What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom? And Just How Sensitive is the Climate Anyway?

A final dispatch from the International Climate Change Conference

Editor's Note: reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey will be filing a series of regular dispatches from the Heartland Institute's controversial International Conference on Climate Change. Below is the final dispatch in that series.

New York, March 4—Let's start with some possible news from Heartland Institute's International Climate Change Conference. In the context of man-made global warming, climate sensitivity asks how much temperatures increase if one adds a specified amount of a greenhouse gas. In general, most climatologists accept the proposition, all things being equal, that if one doubles carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the average temperature will go up by +1 degree centigrade. But all things are not equal. In climate models, additional heat from carbon dioxide boosts atmospheric water vapor which in turn acts as a greenhouse gas. All models are dominated by this positive feedback loop. As a consequence, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated in its Fourth Assessment Report (4AR) last year that it "is likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C." In other words, doubling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is likely to warm the planet by between 2 degrees and 4.5 degrees centigrade.

So how do we find out how sensitive climate is to CO2? During his luncheon keynote, University of Alabama climatologist Roy Spencer described how two of his new studies are attempting to answer that question. In 2001, Massachusetts Institute of Technology climatologist Richard Lindzen hypothesized that there might be what he called an "adaptive infrared iris" over the tropics through which tropical storms dissipate excess heat. But other researchers looked and found no strong evidence for such a mechanism.

Now Spencer and his colleagues using satellite data noticed big temperature fluctuations in the tropics in which strong warming was followed by rapid cooling. So Spencer looked at 15 strong intraseasonal oscillations in the tropics to see how clouds evolve. What was known is that tropical storms produce high cirrus clouds. Cirrus clouds are global warming culprits that retain heat and warm the planet. In the climate models, cirrus clouds tend to remain aloft for a long time. However, Spencer's satellite observations found that they in fact dissipate rapidly, allowing heat to escape back into space and thus cooling the planet.

"To give an idea of how strong this enhanced cooling mechanism is, if it was operating on global warming, it would reduce estimates of future warming by over 75 percent," Spencer noted when the study was published in Geophysical Research Letters. "The big question that no one can answer right now is whether this enhanced cooling mechanism applies to global warming." Clouds constitute the biggest uncertainty in climate models and Spencer is hoping the modelers will include this effect in future runs to see how it would affect climate projections.

Next, Spencer discussed new research (accepted but not yet published) that he said strongly suggests that climate sensitivity is much lower than the climate models find. As I understood Spencer (and I could be garbling this), in the climate models a feedback is by definition a result of surface temperature change.

As Spencer explained his preliminary thinking at the website Climate Science, "For instance, low cloud cover decreasing with surface warming would be a positive feedback on the temperature change by letting more shortwave solar radiation in. But what never seems to be addressed is the question: What caused the temperature change in the first place? How do we know that the low cloud cover decreased as a response to the surface warming, rather than the other way around?"

In fact, using satellite data combined with a small model, Spencer finds that changes in cloudiness appear to drive changes in temperature. If this is so, Spencer suggests, this means that models have fundamentally mixed up cause and effect. He reported that his study had been peer-reviewed by the two of the climatologists on whose work the IPCC relied for estimating climate sensitivity. "Both came back and said 'you're right,'" claimed Spencer.

If Spencer's results are confirmed—and this is a huge if—it would mean that the climate is far less sensitive to perturbation by carbon dioxide than the models suggest. Spencer says that if he is right about climate sensitivity that would imply that the average temperature of the planet might rise by +0.5 degrees centigrade by the end of this century due to the effects of rising carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. (I will report more fully on Spencer's claims once the study is published and the climatological community has gotten a chance to respond to it).

But let's go back to politics. The final morning of the conference began with a rousing speech by Vaclav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic. He made it clear that to call him a global warming skeptic would be a bit of an understatement. A point Klaus makes crystal clear in his just published book, Blue Planet in Green Chains - What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom? "My answer is clear and resolute: 'it is our freedom.' I may also add 'and our prosperity,'" declared Klaus.

Klaus noted that ideological environmentalism appeals to the same sort of people who have always been attracted to collectivist ideas. He warned that environmentalism at its worst is just the latest dogma to claim that a looming "crisis" requires people to sacrifice their prosperity and their freedoms for the greater good. Let me quote Klaus at length.

"Future dangers will not come from the same source. The ideology will be different. Its essence will, nevertheless, be identical—the attractive, pathetic, at first sight noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of the common good, and the enormous self-confidence on the side of its proponents about their right to sacrifice man and his freedom in order to make this idea reality," warned Klaus. "What I have in mind [is], of course, environmentalism and its currently strongest version, climate alarmism."

Klaus added, "What I see in Europe (and in the U.S. and other countries as well) is a powerful combination of irresponsibility, of wishful thinking, of implicit believing in some form of Malthusianism, of cynical approach of those who themselves are sufficiently well-off, together with the strong belief in the possibility of changing the economic nature of things through a radical political project."

But assume that man-made global warming is a genuine crisis. That it is a real gigantic open access commons problem. Wouldn't that require some kind of governmental action to coordinate a solution to the problem? I have recently come out in favor of using a carbon tax as a way to spur the technological innovation toward a low-carbon energy economy (and incidentally as a way to also reduce taxes on labor and capital). This was not a popular position at the conference. Why not?

While many environmentalists focus on mitigation (cutting greenhouse gas emissions), many of the economists who spoke at the conference argued that adaptation through wealth creation is the better strategy. Policies aimed at reducing energy consumption to mitigate man-made global warming would likely result in a poorer, less technologically adept future in which future generations would be less able to address the problems caused by climate change. This is clearly true and as a reluctant proponent of a carbon tax, I am painfully aware of this trade-off.

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  • ||

    Ron-

    How was Stossel?

  • economist||

    Ha! I beat sage to this one.
    Yeah, this is a lot of BS, Ron. Remember when you changed your position on global warming, huh?

  • ||

    Damn you economist.

    Gonna change your mind on this one too, Ron?

  • adrian||

    note to self: Put Czech Republic back on the list of possible places to move to.

  • Colin||

    Klaus was the prime minister of Czech Republic when I lived there last decade, and tried his absolute best to infuse classical liberalism into the former communist nation.
    As president, though, his role is only slightly greater than ceremonial.

  • ||

    This is clearly true and as a reluctant proponent of a carbon tax, I am painfully aware of this trade-off.



    Knowing what we know, there is but one reason to support a carbon tax: to forestall worse government measures aimed at dealing with global warming.

  • ||

    ":note to self: Put Czech Republic back on the list of possible places to move to."

    Put it high on the list. It is a great place.

  • ||

    Knowing what we know, there is but one reason to support a carbon tax: to forestall worse government measures aimed at dealing with global warming.

    Yeah. That'll work.

  • ||

    So is Ron still on the dark side?


    if not, what did you learn from this Ron?

    still think all those folks are just looking out for our children's future?

  • ||

    George Will, in an October Newsweek column commenting on Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize, wrote that if nations impose the reductions in energy use that Al Gore and the folks at RealClimate call for, they will cause "more preventable death and suffering than was caused in the last century by Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot combined."

    Whenever I read about the supposed morality of crippling the economy to save future generations I always remember Darwins argument against Eugenics.

    ...if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless it could only be for a contingent benefit with a certain and great present evil.

    Eugenics was the global warming of its day. Elite progressive argued that based on the scientific consensus of circa 1900 that current generations needed to control the breeding of inferiors to save future generations.

    Darwin correctly saw that, even though he agreed with the basic scientific premise of eugenics, the human cost in the here and now was just to high.

    To stop global warming using the methods that most advocate, we are going to have to trap the people of the developed world in a permanent state of energy poverty. That will kill far more than any war or any democide.

    We shouldn't deprive and kill today for a contingent benefit a century down the road. That's not responsible. Its arrogant and evil.

  • ed||

    That's very antisocial of you, Shannon. Perhaps you require...re-education.

  • ||

    Interesting quote. I checked--it's from The Descent of Man. Here's more:

    The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly
    an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally
    acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered,
    in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely
    diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of
    hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our
    nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation,
    for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if
    we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could
    only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

  • Ventifact||

    Darwin was pretty darn brilliant not just in his hypotheses about evolution as a biological process, but evolution as a philosophical issue. He spent much longer struggling with the latter before publishing his scientific ideas (spurred on by Wallace independently coming up with the same basic conclusions) than he did working out the former.

  • Ventifact||

    Roy Cordato explained: "A higher tax today means lower production and output of goods and services tomorrow, making future generations materially worse off. In setting a carbon tax you must show that future generations would value the problems solved by reduced global warming more than they would value the goods and services that were foregone." He argued it's not possible to know the preferences of future generations, but providing them with more wealth and better technologies will give them more options to express whatever preferences they have.



    A higher tax today means lower production and output of goods and services tomorrow only if the tax stifles economic function more than ecological degradation does. Of course, I don't know that anyone has done a good job comparing these possibilities (it would be darn tough).

    It's not possible to know the preferences of future generations, but we can probably guess reasonably well -- I mean, we're not stupid. And to take a reciprocal example for perspective, consider that most people around here have a tendency to read constitutional law as it was intended at the time of authorship. Based on the nature of the John Locke Foundation, where he works, I would predict that Cordato shares this notion that the Founding Fathers came up with ideas we should still embrace.

    The assertion that providing future generations with more wealth and better technologies will give them more options to express whatever preferences they have depends on economic growth and innovation outpacing the "options" lost to environmental change. These are, again, tough to compare. But faced with the possibility of such events as desertification, drought, species extinction, etc., I don't think it's reasonable to assume that our growing economic wealth is necessarily the surest investment to make in the future, rather than an investment in the environment.

    I think this whole question turns on the second-order predictions about climate change impacts. That is, there are models predicting how the climate works, and then there are models predicting how natural and agricultural ecosystems will change, how human and agricultural water availability will change, how energy demands will change, etc., as climate changes. And to be fair, some human-favored activities will benefit; ceratin agricultural regions will become more fertile (I suspect our northern friend, Canada, may do well as its growing season becomes warmer, assuming prevailing weather does not change in such a way that precipitation drops.)

    I suspect the best time to dig into this is still a few years off, as all the models get tightened up. Until then, the least we can do is quit dicking around overseas and let oil be as expensive as it should be.

  • Vent||

    The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient[.]



    Btw, Darwin started out his higher education training to be a physician, but didn't have the stomach for surgery. So he switched over to studying natural history and theology.

  • NoStar||

    A politician that is a voice of reason. And I thought I would only see one of those in my lifetime.

    Viva Vaclav Klaus, (Try saying that 3 times fast) the president of the Czech Republic!

  • DannyK||

    Man, none of this is new, except maybe for the part about cirrus clouds (and I somehow doubt that all the climate models have somehow failed to observe the behavior of cirrus clouds, since they're ubiquitous).

    Did any of those guys arguing for mitigation address the problem of moving targets -- by the time we've adapted to a certain level of Global Warming, it's time to change everything again, because continued CO2 production has caused further change, making our previous adaptations less useful.

    I doubt it, because if they did, it would be very hard to make an argument for pursuing mitigation exclusively.

    And did anyone address the fact that the world's poor are suffering disproportionately from climate change right now, and will suffer disproportionately from further change under all models?

    Again, I doubt it, because that undercuts the "don't stop the Bangladeshis from getting rich" argument.

    I think it's time for a sequel to "Thank You For Smoking"!

  • ||

    Did any of those guys arguing for mitigation address the problem of moving targets -- by the time we've adapted to a certain level of Global Warming, it's time to change everything again, because continued CO2 production has caused further change, making our previous adaptations less useful.

    Because, after all, people are such morons that they don't design their capital infrastructure to meet requirements throughout the depreciation.

    I doubt it, because if they did, it would be very hard to make an argument for pursuing mitigation exclusively.

    Huh?

    And did anyone address the fact that the world's poor are suffering disproportionately from climate change right now, and will suffer disproportionately from further change under all models?

    Examples?

  • ||

    ...specifically, examples of the right now?

  • ||

    The Earth is alive and capitalism is killing it.

    End of story.

  • ||

    The causes, as well as the proposed Statist vs free market solutions to the consequences of global climate fluctuations, both will become become irrelevant during the next 3-4 years.

    Our capacity to marginally feed 6.8 billion people depends upon maintaining a delicate balance between the climate and the social order. Both will break down to a much greater degree than we think possible, due to natural disasters.

    Just wait until the grid stops for awhile and the trucks stop running into areas like the L.A. basin, where there are 15-20 million mouths to feed........ Mr. Bailey seems to think that Genetically engineered crops and nano tech are going to solve all our problems.......it may not turn out that way.

  • Neu Mejican||

    MikeP,

    There is this scholarship on the issue
    http://www.conservationmedicine.org/papers/Patz_et_al_Nature%202005.pdf

    As long as we are talking about potential harms or benefits, why not include the predictions regarding who will be effected where by which things?

    Some views
    http://environment.yale.edu/posts/downloads/o-u/The_distributional_impact_of_climate_change.pdf

    http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2007/2007-04-06-01.asp
    http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=9720

  • ||

    Neu Mejican,

    I'm looking for substantiation of the claim...

    the world's poor are suffering disproportionately from climate change right now

    Got any of that?

  • ||

    Douglas Gray,

    Our capacity to marginally feed 6.8 billion people depends upon maintaining a delicate balance between the climate and the social order.

    No, today we routinely suffer through droughts and floods that would have caused widespread famine in the pre-industrial era. People today don't even notice when they live through a years long drought. The idea that a century from now well be even less able to adapt is silly. I would imagine that a hundred years from now, we won't even use agriculture.

    Just wait until the grid stops for awhile and the trucks stop running into areas like the L.A. basin

    I've been reading these dire predictions since I was child in 70's. The end is always nigh unless we give up our freedoms.

  • Neu Mejican||

    MikeP,

    That first link is to a pdf whereby the WHO makes that claim.

    See table one.

    Best I could do today.

  • Neu Mejican||

    These may provide something more...

    http://www.who.int/globalchange/publications/en/index.html

    http://www.ehponline.org/members/2006/8432/8432.pdf



    http://www.who.int/topics/climate/en/

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=17393341

  • alan||

    It is the that Ehrlichian doomsayers that makes environmentalism look like nonsense when there are aspects of it that need to be taken into consideration. I'm thankful to the environmentalist who during the first wave of the movement insisted on ending chemical dumping in the water commons and other things of that nature, but the doomsayers, like the anti tobacco hysterics, are only in it for the social control. You can go to hell on a rail for all the good you have done.

    Ventifact, excellent post up there.

  • ||

    Anybody read "Fallen Angels" (by Larry Nivens, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn)? In it, "environmentalists", political Greens have taken control and cut off all carbon based fuels in spite of the fact that a new ice age is starting. Does anybody believe they wouldn't?

  • ||

    It's all over on December 21st, 2012 anyhow. And it's gonna happen on Hillary's watch.
    This I offer as proof that God Exists. And He/She is wicked funny.

  • ||

    Ron:
    "additional heat from carbon dioxide boosts atmospheric water vapor which in turn acts as a greenhouse gas. All models are dominated by this positive feedback loop."

    Thanks Ron. You've just described an unstable climate with no influence of man. So now you have to answer the question, "why didn't Earth see run away warming at any time during the last 500,000 million years (or so)."

    The answer is easy, of course: Warming causes increase in atmospheric CO2, not the other way around. Doom sayers don't like that answer because it doesn't give them an excuse to shut down industry.

  • Ventifact||

    alan --

    Thanks, and I agree completely on the distinction between protecting the commons and (moralistic) social control. Ultimately, individualistic private property notions must confront such problems as the fact that you can own the airspace but not the air over a piece of land.

    I learned something recently which might be of interest to H&R folks: the great collectivist Mao was an utter champion of the Man vs. Nature worldview. To quote from the Amazon page for the book Mao's War against Nature:

    A central tenet of Maoist ideology was the rejection of both ancient Chinese tradition and modern Western science, both of which offered an ample store of evidence to suggest that rivers flow best when unimpeded, that biological diversity is a good and necessary thing. Instead, Mao Zedong insisted, the laws of historical materialism mandated that everything in creation be put into the service of the revolution: Forests had to be felled to make steel for China's industrial development, mountains had to be leveled to make room for agricultural fields, rivers had to be reversed in their courses to provide power and irrigation. Marshaling the people of China in campaigns to clear land and destroy grain-hungry birds, among other things, Mao remade the landscape in just a few years, ordering imperial-scale projects such as the Three Gorges Dam.

  • Ventifact||

    The answer is easy, of course: Warming causes increase in atmospheric CO2, not the other way around. Doom sayers don't like that answer because it doesn't give them an excuse to shut down industry.



    The only way (increased) CO2 wouldn't cause warming would be if: 1) the presence of CO2 in the atmosphere resulted in some cooling process, e.g. CO2 promoted water droplet nucleation, i.e. cloud formation, in such a way as to promote reflectence of solar radiation -- this is, by the way, not true; or 2) the basic physical property of CO2 as a greenhouse gas did not exist -- and, by the way, it does.

    I'm not sure if that's what you mean to argue, but you seem to be saying increased CO2 does not lead to increased temperature. Exactly how would that work? Perhaps you're arguing in terms of magnitude, that increased CO2 levels of course cause some degree of greenhouse effects, but that it's negligible? The role of CO2 as a greenhouse gas is a simple physical property you can't hope to be arguing against.

    By the way, some folks do worry about a positive feedback in CO2 levels and warmer temperatures. Specifically, lots of carbon is stored in very-slowly-decomposing bogs and forests in the cold northern latitudes. If those places get warmed a bit, analogous to food in vs. out of a fridge, the organic matter could decompose much more rapidly and result in a big flush of CO2 into the atmosphere.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ventifact,

    True.
    But don't forget all the methane locked up in the permafrost...

  • ||

    I am not a climatologist, but if I hear one more person talk about a "tripping point", I'm may just reach for their throat.

    Many many moons ago (tens of billions of moons) the atmosphere was ~20% CO2 with negligible O2. Yet amazingly, impossibly, life happened, Earth did not turn into a Venus like oven. Instead the amount of CO2 was slowly reduced by cyano-bacteria as O2 levels slowlt increased. A simple lad like myself would conclude that the CO2 point of no return, is somewhat greater than 20% with no free O2.

    I'm not saying that anthropogenic global warming is not real. I'm saying the "tipping point" hypothesis is unsupported, even refuted, by the geological record. Atmospheric CO2 was many times greater than it's 0.0384% today in the past, life wasn't extinguished and biological processes lowered it to the point where it was 400 years ago.

    IOW, claims of irreversible global warming if we don't act now, is hyperbolic speculation at best. Hysterical nonsense might be a better term.

    You doom and gloomers out there, explain my objections away. Convince me that the end is nigh. Convert me. I'm listening.

  • DDE\'s ghost||

    Man, it's amazing how a culture can change in two generations. If anyone had written in 1950 that large proportions of Americans would be pagans, worshiping animals and the earth, they would have been laughed out of town.

  • Niccolea||

    Isn't anyone afraid that all this global warming hysteria could lead to very bad unforseen outcomes? Europe has produced the most bloodthirsty despots in history, and Europeans are inundated with global warming fears in their media.

    What if the next would-be Hitler or Stalin decides to combine Europe's feeling of genetic superiority (it's not just the Germans who feel superior, btw) with the externalsthreat of global warming and decide that since the third world is doomed anyway they should speed up its demise?

  • Neu Mejican||

    JsubD,

    I do not think any serious gloom & doom scenario involves earth turning into Venus.

    That said, the history of punctuated mass-extinctions on our planet (sometimes killing upwards of 90% of species) certainly give a pretty ugly worst case scenario.

    Mass extinctions seem to have had a number of causes, but one has been global climate change.

    The Siberian Traps, for instance, emitted enough co2 to trigger global warming. Warmed oceans became anoxic...bacteria that thrive in those conditions flourished and flooded the oceans and the land with poisonous micro-farts...killing most life on Earth. This is generally not considered the only time this has occured in Earth's history.

    We are far from the 20% figure you mention.
    We are even far from the level of co2 produced by the Siberian Traps (about 200 years at current rates of acceleration), but the run-away warming scenario is both demonstrated in the geologic record, and linked to very serious consequences for life on the planet.

    I am not a gloom and doomer. I believe we will figure things out before any of the worst case scenarios manifest as a result of our own actions. But that doesn't mean we should ignore the scope of those worst case scenarios.

    Life is very robust.
    Man is a particularly adaptive species.
    We might be adaptive enough to learn how not to destroy the environment that supports our success.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Wiki has the basics...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anoxic_event

    The Scientific American article is better...
    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&colID=1&articleID=00037A5D-A938-150E-A93883414B7F0000

  • Neu Mejican||

    Niccolea,

    Is that a gloom and doom argument against making gloom and doom arguments?

  • Neu Mejican||

    More on the way life changed the environment to allow for more life...

    http://nai.nasa.gov/news_stories/news_detail.cfm?ID=280

  • Vent||

    J sub --

    No one in the thread or the article mentioned "tipping points" (or "tripping points").

  • David Thomas||

    He argued it's not possible to know the preferences of future generations....
    The disadvantages of whichever choice is made will be actually experienced while the disadvantages of the choice not taken will remain theoretical. Thus, an inevitable bias for buyer's remorse.

  • ||

    Thus, an inevitable bias for buyer's remorse.

    I'm not so sure.

    Do you think there is buyer's remorse about the reforms of the Progressive Era. I would credit antitrust law, the Federal Reserve, and other reforms -- including the general relationship between government and business we have today -- with a healthy 1 or 2 percent reduction in GDP growth per year. Over the course of a century, that is a dramatic difference that amounts to the US today being half as wealthy as it otherwise would be.

    Is there any buyer's remorse anywhere to be found? No. The vast majority of society accepts all those reforms as givens and finds the thought of life without them mind-boggling.

    Similarly, if we go down the IPCC SRES B1 course rather than the A1 course, humanity will be living in a less warmed world. But humanity will also be living with only 60% the per capita GDP.

    Do you think those people in 2100 who are 7 times richer than we are will have buyer's remorse that they aren't 11 times richer? No. They won't. The alternatives to the wealth being spent and society being restructured to solve some purported problem will be long forgotten.

    To some degree, it is this fact that causes people to line up on the Stop Global Warming Now side. The praxeological processes that help societies use their resources to solve problems completely mystify most people. The thought that humanity is better off and can better handle what the world throws at it because it is wealthier is totally alien. But say that the climate is going to change, and Auuugghhh!

  • Neu Mejican||

    MikeP,

    Somewhat sarcastically, my only reaction to your post is an amazement that you put so little trust in the distributed decision processes that have gotten us where we are today.

    That you think your algorithm for a better outcome would have resulted in twice the wealth speaks of massive hubris.

    The praxeological processes that help societies use their resources to solve problems completely mystify most people. The thought that humanity is better off and can better handle what the world throws at it because it is wealthier is totally alien. But say that the climate is going to change, and Auuugghhh!

    Most people?
    But not you?
    Gimme a break.

    You are a smart guy, but that post was ridiculous.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican,

    There is a reason I believe the things I believe. There is also a reason that the fraction of hardcore libertarians in the populace is less than 2%.

    When I say most people have no conception of how much wealth compounds over a century and how much more powerful that will make our progeny, I mean exactly that.

    Do I understand the praxeological processes by which humanity becomes more powerful? Actually, not really. I can study economic theory, empirical results, and long term history, and I can determine that freer societies are happier and wealthier societies. But every now and then I remember that I make a comfortable living by doing a job that consists mostly of sitting at a desk and typing, and I am frankly amazed at the magic of it all.

    Do I believe that most people are even amazed at the magic of not having to grow their own food or make something for someone who grows their food for them? No. Most people take the social order as handed down by God or nature and that it works because the government babysits it.

    I'm actually surprised that you, with your consistent message of self-organized complex systems, don't appreciate that argument.

    You are a smart guy, but that post was ridiculous.

    I take it, then, that you think that, if the threat of global warming doesn't pan out to have been that bad, people in 2100 will have buyer's remorse and wish they were 60% richer instead.

  • ||

    When I say most people have no conception of how much wealth compounds over a century and how much more powerful that will make our progeny, I mean exactly that.

    By the way, take this comment from yesterday...

    What "political consequences" are there? That we will only have 178% of today's economic activity in 2100 rather than 180%? Essentially eliminating the probability of catastrophy and significantly mitigating the harm of likely scenarios is simply not that costly.



    ...as an example of what people think future wealth will be.

    And this is not a new stance for me. A comment last year claims...

    joe, ask anyone walking out of a showing of An Inconvenient Truth what the per capita world GDP is today and what it is predicted to be in 2100 under the IPCC's highest growth scenario. I expect they will underestimate they 11-fold increase by at least a factor of 3.

    I think there is no popular understanding of just what 100 years of economic growth will do for humanity's wealth.



    I think that people are make their decisions on whether and when to address climate change based in part on a fundamental lack of understanding of the wealth that will be available to future generations.

    Do you think differently?

  • ||

    ...a fundamental lack of understanding of the wealth...

    These are probably the wrong words. Since there is absolutely no attempt to understand, it is not a misunderstanding. Please replace with

    ...a fundamental failure to appreciate the wealth...

  • ||

    That you think your algorithm for a better outcome would have resulted in twice the wealth speaks of massive hubris.

    Incidentally, which do you think speaks of massive hubris: That I think inefficiencies introduced by Progressive Era reforms cost a long run 1% of GDP growth per year? Or that I think that a 1% difference per year compounded over a century results in a factor of two?

  • Neu Mejican||

    MikeP,

    I'm actually surprised that you, with your consistent message of self-organized complex systems, don't appreciate that argument.

    I appreciate that self-organized complex systems often identify a perceived problem and adapt to address it. Sometimes the perception is not accurate and sometimes the adaption is incorrect...but on balance the system works.

    What I found impressive was your lack of faith in that process. The invisible hand created "the reforms of the Progressive Era" but you figure we are half as wealthy as we would have been had the invisible hand made the choice you prefer. I doubt the veracity of your claims.

    I take it, then, that you think that, if the threat of global warming doesn't pan out to have been that bad, people in 2100 will have buyer's remorse and wish they were 60% richer instead.

    Actually, I believe the changes that will occur in response to the threat of global warming have as good a chance at making the people in 2100 wealthier than they would have been otherwise as they do of making them 60% less wealthy--whether or not the threat pans out.

    The thought that humanity can better handle what the world throws at it because it is adaptive and creative is totally alien. But say that the taxes are is going up, or that the government should change the rules to internalize the costs of co2 and Auuugghhh!

  • Neu Mejican||

    Incidentally, which do you think speaks of massive hubris: That I think inefficiencies introduced by Progressive Era reforms cost a long run 1% of GDP growth per year? Or that I think that a 1% difference per year compounded over a century results in a factor of two?

    The first part, of course...

  • ||

    The first part, of course...

    Then does it not speak of massive hubris on your part to imagine that "the invisible hand" that "created 'the reforms of the Progressive Era'" gave us an apparently optimum GDP growth rate -- even with the knowledge from Triumph of Conservatism and the like that tells us exactly what sausage was ground by that "invisible hand"?

  • ||

    Actually, I believe the changes that will occur in response to the threat of global warming have as good a chance at making the people in 2100 wealthier than they would have been otherwise as they do of making them 60% less wealthy--whether or not the threat pans out.

    40% less wealthy. Anyway, talk to the IPCC. For the sake of not arguing, I'm simply using their numbers.

    I frankly think the IPCC's numbers are pessimistic: They use the world per capita GDP growth averaged over 1850-1950, a period that saw two world wars and a great depression and doesn't include much recovery, to come up with a yearly growth rate of something like 2.8%.

    I would think that numbers closer to 4% are more likely given the barely tapped potentials of globalization and trade and the growth rates that behemoths China and India have demonstrated. Granted, the higher the growth rate, the lower the difference in accumulated wealth for a constant tax on that rate. But even at 4%, Stern's recommended 1% GDP hit per year will reduce a century's growth from a factor of 50 to a factor of 20. That's a lot.

  • danny bloom||

    http://climatejokeawards.blogspot.com/

    Ron , did you see this awards program yet? Take a look. humor. both sides of the aiseles welcome.

    danny

    The Vaclav Klaus Climate Joke Awards

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008
    To Help Combat Global Warming, These Awards Are Dedicated:



    Welcome to the Vaclav Klaus Climate Joke Awards Blog Page

    [SEE DISCLAIMER BOTTOM OF PAGE BELOW]

    You are visitor No. 414,583 and counting. Thank you for visiting and leaving your comments in the comment sections below. Now what exactly are the Vaclav Klaus Climate Joke Awards, you want to know? Or who is Vaclav Klaus and why is he being singled out here and so honored with his name on these satirical yet serious awards?

    Aha, you see, Václav Klaus [pronounced 'va : tslaf 'klaus] is the honorable and distinguished president of the Czech Republic who is currently into his second 5-year term, so this awards blog has a long shelf life, at least for the next 5 years. But this awards blog is not about the good country of the Czech Republic, who citizens are good honest people who know a thing or two about global warming and climate change. No, this awards blog is named after Vaclav Klaus because he recently told a reporter for the Associated Press in New York City during the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change (sic) sponsored by the Heartland Insitute (sic) funded in part by the oil industry (no sic here), and this man, this human being, this leader of a country in Europe, he told the AP reporter and we quote his now infamous words:

    "Climate is just a joke", he told the AP. Instead of worrying about global warming, he went on, people should just go about their business and realize that any warming is just part of the natural process. [Associated Press report, March 5, 2008]

    There's more of the quote here: "I am afraid that global warming alarmists are tyring to kill the freedom of people and prosperity," Klaus reportedly told the reporter in the report reported in newspapers worldwide that day.

    So (stupid drum roll here), these newly-constituted Vaclav Klaus Climate Joke Awards will be given out through the year, and through out the years, any day of the week will do, just send in your nominations and we will clear them with the awards committee, and these awards will be given out to people espouse very stupid notions about the very real reality of global warming and the possible impact it may have on future generations of Earthlings (include the human species).

    THEREFORE it is hereby instituted the very first Vaclav Klaus Climate Joke Award goes to:

    VACLAV KLAUS, president of the Czech Republic, for his stupid comments to the Associated Press in New York City in March of the year 4,000,000,008 (that's billon as in Four Billion and Eight, Cosmic Time).

    Thank you, President Klaus, for inspiring these awards.


    REFERENCE:
    http://www.pr-inside.com/czech-president-rouses-climate-skeptics-at-r470657.htm

    PRIZE NUMBER TWO goes to:

    BILL GRAY, another Heartland conference naysayer, according to the AP, a hurricane specialist from Colorado State Universtiy, who gave a talk entitled "We Are Not In A Climate Crisis". [Actually, the talk was titled "We Are In A Meeting Room in a Hotel in Manhattan" but the AP did not report that in a sidebar.]

    Dr Gray, the holder of a PH.D., went on to tell the AP reporter: "It's sort of like the field of meteorology and climatology's been hijacked by these modelers that have come along and said these things," said Gray, who said recent warming was a blip in "a recent spate of Ice Ages coming and going."

    PRIZE NUMBER THREE goes to:

    JOSEPH BAST, president of the Heartland Institute, whose unshaven face bear[d]s a very similar resemblance to the president of another country on this Earth -- no, not the Czech Republic, but go head and guess! -- and who told the AP that same day:

    "Some of the scientists here believe we are entering into a cooling period, and that's just based on well-known solar cycles,» Heartland's president, Joseph Bast, told the AP. He said the conference showed that, despite what "Al Gore and a bunch of other people» might say, there is no scientific consensus on global warming."


    So there you have it, the first three awardees of the International Vaclav Klaus Climate Joke Awards. YOUR NOMINATIONS FOR THE NEXT ROUND OF HONOREES (with quotes from their comments in the media, with references, please, so we can fact-czech everything here) may be sent in to the comments section below, with your name listed or anonymously. Please, no SPAM.

    Please list the name of your nominee, his or her position or affiliation, and the exact quote of what he or she said, and a citation reference to prove that he or she indeed said that, or was quoted as saying it. Fact-czechers are on stand by!

    DISCLAIMER:

    Naming these awards after Vaclav Klaus -- the honorable, well-educated and distinguised president of the Czech Republic, who grew up in the upper-middle class residential Vinohrady neighborhood of Prague and graduated from the University of Economics in Prague in 1963 and also spent some time at Cornell University in the United States -- is not meant in any way to disparage the genuine humanity and good intentions of Mr Klaus, who despite his views on climate change, is, in the estimation of this blog, a fine and upstanding citizen of Planet Earth, with or without a climate crisis on its hands. We like the man, and we love his country. Kafka would be proud of these awards, we are sure!

    END DISCLAIMER

    Posted by dan at 11:05 PM

  • Grumpy old man||

    I remember when there was no damn environment.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Then does it not speak of massive hubris on your part to imagine that "the invisible hand" that "created 'the reforms of the Progressive Era'" gave us an apparently optimum GDP growth rate --

    I am not claiming it was optimum GDP growth.

    I am saying that you are assuming a certain model based on the available data and have no way of verifying that that model indeed holds in reality.

    The "invisible hand" (to continue with that tortured analogy) doesn't always come up with the best solution, but it is self-correcting and will adjust down the road to the errors its adaptation created.

    The hubris comes from assuming your hindsight is 20-20 and has a big enough field of vision to see what the better way would have been.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Stern's recommended 1% GDP hit per year will reduce a century's growth

    Stern's recommendation is for a 1% investment.
    Not, a 1% "hit."

    Why assume that the response that addresses global warming is going to be a drag on the world economy at all?

    Amory Lovins estimates that it would cost 15 dollars per barrel to get America off of oil completely by 2040. Given its current price that does not seem like a drag on the economy.
    http://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/Energy/E06-08_GettingOffOil_World2007.pdf

    Does he exhibit the same hubris in his assumptions that the economic doom and gloomers do...sure.

    But I see no compelling reason to buy into the assumption that investment in more efficient energy usage will be a drag on the wealth of the world over the next century.

  • ||

    The hubris comes from assuming your hindsight is 20-20 and has a big enough field of vision to see what the better way would have been.

    Fair enough. I believe that government is inherently inefficient and that any facet of the economy that is handed over to it that does not serve -- not claim to serve, mind you, but actually serve -- an authentic public goods issue comes at a cost to the economy. You call it hubris. I call it a political economic position.

    But I see no compelling reason to buy into the assumption that investment in more efficient energy usage will be a drag on the wealth of the world over the next century.

    If these investments and efficiencies have greater benefits than their costs, then there is no need to have government go to great lengths to force them.

  • Neu Mejican||

    there is no need to have government go to great lengths to force them.

    True.
    But governments can do much to encourage them.

  • ||

    "True.
    But governments can do much to encourage them."


    And governments can do things to look like they are encouraging as much, while actually spoiling such efforts.

    And as it stands now, governments worldwide are still providing subsidies and market protections to the fossil fuel industries.
    http://www.economist.com/finance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10733112

  • Neu Mejican||

    Sam-Hec,

    True, so true.

    The list of things that governments can do includes that they stop doing some of the things they are currently doing.

  • ||

    Latest climate==economy meme I am trying to push:

    Even without global warming, anthropogenic or autogenic, human economies have always done better in favorable climes. As our economies grow, existing poor climates become an even greater liability. Eventually, it becomes worth someone's while to create a Global Climate Control System (followed by Weather Control).

    With Climate Change of whatever type and origin, that System becomes a relatively more attractive means of securing global economic growth.

    That system does not need or imply a Global Socialist Government. I think it would better as a fairly free market system; but given that CO2 is in fact a demonstrable greenhouse gas, that system would need to include CO2 and other climate relevant factors so far regarded as ignorable externalities.

    Please see this meme as part of our New Manifest Destiny to build a Kardashev Scale Level 1 Civilization.

  • ||

    The list of things that governments can do includes that they stop doing some of the things they are currently doing.

    No argument there.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Sam-Hec,

    I believe that mean is too arcane to spread efficiently.

  • Neu Mejican||

    I think the Dyson Sphere is the way to go if we want to get to level II.

    Now, would it be more appropriate to private investors, or as a public works project?

    Hmm...

  • Neu Mejican||

    Mean = meme

  • Neu Mejican||

    Sam-Hec,

    I think the better meme is this one...

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

  • ||

    "I believe that mean is too arcane to spread efficiently."

    I do tend to blab on too much. But I am trying to make popular some new meme besides 'Big Al's Enviro-Nazis vs 3vil Corporashion$' of which both parts are wrong on multiple levels.

    shortened: Manifest Destiny to Control The Weather™

    Before we can get to a Level II Dyson Sphere, we would need to complete a Level I Global Environment Control.

    åThanks for the link.

  • economist||

    I win the thread. I AM GOD!

  • ||

    "I win the thread. I AM GOD!"

    I agree! Economists Rock! Here is your reward:
    http://tinyurl.com/3cmfdy
    enjoy

  • Mark Bahner||

    "Mao's War against Nature"

    Don't forget close planting...crops grown so closely together that a person could walk on top of them without touching the ground (it's a miracle!).

    Or deep plowing (like 6 feet deep!).

    http://books.google.com/books?id=6L7bToxDZL0C&pg=PA182&lpg=PA182&dq=deep+plowing+china&source=web&ots=CYC6wKwkUt&sig=a4XYuew6aBhcO4837CfaEvY_yyI&hl=en

    It's hard to imagine people could believe such nonsense. But then again, I think the same thing when I read what many people write about the future horrors of climate change.

  • Neu Mejican||

    It's hard to imagine people could believe such nonsense.

    And this from the man who believes this...
    http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/economics/index.html

    =/;^)

  • Neu Mejican||

    MikeP,

    See, you are just being pessimistic.

    Mark Bahner says " In 2000, the worldwide average per-capita GDP was approximately $6500. By my prediction, the worldwide average per-capita GDP will exceed $100,000 by somewhere around 2070 (only 70 years from now!). The reader may wonder why I limited the scale of the graph to $100,000. Well, at some point (not necessarily $100,000) the whole concept of money becomes irrelevant. People have sooooo much money, that they don't need to work to get any more. To many of us, this doesn't seem possible. But ask yourself, does a multi-millionaire really need to work for more money? Even a 5% per year return on an investment of $5,000,000 is $250,000 per year. That's some serious money. (At least to me!)

    So my prediction is for the "end of economics" in the 21st century.
    "

  • Neu Mejican||

    Of course is Mark's estimates are right...we can start building that Dyson sphere by mid century...

    Seeing as how we will have 1 SEPTILLION "human brain equivalents" by 2057.

  • NM||

    If Mark's estimates are right, that is.

  • ||

    Ron, Cordato thinks he can finesse things with his wording. He should read some Bruce Yandle and Elinor Ostrom. It doesn`t fly, and you shouldn`t buy it.

    Let`s just suppose that the atmosphere is an open access commons unowned or unregulated by its users - like a cattleman on an open range. The cattlemen can graze for "free", but at some point it is in their own rational self-interest invest in closing the range and imposing rules on their own use - rules that have the effect of pricing the value of the use of the commons.

    Is this investment by ranchers in protecting and managing a valued commons a tax and one that makes future generations materially worse off? Or does it maximize the net present discounted value of expected revenue and cost streams?

    The same discussion applies to other commons. Will other generations be grateful that we choose to seriously degrade them?

  • Mark Bahner||

    I wrote, "It's hard to imagine people could believe such nonsense."

    "Neu Mejican" responds, "And this from the man who believes this..."

    Tell you what, "Neu Mejican." Why don't you make *your* predictions of world per capita GDP growth in 2010, 2020, 2030,...up to 2100?

    Then, we can see who knows what he's talking about. Or is that too much science for you?

  • Mark Bahner||

    Or even better, give your predictions for world per-capita GDP every 10 years, in year 2000 dollars, purchasing power parity.

    Take $7200 in the year 2000 as a starting point. (Reasonable people may differ slightly from that estimate, but it's a reasonable start.)

  • Nike Dunk Low||

    is good

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