and so any increase in demand or even just static demand raises the prices.

  17. 267
    Mark says:

    “Mark – “Therefore it is better to be lost on a dessert island where food grows”

    Oh boy, here we go again with the dessert! :) (Or mabye that was intentional, since food wouldn’t grow very much on a desert island.)”

    Hey, stop making fun of my dyslexia! That’s dissing and therefore against the disability acts against discrimination!

    (my sister went through school when you couldn’t tell someone they spelt a word wrong. her spelling today is still terrible, and that’s not mild dyslexia…).

    “But I actually disagree with you.

    I might have partly agreed with you a few years ago before I decided to really try to understand economics (it’s less intuitive than climate or ecosystems or orbiting planets because there is no law of conservation of money)”

    However, the reason why you disagree is because you’ve bought into the paradigm that is the axiom of economics: that money is the sine qua non of existence.

    Money has no intrinsic worth, any more than the value “0” (zero) does. Or the square root of -1.

    In the world of mathematics would be in a mess without zero. Many physical processes would be difficult or impossible to describe without i. And economics must have its axiom too: that money is the entirety of worth.

    Its wrong.

    It’s a *necessary* axiom for economics and without it economics becomes even less tractable.

    This doesn’t mean money has value outside economic theory.

  18. 268
    Mark says:

    “As I see it, the USA could easily spend itself into becoming a third world country. ”

    It’s doing so now, Jim: by refusing to mitigate AGW it is spending its resources and becoming a third world country.

    Your adamantine belief in the primacy of the Free Market means you have a LESS THAN third world health. Your disdain for government work (outside the industrial-military complex) means your education is second to none. By which only a complete lack of education system would be worse.

    But spending now to live richly today and die tomorrow is far more preferable than admitting that your Free Market implementation is broken.

  19. 269
    Mark says:

    “If there were a high probability of an asteroid striking the Earth and wiping us out before 2050 than we would logically devalue the future and our efforts to mitigate and adapt to global warming accordingly.”

    If there were a high probability, the skeptics should (logically, but then again expecting logic from the “skeptics” is illogical) discard the idea without consideration. Maybe it’s just a mass hallucination caused by GCR fluxes…

  20. 270
    Stephanie says:

    Patrick, #258: “It seems wise to seek out ‘technodiversity’ so that we can more quickly adapt to as yet unrealized externalities or other unforeseen problems.”

    I agree. It’s a good reason for governments to invest in technological growth.

    Mark, #267: “And economics must have its axiom too: that money is the entirety of worth.

    Its wrong.

    It’s a *necessary* axiom for economics and without it economics becomes even less tractable.”

    That’s simply not true. Economic theory states no such thing. Money is a means of simplifying trade. It is a way to attampt to value many disparate choices in the same units (how much damage occurs from 1000 extra cases of malaria and how much is saving a 20 acre wetland in North Carolina worth?) Anyone who thinks that money exchanges get it “right” every time has never felt like they got a raw deal or a very good one. But that doesn’t eliminate the usefulness of money.

    If there was no money, and you’re say, a college professor, you can barter your “goods” (education in some specialized field) to get what you need, but chances are, you’ll have a hard time doing that. You might find some people who will want what you have, but you may end up with 1,000 apples and 200 sweaters in return. Now you have to exchange the apples and the sweaters for what you really need/want. That process is inefficient. Money increases the efficiency of the trading process. It doesn’t dictate the value of something.

    Hank, #257: “economics also tells us that the rope salesman will gladly sell you enough rope to hang him — he makes a short term profit on the deal, and discounts the future costs.”

    He’d have to have an extremely high personal discount rate to do that!

    Seriously, discounting is a huge issue in climate economics. It’s important because it can’t be zero (because that implies that we should be willing to spend everything we have today to avoid significant damages in the future) but there isn’t a clear answer as to what it should be. There has to be some balancing between the needs of current and future generations.

  21. 271
    Patrick 027 says:

    Mark – I meant no malice in my dessert comment. I myself often switch ‘there’ and ‘their’.

    But I never bought into “that money is the sine qua non of existence.” I second Stephanie on this one. Money is a tool useful in exchanges – existence of currency has value in efficiency (it is possible to imagine a cost, in that the abstraction may make unwise transactions more likely than in a bartering system, but the efficiency is big plus much of the time), and the exchange rate gives money value, which allows monetary units to be useful for accounting purposes. Money has value because goods and services that are traded with money have value; these things have value in part because other things have value, and so forth, and things have value economic value ultimately because people like them, want them, or want something in return for giving them or losing them. Following the chains of value from sources and using exchange rates, monetary values can be theoretically assigned to many things that are not normally directly traded for money – in principle, although in practice it may certainly be a difficult task.

  22. 272
    Geno Canto del Halcon says:

    “Watts” are not a measure of energy, but of power. In the MKS system, energy is measured in joules, so “energy flux” would be measured in J/m^2, not W/m^2. Perhaps Alan meant “power flux”?

  23. 273
    Patrick 027 says:

    A flux is a flow rate. An energy flux is power of some form. W/m2 is an energy flux per unit area (often the term flux is used casually to refer to a flux per unit area).

  24. 274
    Patrick 027 says:

    Mark – and I also wondered if your use of ‘dessert’ was deliberate in that case.

  25. 275
    Andrew says:

    Geno #272

    He had better mean energy flux if he is referring to W/m^2. The term flux refers to a flow or rate of change which inevitably must have a time element attached. So ‘Energy Flux’ has to be measured as J/m^2.t (where t refers to time – seconds). Since a watt is defined as a joule per second this is equivalent to W/m^2.

    On the other hand a ‘Power Flux’ refers to change in power over time. ie W/m^2.t. That is, it measures how power changes over time, which I doubt is what was meant in this instance.

  26. 276
    CM says:

    Geno (#272), google “energy flux” or check the thread. “Power flux” is indeed used more or less interchangeably for the same thing. (Though it smacks of redundancy to me, since “flux” — “flow” — already suggests a time rate.)

  27. 277
    Mark says:

    “I second Stephanie on this one. Money is a tool useful in exchanges – existence of currency has value in efficiency ”

    It’s a tool.

    What use is a paddle when you’re stuck on top of the Matahorn?

    What use is a canoe in the middle of the Sahara?

    And how much use can you get out of firelighters when stranded in the middle of the ocean.

    Money has only use if you look at the world as an economist.

    Not because money has value in itself but because it is necessary to use it when thinking as an economist.

    In fact, we don’t even use money any more.

    It’s all just numbers on a spreadsheet.

    THAT is how worthless money is. We don’t even use it when we use money!

    A physicist says physics is the basis of all natural knowledge. Because they’re thinking like a physicist.

    A Chemist says chemistry is the basis for considering life and technology. Because they’re a chemist.

    A Biologist says Biology IS the study of life and therefore the basis of all we need to know. Because they’re a biologist.

    And an economist sees money as the sine qua non of activity. Because they’re an economist.

  28. 278
    Mark says:

    “That’s simply not true. Economic theory states no such thing. Money is a means of simplifying trade.”

    Then you are agreeing that money is worthless except as an analogue and has no intrinsic value in itself.


    So why your previous post on money’s primacy?

  29. 279
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Stephanie says: “There has to be some balancing between the needs of current and future generations.”

    Undoubtedly true, but too often discounting is merely a device for passing debts on to future generations. What is more, the concept of discounting becomes extremely problematic when the cost of future action escalates rapidly with time and where unanticipated feedbacks may make future mitigation impossible. Certainly, we must consider current needs, but we have a helluva long way to go before the balance even approaches fairness to future generations.

  30. 280

    The question of discounting in cost/benefit analysis–mentioned above by Stephanie–has been troubling me a bit.

    It seems workable in “normal” situations–that is, for many types of costs it will be advantageous to pay later, when the cost will represent a smaller proportion of societal wealth (since the economy tends to grow pretty reliably over time ).

    But in the case of AGW cost benefit analysis (CBA, in the jargon, apparently) we have cost estimates that range from 3% to 40% of global GDP. (As far as I can tell so far, all of the estimates are pretty shaky.) If we’re talking about the higher end of the range, though, we’re talking about negative economic growth. And if we get that, we get a situation where the logic for discounting gets turned upside down–“paying later” becomes proportionately more and more expensive.

    And we lack understanding of key elements–such as the possiblity of ice sheet collapse–which would allow us to predict just when negative growth might come about. And, of course, there’s good evidence from the technical side that the longer meaningful mitigation is delayed, the greater the eventual cost.

    It seems that a different paradigm is required–but my knowledge here is very, um, basic. Am I completely out to lunch here?

  31. 281
    CM says:

    Mark (#278), Stephanie has posted nothing on this thread about “money’s primacy” that I can see. She had a perfectly to-the-point comment on an awkward formulation in the post. We can agree if you like that money is “intrinsically” worthless, but that changes precisely nothing. The application of cost-benefit analysis to untested planet-changing technologies really has problems enough without needing to get all philosophical about the meaning of money. How about we steer back to that?

  32. 282
    Hank Roberts says:

    Now _this_ is geoengineering:

    “… In the central Pacific, there are up to six pounds of marine litter for every pound of plankton ….”

    Why be messing around trying to cause plankton blooms, when there’s far more obvious immediate benefit to collecting and permanently taking out of circulation such a huge volume of decomposing plastic with its accumulated burden of toxic organic chemicals — now moving up the food chain?

    What goes around comes around.
    Who said that?

  33. 283

    255 Stephanie

    You said, “Economic theory says that as resources become more scarce, prices should increase, signaling the economy to develop new and better technologies.”

    Would not economic theory also say that an increase in demand will cause action to fill that demand by operation of the lowest cost system with available capacity? I bring this up in connection with electric vehicles which I maintain will represent an increment of demand that will be filled by operation of that lowest cost system operation. I reason that coal fired systems will inevitably be the lowest cost system so that will be the marginal response to the new electric vehicle load.

    Another economic rule might be that action to stop this, such as banning coal fired power plants, will face a water bed effect, where banning coal will cause more natural gas usage causing higher natural gas prices on the national market. The result will be that the national decision makers will respond by choosing to use more coal fired capacity. The net result is therefore a negating process that makes banning coal on a local basis a useless action. Maybe it could be called a grand gesture at California’s economic peril?

  34. 284
    CTG says:

    Re 283.

    Jim, what you say only makes sense if coal and gas are not taxed to reflect their true environmental cost. If carbon costs are properly reflected, any fossil fuel would quickly become uneconomical, which would then mean that electric vehicles would be the best option going.

    All it takes is a bit of political will to introduce that carbon tax.

  35. 285
    Hank Roberts says:

    One analogy to consider would be the use of lead in paint and in plumbing — it was a wonderful material.

    Lead in paint (a large part by weight) made it weather-resistant because it would ‘chalk’ and wash off in the rain, leaving behind a new fresh surface over and over.

    Lead in plumbing was cheap, easy to form into pipes, soft enough to bend but sturdy enough to last a long time, and as long as the water supply was slightly alkaline rather than slightly acidic it did not corrode very much.

    From a purely market cost/immediate profit standpoint, it’s still the best material to use for paint and plumbing.

    Has anyone seen a pure economic analysis of the use of lead in paint and plumbing, making the arguments for and against continuing to use it?

    If not, what else happened?

  36. 286

    284 CTG


    and 285 Hank Roberts,

    You point out the case of relatively minor inconvenience which can be sold to the public on a scare tactic basis. Killing babies usually gets the politicians motivated, where lead sulfide seems to have been the identified culprit. Since Americans do not know the difference between lead sulfide and lead and lead alloys, the extension to solder in copper pipes came fairly easily. I never have seen any indication of the danger of lead itself, which would have to have been a factor in life expectancy of printers who handled lead daily and continuously. The same goes for mercury that is in most people’s teeth and the organic compounds of mercury that seem quite capable of doing great damage. We even are incapable of distinguishing between sodium, sodium chloride, and other simple sodium compounds that have absolutely different effects on the body. But enough of this sophisticated chemistry (a joke).

    So what is my point? All these great dangers were dealt with at modest cost. Now we come along saying that “carbon” is the culprit since we can’t even spell CO2. And we say it is dirty which of course it is not. Metaphors are fine but they need to be apparent. To Americans, these are not. Then we ascend into esoteric science which leaves most people in the dust. Then we want people to pay a tax to continue what might seem to be their basic existence when we balk at paying enough to provide ourselves with health care and decent education. All this seems like a formula for non-progress; notice there seems to be some pushback. To me the Waxman Markey legislation is an indication of what kind of success we can expect from taxing to reflect true environmental cost. As I see it, that is a pretend tax that is not even going to hurt for a long time, and if it begins to hurt there will be plenty of time to repeal it.

    So what is true environmental cost? I ponder over how that could possibly be determined. Surely, mining has to be restricted to not make a mess of things. I can understand that. But to tax CO2, where does that start and end. Do we allow barefooted folks living in caves to breath without charge? Probably we have way too many people.

    So how about taxing the burning of coal and natural gas as well? So only people with hydro power would get cheap electricity, but remember, these federal resources are not without their environmental impact. (Ask any salmon what he thinks about hydro.) Why do the local folk only get the benefit of this national resource?

    I prefer solutions that leave things alone as much as possible. Of course something has to change, but it looks easier to me to try to find ways to keep things going where there are ways to do this at minor cost. I speak of course on my “agenda” which is to return the power production to something like the distributed system that Edison originally envisioned. Next is the possibility that cars be modeled after the cycle cars of 100 years ago, with a step up to aerodynamic technology that has also been around for 100 years. I am guessing that people will be open to this kind of change instead of things that will cost a lot of money, which of course the heavy CO2 tax combined with wind farms and their fossil fuel burning back up systems will entail.

    I submit that there will be more success with fixing the global warming problem if we get busy on things that will be at least slightly palatable to the public. How about a tax on any car with a aerodynamic drag coefficient greater than .1? And then add a tax for each empty right front seat moved along needlessly. Clinch it with a tax on heat dumped without having been fully used.

  37. 287
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 285, Hank Roberts – If you’re refering to the logic of it, the cost would be in lost mental and bodily resource quality and medical care, etc. Some of this (depending on the application and case) would be internalized, so that people planning ahead would tend to make ‘the right choice’, but there can easily be an externality component to it, too.

    Re Jim – see CTG 284, and California could tax incoming electric power from coal plants and use that revenue to subsidize all electric exports so as to balance the playing field and incentive other states’ policies, etc. And so on internationally…

    Re Mark – no, a firefighter has no direct use to you when you are on a flame-retardant boat in the Pacific Ocean. But how valuable would it be to move to a house surrounded by trees? Depending on your preferences, you could make this deal: trade the boat on the sea for a house with forest scenery and some tax money to pay for a firefighter. With the exchange rate, you might conceivably measure the value of your ocean real estate and various other things (your health, 5 minutes of your free time, etc.) in terms of equivalent number of firefighters. This would be the ‘fire-fighter’ standard, as opposed to the gold standard, etc. (it would really have to be ‘fire-fighter days’ since any given fire fighter might be employed for various time periods. (Of course, your values will be different than anothers, but interaction in a free market (various caveats aside) will tend to maximize total profit for everyone, and set exchange rates based on supply-demand and marginal utility for the fluxes/amounts that exist, for the arrangement of resources in time and space and other dimensions that is chosen by the system. The exchange rates will depend on the outcome but they are still meaningful for that outcome… etc.))

    Why shouldn’t economists use monetary value for accounting purposes? IF they are really good at what they do, the results will be useful, even to non-economists, because the monetary value can be translated into goods and services, ecosystem services, health, even your own self.

    Re Kevin and Ray – Perhaps this is a case where there is too much nonlinearity to assign a cost that is independent of the future trajectory. The future will be affected by a policy such as an emissions tax (or zoning, urban and infrastructure public planning, bans, subsidies, mandates, building codes, education for girls and family planning services in third-world countries, etc.), so the correct value of that tax depends on the tax and on the other things we do – or it could, unless it turns out to be a linear case. This is of course a situation where we have to deal with probabilities, so there would be an insurance-like aspect to it all.

    The law to drive on one side of the road makes the choice to drive on that side of the road a much better choice than driving on the other side of the road, and makes driving itself more profitable.

  38. 288
    Mark says:

    “Re Mark – no, a firefighter has no direct use to you when you are on a flame-retardant boat in the Pacific Ocean. But how valuable would it be to move to a house surrounded by trees?”

    A firefighter has value because it is used to gain utility. You don’t NEED a firefighter for your house surrounded by trees: move out if there’s a fire and rebuild when the fire is gone.

    Humans lasted a looong time without firemen.

    Now the accumulation of “stuff” means that you would prefer to take insurance by having a fire department, but as has been amply demonstrated in both Australia and the US recently, having a fire department doesn’t guarantee your home.

    Money is a central concept of economics as the rate of exchange of value. But that’s a MODEL of how humans act in concert and interpersonally. It isn’t the reality.

  39. 289
    Mark says:

    “Why shouldn’t economists use monetary value for accounting purposes?”

    They SHOULD.

    But what they SHOULD NOT do is conflate the idea of accounting with some inherent higher truth of reality. Which is what Steph is doing and you want to do too.

    An electron really exists.

    But to give the physicists model of an electron some actual reality would be foolish. One really obvious reason is that for the spin energy of the electron to exist in our model of its reality, it would have to spin faster than light at the surface of the electron.

    But Physicists don’t ascribe some reality to our model of an electron. We already know how that leads to error.

    Many economists fail to evince the same care with their model.

  40. 290
    Mark says:

    Jim, if you really mean this:

    “I prefer solutions that leave things alone as much as possible.”

    Then surely leaving the fossil fuels where they are is leaving things alone as much as possible.

    We have to do WORK to get that stuff out.

  41. 291
    Mark says:


    “Mark (#278), Stephanie has posted nothing on this thread about “money’s primacy” that I can see.”

    Go back to the original post.

    Steph considers and stated that money was the True Measure ™ and if it costs more we should avoid it.

    How should that be interpreted other than as the primacy of money?

  42. 292

    290 Mark,

    I guess you are pretending to misunderstand. However, to make it clear, I am talking about the present day system of the “developed world” for better or worse. That system has some real problems, but look back at how things were 200 years ago.

  43. 293
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Mark –

    “You don’t NEED a firefighter for your house surrounded by trees: move out if there’s a fire and rebuild when the fire is gone.”

    “Humans lasted a looong time without firemen.”

    “Now the accumulation of “stuff” means that you would prefer to take insurance by having a fire department, but as has been amply demonstrated in both Australia and the US recently, having a fire department doesn’t guarantee your home.”

    1. You don’t need to live on a flame retardant boat, either. You really don’t need anything (you need things in order to live, but you don’t need to live. You (I hope) want to live, and others also want you to live. The value you would find in ‘necessities’ are valuable in so far as your life is valuable. Other things are valuable to you in so far as you find value in them, and they may have some additional value through you to other people (your having it and all consequences thereof could be of value to someone else, including a future you or past you (expectation value?) if we start breaking down components).

    The point is, there might be some fire fighting institution that comes with a cost (money, or bartering or indirect bartering if you prefer) and a benifit (some reduction of risk of losses in investments/property), and if the benifit is great enough relative to the cost, you might then choose that option. The cost occurs because you getting something of value requires some combination of someone else getting something of value to them that must be supplied, and/or someone else losing something of value …

    IF you ever make a decision between two options, and you choose one, and it was the optimum choice for you, it must be because that had more value to you then the other option. This is not always a choice between two different quantities of identical commodities for the same price. Generally, apples and oranges must be compared at some point. There is an exchange rate implied by your behavior. Your personal exchange rate may be different from another’s, but the interaction of trade sets up a market exchange rate that affects how much you would have to give up in order to get something.

    PS I am not trying to say that monetary value or equivalent monetary value is precisely proportional to the value one actually can get, but there is a tendency, especially all other things being equal. There is also a tendency for, all other things being equal, greater economic wealth being a morally valuable outcome. That aside, the morally optimal policy may be an externality tax. Doesn’t this imply a monetary to moral value conversion? Again, depending on marginal utility, and can be nonlinear, etc.

  44. 294
    Patrick 027 says:

    “But that’s a MODEL of how humans act in concert and interpersonally. It isn’t the reality.”

    So humans don’t exchange money, ever? Or is your point that economic models can be innaccurate? Many models are imperfect but still very useful.

    “An electron really exists.”

    Are you sure?

    PS “A physicist says physics is the basis of all natural knowledge. Because they’re thinking like a physicist.”
    “A Chemist says chemistry is the basis for considering life and technology. Because they’re a chemist.”
    “A Biologist says Biology IS the study of life and therefore the basis of all we need to know. Because they’re a biologist.”

    What is this supposed to mean, really? Physical law, so far as supernatural processes are absent, are the underlying basis for chemistry and biology and much else. And I really wouldn’t think good chemists and biologists believe that the concepts of ‘force’, ‘power’, ‘energy’, and ‘entropy’ have no place in life and technology and all we need to know.


    Maybe we should go back to AGW and reconsider what we’re talking about. Other caveats aside, Markets will better optimize economic value when decisions are forced to be made with price signals for externalities, or with some other public policy to deal with externalities (which is the better option depends on specifics). What does that mean? It means if we can figure out the public cost of CO2, some form of taxation would help. What is the best tax rate? Perhaps higher than many would like, but it is possible to have it too high. But assuming a generally convex production possibilities curve, closer is better, and a little is better than none.

    How would this be figured out? Assuming likely or nearly optimal adaption (And including net costs of adaptation, which would be minimized for a given climate change trajectory for optimal adaptation) (or if not the same think, including the cost of making adaptation optimal), there is net total property value loss (includes the effect of increased insurance cost), and net public property loss, which includes biodiversity losses and other ecosystem degradation. How to value this in monetary equivalent? Lost or degraded ecosystem services may reduce agricultural output and personal comfort (which is something people are willing to spend money on), and factory output, etc, and increase medical costs, building and infrastructure updates, migration and its costs, greater investments in crop breeding, or spending for partial or complete substitution of the natural service (aquaducts and desalination). Some of the net losses will be sentimental/aesthetic value, and perhaps also scientific value (although there will be a scientific gain – studying the climate change, and likewise some aesthetic value in the form of ‘interesting times’). These things are hard to value, but could be valued by considering what people would be willing to spend for these things, and how much would have to be spent in reparation for the loss.

    (Notice that the difference between optimal adaptiona and adaptation that is likely without policies to encourage something better may include warfare and ethnic strife, and political impediment to migration. What are the costs? A principled method of reparation distribution to climate change injuries would help, including payments made to climate change refugees and maybe payments made to recieving countries. More cynically, some economic productivity might be sacrificed in exchange for politicians bribing their constituents (pork) to get them to accept other policies that they hate because they are selfish @$#@$%.)

    This is easier if the situation is an otherwise ideal free market, including migration to where the good jobs, and goods and good real estate are. It is also easier if everyone has the same initial resource base and the same conversion rate between (equivalent) economic value and personally-realized value (quality of life) – or if these things varied in some way not indepenent of each other. Obviously these are not true. However, there is still a tendency for increased economic value to make a higher quality of life more likely; they are not completely independent. However, is there a valid concern that the wellbeing of poor countries would be morally underweighted? First, for economic accuracy, the methods for estimating climate change cost should include the future trajectory of the world, and charitable efforts will affect that. Second, of course we *should* be looking for a moral optimum, and that may require some adjustments. However, economic reality still has to be considered.

  45. 295
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim Bullis, the tendency to want things to remain the same is natural and human. After all, the environment we have grown up in is the one we know how to negotiate. However, there comes a point where this is no longer an option. Once petroleum is gone, there will be no petroleum-based energy economy. Change is inevitable. The question is whether we select the change we want or whether we let change collide with great force against our collective face. Agreeing on how we change may be difficult. Agreeing that we must change is simply survival instinct.

  46. 296
    Patrick 027 says:

    “including a future you or past you (expectation value?)”

    If instead of thinking of actors/agents, we think of some number of ‘decision moments’, wherein a (conscious deliberate) choice is made, their is a web of interaction among them – each decision moment tends to have some net profit. That net profit may come from a future reward; however, it is the actual expectation of that reward that is the benifit in that decision moment and not the reward itself, though as a pattern, some nonzero frequency of an actual reward is required to make the expectation of further future rewards possible — … maybe (?).

    (A single ‘big’ decision may be made of a number of smaller decisions including decisions about how to allocate decision-making resources.)

  47. 297
    Patrick 027 says:

    … and the existence of a decision, and it’s possible outcomes and potential profit, are shaped by the outcomes of prior decisions and the potential of future decisions.

    “It is also easier if everyone has the same initial resource base and the same conversion rate between (equivalent) economic value and personally-realized value (quality of life)”

    1. A person could choose to invest in his/her ability to get ‘real value’ from economic value, but that investment may require sacrifice of some type, perhaps including the sacrifice of self (in the sense of changing one’s characteristics) – being one’s self has some value, including to other people – if people’s interactions repay (socially if not otherwise) that value then the person may then be able to get more value from not changing…

    (PS following is just a hypothetical example of ideal free markets, and is not an argument for it:

    (PS and regarding not starting out with the same resources – that could get into an interesting study of how an idealized free market health insurance plan would work (example: insurance is supposed to increase fairness via reducing effects of luck, while preserving incentives to pursue or avoid risk based on likely reward (also the idea behind stock markets) – this service is not free (as with stock markets – I wonder if there is a distinct problem with management being seperate from ownership and the relationship between them tends to encourage myopic and less than moral behavior (counterexample – green stocks, stocks in companies with reputations for … etc.), whereas owner-managers might take a longer term and seek some profit in forms that are not on the conventional ‘bottom line’.) First, an idealized free market health care system would charge people according to diet and excercise, if they live in polluted (although those charges could be passed on to polluters) or disaster-prone areas (PS consequences would further reduce property values in those areas by driving people away – this is an ideal version, remember), other behavior, etc. And, well, a person can’t choose their genetic risk factors, but parents can make reproductive decisions, so an idealized free market health care insurance would charge per act of unprotected you-know-what + x % * protected act, multiplied on a time-of-month variation, multiplied by genetic risk factors for whatever the insurance would cover (includes a cost reduction for genetic factors that cut risks), with a fudge factor for whether the parents would consider that which I won’t mention here because it’s too controversial, etc. And of course, the actual medical care required for genetic risk factors can be behavior dependent, and vice versa, so … **** THIS is one case where the social/cultural/technical costs of market accuracy are greater than the benifits (most parents do care about their children’s quality of life). But a small junk food tax might be of some good.))

    2. Time-integrated standard of living is a good metric to use (requires other metrics, though). But it takes resources to support a standard of living, or any living at all. The best things in life may be ‘free’ in a very direct immediate sense but it takes resources to have the time, place, supporting infrastructure, etc, to allow such things to occur, and the ‘real value’ in all of this is the source of economic value. It is not that all that is of value can be traded directly for money, but that as long as there is use of money, monetary values will in some way echo actual values.

    3. In an ideal free market (PS I’m not trying to argue that actual free markets will be ideal), if the agents were acting according to moral value, the economic value would reflect moral value. Assuming no kinks, the prices and quantities would tend to approach the intersections of Moral supply and moral demand curves, so that moral expenses would go toward their most highly morally-valued uses, and the investments would shift among moral supplies to further maximize moral profit.

    So if you were trying to argue that measuring everything in some monetary equivalent were not easy, or is not a complete description of reality, I would agree. But it seemed like you were arguing that monetary value could be ignored, and I disagree there.

  48. 298
    Patrick 027 says:

    PS my concept of an idealized free market he-alth insurance was in response to Sarah Pal-in’s calling ‘Obama’s’ plan (whatever version she thinks will be his ?) evi-l – aside from the straw-man, even if it was true, it struck me as perhaps a bit so-ci-al-ist on Pal-in’s part – and though most people may be instinctively soci-alist a bit in the same way on that issue (and I can’t blame them), I can’t help but appreciate the irony. Anyway, enough OT.

    (Health care is problematic because we already have some. We might as well have a blank slate to work with regarding energy/climate policy; I hope we make use of that opportunity.)

  49. 299
    Patrick 027 says:

    (Part of the problem with family planning as it is now is that in some parts of the world, fertility is a negative sum game. Social security would ameliorate that.)

  50. 300
    Steve Fish says:

    I believe that it is time to close comments when most posts consist of long streams of consciousness that are thin on information content. I may be mistaken…

    Brevity is golden! Steve