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An open letter to Steve Levitt

Filed under: — raypierre @ 29 October 2009

Dear Mr. Levitt,

The problem of global warming is so big that solving it will require creative thinking from many disciplines. Economists have much to contribute to this effort, particularly with regard to the question of how various means of putting a price on carbon emissions may alter human behavior. Some of the lines of thinking in your first book, Freakonomics, could well have had a bearing on this issue, if brought to bear on the carbon emissions problem. I have very much enjoyed and benefited from the growing collaborations between Geosciences and the Economics department here at the University of Chicago, and had hoped someday to have the pleasure of making your acquaintance. It is more in disappointment than anger that I am writing to you now.

I am addressing this to you rather than your journalist-coauthor because one has become all too accustomed to tendentious screeds from media personalities (think Glenn Beck) with a reckless disregard for the truth. However, if it has come to pass that we can’t expect the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor (and Clark Medalist to boot) at a top-rated department of a respected university to think clearly and honestly with numbers, we are indeed in a sad way.

By now there have been many detailed dissections of everything that is wrong with the treatment of climate in Superfreakonomics , but what has been lost amidst all that extensive discussion is how really simple it would have been to get this stuff right. The problem wasn’t necessarily that you talked to the wrong experts or talked to too few of them. The problem was that you failed to do the most elementary thinking needed to see if what they were saying (or what you thought they were saying) in fact made any sense. If you were stupid, it wouldn’t be so bad to have messed up such elementary reasoning, but I don’t by any means think you are stupid. That makes the failure to do the thinking all the more disappointing. I will take Nathan Myhrvold’s claim about solar cells, which you quoted prominently in your book, as an example.


As quoted by you, Mr. Myhrvold claimed, in effect, that it was pointless to try to solve global warming by building solar cells, because they are black and absorb all the solar energy that hits them, but convert only some 12% to electricity while radiating the rest as heat, warming the planet. Now, maybe you were dazzled by Mr Myhrvold’s brilliance, but don’t we try to teach our students to think for themselves? Let’s go through the arithmetic step by step and see how it comes out. It’s not hard.

Let’s do the thought experiment of building a solar array to generate the entire world’s present electricity consumption, and see what the extra absorption of sunlight by the array does to climate. First we need to find the electricity consumption. Just do a Google search on “World electricity consumption” and here you are:

GoogleElec

Now, that’s the total electric energy consumed during the year, and you can turn that into the rate of energy consumption (measured in Watts, just like the world was one big light bulb) by dividing kilowatt hours by the number of hours in a year, and multiplying by 1000 to convert kilowatts into watts. The answer is two trillion Watts, in round numbers. How much area of solar cells do you need to generate this? On average, about 200 Watts falls on each square meter of Earth’s surface, but you might preferentially put your cells in sunnier, clearer places, so let’s call it 250 Watts per square meter. With a 15% efficiency, which is middling for present technology the area you need is

2 trillion Watts/(.15 X 250. Watts per square meter)

or 53,333 square kilometers. That’s a square 231 kilometers on a side, or about the size of a single cell of a typical general circulation model grid box. If we put it on the globe, it looks like this:

Globe

So already you should be beginning to suspect that this is a pretty trivial part of the Earth’s surface, and maybe unlikely to have much of an effect on the overall absorbed sunlight. In fact, it’s only 0.01% of the Earth’s surface. The numbers I used to do this calculation can all be found in Wikipedia, or even in a good paperbound World Almanac.

But we should go further, and look at the actual amount of extra solar energy absorbed. As many reviewers of Superfreakonomics have noted, solar cells aren’t actually black, but that’s not the main issue. For the sake of argument, let’s just assume they absorb all the sunlight that falls on them. In my business, we call that “zero albedo” (i.e. zero reflectivity). As many commentators also noted, the albedo of real solar cells is no lower than materials like roofs that they are often placed on, so that solar cells don’t necessarily increase absorbed solar energy at all. Let’s ignore that, though. After all, you might want to put your solar cells in the desert, and you might try to cool the planet by painting your roof white. The albedo of desert sand can also be found easily by doing a Google search on “Albedo Sahara Desert,” for example. Here’s what you get:

GoogleSand

So, let’s say that sand has a 50% albedo. That means that each square meter of black solar cell absorbs an extra 125 Watts that otherwise would have been reflected by the sand (i.e. 50% of the 250 Watts per square meter of sunlight). Multiplying by the area of solar cell, we get 6.66 trillion Watts.

That 6.66 trillion Watts is the “waste heat” that is a byproduct of generating electricity by using solar cells. All means of generating electricity involve waste heat, and fossil fuels are not an exception. A typical coal-fired power plant only is around 33% efficient, so you would need to release 6 trillion Watts of heat to burn the coal to make our 2 trillion Watts of electricity. That makes the waste heat of solar cells vs. coal basically a wash, and we could stop right there, but let’s continue our exercise in thinking with numbers anyway.

Wherever it comes from, waste heat is not usually taken into account in global climate calculations for the simple reason that it is utterly trivial in comparison to the heat trapped by the carbon dioxide that is released when you burn fossil fuels to supply energy. For example, that 6 trillion Watts of waste heat from coal burning would amount to only 0.012 Watts per square meter of the Earth’s surface. Without even thinking very hard, you can realize that this is a tiny number compared to the heat-trapping effect of CO2. As a general point of reference, the extra heat trapped by CO2 at the point where you’ve burned enough coal to double the atmospheric CO2 concentration is about 4 Watts per square meter of the Earth’s surface — over 300 times the effect of the waste heat.

The “4 Watts per square meter” statistic gives us an easy point of reference because it is available from any number of easily accessible sources, such as the IPCC Technical Summary or David Archer’s basic textbook that came out of our “Global Warming for Poets” core course. Another simple way to grasp the insignificance of the waste heat effect is to turn it into a temperature change using the standard climate sensitivity of 1 degree C of warming for each 2 Watts per square meter of heat added to the energy budget of the planet (this sensitivity factor also being readily available from sources like the ones I just pointed out). That gives us a warming of 0.006 degrees C for the waste heat from coal burning, and much less for the incremental heat from switching to solar cells. It doesn’t take a lot of thinking to realize that this is a trivial number compared to the magnitude of warming expected from a doubling of CO2.

With just a little more calculation, it’s possible to do a more precise and informative comparison. For coal-fired generation,each kilowatt-hour produced results in emissions of about a quarter kilogram of carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. For our 16.83 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity produced each year, we then would emit 4.2 trillion kilograms of carbon, i.e. 4.2 gigatonnes each year. Unlike energy, carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere, and builds up year after year. It is only slowly removed by absorption into the ocean, over hundreds to thousands of years. After a hundred years, 420 gigatonnes will have been emitted, and if half that remains in the atmosphere (remember, rough estimates suffice to make the point here) the atmospheric stock of CO2 carbon will increase by 210 gigatonnes, or 30% of the pre-industrial atmospheric stock of about 700 gigatonnes of carbon. To get the heat trapped by CO2 from that amount of increase, we need to reach all the way back into middle-school math and use the awesome tool of logarithms; the number is

(4 Watts per square meter) X log2(1.3)

or 1.5 Watts per square meter. In other words, by the time a hundred years have passed, the heat trapped each year from the CO2 emitted by using coal instead of solar energy to produce electricity is 125 times the effect of the fossil fuel waste heat. And remember that the incremental waste heat from switching to solar cells is even smaller than the fossil fuel waste heat. What’s more, because each passing year sees more CO2 accumulate in the atmosphere, the heat trapping by CO2 continues to go up, while the effect of the waste heat from the fossil fuels or solar cells needed to produce a given amount of electricity stays fixed. Another way of putting it is that the climate effect from the waste heat produced by any kind of power plant is a one-off thing that you incur when you build the plant, whereas the warming effect of the CO2 produced by fossil fuel plants continues to accumulate year after year. The warming effect of the CO2 is a legacy that will continue for many centuries after the coal has run out and the ruins of the power plant are moldering away.

Note that you don’t actually have to wait a hundred years to see the benefit of switching to solar cells. The same arithmetic shows that even at the end of the very first year of operation, the CO2 emissions prevented by the solar array would have trapped 0.017 Watts per square meter if released into the atmosphere. So, at the end of the first year you already come out ahead even if you neglect the waste heat that would have been emitted by burning fossil fuels instead.

So, the bottom line here is that the heat-trapping effect of CO2 is the 800-pound gorilla in climate change. In comparison, waste heat is a trivial contribution to global warming whether the waste heat comes from solar cells or from fossil fuels. Moreover, the incremental waste heat from switching from coal to solar is an even more trivial number, even if you allow for some improvement in the efficiency of coal-fired power plants and ignore any possible improvements in the efficiency of solar cells. So: trivial,trivial trivial. Simple, isn’t it?

By the way, the issue of whether waste heat is an important factor in global warming is one of the questions most commonly asked by students who are first learning about energy budgets and climate change. So, there are no shortage of places where you can learn about this sort of thing. For example, a simple Google search on the words “Global Warming Waste Heat” turns up several pages of accurate references explaining the issue in elementary terms for beginners. Including this article from Wikipedia:

WasteHeatWiki

A more substantive (though in the end almost equally trivial) issue is the carbon emitted in the course of manufacturing solar cells, but that is not the matter at hand here. The point here is that really simple arithmetic, which you could not be bothered to do, would have been enough to tell you that the claim that the blackness of solar cells makes solar energy pointless is complete and utter nonsense. I don’t think you would have accepted such laziness and sloppiness in a term paper from one of your students, so why do you accept it from yourself? What does the failure to do such basic thinking with numbers say about the extent to which anything you write can be trusted? How do you think it reflects on the profession of economics when a member of that profession — somebody who that profession seems to esteem highly — publicly and noisily shows that he cannot be bothered to do simple arithmetic and elementary background reading? Not even for a subject of such paramount importance as global warming.

And it’s not as if the “black solar cell” gaffe was the only bit of academic malpractice in your book: among other things, the presentation of aerosol geoengineering as a harmless and cheap quick fix for global warming ignored a great deal of accessible and readily available material on the severe risks involved, as Gavin noted in his recent post. The fault here is not that you dared to advocate geoengineering as a solution. There is a broad spectrum of opinion among scientists about the amount of aerosol geoengineering research that is justified, but very few scientists think of it as anything but a desperate last-ditch attempt, or at best a strategy to be used in extreme moderation as part of a basket of strategies dominated by emissions reductions. You owed it to your readers to present a fair picture of the consequences of geoengineering, but chose not to do so.

May I suggest that if you should happen to need some friendly help next time you take on the topic of climate change, or would like to have a chat about why aerosol geoengineering might not be a cure-all, or just need a critical but informed opponent to bounce ideas off of, you don’t have to go very far. For example…

GoogleMap

But given the way Superfreakonomics mangled Ken Caldeira’s rather nuanced views on geoengineering, let’s keep it off the record, eh?

Your colleague,

Raymond T. Pierrehumbert
Louis Block Professor in the Geophysical Sciences
The University of Chicago

807 Responses to “An open letter to Steve Levitt”

  1. 301
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    #264, Patrick, I’m glad you brought up externalities. If we could only internalize these (taking into account harms well into the future), gasoline and coal-based electricity (and all other products) would be quite a bit higher in price.

    Another thing I learned in Economics 101, TINSTAAFL (there is no such thing as a free lunch). We ARE paying for these, at least to some extent, in other ways (health bills, etc), tho future harms will rack up bigger bills. The injustice is that the ones who cause the harms are not mainly the ones suffering and will suffer from them (including both humans and other life forms).

    I like Marx’s idea (he too was an economist) of seeing the blood, sweat, and tears of the laborers in products (products, not commodities). As an environmentalist I can envision also the environmentally harmed and starving people and other creatures in products. As a religious person, I keep a picture of a drought-starving African madonna and child in my mind’s eye, to remind me to do the EC (environmentally correct) thing.

    As an anthropologist while taking the economics course, and presented with a circular flow diagram of goods, services, resources, & money circulating between households* & business, I came back the next day with my own diagram:

    That circular flow diagram was a tiny slice at the top of a huge, solid mountain — the mountain representing nature and the environment. And above that tiny economic diagram, with broken lines eminating upward like an inverse of the mountain below, was the rest of the dimensions of the social sciences & humanities — cultural, social, psychological (including the irrational, sometimes quite perverse subconscious).

    So, yes, economics has its place, but it is a relatively small place in the greater scheme of all things considered from all perspectives.

    I do agree that one could, esp from a formalist economics perspective, view all in economic terms. But the same goes for viewing all in Freudian psychological terms, or cultural terms, or in the terms of any other analytic (not concrete) dimension or subdimension. That is, the various analytic dimensions interpentrate the whole. This makes each seem to be the sole determinant of all else, or the most important perspective. That leads to lots of debate in academia.

    It’s my view and perspective, sort of fuzzy ecological in an abstract, but with allowances for conflict and incongruties within and among the dimensions.
    ________________
    *BTW, some here may know that “eco” or “oikos” in “economics” means house or home. Economics – “management of the home” (and for most of history there were no separate businesses; production was done in and around the home). So it’s all about, as ET said, “home” — ecology, economics, our home.

    One can only wonder where “superfreakonomics” really fits in.

  2. 302
    William says:

    I’m a bit confused about how we could put all the solar cells needed to meet the world’s energy supply in sunny, clear (and low latitude?) locations that receive the above-average 250 watts per square meter. What sort of infrastructure (wires) would be required to transport that electricity to the average and below average areas of the earth? Is this realistic?

  3. 303
    tharanga says:

    William, 298: “I’m a bit confused about how we could put all the solar cells needed to meet the world’s energy”

    Again, don’t take the example so literally. Solar energy currently accounts for a tiny fraction of total electricity; an even smaller fraction of total energy. Simply getting that fraction up to 10% in the near term would be a significant contribution by solar, and unexpected by many, due to the current cost of solar.

    As with wind energy, some new transmission lines will have to be built if you build the capacity in isolated sunny or windy areas, as well as a smarter grid to manage it all, and cost estimates of all that can be found. Too many people on here have some emotional attachment to solar, or wind, or nuclear, or whatever; take them with a grain of salt and find projections by people who don’t have a horse in the race.

    Jeffrey Davis, 295:
    “We simply won’t let them develop their own nuclear industry. I imagine the same would be true for 90% of the countries on the planet.”

    Untrue. If you sign the NPT and follow its rules, there are no problems. Beyond the high up-front costs of building a nuclear plant.

  4. 304
    Mark says:

    “have looked into solar for our properties (mostly shopping centers) and it’s still not going to happen – too expensive to attract private investors,”

    Because the subsidies for renewables isn’t at the level of other (entrenched) power sources?

    “But… for a small shopping center (50K-75K sq ft) you’re looking at a $2M investment when the annual electric bill is only about $50K.”

    Do you have to install every square foot with solar panels?

    “Even after selling electricity back to the grid during peak hours, the minimum return on costs is 10 years.”

    Hang on, your malls sell us stuff like double glazing which doesn’t pay back for over 25 years!!!

    10 years is far longer than I believe, but even then it’s still a decent ROI for 2 million.

    “I don’t expect solar to take off until the government incentives get better,”

    Which should happen, but is already being screamed at by the alarmists as unwarranted interference in the Free Market and an attempt by the politicians to kill the fossil fuel industry.

    “This recession isn’t helping, that’s for sure.”

    Then reconsider whether it will cost 2 million now. After all, labour is cheaper now and there’s little else that will get you a ROI like this. And the price of electricity from fossil fuels is still rising, making the free sunlight a more valuable resource if you pay out to farm it.

    Hell, if you can’t be bothered, why not just paint your rooftops white and clean them occasionally? It should reduce your cooling bills considerably.

  5. 305
    Mark says:

    Radge, #298:

    “This is far from an ideal situation”

    ^^^ This. ^^^

    Well said.

    I would not disagree it would be ideal if people listened to reasonable and reasoned arguments.

    This world hasn’t reached such paradise.

    Yet, I hope.

    Hankm, #291:

    “_Be gentle._ Problem-related stress can make people seem rude or stupid even when they’re not.”

    As true for the answerer. I get shorter with the barnpot the harder work gets.

    “Reply to a first offender off-line. There is no need of public humiliation for someone who may have made an honest mistake.”

    There’s no way to do this on a weblog unless I own it.

    I doubt whether the owners on RC would trust me with that power… >-)

    And it’s hugely unlikely that I’ll be rude or humiliate a first-offender anyway. It’s usually taken either known prior elsewhere (Max Anacker) or several posts of not listening to make me slap their arses for them in public.

    But if on the second post, they post something vitriolic I will return it to them with gusto if necessary.

    “If you don’t know for sure, say so! A wrong but authoritative-sounding answer is worse than none at all.”

    Every single flipping one of us has done this, Hank.

    In fact, the only way scientists can talk to non-specia lists is to avoid the uncertainties.

    This one is absolutely bloody useless with denialists on the hound, though, as Latif found out recently. ANY proclaimed uncertainty has been yelled from the rooftops as proof that even the IPCC don’t know there’s any truth to AGW. (whilst still complaining that the IPCC are wrong because they avoid saying anything about the errors and shortcomings of their work ***and*** ignoring that their side doesn’t even in the main bother with error bars, never mind where their “paper” could be wrong).

    So a really bad one for the politicisation that has happened to AGW.

    Works great when it’s a technical question because your OS doesn’t go canvassing what people think before deciding if changing os.backbuffer=2 will solve the problem.

    “Ask probing questions to elicit more details.”

    Which wastes Gavin’s time. Time and time again.

    And in the main ignored by those who want delay rather than enlightenment. Again, the OS has one single idea of what it does. Asking whether you have IE6 installed is a fact and won’t change if the asker finds out you’re not agreeing with him.

    Those tips on how to answer require good faith on the part of the seeker.

    Such faith is in short supply.

    You fell for it with Max Anacker when he arrived, remember.

  6. 306
    tharanga says:

    Mark, 304: “Because the subsidies for renewables isn’t at the level of other (entrenched) power sources?”

    You’ve said this before. How is it possibly true? The total amount of subsidy given for extraction or usage of fossil fuels might be higher than the total amount of subsidy given for renewables, but what’s relevant is the amount of subsidy per kWh or BTU. Or rather, what the price would be without the subsidy. You’re making it sound as if without subsidy, coal would cost 15 cents per kWh. If you think this is the case, then please provide some analysis. (For the moment, don’t price in the externalities of CO2 or other pollutants; I’m just talking about explicit production subsidies).

  7. 307
    Mark says:

    PS Hank:

    “Help your community learn from the question.”

    I do.

    It’s just that “if you’re an obvious idiot you’ll get a public bitchslap from mark” isn’t one that’s appreciated.

    >-D

    To be honest, not even by me.

    If I were smarter, I’d be able to think of something better, but I’m stumped. Too many DO NOT WANT to know. They want the convenient lie. The comforting fantasy. The easy way.

    And they hate that comfort is taken away from them.

    For noobs, read the IPCC reports. There’s an art to skim reading but anyone can manage it. It won’t give you everything, but it WILL give you the shape of what you’re putatively questioning.

    If you come on RC, click the “Start Here” button. The windows-crowd should be well on that idea.

    If you don’t understand, TRY FIRST. Something just given to you isn’t valued and with thoughts, that means you’ll forget. Even if you’re wrong, or can’t find out, having looked you’ll learn WHERE you went wrong. And you’ll know what to avoid next time.

    There’s more to learning than rote memory. Learning HOW to learn is far more important.

  8. 308
    Mark says:

    Tharanga:

    “Untrue. If you sign the NPT and follow its rules, there are no problems. Beyond the high up-front costs of building a nuclear plant.”

    Why must they be bound by a treaty that they haven’t signed?

    No matter what Iran do, this is wrong.

    And if we countenance wrong in a greater good, we countenance others to make the same mistakes. And good/evil become again points of view.

  9. 309
    Julia Isaak says:

    From #244

    Me: [snip] the simple fact is there is an extremely poor correlation between AGW and widely accepted measurement data. This I suggest is reason enough to be skeptical, certainly of the claim that the science is ’settled’.

    Response: Sorry, but you are not being clear. What measure of ‘AGW’ do you think should correlate with what? Do you mean CO2 concentrations with global temperature?
    Yes – only about 15 years in the ~130 year instrumental period.

    [Response: Just FYI but AGW stands for anthropogenic global warming, and CO2 concentrations – while related – are not the same thing. However, you are still confused. Firstly, there is a pretty good correlation between annual CO2 levels and temperatures over the last 150 years (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to come up with the actual number). Secondly, you don’t have a good idea for what should be expected. An expected correlation of 1.0 is nonsense (since that would imply there is no internal variability, no uncertainty in the data and no other factors in climate – three claims we can all agree are untrue), but exactly what is expected? Only once you know that can you decide whether the actual correlation is supportive or not of a connection. Thirdly, the concern that exists on carbon emissions is not due to any such correlation – since indeed this was predicted in the 1950s before any of this data was available. – gavin]

    [snip] And where is there a prediction that these things should be perfectly correlated?
    I do not ask for anything like perfection. But 15 out of 130 seems pretty hopeless to me. To say nothing of ignoring that we are still cooler than 1000 years ago.

    And when did I ever say that ‘the science is settled’?
    I did not mean you in particular, and I take on board your comment. It is though certainly the line that has been heavily pushed in the worldwide political and media feeding frenzy around AGW in the last five or so years.

    [Response: That is a misreading of the media – what you do see is plenty of people who don’t want to look at the science claiming that scientists go around saying this and then pointing to some uncertainty as rebuttal. But this is just a strawman. There are a number of things that are agreed beyond reasonable doubt, but no-one has ever claimed that all that could be known is known. Why would we be scientists in that case? – gavin]

  10. 310
    Mark says:

    “That assertion alters the a posteriori probability of Corbyn being correct about the rest of his climate theory,”

    Although Piers Corbyn’s predictions have been much like those of astrologers: The UK will see high winds in January and heavy rains in autumn!” Well DUH.

    And given he doesn’t wear the collar like she does:

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

    I don’t know if I can trust his predictions…

  11. 311
    Mark says:

    When did I ask for this:

    “Your other ‘requirements’ of perfect information etc, however desireable, are quite irrelevant to the concept.”

    Perfect information?

    No fully informed.

    And it is a requirement for the rational man in economic theory.

    That you say such elements as full information and free choice doesn’t exist shows that such a man is imaginary as Lynne says and you (for some idiotic reason) demand is false.

    You can’t have both.

    Either your rational man doesn’t exist or the full information and free choice required of him does.

    Which is it?

    a) rational man doesn’t exist

    b) fully informed and free choice is available

    a or b?

  12. 312
    Paul Levy says:

    Mark #272. *sigh*

    What I said wasn’t a strawman: if the UK is in discussions with Jordan about buying solar energy from them, then they’d better have a damned good plan to transport it back to these shores. You might want to take a look at a map of the Mediterranean and Europe to get an idea of how unfeasible that is. My point was that there’s no likely scenario in which Britain would put up power lines from Jordan to blighty – if anything like that were to happen then the first step would be a link into a European supergrid (which doesn’t exist yet).

    *If* Britain wanted to buy solar energy from a hot, sunny country, then it would make far more sense to hitch-hike on the German proposal to pipe in electricity from the Sahara. They aren’t gonna build a power line all the way from Jordan, just to bring in a few percent of our electricity needs.

  13. 313
    Mark says:

    Tharanga, you say

    ” but what’s relevant is the amount of subsidy per kWh or BTU”

    Why is this true?

    The subsidies of the past enabled greater projects to be undertaken without risk. The lack of risk ensured people who like money, like gambling, but don’t like losing money (otherwise known as “investors” or “VC”) paid in.

    Such enabled far more effective utilisation that was an ongoing benefit to the endeavour without returning the part of the benefit due to the underwriters (the government of the US).

    You state it must be so.

    I counter: it must be the subsidy of the industry that is important, not the per-kWh figure.

    After all, until the first watt is produced, the subsidy for ANY energy production with even one cent of subsidy is infinitely subsidised.

    Which is insane.

    Add to that the subsidy of appreciable size for renewables has been going on for a few decades whilst fossil fuel subsidies may go back well before WW1 (see Robert Newman’s “History of Oil”).

    Subsidies that the entrenched monopolies can outspend on frivolities like lobby groups and partisan blogs to ensure their continued survival.

  14. 314
    Rando says:

    Mark, does your boss know how much time you’re spending on this web-site? Gotta be a civil servant.

  15. 315
    tharanga says:

    308, Mark: This is getting very off-topic, so briefly: Iran has signed the NPT, so they’re indeed bound by its rules. Anybody who has not signed the NPT can do as they please, but they are locked out of the global trade in nuclear materials and technology; this is an inducement to join the NPT. India has recently been made an exception to the rule. As this is off-topic, I’ll leave it there.

  16. 316
    Julia Isaak says:

    From #309
    there is a pretty good correlation between annual CO2 levels and temperatures over the last 150 years
    Only if you call 15/130 “pretty good”.

    [Response: I have no idea what you are referring to. What is the correlation coefficient? (that’s how you tell whether something is correlated – hint). – gavin]

    the concern that exists on carbon emissions is not due to any such correlation
    If you want to argue CO2-induced AGW, then Yes it does, surely?

    [Response: No. The reason why we care is outlined in this post and is based on the physics of the problem not correlations. ]

    []the ‘science is settled’ has been heavily pushed in the worldwide political and media feeding frenzy around AGW in the last five or so years.

    Response: That is a misreading [] – what you do see is plenty of people who don’t want to look at the science claiming that scientists go around saying this []

    Are you seriously suggesting it has not been ceaselessly drummed into citizens worldwide by virtually all politicians and media, that the science is settled, ie AGW is serious and needs massive political and physical action?

    [Response: AGW is serious and needs substantial action (in my opinion), but that is not predicated on ‘all science being settled’. Read about what the consensus is and is not. – gavin]

  17. 317
    Mark says:

    “Iran has signed the NPT, so they’re indeed bound by its rules.”

    OK, so why did you say “If you sign the NPT and follow its rules, there are no problems.”

    Where does the “if” apply? To the signing or the problem?

    And IIRC the NPT allowed Iran to do what it said it was doing (it wasn’t going to be able to generate weapons grade fissile material) and were letting international inspectors (and I’ll give an aside on this later) in to check.

    Hence when the US got their panties in a bunch and you said “If” I drew a conclusion.

    But still what they said they were doing was acceptable to the NPT.

    On that, the US said they were allowed bunker-buster nukes under the NPT, so you can see how strict the representation is there…

    And the aside: WMD inspections was going to be enforced by arms if necessary on any country by the UN signed to the treaty.

    The US vetoed because they couldn’t get the corollary “unless the country you want to inspect is the US”. They were afraid it would lead to their expertise being exposed.

    They then complained that the UN inspectors were ineffective and that was why they had to go to war over WMDs in Iraq.

    The reason for their ineffectiveness was the US had blocked the instrument that would have given the inspectors the powers the US complained they didn’t have.

  18. 318
    Mark says:

    Rando:

    “Mark, does your boss know how much time you’re spending on this web-site?”

    I’m off ill.

    Suck it.

    ” Gotta be a civil servant.”

    Why?

    Are you unemployed or a civil servant?

    How about max? Rod?

  19. 319
    Mark says:

    “What I said wasn’t a strawman: if the UK is in discussions with Jordan about buying solar energy from them, then they’d better have a damned good plan to transport it back to these shores”

    And “batteries would be heavy” is a strawman.

    For definition:

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

    “My point was that there’s no likely scenario in which Britain would put up power lines from Jordan to blighty – if anything like that were to happen then the first step would be a link into a European supergrid (which doesn’t exist yet).”

    So maybe they will.

    Still no need to worry about the batteries.

    “You might want to take a look at a map of the Mediterranean and Europe”

    Take a look at how far the Gas pipelines run across Russia to deliver gas to the UK…

    “*If* Britain wanted to buy solar energy from a hot, sunny country, then it would make far more sense to hitch-hike on the German proposal to pipe in electricity from the Sahara”

    Yeah. OK. Maybe they did.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8337735.stm

    (Note: “Jordan IIRC”, Hank. Go look it up)

  20. 320
    Julia Isaak says:

    From #311
    I think we can all agree that Mark’s straw rational man does not exist.

    Real ones do of course – Mark is one himself – since it is simply not the case that “full information and free choice [is] required of him”.
    What do “full information” and “free choice” mean anyway? Is there some criteria for determing the fullness of information and the freedom of choice?

  21. 321
    Mark says:

    “What do “full information” and “free choice” mean anyway? Is there some criteria for determing the fullness of information and the freedom of choice?”

    When you’re talking about economic theory?

    Yes.

    With the theory itself.

    Example:

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

    In the criticism section they even accept such a man doesn’t exist:

    “They stress uncertainty and bounded rationality in the making of economic decisions, rather than relying on the rational man who is fully informed of all circumstances impinging on his decisions. They argue that perfect knowledge never exists, which means that all economic activity implies risk.”

  22. 322
    Mark says:

    “Real ones do of course – Mark is one himself”

    I doubt many agree I am.

    I definitely don’t.

    If my brother was in harms way I would defend him. If a child were in danger, I (hope!) I would intervene.

    These do not rely on rational decision. They will be done. Now if I found my brother had deliberately put a child in danger, I may lay into him myself, but that’s not rationality: it’s compounding the irrationality.

    Heck, almost the entirety of the sexual progression of the species requires irrationality abound in the decision making process. Abusers RELY on it.

  23. 323
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE rational man v. irrational man, I think, it seems people are both. We tend to think we ourselves are rational and others irrational or wrongly motivated in debates with others, but psychologists from many schools of psychology could supply us with how people have an irrational side to them…or at least rationality isn’t the only operative principle.

    Take deniers, for instance. Anyone using rationality and Pascal’s wager framework in general — of making decisions about avoiding harms and gaining benefits in face of some uncertainty — would surely want global warming mitigated in every way possible that saves money, benefits the economy, or at the least doesn’t cost. That is a no-brainer, but only IFF we’re talking about RATIONAL decision-making.

    It seems to me that the deniers and contrarians not connected to the fossil fuel industries are refusing to accept what respected, peer-review publishing scientists have to say, and are clinging to any weak anti-GW straws not-as-well-respected-climate-scientists (or dentists, anything with “Dr.” attached, or even Rush Limbaugh) come up with, precisely because they (like the rest of us) not soley rational beings, like Mr. Spock and other Vulcans.

    It seems to me there are various irrational (perhaps with a thread of reality-based) fears that drive them not to accept AGW. One, I think,is the (mostly irrational) ECONOMIC FEAR – that their wealth and even livelihood will be diminished if they mitigate GW. They are so afraid, they won’t even consider that we can reduce GHG emissions quite a bit cost-effectively without lowering living standards, even improving them. They won’t even give it a try, so tied into their world view & culture (which also contains irrationalities and an imperfect match with reality). It’s like if they buy one compact fluoresecent bulb, they fear they might slip down the slippery slope into economic disaster. They are so stuck in this fear that they can’t even look beyond it to consider the FALSE NEGATIVE, of an economic and life-threatening hell through global warming harms caused by our GHG emissions and failure to mitigate. It should be a no brainer that even if this were a 5% possibility, we’d strive to avoid it.

    The others, I’m thinking are those with POLITICAL FEARS, that if they admit AGW might possibily be true, they’ll wake up in Orwell’s 1984. They are so stuck in this fear, that they can’t even consider what might happen politically IF AGW is indeed true. 1984 (and I don’t even think we have to go anywhere near there, in fact I think we could go in a direction of greater freedom thru mitigating AGW) will look very good by comparison. Just think about our world political/conflict problems now when there are enough resources hypothetically to go around to all and let everyone live nicely, and imagine how very much worse the political/conflict situation will be when we’re down to playing vicious, killer musical chairs with ever diminishing life-sustaining resources. I’m imagining both totalitarianism AND bloody anarchy & chaos, and warlords. I don’t think even Hollywood can imagine the horror of such a dystopic, dying world. Even if there were a 5% chance of this being the case and it even being within Hollywood’s imaginaire (and I, for one, think the chances are much much greater for this, given the obstinance of the denialists), it would be a no-brainer for a rational man who loves freedom to start mitigating AGW.

    We are rational to an extent and in certain contexts within world views and within a context of psychological drives and conditions (perhaps much subconscious) and the reality of the situation (which we can only comprehend thru cultural-tinted glasses).

    The field of economics alone (or in the lead) just doesn’t cut the muster for this problem we are facing.

  24. 324
    Julia Isaak says:

    From #321
    From that url: “Economic human is the concept [] of humans as rational and broadly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments towards their subjectively defined ends.”
    Your basic error is reading into it that being a rational actor requires you to have “perfect knowledge”. It doesn’t, hence all economic activity does involve risk, which the rational actor takes into account.

  25. 325
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    “Untrue. If you sign the NPT and follow its rules, there are no problems. Beyond the high up-front costs of building a nuclear plant.”

    Iran is in compliance with NNPT.

    We’re insisting that they be extra-compliant.

  26. 326
    Tom C says:

    Thanks for the post. It motivated me to read the discussion in the book and I now see that you have mis-represented the argument, as Levitt pointed out. You also fail to take on emissions required for solar plant construction, which is really the compelling issue.

    [Response: No it isn’t – that is also a complete red herring. – gavin]

    BTW, in your response to #117 you stated that 18% of a typical body mass is about 30 kg. Either you hang out with some big dudes or your calculations are a bit sloppy as well.

    [Response: Probably meant pounds. – gavin]

  27. 327
    Paul L says:

    #319 Mark.

    I know perfectly well what a strawman is, and this wasn’t one of them. The UK isn’t gonna build power lines to transmit electricity from Jordan, no matter what developments in technology there are in the next several decades. It wouldn’t make any sense for too many reasons to list – I’ve given you some already. So the point about batteries should have been obvious: if Britain were to directly negotiate an electricity deal with Jordan, then the only way they could get that electricity home would be in a load of batteries, i.e. *it isn’t gonna happen*. (I missed the “I think”, but to be honest I’m judging this from a British perspective. Perhaps you didn’t realise that Jordan is a long, long way away from here.)

    Gas pipelines are not the same as electricity lines. You have to get gas from source, there are lots of places to get electricity. In any case, Britain didn’t negotiate directly with Russia to pipe in gas before there was already a pipeline passing through all of the intermediate countries. Such an electricity line from Jordan through the Med, through Greece then the Balkans etc. doesn’t exist yet, and even if it were to be built it would take another 20 years at least, and would be the result of a collaborative effort of all of the countries concerned, not a bilateral deal between Britain and Jordan.

    You’ve linked to the bbc version of the same story that I linked to yesterday.

  28. 328
    Mark says:

    “Your basic error is reading into it that being a rational actor requires you to have “perfect knowledge”. It doesn’t”

    Your basic error is not reading.

    I even quoted for you.

    The reason WHY “rational man” is a bad theory for economy is given by some other economists who say that since rational man has to be fully informed of all factors affecting his choice to be able to MAKE choices as a rational man, and that such full information is not possible, the economic theory that uses rational man (the reason for the original query, and please, let me know if you’re in a a tag team here), that is “rational man” cannot in fact exist.

    Which is Lynne’s assertion that Rene derided so unsupportedly.

    See also:

    http://www.thersa.org/fellowship/journal/archive/spring-2009/features/descent-of-rational-man

    “The old model dictated that policy should merely ensure that consumers were adequately informed about products and prices – the market would look after the rest. We now know this to be wrong.”

    or

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/2024665

    But if we mean by ‘a rational man’, ‘a fully informed man’, as Brandt does…

    (this being R B Brandt. Google.

    and another:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/q451804505466356/

  29. 329
    Mark says:

    Lynne, indeed the problem is that “Rational Man” has not the information to make rational choices and therefore any choice made has irreducible risk and that risk is definitely but unboundedly higher than the risk assessed by rational decision.

    (this is in the section about criticism of the rational man given in the wiki link earlier).

    Therefore the element that comes to the fore is the risk averse man.

    This is not a rational man. They avoid risk.

    Most often they are the ones “better than average” (and since, by definition, the USA is the best darned country IN THE WORLD!!!, this means every single darned USian who knows this self-evident truth) because in any change the change could mean “you have less than before”.

    No rationality about whether it could be “more than before”: there’s no *risk* there. Aversion to risk is not a factor.

    Similarly a future uncertain gain is unwanted by the risk averse, even if the likelihood is much better than the status quo. The risk is not that it will be better on average but that it may be WORSE.

    Balance that against a current loss and you have risk-averse man in permanent shock. Definitely worse now is worse than definitely better in the future because the risk is it might not be definitely better because its in the future..!

    Even expectation values won’t fix him.

    Irrational man.

    See, for example, the refusal of the insurance industry to underwrite nuclear power station insurance. The risk is a nearly unbounded upper limit. MUST AVOID.

  30. 330
    Mark says:

    “The UK isn’t gonna build power lines to transmit electricity from Jordan,”

    And I bet the Titanic will never sink.

    Or that heavier than air flight will be possible.

    Go back and reread the original post.

    “Jordan IIRC”

  31. 331
    Mark says:

    should have been “never be possible”.

    Hey, it WAS impossible until the invention of the ICE.

  32. 332
    Mark says:

    This:

    “if Britain were to directly negotiate an electricity deal with Jordan, then the only way they could get that electricity home would be in a load of batteries,”

    doesn’t mean this:

    ” i.e. *it isn’t gonna happen*.”

    From the BBC article: “The electricity will then be transported great distances to Europe, using hi-tech cables that suffer little conductive loss of power.”

    If it’s coming all that way, how much further is it to Jordan?

    You *do* know where Jordan is, don’t you? Based on how far it already has to go, what’s the big deal with “never”?

  33. 333
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    BTW, I was wrong about Iran’s compliance with the NNPT both in my original assertion and in my follow-up.

  34. 334
    Donald Oats says:

    Re: Steve (300): Perhaps splitting the project into a few stages might improve the IRR and/or other related financial analysis of the solar panels. A smaller investment now might shave $10-15K from the electricity bill and get the first stage completed much quicker – which means projected returns start sooner as well. If the initial stage is part of a bigger project, you might be able to persuade some combination of government and Solar companies to assist by treating the first stage as a public demonstration of what can be done. A bit of marketing here may help align your interests (get electricity costs down, shade, less dependence on CO2 emitting sources, etc) and the government’s, perhaps enough to get some additional funding for demonstration purposes.

    If successful, the later stage(s) may use the next generation of solar power cells, or cheaper current generation cells should they drop in price. Price drops typically happen as newer versions of a technological product come out and the previous versions peak, then start to be displaced.

    Kudos for at least checking it out.

  35. 335
    Hank Roberts says:

    Unanswered questions for Levitt and Dubner:

    ….”The trouble here, as Joe Romm and William Connolley have already detailed on their respective blogs, is that Levitt and Dubner clearly have virtually no understanding of atmospheric science. As such, they fail to account for some of the other planetary woes their proposed scheme – a sulphur-spewing 18-mile-long hose pipe – would engender. Ocean acidification? Ozone depletion? Alan Robock’s latest paper
    http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2009/10/injecting_sulphates_into_the_s.html
    gives a more complete list.

    “We could end this debate and be done with it,” Levitt says, in Monday’s Guardian, “and move on to problems that are harder to solve.”

    Sorry guys, but it looks like we’ll still need to redefine our energy system and the global economy too….
    ———
    — Olive Heffernan,at http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2009/10/superfreakonomists_spout_off_a_1.html

  36. 336
    SecularAnimist says:

    Lynn Vincentnathan wrote: “RE rational man v. irrational man, I think, it seems people are both.”

    The problem with this discussion is that the terms “rational” and “irrational” are not defined.

  37. 337
    Patrick 027 says:

    Julia Isaak – “To say nothing of ignoring that we are still cooler than 1000 years ago.”

    If we only have 15 years or 130 years of data, how could you possibly know that? And by the way, it’s likely not true.

    Aside from all the other points that might be raised, and then clarified or dismissed, the case that:

    add CO2 to atmosphere -> global average surface and tropospheric temperatures rise

    is so obvious given the basic physics that the burden of proof is more on the side that would claim otherwise.

    Studies of the complexity of the system have only increased that level of burden to a very high level. Positive water vapor feedback and ice-albedo feedback are very likely. Various other feedbacks, and regional effects, are known or uncertain to varying degrees. That it is possible for feedbacks to occur is firmly established, so the ‘default’ position that doesn’t hold the burden of proof is essentially that which is expected to occur: a range of climate sensitivity values enveloping 3 K per doubling of CO2 or it’s equivalent in efficacy*tropopause-level radiative forcing after stratospheric equilibration. The remaining uncertainty does not set the burden of proof all the way back to square one with all scientific findings up to this date; that would be like (albeit not quite as extreme as) insisting that the roundness of the Earth needs to be proven after every time an error is discovered in satellite altimetry, etc.

  38. 338
    Mark says:

    Re NPT. The wiki link has more. Read that, see how confused it all is and how you can pretty much get any answer you want if you didn’t keep 100% up to date. Including how having a different source for your information can reasonably lead to a different view on the results.

  39. 339
    David B. Benson says:

    Julia Isaak — I strongly recommend that you click on the “Start Here” at the top of any RealCLimate page. Read all that first, please.

  40. 340
    Mark says:

    “The problem with this discussion is that the terms “rational” and “irrational” are not defined.”

    They are for economists.

    If you’re going to poke your oar in, please check the safety manual (ie read up before you jabber).

  41. 341
    tharanga says:

    317 Mark and 325 Jeffrey: The NPT requires a country to disclose and submit for inspections any nuclear sites. Iran had not disclosed certain sites until some exiles spilled the beans. Hence, they were not in compliance, and this is not in the least bit disputed: even the Russians and Chinese agree. This is the basis for extra safeguards, asking them to cease activities which would otherwise be allowed. All of this is well documented by the UN and IAEA; you need not parse my language strangely to find it.

    But I fear this is massively off the topic of Superfreakonomics.

    Back somewhat closer to the topic: Mark, despite all that verbiage, you have not supported your notion that coal would be as expensive or more expensive than solar, in the absence of all subsidies. I really don’t see how you can argue that coal would cost 15-20 cents/kWh, if it weren’t for subsidies. This really is important; you have to understand the inherent costs of things when you try to design a carbon price that would tilt the scales in favor of alternatives.

  42. 342
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 301 Lynn Vincentnathan –

    “I came back the next day with my own diagram:”

    Cool. Thanks.

    “I do agree that one could, esp from a formalist economics perspective, view all in economic terms. But the same goes for viewing all in Freudian psychological terms, or cultural terms, or in the terms of any other analytic (not concrete) dimension or subdimension. That is, the various analytic dimensions interpentrate the whole. This makes each seem to be the sole determinant of all else, or the most important perspective. That leads to lots of debate in academia. ”

    Freud didn’t really achieve a complete and still intact account of all psychology, did he?

    But in more a more general sense, one could view the whole world as it relates to the measures applied in any one discipline. But any decision making with goal of seeking the best of options requires assigning some value, and thus becomes economic (whether it is the economics of aesthetics, material things, morality – of course, the value of any choice tends to be contingent on other choices and all the different value measures must inevitably interact – an ‘amoral person’ would persue some optimum by the economics of his/her decisions; a moral person uses moral value as the ultimate value of all values, but the decisions still involve economics – costs and benifits, returns on investment, production possibilities curves, supply and demand, etc.).

    Perhaps what I should end with there is that economic value or value of any sort doesn’t simply exist as a number – it is the value of something, potentiall a function of physical, causal, ecological, geological, biological, cultural, social, mental, neurological, nutritional, psychological, cognitive, medicinal, informational, thermodynamic, kinetic, kinematic, geometric, logical, philosophical, meaniningful, historical, imaginative, topological,colorful, musical, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, sensual, romantic, relational, emotional, conscious, subconscious, relativistic, esoteric, etherial, evanescent, eternal, material, natural, supernatural, spatial, temporal, creative, intelligent, metaphorical, metaphysical, rational, metarational, irrational, illusory, realistic, aesthetic, moral, transcendental, cosmological, and any other types of characteristics.

    And ignoring all of that renders any analysis void of purpose or meaning.

    But we still find ourselves in situations where apples must be weighed against oranges.

    ———————
    Re 322 Mark –

    Actually, I don’t think the behaviors you identify as irrational are necessarily irrational. When a person acts apparently altruistically, for example, you have to consider what payback they might be instinctively counting on, relative to risk, and if that is a justified expectation.

    Also, copyright/IP law is a matter of ownership. This violates freedom of choice no more than laws that prevent a person from parking their car on someone else’s lawn without permission without legal consequences. This is not to say, of course, that the merits of any particular aspect of IP law could not be debated. (Private property that is not recognized as private property is no longer private property, so far as I would imagine.)

    ——————–
    Re 323 Lynn Vincentnathan –

    For people who only care about themselves and will not live much longer, ignoring AGW may be perfectly rational – in the absence of fair policy.

    ——————–

    Re 324 Julia Isaak –

    I would guess this could be extended to risk assessment – the rational person in a probabilistic world has the relevent knowledge of risks at hand in decision-making.

    ———————-

    Another point of view: when rationality is not available in ever decision, then the consequences of those irrational decisions become like the conditions imposed on the economy – weather events, locations of ore bodies, etc.

    In the entire network of decisions, some rational decisions might be made about how to allocate the decision-making resource among the decisions in order to make the most of it’s use. Investment can also increase the decision-making resource availability to make the most of the entirety of resources.

    There is also metarational – see “Traveler’s Dilemma”

  43. 343
    Paul L says:

    #330-332, Mark.

    Please stop misreading what I said. You claimed that Britain had been involved in negotiations with Jordan (you thought) – this wasn’t true. I pointed out why. What’s so hard to accept?

    Blimey, you are frustrating. I’ve been on here for five minutes and you’ve already started having a go at me. There was nothing particularly controversial in my point – that Britain has not been in talks with Jordan to buy solar energy from them because there is no infrastructure for getting it from there to here, and even if there is in the future then it won’t be for decades, and even if said infrastructure is built then it won’t be built by the British alone – was entirely correct.

    As for there being a possible future link between Jordan and Britain – just think about the logistics of it. If there is a connection then it won’t be as a result of a bilateral deal between the UK and Jordan, it will be due to a massive cooperative effort of many countries. It wouldn’t make sense to run cables across north Africa unless you were also including Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco in the scheme. Then Western Sahara and Mauritania are still much closer then Jordan so they would probably be linked up before Jordan was considered etc. etc. Of course, in the end Jordan might well be part of it but I’d be surprised if the cables were built that far before two decades had passed at least – the Desertec plan envisions providing 15% of Europe’s energy needs by 2050, so this isn’t going to be happen quickly.

    By the way, the reason Jordan may have stuck in your mind is that Prince Hassan of Jordan was one of the first people to push the whole Desertec idea. However, most of the corporations involved in it are German; none are British. If you read the Desertec website, they say that HVDC transmission lines lose 4-5% of electricity per 1,000km of line – Jordan is about 3,000km east of Morocco and the straits of Gibraltar where (presumably) the main entry point to the European grid will be located. Even if the grid is constructed and goes as far as Jordan, it would make more sense for their electricity to go north to Turkey and Greece, and Britain can buy electricity from much closer countries like Morocco and Algeria.

  44. 344
    Ammonite says:

    Re: 277 David Kidd: “…I’ve seen poor saps come there trying to legitimately understand the science behind AGW and they are treated rudely…”

    David, if you are still with us there is a tremendous amount of useful knowledge contained in this site. The FAQ section is an excellent place to start. I agree that some commentators are unconstructive in their approach, particularly given the complex nature of climate science, the level of confused reporting in the media, the disparity of scientific training amongst readers and the difficulty of formulating clear written communication at the best of times. (I am no saint in this regard either.) I find the in-line commentary from the climate scientists a useful sieve.

    Best regards.

  45. 345
    Jack Smith says:

    Since New York City depends entirely on oil for it’s food supply as everyday trucks ship hundreds of tons of beef, and dairy products, and fruits and vegetables from the farm-belts in the Midwest and other parts of the world, that source of global warming will always remain. And it’s not a small amount either. Solar energy can’t do anything about it. And only petrochemical based farming can produce the high yields needed to feed the growing number of urban dwellers. At the expense of massive soil erosion.

  46. 346
    tharanga says:

    Paul L: Anybody can simply draw lines on a map and dream, but one super-grid backer does envision connecting grids as far out as the Arabian Peninsula.

    http://www.claverton-energy.com/european-super-grid-2.html

    I don’t know what a reasonable timeline for building any of that would be. Getting all the different countries to cooperate will be as much a challenge as any financial or technical ones, I fear.

  47. 347
    Mike of Oz says:

    This might be slightly off-topic for which I apologise, but I simply have to get it off my chest.

    I have just had the most surreal blog exchange with a guy with a PhD in Physics and 10 year science background (allegedly), who says that we can’t possibly know anything about global temperatures more than 80 years ago because no-one measured them, and that all data prior to that is completely speculative rubbish.

    I’m not joking.

  48. 348
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    #342, Patrick & “Freud didn’t really achieve a complete and still intact account of all psychology, did he?”

    I’m not a psychologist (and certainly not into psychoanalysis), but I from what I understand, Freud used the “eros” drive (sex, life) to explain almost every thing (of course, the context of the conflict between the id and superego, etc etc). But I think near the end of his career he realized “eros” couldn’t explain everything, so he introduced “thanatos” or the death wish.

    That sort fits in pretty well here….at least in re to those who don’t want to mitigate GW.

    And, of course, economic man nearing the end of his life and only concerned about 4th quarter profits, hating his ungrateful, nasty children, would not have much stake in mitigating GW.

    So it’s really up to ecological woman to do the job, just as soon as she can get economic old cogger out of her way.

  49. 349

    Hey, Mike, we feel your pain. But I’m pretty sure–as I expect you are, too–that thermometers and the organization to deploy them systematically were widespread a lot longer ago that 80 years, and that temperature proxies are not entirely codswallop (wherever that undeniably colorful word comes from.) Your blog buddy’s qualifications, on the other hand. . . though I had a number of blog conversations with a physics PhD (ret’d) who gave credence to the “iron sun” idea.

    “Smart” and “delusional” aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

  50. 350
    George H. says:

    I thought that international electrical power sales are managed like securities markets. You buy the right to draw power from a grid or get paid for dumping power into the grid.

    If that’s right, then Jordan/England/Germany don’t need to build a transmission line to their customer/vendor. They only have to connect to the European Grid. And I believe that Jordan is already linked to the Grid through Turkey.

    Although there would be capacity issues with something as big as the Sahara project.